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Louis-Joseph Cartier Family Fonds (P660)

Letter written by Jean-Marie Richard to Jeanne Cartier (detail), 1903. Gift of the Louis-Joseph Cartier family in memory of Cécile Richard and Marthe Richard-Blanchard, Louis-Joseph Cartier Family Fonds P660, M2006.112.4.3 © McCord Museum

Love and marriage in Quebec, circa 1903
"[...] I wish to ask you, by way of this letter that I am writing to you, and which, to be original, is at least not boring, and allowed under the circumstances, for I have been told you are perhaps engaged, if you would like to get to know me better, and have me call on you."

In this era of online romance, it is interesting to travel back to a time (not so long ago) when relationships were built slowly and meant to last.

Jean-Marie Richard and Jeanne Cartier hardly knew each other. Jean-Marie was a friend (or maybe even only an acquaintance) of Jeanne's brother, which he seems to have found sufficient grounds for daring to introduce himself to her. Jeanne was heir to an illustrious family of landowners in Contrecoeur. Perhaps because he wished to assure the young lady that he was a serious candidate and had a good job, Jean-Marie took care to add his business card to his letter, which also bore the stamp of his notarial seal.

While this first letter was simple, direct and almost naive, it nonetheless observed the decorum imposed by a conservative society, where romantic relationships were formalized and governed by well defined codes. This conformism did not hinder the blossoming of a very affectionate friendship, as shown in the letters that Jean-Marie wrote to Jeanne for nearly four years. Through the young man's insistence and uncertainty, one can nevertheless sense the young woman's restraint, and perhaps even hesitation to get involved with him.

However, Jean-Marie Richard and Jeanne Cartier did get married on June 18, 1907.


P660 Louis-Joseph Cartier Family Fonds. - 1797-1996. - 108 cm of textual records. - 1373 iconographic documents. - 2 cartographic records.

Biographical Sketch

The families chronicled in this fonds lived in the seigneury of Contrecoeur, which was located east of the Island of Montreal, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. Louis-Joseph Cartier and his son, Joseph-Louis, were the last owners. LOUIS-JOSEPH CARTIER (1848-1922), a merchant and second cousin of Sir Georges-Étienne Cartier, was given the title of seigneur following his 1873 marriage to MARIE DELPHINE HERMINE KEMNEUR-LAFLAMME (1844-1932). Nicknamed Ermelinde, his wife was the daughter of Joseph Kemneur-Laflamme (1803-1875), a prosperous farmer who purchased the seigneury of Contrecoeur from John Fraser in 1872.

After his marriage, Louis-Joseph gradually moved away from the world of business to focus instead on managing the family property. Also an active participant in public affairs, he was a political organizer for his county (Verchères), a councillor and then mayor of Saint-Antoine, and county prefect. He and his wife had eight children, only four of whom reached adulthood: Jeanne (1879-1966), Armand (1881-1935), Marie-Anne Cécile (1883-1901) and Joseph-Louis (1885-1948). The family had a new home built in Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu: completed in 1897, "Le Château" is still standing today. Louis-Joseph Cartier was 73 years old when he died in 1922. His wife Ermelinde outlived him by another ten years and devoted herself to charity work.

JEANNE CARTIER married notary JEAN-MARIE RICHARD (1879-1955) in 1907. They lived in Lenoblet-du-Plessis, a home in Contrecoeur, and had two children: Cécile (1908-1995) and Marthe (1912-1999). Jean-Marie Richard held various positions in the community, including registrar of the schools and village of Saint-Ours and chairman of the Contrecoeur school board. He was also a Liberal MNA for Verchères from 1921 to 1927. Richard had to close his notarial practice in 1949 because of vision problems.

JOSEPH-LOUIS CARTIER contracted polio at a young age, which caused some paralysis. When he was 28 years old, he was given the title to the seigneury of Contrecoeur. He also supported himself with the farm he acquired from his father and his work as a photographer, a profession he practised from 1906 to 1920. He was a partner of postcard photographer and publisher J.-L. Pinsonneault from Saint-Jean, providing him with images to publish. Joseph-Louis lived in "Le Château" until his mother's death in 1932. At that time, he moved to Montreal where he remained until his death on May 10, 1948. He was the last person to hold the title of Seigneur of Contrecoeur.

Though Armand Cartier briefly made his home in "Le Château," it was finally purchased in 1937 by Dr. Georges-Aimé Blanchard. Incidentally, Blanchard married MARTHE RICHARD, one of the two daughters of Jeanne Cartier and notary Jean-Marie Richard.

Scope and Content

This fonds documents over 200 years of economic, social and cultural history through the lens of a landowning family in the Contrecoeur region. It chronicles the Cartiers' personal lives, professional activities, family alliances, notably with the Kemneur-Laflammes and Richards, and the administration of the family's property.

The personal life and family of Louis-Joseph Cartier, his finances and assets can be traced from notebooks, correspondence, various deeds and a financial register. The family life and property of Jeanne Cartier and her husband, notary Jean-Marie Richard, as well as his notarial work, are thoroughly documented in correspondence (notably the private letters exchanged before their marriage), notebooks, financial registers, deeds, and property and inventory statements. In addition, the fonds contains notarial documents produced by all the generations represented, illustrating how they managed their property and estates. There are also documents (deeds, registers and notebooks) chronicling the management of the seigneury of Contrecoeur from 1617 to 1875.

