Behind the Name

Shakespeare said:  ‘What’s in a name? A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…”. Well, Metis’s wild roses certainly do smell sweet, but we think that place names at least do have special meanings to people who grew up in an area.

Local residents provide the most useful geographical reference system referring to a place, a piece of land, or a natural landmark. The consistency and accuracy of names used becomes essential in referring to a place or landmark, which helps to prevent confusion in a specific area.

Whether it be verbal or written, past or present, place names of lands, bodies of water, or landmarks connect us to each other and to our past. The names also may evidence an event in certain places, as well as providing generations with a link to folklore tales and legends that have been passed down – narratives that explain the origins of place names in a community. 

Although today the origin of many place names is now forgotten, it is often possible to establish likely meanings through consideration of early forms of ancestors’ names. 

This summary has been prepared from sources to be reliable; if you have additional information or corrections, please contact Pam Andersson, Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence Community Liaison & Archive Coordinator, pandersson@heritagelsl.ca; (418) 936-3239, ext. 221.

 

Place Names of Lands

Land is a particular geographical location of ground with reference to its nature or composition. Some can be seen from a distance and the name describes the place, while others have a less visible, but no less significant historical event behind their name. Landmarks enable us to establish location, which makes other places easier to recognize in relation to the landmarks. Many places in Metis are named after early families’ surnames, such as the individuals’ place of residence, or of lands that they held in specific locations.  But some date back further to indigenous peoples who preceded by millennia the Europeans who recorded that they ‘discovered’ North America.

  • Metis, Grand-Metis, Petit-Metis, Metis Beach, Mitis River/Rivière-Mitis

There are different thoughts about the source of the name Metis (Mitis), and it does not come, as many think, from Métis – having ancestry from indigenous and European parents or the more restrictive Métis National Council General Assembly definition of “… a person who self-identifies as Métis, is distinct from other Aboriginal peoples, is of historic Métis Nation Ancestry and who is accepted by the Métis Nation” (a definition intended to exclude those not from “the historic Northwest during the course of the 18th and 19th centuries”.  Nor does it come from the painter Matisse as at least one visitor surmised! The word Metis/Mitis in the Lower Saint Lawrence area is, however, almost certainly an indigenous word:

  • Mitioui, a native word for ‘’meeting place’’ at the mouth of the Mitis River—an important place where First Nations congregated to fish for salmon
  • Mitisk, Mi’kmaq for ‘little birch’ due to the plentiful birch trees at the mouth of the Mitis River
  • Moitié (much less likely), French for ‘half’, if early French explorers thought of the spot as halfway between Gaspé and Quebec City.

 

Whatever the name’s derivation, recent archaeological discoveries confirm Indigenous peoples frequented the mouth of the Mitis River over 6,000 years ago while people of European derivation are recorded as having lived year-round in the area for just over 200 years.  Many people in the area – permanent and summer residents, francophone and anglophone – simply refer to Metis as the general area of the once Seigneurie de Mitis and what it got divided into – Grand Métis and Petit Métis (Little Metis), its successors (Metis Beach/Métis-sur-Mer, Sandy Bay/Baie-des-Sables and Les Boules), and surrounding villages and areas. Metis is regularly used as a short form, understood depending on speaker and context.

 

  • Cascade Road

Cascade Road, also known as “Skid Row” to the locals, was once a dirt road that connected the Boule Rock Road through Astle properties to Cascade Road, then to part of the Cascade Golf Course (later the Cascade Golf & Tennis Club) on to Station Road. The name does not, as some people believe, derive ironically from skid row, meaning an impoverished area in North America that is home to people ‘on the skids’ – the poor, the homeless, or, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, “a district of cheap saloons and flophouses frequented by vagrants and alcoholics.”  In fact, skid row or skid road derives from a logging term dating to the late 17th century and referring to a path or road through the woods along which logs were skidded or dragged. The Astle family once owned much of the land in the vicinity and had a sawmill, which was used to plane tree trunks into planks for constructing many of the buildings and other structures in the area. 

 

Did you know… ?

Some roads in the vicinity were known as ‘corduroy roads.’  This was likely because the logs laid to help carts and carriages over boggy ground, were placed side by side, perpendicular to the road, resembling the thick, cotton material of the same name, with its corded or ridged surface.  In the past, one corduroy road could be found on the ‘Scotch Second’ (second concession), connecting to the third range and St. Octave.

 

  • Kempt Road

While his ships linked the Metis Seigniory with Quebec City, Montreal and other ports, Macnider also pioneered roadbuilding in the Lower St. Lawrence region.  He is attributed with persuading Sir James Kempt, Governor of British North America (1828 to 1830), to build the first road (later named in his honour) from the Lower Saint Lawrence region via the Matapedia valley to the area around Cross Point in the Baie-des-Chaleurs (or “bay of warmth”, in stark contrast to Metis’s chilly waters!).  From there it continued on to the Maritime provinces. This was a strategic decision to build a route further from the America border following the War of 1812 between the United States and Canada.  Thanks to Macnider’s influence, the road departed from Grand-Métis and the road additionally brought new residents north to the Metis area.

