The Simon Fraser House

Simon Fraser House
Ste Anne de Bellevue, QC
I was just back to Montreal to visit my mother and to share driving duties as my son Christopher drove home for the summer.

When I was around 12 my mother enrolled in Education at MacDonald College and we moved to Ste Anne de Bellevue on the west end of the Island of Montreal. She still lives there.

The village was full of history and I was particularly taken by the Simon Fraser House, an old stone building built in 1778 located across from the Ste Anne locks.

I had a fascination with the Frasers. On my Mother’s side our ancestors fought with Wolfe as Fraser Highlanders. They were given land grants and stayed in Quebec.

I was disappointed to learn that the house was never owned by any distant relation of mine, nor did it belong to the explorer Simon Fraser.

This Simon Fraser was a relative new comer to Canada. He was businessman. One of the principles in the North West Company.

Aside from being a lovely old stone historical property, local scholars claim that Thomas Moore wrote the Canadian Boat Song while he was staying at the house as Fraser’s guest.

Not many years before Moore’s visit, Ste Anne was pretty much the edge of the “civilized world”

A chapel had been erected on the site in 1703 and the trappers and traders heading upstream on the Ottawa River would stop, give alms and pray for safe passage.

Many of them didn’t make it back.

Local historians claim that it was during his visit; Moore put the words to that piece.

We'll sing at St. Ann's our parting hymn.
Row, brothers, row, the stream runs fast,
The Rapids are near and the daylight's past.

In 1804 when the Boat Song was written, the village was a fur trading post. The rapids at Ste Anne meant the voyageurs had to portage.

The North West Company and the Hudson Bay Company both figured they would get a better deal if they did business there saving the voyageurs work of unloading the re-loading their cargo in Ste Anne. Something they would have to do again when the got to Lachine.

So, they bought furs from voyageurs heading south at the lowest price.

When those same voyageurs headed back into the wilderness to their trap lines, they would save two portages and a day’s paddling if they bought their supplies in Ste Anne de Bellevue. Of course the merchants by saving the voyageurs an extra day’s work could sell supplies to at inflated prices.

The merchants profited both ways.

Some things never change

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