History of River Bourgeois

Ephrem Boudreau was born in River Bourgeois in 1905. He wrote Rivière Bourgeois from which this history is taken and translated.


The old “scow”

What was the old “scow”? The “scow” (barge), property of the federal government, had dug, let’s say around 1915, an excavation of a channel from the entrance to the main wharves of the “River” – the “wharf of Vaincomte,” Boyd’s wharf and Captain Anselme Samson’s wharf.

Once the excavation had been completed, the ship was abandoned and lay at anchor some 10 feet from the south shore of Fond-du-Bras. It rested there for several years. In winter when the river was frozen, one could walk to the ship and board it but in summer there was no access to it except by canoe.

For the traveler passing through River Bourgeois, this strange ship was a curiosity. The people of the area asked themselves if that ship would stay there forever or would the ship’s owner move it and use it for something new. Around the 1920s there was just the steamship Richmond that made stopovers at River Bourgeois’ two main wharves, because at this time there were no schooners left in the parish.

Much later, the “barge” having completed its work was towed to Birch Point and hauled to shore. Some people in the neighbourhood probably thought that it would be dismantled and the lumber that was still good could be used. It was not dismantled but left to the mercy of the elements. It was around 1975 when it disappeared completely. Its agony had endured for 60 years.


The Fishery

Acadians always lived near the sea. Instead of cultivating the land on the fertile shores of the area around the Minas Basin, they were drawn to fishing, and necessarily to the construction of fishing boats. In the villages where the soil was less fertile, such as River Bourgeois and the other parishes in southern Cape Breton, fishing became, of necessity, the principal occupation of the inhabitants and there was much construction of schooners and rowboats, as we have seen in Chapter 14.

This was their way of life for two centuries following the “Deportation” of 1755. They practiced mostly inshore fishing but if schooners were built there, it was to fish in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, mainly in the area of les îles de la Madeleine.

Off in a dory

Every day was a fishing day except for Sundays and days when the weather was too bad to fish. One had to be up early; at four o’clock the dories were in the water, one fisherman per dory. Each went in a different direction and they were not afraid to go some distance even a mile or more and sometimes beyond the horizon.

The fisherman had to have, in his dory, the things that were necessary for his journey, for example fishing line, his portion of bait, mast and sail (if one could make use of a sail), oars, gaff, anchor, rope, personal items (tobacco, cold water, snack, watch, borgot, knife, compass, wedges, hooks, écoupe).