The Arthur Plumpton site
The old Turcot-Gagnon House
By Arthur Plumpton
Translated by Marc Ouimet (155)
Below, is a text written by Mr. Arthur Plumpton, who with his wife Nicole Simard, is the present owner of the Turcot-Gagnon house. They have won a first prize for the restoration of their home.
The Turcot-Gagnon house is located at 2209, chemin Royal, in Sainte-Famille, on lot 189-1-1. According to the numbering system on the map of Sieur de Catalogne (1709), it straddles lots #51 and #52.
The first owners of this piece of land:
Sébastien Douaizon (Doyson or Doyon) dit Lacroix born 1626 & died 1685
Jean Ouimet (Houymet or Wuillemet) born 1634 (6) & died 1687
François Turcot and born 1663 & died 1718
His widow Marguerite Ouimet born 1667 & died 1743
Pierre Paillereau born 1626 & died 1669
Before 1689, Jean Ouimet and his wife Renée Gagnon had a house of 24 feet x 20 feet (7.31 m x 6.09 m), a barn and a stable on this site. An ancient foundation has been found buried in the ground, east of the big apple tree at the back of the present day house.
In 1695, François Turcot bought half of lot #51 from Jean Ouimet’s widow as well as one additional arpent off of lot #50 from Charles Allaire. Was François the first owner of the present day house (...the eastern portion!)?
The owners of the house
Before 1783 (?) Abel Turcot’s family : François, Simon...
1783 to 1960 Gagnon family : Mathurin, Irénée, Elzéar, Pierre,
1960 to 1975 Zéphirin Rousseau (uninhabited house)
1975 to 1978 Jacques Cloutier (uninhabited house)
1978 to the present Arthur Plumpton and Nicole Simard
N.B. the dating inaccuracies are due to the fire at Notary Pichette’s study in the parish of Sainte-Famille in 1746.
The estimated age of the house
The first section, the eastern portion of the house, dates back to the end of the XVIIth century (circa 1696). The second section could be of the XVIIIth century (circa 1747).
In the beginning, the house would’ve covered an area of 27 feet x 30 feet (8.23 m x 9.15 m).
The true age of the house remains to be determined.
The buildings’ architecture
Vernacular architecture from Normandy (53 feet x 27 feet...16.16 m x 8.23 m), central hearth, a single large room, typical of peasant houses of northern France, which was common during the XIIth century and after. The stone walls support the roof made of rafters, king posts and middle posts, ridges and secondary ridges, girders and purlins. Such structural frames still exist, relatively unchanged since medieval times, and are typical of French roofs between the Pas-de-Calais and the Pyrenées, as well as between Cotentin and Provence. They were replaced by simpler roofs without posts, that is rafter to rafter, towards 1805.
To restore the house we had to partially rebuild certain elements lost while it was uninhabited, using old and used materials when possible. The first inhabitants lived on a floor of beaten earth. We have succeeded in saving about 30% of the old floor, of which an important part is now in today’s kitchen.
The first plumbing, including the bathroom, is a result of contemporary «technological advances» during the Second World War (1943). Electricity dates from 1932. The house had its last wedding reception in 1951. Before 1950, fourteen persons lived in the confines of the house. The attic, used in times past, to store seeds, has been transformed into two large rooms, one for the boys, and one for the girls.
All aspects of life, like storage of farm tools, spinning of flax, weaving, cooking and resting areas, took place in the single large room. It was divided in the center at the fireplace, with a western portion that was heated and an eastern portion that wasn’t; this latter portion was reserved for cooking in the fireplace, work and storage.
An interior well 4.5 feet in diameter (1.37 m) and 15 feet deep (4.57 m), with stone walls, is located near the back door. No doubt it was a great luxury at the time. The fireplace is typical of those on the Isle of Orléans and of northern France as early as the XIVth or XVth century.
The shed has framing similar to that of the house indicating that its style was dictated by the carpenters of New France. It was possibly built after the house, but research hasn’t yet revealed the exact date of its construction.
