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 One - Louisbourg - The Land and its Utilization

Louisbourg Environs - Concessions


From the beginning of the establishment of the colony of Ile Royale, the French authorities rejected the idea of large seigneuries such as were granted in Quebec. It was useless, Minister of the Marine Pontchartrain wrote in March of 1714, to grant any more land to one person than he might put en valeur. It was the king's intention, De Mézy was told four years later on his appointment as the colony's commissaire-ordonnateur, that His Majesty should be the only seigneur on this island. In place of the seigneuries, habitations would be granted which would be from 2 to 4 arpents in width and 40-60 toises in depth. An arpent contained 30 toises.[1]

Because of the importance of beachfront to those engaged in fishing, the colony's officials were enjoined to see to it that no one person was given too long a stretch of water frontage. Once granted, all concessions were to be delineated by placing posts at each corner of the property. These posts were to be planted 3 pieds into the ground, with 4 pieds remaining above ground level. They were to be 6 pouces in diameter and be marked with the number of the concession. A fine was to be levied against anyone who failed to comply with the regulation. First offenders would pay 15 livres to the hospital, while those who continued to ignore the rule would lost 30 livres. [2]

In addition to marking the boundaries of their claims, concession holders had to put the land en valeur within a specified period, usually one year. The requirements in this regard were not enumerated. As a result, many who were granted land did little more than plant a garden for their own use. For those actively engaged in the fishery, development of the land as a fishing establishment was sufficient. However, for those inland, this limited use of the land thwarted the goal of self-sufficiency for the colony. Land holders were also obliged to leave paths necessary for public use, to surrender any materials necessary for fortifications, batteries, magasins or other public works, and to conserve all oak and other wood suitable for ship building. Mineral rights, particularly on larger concessions, were also reserved for the king. Anyone failing to comply with these regulations would see his property revert to the Crown to be granted again to someone else. [3]

Copies of concessions granted by the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur were sent to France for confirmation. Those being granted the land received their concessions from France the following year. A fee of 2 livres had to be paid to have the concession registered in the colony. In 1722 the Minister of the Marine instructed the governor and commissaire-ordonnateur to make certain that the greffier of the Superior Council was not charging more. He was suspicious because residents of the north shore, Baleine, and Petit Laurembec refused to pay to register their concessions and had, therefore, not received copies of their grants. [4]

Many properties, especially in the early years of the colony, were occupied without the issuing of a formal concession. Most who settled in this manner seem to have had the verbal permission of the governor to do so. A few, however, simply planted themselves on the land. In January 1734, St. Ovide and Le Normant wrote that they could not send the minister an état of all the concessions because of discrepancies which existed between what had been granted and what was actually occupied. Vallée, the surveyor, they assured him, was working at straightening things out. All those living around the port of Louisbourg were instructed to provide Vallée with proof of the validity of their claims. Two property by property lists were produced by the surveyor; one for those within the town and one for those on the harbour's north shore. [5]

In his list of the north shore concessions, Vallée provided not only their exact locations, but also the history of the properties up to that point. It seems that those with no formal concession were no less the owners of the land they occupied than those whose land had cow to them through proper channels. Continued occupancy and development of the property gave these landholders a kind of "squatters' rights" which permitted them to bequeath or sell the land in any manner they wished. Vallée noted that many properties around the harbour exceeded the 40-60 toises depth originally called for by the authorities. Due to the poor quality of land several extended 100 toises or more from the shore. Because of its low productivity, occupants required more land to cultivate even a garden. [6] Unfortunately, Vallée did not survey and list the numerous properties which lay between the Dauphin Gate and the northeast tip of the barachois du ouest for De Lasson. These properties were usually smaller than those on the north shore. Some bordered the harbour on the barachois, while others extended along the road around the barachois to the Royal Battery. The absence of a detailed survey makes it impossible to pinpoint most of the concessions in this area.

All the properties in the area immediately in front of the Dauphin Gate known as the fauxbourg were destroyed during the 1745 siege. The other holdings around the harbour had been abandoned in 1745 and many suffered damage during the fighting or during the four years the French were absent from Louisbourg. Some landholders never returned to Ile Royale. As a result of this destruction and disruption, land claims were quite confused when the French returned. An ordinance was issued in 1749 directing residents to put their land en valeur within a year, or it would be regarded as abandoned. However, the financial administrator, Prevost, reported that there remained in the port almost no vestige of human habitation - all had been burned. Surveys were required to determine the boundaries of properties since no trace of buildings or fences was left standing. And many residents had lost everything in their forced evacuation of Louisbourg and required assistance to rebuild their houses, vigneaux, chafauds and other structures. Some owners who were not returning continued to claim their land by sending someone to act for them in leasing the properties. Others had died and left no heirs, their lands reverting to the Crown. All lands returned, for whatever reason, were to be re-granted with creditors of the original owner being given first option to claim the land. [7]

If a survey similar to Vallée's were undertaken in the 1750s, it is not available. Many new grants were made. Records of these concessions, however, am very incomplete. It is extremely difficult to determine who held what land, again particularly in an area surrounding the barachois du ouest.

While there are numerous references to concessions being granted in and around Louisbourg, many names turn up in connection with a piece of land for which no concession information is available. In such instances the earliest recorded owner of a piece of land is assumed, in the following summary of land concessions, to be the one to whom it was conceded. This may not always be the case, but at present it is not possible to make any other assumption. Some people mentioned as neighbours to a particular concession may have been only tenants on that land. Here again, however, in the absence of any other information, it has been assured that the person named had, indeed, been conceded the land.