1890 – The Maritime Provinces, Chapter 50

The Maritime Provinces: a Handbook for Travelers
Harvard College Library, 1890

Chapter 50.
St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Time-Table for 1888. — Str. St. Pierre leaves Halifax every alternate Monday at 10 A. m. (providing the mail from England has then arrived), for St. Pierre, Miq., traversing the Bras d’Or Lakes, and culling at the following ports in Cape Breton.

  • St. Peter’s, fare, $6.00; return, $9.00,
  • Baddeck 7.00;  » 10.50,
  • Sydney 8.00; 12.00,
  • N. Sydney 8.00; 12.00,
  • and Cow Bay 9.00; 14.00,
  • including meals and state-room berth

Fare to St. Pierre, $15.00 ; return, #25. J St. Pierre may also be visited by the Western Coastal steamer from St. John’s, N. F. (see Route 60). .
There are several French cafés and pensions in the village of St. Pierre, at which the traveller can find indifferent accommodations. The best of these is that at which the telegraph-operators stop.

On entering the harbor of St. Pierre, the steamer passes Galantry Head, on which is a red-and-white flash-light which is visible for 20 M., and also two fog-guns. Within the harbor are two fixed lights, one white and one red, which are visible for 6 M. ; and the Isle aux Chiens contains a scattered fishing-village.

The island of St. Pierre is about 12 M. from Point May, on the Newfoundland coast, and is 12 M. in circumference. It is mostly composed of rugged porphyritic ridges, utterly arid and barren, and the scenery is of a striking and singular character. Back of the village is the hill of Calvaire, surmounted by a tall cross; and to the S. W., beyond Ravenel Bay, is the lakelet called l’Etang du Savoyard. The town is compactly built on the harbor at the E of the island, and most of its houses are of stone. It is guarded by about 50 French soldiers, whose presence is necessary to keep the multitudes of fearless and pugnacious sailors from incessant rioting. There is a large force of telegraph-operators here, in charge of the two cables from America to Great Britain by way of Newfoundland, and of the Franco-American cable, which runs E. to Brest and S. W. to Duxbury, in Massachusetts.

The only good house in the town is that of the Governor; and the Catholic church and convent rise prominently over the low houses of the fishermen. Near the sea is a battery of ancient guns, which are used only for warning in season of fogs. The buildings are nearly all of wood, and include many shops, where every variety of goods may be obtained. The merchants are connected with French and American firms. There are numerous cabarets, or drinking-saloons; and the auberges, or small taverns, are thoroughly French. The citizens are famed for their hospitality to properly accredited strangers; and the literary culture of the community is served by a diminutive weekly paper called La Feuille Officielle, printed on a sheet of foolscap, and containing its serial Parisian feuilleton.

The street of St. Pierre presents a very interesting sight during the spring and fall. It is crowded with many thousands of hardy fishermen, arrayed in the quaint costumes of their native shores, — Normans, Bretons, . Basques, Provincials, and New-Englanders, — all active and alert; while the implements of the fisheries are seen on every side. The environs of the town are-rocky and utterly unproductive, so that the provisions used here are imported from the Provinces.

The resident population is 6,000 (of whom 24 are Protestant), and the government is conducted’ by a Commandant, a Police Magistrate, Doctor, Apostolic Prefect, and Engineer, with a few artillerists and gens-d’armes. There is usually one or more French frigates in the harbor, looking after the vast fisheries which employ 15,000 sailors of France, and return 30,000,000 francs’ worth of fish.

St. Pierre is the chief rendezvous of the French fishermen, and immense fleets are sometimes gathered here. Over 1,000 sail of square-rigged vessels from France are engaged in these fisheries, and on the 29th of June, 1874, the roadstead near the island contained 350 sail of square-rigged vessels and 300 fore-and-aft vessels. They are here furnished with supplies, which are drawn from the adjacent Provinces, and in return leave many of the luxuries of Old France. It is claimed that the brandy of St. Pierre is the best in America. The fishermen leave their fish here to be cured, and from this point they are sent S. to the United States and the West Indies.

Little Miquelon Island, or Langley Island, lies 3 M. N. W. of St. Pierre, and is about 24 M. around. It is joined to Great Miquelon Island by a long and narrow sandy isthmus. The latter island is 12 RI. long, and looks out on Fortune Bay. Near its N. end are the singular hills known as Mt. Chapeau and Mt. Calvaire. On this island, during the summer of 1874, was wrecked H. B. M. frigate Niobe, the brave ship that trained her guns on Santiago de Cuba, and prevented a total massacre of the Virginius prisoners.

St. Pierre was captured by a British fleet in 1793, and all its inhabitants, 1,502 in number, were carried away to Halifax, whence they were soon afterwards sent to France. In 1796 a French Republican fleet under Admiral Richery visited the deserted island, and completely destroyed its buildings and wharves. It was, however, restored to France in 1814, together with her ancient privileges in these waters. « All the island is only a great laboratory for the preparation, curing, and exportation of codfish. For the rest, not a tree, not a bush, above 25 centimetres. »
The Hotel Joinville and the Pension Hacala are visited by strangers. Theatricals are given at the Casino on the Cathedral Square.
See a capital illustrated article on St. Pierre, by S, G. W. Benjamin, in The Century Magazine, June, 1834.

Grand Colombier

Le GrandColombier.com est un site recensant tout document historique ayant un lien avec les îles Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon : traités, cartographie, toponymie, archives, sources primaires, études, recherches, éphémérides. Le site est dirigé par Marc A. Cormier.

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