Friday, April 8, 2016

G is for Gaspe

Today we travel to Gaspe at the tip of the Gaspe Pennisula, at the far eastern tip of the province of Quebec, a land of heavy snowfall and gusty winds. A little bit of history...

Gaspé claims the title of "Cradle of French America", because on June 24, 1534, Jacques Cartier halted in the bay after losing an anchor during a storm and officially took possession of the area by planting a wooden cross with the king's coat of arms and the sentence Vive le Roi de France (meaning "Long live the King of France"). Cartier met there an indigenous tribe that referred to the territory as Honguedo, probably a Mi'kmaq word meaning "meeting place".

Following the Treaty of Paris in 1763, British officers and soldiers acquired free land in Gaspé. And in 1784, they were joined by many Loyalist settlers. From then on, Gaspé became an important commercial fishing centre, especially of cod. In 1804, its post office opened.

In 1833 in Gaspé County there were only ten farmers, all in the Gaspé Bay area (of whom seven were also involved in the fishery), four whalers in Gaspé Bay, five shipbuilders (one a Jersey firm), one blacksmith, two lumber merchants, five shipowners (all Jerseymen), eighteen fish merchants (of whom all but five were Jerseymen) and thirty-two major fishing establishments (of which sixteen were Jersey owned).

Gaspé was first incorporated as a village municipality in 1855. From 1861 to 1866, the port of Gaspé was a duty-free port, making shipping the primary economic activity. With some 40 to 50 European ships docking annually, many countries opened consulates in Gaspé, including Italy, United States, Brasil, Portugal, and Norway. By 1911, the railroad reached Gaspé. But the town's ambition to become an international shipping and transportation hub ended with the growing importance of the Montreal and Halifax harbours.

During World War II, some 3000 soldiers were stationed at a naval base built at Sandy Beach, in order to patrol the Gulf of Saint Lawrence against German submarines.

Granite Cross at Gaspe

This cross of Gaspé was commissioned by the federal government at a cost of $7,000 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the arrival of the French explorer Jacques Cartier in the Bay of Gaspé on July 24, 1534. It was unveiled on Aug. 25, 1934.

The granite cross was carved in 1934 from a block of gray granite, extracted from the Auguste Dumas quarry in Rivière-à-Pierre, Quebec. The cross weighs more than 42 tons and was transported to Quebec City on two cars by rail from Rivière-à-Pierre. The cross was then carried on a coaster to the Gaspé dock. From the dock, the cross was drawn on rollers using hoists by one of the first tractors to be used in Gaspé. It was erected in 1934 on its first base using a rail system of pulleys and cables, driven by the strength of many horses and a tractor.

A commemorative plaque located at the foot of the cross of Gaspé was inaugurated on August 23, 2009 (75 years after the erection of the granite cross), in memory of artisans of Rivière-à-Pierre, Quebec who extracted and cut this block of granite which become a monolithic cross.

The cross has been located at three sites in Gaspé. From 1934 to 1979 the Cross of Gaspé was located on Queen Street, facing the current "Place Jacques-Cartier" business center, on the same site of a memorial to the Second World War.

From 1979 to Fall 2012 it was located on the grounds of the Cathedral of Christ-Roi. In October 2012, the cross was moved to a new site "Gaspé, Berceau du Canada" (Gaspé, Cradle of Canada), located on the water near the Gaspé bridge.

Gaspe is 861 km (9 hrs.) from St. Hyacinthe and 693 km (7 hrs. 43 min ) from Quebec City.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting choice for G. I've never heard of this place, but then again, I know little about Canada. Love Banff.