Hudson's Earliest Residents
Maben Walter Poirier
Do you know who the earliest European residents of the Hudson area were? If you are interested in local history, and have read some of the publications of the Hudson Historical Society, then it is likely that many of you know or can guess at some of their names. But, do you know more about them than just their names, or, more accurately, just the names of a few of them? Do you know where they lived? Perhaps not, and so I thought that it would be a good idea to introduce the members of the society, and others who may be reading this short piece, to one of the better known–though obviously not well known–early French settlers.
One of the Hudson area's earliest French residents was Marcellin Farand dit Vivarais. A complicated name, you say? Well, yes and no. You can almost forget about the "dit Vivarais" part of the name, since its significance is all but lost in the murkiness of Mediaeval French regional history and place-names. I said "almost forget" because it is perhaps a good idea to store the name "Vivarais" in the recesses of your memory so that you can resurrect it when you need to remind yourself that branches of the family still identify themselves by the surname "Vivarais" rather than "Farand." Moreover, it is also worth remembering that the stream that runs diagonally through Hudson is not called the Vivery River for no good reason. It was named such–by whom, and when, I am not quite sure–in memory of Marcellin Farand dit Vivarais, for the very good reason that the stream crossed all of Marcellin's farm as it neared the end of its journey and emptied itself into the Ottawa.
Marcellin Farand's arrival in the area that would later be called Hudson predates the Conquest of 1759-60, ...and so, it very obviously predates the Scottish migration into the area at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century. It also obviously predates the arrival of the Cumberland settlers (who came after the Scots), by almost a century. Although the records are sparse, based on what we have, it appears that Marcellin Farand may have moved into the general area some time after the signing of the Great Peace of 1701. The best estimate situates him in the general area in the late 1720s or early 1730s, for he was in the Hudson-Como area specifically in the late 1740s. Like many who were to follow him, particularly in the Twentieth Century, he came here, it is said, initially as a summer resident, and he spent his winters at the fort at Oka.
We, of course, cannot be certain about what it was that drew Marcellin Farand to this side of the Ottawa River. It may have had something to do with the cramped surroundings of the fort, with its militia and small French settler population within the walls, and the Indian population composed mostly of Iroquois, Algonquin and Nippissing outside the walls, or it may simply have been because of Marcellin's desire to explore the territory and sound out the possibilities of raising a family on the south shore of the Ottawa, now that there was peace with the Iroquois. Alternatively, it may simply have had something to do with the fact that the territory south of the Ottawa was being opened to settlers for farming. We do not know for certain what it was that drew Marcellin here. At this point, it maybe should be recalled that the early French settlers of the island of Montreal, and particularly those on the western part of the island, were, prior to 1701, very much effected by French-Iroquois relations at any given moment, and moving too far away from fortified areas was rather risky. The Lachine Massacre of August 4th, 1689 was no doubt a matter that remained fresh in the minds of the French for a number of years after the event. And so, settling in areas away from "civilisation" and the forts was something that was done reluctantly for quite some time after 1689. In any event, Marcellin–who was married at the fort, and was beginning to have a family–is documented as having been ceded lot number 3 by the seigneur, on May 15, 1750, a 3 by 30 arpent farm, in what is today the Manson Montée area in Como. This makes him not the earliest to settle on this side of the river,1 but he is amongst the earliest. Also, according to the records, it appears that Marcellin does not hold on to this farm for very long, for he transfers the farm to Joseph Chesnier in 1752, who in turn, transfers it to Thomas Ranger on February 7th, 1765. Why this quick turn over of the farm is unclear, but, if one studies the records, it is not an uncommon practice amongst the early French settlers. Being new to the area, presumably, they were not as attached to the land as would be their descendants.
Marcellin Farand's name next appears in records for 1791, where he is said to be the owner of lot number 24 (a concession immediately to the west of "le grand détroit" better known in English as "Quarry Point"), a curiously shaped piece of land given its location in the great bay created by "le grand détroit." This piece of land is better known today as the Hudson Sandy Beach property, or Blenkinship's beach. This time, there is also a notation in the records to the effect that he has been in possession of this farm for some time. Unfortunately, there is no mention of the date when Marcellin was ceded this farm by the seigneur, but presumably it must have been after he sold his farm mentioned above in what is today the Manson Montée area. We also know that the said farm just west of "le grand détroit" was in his son Paul's name after 1791.2 We presume that Marcellin must have died around 1791, and Paul inherited from his father. It appears that Paul kept the land for almost twenty years after 1791, for in 1810 the farm is designated as the property of François Hogue. Hogue held the farm till 1844, when he sold it to Richard Blenkinship, the grandfather of Allen Blenkinship, who was a well known resident and village councillor for Hudson in the middle of the last century. The Blenkinships owned the land until the mid 1970s,3 when Mary Blenkinship Simon, Allen's daughter, sold it to a person by the name of Ringette, who, in turn, transferred it to NICANCO Corporation some time thereafter.
