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Des Rivières and Taschereau Families Fonds (P752)

Extract from Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières (1805-1875) diary (detail), 1847-1848. Gift of Mr. Michel Stein, son of Gabrielle des Rivières, Des Rivières and Taschereau Families Fonds P752, M2012.63.1.3 © McCord Museum

A mild winter not everyone is happy about

"It was 20 degrees this morning[.] It's said that the mail coach had to cross at Sault St. Louis since it was too risky to cross by boat at Montreal - we are therefore justified in hoping that very soon we will be able to cross on the ice - I wish it with all my heart - I'm so anxious to see my dear mother[.]" (December 27, 1847)

As described at length in the diaries of Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières, mid-19th century life in the country had its benefits, but it also had its share of inconveniences, one of which was the isolation that rural inhabitants experienced during the winter. Today, one can travel between Montreal and Notre-Dame-de-Stanbridge (Montérégie) in just over an hour by car, regardless of the weather conditions. Consequently, it is difficult for us to imagine the obstacles that travellers along this route used to encounter, particularly during mild or snow-free winters when traditional transportation routes became impassable. For example, during the exceptionally mild winter of 1847-1848, Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières desperately waited over a month for the ice bridge to form so she could cross the St. Lawrence to Montreal, where her mother was living.

Finally, on January 24, 1848, Marie-Angélique and her husband were able to reach Montreal, following a multi-stage journey: first to Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, then La Prairie, and finally Saint-Lambert, from which they were able to cross the ice bridge to Montreal.

P752 Des Rivières and Taschereau Families Fonds. - 1839-1972. - 27.8 cm of textual records. - 1 photograph.

Biographical Sketch

The son of François-Amable Des Rivières (1764-1830), primary heir of James McGill, HENRI DES RIVIÈRES (1804-1865) married Marie-Angélique Berenger Hay in 1832.

A politician, landowner and prominent businessman, Henri Des Rivières worked primarily in the Montreal area and Stanbridge Township. In 1829, he purchased the seigneury of Montarville with François-Pierre Bruneau (a cousin, by marriage, of Louis-Joseph Papineau). In 1841, he completed the construction of a family manor named "Malmaison" on a property in Stanbridge Township that he and his brother had inherited in 1830. The development of this region owes a lot to Des Rivières. Since a river ran through the estate, Henri Des Rivières had a dam built to drive two mills, a sawmill and a flour mill. Later, a covered bridge was added. In 1845, the two brothers obtained permission from Bishop Ignace Bourget to establish the parish of Notre-Dame-des-Anges and had a wooden chapel built. Henri Des Rivières was also the first mayor of the municipality of Notre-Dame-des-Anges. Over the years, the family's estate was dramatically reduced by a series of financial and legal setbacks.

The daughter of Richard Hay and Marie-Angélique Bouchette, MARIE-ANGÉLIQUE HAY (HAYE) (1805-1875) was related to surveyor Joseph Bouchette. Her marriage with Henri Des Rivières produced four children, two of whom reached adulthood: François-Guillaume "Willie" (Willy) and Marie Marguerite Caroline. A very devout Catholic, she was likely the inspiration behind the creation of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, the first Catholic parish in Stanbridge Township. A dedicated wife and mother, Marie-Angélique ran a rather affluent household. She was also involved in managing the family's properties (particularly after her husband died) as well as parish administration, going so far as to house priests in "Malmaison," the family home.

FRANÇOIS-GUILLAUME DES RIVIÈRES (1840-1893) married EUGÉNIE TASCHEREAU (1846-1907), the sister of Louis-Alexandre Taschereau (Premier of Quebec from 1920 to 1936). The couple had four children, including Berthe (?-?), who married Philippe Anger, and Eugène (1879-1945), who married Marguerite Gauvreau and went on to have seven children, including Gabrielle Des Rivières (?-?).

Following the death of her husband, Eugénie Taschereau sold "Malmaison" to John Hannigan, the estate manager. To this day, the manor of "Malmaison" is still in the hands of the Hannigan family.