This extensive project was in a fair way to being realized when John Macnider passed away, and with his death came a new era for the seigneury. The Kempt Road was only roughly constructed and, until 1840, was barely passable. The couriers who carried the mail and the official dispatches from Metis to the Restigouche used foot or horses until it snowed, and then would travel by dog sleds or snowshoes.  In 1845, Donald McLaren of Metis carried the mail leaving Ristigouche on Monday mornings for Metis.  He often carried 30 to 35 pounds in his mailbag. Arriving back in Ristigouche on Saturday during the night, his mailbag was equally heavy. He walked 195¾ miles every week, rain or shine, on foot or on snowshoes. The heavy and endless snowstorms of January 1845 took their toll on him. Upon his arrival at Metis on January 15, 1845, he was forced to rest for six days because of extreme fatigue before resuming his duties. His partial recuperation was due to the kind care and attention of the Postmaster, William Page, the son of Henry Page and Margaret Prevoux of Metis. We learn, thanks to Ken Annett, from an obituary carried in the Miramichi Gleaner, that Donald McLaren of Metis had carried the mail for 18 months on the Kempt Road until his death on January 28, 1845, near Restigouche. However, many others died along this road, due to the cold weather, and others by drowning.

The Government established four posts along the road to assist travelers. One was on the St. Pierre River at the head of Lake Matapedia just outside the present village of Sayabec. The keeper of this post was Pierre Brochu, who lived there from 1833 until his death in 1871. Pierre Brochu was the father of the first Brochu to establish himself at Metis and became progenitor of all the Brochus of the area. Starting in 1860, the Matapedia Road began to replace parts of the Kempt Road and by 1867 the Matapedia Road was completed.  For more about the building of the Kempt Road, please read Metisian Ken Annett’s account.

  • Grier’s Hill

Mr. George Grier, a lumber merchant, first came to Metis with his family around 1889 and rented the Ferguson Manor House out on Lighthouse Road close to Ferguson Bay. The Griers rented for five years and they claimed that the Manor House was haunted by a “horse and buggy”. In 1894, Mr. Grier bought land and built “Summerholme”, now the Rioux home on the south side of what was then Tuggey’s Hill, named for the Tuggey family who once owned land in the vicinity. George Grier then bought the land on the north side of the hill and had two homes built for his daughters around 1904. These homes on the north side are still owned by the Grier family, explaining why Tuggey’s Hill is now known as Grier’s Hill. 

 

  • Eagle Point 

Eagle Point is named after the eagles that nested on Eagle Rock many years ago. Today, Rod Mathewson owns the house at Eagle Point. The home is old and so is the road to the home. Anne-Louise Mathewson did some research on the home and mentioned that it was like a jigsaw puzzle. She found no records on the exact date of when or who built the home other than that it was built prior to 1874.

The home was first owned by a Miss Catherine Miller, who passed away in 1874. She left the home to two nieces, Miss Francis and Miss Catherine Allison Miller, who owned the home for 51 years. They sold the home to Mary Louisa Georgina Petrie, wife of Charles Ashely Carus-Willson, a Professor at McGill, for $900.00 in 1897. That same year, on May 18, 1897, Samuel James Mathewson bought it for $1,200.00 and put it in the name of his wife – Carrie Louise Smith Mathewson. When she died in 1944, it went back to her husband Samuel, and when he died in 1948, it went to their two daughters, Amelia and Dorothy Mathewson. Amelia died in 1958 and Dorothy owned it until 1983. Dorothy left the home to Clive Mathewson, who owned it until he died in 1986, and he left it to his two children Anne-Louise and Bill Mathewson. Anne-Louise became sole proprietor in 1996 and she sold the home in 2015 to Rod Mathewson. Written by Anne Louise Mathewson 2014

 

  • Mount Misery

The registry of Lloyd’s of London recorded the report of a wreck at Little Metis – a brig named the “Ocean” (tonnage: 271; built by Whitby in 1797; owners: Bews and Co.;-Master Warren). Their records further state that it went on shore and was wrecked at Metis during a blinding snowstorm on October 23, 1846; eleven of the crew drowned. It is said that Mount Misery derives its name from this shipwreck.

