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Turgeon Family Fonds (P732)

Excerpt from a letter to Charles Laberge (1827-1874) from Joseph Ovide Turgeon (1843-1886) (detail), April 30, 1867. Gift of Mrs. Aude Nantais Picher Tremblay, Turgeon Family Fonds P732, M2010. © McCord Museum

European exoticism

"This evening, I went to see a most unusual performance. I attended a wrestling match. Parisians do not look down on this type of amusement. Although the government and the public alike want nothing to do with boxing (unlike the British), they both allow & encourage wrestling. I must confess that, at first, I was less than enthusiastic about watching two naked men, wearing only a small pair of trunks, tackle each other, rolling around and repeatedly trying to flip each other, as feverish spectators clapped their hands and stomped their feet. That being said, I don't how, but I slowly got caught up in the excitement & returned home very pleased & with a completely different view of this noble, ancient, Roman sport!"

Visiting Paris in April 1867, Joseph Ovide Turgeon discovered French wrestling, now called Greco-Roman wrestling. Although an ancient sport, it was little known in Quebec at the time. The Montreal Olympic Clubintroduced it to Quebecers in 1842, but it did not become somewhat popular until 1890. The emphasis on entertainment in the match witnessed by Joseph Ovide echoes what professional wrestling would become in North America.

His enjoyment of the sport could perhaps be seen as a profound expression of his French-Canadian roots. It may be connected with Quebec's long-time fascination with strongmen like Louis Cyr, who would tour cities and towns dazzling crowds with their feats of strength. Although it is impossible to say with any certainty, the fact remains that Joseph Ovide was won over, just as his compatriots would be a century later by wrestlers like Mad Dog Vachon and André the Giant.

This anecdote is just one example of the diverse topics covered by Joseph Ovide and his brother-in-law and guardian, Charles Laberge, in their correspondence. Their letters discussed everything from politics to education to Greco-Roman wrestling!

P732 Turgeon Family Fonds. - [1799-1896]. - 23 cm of textual records.

Biographical Sketch

The Turgeon family made its mark on the history of Quebec thanks to the activities of family members known for their social and political involvement, members like Joseph Ovide Turgeon, a councillor on the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada, and Charles Laberge, a judge, member of the Legislative Assembly, mayor and journalist.

JOSEPH OVIDE TURGEON, père (1797-1856) was born in Terrebonne on December 17, 1797. He was the son of Joseph Turgeon (1761-1832), a notary and justice of the peace, and Marguerite Lepailleur (1773-1831). On June 26, 1828, he married Hélène Olive Turgeon (1804-1863), the daughter of Michel Turgeon (1765-1846), a colonel in the militia, and Angélique Bouc (1776-1832). The couple had eleven children, seven of whom reached adulthood.

He studied at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal from 1806 to 1814, and was elected to represent the district of Effingham in 1824 and 1827. The district was renamed Terrebonne in 1829 and Turgeon became the MLA the following year. At the same time, he was named the commissioner in charge of extending the Effingham road to Kilkenny, which connected the seigneuries of Terrebonne and Lachenaie to the township of Kilkenny. On December 28, 1848, he was appointed to the Legislative Council of the Province of Canada.

Joseph Ovide Turgeon died in Terrebonne on November 9, 1856, at the age of 58. On November 12, 1856, he was buried in the St. Louis parish cemetery.

RACHEL TURGEON (1842-1904), the daughter of Joseph Ovide Turgeon and Hélène Olive Turgeon, was a nun, a Sister of the Sacred Heart with the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus based in Montreal's Sault-au-Récollet parish.

JOSEPH OVIDE TURGEON, fils (1843-1886), the son of Joseph Ovide Turgeon and Hélène Olive Turgeon, was born December 9, 1843. On December 30, 1872, he married Marie Julie Berthelot (1853-?), the eldest daughter of Judge Joseph-Amable Berthelot and Julie Bédard.

He studied law at Université Laval and then became a lawyer. He maintained a close relationship with his brother-in-law, Charles Laberge, who became his guardian following the death of his father when he was 13 years old.

CHARLES JOSEPH LABERGE (1827-1874) was born in Montreal on October 21, 1827. He was the son of Ambroise Laberge (1798-1829) and Rose Franchère (1804-?). He married Hélène Turgeon (1840-1874), daughter of Joseph Ovide Turgeon and Hélène Olive Turgeon, on November 23, 1859. The couple had five children, at least two of whom reached adulthood: Rachel Laberge (1858-?) and Charles Joseph Laberge.

While studying at the Collège de Saint-Hyacinthe from 1838 to 1845, he started Le Libéral, a student newspaper. Called to the Bar in 1848, he went into practice with lawyer Toussaint-Antoine-Rodolphe Laflamme.

In 1845, he helped found the Institut canadien and, in 1847, frequently wrote for the newspaper L'Avenir.

He was elected to the Legislative Assembly as the representative for the county of Iberville in 1854 and served until 1860. He was also mayor of Iberville from 1855 to 1857.

In 1860, with his friend Félix-Gabriel Marchand, he founded the paper Le Franco-Canadien; he also wrote articles for L'Ordre, a liberal Montreal paper, using the pen name "Liberal, but Catholic." In 1863, he was appointed a Superior Court judge in Sorel. Four years later, he was elected mayor of Saint-Jean, serving until 1869.

In 1872, he decided to move to Montreal to become the editor of Le National, despite his failing health. He died there on August 3, 1874, and was buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery.

