<< < Roll 2 of 4 > >>
Print Share the Website with some friends Site Map

The Portage

The French who settled on the shores of French Bay and the Saint Lawrence in the early seventeenth century soon learn from the First Nations people that the trip from Port-Royal to Quebec can be made by a continental route that avoids the long detour of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. In fact, Maliseets inform Champlain as early as 1608 that they travel most of the journey by canoe and despite a few portages, they can cover this distance in only fifteen days. Learning from the Amerindians, the French discover the existence of an intercolonial road that will be of great importance for Acadia (Acadie) and Canada.

After the British conquest of New France in 1763, the British governors of the former French colonies of Canada and Acadia (Acadie) quickly discover the urgency to establish overland communication between their respective capitals. Projects for the construction of roads are elaborated, but the carriage roads linking the banks of the St. Lawrence to those of the Bay of Fundy will appear only in the 1830s. Until that time, senior political and religious dignitaries, like the humble missionaries and couriers traveling Quebec-Fredericton-Halifax, did so the same way: by canoe and horseback wherever possible, or simply walking in the summer and using snowshoes in the winter. Generally, this route followed the natural route formed by the rivers and portages.

Interesting details on the route are drawn from the work of J. Bouchette, appointed Surveyor-General of Lower Canada in 1801:

About four and three quarter miles from Rivière-des-Caps began the Timiscouata portage, and as it is the only land route from Quebec to Halifax, for a distance of 627 miles, it is very important... It was first opened in 1783, by General Haldimand, Governor. (...) From the St. Lawrence, where the road branches off, to the Long farm on Lake Timiscouata, the distance is 37 miles (...). Long, the owner, has himself a large family, and his sons are the boatmen of the Lake; they always have birch bark canoes ready to carry passengers from one side of the lake to the other. From this location to the entrance of the Madawaska River, the distance is 1.5 miles.

A few paragraphs later, J. Bouchette adds: “During the summer, communication by water from Lake Timiscouata to Saint John is easy and only interrupted by the Little Falls and Grand Falls portages; at the first there is a portage about 30 fathoms long and the last one of about a quarter mile.”

G. Desjardins
Université de Moncton campus d'Edmundston Société Historique du Madawaska Ville d'Edmundston Patrimoine Canadien