Grand-Métis &
Leggatt’s Point Trail

Under Development

The first glimpses of Metis-sur-Mer and the surrounding region can be seen from just to the west of where the Mitis River joins the Saint Lawrence, before you cross Pont Bergeron into Grand Metis – the start of a series of Heritage Trails we hope you will enjoy.

Opened in 1987, this Department of Fisheries and Oceans Institute is one of the world’s main francophone centres for marine science research, focusing on conserving and sustainably managing marine resources and aquatic ecosystems, marine environment protection, and navigation safety.  Named for a Mont-Joli-born economist and lecturer, who was twice a federal Member of Parliament, served as Secretary of State, and later Senator, the Institute’s teams monitor biodiversity and ecosystem status.  They also research at-risk species, fish stocks and marine mammals, invasive aquatic species, ocean ecosystem dynamics, climate change, and human impacts on the environment in the estuary (where the fresh water of the upper Saint Lawrence River mixes with the salt waters of Lower St. Lawrence), the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Saguenay Fjord, and Hudson’s Bay and Strait.  The Institute also has some freshwater ecosystem responsibilities to protect fisheries and aquatic species at risk in Quebec.  As well, teams participate in national and international North Atlantic research and monitoring efforts.  While Covid remains a concern, téhere are virtual guided tours of the Maurice Lamontagne Institute, however, in-person visits may again be available later.

Did you know… ?  You can enjoy a nice, flat half-hour walk through the woods leaving from the south side of the parking lot, with a few benches along the way. 

The Regional Mitis River Park is actually a series of locations in the Mitis River watershed.  The one at the mouth of the river offers a view of the Metis area coastline.  With short hiking trails and opportunities to see wildlife, this ecotourism site encourages visitors to take a look at the interpretation and preservation of the area’s natural and cultural heritage.  Paths take you through the forest to a beach, an observation tower with a great view of the St. Lawrence River and surrounding area, sculpture site, and a picnic area with kids play area.

Did you know… ?  Built in 1929 to replace earlier rickety structures (and soon to be replaced again), Pont Bergeron was built over the Mitis River.  The bridge formed part of new Route 6 (now Route 132), which became known as Boulevard Perron for Joseph-Léonid Perron, then Quebec Minister of Roads.  It helped open the Gaspé region to tourism by linking the villages of the peninsula that previously only had been accessible by sea or narrow, often gravel roads.  And it wasn’t until 1951 that it began staying open for regular traffic during the winter – before that, horse-pulled sleighs remained the main winter transport.

    • Did you know… ?  There was a big landslide on October 21, 1976, along the Mitis River just southeast of the Pont Bergeron with, a house that took an interesting ride.   Here’s a photo of the house after the initial slide, and another once it took a trip down, appearing to land safely.

After you have crossed the bridge, you enter what was the first concession of the Seigneurie McNider.  

Note:  The flower icon on the map above is the location of Les Jardins de Metis; the saw – Price (Sentier Mitiwee); the church – Leggatt’s Point (and Trail); the lighthouse – Lighthouse Point (and Trail); and the pail and shovel – the start of what is now Beach Road (Metis West Trail).

In 1886, George Stephen – son of a Scottish carpenter who became Canada’s first peer (Baron Mount Stephen) – bought property at the mouth of the Mitis River from Ulric Tessier on the west and, on the east, from “Seigneur” David Ferguson.  Stephen acquired fishing rights from the Mitis Falls to the river mouth and had Estevan Lodge built as a fishing getaway.  In 1918, he gave the lodge to his niece, fellow fishing enthusiast Elsie (Meighen) Reford.  To better recover from surgery in her late 40s, Elsie Reford’s doctor suggested she take up gardening as a less strenuous alternative to fishing (she also rode horses and hunted).  Elsie took his advice a little farther than perhaps anyone expected.  Although very involved in philanthropic works, women’s rights, politics, and international affairs, which led her to cross paths – and sometimes perhaps words – with many notables of the day, she today remains best known for what became Les Jardins de Metis (some still say ‘Reford Gardens’).  She succeeded in transplanting rare species, such as azaleas and Tibetan blue poppies to the area, attributed to the area’s “micro-climate,” but also to her determination.  Employing local farmers, fishing guides, and others in the early 1930s, she also helped many get through the depths of the Depression.  The place now boasts 3,000 species and varieties of native and exotic plants and 15 different types of garden.  The Jardins also hosts the International Garden Festival, mounts permanent and hosts temporary historic and art exhibits, provides excellent meals featuring local produce, and offers music recitals, literary teas with authors, and more.

