River Bourgeois, Richmond County, Cape Breton Island

River Bourgeois is just a few miles east of Louisdale, and a shorter distance from St. Peter's.

Follow this link to information about Saint John The Baptist Church, and to pictures of the church, the graveyard and gravestones.

RIVER BOURGEOIS: —The Indian name for this place was"Nabigwonchek" meaning a "brig" or "ship," the whole meaning"a brig or ship's place." (source)

River Bourgeois is important to the Alfred Longhurst/Theresa Burke family as being the home of Theresa's grandparents (Damien and Eugenie Burke) the birthplace of her father (Fred Burke), and the wedding location and first home of her father and mother (Ellen Jane Thibeau).

River Bourgeois holds an annual festival on the Labour Day weekend. Historical walks throughand different parts of River Bourgeois have included Boyd's Lane and Thibeauville Road/Grimes Lane, the South Side and Richards Pond Road. Eugenie & Damien Burke's property has been included, as has the property Fred Burke owned before moving to Louisdale.

The River Bourgeois CAP site, a community website, can be found here... Here is a direct link to the site's archive of the River Bourgeois newsletter "River Roundup".

For those researching ancestors in this area, Paul Touesnard has assembled a large amount of ancestry information that can be found here...

For those unfamiliar with River Bourgeois, here are some maps and other details. In this first map, the white arrow is pointing at River Bourgeois.

Note: these images are from Google Earth with imagery dates of between 2011 and 2015 (chosen to reduce cloud coverage and image slicing).

In this closer view, several points of interest are indicated. For scale, the distance from the dot for South Side River Bourgeois to the dot for River Bourgeois is about 4.5 kilometers.

The water visible, for the most part, is salt water, sea water - Atlantic Ocean water. The municipality of River Bourgeois is not very river-like at all. It is sad to think that this area will change greatly if sea level rises as expected due to global warming.

Bourg family settlers...

Bourgs have lived in the River Bourgeois area for many years, dating back to a time when the French government wanted to increase the population of Île Royale (Cape Breton) as a defense measure against the British in their ongoing competition for control of the New World. Following the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, England controlled the mainland of what is now Nova Scotia, while the French controlled Île Royale (Cape Breton).

Between 1713 and 1734, some 67 French Acadian families took part in the settlement of the area around Port Toulouse (St. Peter's). Amongst them were at least two Bourg families of interest - Marie Bourg (daughter of Abraham Bourg) and her husband and children, and Michel Bourg (son of Abraham Bourg) and his wife and children. Abraham either accompanied them there (from Port-Royal and the inherited property of his father Antoine Bourg), or he visited them there, returning to Port-Royal after a time.

Link to a document entitled "Acadian Settlement on Ile-Royale, 1713-1734 - by Bernard Pothier, B.A, of College Sainte-Anne.

Michel was listed in various censuses as a navigator, labourer, carpenter and a farmer-fisherman. He did have a boat called a "goélette" - a schooner which was definitely capable of coastal navigation, and which was used for commerce, not fishing, according to the census of 1726. He and his young family were listed in the census at Port Toulouse (St. Peter's) in the years 1722, 1724 and 1726. Port Toulouse was the second largest settlement on Île St. Royale at this time. (with information from Debra Burke)

In 1755, at the beginning of the latest in the series of British/French conflicts, Acadians on the mainland in Nova Scotia were shipped off by the British as part of the Expulsion (for not signing oaths of loyalty to the British). After the seige and fall of Louisburg in 1758, the Acadians on Île St. Royale were also expelled. After the hostilities ended in 1762, properties that had belonged to the Acadians throughout Nova Scotia were given up to New England Planters and Foreign Protestants. For returning Acadians, outside of their retension of knowledge of the area, it was like starting from square one.

The land granted to Urbain Cordeau...

In the year ____, Urbain Cordeau (born in 1775 to recent French immigrant Guillaume Cordeau and Jean-Anne Josse) received as a grant a peninsula of land located southwest of what is now Richard's Pond. The peninsula was about 150 acres in land size. At some point the peninsula became known as L'Isle des Cordeaux, even though it has never been an island in recent history (water levels were about two meters lower in the 18th century).

Urbain married Charlotte Benoit (born c1790). In 1821, they had a daughter (one of three). 27 years later, Domitille (Domithilde) married Damien Bourg (Sr., son of area resident Joseph, grandson of Pierre, on back to Antoine Bourg). Urbain passed some land on to Damien (Sr.) after Damien married Domitille. Land in the area also went to the daughter who married a Jean Landry and to the daughter who married a Boucher.

Damien (Sr.), in turn, passed the land on to two of his sons - Damien (Jr.) and Cyprien. (with information from Anne Landry)

(Urbain died April 7, 1862, Damien (Sr.) on November 18, 1898, Domitille on October 12, 1903.)

What happened later to the land granted to Urbain Cordeau? Click here to find out...

Moving inland from the peninsula...

The location on the property at which Damiens Sr. and Jr. and families had lived is believed to have been about where the white dot is in the image above. The white line shows where Damien (Jr.) and family (house and all) moved to in c1905, about 2.5 miles by water.

Mom did say that she had either seen houses being moved or she had heard of houses being moved.

This next image shows where the new home location was, on Pointe à Bouleau (which may translate as Birch Point). The location of Saint John the Baptist Church is visible across the water in an easterly direction.

Drone aerial footage of River Bourgeois...

Follow this link to a youtube video that shows a couple of minutes of River Bourgeois from above.

