When I set out for Canada in December 2011, my friend Charlotte, hungover from a ‘Spurs victory the day before, asked me over a diet coke in a London pub, where I would be living in Montreal. “Verdun,” I replied, which led to brief but uninformed remarks about Canadian involvement in World War I.
Uninformed because while many Canadians served in the Great War, now commemorated with the image of the memorial at Vimy Ridge on the twenty-dollar bill, Canada was only reluctantly involved. While English Canadians were largely supportive of conscription, ties between French Canadians and France had become increasingly attenuated and there was no great love for conquering Britain. For them conscription into the British army was impossible and with that in mind Canadian involvement in Europe’s war was for the most part voluntary. Anything more or less would have placed too great a strain on the uneasy union between English and French speakers that held Canada together.
Rather than Verdun and WWI, which does have its place on the metro system at Namur, Verdun takes its name from Saverdun, the hometown of Zacherie Dupuis. Also in France, Saverdun is closer to the Pyrenees than Flanders.
Depuis was awarded the concession by the seigneur, the Séminaire de Saint Sulpice, in the 1671 for services in defence of Ville Marie. His life gives some insight into the practicalities of life in the new settlement and the importance of Montreal’s nuns.
On day-to-day basis, Ville-Marie was threatened by the guerilla war with the Iroquois, the perils of which are testified to by the experience of the mother-in-law Charles Le Moyne, sieur de Longueuil, Martine Messier. For this reason land grants were within rifle shot of Ville Marie, were promptly cleared to prevent ambush, and created a buffer zone which, at the time, was only occasionally farmed.
While most men were in the militia created by Paul Chomedy de Maisonneuve, Dupuis, who had served in Quebec, distinguished himself and replaced Lambert Closse as its major and in 1665 he became the interim governor, replacing Maisonneuve who had been recalled to France.
Thus far, Dupuis’ acquisition of property looks similar to the rise of the other figures like Le Moyne and René-Robert Cavalier de La Salle, who was awarded the neighbouring lands, but while Longueuil used increased immigration under Jean Talon, to gain his wealth as a landlord, and La Salle saw little value in his land other than as a tanning factory of furs, Dupuis only held his lands for a couple of years before he and his wife, Jeanne Groissard, turned them over to the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in return for care in their old age.
In an age before socialized healthcare, this kind of “living will” seems to be typical, at least for the childless wealthy. The nineteenth-century painter, Plamondon, made a similar transaction towards the end of his life, although with a neighbouring farmer. The Dupuis’ transaction also goes some way to explaining the immense holdings of Montreal’s female religious orders, particularly the unclositered Congrégation de Notre-Dame. Brought to Montreal by Marguerite Bourgeoys, an independently wealthy young woman from Troyes where the canoness of the order was Maisonneuve’s sister. Bourgeoys founded the order in Montreal where it devoted itself to education and care of the poor as well as missionary work. Among their holdings were the farm at the Maison St-Gabriel in Point St Charles, just north of Verdun, and the Ile des Soeurs, acquired in the eighteenth-century and from 1958 part of the City of Verdun.
Consulted for this post
Denis Gravel and Hélène Lafortune, Verdun: 125 Years of History, 1875-2000, trans. by Paul Don. Montreal: Archiv-Histo, 2001.