The Richelieu River has played a prominent role in the historical development of Québec. Originally inhabited by Iroquois, Huron and Algonquin, Samuel de CHAMPLAIN navigated its waters shortly after his arrival in 1608. Throughout the French regime the Richelieu, named after Cardinal Richelieu, was of great military importance. The French established numerous forts along it, including Isle-aux-Noix (Fort Lennox), Fort St-Jean, Fort Ste-Thérèse, Fort St-Louis (Fort Chambly) and Fort de Richelieu (Sorel). Owing to the fertile nature of the land and its defences, French Canadian farmers settled here. Following the British Conquest, 1759-60, and the American Revolution, British military and LOYALIST settlers joined the area's local populations. Benedict ARNOLD's invasion of British N America included the capture of British forts along its route. Several uprisings of the REBELLIONS OF 1837-38, including the battles at ST-DENIS and ST-CHARLES, took place along its shores.
The Richelieu was of significant economic importance in the 19th century. In 1843, the Chambly Canal was completed, bypassing the rapids and making the river transport of such products as wood, pulp, hay and coal from the US to Montréal more direct. Consequently the regional centres of Sorel and St-Jean grew and were incorporated as towns in the 1850s. The construction of railway lines from the US to Montréal in this same period, however, contributed to the eventual decline of the river's traffic. The economic influence of the region thus changed from commerce to industry in the later 19th and 20th centuries. The Richelieu R valley nonetheless retains some importance as an agricultural base, yielding some of the province's finest produce, as well as maintaining a military and industrial presence. A division of Environment Canada, Parks Québec region deals solely with the Richelieu R valley and conducts archaeological excavations at FORT CHAMBLY and Fort Lennox, and supervises the operations of the Chambly Canal.
See also BIOSPHERE RESERVES.
Author KATHLEEN LORD
Links to Other Sites
Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada
The website for Fort Lennox National Historic Site of Canada, located in Québec near the Canada-US border. Includes background notes about the American Revolution, the War of 1812 and related topics.
Chambly Canal National Historic Site of Canada
Go through the lock of history and travel Quebec's Historic Canals to find out how our country was built! From Parks Canada.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.