Link to Sentier Mitiwee (Grand Metis to Price) 

If you go south from Route 132 onto Route 234 (or continue straight south as you exit from the Metis Gardens), you’ll be heading towards the town of Price.  In 1826, local sawyer Michel-H. Larrivée and timber merchant William Price bought property on both sides of the Mitis River from Seigneur MacNider.  Larrivée is credited with being the first to have logs cut commercially along the river, operating a sawmill below its falls.  Price had a sawmill built higher on the Mitis River, from which he exported lumber to local and overseas markets.  The nearby village of Priceville (now Price) eventually took the family’s name.  In spring, summer and fall, weather permitting, the pretty Sentier Mitiwee or Mitiwee Trail is a relatively easy four-kilometre round trip (or you can do a trek from the parking lots at either end and back for a shorter walk).  You’ll pass through forests, by farmers’ fields, and past parts of the Mitis River.  Interpretive panels along the way describe the history of Price and Grand Métis, the Indigenous presence, and the Mitis River watershed – the streams, lakes, and winter run-off draining into the river on its way to the Saint Lawrence River. 

    • Did you know… ?  While Seigneur Macnider’s ships linked the Metis Seigniory with Quebec City, Montreal and other ports, Macnider also pioneered roadbuilding in the Lower St. Lawrence region.  He is credited 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. Building a route further from the American border was a wise strategic decision 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.  Learn more about the Kempt Road you’ll be travelling on up to the Sentier Mitiwee…
    • Junction of Route 132 and Leggatt’s Road (West End) 

A lovely spot to stop for a picnic under the gazebo, take some photos, visit the beach and enjoy the AIR – a word  that some visitors always say as if capitalized – a salty, dry-sea-grassy smell, sometimes with pine mixed in. If you’ve got bikes with you, this is a lovely x-kilometre two-way trip over the past 200 years.  You will be passing a number of cottages and homes along the way to the the first stops on Leggatt’s Road, where the border between Grand-Metis and what is now Métis-sur-Mer is, reportedly in the between a 140-year-old Presbyterian church and its manse (home of the minister and family).

    • Did you know… ?  Leggatt’s Point was named for Peter Leggat (one ‘t’ at the time), who had come from Scotland in 1811, taught school, and then moved to Metis in 1830, involving himself in many things, including civic and church responsibilities.  “Old Mr. Leggat … 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.’)  Peter F. Leggat was father to Peter Leggatt, a builder and entrepreneur who built homes along this road, as well as buildings you will see on the Metis West and East Trails.

Please remember this is a residential area:  respect property lines and inhabitants’ privacy and please do not leave valuables visible in your car.

The newly arrived Scots and others brought to tenant the Metis Seigneurie may have wished for churches and schools, but survival came first.  Spiritual needs were met, and baptisms and weddings performed, only when a preacher happened by on a ship or, more rarely, by land.  In 1832, Seigneur McNider aimed to resolve the absence of both church and education by hiring a theology student to teach school during the week and take services on Sunday.  The student left shortly when the community could not pay what he’d been promised.  In 1844, a ‘permanent’ minister arrived, and in 1847, the community built a simple one-story church, the centre part of what became the Killiecrankie Inn at 501 Leggatt’s Road, and now a private home simply called Killiekrankie (or ‘Killie’ for short).  The first child baptised in Leggatt’s Point Kirk was James Astle, born December 14, 1843, making him about four years old at the time given the lack of permanent minister or, it seems, a passing circuit minister that visited remote communities.  This minister also left when the congregation and Presbytery couldn’t pay him what had been agreed to.  A third minister came (Reverend Macalister), and when he later switched from Presbyterian to Congregationalist, he was asked to leave.  