In the homes of the local residents, a tale has been told from generation to generation about a vessel that ran ashore during low tide in a blinding snowstorm. The passengers were frightened and bewildered. Having no radio or wireless, the people on shore could communicate with them only by pantomime. Their instructions to remain quietly where they were until high tide were misinterpreted. Many of the passengers, frantic with fright, thought they were in danger and, throwing themselves overboard, were drowned. Later, when the tide came in, the vessel slipped easily from the rocks and those passengers who remained on board were carried safely into deeper water. Ever since that fateful day, the spot has been called “Mount Misery”. By Jessie Forbes

 

  • Killiecrankie Pass

The early Scots that settled in Metis must have found that there was some resemblance to the native land they left behind. In central Scotland, Killiecrankie Pass is the name of a place in the Grampians Mountain that follows the river Garry.

Although today, Route 132 has replaced the original dirt roads of Metis that twisted and hugged the St. Lawrence riverbank, it is still possible to find Killiecrankie Pass. Part of the old horse-and-cart road, Killiecrankie Pass started by the barn on Lighthouse Road, now the Verrier’s home, and headed west towards the Darling home on Lighthouse Road, continuing to Killiecrankie Rock where the Pass ended by the flagpole at the beginning of Leggatt’s road.

 

  • Page Point

Off Killiecrankie Rock at the entrance of Leggatt’s Point road by the flagpole on the north side of the road, is Page Point. It was named after the Page family, who came to Metis later on then the first Scottish colonists and the family was of English descent. Mabel Page is well remembered for her tea room called “The Firs” where she served small meals, tea and sweets.

 

  • Leggatt’s Point 

The cemetery at Leggatt’s Point juts into Mitis Bay and has always been known as Leggatt’s Point. It is named after Peter Leggat (just one ‘t’) who owned the land in the vicinity.

“Old Mr. Leggat still lived, thought bent in years. He had been in business in Quebec, had failed and had come here, after a sojourn at Murray Bay. He was a scholar and a deep mathematician and had taught two men famous in their day, Father Chiniquy and Delgrave, a noted lawyer of Quebec. Mrs. Leggat had been waiting woman to a great Countess and had crossed the sea when her Lord was Governor General.”  John H. Ferguson in ‘Old Times in Metis, Recollections of the Late Seigneur of Metis.’ (Mr. John  H. Ferguson was the last seigneur of Metis)

 

  • Cavil Point and Road, McDonald’s Route, today called rue Anse des Morts

Cavil Point is on Leggatt’s road, close to Anse des Morts Road in the Grand Metis sector. At one time, the Cavil (sometimes spelled Cavel) family lived there; they were one of the early families who came to live on the Macnider Seigneury.  Anse des Morts road, when taken south away from the St. Lawrence , is a short cut that brings you to the Scotch second (second concession or range) and was once called the George Cavil Road.  How do we know?  From a number of local historical records, collected and documented by local history buff Gilbert R. Bosse in his ‘A Preliminary Chronology and Bibliography of the Seigneury de Peiras or Mitis and onward’.  He identified the Procès verbal (or Règlement) of the Municipal Council of No. 2 on opening George Cavil’s road, 13th June 1853; the Deed on the opening and keeping in repair of George Cavel’s Road, between the front of the first concession to the crossroad of the second concession of  the Seigniory of Metis,1st December 1853; and the Report of the opening & maintenance of George Cavil’s Road, between 1st & 2nd range used by 25 farmers, 19 December 1854. 

The Cavil name is long gone, possibly because they relocated to earn more income elsewhere. This road then became known as McDonald’s route because of the family that lived close by after the Cavil’s/Cavel’s moved away.  In 1977, the road name was changed again, this time to Anse des Morts, when the Commission de Toponymie became responsible for managing Quebec place names.  Although the McDonald name disappeared over time like the Cavils, local Anglophones still often refer to it as McDonald’s route even today – it is hard to change from the names you grew up with!

 

  • Campbell’s Hill – De Champlain Hill – Grand Metis Hill

After the Anse des Morts crossroad, going west, there is a hill and it has been known by a variety of family names that lived on top of the hill. It was originally named Campbell Hill for the family that resided there for many years. Willy John Campbell lived there before he moved his family to Station road. Winnifred (Campbell) Turriff, a well-known Metisian, was one of his daughters and was born there. After the Campbells left, it became known as De Champlain and today most call it Grand Metis hill.

 

The Names of Bays

The bays in Metis reduce the strength of the winds, block high waves, and have beaches – not the blond sandy beaches of Caribbean islands, but the grey and brown sand mixed with tiny pieces of clam, mussel, and other shells. At one time, the bays provided places for fishing weirs and safe anchorage for sailing vessels.

 

  • Campbell’s Bay 

Campbell’s Bay is part of Anse de Point-Mitis and its name appeared in the 20th century. It is named after Jack Campbell who farmed in the vicinity; he was also a tailor and it is said that he and his family wore fine custom-made garments. The Campbells lived in the home today owned by Patrice Potvin.

