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QUEBEC – SAGUENAY-LAC ST. JEAN REGION: Plan of the River Saguenay, Canada East.



The first comprehensive printed scientific survey of the Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac St. Jean Region, taken during a time of transformative change, commissioned by Canada’s Crown Land Office, printed in Toronto in 1857.

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This fine, large format map represents the first comprehensive modern survey of Quebec’s Saguenay-Lac St. Jean Region, taken at the beginning of a period of explosive growth and development that transformed the region from a peripheral backwater into a major industrial and natural resource powerhouse.  The map was commissioned by Canada’s Crown Land Office to serve as blueprint for the development of the region, and was composed by the draftsman Joseph-François Bouchette, grandson of Quebec’s late legendary survey general, Joseph Bouchette, predicated on the latest trigonometric surveys.  


The map embraces the large, round expanse of Lac St. Jean, and the massive Saguenay River, which flows though a great gorge, before entering the St. Lawrence Estuary.  Tadoussac, the village at the mouth of the Saguenay (founded 1600), is today famous for its beluga whales, but is also significant as the oldest permanently occupied European settlement in North America north of St. Augustine and west of Santa Fe.  The map accurately details the region’s topographical features and depicts the newly established townships in advance of waves of settlement, in addition to newly-built roads. Significantly, it depicts Chicoutimi (incorporated 1845), which would grow to become one of Quebec’s major regional centres.


Historical Context: The Development of the Saguenay-St. Jean Region.


The Saguenay-Lac St. Jean region, home to Tadoussac, is the oldest area of Canada to have been continuously settled by Europeans; however, all the way up through the first half of the 19th Century, it was only very sparsely populated.  Tadoussac was a small fishing village and trading post, while the hinterland was inhabited by small number of Montagnais natives and French Canadian trappers.  While the shores of the Saguenay and Lac St. Jean had been mapped to a high standard by surveyors working under Samuel Holland, in 1768-9, little additional mapping had been done in the succeeding three generations.


During the 1850s, the government of the united Canadas (administering modern Quebec and Ontario), decided to spur the mass European settlement and economic development of the outer regions of the provinces, such as the Saguenay.  First, the Windsor-Quebec Corridor had become highly developed, such that there was no more free land available for new settlers.  Second, the Crown was eager to exploit the resources in the outer regions, which in the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean consisted of arable farmland, fish, timber, and minerals.

The Crown initiated many legislative and taxation changes to enable and incentivize settlement of Saguenay-Las St. Jean.  Roads were built from the St. Lawrence, though the wilderness, to the upper Saguenay.  Chicoutimi, officially incorporated in 1845, was made the regional center, receiving a large injection of public investment and improved infrastructure in anticipation of dramatic growth.  Lac St. Jean, in spite of its harsh winters, was home to fertile farmland that could yield productive crops.  New townships were charted, in anticipation of settlers.  However, the exiting mapping was inadequate to continue road building projects and to lay-out cadastral grants.

Canada’s Crown Land Office sent several teams of skilled surveyors to trigonometrically map the region.  In Quebec City, Joseph-Francois Bouchette reduced and refined the resulting manuscripts into the present map, which was lithographed in Toronto by 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; 4. The Saguenay (the present map); 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 present map remained highly influential and served as the basis for the administrative management of the Saguenay-Lac St. Jean Region until it was superseded by more advanced surveys during the 1880s.


References: Ville de Montréal. Section des Archives: CA M001 BM007-2-D30-P003.

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