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Godmanchester, Quebec – An update (From 2000)
Max Cashback
Some of you may recall that last year I stumbled upon the fact that there is another Godmanchester in Quebec, Canada and I was keen to learn more. Well, thanks to a combination of new and old media (internet and the local newspaper "The Huntingdon Gleaner") we can now update you on the history behind Godmanchester, Huntingdon and Hinchingbrook in Quebec. Brent Tolhurst who lives in Holwick about 20 miles from the Canadian Godmanchester, responded to a letter Stuart Bond wrote to their local newspaper and has kindly provided the following information based upon original information published by Robert Sellar in 1888.

With the overthrow of French rule in Quebec, and the American Revolution establishing the southern boundary of Quebec, there lay a vast tract of territory between the seigniories and the frontier, called "waste lands". Up to 1791, Canada, such as it was, was under military rule, then replaced by a modified constitutional system. The sole territorial division had been the seigniories of New France. The English plan called for counties to be set up, and where it did not interfere with existing seigniories, townships. In May 1792, a proclamation was issued, dividing the province into 21 counties, all but six bearing such English names as Devon, Hertford, Kent and York. Out of the district lying west of the Richelieu river was formed a large county, including the seigniories of Chateauguay and Beauharnois, as well as non-fief lands, and named Huntingdon. The choice of name governed the subdivisions of the non-fief portion, and Mr Chewett, the deputy-surveyor-general, took from old Huntingdon the names Hemingford, Hinchinbrook and Godmanchester for three of his townships.

The intention of dividing the new lands among veterans of the American War was of limited success. Many of the earliest settlers were loyalists, fleeing the American revolution. A proclamation was issued declaring Godmanchester township open to UE refugees, offering three year's provisions to all who would take up land. The village of Godmanchester was laid out in 1823 and town lots issued to whoever would pay $2.70 per half-acre. At this point settlers arrived weekly, mainly lowland Scots. Godmanchester served as a port for the shallow-draft vessels plying the St Lawrence river and its tributaries.

With the advent of steamers the deeper waters at nearby St Anicet diverted trade. The final blow to the prospects of the village of Godmanchester was dealt in 1849 when the dam at Valleyfield was completed. Low-lying at the best, the additional height of water overspread the flat on which the streets and square of Godmanchester village had been laid out. What from 1822 to 1850 was a scene of activity and the chief business centre of the county, was described in 1888 as pervaded by rural calmness. Today, Godmanchester exists as a rural municipality.

My thanks to Brent for providing the information. Stuart Bond

© 2000 Godmanchester Community Association

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