New France in 1749

In 1749 Peter Kalm, a Swedish botanist, decided to make a long journey across the stormy Atlantic to see for himself how was the life in the new world. Back in Sweden, in 1753 he described his life in New England and New France.

He wandered widely, and in his stay of nearly three years, he saw much of the lands. Most of the time was spent in the today’s states of New York and Pennsylvania, but he traveled by Lake Champlain and down to Quebec. He made his journey to Quebec in the summer months (July, August, September, 1749), and he enjoyed the scenery to the full.

He seems to have met everybody of importance in the places at which he stopped, mainly Montreal, Trois-Rivieres and Quebec, the three largest cities of the country. He questioned people closely on many subjects, His book helps us to see what life in New France was like in the 18th century, For example, this is the way Peter Kalm describes what he saw when he was traveling down the St. Lawrence: “The houses are built of wood or stone and are whitewashed. The barns and stables are the same. Here and there we see churches which face the river.

It is interesting to notice that the steeples are always in at the west end of the churches. The farms are separated from each other so that every farmer has his own separate lands. The church is surrounded by a small village, made up of the presbytery, a school for boys and girls, the houses of the merchants but not the homes of the farmers.

The farmers usually build their houses on the bank of the river, not very far from one another.” Kalm visited some of the farm-houses, He says that “the windows are rarely of glass. Usually squares of paper take the place of glass.

A cast iron stove heats the whole house. The roof is covered with wooden shingles. The cracks are filled with clay to keep out the wind. The sheds are covered with thatch”, Kalm never forgot that he was a botanist, and he wandered about the fields and hills, making notes on the plants and trees. He left us detailed descriptions of the Quebec’s flora.

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