Here are a few additional elements worth mentioning :
1. Curves (reinforcements) between beams and posts are cut from tree roots,
2. We can also see little legs (seldom) between the false girders and the rafters.
There is a wooden winch installed on two false girders in the shed. All wooden beams are assembled with dowel pins, like those in the house, and are cut from whole tree trunks, like it was done in the Middle Ages. A few assemblies even have quadruple tenons.
We can see that many planks inside the shed have been shaped with an axe (adze).
Built in the XIXth century, it is now used for storage of wood waiting to be stripped and is home to twenty hens. According to the Gagnons, in times past, it housed the farm forge as well as the baker’s oven. One day, we hope to restore it to those former uses.
Visiting the house (points of interest)
1. the fireplace in the center of the large room;
2. the old well (location);
3. the angle of the roof, lack of extension of the stringer, ground level and ground floor; all are witnesses of the age of the building (1725-1750 or before);
4. windows (irregular, add-ons);
5. colored lintels dyed by hand;
6. beams and floors;
7. cast iron stove (St-Maurice, circa 1793-1817);
8. built-in cupboards;
9. wall construction;
10. second story framing apparent.
Ground visit (points of interest)
1. close to the road;
2. the angle of the house and of the shed; the relation between the two (seldom seen);
3. field stones rather than stones from a quarry;
4. fruits on the walls (obliqueness);
5. absence of dormer-windows (before 1800);
6. northern side of the house;
7. windows (irregular, add-ons); roof angle; closeness to the ground; roof projection;
8. view of the house, from the west at the orchard;
9. gardens, apple trees and embankment;
10. view of Château-Richer (relation with the island in winter...ice bridge);
11. salvage of artifacts on the grounds (broken bottle ends, dishes).
Estimated date of construction of the ancient house located at 2209, Chemin Royal, Sainte-Famille, Î.O.
by Arthur Plumpton and Nicole Simard
translated by Marc Ouimet (155)
NB Mr. Plumpton and Mrs. Simard are the present owners of the ancient house located on our ancestor’s land in Sainte-Famille, Isle of Orléans. Following the online article in the Wikipedia encyclopedia, they decided to specify certain details as to the construction of the house. We, thus, transmit the information and are more than happy to learn more about this magnificent house. Their e-mail is dated 25th February 2017.
House located at 2209 Chemin Royal, Sainte-Famille,
(origin of picture: Denis Ouimet, summer of 2008)
Good Morning, Suzanne and Denis Ouimet,
We hope this letter finds you in good health and enjoying this relatively mild winter, notwithstanding the abundant snow.
Thank you for the copy of your magnificent work (official document of Les Descendants de Jean Ouimet Inc.).
There is no doubt in my mind that you and the members of your Association spent many hours of research and debates in putting it together.
Strange coincidence, Nicole is presently reading a book about her ancestor: «Contemporains d’un grand roi» (circa 1956) («Contemporaries of a great king»), and discovered that her ancestor, Pierre Simard, arrived in Québec City in 1656 on the sailing-ship «Le Toro». After living in Québec City for a while, he left his wife for one year, in order to fill out a mandate from Lord Bishop Laval to establish, with other pioneers, a settlement in Baie St-Paul.
I’m still in the process of reading your interesting book, but I would like to point out a detail on page 12 where you state the age of the eastern portion of the house at 2209 Chemin Royal, Ste-Famille.
I do not believe this detail to be precise. I do not know the reference used by Mr. Yvon Ouimet; possibly from Mr. Henri-Paul Thibault (Sainte-Famille historian) or the François-Lamy Foundation (where a picture of the house was exposed with a note stating the period of its construction).
Without profound studies, giving the age of ancient houses is what we call «black art» (in the sense of hypothetical).
So, what is the true age of this house?
1. First, three uncertain references as to their authenticity:
1.1 When I bought it in December 1979, the real estate agent and the owner (Jacques Cloutier) believed that the house had been built in two different times: 1742 and 1747, and that the original owner was a member of the Turcot family (a son of Abel Turcot or other?).
1.2 As for the municipality of Sainte-Famille, a technical file from 1980 states that the estimated age of the house is 283 years (thus 1697) without giving the true age.
