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Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada
ROBERT J. MORGAN
(Fortress of Louisbourg
Report Number H D 25)
Until 1738, Lot E was one of three government gardens in Louisbourg, and was under the official jurisdiction of the governor. [Block 18 was originally reserved for the intendant's garden, and Block 35 for the governor.] The second governor, St. Ovide de Brouillan held land in Block 2 where he had begun construction of a magasin, when he relinquished the property to Le Normant, the commissaire-ordonnateur. In compensation he was given a personal grant of Lot E in 1738 [NOTE 365].
St. Ovide claimed to have constructed his magasin in charpente with materials from Ile St. Jean, where his cousin, Jacques de Pensens was lieutenant du Roi [NOTE 366]. Maps fail to show the building, but it is quite possible that De Pensens used this material to build his house when he obtained the property after St. Ovide's removal in 1738. De Pensens died that same year, but his nephew, Pierre-Paul Despiet de la Plagne, inherited the property. De la Plagne left Louisbourg by 1745 and never returned. His bachelor brother, Jean Despiet, lived there between 1749 and 1750 when he sold it for 10,000 livres to Jean Chrysostome Loppinot 1 September 1750 [NOTE 367]. [For biographies of Jacques de Pensens, John Chrysostome Loppinot and their relations, see pages 71 and 60 respectively. Further treatment of De la Plagne is found in H.P. Thibault, L'ILôt 17 de Louisbourg (1713-1768), pp. 150-151.]
STRUCTURES IN LOT E:
The structures in Lot E have been described in Brenda Marchant's report on Block 16, pp. 15-22, reprinted in Appendix II of this report. The dimensions of the house are not found in the documents, but scaled maps indicate the following measurements:
(1) 1745-24; LENGTH: 50 feet; WIDTH: 30 feet;
(2) 1745-33; LENGTH: 50 feet; WIDTH: 30 feet;
(3) 1746-1; LENGTH: 60 feet; WIDTH: 25 feet;
(4) 1746-2; LENGTH: 60 feet; WIDTH: 30 feet;
(5) 1746-4; LENGTH: 60 feet; WIDTH: 40 feet;
(6) N.D. 27; LENGTH: 60 feet; WIDTH: 30 feet;
(7) 1767-1; LENGTH: 70 feet; WIDTH: 30 feet;
(8) 1768-la; LENGTH: 70 feet; WIDTH: 35 feet;
(9) Average; LENGTH: 60 feet; WIDTH: 31.25 feet.
Apart from the average size of the house these measurements, though only approximate, suggest that the house was lengthened twice: around 1746 during the first English occupation, and afterwards. The 1750 bill of sale mentions a two-storey stone extension to the house; this could be the extension added around 1746 [NOTE 368]. Map 1767-1 clearly shows another extension, perhaps the final one.
The only description of the house involves a robbery which occurred there in September 1740. A soldier on night duty, Pierre Prevost dit La Fleur, conceived the notion to rob the house of his former employer where he stole 40 livres of Spanish silver coins. He testified that he climbed over the gate on the Rue Toulouse and into the yard (cour d'entrée) behind the house. He lifted a square of glass from the window overlooking the [PAGE 85:] yard, and shoved his arm inside to pick the interior window lock. The robber entered through the window into a cabinet near the entrance of the house, where he found a bureau containing the money. When the robbery occurred De la Plagne was in France but his wife, Marie Charlotte Delort, and brother, Jean Despiet, were living in the house. Both parties were sleeping in their rooms at 8 A.M. when they were informed of the robbery by their Negress slave [NOTE 369].
APPENDIX II - EXCERPT FROM BRENDA MARCHANT, BLOCK 16 (FORTRESS OF LOUISBOURG, 1968), pp. 15-22 (PLUS ENDNOTES):
(B) BUILDINGS IN LOT E - SOUTHWEST CORNER (1) DESPIET HOUSE:
A house in the southwest section of Block 16 was first seen on plan 745-26 which showed a building on the corner of the Rue Toulouse and the Rue d'Orleans. The structure presumably was built by Pierre Paul Despiet who owned the property from approximately 1738 to 1750 [NOTE 1]. The construction date cannot be determined historically.
The Despiet house apparently suffered little damage during the 1745 siege because, following the Capitulation, it became a civil building. Plans 746-4 and 746-5 labelled the property as the Lieutenant Governor's House and Yard.