Among the 750 photographs (many of which are collected in albums) are numerous shots taken by Joseph-Louis Cartier, professional photographer. These include more informal scenes of the daily life of the seigneur and his family, as well as pictures of places and events associated with the towns of Contrecoeur and Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, such as the family's famous home, "Le Château," the parish church, and the house known as Lenoblet-du-Plessis, or the birthplace of Sir George-Étienne Cartier.

Numerous postcards sent or received by various Cartier family members contain friendly messages, family news, holiday wishes, and even travel descriptions. The fonds also contains blank postcards depicting areas in Quebec and Canada, greeting cards and religious cards. These cards constitute an iconographic source of information about a number of locations in Quebec, like the cities of Montreal and Quebec, the Richelieu Valley, the Soulanges Canal and Lake Saint-François.

Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.


The fonds is divided into the following series, subseries, sub-subseries and files:

  • P660/A Joseph Kemneur-Laflamme and Perrault Family

  • P660/B Cartier Family
    • P660/B1 Louis-Joseph Cartier and Hermine Kemneur-Laflamme
      • M2006.112.2.6 Notebook of Louis-Joseph Cartier. -1865-1866. - 1 textual record ; 16 x 10 cm.
        Digitized document

      • Scope and Content: This "tête-bêche" notebook, filled by Louis-Joseph Cartier when he was a student of rhetoric at Collège de Saint-Hyacinthe, chronicles the interests of this adolescent from a bourgeois family, his education and developing mind, and piety. It consists mainly of notes about the great authors, a list of popes, "choice words from Father Lacordaire" and home remedies (for treating a toothache).
      • Language: The document is in French.

    • P660/B2 Adolphe Richard, Marie-Louise Gervais and Malvina Gervais
    • P660/B3 Jean-Marie Richard and Jeanne Cartier
      • P660/B3.1 Notebooks of Jeanne Cartier
      • P660/B3.2 Finances and notarial work of Jean-Marie Richard
      • P660/B3.3 Correspondence
        • P660/B3.3,1 Love letters. - 1903-1906. - 2 cm of textual records.
          Digitized documents

        • Scope and Content: Scope and Content: This file consists of love letters sent by notary Jean-Marie Richard, of Saint-Ours, to Jeanne Cartier, a native of Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu and the daughter of the seigneur of Contrecœur. This correspondence documents the development of their relationship, which ultimately resulted in their 1907 wedding. Composed primarily of letters written by the young notary, the collection also contains a few rough copies of letters that Jeanne wrote in response. The 30 letters written by Jean-Marie cover the period of November 1903 to January 1907. The first missive, in which he initiates the relationship, is accompanied by his business card and written on paper stamped with his notarial seal. Some letters are written on his office letterhead. Although the young man sometimes refers briefly to his professional and family activities, he primarily uses the letters to express his often painful feelings, which range from his increasing affection for Jeanne, to suffering and anxiety caused by her hesitation, to resigned sadness.
        • The pace of the correspondence quickens as of February 1906, when Jean-Marie openly states his feelings. He appears to have asked Jeanne to commit more fully to the relationship, as evidenced by this passage from a letter dated February 19, 1906: "I cannot help feeling a tremendous anxiety. When I was in Montreal last week to carry out various professional duties, my thoughts very often turned to you. Everything is in your hands. I will honour your objections as if they were orders." The brevity of the few rough copies written by Jeanne contrast with the long missives and increasingly insistent requests of the young notary who suffered due to the many long months of uncertainty. He admits that he is jealous of the happiness of others, particularly when his friend Armand gets married in 1906, and feels very alone in the evening in his new home, which he purchased from the notary Aubin. Though the young woman's hesitations are often mentioned, not much detail is provided. However, they do seem in part related to problems of a material nature: "[...] alas, why are a few acres creating a nearly insurmountable barrier between us[?]" Despite the agony caused by their slowly blossoming relationship, Jean-Marie's letters exhibit the young man's persistence and chronicle his regular visits to Contrecœur to spend time with his beloved. Although the young notary sometimes expresses his distress more directly ("Oh, why won't you accept it!"), the tone of the correspondence remains, overall, very courteous and complies with the social conventions of the era. Although the wait was long, it was not in vain. Jeanne's brief response of January 31, 1907, again fails to address his proposal, once more leaving poor Jean-Marie in limbo. Despite everything, the couple did marry several months later, on June 18 of that year.
        • Language: The documents are in French

      • P660/B3.4 Finances and assets
        • M2006.112.4.4 Property statement of the Rang des Quarante Farm. - 1950-1951. - 1 textual record ; 30 x 22 cm.
          Digitized document

        • This typescript is a description of the Rang des Quarante Farm, a property owned by Jeanne Cartier in the county of Verchères. It details the farm's history, layout, buildings, crops, livestock, and property value.
        • Language: The documents is in French

    • P660/B4 Joseph-Louis Cartier
    • P660/B5 Marie-Anne Cécile Cartier
    • P660/B6 Cécile and Marthe Richard
    • P660/B7 General notes on the Cartier and Kemneur-Laflamme families

  • P660/C Contrecoeur Seigneury and Families
    • P660/C1 Seigneury of Contrecoeur
    • P660/C2 Auger Family, lots 61-76, Contrecoeur
    • P660/C3 Other families (Duval, Gervais, Braseau, Giard)

  • P660/D Contrecoeur Homes and Monuments
    • P660/D1 George-Étienne Cartier home and monument, Saint-Antoine-sur-Richelieu
    • P660/D2 Maison Lenoblet-du-Plessis

  • P660/E Documentation and Memorabilia

  • P660/F Photographs

 

Last update: February 15, 2019