1.3 Mrs. Odile Gagnon (who occupied the house prior to 1959), told me that the house was from the last decade of the XVIIth century (1st January 1691 to 31st December 1700), but she never showed me the written manuscripts to that effect, which came presumably from the Gagnon family Association.
2. Information from the island architect and my research in patrimonial buildings:
2.1 Mr. Roger Coulombe, former island architect, agreed with me that the architecture of the house, and its location on the land, indicate that it is a contemporary house of the French regime. He thought, if I’m not mistaken, that it is undoubtedly one of the first stone houses of the island.
2.2 The «west-east» numbering of the framing timbers suggests that the roof was rebuilt, following the British invasion of 1759. Friends living in the village, are living in a similar house dating back to 1685 (the Morissette house). The Drouin house dates back to 1730. Unfortunately, the date of our house and others of the same style are not as well documented.
3. Public references:
3.1 In his booklet on the Isle of Orléans, (translated in English as «Visiting Île d’Orléans», published in 1983), Father Raymond Létourneau, of the neighbouring parish of Saint-Jean, talks about a classification system on the age of houses («Urbanex» - but I haven’t found references elsewhere nor his no. 3 report); he presents ancient homes and churches according to classifications for the periods of 1675-1750 and 1750-1800. The house at 2209, (formerly 3463, Chemin Royal) is in the 1675-1750 bracket.
3.2 In the book «Vieux manoirs – vieilles maisons» published in 1927, page 291, of the Commission of historical monuments of the province of Québec (Pierre-George Roy?), there is a picture of our house and the title below says that it is a «very ancient» residence of the island.
3.3 Yves Lamontagne, art historian and ethnologist, in his book «Belles maisons Québécoises» (Éditions de l’Homme, 2007), agrees with Michel Lessard (see 3.4 next) that the Doyon-Lacroix, Dallaire, Ouimet, Turcot and Gagnon families occupied the land where the house is located (pages 134 to 137). Mr. Lamontagne gives precise dates of construction (from word of mouth information) of 1697 and 1698 (the eastern portion, it seems), followed by an extension in the XVIIIth century. A picture of the house, as seen from the west, illustrates the cover of the book. We can see the protruding purlins of the framing on the western gable, which we seldom see here but often in France.
3.4 Michel Lessard, in his book written in collaboration with Pierre Lahoud, «L’Île d’Orléans – Aux sources du peuple Québécois et de l’Amérique française» (pages 380-381), mentions the construction of the house in two different times, a first section in the XVIIth century and a second one in the XVIIIth century.
Since I don’t have more specific data, I think the age of the first module of the house is an average of different dates: from 1697-98 to 1732 or 1742. A master’s thesis from Laval University (I’ve lost my copy and I think the author’s first name was Suzanne) presented in the last half of the twentieth century, has classified the age of houses on the island during the French regime (construction deals, notarized documents) and has demonstrated, with possible exceptions, of course, that only one stone house had been built prior to 1724. So, the 1732 date (plus or minus 10 years) seems to me as good as any other. Since different churches on the island were built by masons during that period, it is possible that the man-power able to build such a house existed, even before the arrival of a large group of masons from Normandy around 1750.
There, we have many words to arrive at a somewhat far-fetched suggestion, but maybe important enough, to help revise your booklet and the article on Wikipedia. I think that the first or second quarter of the XVIIIth century would be more like it, rather than the 1750-1800 period.
Best wishes and thank you for keeping me up-to-date on the activities of the Ouimets, ancient occupants of this land.
Signed: Arthur Plumpton and Nicole Simard
1. Mrs. Marie-Andrée Thiffault is the architect responsible for this historical area. For her information, I’ll send her a copy of my findings.
2. Nicole, my spouse, added the following assumption after reading my text. Notwithstanding the fact that the house is not located in the middle of Jean Houymet’s ancient plot of land, it is possible that the transfer of subsequent plots of land, their amalgamation or their division/allocation among the children, could have created by happenstance, and even in the beginning of the colony, a situation where the ancient house was, in fact, located in the middle of the land.