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Grignon and Guèvremont Families Fonds (P747)

Extract from Chalet des Vignes diary (detail), 1918-1921. Gift of the Succession Germaine Guèvremont, Grignon and Guèvremont Families Fonds P747, M2012.36.1.38 © McCord Museum

Guèvremont family vacations in the islands of Sorel

"'We're finally here, in the Islands,' as Margot would say. My aunt believes that life will be more affordable in the Islands, what with all the fish. My uncle promises large quantities of yellow perch, which my aunt assures us we will be eating in any number of ways. It's as if the food dictator were planning to vacation here." (July 5, 1918)

Although it's hard to know how closely the family followed the yellow perch diet promised by Olive Beauchemin Guèvremont, this passage about the "food dictator" does raise a smile. In 1917, during the First World War, the Canadian government created the controversial position of "Food Controller," whose mandate was to restrict the population's food consumption and thereby boost exports of foodstuffs to soldiers on the front line in Europe. Several months before the end of the Great War, it was not surprising to hear this civil servant described as a "dictator." Despite ridicule in the press, this bureaucrat exercised iron-fisted control, waging a veritable legal and popular campaign to modify the eating habits of Canadians.

The Chalet des Vignes summer journals, preserved in the Grignon and Guèvremont Families Fonds (P747), contain stories and anecdotes recorded almost daily between 1915 and 1921. This rich, animated chronicle of cottage life offers a unique look into the history of leisure in Quebec.

P747 Grignon and Guèvremont Families Fonds. - 1892-1974. - 18 cm of textual records. - 17 photographs.

Biographical Sketch

The members of the Grignon and Guèvremont families covered by this fonds primarily lived in the regions of Saint-Jérôme, Sainte-Scholastique, Montreal and Sorel.

Both natives of Saint-Jérôme, VALENTINE LABELLE (1868-1932) and JOSEPH-JÉRÔME GRIGNON (1863-1930) had two daughters, Jeanne and Germaine.

In 1915, JEANNE GRIGNON (1890-?) married Benedict W. (Bill) Nyson, a journalist of Norwegian extraction. Their twin daughters, GERMAINE NYSON (1916-1984) and JEANNE NYSON (1916-19??), were born in 1916. Daughter Jeanne married Gordon Bryan Dawson in 1957.

GERMAINE GRIGNON (1893-1968) attended school in Sainte-Scholastique, Saint-Jérôme, Lachine and Toronto (Loretto Abbey), and then worked as a court reporter in Sainte-Scholastique. In 1916, she married HYACINTHE GUÈVREMONT, son of notary ALFRED GUÈVREMONT (1859-?) and OLIVE BEAUCHEMIN (1859-?). They had five children: Marthe, Louise, Jean, Lucille and Marcelle.

The family moved to Ottawa in 1916, then lived in Sorel from 1920 to 1935, and finally settled in Montreal. During their time in Sorel, Germaine Guèvremont began her career as a journalist, writing articles for The Gazette in Montreal and Le Courrier de Sorel. She also wrote for the magazines Paysana and L'Œil. In 1942, she published her first book, a short story collection entitled En pleine terre. A year later, two chapters of what would be her most famous work, Le Survenant, appeared in the magazine Gants du ciel. The novel was published in 1945 by Éditions Beauchemin, and in 1946 by Éditions Plon in Paris. It was awarded the Prix Duvernay, the Prix David and the Prix Sully-Olivier de Serres from the Académie française. Marie-Didace, the sequel to Le Survenant, came out in 1947. With this additional literary success, Germaine Guèvremont was invited to join the Académie canadienne-françasie in 1948. Additional awards and honours included the Governor General's Award in 1950 (for The Outlander, an English translation of her two novels in one volume), honourary doctorates from Université Laval (1952) and the University of Ottawa (1960), and election to the Royal Society of Canada (1962). In addition, her novels were adapted for radio (1951), television (1954-1960) and film (1957), earning her much public recognition.

Scope and Content

This fonds chronicles the lives and work of members of two Quebec families, covering the years 1892 to 1974. It is a fascinating contribution to the artistic and cultural history of Quebec, family and domestic history, military history and the history of leisure.

