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CANADA – QUEBEC (Montreal-Quebec City Corridor): Plan of the St. Maurice Territory.



A scarce and monumental map of Quebec’s St. Maurice Territory, the northern section of the Montreal-Quebec City Corridor, based upon groundbreaking surveys, created as a blueprint for the settlement of the interior regions beyond the seigneuries along the St. Lawrence, published for Canada’s Department of Crown Lands by George Matthews in Montreal, in 1856. 

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This scarce, ultra-large format map depicts what was known as the ‘St. Maurice Territory’, or the areas between Montreal and Quebec City, to the north of the St. Lawrence River.  The map was compiled by the Department of Crown Lands of Canada, under the supervision of its commissioner, Joseph Édouard Cauchon, and published in Montreal, in 1856, by the lithographer George Matthews.  The purpose of the map was to act as a blueprint for the Crown’s designs to settle the areas inland from the St. Lawrence.


The St. Maurice Territory covered a vast expanse of land, centered upon the old city of TroisRivières.  As evident on the map, the areas immediately bordering the St. Lawrence River had been intensively settled and farmed since the 17th Century, forming long narrow cadastral strips, or seigneuries, running up from the river.  Conversely, the interior region beyond gave way to the lake-strewn Canadian Shield, and was traditionally scarcely settled by Europeans.  The upper three-quarters of the present map clearly illustrate this situation.


By the 1850s, the rich alluvial lands of the St. Lawrence and Richelieu Valleys of Canada East (Quebec) had become oversubscribed with respect to farmland available for new homesteads.  It was considered necessary to open up the interior for development and to, hopefully, foster farming that could adapt to the harsher climate and less fertile soils of the Precambrian Shield.  The present map was commissioned from original surveys with this purpose in mind.


Joseph Édouard Cauchon (1816-1885) served as the Commissioner of Crown Lands of the united Canadas, from 1855 to 1857.  This was a senior cabinet position, overseeing the government’s largest department, and in charge of spearheading all designs to develop new territories, including the settlement of the interior of the St. Maurice Territory.  Cauchon dispatched Crown surveyors to gather more intelligence on this sparsely settled territory, and the resulting survey maps and reports were brought back to the surveyor general’s department in Quebec City, where they were fashioned into the manuscript for the present map.  The map represented the next generation of the cartography of Quebec, building upon the superb trigonometric surveys conducted by Quebec’s legendary late surveyor-general Joseph Bouchette (1774 – 1841).  While Bouchette generally confined his efforts to scientifically mapping the long-settled regions of the St. Lawrence River and Gulf coasts, the present map provides a wealth of information on the interior, beyond the St. Lawrence, for the first time. 


While the old seigneuries are here shown in the correct, updated, form, more interesting are  the depictions of the multiple ‘New Settlements’ and newly-founded townships, to the back of the seigneuries.  Some of these incipient settlements would later become quite significant population centres, such as ‘Shawenigan’ (Shawinigan).  Numerous new roads are marked, while the land is variously evaluated with notes such as ‘Excellent Land’ or ‘Very rough but Good’.  Beyond the new townships is a vast realm of lakes and forests, yet to be developed.  The map shows only the beginning of a new wave of settlement, such that the map would be used as a guide for the Crown Lands Department to direct further development.


The final manuscript was taken to Montreal, where it was lithographed by George Mathews, in 1856.  It was then issued as part of a series of 8 large-format groundbreaking maps of Canadian regions published to accompany the Appendix to Cauchon’s Report of the Commissioner of Crown Lands. Part II (Toronto, 1857).  The maps included (short title): 1. Lower Canada; 2. Upper Canada; 3. Gaspe and Bonaventure; 4. The Saguenay; 5. The St. Maurice Territory; 6. The Ottawa & Huron Country; 7. The North Shore of Lake Huron; and 8. Canada, Indian Territories, and Hudson’s Bay.  While the maps were sometimes bound into a volume, the marquis examples were mounted upon limp linen and folded separately within a portfolio (such as the present example).


References: Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec: CA QUEBEC E21-S555-SS1-SSS16-P3. 

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