    • Watch and listen to George Craig ring the Leggatt’s Church bell (link to item sent)
    • Did you know… ?  Reverend William MacAlister moved to Metis, Quebec, in 1853 and was ceded a farm on Leggatt property, which he named “Woodlands.” After his death, his widow and her daughter (a Mrs. Featherston(e)) operated it as a guest house for summer visitors for some years. This building was destroyed by fire in the early 1890s, but 1880s’ newspaper articles about the place in its heyday does make it sound fun!

William Ralph Featherston(e) was born in 1846, and regularly attended a Methodist church in Montreal. In his mid-teens (it is believed), he wrote a devotional poem. Suffering from consumption (tuberculosis), he was sent by his family to Metis for its air, where his health improved. There he met and married Julia MacAlister, who lived with her mother. William and Julia had a son who came with his mother every summer to Metis to stay with his grandmother, however, when the boy was three, William died at the age of 27. 

Why is William Featherston(e) of note?  He had sent his poem to an aunt in Los Angeles, who in turn sent it to England, where it was put to music and included, without Featherston(e)’s knowledge, and attributed to an anonymous author, in the 1864 The London Hymn Book. The hymn, “My Jesus, I love Thee”, was seen by an American Doctor of Divinity, Adoniram Judson Gordon, who, admiring it, quickly wrote a new tune for the poem called “Gordon”. This first appeared in the 1876 edition of “The Service of Song for Baptist Churches”.  The hymn – My Jesus I love thee –is not only unusual because of it is one of only three or four hymns known to have been written in Canada, but also because it has been published in over 900 hymnbooks and sung around the world.   Featherston(e) and his family received no money for the piece, and recognition came only fairly recently.

Reverend Thomas Fenwick, the fourth minister (and talented amateur artist as evident from this drawing of the Mitis Falls), was next to arrive.  Fenwick was firm and opinionated, but cared for his parishioners, and was especially generous to the poorer ones among them.  In 1866, when additional pressure for a bigger, better place of worship emerged when confronted with the construction of a well-financed Methodist church (now Metis Beach United Church), Fenwick fundraised and cajoled local and what was becoming a steady stream of summer residents to finance both a new year-round Presbyterian church at Leggatt’s Point in Grand Métis (completed 1884) and a smaller, simpler summer church in Little Metis (completed 1883).  Although Fenwick achieved what was a church double-header, he was relieved of his duties as minister in late 1884, and left Metis with his mother, who had often offered parishioners baked goods and lots of tea at (presumably religiously unobjectionable) community social events before the church opened.  Sadly, the Fenwicks were not invited to the opening of, nor referenced in the press release about, the new Leggatt’s Point Presbyterian Church.

    • Did you know… ?  While the competitive spur for the expanded Leggatt’s Point Presbyterian Church in 1884 was linked to the building of what is now the Metis Beach United Church, for over 60 years now these two churches have shared ministers, and the two congregations alternate service locations during the winter.

Here are a reproduction of an early LPPC Manse and, beside it, the Manse today. 

The Leggatt’s Point cemetery is the oldest Protestant burial ground in the region.  While the oldest known graves show Scottish names, and are those of early settlers, they share their final resting place with others who came by accident.  The cemetery sits beside L’Anse-des-Morts (Dead Men’s Cove) aptly named due to the treacherous reefs in and around the area.  See if you can find the cairn erected in the cemetery in memory of victims lost in the sinking of just two of the ships that foundered:  the Amanda, travelling from Limerick to Quebec City, sank with a loss of 45 lives and in 1846, the Ocean, en route from England to Quebec City, was shipwrecked with some of the 13 dead being buried in the cemetery.  Between September 1841 and May 1847, no fewer than six additional ships also ran aground or sank at Metis – a fate that might have been avoided if a lighthouse had been in place.  It took another 30 years for a lighthouse to be built at Lighthouse Point.

