Q & A with Graeme Decarie regarding the history of Cartierville and Ville St. Laurent
Below is a Q & A regarding whether we’re talking about the mid-eighteenth century or the mid-nineteenth century, with regard to the early years of Cartierville (where Malcolm Campbell High School was in operation from the early 1960s to the late 1980s) and adjacent communities.
A question regarding history, regarding which there have been many comments at a previous post
Jaan Pill: We’ve had some discussion in comments at a recent post about a particular question.
Here’s the post with a long list of comments at the end of it:
The comments have to do with whether or not a historian, writing about the villages on the West Island of Montreal, was correct in saying that places like Cartierville, Dorval, Saint-Laurent, among others, were established little communities by the middle of the eighteenth century? Or was the historian in error, and should the reference have been to the middle of the nineteenth century?
“It’s hard to be precise,” Graeme Decarie notes
Graeme Decarie: It’s hard to be precise. At what point does a scattering of farms develop a core to be a village? In New France, the sort of equivalent to that stage could be the building of a church. Later, by the mid-1800s, it would mean a legal status with elected officials. But in either case, St. Laurent wins.
In the very early years of Montreal, the founder of the city, de Maisonneuve, gave Jean Descaries (There were, and still are, many, many spellings to the family name) a large land grant where the old, Glen railways yards are – and where the new superhospital stands. When Jean died (about 1685) he gave his three sons his farm, plus more land not yet developed. So they began clearing what is now St. Laurent about 1690. The eldest of the three sons was Paul Descaries, my direct ancestor. Newcomers began arriving to buy the land about 1700, but the numbers were very small. The Descaries also kept some of the land for themselves, and operated it, intermarrying with the locals. Indeed, many of the street names in today’s St. Laurent are in my family tree.
About 1740, St. Laurent became officially a parish. (The stone for the church came from St. Laurent’s first industry – the quarry.) The street in front of it became rue principale – later changed to St. Croix. From the beginning of the eighteenth century, the Descaries had also been developing Lachine and Dorval, too. They also cut a private road joining Jean’s original farm in NDG to St. Laurent. It became Blvd. Decarie, and was owned by the family (and only leased to the city) until the building of the expressway.
When village and town councils were officially established with elected governments in the 1840s, Decaries commonly ran for mayor – which gave them a huge advantage in controlling (and making piles of money out of) what became Westmount, NDG, Lachine, Dorval. St. Laurent, Town of Mount Royal. All the land for what became TMR – and Blue Bonnets was bought by an avocat named Decarie in one or two days. He was chosen because so many of the farmers were Decaries or were related. He bought the land so the railway could build a tunnel to reach downtown Montreal. It also expected to make money by developing a town of people who could afford to take the train to work every day. That’s why TMR is focussed on the railway station.
I remember reading somewhere that the first mail airplane landing in Canada was in a field at the North East corner of what became the factory airfield where the Noorduyn Norseman was built. But the real boost was Canadair in WW2. That’s when Decarie became the real, main st., and where, in 1950, Norgate Shopping became the first shopping centre in Canada for a world built around the automobile.
So far as I know, Cartierville didn’t really begin to develop until the very late nineteenth century when the 17 streetcar line was built. That made it possible to live in the country, but to reach work quickly and cheaply. But Cartierville remained very much the boonies until the 1950s.
More details about St-Laurent
From the Montreal Memories Facebook Page, I’ve found this great link, from http://www2.ville.montreal.qc.ca :