Edith, one of Jack Campbell’s daughters, was born on August 6, 1902, with a slight birth defect: she had one leg shorter than the other so that all her life she wore a prosthetic lace-up black boot. Edith had a warm personality and all the children in Metis knew her as Aunt Titi. She lived most of her life in Metis; while she never married, she was a dynamic force in the community. 

Edith played the organ and sang at the United Church and she baked for years for the Ladies Aid summer church bazar. Edith also played the piano for the school Christmas concerts at the Town Hall and she enjoyed dancing and singing. As well, Edith worked at the Boule Rock Hotel, where she was employed to do administrative duties. She looked after the accounts and records, she was a desk clerk who greeted and registered guests, a secretary to Gordon Astle – owner of the Hotel – and telephone receptionist. It has been said that, if it wasn’t for Edith, the Boule Rock would not have done as successfully or become known as a grand hotel.

Most of her family moved away, and when she got much older, she too left Metis and moved to a retirement lodge in Ottawa to be closer to her sister. While living at the lodge, she was drawn to Mr. Richard Shaw and found romance at 94, confirming that it is never too late!

Dave Brown, writing for Brown’s Beat in ‘The Ottawa Citizen’, penned a short feature article about her called Finding her true love…. at 94. It’s a beautiful story about a wonderful woman. 

 

  • Ferguson Bay 

An inlet off the St. Lawrence River, known as Ferguson Bay, is part of Anse de Point-Mitis. The land curves inward and, years ago, many boats sheltered behind the Point’s reefs. Many shipwrecks have happened in this vicinity. The registry of Lloyd’s of London reported a wreck of a three-mast vessel (supposed to be French) named the “Laurel” at Little Metis on October 12, 1866, but no particulars as to rig, size, owners, etc. were provided. 

The Bay was named after the last Seigneur of Metis, John H. Ferguson, who lived in the Manor House by the bay on Lighthouse Road. In the summer, he would rent the Manor House out and move into another home he had close by. One family, the Griers, rented it for five years. The Griers believed the house was inhabited by the ghost of a horse and buggy. They weren’t the only ones who thought the Manor House was haunted. The residents of Metis also believed in the existence of many ghosts who lived at the Manor House, and so they never cared to visit the house after dark.

Storytelling for children of all ages has always been a common evening practice in the Metis homes, especially in the early years as there were no radios or TVs. Even though families had many occupations during the day, they always seemed to find time to congregate after supper, and naturally tell wonderful tales. By the 1930s, the Manor House was abandoned; by 1935, it was in disrepair, and by 1945 the Manor House no longer existed on the site. Even though the home is gone, today the stories of the Haunted Manor still continue.  Read the Haunted House in ‘Metis – Wee Scotland of the Gaspé’ by Alice Sharples Baldwin

 

  • Dead Man’s Bay – Anse des Morts

Dead Man’s Bay or Anse des Morts is out by Leggatt’s Point cemetery and is part of Mitis Bay. There have been many shipwrecks along this dangerous Metis coastline. Anse des Morts is said to have got its name from the bodies that floated in the currents from the shipwreck site of the Old Man and the Old Lady – the names of two local outcroppings. 

The registry of Lloyd’s of London recorded: “One vessel called the “Manila”, Master O’Brien, from Halifax, N.S., was driven on shore at Metis, with keel off and bottom stove, during a snowstorm, September 23, 1846.”

Metis is rich in tales, and there is one legend of a ghost of a murdered pirate who guards the buried treasure that is connected with this same bay. It is said that a number of seamen escaped from the wreck of a frigate vessel after it struck rocks in 1846, carrying with them a chest full of gold coin. They found a partly concealed cave, which they thought would do very nicely for a hiding place, and there they dug a hole for the chest. Today bits of gold quartz have been found and have raised the hopes of many a person only to have their hearts broken by the elders of Metis who call it fool’s gold. By Jessie Forbes

Names of Rocks

Rock formations are a result of weathering and erosion sculpting existing rocks. Creative visualization is the ability to form a mental picture of something and then focus on this image or scenario. 

 

  • Boule Rock, Cow Rock and Calf Rocks

In the river opposite the viewpoint on Beach Road, and perhaps a half mile from shore, are large rocks. In the very early years, the largest rock was commonly called “Pudding Rock ” by the first settlers. The name pudding, when used in Scottish slang, can mean something roundish-looking. The story goes that the Francophones called it “boule” (ball in English), and the English misunderstood the word for “Bull” because of the similarity of pronunciation. Eventually the Anglophone residents switched to “Bull” because they liked it better, and what more natural that the next larger rock should be called “Cow” and the smaller one – “Calf”.

