THE ADVENTURE OF THE KING’S WARDS
Why were they called
Filles du Roi (King’s Wards)?
It was Marguerite Bourgeoys who gave this name to the young women who were provided with financial assistance by King Louis XIV to settle in New France.
In the 17th century, there were very few women in New France. To help the development of the colony, Louis XIV sent women to marry the colonists. Between 1663 and 1673, approximately 770 such women crossed the Atlantic.
The King’s Wards who arrived in Ville-Marie were welcomed at the farmhouse in the Point as early as 1668. The sisters took care of these women who were to take husbands and populate the colony.
For a while, the 30-acre farm purchased by Marguerite Bourgeoys was their home. They were entrusted to the care of Catherine Crolo, a robust woman who supervised the operation of the farm. With her, the young women learned to adapt to life in their new country until they found a husband.
The demographic impact of the King’s Wards is undeniable. Approximately 770 young women crossed the Atlantic. They each had an average of 5 to 6 children. It is, therefore, no surprise that their names are part of the family tree of numerous Quebec families of French origin.
The Mission of MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS
Marguerite Bourgeoys (1620-1700) arrived in Ville-Marie in 1653. She had a clear vision of her mission in the small colony: provide free education to the children and women.
To reach her goal, she founded the Congrégation de Notre-Dame. In the 17th century, the religious community of women were mainly cloistered. However, the vision Marguerite Bourgeoys had of teaching and education required being present in the community.
It was with great determination and perseverance that she defended the rights of the sisters of the Congregation to have an uncloistered religious life. The first school in Montreal opened its doors in 1658.
Workroom of Providence Marguerite Bourgeoys established a workroom called La Providence where, under the supervision of Catherine Crolo, the young women were taught to read, count, sew, prepare meals, and tend to the vegetable garden and animals.
And so began the first home economics school in America. In 1693, the workroom was destroyed by a fire at the farmhouse.
Cultivate to Teach
Marguerite soon realized that farming was a way of providing self-sufficiency for her companions who had come to assist her in her mission. Thus, her teaching community broadened to include farming sisters – the sharecroppers.
In 1662, Marguerite Bourgeoys obtained a land concession in Pointe-Saint-Charles from Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve, Governor of Montreal. In 1668, she added on to it an adjoining piece of land and a house built of fieldstone that she bought from her neighbour, François Le Ber.
This farm in Pointe-Saint-Charles provided a means of subsistence for the sisters devoted to teaching.
In 1671, King Louis XIV granted Marguerite Bourgeoys letters of patent and officially authorized “the establishment of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame on the Island of Montreal in New France.”
Maison Saint-Gabriel, museum and historic site, opened its doors in 1966. Situated in Pointe-Saint-Charles, the beautiful building is one of the finest examples of the traditional architecture of New France.
In 1965, two buildings on the site, the barn and the fieldstone house, were classified as historic monuments. In 1992, the site was officially recognized as historic by the Quebec Ministry of Culture and Communications. Finally, in 2007, Maison Saint-Gabriel was recognized as a national historic site of Canada.
These marks of recognition bear witness to the importance of this site as a unique place for raising awareness about the history and heritage of Quebec since the French regime.
This property has belonged to the Congrégration de Notre-Dame since 1668, it was the centre of its activities up to 1955.
Its rich past and the pride taken in preserving it have generated a collection of over 20,000 objects. In 1966 it became a museum focused on education through history.
The well on this historic site has been in the same place since 1660. It was an important source of drinking water for over two centuries. Even after running water was available at the farm in 1868, the well continued to be used until 1940.
Among other things, the sisters used the well water to make the parish hosts. After factories opened near the farm, the groundwater became contaminated and the well was condemned.
Living near the river has its inconveniences. Flooding is a recurring problem. Spring breakups like those of 1681, 1746, 1861, 1865 and 1886 were significant.
In 1818, the sisters erected a cross imploring divine protection against the heavy rains that swell the Saint Lawrence River. This ex-voto was first placed on the road leading to Wellington Street. The cross was moved a few times before being placed in its current location in front of the house.
Between 1886 and 1888, the City of Montreal expropriated a stretch of land to the south of the farm. A dyke was built to protect a part of the South-West from flooding.
This beautiful 19th century building is a rare example of barns build of stone. In 1965 it was classified a historic monument. In 1993, it was restored and a showroom and activities area were added.
Originally, the barn included a stable and a hayloft where grain and hay were stored and threshed. Over the years, it also included a pigsty, a cowshed, a henhouse, a hutch, a root cellar and a canning room.
In 1964, the Jeanne-Le Ber Residence was built near Maison Saint-Gabriel to house the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame who began managing the museum in 1966.
Due to the increasing popularity of the museum, the sisters’ residence received a new vocation. After extensive renovation, it became the reception pavilion of the museum and was inaugurated in 2010.
It houses the ticket office, restaurant, gift shop, conference room – which opens up onto a terrace, and meeting rooms.
Since the 17th century, exterior bread ovens, also called “summer ovens,” were generally built of clay and covered with a small roof to protect them from the elements.
The bread oven at Maison Saint-Gabriel was made using traditional craftsmanship by artisan Jean Laberge.
