Al­bum

Canada's History - - CONTENTS - By Ray­mond Fortin of Em­brun, On­tario. He is Vénérand Fortin’s grand­son.

A Que­bec black­smith and his horse lead a fu­neral pro­ces­sion.

This pic­ture shows my grand­fa­ther, Vénérand Fortin, lead­ing a fu­neral cortège at Saint-Da­mase-des-Aul­naies, Que­bec, on a cold day in De­cem­ber 1939. Since my grand­fa­ther was the lo­cal black­smith, and his shop was lo­cated next to the church, he was reg­u­larly asked to use his big black horse, named Le Coq, to pull the hearse fit­ted on a sleigh.

Saint-Da­mase is a small vil­lage about one hun­dred kilo­me­tres north­east of Que­bec City. In those days, such vil­lages lacked a fu­neral home. The de­ceased were pre­pared with­out be­ing em­balmed, and then the cof­fin was dis­played in the fam­ily liv­ing room for a few days be­fore the burial. Each par­ish prided it­self in hav­ing a well-crafted hearse to carry the de­ceased to the ceme­tery. Fam­i­lies were asked to con­trib­ute a dol­lar or more to­wards its cost, which could be up­wards of $300.

I be­lieve that in this case the de­ceased was Adélard Pel­lerin — but we can­not con­firm this. The photo was taken by an un­known pho­tog­ra­pher and is not pre­cisely dated, so we can’t go into the par­ish records to prove it beyond any doubt.

My grand­fa­ther was a small man of five feet six inches who toiled from early morn­ing well into the night. He had thir­teen chil­dren, of whom only eight sur­vived. Money was scarce in those days. Around 1915 he was charg­ing thirty cents to com­pletely shoe a horse. Even though he val­ued ed­u­ca­tion, he had no choice but to take my fa­ther out of school at the age of thir­teen to help in the black­smith shop.

Aside from fab­ri­cat­ing a range of ob­jects needed by farm­ers, my grand­fa­ther cleared his land, worked his farm, and cut fire­wood. His hap­pi­est mo­ments came in spring­time when work­ing to pro­duce maple sugar.

He worked well into his sev­en­ties shoe­ing horses in lum­ber camps and the sur­round­ing vil­lages, and he also made snow­shoes with an­i­mal hides.

His horse Le Coq weighed eight hun­dred kilo­grams and lived for twenty-nine years. My grand­fa­ther al­ways said he wanted to live to be a hun­dred years old, and some­one from above must have been lis­ten­ing. On Oc­to­ber 5, 1980, at the age of one hun­dred years and a few months, he passed away in his home next to his black­smith shop.

Do you have a pho­to­graph that cap­tures a mo­ment, im­por­tant or or­di­nary, in Canada’s his­tory? If so, have it copied (please don’t send price­less orig­i­nals) and mail it to Al­bum, c/o Canada’s His­tory, Bryce Hall, Main Floor, 515 Portage Av­enue, Win­nipeg, MB R3B 2E9. Or email your photo to al­bum@CanadasHis­tory.ca. Please pro­vide a brief de­scrip­tion of the photo, in­clud­ing its date and lo­ca­tion. If pos­si­ble, identify peo­ple in the pho­to­graph and pro­vide fur­ther in­for­ma­tion about the event or sit­u­a­tion il­lus­trated. Pho­tos may be cropped or ad­justed as nec­es­sary for pre­sen­ta­tion in the mag­a­zine. To have your posted sub­mis­sion re­turned, please in­clude a stamped, self-ad­dressed en­ve­lope.

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