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Introduction to l'Île d'Orléans -  Pont de l'ile -- the Bridge of the Island
Thanks Rita & Côme Lachance
Much of the content of this page was written by Rita and Côme Lachance (a direct descendent of Pierre Noel Pepin dit Lachance and his marriage to Charlotte Rondeau). Rita has graciously provided the two "plaque" photographs contained on this page and they belong to HER. DO NOT take them from this page! Other photos were obtained from the web, or otherwise, sources unknown. Thanks Rita and Côme for helping all of us to learn more about the place from "whence we came".
 
 
From a book entitled The Isle of Orléans by Pierre George Roy we read, "No part of the Province of Quebec is more picturesque than the Island of Orleans. Authors have written its history, poets have sung its charm painters have reproduced its lovely landscapes. Indeed, this spot seems to typify the splendor of Canadian scenry. Its cool groves, its colorful meadows, the fringe of trees which surround it recall the intese vegetation of the tropics. Nothing is prettier to behold than the little brooks which meander with a silvery gleam through the fields and bubble down to the river."

The explorer Jacque Cartier established the island at "about twelve leagues long and very beautiful to behold." Other in history have estimated its size to be larger or smaller. Acutally L'Île d'Orléans is 34 kilometres (21.25 miles) long and 8 kilometres (5 miles) wide.

There are six (6) Parishes on the island and each of them has a rich history of the original founding families of New France which includes the ancestors of (we Lachances).

From this tiny island, we, the Family Pepin dit Lachance, established ourselves permanently in this hemisphere.
A map of the island showing the locations of its parishes appears below. If you click on the map, itself, a new page opens with the full size image. You may have to scroll left and right to view the entire map. Simply close the map window when you have finished.
A second map is available that has the addition of a textual description of our Pepin dit Lachance ancestors, where they settled and who went where. To see this map, simply click "Ancestor Map" to the right. ----->
Map of L'Île d'Orléans, click for full size
clicking on the image opens a new window with the full-size map
L'Île d'Orléans has a jagged coast line with many coves and points that extend into the St Lawrence River. Viewing the island from the mainland, it ascends from the water in a gentle incline, manifested only by valleys and low ridges. The island has a temperate climate, which is influenced by the surrounding body of water. The island is also subjected to the ebbs and flows of the tide.
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Picture of Jacques Cartier L'Île D'Orléans and the Saint Lawrence River were discovered by French explorer and mariner Jacques Cartier (read about Jacques by clicking his name - the link is to the Virtual Mueseum of New France.) in 1535. While at anchor off the coast of the island from the 7th - 14th of September, Cartier decided to make a fresh investigation of the island. While here, he gave the island it first name... the "Island of Bacchus".This was from the wild grape wines growing on it. He later changed his mind in 1536 and renamed it Isle D'Orleans in honour of the Duke of Orleans, the son of Francois 1, King of France. For the next 100 years the island was part of the Beaupre Seigneurial domain.
The native indians used to name it "Ouindige", an Algonquin word which means "Bewitched Place". Today's inhabitants are still known as "Island Sorcerers", attributed to the abundance of fireflies that appear at night.

In 1636 it was granted to Jacques Castillon as an independent Seigneury. The island then subjugated to the Bishop of Quebec Francois Montmorency, then to Francois Berthelot and finally to Guillaume Gaillard and his descendants. The Seigneur's role was to grant land. As of 1651, the residents were granted fiefs and sub-fiefs, which they settled on and cultivated. By 1685 the Census recorded 1205 residents and 917 heads of cattle. Most of the colonists chose to settle just above the northern arm of the St Lawrence where they were sheltered by the cliffs near St Pierre and Ste Famille. The colonists then spread throughout the island with the Lachance family mainly congregating in St Jean. The island was occupied by General James Wolfe in 1759. This English conquest was short-lived and no trace of this occupation remains.

The colonists had to be self-sufficient because they were cut off from the rest of the world. They became fisherman, blacksmiths, carpenters, saddlers, tanners, shipbuilders and captains. The farmers sowed flax to weave into linen for clothing, wheat for flour and grains for cattle feed. Windmills and watermills were built to help with the grinding of flour.

Until 1940, the island was accessible only by ferry in the summer and by ice bridges in the winter. The completion of the Pont de l'ile -- the Bridge of the Island -- made access easier, but the island's little communities have remained largely rural and picturesquely Quebecois in style.

There are over 600 historically important buildings on the island, and strict controls have ensured that even new buildings adhere to the original character.

The Chemin Royal, the 68-kilometre "Royal Road" that circles the island, takes visitors through the six distinctly different villages, presenting glimpses around each turn of the sinuous curves of the St. Lawrence River.

Life on the Island
Farmer Working the Fields
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The land was divided into long strips perpendicular to the shore. These parcels of land continue inland until they reach the "trecarre". The "trecarre" is the line separating northern and southern lots.The island farmers were subject to Seigneurial law until 1854, which dictated that the land would be used to cultivate sustenance foods. The farmers started to produce specialized crops once the Quebec City markets created a demand for it. Today the main crops are oats, hay, potatoes and strawberries. Today's farms are operated as a specialized business.
 

Architecture on the island has a 350-year-old history. Many of the buildings have been deemed of great historical value. The first houses were patterned after the French houses that they were familiar with in France.