A cement hearth (floor) is poured onto a solid platform made of stone or timber, it is then smoothed out and a door is installed. Using a template made of alder, the oven is moulded out of clay that has been kneaded with straw. A small roof is placed on top of the oven that will be left to dry for one week. The first fire burns the alder and hardens the vault.
Baking the Bread
First, a wood fire is lit to heat the oven. Then, the ashes are removed and the oven is left to cool to the right temperature before a batch of loaves is placed inside to bake for approximately 30 minutes. The loaves are either baked in moulds or directly on the floor of the oven, depending on the type of bread being prepared.
Who is Catherine Crolo?
Catherine Crolo (1619-1699) was born in Lauzon, Lorraine. Her parents settled in Troyes, Champagne, where she met and became friends with Marguerite Bourgeoys. In 1659, she was one of the four companions who crossed the ocean with Marguerite to help with her work in Ville-Marie.
Catherine Crolo donne ses instructions à un engagé de la ferme de la Pointe avant d’aller faire la classe aux fillettes.
Illustration Francis Back / Collection Musée Marguerite-Bourgeoys/ © Raphaëlle & Félix Back
In 1668, Marguerite Bourgeoys entrusted her with the farm of the Point then called La Providence. She oversaw the clearing of the land, its cultivation, tenant farming, and crop management. She also welcomed the King’s Wards and prepared them for their new lives.
A true pioneer, she was the first of 86 sharecroppers who would successively manage the farm until 1955.
Intangible heritage consists of elements that are transmitted from one person to another. They can include expertise, knowledge, practices, expressions, etc.
VIDEOS (available in French only)
Intangible heritage is a living heritage because it is transmitted from generation to generation by “tradition-bearers.” At Maison Saint-Gabriel, we call these men and women “passers-on of memory.”
TIME CAPSULE (available in French only)
A series of time capsules are available and are royalties-free for use for educational purposes. They are based on such themes as crafts, traditions, the seasons and daily life in New France.
Following the beekeeping tradition of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, Maison Saint-Gabriel has a hive in its gardens. BEE A FRIEND > > .
True to our educational mission, we have a few information capsules to help you learn more about bees, urban apiculture and, of course, history.
The Arrival of Bees in North America
The first European colonists introduced the domestic bee (Apis mellifère) to North America. At the time, pollination was done by other types of bees or insects.
The domestic bees quickly adapted and became an integral part of our agricultural system. Under the French regime, honey was primarily used for its therapeutic properties. For cooking, colonists preferred using sugar imported from the West Indies or maple syrup.
The hive: a very large family!
Bees are social insects that live in communities called colonies. In a hive, there are between 40,000 and 60,000 worker bees and approximately 1,000 drones (males) living around a central figure: the queen, the mother of all.
The worker bees
The worker bee carries out several tasks during her brief existence (30 to 45 days) for the benefit of the colony. She spends the first half of her life performing tasks in the hive. Her first task is to clean the hive. Then she makes royal jelly to feed the queen and the larvae. Finally, she produces wax to make the honeycombs. In order to control the temperature in the hive, the fanning bees beat their wings frenetically and, to ensure safety, the guard bees check the identity of the bees that enter the hive. From the 21st day of her life until she dies, the bee can finally forage flowers.
In order to become a queen, a larva is only fed royal jelly during its development. It is this diet, and only this one, that will enable this bee to become a queen, the only fertile female in the colony. When a young queen must be fertilized, she sets out on a nuptial flight, followed by a cloud of drones. She will mate with the most vigorous ones (about a dozen) while flying until her spermatheca is sufficiently filled to produce several colonies. Once settled in, the queen lays eggs continuously (up to 2,000 eggs per day), for the rest of her life (1 to 4 years).
The drones are the only males in the colony. They are called drones because their bodies are larger than those of the worker bees and they have no stinger. There are not many drones in the hive and their main purpose is to fertilize the queen. Since they cannot collect nectar, they must be fed by the worker bees. Unfortunately for them, they die immediately after fertilization and the others are expelled from the hive when the cold weather returns.
What if bees disappeared?
The disappearance of the bees could destabilize the planet’s entire ecosystem. Human beings could encounter difficulties producing food. There would be almost no pollination, which would result in the disappearance of many plants.
It is possible that, as long as the decline of bee colonies has no immediate impact on the price of our food, little will be done to protect them.
The importance of pollination
The decline in these pollinating insects represents a serious threat to global food production and jeopardises the means of subsistence of millions of people. More than three quarters of the main crops depend, in one way or another, on pollination. Crops that depend on pollination represent 35% of the volume of the global production intended for food.
Why is the city a good place for apiculture?
Unlike rural regions contaminated by a new range of pesticides that have a direct effect on the bee’s nervous system, the city is subject to anti-pesticide regulations that provide a healthier environment for bees. The city also has interesting floral diversity that, throughout the season, provides a varied diet for bees.
Nectar plants are an excellent source of nectar and pollen and contribute to the health of bees. There are many kinds of nectar plants and they are easy to include in gardens. Growing such plants is a good way to ensure biodiversity and healthy bees.
Here are a few examples of nectar plants in our gardens.