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


The Gardens of Louisbourg

by Gilles Proulx

In Historians,
Preliminary Architectural Studies,
Volume 04, Unpublished Report HG 02
(Fortress of Louisbourg, 1972,
Report Number H G 02 04 06 E)

The Gardens of Louisbourg

Although we did not limit our study of the gardens only to the card index of the Domestic Architecture File, and we consulted more than two hundred deeds of sale, leases, suits, inventories of estates, as well as numerous correspondence items, the information we have been able to gather on the subject is not very revealing. Research conducted on the basis of various series of documents in the archives of the Fortress of Louisbourg, revealed that more than one hundred gardens were mentioned between 1713 and 1758. Most often, the existence of these gardens was merely mentioned, while the statement was sometimes made that they were surrounded by fences.

Bits of information found here and there, combined with a review of the cartographic collection, enable us to advance some theories concerning the structure and the use of these gardens. One first observation resulting from this research is undoubtedly the large number of gardens that could be found again at Louisbourg. The documents mention more than one hundred gardens, while two plans [NOTE 1], indicate more than eighty within the city area alone. This large number is easily understandable when one thinks of the difficulties experienced by the Louisbourg inhabitants in supplying themselves during the entire life of this fortress. Joseph Lartigue [NOTE 2], Réné Herpin [NOTE 3] and Anne Levron [NOTE 4], to mention just these three persons, even owned two gardens.



While guarding ourselves against having blind faith in the cartographic information, it seems clear that all the Louisbourg gardens were divided into squares and rectangles, with grass borders around them in [PAGE 3:] some cases. At least, this is the way in which they are presented to us on more than sixty maps dating from 1713 to 1758. Some fifteen plans are to be found in the appendix, that appear to us to be the most revealing plans on this subject. We suggest that the information of the cartography be used prudently, due to the fact that maps of the same year [NOTE 5] show a different arrangement of the same garden; others [NOTE 6] present the King's garden, in block 35, arranged in rectangles that are quite regular, during a period where, according to official correspondence [NOTE 7], the garden was not yet planted.

Notwithstanding these reservations, it should be noted that the French during that period favoured the regular arrangement of the gardens as follows:

Their ordinary arrangement, which is the best as well as the easiest for the gardener, is the one where the garden is arranged, as much as possible, in squares, with the length slightly longer than the width. The width of the paths must be in proportion to the length as well as the surface area of the garden. The smallest ones should be no less than from six to seven in walking space; and the biggest ones, regardless of their length, should never exceed three or four toises at the most. With respect to the size of the squares, it is wrong to make them more than fifteen or twenty toises in one direction, at the same distance, more or less, in the other direction; the best squares have sides of from ten to twelve toises by [PAGE 4:] fourteen or fifteen toises. The whole should be determined by the size of the garden. Ordinary paths, used to tend to the squares or the flower beds, are approximately one pied wide [NOTE 8].

In view of these facts, it may be assumed that the Louisbourg inhabitants chose to develop their gardens in squares or rectangles, as being the absolutely normal thing to do.

No general characteristics can be advanced concerning the size of the gardens, because, with the exception of the King's garden, which measured 30 toises, 5 pieds, by 21 toises, 5 pieds, [NOTE 9], six gardens are mentioned as small, and the measurements of only 12 others are mentioned, having an average size of 61.4 pieds in length and 45.6 pieds in width. The three largest were those of Jean Chevalier (100 pieds by 45 pieds in a triangle) [NOTE 10], of Gabriel Biron (116 pieds by 30 pieds) [Note 11] and of Anne Levron (90 pieds by 90 pieds) [NOTE 12]. The smallest garden was the one of Bernard Detcheverry, measuring 22 pieds by 16 pieds [NOTE 13].



Although there were no regulations to that effect, it is logical to think that most of these gardens were fenced in. Although it is stated in only twenty cases that the garden was enclosed by pickets [piquets], fences were nevertheless a necessity to protect the produce against all sorts of depredations. We only have to remember that royal ordinances were required as late as 1735 and 1752 to prevent the roaming of animals in the streets of Louisbourg [NOTE 14].