 

  • Eagle Rock

By Eagle Point, there is a rock just off the point and its name is Eagle Rock. The old timers of Metis told a story of a family of eagles nesting there long ago and that is how the rock got its name. Today there are no eagles actively nesting on the rock. Golden eagles – one of the species of eagles in Quebec – are known in the Metis area. The golden eagle normally nests on rocky cliffs, but have been known to nest on rocks. Their nests are constructed with large sticks and may be lined with moss, grass, plant stalks, seaweed, or sod. They feed on fresh- and saltwater fish, waterfowl and small rodents. 

 

  • Maiden Rock

Maiden Rock is at the entrance to Campbell’s Bay; it is long, narrow, and close to Eagle’s Point. The name is very old, as the rock was named by the first settlers in the area. Over the generations, the true background to the rock’s name has been lost, but there is one possibility. The Little Metis River flows into Campbell’s Bay and sea trout make their way from the Little Metis River to the St. Lawrence to mature, and then return to spawn. A definition from a Scottish fish glossary says that ‘maiden’ means: “a fish, whether male or female, which has not spawned, and is maturing to spawn”. Maybe this is how the rock got its name?

Great storytellers have a great ability to encourage dialogue between people and Fred Turriff was one such storyteller. There is a tale that was told by Fred some years ago in Metis while walking on the beach with his wife’s brother. Fred started a good-natured harmless conversation (as he set the stage to pull his brother-in-law’s leg), saying that one evening not that long ago he saw the last mermaid with his own eyes and she assumed the likeness of a human combing her long golden hair on Maiden Rock. Fred told the story so well that his brother-in-law believed it and told everyone he knew and of course this spread through Metis. Then one day, Fred received a homemade anonymous mermaid card; written on it was “ask Mr. Turriff what she was wearing. Don’t make him blush.” This is when he felt his tale had gone far enough and he put an end to it.

 

  • Seal Rock

Just off Maiden Rock is another smaller outcropping that today many call Seal Rock. This is a newer name given by the residents who live in the area. It is named because of the occupation of Harbour Seals that sun themselves on the rock. 

 

  • Gooseberry Rock or Île aux Trois Sapins

In Anse de Point-Mitis or Ferguson Bay between Eagle Point and Lighthouse Point close to Annie Domaine sur Mer, there is a rock that has two names that the local people use. At low tide, the water is shallow around the rock and little crabs, sea lice, and small fish can be seen in the small pools around the rock. The Anglophone community for generations have called this spot Gooseberry Rock or Island. This is because of the wild gooseberries that grow on it. These green berries creep along the rock and like the cool climate and moisture to grow in, hence the Anglophone name. Another feature of the rock is the three stunted and weather-worn fir trees that grow there, hence the Francophone name Île aux Trois Sapins.

 

  • Ship Rock

There was a French vessel, the “Florizel”, which was wrecked in the middle of Ferguson Bay around the year 1850. The keel and ribs lay in the sand in the bay for many years. The ship is reported to have broken up on a large boulder, shaped liked a cube with rounded edges, in the middle of the bay. Because some timbers from the ship sank waterlogged at its foot, it has the name of Ship Rock. Before World War 1, children digging for clams at low tide, gaped in wonder at the heavy waterlogged hulk, but kept their distance, because the Rock was a famous breeding pond for lobsters…. which were eagerly sought by “pères de famille” with a little time on their hands. During the Second World War, some adventurers used dynamite to free the timbers and their copper attachments. They failed to get any copper worth speaking of, but the lobsters have never come back. Written by Jessie Forbes

 

  • Amanda Reef

Half a mile from the Metis Lighthouse lies a treacherous reef, visible only at the ebb points of the biggest tides of the year. The locals in Metis call it Amanda Reef after the ship, the “Amanda”, which was carrying Scottish immigrants and general cargo when the ship ran into a gale, fog and east wind, which grounded her on the reef. A local legend told by the residents is of a lass with golden hair associated with the Amanda.

The tale is of a young man named Jimmy McAlpine who was waiting the arrival of a vessel with his betrothed bride on it. Jean Gordon was her name, and she was among the passengers. The day started off beautiful, but as the day wore on, the winds changed to the east with rain, fog, high wind, and rough water. The Amanda crashed against the reef and masts, rigging, and human beings were swept off into the foaming waves. Jimmy tried to help; he grabbed a rope and tied it around his waist and gave the other end to Neil Blue. Then he leaped into the icy water and swam to the broken vessel; it was the last time that he was seen. Two days later, the bodies of Jimmy and Jean were washed up by the morning tide at Cavil’s Point. Bound together by the long tresses of her golden hair, they were united in death, as they had hoped to be in life. Written by H. M. Patton M.D. in 1893 from Past & Present collection by Jessie Forbes

The registry of Lloyd’s of London wrote that on September 26, 1841, the Vessel “Amanda”, Master Davis, from Limerick to Quebec, was totally wrecked on the point. In all, 29 passengers –  11 men, 12 women, and six children – as well as 12 crew members were drowned. 