This shingled house, with broad pine board interior, was built in 1850, it is believed by carpenter and entrepreneur Peter Leggat, to be the first manse. It was later owned by William Baldwin, who met and married Alice (Alice Sharples Baldwin).  We’re not sure how Alice first came to Metis, but it is possible that the connection was between McNider and Alice’s father who, like McNider, was in the lumber business.  Born in 1899, Alice was the daughter of parents not only from a leading lumber family but also a prominent iron family also.  This naturally provided Alice with some comforts and freedoms.  At a time that most women were fairly self-effacing, however, Alice (and other women you will meet along these Trails) was unusual:  she attended McGill College (later University) when few women did, went to Paris to do a Master’s degree at the Sorbonne, travelled widely, and wrote and self-published several books ranging from tales to biography to fiction, as well as a history of Metis, and of its summer Presbyterian church.  Alice Sharples Baldwin, in turn, willed it to her relations, the Powells who remain staunch Metisians.

Great niece Julie Coulson remembers Alice Sharples as “… an octogenarian, and entertaining babysitter …. introducing us to pirates’ hideouts and brownie homes we had theretofore known only as rocks and woods; and, of course, rounding out my 1972 table manners with some Victorian concepts of etiquette, Alice struck me as flirtatious, interested and interesting, and youthful.”  

    • Did you know… ?  Alice Sharples Baldwin met her husband in Metis and married him in her 50s.  She  could be quite outspoken, colourful in her dress, and a bit of a character.  
    • Listen to niece Ann Coulson (insert link) tell a story showing Alice’s spirit and sense of humour, and the amusing things that can happen when anglophones taught Parisian French meet francophones with a much more descriptive bent.  And the answer is ‘pot de chambre’.

We aren’t able to confirm who the Captain is, however, could it have been Captain Mack referenced in a long letter in the June 4, 1897 The Examiner titled A Hero of Metis.’  It referred to “Captain Mack, [who] could boast a most eventful history. There was hardly a Saint Lawrence pilot or a Canadian sailor who did not know him, at least by reputation, or a parish along the whole coast from Gaspé to Quebec where wonderful tales [have] not been related of his daring in fearless enterprises at sea.  … [early the next morning] the sight that met the strained gaze of those on shore was a fearful one – a schooner making directly towards the rocks. … Onward it rushed with ever accelerating speed it seemed by the anxious spectators. “To the right!”, “To the left,”! were the contradictory commands shouted from the shore in both French and English though no human voice could be heard to that distance amid the rush and the roar of the waves. … Suddenly the anticipated crash came!”  Read more… 

This is believed to be the oldest home still standing in the area.  It was constructed by Peter Leggat in 1820, and later belonged to the Carpenter family, becoming known as the Carpenter House. Between the 1930s and 1960s, it was Campbell’s Guest House Hotel, run by Gertrude Campbell.  Summer visitors from nearby hotels or renting would often also go to the guest house for one or more meals a day during the summer.

The central part of this building is the earliest Protestant church in the area, built in 1847.  When the larger Leggatt’s Point Presbyterian Church (54 Leggatt’s Road) was built, what is now 501 Leggatt’s Road had a number of different owners and uses.  A few pieces of the early church, such as this support bracket, are still in evidence.

A west wing was added later, and a kitchen and dining area to the east side of the former church were built later still.  The building became a 15-room, 22-bed hotel – very popular because of its lovely site, with an unobstructed view of the St. Lawrence, three large common rooms, a wrap-around verandah, and pleasant grounds. The building was run since the 1920s by a variety of proprietors – the McGugans (who came on the Rebecca to the McNider Seigneurie in 1818), Leslie McIntosh, the Hibberd sisters, and, most recently, the Powell/Coulson families.  Leslie McIntosh, who married into the Astle family (the Astles also came on the Rebecca), is credited with naming the hotel Killiekrankie, likely for Killiecrankie Pass – that part of an old horse-and-cart road that ran from Lighthouse Point to the start of Leggatt’s Road – or for Killiekrankie Rock, opposite that junction.

