By Bernie Monaghan
At the outbreak of World War 1 in 19l4, a large section of the Township of Valcartier was selected by the Federal Government as a site for a Military Training Camp. As a result, this decision caused the properties of a substantial number of residents who lived in the area, mostly farmers, to be expropriated.
As a war was on and the decision to expropriate had been made in short order, some of the residents were reluctant to leave and remained in their homes even after shells began bursting around them.
Valcartier Camp was the creation of Sam Hughes, right hand man of Sir Robert Borden who was Prime Minister of Canada at that time. Mr. Hughes, an ardent Orangeman, had been in charge of the Nation’s Military Forces since 19l1. He held the rank of Major-General. He was always considered a controversial figure and reference to him for the most part was considered derogatory.
August 24th, 19l4, saw the first troops arrive in Valcartier. Here some thirty-three thousand soldiers were to be trained for overseas service. In less than a month the tract of land bisected by the Jacques Cartier River, had been transformed into a bustling Military Camp complete with roads, water mains, railway sidings, stores, showers and movies for the troops, and three miles of rifle range besides training space for heavy artillery and cavalry.
We here undertake to enumerate a list of the families who were so hastily ejected from their homes.
On the North West side of the Jacques Cartier River running downstream were: George Neil – William Goodfellow – Mike Holton- James Lannin- Hugh McLaughlin – Hugh Bowles – Jimmy Bowles – Michael Woodlock – Joe Griffin Frank McLaughlin and Maurice Conway.
On Pinkney’s Mountain were: Bob Pinkney – James Berry – James Johnston Jack Patterson and Thomas Holton. Jimmy Thompson of St. Catherine’s had acquired property there which formerly belonged to Thomas Hartery. Although Mr. Thompson did not live there, he had the land under cultivation. Mr. Hartery died at the residence of Frank McLaughlin on May 9, 1907, at the age of 70 years. It is related that Jimmy Thompson had a field of oats ready to reap in the fall of 19l4. He had hired Pete Powell, his neighbour, to harvest the crop with his reaper, and after he had made one round of the field, the Cavalry in training charged through the field leaving the crop worthless. Similar events were reported to have happened in other parts of the camp.
Along the Riviere aux pins Road, running North were expropriated, part of their lands: William Maher, James Clark’ a piece of bush land he had previously bought from Mrs. Murphy, Robert Davidson, John Murphy and a bush lot belonging to Charles Jack.
On the South East side of the Jacques Cartier River, extending to the border of the St. Catherine’s line were: Tom Thompson – George Thompson Frank Thompson – Hopper Brown – Charles Hicks – Bob Penney – Tom King Pat King – Maurice King – Walter Brown – Paddy Welsh – Thomas Knox – William Knox – Jack McCoubrey – John Allen McCoubrey – Moses McCoubrey – Pat Gough – Jack Adams – William Crawford – Jack Billing – Tom Billing – Walter Billing Sandy Aikens – Mrs. Francis Ireland- Richard Smith – William Smith – Bob McMillan – George Wolff – Jack Leddy- Jim Hamilton – Dave Hamilton and Mrs. Charlie Jones, nee Richardson.
People who had parts of their properties expropriated along the Valcartier Road but not displaced included: Fred Hicks, Thomas Lavallee, Bill Neil Graham McBain – Thomas (Buzz)McBain, Curtis McBain – Mrs. Samuel Seeds – Tom Adams – John McBain – Fred Lepire and James Andrew McCartney.
There may have been some families which we have overlooked as these have been quoted only from memory. In so far as we know they seem to have received adequate remuneration for their lands. A few families established themselves in other areas of Valcartier, some acquired farms in St. Catherine’s (today Shannon) and others in St. Ambroise, but a greater number settled in the Eastern Townships where they went into dairy farming in a big way.
On the St. Catherine side they bought out the properties of the Fogarty Family – Willie Thompson, property he had previously purchased from Malachy Landrigan and also Edmund Landers’ farm.
At the end of the war in 1918, the Camp was soon empty and except for short periods of army training during the summer months, it was left to the blueberry pickers.
During the Great Economic Depression of the Dirty Thirties, Relief Camps for unemployed men were set up to help those out of work. Those people were called “Chomeurs”. In those days anyone out of work had no unemployment insurance. There were no Family Allowances, 0ld Age Pensions or Social Welfare. From late 1932 until late 1935, the Federal Government under Prime Minister Robert Bennet, set up relief camps throughout Canada for the unemployed. The men were lodged, fed and clothed, given a ration of tobacco and paid twenty cents per day. From 7:00 to 9:00 P. M. the men could buy beer for five cents a glass. There were over five thousand men on Valcartier Camp during that period. Some of those men were tradesmen. We used to get a haircut for ten cents.
The Liberal Government came to power in late 1935, under the leadership of Prime Minister W. L. M. King and soon after the Relief Camps came to an end.
After the outbreak of World War 2, in 1939, it soon developed into a permanent camp, with the various branches of the Army and the Arsenal and is today known as Base Valcartier.
Our sincere thanks goes out to Messrs. Michael Corrigan, Jackie Griffin Jimmy King and Herby Hicks who provided us with much information for this article.