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Visiting Île Charron / Charron Island, Longueuil, Quebec: The Flow of History — Name After Name and Owner After Owner

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Flag of Quebec

Flag of Quebec

King Louis XIV, Jesuits, developers, "watch this space...", etc.

[This visit occurred several months ago.]

In the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence, offshore from Longueuil, Quebec, lies Île Charron / Charron Island. This island has many trees and few buildings (by design; more of this later) and is a popular destination for hikers and cyclists, with trails having been paved, facilitating these activities.

Species of tree present on the island include red ash, black willow, cottonwood and American elm. Many birds use the island for nesting or are present during migration.

Geographically Île Charron / Charron Island is an extension of the Îles Boucherville / Boucherville Islands, although while the latter have been made a national park, Charron is not part of this creation.

Access today to Île Charron / Charron Island is mainly via the pont-tunnel Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine / Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine Bridge-Tunnel.

One of the remarkable features of Île Charron / Charron Island (as it is now called) is the range of names which it has borne in the past. It has also passed throigh many owners.

While doubtless First Nations would have known the island long before the French monarchs assumed sovereignty over New France, it is a matter of record that Louis XIV in 1672 granted the island to the governor of Trois-Rivières it was called Île Notre-Dame.

Afterwards it was called Île Madeleine — i.e., in the singular — not be confused with the Îles Madeleines in the Golfe du Saint-Laurent / Gulf of Saint-Lawrence.

Later it was known as Île Dufort / Dufort Island. Later still it was known as Île Charron / Charron Island but interestingly also for about two centuries the Île Dufort /Dufort Island name also stuck.

It is only since 1950 that the name Île Charron / Charron Island has been definitive.

And the owners? After governor René Gaultier of Trois-Rivières and Seigneur de Varennes came into possession of the island, it remained within the Gaultier-Boucher-Le-Villier family connection for years, but in the 17th and 18th centuries the island was sold and re-sold a number of times, eventually one François Charron (from whence the current name) obtained half of the island.

The other half when to the Jesuits.

For religious orders to have had possession of islands in the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence was not unusual. Île des Sœurs / Nuns' Island, off Montreal, was farmed by — yes, indeed — nuns. Île Jésus, north of the Île de Montréal / Montreal Island (not technically in the Saint-Laurent / Saint-Lawrence) was owned by the Jesuits.

Although Île des Sœurs / Nuns' Island was farmed for two centuries by nuns, I have not, however, read what the Jesuits actually did with Île Charron / Charron Island.

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In any case, the Jesuits continued with Île Charron / Charron Island until 1989.

In 1989, the Gouvernement du Québec /Government of Quebec paid the Jesuits $30,000 for the remaining portion of the island that the Jesuits still owned and subsequently the island passed under the jurisdiction of nearby Longueuil, the idea being that its green area should be protected and expanded.

This was the idea, in any case.

But subsequently the municipality went into negotiation with developers who wanted to build 2,500 houses on the island. Over the years negotiations have been pursued with Lavalin and Desjardins in relation to development plans; but also strong pressure from local community groups have so far countered this kind of development.

As the hikers and cyclists (see photo, above) march up and down its paths, they are maybe sometimes oblivious of all the island's various names and owners and plans for the island. When one speaks of the history of Île Charron Charron Island — as with all history — it is a case of "history so far" and even: "Watch this space..."

April 21, 2020


(1) See also (in French) : ; (in English) :

Some sourcing: Wikipedia

Montreal seen from 'île Charron, Longueuil

Montreal seen from 'île Charron, Longueuil

Also worth seeing

In Longueuil itself, the Gothic Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue Co-Cathedral, in Vieux-Longueuil (Old Longueuil), was built in 1884; close to the Co-Cathedral are some remains of Fort Longueuil, fortified residence of New France's Governor Charles le Moyne de Longueuil (1656-1729); Maison Daniel-Poirier dates from 1750.

Montréal (distance: 14.6 kilometres) The architectural and cultural attractions of Montreal are too numerous to mention here, but of special note, among many others, are the domed Bonsecours Market (Marché Bonsecours), dating from 1847, which was a venue used to house the Parliament of United Canada, prior to Confederation. The Notre-Dame Basilica (Basilique Notre-Dame de Montréal) was built mainly between 1824 and 1829; many Montrealers attend annual performances of Handel's 'Messiah' there.


How to get there: Air Canada flies to Montreal (Aéroport international Pierre-Elliott-Trudeau de Montréal; distance from Longueuil: 35.1 kilometres) from Toronto-Pearson, and from New York-Newark and New York-La Guardia, with wide connections. A number of car rental companies offer service at Montreal-Trudeau airport. Access to Île Charron / Charron Island is via the pont-tunnel Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine / Louis-Hippolyte-La Fontaine Bridge-Tunnel. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.

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