Hamlet of Cacouna

 The Hamlet of Cacouna 

by Lynda Dionne and Georges Pelletier*

   The oldest sector of Cacouna is situated near the bird-watching site not far from the port. In fact, these lands near the marshes were the first, in the LeParc Seigneurie, to be cleared and settled in 1765. 

   Initially, by colonization, as Isle of Cacouna and the surrounding banks welcomed families coming from Acadia. Here,these pioneers built their homes and farm buildings which formed the first hamlet. In this locality, called Cacouna, could be found 

  • the house of the notary Michel Saindon, 
  • the inn and general store of the three brothers Simon, Jean-Roch and Louis Talbot dit Gervais, 
  • the posthouse of Captain Sirois dit Duplessis and 
  • the seigneury’s communal grain mill.
Aerial view of Gros-Cacouna peninsula showing the first conceded lots in 1765 and the Chemin des Côtes of 1844, mow Du Patrimoine route (route 132)

Photo : Yvan Roy (1987)

The First Inhabitants

   In 1758, the fishermen from Kamouraska watched over the fishing of porpoise and other species from fascines installed at the north-east point of the peninsula on behalf of the Seigneur of the domains of Rivière du Loup and LeParc. 

   That winter the Acadians who were fleeing deportation, took refuge in the fishermen’s cabins on the island and continued their route the following Spring. Other Acadian families, the Bergerons, the Saindons, the Godins and the Guichards, took the same route to exile. This group stopped at this same place and decided to settle there. Initially, these “squatters” build temporary shelters and cleared a small plot of land before being able to acquire a concession grant1

   In 1765, Isaac Warden, the representative of Seigneur James Murray of rRvière du Loup allotted the land to them. The next year, the surveyor John Collins increased the seigneurial boundaries and drew up a map designating the lots to be cleared facing Isle of Cacouna as well as those to be allocated towards Isle Verte and Anse-au-Persil2.

The Seigneurial Communal Grain Mill

   Towards the end of the 18th century, the hamlet of Cacouna counted 45 landholders. New families came from the villages upstream, Saint André and Kamouraska to join the Acadians. 

   Settling south of the peninsula, these farmers cleared their land in the forests along the shoreline and built their houses. In the early years, they sowed wheat by hand between the stumps in the clearings and each farmer was obliged to “bring to grind " at the communal mill of the Seigneurie all grain that he harvested on the land, without being able to grind at any other location…”3 Every Autumn after the land was harvested, it was time to load the horse carts with sacs of grain and take the route to the waterfront.

   Not far from the land of Agapit Morneau, the waters of the small river turned the wheel of the seigneurial grain mill built below the hill. In 1786, this building, in a single milling, produced eight bushels of milled grain at the rate established at 1/14 of the grains par habitant. 

   With the increase in the number of families settling in the fifth concession and the founding of the village of Saint-Arsène in 1846, the Seigneurs Edward and William Fraser built, five years later, a mill built of stone (60’X37’) on the banks of the Rivière Verte. The residents of Cacouna then abandoned the mill on the banks of the Rivière du Petit Moulin4.
Maison construite par le notaire Michel Saindon. Entre 1789 et 1809, elle servit de maison-chapelle. 

Photo tirée de Laurent Saindon, Histoire et Généalogie de la famille Saindon d’Amérique du Nord, p.85

The Saindons House/Chapel

   In the locality of Kakouna, the home of the notary and merchant Michel Saindon was the largest. He had resumed his commerce in goods and foodstuffs that he had practiced in the St John River valley. 

    Having studied notary law, Michel Saindon received a royal commission becoming the notary for the region stretching from Kamouraska to Rimouski, which the area desperately needed.5 Between 1769 and 1780, he drew up almost 600 contracts for the inhabitants. 

   Following his death, his son Jean inherited the large residence. In 1789, it served as a house/chapel for the residents of Cacouna following their request to the bishop Msgr D’Esglis. A missionary priest celebrated mass there until the building of the first church in 1809, near Fontaine Claire. 

   The notary’s old residence was move twice and also served as a home school. It was finally relocated in 1844 to its site on Chemin des Côtes6. (now the site of the Bed and Breakfast, La Veilleuse on rue du Patrimoine)

The Posthouse of Captain Sirois

   The road in the first concession laid out in 1798, crossed the clay ground where horse carts carved deep ruts. Situated not far from the sand banks, this first road was often flooded when the tides were high. In addition, it was difficult for the inhabitants to maintain this part of the route. 

   After numerous complaints as to the poor quality of the road, it was decided to shift it higher up the bank. Following the opening of the new Chemin des Côtes, many of the farmers decided to relocate their houses and barns there7

   Built on a plot of land facing the East point of Isle de Cacouna, the residence of militia Captain Pierre Sirois dit Duplessis was also moved. He held the most important post in the hamlet prior to the establishment of the municipal council in Cacouna in 1845 and 1855. Simultaneously justice of the peace and land agent, he was consulted to settle land boundaries and water rights. Before the opening of inns, Captain Sirois accommodated travellers and itinerants (merchants, cobblers and notaries) and received the mail, as his residence also served as the posthouse in 17878.  

Ancestral home of the Talbot with its farm buildings, circa 1930. The store occupied the eastern part of the house. In 1919, Simon Talbot's grandson, Félix-Alonzo, was in the "groceries" business. 
Coll. Bertrand Gaudreau

The Inn and General Store of the Talbot Family

   Debarking from sail boats docked on the sand bar of Isle of Cacouna, travellers and itinerant merchants, beginning in 1822, headed to locale of Simon, Jean-Roch and Louis Talbot dit Gervais. 

