by Jean Belisle
Here I am on the Lois McClure, four years after our fantastic trip to Quebec City. We are about to leave Saint-Denis on the Richelieu for Saint-Ours. It is 6 in the morning and I am taking pictures of the site of the future monument to Louis Joseph Papineau. Papineau was one of the leaders of the Patriots movement of the rebellion of 1837. I am interested partly because of Papineau but also because I know the sculptor of the new monument, Jules Lasalle. Our schedule on this tour also has us stopping at Montebello, where we will be able to see the seigneury of Papineau himself. I’m excited for that. (The seigneurial system was a semi-feudal style land distribution system used in New France.)
We are on our way by 9. The trip is very short. Saint-Ours is the next village down the river and we don’t even make it to the village proper. The lock is one mile before it.
The lock is big, much bigger than the locks on the Chambly Canal. It was part of a major plan to make the whole Richelieu system to the same standards of the New York State Canal System. We dock on port side after passing through the lock. We are received by peoples from the Friends of St.Ours Canal with a gift of local products including natural maple candies. Big success! The site of the lock is interesting. A small hamlet was created at the site for the peoples working at the seigneurial mill (unfortunately it burned in 1939) That mill, built in 1845, was the starting point of a little proto-industrial hub. The second element was the building of the first lock and the dam in 1849. The lock site of today was built between 1930 and 1933.
The next day is a day off for everyone, so I decided to walk to the village. I have been there long time ago as a guest of the seignor of Saint Ours. I was doing a study of his seigneurial manor. It is the only seignor still living on his seigneury in Quebec. But naturally, today he doesn’t enforce his “cens and rente”! There is show of local artists in the church. Some of the works are pretty good. Then I crossed the river on the ferry Helène. A little visit to the local historical society of Saint-Marc and I am on my way back to the boat. On the dam I decided to take a second look at the Vianney-Legendre fish ladder. Last time I had no luck, no fish. But this time I am lucky. Suddenly on the right of the window a fish, not big just one foot. It looked at me probably as surprise as I am and then disappeared at the bottom. In all less than 2 seconds! Everybody from the crew have tried to see a fish but I am the only lucky one. Sadly it went so fast that I was unable to identify it!
Saturday July 7th, we are finally open. We were supposed to have been open on the 4th of July (American national holiday) but due to the really low water level at Sainte-Anne de Sorel our schedule had to be modified. So we are here on a beautiful Saturday with the music of the overture 1812 of Tchaichovsky with of course, the cannons. It is not the right 1812 but it is a nice touch to our thematic trip.
A recently retired professor from the Art History Department at Concordia University, Jean has been involved with LCMM for many decades. He joins us for his second year as crew aboard the Lois McClure.