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Mar. 28, 2003

How Papineau Township got its name

Papineau Township (since 1992 Papineau-Cameron) touches the Mattawa and Ottawa Rivers and the town of Mattawa on its northern boundary. It was named after the French-Canadian rebel Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871) in 1878. Louis-Joseph Papineau is one of the most acclaimed and one of the most puzzling men in Canadian history. Let's look briefly at his remarkable and paradoxical career over his long life in Lower Canada.

Louis-Joseph Papineau (1786-1871)

His equally contradictory rebel counterpart in Upper Canada was William Lyon Mackenzie whose grandson, Mackenzie King, became "Canada's most successful and longest-serving Prime Minister." Papineau, as quoted in Will Ferguson's book Bastards and Boneheads: Canada's Glorious Leaders, Past and Present (1999) was a conservative in theory, a revolutionary in practice, and along with English-speaking reformers became a founder of "what would one day become the Liberal party of Canada."

Joseph-Papineau, Louis-Joseph's father, was an entrepreneur who constructed mills and managed Seigneuries (large tracts of land that were part of the French feudal-type system of land grants). Joseph was also an elected member of the Lower Canada Assembly. In 1802 he purchased the huge Petite Nation Seigneury and heightened his family's status significantly in the province. The Constitution Act (1791) provided an elected house of assembly that could make recommendations to the Legislative council and the Executive council of Lower Canada, which were almost exclusively British and generally ignored the wishes of the Assembly, which was primarily French.

Louis-Joseph followed his father into the assembly in 1809 and by 1815 was the Speaker of the House and leader of the party. In 1812 he was an officer in the militia that fought the United States. From the very start he was somewhat contrary, and from an early age and for the rest of his life he renounced the Church, while at the same time recognizing it as a bastion of French culture.

The British elite who ran Lower Canada usually ignored the wishes of the Assembly, so Papineau had the Assembly withhold funds and crippled activity. He also encouraged the boycotting of British businesses and encouraged the establishment of French banks. At one point he developed ninety-two resolutions (grievances) with the British government and sent them to England for discussion. He was very supportive in his early days of the British, but the rejection of the ninety-two resolutions, on top of other grievances, began to change him. As the Patriotes geared up for rebellion he was somewhat resistant to it, and when skirmishes began to take place he left the country. He stated that he did this to provide leadership in the future as required.

At St. Charles sixty Patriotes were killed and at St. Eustache the Patriotes were forced into a church, which was burned, and as they ran from the building they were shot; over a hundred died. At St. Benoit the French put up no resistance but the town was burned to the ground, as was every building for fifteen miles around. Thousands were arrested, fifty-eight were sent to a penal colony in Australia, and twelve were hung. Papineau spent two years in the United States with his family and later went to France for eight years.

Lord Durham responded to the crisis by writing his famous Report, which made significant changes, including more responsible government, leading to future changes that eventually culminated in Confederation in 1867. When Papineau was given amnesty he returned and immediately went back into politics, giving the moderate leader Louis H. Lafontaine a very hard time, and eventually driving him out of office. In the meantime Papineau became the leader of the Rouge Party and became extremely anti-British and even talked of annexation to the United States.

By 1854 Papineau was fed up with politics and the people were fed up with him. He returned to his elite life at his Seigneury, where he made money from the lumber on his 178 000 acres, collected his rents and built a beautiful manor house for his family. He saw the coming of Confederation and lived until age eighty-four, dying in 1871. His family continued to live in the manor house into the next century.
The Papineau manor house on the Ottawa River, with the Chateau Montebello resort on the left.
Papineau's Seigneury manor house eventually became the elite Seigneury Club and the beautiful log Chateau Montebello Resort was built next door in 1930. Several small villages, including Montebello, Papineauville, and Fassett were established in the old Seigneury. The Fassett Lumber Company acquired some of the limits and logged them from 1908-1924. When the Fassett Lumber Corporation left Quebec it came to Chisholm Township, and later went to Kiosk under the leadership of Sydney Staniforth. Sydney Staniforth began his career at Fassett Quebec and kept a home there, and as he rose in the ranks he became an active member of the Seigneury Club. The Canadian Pacific Railway now runs the Chateau, and the Papineau manor house is a museum next door. Both are well worth a visit.

Louis-Joseph Papineau, if he were alive, would be pleased to see that the Papineau-Cameron municipal council, under Reeve Robert Corriveau, has a strong French-Canadian connection, and that his name is preserved there for posterity.

For further information on Papineau and the rebellions see www.edunetconnect.com/cat/rebellions/index.html.

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