 

  • Iron Reef

On Lighthouse Road by Verrier’s home (barn) looking out to sea, you can see seals on a long ledge of reef rocks. It is called Iron Reef by the residents on Lighthouse Point, but not because of its resemblance to iron in its colour or shape. Rather, it is said that, in the 1870s, a sailing vessel carrying iron rails for the Intercolonial Railway to Rivière du Loup foundered on the rocks and its cargo was lost, becoming buried deep in the sand by this reef.  

“Agreement between Daniel Green, of Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, master and commander of the brigantine Swordfish, acting for the owners of the cargo of the said vessel, and Robert Sproat, residing at Metis, who has agreed to discharge all the cargo wrecked at Pointe au Naufrage with all possible dispatch consisting of three hundred boxes of glasses and eight hundred and twenty six bars of rail road, according to the bill of lading. 3 October, 1854. Notary Pierre Louis Gauvreau. M130/26 $690.”

Note : “The law of salvage and the law of finds are the two principal aspects of admiralty law that provide legal guidance for how the issue of shipwreck ownership is approached. When property, such as a vessel and its cargo, is lost at sea, salvage law generally applies. Under the law of salvage, salvors [parties that engage in operations to recover property lost when a ship founders] take possession of, but not title to, the distressed vessel and/or its cargo. Subsequent to the salvage of a vessel or cargo, a court awards the salvors a reward depending on various factors, such as the value of the salvaged property, the risk involved, and the overall success of the salvage effort.” https://njscuba.net/artifacts/misc_salvage_law.php

 

  • Old Man and Old Lady Rock 

Between the Lighthouse and Leggatt’s Point road on the beach is a rock known to the residents as the Old Man and Old Lady Rock and is also know by the summer residents as Red Rock because of its red colour. This area has seen many shipwrecks.

Jessie Forbes wrote: “Metis has had its share of mishaps. A story is told of a vessel that struck a rock near the village and all lives were lost. On this same rock today, where the scene of the wreck happened, appear the profiles of an old man and an old woman; and it is a reminder of how treacherous the St. Lawrence can be. The remains of the victims lie in the old burying ground at Leggatt’s Point.” 

The elders of Metis have mentioned that the bodies from the shipwreck vessel that went down by the Old Man and the Old Lady Rock many years ago floated to Dead Man’s Bay – Anse des Morts – brought by the currents. 

 

  • Killiecrankie Rock

Before entering Leggatt’s Road going west where the flagpole and postboxes are, look south and you will see a large mass of rock and wooded hill. That is called Killiecrankie Rock and at one time it had a path through the woods and brush to an outlook at the top. 

The early Metis Scot settlers must have thought that this was similar to the Killiecrankie Pass in Scotland that follows the river Garry. The pass in Scotland is an area that is wooded, steep, narrow, and rocky. The name Killiecranie derives from the Gaelic, Collie Chneagaidh, meaning Wood of the Shimmering Aspen, which also abound in the Metis area.

The Smaller Rivers and Other Freshwater Bodies

All rivers have a starting point where water begins to flow; this source is called a headwater and comes from precipitation, surface runoff, groundwater, springs, ice and snowpacks. Rivers flow downhill and are a natural water course, usually freshwater, flowing towards the sea and they can vary in size and speed, and sometimes pool into lakes. 

 

Rivers

  • Metis/Mitis River/Rivière-Mitis

According to virtualmuseum.ca, the Metis River flows from the Metis lakes north into the St. Lawrence. On early French maps, it was called the “Grand Mitis” (the Little Mitis flowing into the St. Lawrence near present-day Metis-sur-Mer (where?). The river later became known as the Mitis, then the Metis River, and in the 1980s was renamed the Mitis River by Québec’s Commission de la Toponymie.  For more about this river, visit http://www.virtualmuseum.ca/community-stories_histoires-de-chez-nous/histoire-de-peche_fish-stories/story/the-metis-river/

These next two rivers were named after early families:  Macnider was the first Seigneur of Metis, and Smith was one of the first settlers – both owned the land on which these smaller rivers flow to the St. Lawrence.

 

  •  Macnider River, also known as Cascade Brook

Macnider River or Cascade Brook has falls at the end of its water source before flowing north near the corner of Macnider and Beach Roads in Métis-sur-Mer into the St. Lawrence River and is a popular place for residents and children to explore and also try your hand at fishing for brook trout.  In the very early years, Macnider River was also referenced as Brough (pronounced Brock) Brook, named after the Scottish family who lived there.

 

Did you know … ? In the 1930s, an Indigenous family came to Metis and stayed on the west side of Cascade River, close to the falls on the north side of Beach Road, during the summer months. The best known of the family was Mary Ann St. Denis, nicknamed ‘Indian Annie’, and she was a basket weaver. She sold various sizes of handmade baskets and other household items made out of birch bark, porcupine quills, and sweetgrass, along with carved wooden items. In many of the Metis  homes today you can still find items such as birchbark napkin rings decorated with brightly-dyed quills, wood bracelets with Metis written on them, birchbark log holders by their fireplaces and wastepaper baskets made by Annie and her family.