Scope and Content

This fonds focusses on the Turgeon family, some of whose members were public figures in the Province of Quebec. It shines a light on various individuals, most of them from the Francophone upper-middle class of the 19th century, like Joseph Turgeon, Joseph Ovide Turgeon, père, Henri Roch Turgeon, Hélène Turgeon, Rachel Turgeon, Oscar Turgeon, Joseph Ovide Turgeon, fils, Charles Laberge and Rachel Laberge. It provides information on several fields like law, politics and journalism, as well as some aspects of religious life, complemented by genealogical information about the Turgeon family. The fonds also contains information on related families like the Cléments, the Lévesques and the Girards.

It contains correspondence between many members of the family, friends and acquaintances. Among the topics discussed in these letters, the majority of which were sent to Charles Laberge, are the question of Rachel Turgeon's assets in relation to her religious involvement, a discussion of politics with Flavien Vallerand, and various affairs associated with Laberge's professional activities of lawyer and judge.

The fonds also contains notarial documents recording the sale or purchase of property, rent payments, a guardianship document and a quittance. In particular, a number of the notarial acts provide information about how estates were settled in the 19th century.

In addition, there are marriage contracts, certificates, a will, invoices, account statements and receipts belonging to the Turgeon family or related families, and a summary of a session of the "Comité de la pipe" (pipe committee). The fonds also contains two prayer books, an autograph book owned by Rachel Laberge, and a family tree.

Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical condition: Several documents are fragile.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was donated to the McCord Museum by Mrs. Aude Nantais Picher Tremblay in 2010. The documents had belonged to the donor's family, more specifically to her grandparents, Marguerite Leclère and Isaïe Nantais, who married in 1918 and lived in Montreal.

Language: The documents are in French and English.

Related groups of records: Other fonds related to the donor's family are the Leclère Family Fonds (P731) and the James Frobisher McGill Des Rivières Fonds (P733).

The Leclère Family Fonds (P731) includes albums (M2010.34.55.1-40, M2010.34.57.1-47 and M2010.34.59.1-35) that contain photographs associated with some Turgeon family members.

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

  • P732/A Genealogy

  • P732/B Joseph Turgeon

  • P732/C Joseph Ovide Turgeon, père
    • P732/C1 Property, finances and assets. - 1828-1866. - 2 cm of textual records.
    • Digitized documents
    • Scope and Content: This subseries chronicles the property, finances and assets of Joseph Ovide Turgeon. It also contains information about his estate and that of his wife, Hélène Olive Turgeon. It is composed primarily of notarial documents recording debts, the purchase or sale of real estate, acknowledgement of debt agreements, a bond, a statement of arrears, an invoice and an account statement. There is also a court judgment concerning a lawsuit filed in April 1841 by Joseph Ovide Turgeon against William Muir regarding unpaid rent following the sale of a property owned by his father, Joseph Turgeon.

      Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the subseries.

      Language: The documents are in French.

    • P732/C2 Personal life

  • P732/D Charles Laberge
    • P732/D1 Personal life
    • P732/D2 Property, finances and assets
    • P732/D3 Relations with families and friends
      • P732/D3.1 Hélène Turgeon
      • P732/D3.2 Rachel Laberge
            • M2010. Album amicorum belonging to Rachel Laberge. - 1885-1888. - 1 textual record ; 8.8 × 13.7 cm.
            • Digitized document
            • Scope and Content: Covering the years 1885 to 1888, this autograph book belonged to Rachel Laberge. It primarily contains poems and words of encouragement from family members, acquaintances and friends, including Joseph-Ovide Turgeon, Georges Leclère, Raoul Dandurand and Honoré Mercier.

              Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the record.

              Language: The document is in French.

      • P732/D3.3 Henri Roch Turgeon
      • P732/D3.4 Rachel Turgeon
      • P732/D3.5 Oscar Turgeon
      • P732/D3.6 Joseph Ovide Turgeon, fils. - 1860-1869. - 2 cm of textual records.
      • Digitized documents
      • Scope and Content: This sub-subseries chronicles the family ties between Joseph Ovide Turgeon and Charles Laberge. It provides an intimate look at a tutoring relationship in a 19th-century upper-middle-class Quebec family. It also offers insight into the personal, academic and professional life of Joseph Ovide Turgeon.

        Composed primarily of correspondence sent to Charles Laberge, it notably contains a letter describing the explosion of the gunpowder magazine near St. John's gate in Quebec City on March 4, 1864, and another, dated April 30, 1867, in which Turgeon discusses how Canada lags behind European countries.

        Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the sub-series.

        Language: The documents are in French.

      • P732/D3.7 Georges Leclère (Leclerc)
      • P732/D3.8 Flavien Vallerand
    • P732/D4 Professional life
        • P732/D4,1 Law
        • P732/D4,2 Politics
        • P732/D4,3 Journalism. - 1848-1873. - 1.6 cm of textual records.
        • Digitized documents
        • Scope and Content: This file chronicles the journalistic activities of Charles Laberge, notably the editorials he wrote for various liberal newspapers and his professional relationships.

          It primarily contains correspondence sent to Charles Laberge by various associates and friends. Several letters from Félix-Gabriel Marchand discuss the newspaper Le Franco-Canadien. There is also a letter dated October 22, 1862, from author Antoine Gérin-Lajoie that asks Laberge to get involved in the publication of Le Foyer Canadien, and another, dated February 8, 1874, from Louis-Antoine Dessaules that talks about the close connections among newspapers, politics and religion.

          Source of title proper: Based on the contents of the file.

          Language: The documents are in French and English.

    • P732/D5 Miscellaneous correspondence

  • P732/E Interfamily Business Relations


Last update: June 8, 2018