MARIE MARGUERITE CAROLINE DES RIVIÈRES (1842-1902) married Judge Thomas McCord (1828-1886) in 1877. It was McCord's third marriage. The couple had three girls, only one of whom reached adulthood: Marguerite Gertrude Caroline (1883-1943), an Ursuline nun in Quebec City.

Scope and Content

The Des Rivières and Taschereau Families Fonds is composed primarily of the diaries of Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières, as well as several journals written by her daughter-in-law, Eugénie Taschereau Des Rivières. Most of these notebooks were written in almost daily and those of Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières cover a 25-year period from 1846 to 1871. Their contents document the domestic and family lives of these two women who lived in the second half of the 19th century, along with daily concerns such as the health of friends and family, the weather and local road conditions.

The fonds also chronicles certain aspects of the life of Berthe Des Rivières Anger, grand-daughter of Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières. It contains a scrapbook of articles and notes about family marriages and deaths, as well as correspondence.

A collection of notes on ancient history, a receipt addressed to Henri Des Rivières, a greeting card and a photograph of Judge Thomas McCord complete this collection.

Source of supplied title proper: Title based on the contents of the fonds.
Physical condition: The binding on some of the journals is fragile and/or torn.
Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • P752/A Genealogical Notes

  • P752/B Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières. - 1846-1871. - 20.5 cm of textual records.
  • Digitized documents:

    M2012.63.1.2: Part 1 - Part 2
    M2012.63.1.3: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
    M2012.63.1.4: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4
    M2012.63.1.6: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4 - Part 5 - Part 6
    M2012.63.1.7: Part 1 - Part 2
    M2012.63.1.8: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3
    M2012.63.1.9: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4
    M2012.63.1.10: Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3 - Part 4
    M2012.63.1.11: Part 1 - Part 2
    M2012.63.1.12: Part 1 - Part 2

    Scope and Content: This series is composed of the diaries of Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières, covering the years 1846 to 1871. Most of them were written in almost daily and document the family relationships, domestic life and daily concerns of this upper middle-class woman during the second half of the 19th century. These journals chronicle a particular time, conveying the slow pace of life in repetitious descriptions of weather and road conditions, the health of family members, activities of the parish priest, multiple walks, and the constant waiting for a letter or visit from a friend or family. This repetition also gives the diaries the appearance of logbooks.

    The social and political climate of the era is mentioned in notes about the Patriot Rebellions, the "immigration sheds" (built to receive immigrants), the "cholera in the country," celebrating Saint-Jean-Baptiste in the church "decked out in maple leaves," and crossing the frozen St. Lawrence between Montreal and Longueuil. Some passages refer to Marie-Angélique's role in managing the family sawmill: "the sawmill needs more day labourers, and those who work there will indeed have to be supervised, for they don't appear to make good use of their time." Other sections reveal much more private aspects of her life. For example, she talks about her sorrow at the death of her three-month-old child and her plans to create bracelets with the recently cut hair of her daughter Caroline. In addition, the journals of Marie-Angélique Hay Des Rivières chronicle the professional activities of her husband, Henri Des Rivières. There is mention, for example, of him ordering machinery for the mill or attending council meetings in Bedford to discuss the planned construction of the railway. Marie-Angélique also regularly records the activities and movements of her children, Caroline and François Guillaume ("Willie"), who grow into young adults as the years pass. Young Willie gradually gets involved in helping with the family property, assisting his father with various tasks or going to Bedford to attend the agricultural fair. In various passages describing horseback riding, croquet, hunting and music, the diaries reveal information about the family's many acquaintances and leisure pursuits.

    While statements from her contemporaries tend to paint a somewhat different reality than the bucolic picture drawn by Marie-Angélique in her journals, which suggests that these diaries present an idealized vision of the Des Rivières' life in Stanbridge, this family chronicle covering a quarter of a century is nonetheless an exceptional record of Quebec social customs in the 19th century.


Last update: March 29, 2019