  While no longer operated as a hotel, Killiekrankie has housed several student groups from Université de Montréal and Université de Tours in France in connection with programs given at Les Jardins de Metis (Reford Gardens). Also, artists still meet weekly during the summer months to discuss their works and share their experiences with other artists.

 Listen to niece Ann Coulson (insert link) describe the ‘below stairs’ workings of the hotel before there was electricity and running water. 

    • For tales of working as a maid at the Killiekrankie, running up and down these narrow stairs, hear what Sandi de la Ronde (insert link) has to say about some of the tasks few might likely do today – and remuneration!
    • Did you know… ?  497 Leggatt’s Road, called “High Tide”, is just a youngster.  We could not include all homes along these roads, and so while this house was built in the late 1950s by Leonard Meikle (the Meikle family forms part of Leggatt’s Point history), it’s not quite old enough.  Fully renovated in the late 1980s by local homebuilder Stuart Craig (a descendant of one of the first Scottish settler families), it was bought by the Powell/Coulson family to have an unbroken chain of homes on the north side of Leggatt’s Road.  It has been rented to a range of people over the past years, including, most recently, artists.  Throughout these Heritage trails, starting with this series at Leggatt’s Point, you will find ‘family compounds’ (or former ones!) where family who may have now spread around the world can return and spend time with each other every summer (e.g., Nowers/Bohm/Winn/Pawley at Lighthouse Point, Mathewson/Patton at Patton Road, Cliff/Smith/Vining/Ferguson on the Metis West Trail). 

Built around 1875, this house’s original owner/occupant was Mary Meikle.  Mary Meikle ‘fell pregnant’ by a man she expected to marry – a visiting Montreal physician, we’re told, and there’s a rumour that the photo of The Royal Victoria Hospital still in the house gives credence to this.  As the mystery man wouldn’t, couldn’t or didn’t return, Mary was in a difficult position as an unwed mother at the time.  Because she needed to become self-sufficient, it is thought that her nephew, Samuel (Sam) Meikle (also known for his boat-building), constructed this 10-bedroom boarding house which Mary ran for many years.  Each room was occupied by one  adult (usually the mother) and one child (several of these “children” are still summering in Metis and have fond memories of their Sunnyside stays). Meals were served in shifts – children first, adults second. The ladies dressed for dinner (as one does) and came swishing down the staircase in their long and elegant gowns.  Mary’s daughter, Gertrude, started her own boarding house when she was “of age” and ran it for many years.  Sadly, Mary was buried outside the Leggatt’s Point churchyard when she died, but has since been moved into the graveyard as it has expanded to meet current needs, and as people recognized that in some respects the old ways may not always have been the best! 

    • Listen to Val Powell describe later visits from a ghost believed to be of Mary Meikle. 

Formerly Blue Tea Room, this home was likely built in the late 1800s, after Metis had become a fashionable summer resort for the wealthy, and even a few of the somewhat less well-off.  In the days before TV, movies, video games, pilates, yoga classes, rock concerts, etc., the idea of an acceptable place for women to go caught on, also giving local women, who were usually the tea room owners, a way to supplement family income.  Metisian ladies were said to have come by horse and carriage for tea and goodies hear.  As tourism changed, the property including tea room and cabins was bought by the Beauchemin family, later owners of the Goeland Motel. 