   These three brothers, from Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, had an inn and general store. From 1817 to 1833, they were the principal agents for trading food basics (flour, salt and sugar) with the inhabitants9. The large residence that housed their commerce, had originally belonged to Basile Saindon. After his death, his widow Marguerite McLaughlin remarried Simon Talbot10

   The move of the chemin Royal higher on the hill in 1844 benefitted them as they also produced lime in their kiln near the river. As a result, they supplied the masons who constructed the foundations for the houses that were moved. 

   Both farmer and merchant, Simon Talbot, who also sold wood, became interested in boat construction and the repair of schooners. He owned two boats, the Brother (1841) and the Anastasie (1856) which transported goods from the port of Quebec to the Cacouna peninsula11.

   Still today, the point of Gros-Cacouna which in the past provided anchorage for sailboats, provides a harbour for ships with the construction of a sea port in 1964. Inside the jetty, ships can load their cargo of wood and paper. The access to the port is situated not far from the old Talbot family residence.

* Biographical notes

Lynda Dionne graduated in high school plastic arts education and
Georges Pelletier trained as a forest engineer.

   Now retired, these two spouses, who live in Cacouna, have always had a common passion, the history of Bas-Saint-Laurent. In fact, for the past 40 years or so, they have written books, articles, panels and interpretive heritage guides dealing with the life of the first inhabitants, vacationing, commerce and navigation. The backstory of their texts always comes from archival documents and collected testimonies.

  Over the years, they wrote Des forêt et des hommes, 1880-1982, in the series Aux Limites de la Mémoire (Publications du Québec, 1997). They have also contributed to the books Du souvenir au devenir Rivière-du-Loup in 2000, L'Île Verte: the river, an island and its lighthouse in 2009 and Histoires de train, Rivière-du-Loup, crossroads of the east railroad. of the country in 2016. At the EPIK editions of Cacouna, they produced, in 2008, Découvrirr Cacouna, ses lieux-dits et ses circuits and in 2011, Commerce et villégiature à Cacouna in the 19th and 20th centuries. In 2016, they wrote the book La rivière du Loup et ses chutes, le Platin, son verger et son boisé - Lieux d,histoire et de souvenirs. Currently, they are writing the history of the old flour and sawmills of tKamouraska region to Trois-Pistoles.

   In 2012, the Bas-Saint-Laurent Cultural Council awarded them the Bas-Saint-Laurent Heritage Prize in the “Transmission, interpretation and dissemination” category.

Thanks to the authors for authorizing the reproduction of this article


1- Laurent Saindon, « Histoire et Généalogie de la famille Saindon d’Amérique du Nord, Tome 1 : Histoire », Société d’édition Saindon enr. 1992, pp. 82, 115, 124 et 125.

2- Greffe de Jean-Baptiste Taché, Papier Terrier de Kakouna et Plan of the Seigniory of River du Loup and its dependances as surveyed in the year 1766 by John Collins, BAnQ (Sur les terres au sud de la presqu’île, trois maisons étaient construites).

3- Rent Roll of the Seigneurie of Rivière-du-Loup, 14 février 1787, fonds Fraser, BAnQ et André Dionne et al. , Essai d’histoire civile et sociale de Kakouna, p. 9.

4- Rent Roll op. cit., greffe du notaire Jean-Baptiste Chamberland, #309, 20 août 1851 et Plan de la Seigneurie Cacouna, D. S. Ballantyne, mars 1856, BAnQ. (La rivière du Petit-Moulin y est clairement identifiée).

5- Laurent Saindon, op. cit. pp. 135-136.

6- Réal Lebel, s. j. Au pays du Porc-Epic—Kakouna, Le Comité des fêtes de Cacouna, 1975, p. 54, greffe du notaire Jean-Baptiste Taché, 19 août 1818, BAnQ, ( En 1818, Jean Gasseau, premier maître d’école épousa Marie-Anne Saindon.) et Archives municipales de la paroisse Saint-Georges-de-Cacouna, 7 décembre 1843.

7- Procès verbal qui règle le chemin de front de la première concession de la seigneurie de Kakona, 13 et 14 septembre 1798, fonds Grands-Voyers BAnQ et Lynda Dionne et Georges Pelletier, Le Bas de Cacouna, ses habitants et leur histoire, Dossier - Journal EPIK de Cacouna, juin 1998, p. 2.

8- Noms des Paroisses, Maitres de Poste, et distance en lieues de Québec aux Trois Pistoles, Almanach du Québec, 1787, Bibliothèque de l’Université Laval et Lynda Dionne et Georges Pelletier, L’hébergement à Cacouna de la colonisation à la villégiature, Dossier - Journal EPIK de Cacouna, juin 1997, p 1.

9- Listes des auberges, ville et banlieue, de la campagne 1821-1822, BAnQ, Recensement national de Kakouna, 1825, BAC et greffe de Rémi Ouellet, # 344, 30 avril 1832, BAnQ (Selon un contrat passé devant le notaire Rémi Piuze, les frères Talbot étaient associés depuis environ 15 ans ).

10- Yvon Lévesque, Répertoire des baptêmes, des mariages et des sépultures Paroisse Saint-Georges-de-Cacouna — Comté de Rivière-du-Loup —1813-1986, Société de généalogie de Québec, publication numéro 122-2011, Québec, juin 2011, décès de Basile Saindon le 18 décembre 1819, p. 357 et mariage de Marguerite McLauglin sa veuve avec Simon Talbot dit Gervais 8 août 1820, p. 256.

11- Greffe de François Huot, 12 juin 1857, BAnQ, Registre maritime du Port de Québec, volume 202, # 57/1840 et # 57/ 1856, BAC et Lynda Dionne et Georges Pelletier, Commerce et villégiature à Cacouna aux 19e et 20e siècles, Éditions EPIK, 2011 pp.12 et 13.