Search Website Design and Content © by Eric Krause, Krause House Info-Research Solutions (© 1996)
      All Images © Parks Canada Except Where Noted Otherwise
Report/Rapport © Parks Canada / Parcs Canada  --- Report Assembly/Rapport de l'assemblée © Krause House Info-Research Solutions

Researching the Fortress of Louisbourg National Historic Site of Canada
  Recherche sur la Forteresse-de-Louisbourg Lieu historique national du Canada



Microfiche Report Series 83


Margaret Fortier


Fortress of Louisbourg

Part Two - The Outports

Miré Region Topography

A memoir written in 1706 predicted that since lands in Canada could produce all sorts of fruits and vegetables in abundance, Cape Breton would do the same. There were, it was noted, many natural prairies on the island, especially at Baie de Miré. Here they extended a considerable distance and would provide an excellent source of food for the first animals brought to the island. [1] Indeed, there do appear to have been many grassy lands relatively, if not completely, clear of trees in what are now densely wooded areas. Grants for such land were made with no mention of the need to clear the land and plant the hay. [2]

Most grassland was located along the numerous rivers and streams found on Cape Breton. In 1714 the Minister of the Marine, Pontchartrain, declared that he had no doubt that the lands along the Miré would be especially prized since the grass there was the best. [3] Many years later Johnstone declared that there was "a vast number of beautiful natural meadows with hay above two feet high, which rots every year without being cut ..." [4] Holland concurred, stating that "no Lands can be better for Meadows than those on Mary River ... " [5]

Generally, the French of the 18th century regarded the Miré as rich in agricultural potential. It certainly was, as Bigot was to note, the area closest to Louisbourg where agriculture was feasible. [6] In 1713 La Ronde Denys expressed the view that the land on the Miré was "admirable" for all sorts of grain. [7] A large tract of land along the river was reserved for the Brothers of Charity so that they could supply the hospital at Louisbourg with grain, vegetables and meat. [8]

Reports on experiments with various types of grain kept hopes high that one day the Miré region would alleviate Louisbourg's dependance upon imports for food. [9] Prévost assured the Minister in 1750 that if the interior of the island, north of the Miré to the Bras d'Or Lakes, were cleared, they would find 90 out of every 100 arpents of land suitable for cultivation of all sorts of grain. [10] Governor Raymond added that the lands along the Miré were capable of producing 30 bushels or more from every bushel of seed sown. [11] The census taken in 1753 indicated that oats, wheat, flax, peas and fayaux were among the seeds which might be cultivated along the Miré. The residents there could not only live on the fruits of their labour, it was concluded, but could also produce for other areas of the colony as well. [12]

In assessing the Miré region, Holland allowed that the "Fertility &c of these Parts might if properly encouraged furnish of itself subsistance for the whole island, even if the Fishery was carried on to its greatest Extent". Noting that the weather at the Miré, or Mary River as he renamed it, was different from that found at Louisbourg, Holland declared that the "land seems to agree with the weather". As one travelled from Miré to Louisbourg, fine soil, lofty trees.- riverlets and lakes were left behind to be replaced by "a barren, rocky, Swampy, Tract with low Brush of Spruce & Pine". By the time he visited the area, the buildings which had stood on the farm maintained by the Brothers of Charity had disappeared, but the "lands still have an inviting Appearance as far as the Entrance of Cottalogne [sic] or Fielding Lake". The soil and woods on the north shore of this lake were likewise of good quality. [13]

In view of the favorable opinion expressed in the 18th century concerning the potential of the Miré region for agriculture, it is interesting to note the assessment given the area by the Canadian Department of Agriculture in 1965. Most of the area from the Miré to Louisbourg is classed as having "no capability for arable culture or permanent pasture". Along the shores of the river, the land has either "moderately severe limitations that restrict the range of crops or require special conservation practices, or both, or severe limitations." Both the German and Rouillé villages were located on land now designated as having "no capability for arable culture". [14]

Although there was much discussion of Ile Royale's timber supply, there were few specific references to the wood of the Miré region. La Ronde Denys reported in 1713 that there was very good wood, suitable for use in construction projects, along the Miré. [15] The census taken 40 years later noted that both along the river itself and along the road between Louisbourg and Miré, there was much fir and hardwood. [16] D'Arigrand, in 1754, noted the poor quality of the woods around Louisbourg, but added that only a short distance from "tout ce Cahos" was "bois francs magnifique et des Terrains excellens". [17] Holland reported finding nothing but spruce between Louisbourg and the Barachois de Miré, called by him Fielding Lake. However, north of the lake or barachois to the river, the wood was exceedingly good, usable even for shipbuilding. Near the former German village he found the woods open with no under-wood or brush. [18]

A survey conducted by Haliburton in 1861-62 reported that the woods near the Miré included beech, birch and maple, with an undergrowth of fir. South of the river there was more fir and spruce, as well as some burned wood which was being replaced by birch. [19] Oak and walnut were both to be found in Cape Breton County in 1870 according to the census taken the following year. [20]

Initially earth for bricks made in Ile Royale came from Ile Madame or Port Dauphin. [21] The contractor in charge of building the fortifications at Louisbourg, Ganet, complained in 1725 that bricks had to be imported from Boston because those made in the colony were too small and of poor quality. [22] Franquet, chief engineer in Louisbourg in the 1750s, reported that since the return of the French, bricks had been manufactured at Baie des Espagnols. The earth, however, was not good. A better place to get earth had been discovered on the Miré, he said, and the workers would be set up there to make bricks. [23] Prévost concurred, stating that bricks from the new source on the Miré were "plus grasse et plus nette". [24] The brickyard was located on the south side of the Miré about a mile from present-day Albert Bridge.

In 1726, the same year Sieur Catalogne was granted his concession, a limestone quarry was discovered at Miré - at the northeast corner of Catalogne's land. This puts the quarry near both the bay and barachois de Miré but not the river. The quarry was not large, so it was not expected to supply all the colony's needs. Moreover, it was felt by the Minister of the Marine that access would be difficult since ships could not enter the Baie de Miré without risk. Accordingly, he instructed the colony's officials to make use of the quarry, but not to close one already in operation at Port Dauphin. [25]