    • Did you know… ?  Ever thrifty in this area, the Blue buildings were repurposed or recycled.  In 1967, when the main highway was moved south to what is now Route 132, M. Beauchemin sold the house to “Broadgreen” neighbour Cliff Powell, and took the cabins built around it to their new location, the Goeland Motel (now Domaine Annie) near the Metis Lighthouse.  The Powells, in turn, moved Blue Tea Room across what was by then the Broadgreen lawn to its present location close to the sea.  And the windows and some wood of the tea room’s glassed-in wraparound porch?  They were removed and re-used at 413 Beach, the Round House, on the Metis West Trail.

This wood-shingle house was constructed in 1933 by Alexander (Sandy) Craig, uncle of Stuart Craig (both descended from Rebecca Scots), for the house’s first summer owner and occupant, Annie Nicholson.  Annie had it built with five big bedrooms and a suite downstairs for her chauffeur (shouldn’t we all have one?).  She usually came to stay from June to September, always accompanied by a number of friends and one brother.  She and her guests took their meals at Gertrude Campbell’s Guest House (now Point House, 514 Leggatt’s Point), so the kitchen was small and not especially attractive.  However, elsewhere the house was beautiful:  the interior is completely finished in B.C. fir, shipped east on the CPR as a “special deal” during the Depression to encourage the sale of B.C. lumber, promote use of the railway, and create jobs to stimulate the economy.  Particularly unusual and interesting, summer minister and woodworker James (Jimmy) Jones (see xxx and 391 Beach), the wood of the huge entrance hall and front room shows literally no knots and no joins – each long narrow board is perfect from one end to the other!  Annie summered in the house until 1953.  As of 1957, it was owned by Cliff Powell, his wife Doris and their three children, and, since 1989, by the Ann (Powell)/Darcy Coulson family. 

    • Did you know… ?  The current owner, Anne Powell Coulson, has a guest book started in 1934 by Annie Nicholson  – a book that Anne has continued to this day to update yearly with notable events and sometimes photos.  Entries in the guest book of the house (marked with the name Rosegaile) dates back to 1934, when it was a gift to Annie.  The name of the home was changed to Broadgreen, understood to have been the name of a Sharples home elsewhere.
    • Listen to Ann Powell Coulson speak of the history of this beautifully maintained and updated home.

The original “Secret Garden” is more or less intact Gaetan Marceau has totally restored this house and garage. 

    • Did you know… ?  This area here is known as Page’s Point.  The Pages also were early settlers living here and now hidden from the road is one of three former Metis tea rooms, The Firs, once owned by Mable Page.

THEN – Mabel Page’s ‘The Firs’ Tearoom And NOW

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    • Did you know… ?  That very large rockface you see across on the south side of Route 132 is called Killiecrankie Rock.  Before the Route 132 the way on Walter and his wife, Margaret Meikle, ran the St. Lawrence Garage – “Your ESSO Dealer” – by Killiecrankie Rock.  It did auto servicing, bodywork, and welding for years at the east entrance to Leggatt’s Road.  The couple were well-known and liked. Walter was a character and quite a few short stories about Walter and his mechanics formed the basis of casual chats around the dinner table in many Metis homes.  Read more about Walter, Margaret, and other Meikle family members.
    • Junction of Route 132 and Leggatt’s Road (East End)

A lovely spot to stop for a picnic, take some photos, visit the beach and enjoy life.  If you’ve got bikes with you, or would like to walk, this is a lovely x-kilometre two-way trip over the past 200 years – the Trail ends half-way along Leggatt’s Road at the Leggatt’s Point Presbyterian Church.   

Sources

  • With great thanks to Ann Powell Coulson for written and oral materials, to Anson McKim for material about the Presbyterian Church and related matters, to Julie (Coulson) Fine and to Micheline Williams.

“Scotch Settlers Dwelling Alone:” A history of the Presbyterian Churches at Metis, Quebec (1844-1884), J.S.S. Armour and Anson R. McKim.

Credits:

  • Funding for the Live our Heritage project was generously provided by the Government of Canada
  • Photos: Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence, or as noted
  • Produced by: Heritage Lower Saint Lawrence Live Our Heritage Team
  • With many thanks to: Dozens of community members who shared memories, photos, and memorabilia

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