During the Occupation, three Lieutenant Governors were appointed to Louisbourg - Colonel Warburton from September 1, 1745 [NOTE 2] to May, 1747; Colonel Hopson from May 18, 1747 [NOTE 3], to September 30, 1747; and Colonel Ellison Esq. from September 30, 1747 [NOTE 4] to the English evacuation in 1749. Since only the 1746 plans referred to the Despiet house as the Lieutenant Governor's residence, it can only be stated with complete certainty that Warburton occupied the Despiet house while Lieutenant Governor. However, it is likely that the house remained the official residence for the Lieutenant Governors during the Occupation Period.
Some work was done on the Lieutenant Governor's house during the Occupation. In 1747 repairs were reported to have [PAGE 100:] been made to Col. Hopson's Quarters. Masons were employed for "making a Drain to carry off Water that overflows Major Scott's Quarters & repairs to Col. Hopson's & Col. Horsman's" [NOTE 5]. Carpenters were employed to mend the shingles [NOTE 6]. All windows broken during the siege were repaired or replaced [NOTE 7].
In August of 1747, Governor Knowles ordered a Sentry to be posted on the Lieutenant Governor's house [NOTE 8]. On July 12, 1749 the English evacuated the fortress [NOTE 9]. On September 1, 1750 Jean Despiet de Pensens, brother of Pierre Paul Despiet, sold the property to Jean Cristome Loppinot and his wife, Magdelaine Bottié [NOTE 10].
The dwelling on the corner of the Rue Toulouse and the Rue St. Louis remained standing for many years. In 1767, Sproule reported the house to be "at present inhabited." (See plan 767-1). Plan 768-1 showed the house, No. 83, to be in good condition [NOTE 11]. "Good", however, was qualified as "wanting much expence (sic) to make them really so." [NOTE 12] The house was owned by the Town Major [NOTE 13]. Our present sources do not tell us who the Town Major was in 1768.
According to Wayne Foster's Post-Occupational History, [Wayne Foster, Post-Occupational History of the old French Town of Louisbourg (1760-1930), Louisbourg Restoration Project, 1965, P. 39] the house was still occupied in 1772. He stated that William Russell, one of the prominent citizens of the Post-Occupational period, received a licence from the Crown on May 2, 1772 to occupy the house labelled No. 83, Block 16, on plan 768-1.
(b) STRUCTURAL DETAILS:
There is little information about the structural details of the Despiet house. The 1750 contract of sale for lot E described the building as a two-storey frame house lined (garni) with stones and bricks and faced (revêtue) with planks on both sides of the exterior wall [NOTE 14]. The first part of the description suggests that the type of construction was similar to that used in the Lartigue houses in Block 46. (See Figures 1 and 11 of plan 753-1. Also note plan 733-9, profile and elevation of the house built for de Pensens in Isle St. Jean). The fact that the Despiet house was constructed of both wood and stone explains why it was represented on some plans as wooden (plan 768-1) [NOTE 15] and on others as stone (plans 746-1, 746-6).
A two-storey stone extension adjoined the Despiet house [NOTE 16]. Plans 758-9 and 767-1 located the extension on the east end of the building, which has been substantiated by archaeology. The construction date of the extension is not known. Scaled measurements of plans between 1745 and 1767 vary so much that an accurate estimation off when the addition was made cannot be determined.
A small structure (as mentioned previously under the section, Carpenters' Shop - Mystery Structures) is seen projecting from the south wall of the Despiet house on plan 767-1. When the building was excavated, no door was found facing the Rue d'Orleans.
The Despiet house is visible in three sketches of Louisbourg plans 745-1, 758-9 and 766-1. Each plan shows a different view of the house and when combined, they form a complete picture of the [PAGE 103:] building. It must be stressed that generally the sketches are very unreliable and cannot be regarded as factual representations. Because so little concrete information is known about the Despiet house, the questionable sketches are included for consideration in this report.
Plan 745-1 is a northern view of Louisbourg taken during the first siege. The upper north and east walls, presumably the second storey of the Despiet house, are shown on the plan. Two dormer windows and four frame windows are found in the north wall while two frame windows appear in the east wall. A pitch roof is shown with one chimney located on the northeast section of the roof structure.
Plan 758-9 is a highly imaginative and inaccurate sketch of Louisbourg from the landward or southern side taken during the second siege. The Despiet house is shown as a two-storey structure with twelve windows facing the Rue d'Orleans. Five windows are situated on the first floor and five on the second storey just under the eaves. Two dormer windows are found on the southern slope of the roof. A hipped gable roof is shown on the plan. What seem to be two second-storey windows appear on the east end of the house. An extension on the east wall is shown, but details are obstructed by a fence which runs between the buildings on the Rue d'Orleans.
