The Region

The MRC of Ile d'Orléans includes 6 municipalities

  • Sainte-Pétronille
  • Saint-Laurent
  • Saint-Jean
  • Saint-François
  • Sainte-Famille
  • Saint-Pierre

Sainte-Pétronille

Founded in 1870. Commonly known in the beginning as "le bout de l'île" (the tip of the island), Sainte-Pétronille de Beaulieu was seen as a very popular resort in the middle of the 19th century. The Hurons found refuge there in 1651 and the wealthy from Quebec city built many luxurious residences that can still be seen from the Chemin Royal. The city was created as an extension of Saint-Pierre, as rumour says that Sainte-Pétronille was the daughter of Saint-Pierre.

Ste-Pétronille, Île d'Orléans

Saint-Laurent

Founded in 1679 : Called Saint-Paul till 1698, then changed to Saint-Laurent, this city has always been known for it's maritime vocation. Many remains of this flourishing period can still be found, from shipyards to "chalouperies" where, until the middle of the 19th century, more than 400 rowboats, longboats and canoes were produced yearly. Since 1984, the marina is host to many sailboats. In 1985, Saint-Laurent was twinned with Tourouvre, Perche, in France.

St-Laurent, Île d'Orléans

Saint-Jean

Founded in 1679 : The church of Saint-Jean goes back to 1732. The cemetery, with it's unique view on the river and the illusion of infinity brought about by the sea, leaves a lasting impression on visitors. From the beginning, this city has been the home to many sailors, mostly pilots. The importance of these sea people, the presence of prosperous farmers (milking industry, cultivation of potatoes and strawberries) and the great number of vacationers, have earned Saint-Jean the title of Capital of the Island until the construction of the bridge, in 1935.

St-Jean, Île d'Orléans

Saint-François

Founded in 1679 : Saint-François distinguishes itself form the other cities on the island by the large area it covers, from North to South, on the Eastern tip of the island. The population, made up mainly of farmers, is scattered all over the territory. These wide open spaces are ideal for the culture of leaks and potatoes, among others. The view on Mont-Sainte-Anne and the Cap Tourmente is breathtaking. At that point, the river is 10 times wider than it is in front of Quebec City, and that is also where the soft water turns to salted water.

St-François, Île d'Orléans

Sainte-Famille

Founded in 1661 : Sainte-Famille is the oldest city of Ile D'Orléans. This is where one can find the greatest concentration of stone houses, going back mostly to the French régime period. Right in the heart of the village, in front of the church (1743), is the "Couvent de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame", established by Marguerite Bourgeois (1685). The farming industry is most important in Sainte-Famille; the milking industry and breeding also have an important place, and, comes autumn, many orchards open up for the people to pick up their own apples. 

Ste-Famille, Île d'Orléans

Saint-Pierre

Founded in 1679 : Saint-Pierre, where one can find the oldest country church in Quebec (circa 1720) used to be a centre of traditional crafts: butter factory, forge, tin trade and cheese farm among others. The city also keep it farming tradition alive by producing potatoes and strawberries. Its population never stopped growing since the building of the bridge, in 1935. And comes spring, comes autumn, on each side of the bridge, one can see thousands of geese and ducks feeding and resting before getting back to their long journey.

St-Pierre, Île d'Orléans

île d'Orléans is only 15 minutes away from Old Quebec!

History

Jacques Cartier was the first to discover this green covered island, which he immediately named "Ile de Bacchus" (Bacchus Island) after the wild vines that were growing everywhere. But well before the arrival of the Europeans, the natives were already calling the island "Ouindigo", an Algonquin word meaning "bewitched place". Still today, the islanders are sometimes referred to as the "Sorcerers of the Island". As the years went by, the island was given a succession of different names. But it eventually came down to one of its original names, Ile D'Orléans, again supplied by Jacques Cartier, who, on May 6th 1536, gave it this name after François the 1st, son of the King of France, Duke of Orleans. 

The Île d'Orléans is considered as one of the earliest
populating places in Nouvelle France!

From the beginning of the colonization, the island was part of the vast domain of Beaupre. Most of the settlers called for to populate the island came from Normandie and the Poitou region, in France. A census carried in 1685 counted 1205 inhabitants (and 917 livestock).

For a short period, in 1759, the island was occupied by the Englishmen, but few traces of that presence remain.

St-Jean, Île d'Orléans

Witnesses to the past, more than 600 buildings are recognized by the Government of Quebec as being part of our cultural and historical heritage, including the oldest church in Nouvelle France. Some bakeries dating back to the 18th and 19th century are still active today. Unfortunately, the dozen or so flour mills, tanneries, shoe-repair shops and saddle factories that made the islanders self-sufficient have all but disappeared today. 

The Island, 34 km long by 8 km wide, is linked to the main land (Quebec City) by its single bridge. The Chemin Royal, main road of the Island, runs through the 6 villages of the Island.

The Pont de l'Ile (The Bridge)

From the beginning of the colony, the islanders used boats and canoes to cross the river in the summertime. When winter came, ice bridges were naturally created between the island and the shore. Still today, snowmobile enthusiasts use the ice bridge to cross the river.

The bridge was built as part of a campaign to fight unemployment, during the Great Depression. It was inaugurated on July 6th 1935, and was originally named Pont Taschereau, after Louis-Alexandre Taschereau, the member of the parliament representing Montmorency and then Prime Minister of Quebec. Today, its official name is "Pont de l'Île d'Orléans" (Bridge of the Ile D'Orleans), but it is commonly called Pont de l'Île (Bridge of the Island).

Pont de l'Île d'Orléans

The Chemin Royal

In the 18th century, roads on the island were just dirt trails going from houses to houses and leading towards the mill or the parish chapel. By 1744, the Chemin royal was completely circling the island. It is 67 km long (42 mi) and for most part, follows the rugged and jagged shore of the island. 

All along, the Chemin Royal offers a breathtaking view on the river. In the background, Cap-Tourmente, Sainte-Anne de Beaupré, the Laurentides, (an imposing mountain chain), and the Montmorency Falls overhang the North shore of the river.

Panorame Île d'Orléans

The South shore is not outdone with the Appalachians (another imposing mountain chain), the City of Levis and the Ile aux Grues Islands. Ile d'Orleans is also the place where the river widens considerably, opening the way for majestic ships.

Maritime History

Parc Maritime de St-Laurent

The very first wharf on the island was built in 1855, at Sainte-Petronille. With this new link to Quebec, the island experiences an important economic expansion. The wharf is used as a pier for trade exchange as well as a landing dock for visitors now coming in growing numbers. By the turn of the century, the Saint-Laurent Shipyard (now a maritime information park with activities) became one of the most important industries in the region. In the summertime, they built wooden ships, and in the winter, the space was used to store schooners. And all over the place, between 300 and 400 "chaloupes" (small boats) are built yearly by some twenty "chalouperies".

The Legacy of the Elders

The inhabitants of Ile d'Orleans always worked jealously at preserving arm of their cherished island. Félix Leclerc, a renowned signer and poet, says it very well in his songs, where he talks about the land and the spirit of its inhabitants. And those who like genealogy will probably be surprised to learn that the island is the ancestral land of 317 great families from Quebec, and that 35 of them have commemorative monuments or plaques scattered all over the territory.

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