A History of Valcartier, Quebec       

       The village of St. Gabriel de Valcartier, better known as Valcartier, was named as such because it is located in a valley formed by the Jacques Cartier River (Val + Cartier).  Valcartier lies 18 miles north of Quebec City.  It was originally part of the Seigniory of St. Gabriel and was ceded to Dr. Robert Gifford, a surgeon in the French Army, by King Louis XIV of France in April, 1647.  When Dr. Gifford returned to France twenty years later, he turned it over to the Jesuits.  Following the death of the last Jesuit in the early 1800's, the seigniory passed to the Crown of Lower Canada and before long became wilderness and was used by the Huron Indians of Lorette as a hunting ground.

    When England defeated the French and overtook Quebec City in 1759, they fortified the city to prevent invasion by the sea.  As the years passed, however, they grew concerned about invasion by land, so in 1815 the British government offered free passage and land to English citizens with the idea that they would settle the land to the north and south of the city and thus provide further protection from possible invaders.

    Some of the earliest settlers to these areas were United Empire Loyalists from Connecticut.  These were soon joined by immigrants from England, Ireland, and Scotland who came to farm the land.  The Valcartier census of 1861 states that the town was first settled in 1816, by a Mr. Hewston, an American.  However, the Hon. John Neilson, is often mentioned as one of four leading Quebec men who purchased the land from the government in 1815.  Neilson also later donated the land on which the Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches were later built - Neilson was Presbyterian and his wife was Catholic.

    When Valcartier opened for settlement in 1816-7, the first settlers, men, women and children included, had to walk miles through unmarked forests from Quebec City to get to their homesteads.  Many built their houses in the heavily wooded mountain ranges while some farmed the north side of the Jacques Cartier.  Initially, there were no doctors or clergymen and life was quite rugged.

    An early map drawn by surveyor, William Sax, in 1819, shows the names of some of the original settlers.  Starting at the Neilson property, (where once there was a ferry across the Jacques Cartier river) and traveling north towards Riviere aux Pins you find the following families:

Lot # Left Side of Road Right Side of Road
1 reserved for mill site reserved for mill site
2 Joseph Purse (1821) Harris or Hinley?
3 G.J. Brooks W. M. Bethel, Sr. (1821)
4 Jeremiah Richaby (1822) James T. Rourke (9 May 1821)
5 N. Miller (Jan. 1822) James Abraham (9 May 1821)
6 M. O'Hara (16 Aug. 1822) Joseph Abraham (9 May 1821)
7 John Coote (16 Aug. 1822) Nicholas Abraham (9 May 1821)
8 W. McNamara John Abraham (9 May 1821)
9 Fitzpatrick Thomas Abraham (9 May 1821)
10 Fitzpatrick W. M. Bethel
11 M. Cassin James Abraham (4 Aug 1821)
12 D. Cassin Thomas Bethel
13 Curtis Billing John Bethel
14 Curtis Billing John Delaney
15 J. Abraham William Delaney
16 J. Abraham John Delaney, Jr.
17   Ed Monaghan
18   J. Abraham
19   W. Bethel

    By the time of the 1825 census, Valcartier had expanded to 306 inhabitants living on 1670 acres of land.  It was at this time that Adjutant Alexander Wolff settled in the district with his family.  His descendants still live in Valcartier village.

    Six years later during the 1831 census, the settlement had more than doubled to 824 inhabitants including 387 Catholics, 291 Anglicans, 120 from the Church of Scotland and 26 Presbyterians and Congregationalists.  It was in 1833 that a small chapel with accommodations for 150 people opened for service.  The Catholic registers start from 1832 in St. Catherine's de Portneuf and in 1843 in Valcartier.

    John Navin was the enumerator for the 1851 census.  He was married to Sarah Duffy.  I believe that it is possible that Sarah was the sister of Judith Duffy (my 3rd great-grandmother).  Mr. Navin stated that the area's growth was impeded by the lack of roads and the need for a bridge.  The population had grown to 1400 and there were three churches - Catholic, Presbyterian, and Anglican.  Six sawmills, an oatmeal mill, and a thrashing mill had also been built. 

        Henry Crawford, the enumerator for the 1861 census, wrote a detailed description of the area.  Population had grown to 1667 with the majority of people from the British Isles and with few French Canadians.  There was about an equal number of Catholics and Protestants, with the Protestants almost equally divided between Anglicans and Presbyterians.    Hardships with the land, including the potato blight,  lack of year round employment, and poor funding of education are described by Crawford.  

VALCARTIER CAMP By Bernie Monaghan 

    At the outbreak of World War 1 in 19l4, a large section of the Township of Valcartier was selected by the Federal Government as a site for a Military Training Camp. As a result, this decision caused the properties of a sub­stantial number of residents who lived in the area, mostly farmers, to be expropriated. 

    As a war was on and the decision to expropriate had been made in short order, some of the residents were reluctant to leave and remained in their homes even after shells began bursting around them. 

    Valcartier Camp was the creation of Sam Hughes, right hand man of Sir Robert Borden who was Prime Minister of Canada at that time. Mr. Hughes, an ardent Orangeman, had been in charge of the Nation's Military Forces since 19l1. He held the rank of Major-General. He was always considered a con­troversial figure and reference to him for the most part was considered derogatory. 

    August 24th, 19l4, saw the first troops arrive in Valcartier. Here some thirty-three thousand soldiers were to be trained for overseas service. In less than a month the tract of land bisected by the Jacques Cartier River, had been transformed into a bustling Military Camp complete with roads, water mains, railway sidings, stores, showers and movies for the troops, and three miles of rifle range besides training space for heavy artillery and cavalry .

    At the end of the war in 1918, the Camp was soon empty and except for short periods of army training during the summer months, it was left to the blue­berry pickers. 

    During the Great Economic Depression of the Dirty Thirties, Relief Camps for unemployed men were set up to help those out of work. Those people were called "Chomeurs". In those days anyone out of work had no unemployment insurance. There were no Family Allowances, 0ld Age Pensions or Social Welfare. From late 1932 until late 1935, the Federal Government under Prime Minister Robert Bennet, set up relief camps throughout Canada for the un­employed. The men were lodged, fed and clothed, given a ration of tobacco and paid twenty cents per day. From 7:00 to 9:00 P. M. the men could buy beer for five cents a glass. There were over five thousand men on Valcartier Camp during that period. Some of those men were tradesmen. We used to get a haircut for ten cents.

    After the outbreak of World War 2, in 1939, it soon developed into a permanent camp, with the various branches of the Army and the Arsenal and is today known as Base Valcartier. 

    The Liberal Government came to power in late 1935, under the leadership of Prime Minister W. L. M. King and soon after the Relief Camps came to an end.

    After the outbreak of World War 2, in 1939, it soon developed into a permanent camp, with the various branches of the Army and the Arsenal and is today known as Base Valcartier.

Listed below are those who lost land to the building of the camp.


Map of Valcartier


        Writings of Bernie Monaghan (about 1985), kindly provided by Eric Corrigan

        Expropriaton of 1914 of Valcartier, by John Neville

        1851 Canadian Census for Valcartier, Quebec

        "The Irish of Quebec", website by Janice Copeman at



        "The George Smart Brooks Family in Canada"  website by Arnold Brooks at