Notwithstanding certain restrictions which we will state later on, the pickets [piquets] seem to have been generally used to surround the gardens. Thus, Joseph Lartigue bought 150 garden pickets [piquets] at 18 livres per hundred [PAGE 5:] in 1734 [NOTE 15] whereas it was written in a journal during the siege of 1745, that:

we burned all the pickets [piquets] of the city gardens, as well as those of the houses belonging to Messrs Carerot and Ste Marie, located outside the city, and we returned through the Maurepas gate with the pickets [piquets] of the gardens of these gentlemen, which we had torn out of the ground [NOTE 16].

In the same manner, 1100 pickets [piquets] were needed in 1750 to enclose the King's garden [NOTE 17]. As for the wood of which these pickets [piquets] were made, we have encountered only one reference to the effect that they were made of fir [NOTE 18].

However, certain gardens were enclosed in a different manner. Thus, a garden located close to the Barachoix de Lasson was enclosed by bushes [NOTE 19], and another garden only by a railing [NOTE 20]. It is to be noted in the last case, that this was a garden located at Miré and at the end of a meadow fenced-in in the same manner. Before leaving this subject, we will quote a passage from a deed of a land sale written in 1755:

the end of the courtyard or garden, closed in by cross boards as is usually the case [NOTE 21].

With respect to the structural aspect of these fences, we refer the reader to the study made by Linda Hoad, called: "Fences and Gates".



The only particulars we have been able to find concerning the nature of the Louisbourg gardens, even though quite fragmentary indicate that they were kitchen-gardens [NOTE 22], vegetable gardens, [NOTE 23], or gardens in which herbs were grown [NOTE 24]. Fruit gardens are not mentioned at all, or even less orna- mental gardens. It is true that certain maps [NOTE 25] mention trees in some [PAGE 6:] gardens, as in the King's garden and in Lartigue's garden. Would this involve fantasies on the part of the cartographers, or a description of reality - we could not say. It is certain, however, that flowers were not the major worry of the inhabitants of Louisbourg. Thus, Franquet, speaking of the King's garden, wrote in 1753:

This garden is extremely useful, in view of the slight amount of revenue of any kind resulting from life in this country [NOTE 26].

Everything, leads us to believe that the quality of the soil in the Louisbourg gardens was never very good. François Bigot qualified the King's garden in 1740 as "softish" [NOTE 27] requiring disbursement on the order of 300 pounds for carting soil [NOTE 28], in order to make it appropriate for gardening. This report on one of the most important gardens of Louisbourg, which had been cultivated for at least four years [NOTE 29], provides food for thought with respect to the quality of the other gardens. This is all the more true, because a special reference is made in 1728 of a fact that seems to be somewhat unusual:

a square garden, measuring 60 pieds on every side, behind the house, fenced in with pickets [piquets], which was in good condition due to the care of Mr. De la Forest in carting soil and manure into it every year [NOTE 30].

If the fact that most of the owners of gardens at Louisbourg were merchants, fishermen or workmen, and pure amateurs in the field of market gardening, is added to the poor quality of the soil, it is to be doubted [PAGE 7:] whether the gardens produced a high yield. In fact, notwithstanding an effort made in 1733 [NOTE 31], it is not until 1741 that a professional gardener [NOTE 32] was found in Louisbourg, and he was only there to take care of the King's garden. Judging from the observation made in 1744, to the effect that Miré was the only place where "sweet things" (agriculture) grew in Louisbourg [NOTE 33], the productivity and the quality of the garden soil had to be rather low. However, it should be noted that Joseph Lartigue declared in 1735 that he drew annual revenue on the order of 300 pounds from his gardens [NOTE 34]. As to the tools used in the produce gardening, the remarks are rather limited, because we were able to find only two spades and one shovel made of iron, as well as "chaussoir" [NOTE 35]. These are at least instruments of which the use is specifically related to gardening. However, we should add that several inventories mention instruments that could very easily be used for gardening purposes.