 

  • Little Metis River, once known as Smith River

Smith River, today known as Little Metis River, flows into Campbell’s Bay just down from where Beach Road meets Route 132 near Place Petit Miami; it has always been known as a great place to catch sea trout before they go up the river to spawn.

These two rivers are named after early families:  Macnider was the first Seigneur of Metis, and Smith was one of the first settlers – both owned the land on which these smaller rivers flow to the St. Lawrence.

 

  • Tartigou River (pronounced Turtigoo locally)

The Tartigou flows into the Saint Lawrence between Baie-des-Sables (once known as Sandy Bay) and St. Uric (once known as White River/Rivière Blanche).  While few summer residents may have heard of the Tartigou River, they almost certainly will have unknowingly visited it, or rather the bridge that crosses it.  Quebec’s Commission de toponomie attributes the name to the Mi’kmaq ‘tlagatigotj.’ There are several possible diminutive of tartigou:  tartig, meaning river of the small colony or small river of the colony; tartem, bursting, perhaps alluding to the river flows for a certain time between rocks; or tarteg, the action of fisherman spearing salmon in a hole.

 

Did you know …?  In the 1940s and into the 1950s, many of the local young adult couples of Metis would drive there to engage in romance.

Bridges

Of course, when there are rivers, there often is a need to find an easier way to cross them.  The Mitis River has had a series of bridges crossing it, some very rickety indeed.  Other rivers didn’t have bridges across them until the needs of the population outweighed costs.  (The bridge over the Little Metis River, formerly Smith River, is shown above).

 

  • Pont Bergeron

During the early 1830s, Metis became a major travel route from Rimouski to Matane, but the Mitis River, complicated by tides, made the route difficult.  You had to walk across through fast-flowing rapids or cross by a jerry-barge (a barge built roughly out of materials at hand). The first bridge was built in 1860, following an agreement between Saint-Flavie and Metis. Then in 1895, it was replaced by a second bridge. Weakened by winter ice and spring floods, that bridge was replaced by a third reinforced concrete bridge opened in 1930, which became a key component to the opening up of the “scenic route” around the Gaspé Peninsula. 

That bridge crossing the Mitis River, which is due to be replaced in the 2020s (but may remain open for bicyclists and walkers), was named after Dr. Joseph-Arthur Bergeron (1880-1937).  The son of a blacksmith, Dr. Bergeron studied at Laval University in Quebec (where he received the lieutenant governor’s medal) and was admitted to practice medicine in 1904, becoming the physician-surgeon of Matane and also serving as the district coroner from 1921-1923.  He was Mayor of Saint-Jérôme-de-Matane from 1917 to 1921 (and again from 1925 to 1936) and was elected and re-elected Liberal MLA for Matane in 1923, 1927, 1931 and 1935, falling to defeat in 1936.  He founded the Hôpital Saint-Rédempteur in Matane, built around 1925, and was also a Director of the Bas-Saint-Laurent Power Company.

 

Did you now…? It was only in the winter of 1955 that the bridge started remaining open year-round.

 

  • Pont Belanger – once known as the “Red Covered Bridge”

A covered bridge is a timber-truss bridge structure of connected elements usually forming a triangular unit and having a simple design. The purpose of the covering is to protect the wooden road structure from the weather and can increase its a lifespan up to 100 years, whereas an uncovered wooden one usually lasts only 20 years.

 

Nicknamed ‘The Belanger Bridge’ for the family of the same name who had land nearby, it was once known as the Red Covered Bridge, because of the red colour covering the bridge.  Today it is white with green highlights and known just as the covered bridge. Built on Macnider Road in 1925 to cross the Tartigou River and link the town of Metis-sur-Mer to the parish of Saint-Noel. 

 

Did you know… ? The covered bridge has always been a favourite spot for many young people of Metis, and there are fond memories are of the days when you would ride your bike up to the red covered bridge to spend the day fishing for brook trout, to picnic, and to swim.  It was much easier biking back!

 

Then Now

Lakes and swimming holes

Lakes are found along a course of mature rivers and are surrounded by land. Most lakes have an outlet that serves to feed or drain them in the form of a river or stream, which maintain a lake’s average level by allowing the drainage of excess water.

