As the years went by, the island was given
a succession of different names. But it eventually came down to
one of its original names, Ile D'Orléans, again supplied
by Jacques Cartier, who, on May 6th 1536, gave it this name after
François I, son of the King of France, Duke of Orleans.
Island is one of the first settlements in Nouvelle France!
the beginning of the colonization, the island was part of the
vast domain of Beaupre. Most of the settlers called for to populate
the island came from the Normandie and Poitou regions, in France.
A census carried in 1685 counted 1205 inhabitants (and 917 livestock).
For a short period, in 1759, the island was occupied by the Englishmen,
but few traces of that presence remain.
Witnesses to the past, more than 600 buildings are recognized
by the Government of Quebec as being part of our cultural and
historical heritage, including the oldest church in "Nouvelle
France". Some bakeries dating back to the 18th and 19th century
are still active today. Unfortunately, the dozen or so flour mills,
tanneries, shoe-repair shops and saddle factories that made the
islanders self-sufficient have all but disappeared today.
The Pont de l'Ile (The Bridge)
From the beginning of the colony, the islanders
used boats and canoes to cross the river in the summertime. When
winter came, ice bridges were naturally created between the island
and the shore. Still today, snowmobile enthusiasts use the ice
bridge to cross the river.
The bridge was built as part of a campaign to fight unemployment,
during the Great Depression. It was inaugurated on July 6th 1935,
and was originally named Pont Taschereau, after Louis-Alexandre
Taschereau, member of parliament representing Montmorency and
then Prime Minister of Quebec. Today, its official name is "Pont
de l'Île d'Orléans" (Orleans Island Bridge),
but it is commonly called Pont de l'Île (the Island Bridge).
The Chemin Royal (Royal road)
In the 18th century, roads on the island were
just dirt trails going from house to house and leading towards
the mill or the parish chapel. By 1744, the Chemin Royal was completely
circling the island. It is 67 km long (42 mi) and follows the
rugged and jagged shore of the island.
All along, the Chemin Royal offers a breathtaking view on the
river. In the background, Cap-Tourmente, Sainte-Anne de Beaupré,
the Laurentians, (a precambrian mountain chain), and the Montmorency
Falls are part of the scenery of the North shore of the river.
South shore is not outdone with the Appalachians (another imposing
mountain chain), the City of Levis and "Ile aux Grues"
(crane island). Orleans Island is also the place where the river
widens considerably, opening the way for majestic ships.
The very first wharf on the island was built
in 1855, at Sainte-Petronille. With this new link to Quebec, the
island experiences an important economic expansion. The wharf
is used as a pier for trade exchange as well as a landing dock
for visitors now coming in growing numbers. By the turn of the
century, the Saint-Laurent Shipyard (now a maritime information
park with activities) became one of the most important industries
in the region. In the summertime, they built wooden ships, and
in the winter, the space was used to store schooners. And all
over the place, between 300 and 400 "chaloupes" (rowboats)
are built yearly by some twenty "chalouperies" (rowboat
The Legacy of the Elders
The inhabitants of Orleans Island have always
worked jealously at preserving the charm of their cherished
island. Félix Leclerc, a renowned signer and poet (deceased
in 1988), says it very well in his songs, where he talks about
the land and the spirit of its inhabitants. And those who like
genealogy will probably be surprised to learn that the island
is the ancestral land of 317 root families who have, in time,
established all over the eastern regions of Canada and the United
States. There are 35 commemorative monuments or plaques scattered
all over the island.
THE VILLAGES OF ORLEANS ISLAND
Founded in 1870. Commonly
known in the beginning as "le bout de l'île" (the
tip of the island), Sainte-Pétronille
de Beaulieu was seen as a very popular
resort in the middle of the 19th century. Before the arrival of
the colonizers, the sector was a rest area and a refuge for the
Huron Indians. Later, the wealthy families from Quebec City and
Montreal built many luxurious residences that can still be seen
along "Chemin du Bout de l'Île" ("Tip of
the Island" road). The village was originally an extension
of the neighbouring village, Saint-Pierre. Over the years, a rumour
developed itself, giving birth to the belief that Sainte-Pétronille
was the daughter of Saint-Pierre.
For over 20 years now, every summer, the village church is a gathering point for music lovers. The Sainte-Pétronille Chamber Music Festival presents some of the best international class musicians.
Founded in 1679 : Called
Saint-Paul till 1698, then changed to Saint-Laurent, this village
has always been known for it's maritime vocation. Many remains
of this flourishing period can still be found, from shipyards
to "chalouperies" where, until the middle of the 19th
century, more than 400 rowboats, longboats and canoes were produced
yearly. Since 1984, the marina is host to many sailboats. In 1985,
Saint-Laurent was twinned with Tourouvre, Perche, in France.
Founded in 1679 : The church of Saint-Jean goes back to 1732.
The cemetery, with it's unique view and the illusion of infinity
brought about by the widening river, leaves a lasting impression
on visitors. From the beginning, this village has been the home
to many sailors, mostly river pilots. The importance of these
sea people, the presence of prosperous farmers (milk production,
as well as potato and strawberry) and the great number of vacationers,
have earned Saint-Jean the title of
Capital of the Island until the construction
of the bridge, in 1935.
Founded in 1679 : Saint-François distinguishes
itself form the other villages on the island by the large area
it covers, from North to South, on the Eastern tip
of the island. The population, made
up mainly of farmers, is scattered all over the territory. These
wide open spaces are ideal for the culture of leaks and potatoes,
among others. The view on Mont-Sainte-Anne and the Cap Tourmente
is breathtaking. At that point, the river is 10 times wider than
in front of Quebec City, and that is also where, due to the action
of a 14 feet tide, fresh water begins mixing with salt water.
Founded in 1661 : Sainte-Famille
is the oldest village of Ile D'Orléans. This is where one
can find the greatest concentration of stone houses, going back
mostly to the French régime period. Right in the heart
of the village, in front of the church (1743), is the "Couvent
de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame", established by
Marguerite Bourgeois (1685). The
farming industry is most important in Sainte-Famille; milk production
and breeding occupy an important place, and, comes autumn, many
orchards open up for the people to pick up their own apples.
Founded in 1679 : Saint-Pierre, where one
can find the oldest country church in Quebec (circa 1720) used
to be a centre of traditional crafts: butter factory, forge,
tin trade and cheese factory among others. The village also
keeps a farming tradition alive by producing potatoes and strawberries.
Its population never stopped growing since the building of the
bridge, in 1935. During spring and during autumn, on each side
of the bridge, one can see hundreds of thousands of geese and
ducks feeding and resting before continuing their long migratory