I well remember when I first heard Marcellin Farand's name in connection with this piece of land. Allen Blenkinship, owner of the Hudson Sandy Beach, was straightening out the gravel road leading down to the waterfront in the late 1950s, and replacing the old bridge that crossed the Vivery River, just before entering the meadow. We children were observing the workers and back-hoe place the large cement pipe for the new bridge in place. As the old bridge was being dismantled, Allen observed, "See those rocks that are just below the abutment for the old bridge? They were placed there by Marcellin Farand, when he operated a small mill at this precise location." And all of us took a look at the well positioned flat stones situated on the very edge of the stream. There was no doubt about it. They were certainly not the product of happenstance, nor were they needed as support by the old bridge, which was resting at least six inches above the stones. As Allen spoke, some amongst us had visions of a small lake backing up behind a low damn, and as our minds wandered, we could see that it all made sense, given the lay of the land. It was the perfect place for a small mill and a low-lying dam that would have been capable of backing up the waters of the Vivery for about one-hundred-and-fifty feet or more in what was a natural basin. 19/05/2007
1 The earliest French settler in the Hudson area was Captain Jean-Baptiste Sabourin, captain of the militia at the fort in Oka. He, according to the documents, was ceded lot number 10, on October 20, 1732. This lot was located in the vicinity of Belleview (better known locally to “old-time” residents as Como Station Road).
2 Marcellin was married twice. His first marriage, which took place at the fort at Oka, was to Marie Josephte Sabourin, Paul's mother, who died in 1754, and his second marriage was to Angélique Normand. This marriage took place at Sault aux Recollets.
3 It may be worth noting here that the Blenkinships farmed the land presumably from around the time of purchase in 1844 until approximately 1945. I do not recall seeing farm animals on the land in the late 1940s. In 1950, the Blenkinships started to sell off building lots on the land "above the tracks," that is to say, south of the C.P.R. right-of-way. These lots were for home construction, and were sold mostly to Hudson residents. There was little interest in "building in Hudson" shown by "outsiders" at the time. The first five lots were sold to Léo Carrière (1950), Albert Johnston (1950), Walter Poirier (1951), Andrew Harkin (c. 1952) and Hervé Poirier (c. 1953), in that order. The land "below the tracks" was reserved for the operation of the Hudson Sandy Beach, a resort area composed of the beach proper, which admitted pedestrians and automobiles during the summer season, and some forty-two cottages (located along the shoreline and in the woods). These cabins were rented out mostly to Montrealers for approximately $150.00 to $250.00 for the season. The rent depended on where the cottage was located. The great majority of these people were "regulars," by which I mean that they returned year after year.
I should perhaps also mention that the beach attracted company picnics during the summer season. These almost always occurred on a Saturday. A number of large Montreal companies–Vickers, comes to mind–would rent a train to transport their employees to the area. The train would stop more or less where the road down to the beach is located, and hundreds of people, if not more, would make their way to the gate-house where Allen would stand with his counter in hand clicking away as the people passed through the narrowing in the gate. When emptied, the trains would move on to the Hudson station siding and wait for the return trip to Montreal in the late afternoon. This was quite a sight to behold, especially in the early 1950s, when steam-engines were still common.
Parenthetically, I should perhaps note that when I speak of "the Blenkinships" in the post 1945 era, I am referring to the three Blenkinship brothers, that is: Frank Blenkinship (d. 1951), who resided in the farm house, and was the farmer until his health deteriorated, Allen Blenkinship, who was in charge of the Hudson Sandy Beach operation, and Cecil Blenkinship, who was a Toronto banker, and hence, rarely seen in the area, except when some important transaction required his presence.
Topics: Peoplepoirmw on Sat, 2007-05-19 10:24.