 

  • Fleet Lake

Lawyer Charles Fleet was related to the Redpaths by marriage, having wed John Redpath (of sugar fame) and Jane Drummond’s daughter Augusta Eleanor Redpath in 1884. The Fleets had four children – Isabella, Jane, Charles, and Eleanor, and the Fleets would later inherit Emily Jane Bonar Redpath Bovey’s house in Metis, built in 1883 and called Staquan Lodge (pronounced ‘sta’kwin’ from the Malecite for the balsam firs).  For a reason lost in the mists of time, the Fleet family acquired a small lake in the concessions, which became known by the family’s name.  It was used occasionally as a place to swim and boat, possibly fish, and picnic at least once a summer.  It had a secondary use:  local men would cut huge blocks of ice from it in winter and bring them to the Redpath/Bovey houses to be stored in sawdust in ice houses, some of which still exist today.  Pieces of the ice block would be chopped off and brought into the houses to be put in ‘ice boxes’ – lined containers that were the precursor to electric refrigerators.  Maps now refer to the lake as Lac à Flit!

 

  • Astle Lake

North of Fleet Lake and closer to the Saint Lawrence is another lake called Astle Lake, named after the Astle families. At one time, the Astles used the lake for recreational fishing as an activity offered by the four Astle Hotels for their guests, primarily for pleasure. The sport of catching catch fish (or attempting to!) with a hook is generally known as angling, and the guests would have been given a rod, reel, line, hooks, and a wide range of baits and lures. This was an all-day activity, and the guests would have a picnic lunch prepared for them by the chefs from the hotels.

In the heyday of Metis tourism, the four Astle hotels advertised fishing and other activities to promote guests to come to their hotels. Seaside Hotel wrote in their flyer: “Other amusements are fishing trout  at Astle Lake.” The Boule Rock and Hillside Hotels wrote in their flyers: “Fishing that cannot be excelled, awaits the angler at Astle Lake, four miles from the Hotel and is very popular.” The Metis Lodge wrote in theirs: “To the fisherman, Astle lake offers many wonderful opportunities of enjoying this sport which abounds with trout.”

The Astle families stocked Astle Lake each year with speckled trout, which are a freshwater fish that have a dark body with light-coloured spots on them. They were and are valued as a food and game fish.

Today, the Astle families still have the lake, but it is no longer open to the public for fishing.

 

Did you know… ?  Trout are closely related to salmon and the Arctic char family.

 

  • Label’s Brook (pronounced LeBell’s) and Crawford Falls swimming holes

There are a few swimming holes – depressions in which water collects – on the Little Metis River, both no longer accessible. These pools are large and deep enough for people to swim in, and were well known to local residents. The water is far warmer to swim in than the St. Lawrence River. 

One swimming hole is called Crawford Falls (after the Crawford family, early settlers) – a larger swimming hole with higher falls – but today no longer accessible as it is on private land. 

The other was once called Label’s Label’s Brook, named after the then landowner. Today it is named after the new landowner, Kevin Ripple, and also is on private land. The falls are not as high, and it was much easier to access from the Scotch second (the second concession). Generations of young adults found it was a great place to have a party and to skinny-dip on hot summer nights.

 

  • Brand Brook 

Brand Brook is named after Charles Brand, one of the first European settlers of Metis who had landed and lived on the 1st rang (concession), “… 7 arpents frontage by 25 arpents in depth, on 3 November, 1820 (Notary: Francois Fournier). Though the Brand name has disappeared, Edgar Larrivée, a great-grandson of Brand, and all the Larrivées and Dufours whom we meet today in Price and Grand Metis, are descendants of Brand. 

 Late Seigneur of Metis, John H. Ferguson, wrote:

“Mr. Charles Brand in my young days carried on the best farming operations in the district. Mr. Brand had been a British soldier, had fought in the battle of Lundy’s Lane*, where a wound received had brought about an honorable discharge and the magnificent pension of ninepence sterling per day. After his death a description of his military services in the newspaper and his sidearms were buried with their owner.” From ‘Recollections of the Late Seigneur of Metis, John H. Ferguson’

* This July 25, 1814 battle in the British-American War of 1812, at Niagara Falls, Ontario, has been described as one of the bloodiest battles of that war, and one of the deadliest ever fought in what is now Canada.

Beach Names

All beaches border a body of water, but beaches can have many different characteristics depending on where they are in the world. Sand, pebbles, rocks, and seashells fragments cover the surfaces of beaches. In Metis, most of our beaches are mainly rocks with little sand but there are some areas that do have sand and have become a popular place for people to go. Many of the beaches were named after families who owned land on the beach side and the hotels that once stood in Metis. Turriff’s Beach, Cascade Beach, Seaside Beach, Boule Rock Beach, and The Metis Lodge Beach are some of the names of the hotel beaches. These beaches were taken care of by the hotel owners. In some cases, sand would be moved to them so that guest could relax, or play on the beach. The dead seaweed would be removed and usually used for fertilizer for the gardens. 

 

Today, the hotels are gone and most of these beaches have returned to their natural state, which is more rocks of varying sizes than sand, and the seaweed is no longer used for the gardens.