Stereotypical Portrait of French-Canadian Culture

What is it to be a real French-Canadian? Here is one portrait that demonstrates in a highly stereotypical manner the heart of French-Canadian culture – to laugh and be happy despite daily hardships. This portrait would never be considered a gem or a “photo-op” by today’s’ standards but it is exactly that by 20th century standards.

In reply to The Body or the Soul? Religion and Culture in a Rural Quebec Parish, St-Joseph-de-Beauce, 1736-1901 by Francis a. Abbott, this photo does reveal the true nature and cultural identity of a family born and raised in Saint Joseph de Beauce, a family practicing the Catholic faith, a group of people connected by a culture that is expressed outwardly despite daily challenges and economic hardships of the time.

Iconic Portrait of a French-Canadian Family

Portrait of a French-Canadian Family

The Poulin family, partially presented here, fulfilled every required demonstration of the Catholic faith but continued to hold to their cultural autonomy through song, dance and merriment despite the rigors that village cures attempted to impose on them.

After decades of moving away from their Canadian roots, the members of this photo continued for years to demonstrates the temps des fétes, the winter feasting that characterized Quebecois families.

Despite the vision of the Reverend Antoine Racine put forth in his 1853 report on the township of Saint-Joseph to Archbishop Turgeon, the continuation of exuberant celebration never did disappear from Saint-Joseph, nor from the traditional customs of the surrounding population. The attempts to change people’s attitudes toward a more submissive behavior and posture were seen as failures by 1901. No amount of catechism school lessons would bring forth the modified behavior viewed as appropriate by the Catholic Church.

These people were farmers, loggers, miners and trappers. Young boys and girls were pulled from their studies based on the farming seasons, the logging opportunities to earn a few dollars, the cyclical movements of game in the area. By 1901, local farmers had minimal interest in having their children schooled in drafty, one-room schoolhouses. Of what use was an education on sheep, grain and dairy farms that valued an extra set of hands each day of the year?

For far too long, the Catholic Church has tried to interfere with basic cultural indoctrination, a facet of character that is not really part and parcel of a “fervent faith in God”, is it? To be truly French-Canadian, your family would resemble much more closely the one depicted above.

– Abbott, Francis A. (2012) The body or the Soul? Religion and culture in a rural Quebec parish, St-Joseph-de-Beauce, 1736-1901, published Fall 2012, Simon Fraser University, Vancouver, Canada.


Welcome to the Beauce Valley

Thanks for stopping by and exploring the Pioneers of the Beauce, a fertile valley in southern Quebec.

The Beauce Valley was originally populated by Abenaki, Algonquin and many other smaller First Nation bands.  This region of Quebec slowly grew from the 1800s with a constant influx of immigrant French, English, and Irish. People from the many villages of the Beauce include a strong legacy of determination, perseverance, and beliefs that live on today.  Today,  Beaucerons are the hardest-working people of Quebec.  Their reputation for conscientious and honest workers is known far and wide.

Going down the street to the center of Saint Joseph de Beauce.

Going down the street to the center of Saint Joseph de Beauce.



The Land of Lost Time

In the quaint village of Saint Joseph de Beauce, the Chaudiere River runs north easterly, eventually joining the brackish waters of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Like many earliest villages in the area, Saint Joseph de Beauce sits on the edge of this transport route. Although not deep, the Chaudiere with its white peaks, whips by at a fast pace. Its name means ‘boiling pot’ from the many rocks and rocky edges under the water that cause so many white caps. Its depth averages 3 feet, perhaps 6 feet in some spots.

the locals have named it the ‘land of lost time’

At the village of Saint Joseph, near the southeastern edge of the Chaudiere River, there is a piece of land that the locals call ‘the land of lost time’. It has probably taken a hundred years to figure out the cause of so many mysterious disappearances in this exact spot. Simple. It’s a bog. A bog hidden by tall, rich greenery that lines both sides of the river. Over and over, industrious men have wandered on the bog with cow, workhorse or tractor and just disappeared. No trace left.

The bog is probably safe 90% of the time but it’s that 10% that always gets you.

Looking down on the Chaudiere River in Saint Joseph de Beauce at the bog.

Looking down on the Chaudiere River in Saint Joseph de Beauce at the bog.

So the locals have named it the ‘terre de tempts perdu’ or the land of lost time. Regardless of how many hours a farmer had invested to reclaim that piece of land, the land has never accepted all the effort.

Marie-Ange Vachon

Marie-Ange Vachon married a master carpenter, Alfred Jacques. By showcasing his skills in his own home, this house was his calling card, and it resulted in lots of work for Alfred over the years.

The house of  Alfred Jacques

The house of Alfred Jacques caption]

I feel so fortunate to have been a guest in that wonderful house a few times. The first time I met Marie-Ange,  I was impressed by her workaholic habits, so familiar in my own parents and grand-parents. On one occasion when we were fed a fabulous meal, Marie-Ange washed the dishes and Aurora set the table with all the dishes that was dried moments earlier.

“To keep the flies out”

She finished the task by covering the table with a clean, cotton tablecloth. “To keep the flies out”, Aurora said as I watched her with fascination.Marie Ange Jacques and daughter AuroraOne evening, Aurora came down from her bedroom wearing a mink wrap. How I envied her, this grown woman in her early 30s with this luxurious mink stole. We all walked to Saint Joseph’s Church for a special evening prayer, and both Marie-Ange and Aurora both wore mink wraps. The women laughed and laughed as we walked slowly on the street. Memories of these visits play back in my mind like it was yesterday. Life was so simple; everyone was so content.Marie Ange Jacques with daughter Aurora

Elie Poulin – An Early Pioneer in the Beauce Valley

Thanks for stopping by and exploring the story of Elie Poulin, one of the pioneers of the Beauce Valley. Located in southern Quebec, Elie lived from 1819 to 1894 in the village of Saint Joseph de Beauce along with perhaps 30 other pioneering families.

Joseph Elie Isaac Poulin and his wife, Archange Nadeau, produced at least 15 issue.  From this one couple, there remains a legacy of French Canadian wherewithal, determination and perseverance that lives on today.

Elie Poulin about 1837 at 18 years of age.

Elie Poulin about 1837 at 18 years of age.

Each of the pioneering families included the necessary skills to build a strong community that would prove to be as resilient as the soil was rich and fertile.