The houses were small and centred around a fireplace that was used both for heat and cooking. They were built of wood with thatched roofs. As time passed they designed houses that were larger and more adapted to the weather conditions. Villages tended to expand length wise following the contours of the shore. Houses were mostly built along the Chemin Royal close to one another in the villages and became less frequent between towns. The main attraction in town was the church and rectory with the cemetery as an important part of the parish landscape. The importance of the church in their lives is signified by the ornate interior of those churches.

Ancient Home
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Voici les 6 paroisses de l'Île d'Orléans
 
Ste-Famille Church
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Sainte-Famille

Area : 17.92 Sq. Miles
Population - 1995 : 942 inhabitants
Founding of the Parish : 1661

 
Sainte Famille was founded in 1661 making it the first parish on Ile D'Orlean but the church was not built until 1743. Sainte Famille has a view of Sainte Anne de Beaupre and the Laurentian Mountains. Being the oldest parish the village to this day has several stone houses dating from the French Regime. Also facing the church we see the famous Notre Dame Convent founded by Marguerite Bougeois. The industry in this area is mostly dairy and beef farms, and apple orchards. On June 24, 1659 Antoine Pepin dit Lachance bought a farm of 2 "arpents"(73,604 square feet) number 28B, which was very close to the Ste Famille church. Today the land numbers are 3990-4019. This land was later subdivided into town lots.
 
St. Pierre Church
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Saint-Pierre

Area : 12.02 Sq. Miles
Population - 1995 : 2000 inhabitants
Founding of the Parish : 1679

 
Saint Pierre was founded in 1679. St Pierre has the oldest church in the province of Quebec dating back to 1717. It may even be the oldest church in Canada. This area was known for traditional industries such as blacksmiths, tinsmiths, and butter and cheese production. The area presently has dairy farms, and the agricultural cultivation of potatoes, corn and strawberries. Saint Pierre is the closest village to the bridge linking the Island to Quebec City. This has increased the population of this area. A main attraction for this parish is the thousand of snow geese, Canada geese and several species of ducks.
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St. Francois Church
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Saint-François

Area : 11.87 Sq. Miles
Population - 1995 : 483 inhabitants
Founding of the Parish : 1679

 
The St Francois parish was founded in 1679 with the church being built in 1734. The church burned in 1988 and was rebuilt in 1992 It is located at the eastern end of the Island with its farms stretching from north to south. The farmers here principally produce strawberries, leeks and potatoes. This area is also famous for duck, snow geese and canada geese hunting. The observation tower bestows a magnificent view of Montmagny, Mont Sainte-Anne and Cap Tourmente.
 
St. Jean Church
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Saint-Jean

Area : 16.85 Sq. Miles
Population - 1995 : 832 inhabitants
Founding of the Parish : 1679

 
The St Jean parish was founded in 1679. The church was built in 1732 with a walled cemetery overlooking the St Lawrence River. The farms in this parish run south to north to the middle of the island making the farms 4 kilometres long. These farms butt onto the Ste Famille parish farms in the middle of the island at the "trecarre". St Jean was considered the island capitol because of several prosperous dairy, potato and strawberry farmers, numerous navigators and several summer residents. It lost its status when the bridge to Quebec City was built in 1935. This is the parish where most of the Lachance family settled.
 
Plaque on the St. Jean Church Of special interest to the Lachance Family is the commemoration plaque on the front of the St Jean church.

My loose transation is:

In honor of the Lachance family who in memory of their ancestors established on the island of Orleans erected at the (religious) establishment of the parish of St Jean in the year 1679.

click on the image to view full size

 
Also to the descendents of Barthelemy the plaque inside of the church naming Barhelemy, his wife Marie-Anne Thivierge and his daughter in law Genevieve Paquet as being buried in the church nave which is a great honour because that privilege was normally reserved for priests. Plaque displayed in the St. Jean Church - Nave
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St. Laurent Church
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Saint-Laurent

Area : 13.64 Sq. Miles
Population - 1995 : 1551 inhabitants
Founding of the Parish : 1679

 
The St Laurent parish was founded in 1679 but the church was not built until 1860. This parish is renowned for its maritime activities. It had a shipyard and was famous for building "chaloupes" a long rowing boat. This also where you will find the Processional chapel.
 
St. Petronille Church
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Sainte-Pétronille

Area : 1.74 Sq. Miles
Population - 1995 : 1064 inhabitants
Founding of the Parish : 1870

 
St Petronille was the last parish to be founded in 1870 and the church was built in 1871. It is locally known as the "end of the island" and situated at the western end of the island. In the 1800's Quebec City merchants built magnificent "Regency" style homes that are to this day part of the landscape along Chemin Royal. This part of the island also was a popular summer resort for the rich residents of Quebec City. As a result of this posterity a Victorian style hotel "Chateau Belair" was built. This part of the island also has" Boreal Oak Grove" which has North America's rare red oaks.
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Links to Other L'Île d'Orléans Sites
 
Link Description
Québec Tourism Bureau Official Web site of the greater Québec Area Tourism and Convention Bureau - It was here that the original ancestors first cleared and settled their lands; the names of the founding families are still quite in evidence throughout the island. Life on Île d'Orléans.
île d'Orléans Tourism Site Tourism specifically for île d'Orléans this page is devoted to the island.
The île d'Orléans
Chamber of Commerce
Discover a treausure island, come to Ile d'Orléans. Especially check out the Historic Link on this site.
   
Today Is July 24, 2014 - This page was last reviewed or updated 2021 day(s), 10 hours ago.
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