The Early Years

Griffintown began as a land grant given to Jeanne Mance by Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve in 1654. (Burman, Stories: pg 1) The area, Nazareth Fief, was used mainly for farming with proceeds going towards the city’s poor. The fief slowly developed, and in 1698 a chapel dedicated to St. Anne was built amoung the few taverns and shops. (Ibid.)

Nazareth Fief gained its distinctly Irish name in 1796. The proprietor of the region, Thomas McCord, had been doing business in Great Britain when his rights to the land were sold to Mary Griffin without his consent. (Ibid.)The land bordered the long-planned Lachine Canal project which would facilitate trade and industry in the area by allowing ships to bypass the Lachine Rapids.

As a result of the canal and the potential for industrialization, the fief was desireable land for developers . Griffin drew plans to subdivide the region into small lots designed for the projected influx of workers,(See map below) with the profits being split between herself and the Sisters of the Hotel Dieu. (Burman, Stories: pg 1) When McCord returned and challenged the sale, the city ruled in his favour, though the area would remain known as Griffintown.

Lachine Canal, Prospective Basins. Courtesy of the McCord Museum

Lachine Canal, Prospective Basins. John Samuel McCord1837, Courtesy of the McCord Museum

A Plan of the Fief Nazareth Laid Out into Lots under the Name of Griffin Town Drawn by Order of Mrs Mary Griffin, about 1804, Courtesy of the McCord Museum

A Plan of the Fief Nazareth Laid Out into Lots under the Name of Griffin Town, Drawn by Order of Mrs Mary Griffin. About 1804, Courtesy of the McCord Museum


One response to “The Early Years

  1. My great great grandfather John McKinley arrived in Montreal from County Antrim in Northern Ireland in the 1840s. In 1849 he married Mary Kerr, previously of Lilliesleaf, Roxboroughshire, Scotland who had arrived in the early 1820s. Her father John Kerr ran a smithing operation making boilers among other things on Wellington Street. They settled on Ann Street in Griffintown and he became a part time fireman in the No. 8 Union Fire Company rising to the rank of first foreman. He died a young man , one of the casulties of the 1854 Cholera epidemic which killed a thousand in the city and was one of the early burials in Mount Royal Cemetary. His best friend, William Lewis married Mary McKinley who delivered her 3rd child, my direct ancestor, two month after her husband’s death. Ten years later she buried him in the same grave on Mount Royal. Moving to Ottawa to be near her youngest brother’s family she died there in 1883 wand was buried in Beechwood Cemetery.

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