Berri-UQAM, formerly Berri-de Montigny

Berri-UQAM, formerly Berri-de Montigny. Opened 1967, renamed 1988. Green, Orange and Yellow Lines.
Berri-UQAM, formerly Berri-de Montigny. Opened 1967, renamed 1988. Green, Orange and Yellow Lines.

Originally opened as Berri-de Montigny, this station had its feet firmly planted in New France, until in 1988, it took in the university which is one of the products and symbols of the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s. For all this though, the origins of Berri is unclear. In 1989 the Tour toponymique noted that the Berri had been in use since 1818 and that in 1669 the lands in the area were called La Gauchetière and Berry, but is not clear if the name refers to the French province. Matt Mclauchlin, of metrodemontreal.com, cites the Commission de toponymie to point to a Simon Després, dit Berry, whose land between to St Antoine and Sherbrooke, purchased in 1659, was bordered by the present the street. As to what Després did other than buy some land, and why he was called Berry, the record remains silent.

Less obscure, at least historically, is Jacques Testard de Montigny. (Geographically he is stunted as, except for a small portion near Place des Arts, rue de Montigny was rolled into Maisonneuve when the metro was built.

Orphaned at a young age Jacques and his elder brother had no need to fear an impoverished upbringing. Among their connections were the Le Moynes, the richest family in Montreal, and the Le Bers, a family that had produced at least one governor of the colony. After being raised by their step-father, Jacques de la Marque, whose name the young Jaques sometimes took, he entered the regular troops as an officer, fighting twice alongside his relative, Pierre Le Moyne, sieur d’Iberville et d’Ardillières and so joined in that regular shuttling across the Atlantic as well as seeing the interior of the continent at Michilimackinac and Baie des Puants, now Green Bay, Wisconsin.

In 1690 at the age of 28, he joined d’Ibervile in what was variously called the Beaver Wars, King William’s War, and the Second Indian War, all part of the Nine Years War. In a strategic reprisal for the devastating Iroquois attack on Lachine the previous year, Frontenac, newly installed in his second term as Governor ordered a party to attack Corlaer, modern Schenectady, New York, then believed to be supplying the Iroquois. Finding the settlement unguarded other than by the two snowmen of legend, the 114 Frenchmen and 96 allied First Nations slipped through the gates and slaughtered 60 of the inhabitants.  One man, Symon Schermerhorn, was able to raise the alarm in nearby Albany, an action commemorated in the mayor of Schenectady’s annual ride to Albany’s city hall. The bloodshed did not end in the morning, and many of the 27 prisoners who were too young, old or weak to make the journey back to Montreal were killed or left them to die in the snow; on the other side, with the French returning with the complacency of the victorious they were an easy target for a Mohawk band, sent perhaps because of Schermerhorn’s ride. For Robert Livingston’s first hand account of the massacre can be found here.

Still commemorated each year when the mayor of Schenectady rides to Albany, perhaps more than any other event the massacre at Corlaer prolonged the endgame of New France and maintain its border with the much more populous English colonies to the south. With that border recognized in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, New France survived until the English took possession in 1763. Within thirteen years, of course, the situation had reversed, and it was the British who were confined to the north, unhappily sharing the border with the newly formed United States.

Ordered to Newfoundland in 1693, de Montigny’s other battles were less consequential though no less bloody. Until the arrival of Iberville in 1695, he led detachments of Abenakis in the harassment of the English settlements. Then, with the arrival of Iberville in November, St John’s was sieged and burned. The capital destroyed, de Montigny’s expertise in forest fighting returned to the small hamlets with looting and rounding up prisoners. By the end of March, thirty-six settlements had been destroyed, two hundred people killed with seven hundred taken prisoner, and the English held only Bonavista and Carbonear. So ruthless had de Montigny been in the 1690s, that when he returned in 1705, Bonavista surrendered on hearing that he was leading the attack.

Despite this capitulation, the end of French Acadie was approaching. Perhaps even the French knew it, and in the intervening years, as the English recovered their losses, de Montigny worked to persuade his Abenaki allies to leave the overexposed region and settle in Canada. This did not prevent his return being any less ruthless – fishermen were rounded up, their houses, boats and cod-drying platforms burned, their salt thrown into the sea – but the encouragement given to the Abenaki did not come without strings; they were to help defend the increasingly encircled New France while France established its hold on the centre of the continent and the Mississippi.

It was for this reason that, after fifteen years in Montreal, de Montigny was sent to Baie de Puants, now Green Bay, Wisconsin, as commander of the fort there. En route in 1721 he met the priest and historian, Charlevoix, who had recently maintained that the Treaty of Utrecht ceded only Nova Scotia to the English, but Acadie and Newfoundland were de facto English. Even at Green Bay intimations of this were apparent when de Montigny met his fearsome Abenaki ally, Nescambiout, who had been living with the Foxes. For his contribution to the attack on the English he had been presented with de Montigny at Versailles in 1706. Now he was suspected of treasonously luring the Abenaki into an alliance with the Foxes against the Ottawa, imperilling the defence of New France. De Montigny vouched for his allegiance and sent him back to Canada. Within a year the French warrior would soon follow his friend, and, with the exception of a few years as commandant of Michilmackinack, lived in Montreal until his death in 1737.

Consulted in this post

Tour toponymique: Les stations de métro, Communauté urbaine de Montréal, 1989.

Commission de toponymie, “Rue Berri,” Gouvernement du Québec, 2008-, accessed October 25, 2013, http://www.toponymie.gouv.qc.ca/ct/ToposWeb/fiche.aspx?no_seq=213189

Matt McLauchlin, “Station Berri-UQAM,” in Métro de Montréal, 2000-2007, accessed October 25, 2013, http://www.metrodemontreal.com/orange/berri/historyg.html

Louise Dechêne, “TESTARD DE MONTIGNY, JACQUES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 25, 2013, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/testard_de_montigny_jacques_2E.html.

Wikipedia, “Schenectady Massacre”, 2008-, accessed 27 October 2013, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schenectady_massacre.

Robert Livingston, “The Schenectady Massacre,” Digital History, eds. S. Mintz & S. McNeil, 2013, accessed 27 October 2013, http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/disp_textbook.cfm?smtID=3&psid=88.

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