The documents provide no information whatsoever concerning the various plants that could be grown at Louisbourg. They only mention vegetable gardens or herb gardens. These involve undoubtedly herbs for soups, as was mentioned in a suit brought against a soldier who had entered Chevalier's garden to pick herbs for his soup [NOTE 36]. With respect to the vegetables, we know for certain that cabbages and turnips were harvested at Baie des Espagnols [NOTE 37] and on Ile Saint-Jean [NOTE 38]; these plants were probably also found in the Louisbourg gardens. It is also mentioned that experimental gardening occurred at Louisbourg; thus, during a suit brought in 1733 against J. Brisson, François Vallé demanded that

[PAGE 8:]

the plants found in the garden of that house, which had been ordered from Acadia by the said Bodard and Duprez le bouché ... be returned to him, and that he be given the disposal over a small flower bed in the said garden in which are found a number of foreign plants which the plaintiff has expressly planted to send the seeds to Mgr. le Comte de Maurepas and to Mr. Rodeau, in accordance with orders received by plaintiff from France [NOTE 39].

We should like to end this study by quoting part of a letter from Minister Maurepas to the Louisbourg authorities. This text, which describes the general conditions under which lle Royale could be famed, mentions some plants that could grow there and describes the interest on the part of the residents in farming. It seems to us to be the most revealing document concerning gardening at Louisbourg.

Gentlemen, I was very sorry to see from your letter dated October 17 that you do not believe ever to be able to count on production from the soil on Isle Royale. I was not unaware of the fact that these are not generally of good quality: I have also been advised that the climate there is not favourable to the growing of seeds and fruits, due to the frequent fogs encountered even during the summer; and, furthemore, it is true that farming the land was not the object of the establishment on said island. However, such farming has at no time been considered to be absolutely impossible. We have at all times been assured that even though it was difficult to grow wheat, buckwheat, [PAGE 9:] oats, barley, "Indian wheat", sorghum, vegetables and, in general, all kinds of grasses grew very well: furthermore, it is a fact that there are meadows. Thus, if the planting and sowing were limited to these various species, and to the raising of cattle and fowl, they would constitute a great resource for the colony, and the residents engaged in it with hard work and industry could do very well. If there are just a few who have done so until now, the reason should be attributed less to the poor quality of the soil than to the ease with which other establishments, less advantageous for the colony and even less reliable for those engaged in them, have been tolerated. Such was the case of the many taverns that were tolerated, that caused debauchery on the part of private citizens and the ruin of most of the tavernkeepers themselves, and that turned them away from the ventures they could have engaged in farming [NOTE 40].

[PAGE 10:]


