Local history comes alive in Westmount’s  Hurtubise home

History comes alive for St. Raymond’s sixth grade class in Westmount’s Hurtubise home

Two hundred and eighty years after Louis Hurtubise first built the house that would become his family’s home for more than two centuries, Professor Stéphane Côté made sure that the 20 boys and girls who make up his sixth grade class in NDG’s École St. Raymond got to understand that history is a lot more than just the names, dates, and events that make up their history book.

“Take a good look at that picture,” said CHQ (Canadian Heritage in Québec) Director Jacques Archambault as he pointed out the hundred year-old picture of a farmer working the plow that was hitched behind a massive black bull. “That’s how you plowed your fields back when there were no tractors.”

During a brief power point presentation that described the home’s (nearly) tri-centennial history, Archambault stressed that Canadian history owes a massive debt to the Hurtubise family who managed to save all of the family’s legal documents ever since Jean Hurtubise first bought the property from the colony’s Sulpician Order back in 1699 when the French regime was still at war with the Mohawk nation.

“You must remember that the year 1701 was a very important year for everybody in Ville Marie,” said Archambault, “...because that’s when the French signed ‘The Great Peace’ – La Grande Paix’ – the peace treaty that ended the wars with all of the 39 tribes that represented the Mohawk nation throughout the St. Laurence River valley.”

As usual during the French regime, only three acres of the rectangular property faced the (now diverted) St. Pierre River that used to run through what is now Montreal’s Sud-Ouest. As per the family’s own documents, the Hurtubise farm had access to its own water and occupied a narrow rectangle that stretched all the way from the old St. Pierre River (below the Glen) all the way up to what is now the Westmount Boulevard. Based upon their efforts to conserve land deeds, census records, and all of their assorted tax documents over six generations since they first owned the property, Canadian history owes the Hurtubise family a massive debt because their detailed archive continues to provide a coherent reflection of the mid-18th and 19th century agrarian society that defined life on the land in the new colonies. By the turn of the 20th century, the family began to sell off its land to developers up until the mid 1950s when there was nothing left but the tiny lot with both the house and its stables. Following the death of Léo Hurtubise in 1952, local residents who understood what the home meant for future generations rallied to save the property after which the CHQ was created to preserve and protect Canadian Heritage properties throughout Québec. Sixty years later, the CHQ is still a major presence amid the city’s heritage community.

While Archambault made sure that his young audience got their fair share of fruit juice and cookies following their lecture, he also reminded them that “...it’s your history, and it’s up to you to care for it, because you must respect what these people did to build this nation.”

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