Did you know that, after one of his famous expeditions, Samuel de Champlain would be the first person to map the city of Montreal? Of course, the land had been occupied by the First Nations for ages before the arrival of European explorers. In 1611, Champlain would clear a portion of this area and call it Place Royale.
In May of 1642, the year Ville-Marie was founded, Paul de Chomedey and missionary Jeanne Mance, accompanied by a group of colonists, arrived on the shores of the city we know as Montreal today. These cofounders, pioneers of New France, set out to on a mission to both colonize and evangelize the area. This group of men and women travelled all the way from France in an attempt to convert the First Nations community to Catholicism and create a colony in which the French and First Nations people could live alongside one another in harmony.
In 1642, shortly after arriving on this new land, the colonists began building Fort Ville-Marie. A small village began to take shape; by 1645, the famous Hotel-Dieu de Jeanne Mance, one of the first hospitals in all of North America, would be built. The village grew and would quickly become a hub for the fur trade; the pelts being traded were procured by the First Nations community.
Ville-Marie’s first few years were difficult for both the colony and the land’s original inhabitants. The Iroquois strongly opposed the presence of the French, and would launch attacks to protect their land shortly after the colony’s arrival. This war would last until 1653; in 1701, the Great Peace of Montreal treaty would be signed. The religious portion of this mission proved to be a failure; needless to say, colonizers weren’t successful in their attempts to create an exemplary, Christian society in which the French and First Nations could live together in peace.
By 1685, Ville-Marie was home to over 600 habitants. Did you know that relics of this small town can still be found in the Old Port today? Take the Saint-Sulpice Seminary, for example!
In 1695, Fort-Ville Marie would be renamed in honour of the plot of land’s latest resident, Governor Hector de Callière. Henceforth known as Pointe à Callière, this site would officially be named one of Canada’s National Historical Sites in 1924. It’s hard to imagine or know exactly what this space looked like when it was first built by French colonizers; most plans for the site found by modern historians seem to contradict each other.
In 2015, archaeologists were finally able to properly recreate an integral portion of the initial plans for this legendary fort, thanks to an incredible discovery. After decades of digging, remains of the famous palisade were finally uncovered, allowing historians to document an important part of our city’s history that was thought to be lost forever. It may sound incredible, but it’s true!
Livre : Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours: une chapelle et son quartier. Par Patricia Simpson,Louise Pothier
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