History and Heritage

The long course of history
A land of adventure that witnessed the birth of the metal-working, paper and aluminum industries, Authentic Quebec proudly displays its rich heritage and the legacy of its past.

Traversed by the Amerindians of the First Nations for many thousands of years, this game-laden land, covered with lakes, forests and rivers, very quickly caught the eye of the colonists of New France. While settlements began to appear along the gentle shores of the Saint Lawrence River, the more adventurous trappers, hunters and fur traders learned to live in harmony with a vast, sometimes harsh land that seemed to stretch on endlessly. The proximity of water and wood were major factors in the development and industrialization of the Lanaudière and Mauricie regions. In this country of builders, many museums and historical sites are testament to the passion of the inhabitants who were always resolutely focused on the future.

A good anvil fears not the hammer
The area was a pioneer in the industrial development of Canada with the establishment of the first forges, several pulp and paper factories and the boom in aluminum production, taking advantage of the vast local wealth of energy. To this day, traces of this past are still proudly preserved and can be seen at the Forges-du-Saint-Maurice National Historic Site, whose history dates back to 1730. The site reveals the mysteries of cast iron and iron making and many archeological remains are testament to the 150 years of existence of this first industrial village. Further north, up the Saint-Maurice River, is another pioneering site, closely connected to the development of hydroelectricity. The establishment of the first power plant led to the creation of a city and in 1901 Shawinigan Falls was born. Ten years later, it already had more than 4,000 inhabitants. Now known as Shawinigan, the city proudly retains the remnants of this past thanks to the Cité de l’énergie. Both an industrial museum and a venue for exhibitions and shows, its imposing metal tower, which stands over 100 meters tall, has become a true emblem.

The seigneurial era
Hardly a century separates the arrival of the first settlers and the creation of the seigneuries in the 17th and 18th centuries. Authentic Quebec gives you the opportunity to step back in time and discover the rich heritage left by the great seigneurs and the many religious congregations that shaped the soul of the region. The old mills of Terrebonne, the beautiful homes of the Chemin du Roy, the impressive Our Lady of the Cape Shrine, the historic district of Trois-Rivières, and the many general stores and village churches take visitors back to a past that provides many surprises.

Le Chemin du Roy
Opened in 1737, the Chemin du Roy was Canada’s first passable road. It made it possible to travel by horse from Montreal to Quebec City in five days along the north shore of the Saint Lawrence River. Today, Route 138 follows exactly the same route as the old road and several heritage houses along the way are worth a stop.

Of water and logs
The Saint Maurice River flows somberly and powerfully from the Gouin Reservoir to the Saint Lawrence River, for a distance of over 560 kilometers, cutting through forest-covered mountains. The region owes its development to this river. For over a century, the Saint Maurice River was used to transport “pitounes” – logs tied together into convoys that looked like floating trains – to Trois-Rivières. Log driving ended in 1996, and along with it, many evocatively-named trades (see page 52).

Of trades and men
Log-driving saw its last days at the end of the 20th century. This rough and dangerous occupation involved moving “pitounes” (timber logs) downstream towards the Saint Lawrence River. Some of the many heroes of log-driving were the raftsmen, who rode the assemblage of logs called rafts. These expanses of logs were held together by a boom chain (a string of long logs connected by a chain). Balancing themselves like tightrope walkers, the log drivers would steer the floating trunks with large pike poles, also known as cant-hooks. At the logging camp, their colleagues of the log squaring crew (specializing in squaring the logs to make them into lumber), were called the markers (who determined which trees were to be cut), the cutters (equipped with their axes) and the adzers (or hewers who squared off the logs). In winter, the road icers were responsible for pouring water on the roads so that the sleds could glide more easily.