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QUEBEC – GASPÉSIE: Map of the Counties of Gaspe and Bonaventure, Exhibiting the lands adjudicated, unserveyed, Clergy Reserves, &c. &c. &c.



An important, gargantuan map of Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, predicated on the surveys of the Bahamian-born cartographer Gerald George Dunlevie, published in Toronto for the Canada’s Crown Land Office, serving as the official blueprint for the administration of the region during a generation of transformative change.


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This excellent map depicts Quebec’s Gaspé Peninsula, known in French as ‘La Gaspésie’, a large landmass that juts into the Gulf of St. Lawrence, marking the southern side of the mouth of the St. Lawrence estuary.  The map is predicated on surveys conducted in the early 1850s by Gerald George Dunlevie, a Bahamian-born surveyor, working on behalf of Canada’s Crown Land Office.  While the most advanced survey of the region to date, as noted upon the map, Dunlevie comprehensively surveyed only the populated southern and eastern parts of the peninsula.  Here he conduced precise trigonometric surveys of each of the settled townships (noting the land areas of each), while delineating major reads, the locations of township centers, as well as the lands of the ‘Clergy Reserves’ (which will be discussed later).  The Gaspésie’s vast interior, which was almost totally void of European settlement, is left unsurveyed, marked in parts as ‘This Tract yet unexplored’; as is the sparely populated north shore, which is noted as being ‘Occupied, and Proposed to be surveyed’.  Importantly, however, in addition to the settled townships, Dunlevie surveyed the Kempt Road, which ran across the neck of the peninsula, and provided the only landward link between New Brunswick and Quebec City.

During the 1850s, the government of the united Canadas (Ontario and Quebec) was determined to spur widespread settlement and economic development in areas outside of the densely populated Windsor-Quebec City Corridor, such as the Gaspésie.  This entailed a number of legislative and taxation changes to incentivize settlement.  Dunlevie was dispatched to the Gaspésie by the Crown Land Office to survey the more promising areas for further development.

The present map was published for the Crown Land Office, having been carefully reduced from Dunlevie’s original manuscript, under the supervision of its commissioner, Joseph Édouard Cauchon.  It was published in Toronto, in 1857, by the firm of MacLear & Co. Lithographers. 


Historical Context: Transformative Change in Quebec’s Gaspésie


The Gaspésie region is an immense peninsula that had long been home to European settlers along it southern and eastern shores, but was scarcely populated in its interior, while is northern shore was a region of fleeting development.  While a very small number of European fisherman had inhabited Gaspésie’s shorelines during French colonial times, the period following the Seven Years’ War and the American Revolution saw waves of settlement of Acadians (exiled from the Maritimes), as well as English-speaking settlers from the Thirteen American colonies.  The coasts of the region, particularly the areas of its future southern and eastern townships were first surveyed in 1765, to a very high standard, by teams working under Samuel Holland.  Between that time and 1850s, the Crown had simply utilized the Holland template, only adding updated details, as opposed to commissioning new general surveys.  The most prominent map from this long era was Joseph Bouchette’s Plan of the District of Gaspe (London: William Faden, 1815).


By the 1850s, the government of the united Canadas decided to spur the mass settlement and economic development of the outer regions of the provinces, such as the Gaspésie.  First, the Windsor-Quebec Corridor had become highly developed, such that there was no free land available for new settlers.  Second, the Crown was eager to exploit the resources in the outer regions, which in the Gaspésie consisted of fish, timer, and minerals.  Third, the Crown wanted to ensure that all coastal regions and areas near the U.S. border were settled, in order to prevent the Americans from making a move upon British territory during the era of ‘Manifest Destiny’.


The Crown initiated many legislative and taxation changes to enable and incentivize the settlement and development of the outer regions.  Of great relevance to the Gaspésie, was that since 1791, one-seventh of each of the townships had been designated as ‘Clergy Reserves’, lands given to the Anglican Church to support it activities.  In the Gaspé, the reserves had remained largely unoccupied, and were seen as a terrible waste of good land.  These reserves are shown on the present map as shaded areas.  In 1854, the Crown abolished the reserves, making these lands available to settlers.


However, a new survey of the townships was desperately needed.  The existing maps were simply updated reiterations of the 1765 Holland surveys, and these maps were now revealed to be totally useless for the task of granting new lands plots and planning infrastructure development.


The Crown Land Office charged Gerald George Dunlevie (1810-1887), a highly talented private surveyor, with undertaking a new survey of the Gaspésie.  Dunlevie was born in Nassau, Bahamas, and served as an army surveyor in the West Indies.  In 1833, he moved to Baltimore, where he surveyed routes for canals and railways.  In 1844, after a brief, but highly prestigious, apprenticeship in the London office of John Nash in London (the famed architect of Buckingham Palace), Dunlevie immigrated to Quebec City.  There he set himself up as a private engineering and surveying contractor, where he was very much in demand by both private landowners and the Crown.


Dunlevie’s work in the Gaspé was expeditious, yet highly accurate, and his fine manuscript maps were edited and reduced at the Crown Land Office in Quebec, before being sent to Toronto to be lithographed by the firm of MacLear & Co.


The present map was created under the watchful eye of Joseph Édouard Cauchon (1816-1885), who served as the Commissioner of Crown Lands of the united Canadas, from 1855 to 1857.  This office was a senior cabinet position, overseeing the government’s largest department, in charge of spearheading all designs to develop new territories.


The present map was published as part of a series of 8 large-format ground-breaking 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 (the present map); 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). 


The Dunlevie map remained highly influential and served as the basis for the administrative management of the Gaspésie until it was superseded by more advanced surveys during the 1880s.


References: Ville de Montréal. Section des Archives: CA M001 BM007-2-D30-P002; National Archives U.K.: MR 1/2002/4.

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