Wright's 1766 sketch of Louisbourg (plan 766-1) gives a southwestern view of what appears to be the Despiet house. The plan shows an off-centre dormer window in the west end of the hipped gable roof. A window, possibly a second-storey window, is located to the right, immediately under the eaves in the west wall. Three [PAGE 104:] chimneys which seem to correspond in location to the hearth uncovered in the archaeological excavation are found on the Despiet roof.
(c) OUTBUILDINGS AND YARD:
The 1750 contract of sale for the Despiet property included several sheds and stables, a courtyard and a garden - "plusieurs cabannots, ecuries, cour et jardin." [NOTE 17] The garden was situated in the northeast corner of the Despiet yard. (See plans 746-4 and 746-5). A fence with an entrance on the Rue d'Orleans enclosed the property. (See plans 746-5 and 758- 9).
Outbuildings in lot E first appeared on the plans in 1746. Plan 746-4 showed a small structure in the Lieutenant Governor's yard. (Also see plans 746-6 and 746-8). This building was constructed of wood, as is indicated by plan-746-6 where the dark brick structures contrasted the lightly-shaded wooden structures.
The shed was the principal subsidiary building to the Despiet house. Other outbuildings are seen only on plans 746-5 and 767-1 which show small structures in the northern part of the yard.
The main outbuilding was still occupied in 1767. (See plan 767-1). It was not shown, however, on plan 768-1. Either it was destroyed by 1768 or it was not considered important enough to mention.
(C) SOUTHEAST CORNER OF LOT E:
Plans 731- 3 and N.D. 89 showed a small structure on the southeast corner of lot E in Block 16. There is no documentary mention [PAGE 106:] of the building and nothing to indicate its use. Possibly it was a gardener's shed used for storing equipment.
(2) HOWELL HOUSE:
In plans of the post-occupational period, a house was shown on the southeast corner of lot E. It was a wooden structure, approximately 25 feet square (scaled from 767- 1). There is no written reference to the building. Plan 767-1 classified it under the heading "houses at present inhabited." In 1768,, it was described as a private dwelling in good repair, occupied by Silvanus Howell, Mariner [NOTE 18].
A circular structure was shown in the yard on the northwest side of the Howell house in plan 767-1. The shape of the structure suggests that it was a well, but it is not marked as such on the plan.
Plan 767-1 also showed square structures projecting from the east side of the Howell house. (See the above section, Carpenters' Shop - Mystery Structures)
[NOTE 365:] Ibid., C11B, Vol. 18, fols. 28-29, 8 novembre 1736; Ibid., C11C, Vol. 12, fol. 187, 6 mai 1730; Brenda Marchant, Block 16, Fortress of Louisbourg, 1968, pp. 12-13;
[NOTE 366:] A.N., Colonies, C11B, Vol. 18, fols. 65-66v., 14 novembre 1736;
[NOTE 367:] A.N., Outre-Mer, G3, Carton 2041-1, No. 58, 1 septembre 1750;
[NOTE 368:] Ibid.; [NOTE 369:] Ibid., G2, Vol. 197, dossier 135, 23-24 septembre 1740.
(APPENDIX II) -
[NOTE 1:] A.N., Outre-Mer G3, Carton 2041. contrat de vente de maison 1 September 1750;
[NOTE 2:] State Papers 44, v. 186, pp. 84-85, 1 September 1745;
[NOTE 3:] Ibid., 41, v. 187, 18 may 1747;
[NOTE 4:] Ibid., 44, v. 188, pp. 50-51, 30 September 1747;
[NOTE 5:] Office of Ordnance, Library of Congress, AC 2444, 18 July 1747;
[NOTE 6:] Ibid, 30 September 1747;
[NOTE 7:] Nova Scotia A, v. 34, ff. 156-165, 14 July 1749;
[NOTE 8:] Scottish Record Office, Cunninhame of Thorntoun Papers, p. 69:
[NOTE 9:] Nova Scotia A, v. 34, f. 162., 14 July 1749;
[NOTE 10:] A.F.O., G3, Carton 2041, contrat de vente de maison, 1 September 1750:
[NOTE 11:] C.O. 217, vol. 25, ff 140-110v, 26 Septembre 1768;
[NOTE 12:] Ibid., f. 141v., 26 September 1768;
[NOTE 13:] Ibid., f. 140;
[NOTE 14:] A.F.O., G3, Carton 2041, contrat de vente de maison, 1 September 1750;
[NOTE 15:] C.O. 217, v. 25, ff. 140-140v, 26 september 1768;
[NOTE 16:] A.F.O., G3, Carton 2041, contrat de vente de maison, 1 September 1750;
[NOTE 17:] Ibid.;
[NOTE 18:] C.O. 217, v. 25, f. 141v., 26 September 1768.