[NOTE 1:] A.F.L., M.C., nos. 730-2; ND 24.[NOTE 2:] A.F.L., M.C., ND 121.[NOTE 3:]Inventaire après décès de R. Herpin. Louisbourg, 13 mars 1739. A.N., Section Outre- Mer, G2, vol. 185, 368v.[NOTE 4:] Inventaire de Dame Anne Levron. Louisbourg, 19 décembre 1733. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2 vol. 182, pages 1007-1008.[NOTE 5:] A.F.L., M.C., nos. 751-8; 751-17; 751-27.[NOTE 6:] A.F.L. M.C., nos. 730-2; 732-3. 733-7.[NOTE 7:] St. Ovide au ministre de la marine. Louisbourg, 21 octobre 1733. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 14, fols. 114- 116v.[NOTE 8:] Diderot. Supplément à l'Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des Sciences, Amsterdam 1777, tome III, page 501.[NOTE 9:] Franquet au ministre de la marine. Louisbourg, 9 octobre 1753. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 33, fol. 234.[NOTE 10:] Inventaire de Jean Chevalier. Louisbourg, 25 octobre 1720. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2057, no. 31.[NOTE 11:] Inventaire des biens de la communauté entre Gabriel Biron et Madeleine Rimbeau. Louisbourg, 16 juin 1733. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 182, fol. 566.[NOTE 12:] Inventaire de Dame Anne Levron. Louisbourg, 19 décembre 1733. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2 vol. 182, pages 1007-1008. [NOTE 13:] Bail à loyer de Dominique Detcheverry à Thimothé Latapy. Louisbourg, 31 octobre 1726. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, carton 2058, no. 40.[PAGE 11:] [NOTE 14:] Règlements de police. Louisbourg, 20 avril 1735, ? ? 1753. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 17, fol. 250. Idem, vol. ?, fol. ?.[NOTE 15:] Papiers du Sr. Amerlet. Louisbourg, 30 août 1734. A.N., Section Outre- Mer, G2, vol. 194, piéce 50.[NOTE 16:] Journal du siège de Louisbourg. Louisbourg, 17 juillet 1745. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, DFC/AM, no. 251, fol. 15v.[NOTE 17:] Bordereau des recettes et paiements. Louisbourg, 18 novembre 1750. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 29, fol. 235v.[NOTE 18:] Réunion au Domaine du Roy du terrain de feu Jacques Fournac. Louisbourg, 10 août 1737. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G 2 vol. 185, fol. 3v.[NOTE 19:] Vente de la moitié d'une maison de Estienne Francoeur à Jean Lirlandois. Louisbourg, 9 juillet 1720. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G3, Carton 2057, no.11.[NOTE 20:] Bail à loyer de Jean Milly à Jacques Martin. Louisbourg, 1 mai 1741. A.N., Section Outre- Mer, G3, carton 2046, no. 51.[NOTE 21:] Bail à loyer de Pierre Sentier à Arnaud Barrouillet. Louisbourg, 11 juin 1755. A.N., Section Outre- Mer, G3 carton 2044, no. 54.[NOTE 22:] Bail d'une maison de J.F.Chesnay à Jean Minaud. Louisbourg, 31 octobre 1752. Section Outre-Mer, G3 carton 2041-1, no. 182.[NOTE 23:] Inventaire de Philibert Pineau. Louisbourg, 22 novembre 1757, A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2. vol. 209. dossier 512, pièce 4.[NOTE 24:] Inventaire de Gregoire Chapelard. Louisbourg, 7 décembre 1757. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2 vol.211, dossier 537, pièce 8.[NOTE 25:] A.F.L., M.C., 744-5; 753-1; ND 88, ND 121.[NOTE 26:] Franquet au ministre de la marine, Louisbourg, 9 octobre 1753. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 33, fol. 234.[PAGE 12][NOTE 27:] François Bigot au ministre de la marine. Louisbourg, 1 octobre 1740.A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 22. fols. 157- 157v.[NOTE 28:] Idem. Louisbourg, 20 octobre 1741. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 23, fols. 109- 110v.[NOTE 29:] St. Ovide et Le Nommant au ministre de la marine. Louisbourg, 8 novembre 1736. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 18, fols. 28- 29.[NOTE 30:] DeMesy, Verrier et St. Ovide au ministre de la marine, Louisbourg, 20 avril 1728. A.N., Col., C11B, vol.10, fol. 154v.[NOTE 31:] St. Ovide au ministre de la marine, Louisbourg, 21 octobre 1733. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 14, fols. 114-116v.[NOTE 32:] François Bigot au ministre de la marine, Louisbourg, 20 octobre 1741. A.N., Col., C11B. vol. 23, fol. 110v.[NOTE33:] Duchambon et Bigot au ministre de la marine, Louisbourg, 3 octobre 1744. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 26, fol. 20v.[NOTE 34:] Joseph Lartigue au ministre de la marine, Louisbourg, 20 décembre 1735. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 17, fols. 290-292.[NOTE 35:] Inventaire de Gabriel Biron. Louisbourg, 16 juin 1733. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 182, fol. 566. Inventaire de Louis Salomont. Louisbourg, 2 décembre 1738. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 185, fol. 300v.[NOTE 36:] Procédure criminelle instruite contre Jean Mamier dit Landry. Louisbourg, 16 juillet 1734. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2, vol. 183, fols. 88v-89.[NOTE 37:] Prévost au ministre de la marine. Louisbourg, 25 novembre 1750. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 29, fols. 174-176.[NOTE 38:] Dailleboust au ministre de la marine. Louisbourg, 7 novembre 1753. A.N., Col., C11B, vol. 33, fols. 95-96v.[PAGE 13:][NOTE 39:] Procès entre F. Vallée et J. Brisson. Louisbourg, juin-août 1733. A.N., Section Outre-Mer, G2 vol. 182, pages 1052- 1057.[NOTE 40:] Maurepas à Duquesnel et Bigot. Versailles, 6 juin 1742. A.N., Col., B, vol. 74, fol. 567.