Much of the fonds relates to the life of author Germaine Grignon Guèvremont and various members of her immediate family, including her husband Hyacinthe Guèvremont, her parents-in-law Alfred Guèvremont and Olive Beauchemin, her mother Valentine Labelle and her father Joseph-Jérôme Grignon. Several documents are also associated with her sister Jeanne Grignon and her husband, Bill Nyson, along with their twin girls, Jeanne and Germaine Nyson.

The fonds records Germaine Guèvremont's writing career, in the form of autographed works and an invitation to receive an honourary doctorate. There are also letters exchanged with her mother Valentine and her daughter Marthe. In addition, numerous records document the relationship between Jeanne Grignon and her husband Bill Nyson, a journalist for The Montreal Star.

Among the family documents in the fonds are birth, baptismal, marriage and death certificates, declarations of transmission for estates, and two hand-written journals from the Chalet des Vignes (1915-1921). There are also a few documents about the brief professional hockey career of Hyacinthe Guèvremont, notably his stint with the Montreal Canadiens.

The fonds features several epistolary documents, including a letter from Claude-Henri Grignon to Jeanne Grignon Nyson about Germaine Guèvremont's last visit before her death, and love letters sent to Germaine Grignon Nyson from Andràs, a Hungarian immigrant imprisoned in the Ontario Reformatory. In addition, the fonds contains a large number of insurance bonds and mining securities purchased by the family.

Studio portraits of Valentine Labelle, Sheriff Pierre Guèvremont and sisters Jeanne and Germaine Guèvremont supplement the textual records. Finally, photographic media related to Germaine Guèvremont's literary output document things like the filming of the TV series "Le Survenant."

Physical condition: The Chalet des Vignes journals are fragile and must be handled with care.
Language: The documents are in French and English.

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

  • P747/A Grignon Family
    • P747/A1 Joseph-Jérôme Grignon
    • P747/A2 Valentine Labelle
    • P747/A3 Jeanne Grignon Nyson. - [1915-1968]. - 0.8 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: P747/A3,1 - P747/A3,2 - P747/A3,3

    • Scope and Content: This subseries chronicles the personal life, family relations and finances of Jeanne Grignon Nyson. It contains correspondence, notably from her husband Bill Nyson (who apparently inspired the title character in Germaine Guèvremont's novel, Le Survenant), her cousin Claude-Henri Grignon, and the Department of Veterans Affairs, from which she hoped to receive an allowance in return for services performed by her husband.

      Rounding out the subseries are a marriage contract between Jeanne Grignon and B. Nyson, a Superior Court judgment formalizing their separation, and certificates and contracts documenting Jeanne's financial investments.

    • Language: The documents are in French and English.

    • P747/A4 Germaine Nyson
    • P747/A5 Jeanne Nyson (Neyson) Dawson

  • P747/B Guèvremont Family
    • P747/B1 Genealogy
    • P747/B2 Olive Beauchemin Guèvremont. - [1915-1921, after 1945]. - 4.5 cm of textual records.
      Digitized documents: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3

    • Scope and Content: This subseries is composed primarily of two journals from Chalet des Vignes, the cottage on Île aux Fantômes (near Sorel) owned and run by Hyacinthe Guèvremont's parents as of 1886. Family members and friends would congregate there during the summer. It was located next to Îlette-au-Pé, an historic site listed in the Quebec Directory of Cultural Heritage. Serving as both journals and guest books, these hand-written documents were used to record daily events as well as the names, addresses and remembrances of visitors who came during the 1915 to 1921 summer seasons.

      The stories of the owners and vacationers offer a rich, animated chronicle of this cottage devoted to hunting, fishing and relaxation, thus providing a window into the history of family leisure activities in Quebec.

    • Language: The documents are in French and English.

    • P747/B3 Hyacinthe Guèvremont
    • P747/B4 Germaine Grignon Guèvremont
      • P747/B4,3 Correspondence of Germaine Grignon Guèvremont. - [1908-1966].- 0.5 cm of textual records.
        Digitized documents

      • Scope and Content: This file focusses on correspondence between author Germaine Grignon Guèvremont and members of her family. It contains letters and postcards Germaine sent to her mother, sister, daughter Marthe, and niece Jeanne and her husband. There is also an invitation to the University of Ottawa Convocation, addressed to her daughter Marcelle Guèvremont.

      • Language: The documents are in French.

    • P747/B5 Other Guèvremont family members and friends

  • P747/C Photographs


Last update: August 30, 2017