Parks Canada Banner
Parks Canada Home

Canadian Historic Sites: Occasional Papers in Archaeology and History No. 23

Gaspé, 1760-1867

by David Lee

Part III: The People of Gaspé

The People of Gaspé: Introduction

The Population consists of a mixture of the Descendants of the Acadians of Nova Scotia, of English, Scotch & Irish Fishermen & other settlers from the United Kingdom; there are even Individuals from the Southern Countries of Europe to be found amongst them, who have found their way thither in the course of the communication existing between Gaspé & those countries in carrying on the Trade in salted Fish, which is their principal occupation; this mixture in the composition of the Population of the District of Gaspé implies a difference in Religion, as well as in other particulars.

Lord Aylmer

Governor General Aylmer was writing to the Colonial Office explaining how difficult it would be to get the people of Gaspé to formulate a common opinion on whether to remain in the Province of Lower Canada or join New Brunswick.1 There was little sense of community feeling in Gaspé; the people had no sense of common identity. The population consisted of an unintegrated collection of people of diverse origins.

There were Indians on the Restigouche, Cascapédia and other rivers. There were a few French families which had been in Gaspé before the Conquest and stayed on under the new British regime. There were Acadians who had fled to the Restigouche to escape deportation and who subsequently settled along Chaleur Bay. There were Basques who were so expert at curing fish. In the 19th century, French Canadians came down the St. Lawrence River from the parishes near Quebec City to settle on the north shore at Gaspé at such coves as Sainte Anne-des-Monts, Rivière-la-Madeleine and Rivière-au-Renard. There were Guernseymen and Jerseymen who were Protestant but spoke French and sometimes English. Some English-speaking people immigrated directly from Britain while others came from Upper and Lower Canada; some came from the thirteen colonies before the Revolution and many more came as Loyalists after the Revolution. There were also the Irish who settled around Percé, Douglastown and Cap des Rosiers and the Scots who settled at Hopetown and elsewhere. There were itinerant Jewish traders and a few scattered Italians, Portuguese, Swedes, Norwegians, Dutch and Germans who found their way to Gaspé.

This diverse population showed little enthusiasm to integrate. The different groups seldom came to blows — most of the complaints about lawlessness in Gaspé involved sailors who came for the summer to carouse, brawl and work on the fisheries. There was some intermarriage between the groups and most of the population depended on the fisheries and had similar needs and interests, but apathy and poor communications deterred the creation of any integrated community feeling in Gaspé.

previous Next

Last Updated: 2006-09-15 To the top
To the top