Settling a New France

Document 4: Kalm, Travels into North America

Source: Pehr Kalm, Travels into North America, vol. 3, (London, Lowndes, 1771), 291-294.


September the 25th. In several places hereabouts, they enclose the fields with a stone fence, instead of wooden pales. The plenty of stones which are to be got here,render the labour very trifling. Here are abundance of beech trees in the woods and they now had ripe seeds. The people in Canada collect them in autumn, dry them, and keep them till winter,when they eat them, instead of walnuts and hazel nuts; and I am told they taste very well. There is a salt spring, as the priest of this place informed me, seven French miles from hence, near the river d’Assomption ; of which during the war, they have made a fine white salt. The water is said to be very briny. Some kinds of fruit-trees succeed very well near Montreal, and I had here an op portunity of seeing some very fine pears and apples of various sorts. Near Quebec the pear-trees will not succeed because the winter is too severe for them; and sometimes they are killed by the frost in the neighbourhood of Montreal. Plum-trees of several sorts were first brought over from France, succeed very well, and withstand the rigours of winter. Three varieties of America walnut-trees grow in the woods; but the walnut-trees brought over from France die almod every year down to the very root, bringing forth new shoots in spring. Peach-trees cannot well agree with this climate; a few bear the cold, but, for greater safety, they are obliged to put straw round them. Chesnut [sic.]-trees, mulberry-trees, and the like, have never yet been planted in Canada. The whole cultivated part of Canada has been given away by the king to the clergy, and some noblemen, but all the uncultivated parts belong to him, as like-wise the place on which Quebec and Trois Rivieres are built. The ground on which the town of Montreal is built, together with the whole isle of that name, belongs to the priests of the order of St. Sulpicius, who live at Montreal, They have given the land in tenure to farmers and others who were willing to settle on it, in so much that they have more upon their hands at present. The first settlers paid a trifling rent for their land; for frequently the whole lease for a piece of ground, three arpens broad and thirty long, consists in a couple of chicken; and some pay twenty, thirty, or forty fjls for a piece of land of the same size. But those who came later, must pay near two ecus (crowns) for such a piece of land, and thus the land-rent is very unequal throughout the country. The revenues of the bishop of Canada do not arise from any landed property. The churches are built at the expence of the congregations. The inhabitants of Canada do not yet pay any taxes to the king; and he has no other revenues from it, than those which arise from the custom-house. The priests of Montreal have a mill here, where they take the fourth part of all that is ground. However the miller receives a third part of this share. In other places he gets the half of it. The priefts sometimes lease the mill for a certain sum. Besides them nobody is allowed to erect a mill on the isle of Montreal, they having reserved that right to themselves. In the agreement drawn up between the priests and the inhabitants of the isle, the latter are obliged to get all their corn ground in the mills of the former. They boil a good deal of sugar in Canada of the juice running out of the incisions in the sugar-maple, the red maple, and the sugar-birch; but that of the first tree is most commonly made use of. The way of preparing it has been more minutely described by me, in the Memoirs of the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences.