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  • Saint-Gervais
    – The isolated lands of the lord of Saint-Michel
Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais church
Present-day Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais church (Saint-Gervais), erected in 1873 (author Bernard Gagnon, without modification, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

The municipality of Saint-Gervais is located in the Regional County Municipality of Bellechasse, in the heart of Chaudière-Appalaches Region, immediately east of the city of Lévis. It owes its name to the parish of Saint-Gervais and Saint-Protais, founded in 1780, in honor of two Roman Christian martyr twins of the 1st century, Gervais and Protais…

The chapel-presbytery was built the previous year to serve thirty Catholic families. A resident priest was then assigned. It was there along the present-day First and Second concession roads of Saint-Gervais, starting in 1756, that up to 70 Acadian families had settled in what was called then the New Cadie until the opening of the parish. Yet, most of them did not colonize Saint-Gervais. Here’s why…

Difficult living conditions

As early as 1756, the Acadians were welcomed on the land to be cleared of trees owned by Michel-Jean-Hugues Pean, lord of the Saint-Michel seigneury, south of his domain of Livaudière. The first parcels of land were allocated to seven Acadian families from Isle Saint-Jean (now Prince Edward Island) who were fleeing the deportation, later in time to eight other Acadian families seeking refuge. Following a difficult winter, the refugees had to accept these isolated lands in order to receive food from the colonial authorities. In December 1756, each refugee was given “half a pound of beef or a quarter of bacon and four ounces of peas a day” for six months. The story does not say whether this distribution of food continued in June 1757…

Other Acadian families arrived subsequently. We unfortunately know that throughout their long exile they suffered from deprivations, in consequence many Acadians were in poor health and succumbed to their disease. In 1758, 56 of them were buried in the cemetery of the neighbouring parish of Saint-Charles-Borromée (becoming Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse) upon which they depended for religious matters. Given the difficult living conditions, the isolation and the lack of a nearby church, many Acadians chose to leave their land.

Historic Promenade-des-Soeurs park
Historic Promenade-des-Soeurs park in Saint-Gervais (author Bernard Gagnon, without modification, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

However, some Acadians took root in their Little Cadie and were joined by a group of Scots, followed by French-Canadian settlers, ancestors of the current inhabitants of Saint-Gervais. The municipality did build in its historic Promenade-des-Soeurs park a fountain and a commemorative plaque to honor its Acadian pioneers. Among the first families to settle temporarily are those of François Turcot (a French man married to an Acadian woman) and Jean-Baptiste Trahan. Both left the area prematurely, but not at all in the same circumstance. The former sold his land in 1759, whereas the latter was… buried in 1758 in the cemetery of Saint-Charles-Borromée.

Here are some pioneering Acadian families of Saint-Gervais (sources: Bona Arsenault, Directory of the Acadian regions of Quebec): Antoine Bariault (Barriau) from Pisiguit who was married to Blanche Doucet; Honoré Doiron from Pisiguit who was married to Françoise Boudrot; Jean-Baptiste Trahan married to Catherine Boudrot…