This snapshot shows the lighthouse (left edge) at the passage that leads to the Atlantic Ocean, the Saint John The Baptist church, the graveyard, and the area of land once owned by Damien Bourg and wife Eugenie (upper right, the outcrop of land covered in trees across the "river").

On a visit from Ontario...

In the summer of 1998, Theresa (Burke) Longhurst, husband Fred and son Cam (that's me) visited the area. One of our goals was to visit her grandparent's property. My Mom steered us to the point, but the house she remembered - she knew had long since gone. I believe, by chance, we met Anne Landry's Uncle Anthony on the property (he had a derelict school bus). When asked about the location of Damien and Eugenie's old house, he directed me to walk out through the trees (see pic) to where he recalled a house had stood years ago. I found an appropriate hole in the ground (see pic) where the house likely had been. I walked further west until the trees cleared and I could see houses and farmed land. I turned and went north until I came out of the trees (see pic) and stood on a cliff-like embankment. I took a picture (see pic) of the houses straight across the water from there. Once you get past the trees and onto the cliff edge leading down to the water, on the north side of the point, the view expands to reveal a landscape that would have been quite similar to that viewed 100 years ago.

(Click on a thumbnail picture to enlarge and view.)

After we left the point, we went around onto the South Side Road and came upon Leo Landry's house. He was home and my Mom and he (they are cousins) had a chance to chat. While there, I took a picture of the houses across the water. After we left, we went in the direction of the Saint John the Baptist Church (across the water and on a hill). Before the church went out of view from the road, I stopped and took a picture of it.

I made this image to show the lines of perspective of the three water pictures taken in 1998.

In subsequent visits, even as recently as November, 2015, I just could not find the house location again. (I know all my relatives in the area will chuckle at this.) I drove past the spot on the south side on several occasions, saw the spot without recognizing it from the north side across the water, but could not figure it out. What I was seeing did not fit my memory of that day.

Back home, close to Christmas, 2015, I thought I would try from my virtual desk to recreate the visit from the pictures I took and other information on hand. I used Google's streetview to line up the same view of the church (immediately below).

This put me on South Side River Bourgeois Road. In rotating this view to the left, I realized that I was pretty much looking at the view of the houses across the water from Leo's. This also put Leo's house behind me, though I couldn't remember which house, in particular, it was. When moving up and down the road with streetview, trying to get the same perspectives for the houses and the church, I noticed a familiar-looking boat shed on the water's edge. Surprise - could it be the same shed seen in an old picture received from Anne Landry? That picture identified Damien and Eugenie's house, and beside it the house of their son Fred. I lined up the same picture with street view and took a matching picture (below).

I came out of streetview and realized I was looking down at Pointe à Bouleau, the same forested area at which I had taken the pictures years earlier. I put a series of white dots on the image to show the likely path I took (in 1998) through the woods. "X" marks the approximate spot where I found the hole in the ground. The little image serves as a link to the same aerial view without the triangle. There is a bridge that crosses the stream near the start of Burke Road. It is called Pont de L'Anse (Cove Bridge). The location is just outside the image shown, bottom left.

Where on earth is the x? On this image, dated September 18, 2013,
it is approximately 45° 37' 58.80" North, 60° 57' 40.50" West
at an elevation of just nine feet.

This old photo shows the properties the Burkes had on the point in River Bourgeois - the house above the boatman's head was Fred's, the right-most belonged to Damien and Eugenie. Fred's looks to be two houses away from Eugenie's, which makes the location placeable with streetview today.

This snippet from streetview comes very close to showing the view of a boat shed with houses behind on the point. It did not, though, put Eugenie's house where I thought the hole in the ground was. So I continued using streetview to go westward and came across another boat shed almost invisible from the road, as the grade of the road is elevated as it goes past.

This boat shed, given the same perspective as in the old photograph, put Fred's house where the leftmost house in this picture is, and it would put Eugenie's house about where the x is in the "walked path" image above, a a point beyond and to the right of the light pole across the water. The other pictures of the property also seem to put Eugenie's house where the x is, as correlation.

To make a long story short (but less fun), Anne Landry has confirmed that the x is pretty much where the house of Damien and Eugenie was, and that her Uncle Anthony did own the property beside theirs - the rest of the point - to the east. (I have also since realized that Anne had explained all of this to me several years ago in email I have re-read, but, for different reasons, I just didn't remember and it didn't stick.) I am amazed that that old boat shed is still standing after all these years.

Cam's note: Hopefully, I will be able to read this in the future and be able to remember or to re-trace my steps, and anyone from out of the area who wants to know where the Eugenie and Damien Bourg/Bourque/Burke homestead on Pointe à Bouleau was can figure it out from this as well. To make finding the property even easier, the access road on the Point is known today as Burke's Road.

Eugenie (left), on their property in River Bourgeois, with sister Maggie. The north side can be seen in the background. The house would be beside them, immediately to the right. For orientation, the barn or shed beyond the fence may just be visible to the extreme right of the old "boat shed" picture (above).

This is a second picture of son Fred's house. Taken at another time, this picture shows an altered roof line over the triangle of windows, as seen in the old "boat shed" photo (above).

What happened to Damien and Eugenie's house?

Leo (Celeste Anne's son) recalls that "Eugenie moved in with Peter and Celeste right away after Damien died" (in 1944). And, it was soon after the winter was over that they moved the porch from the north side of the old house to Celeste Anne's house and made it into a daytime living area for her.

Notes from Anne Landry (Leo's daughter)... "Eugenie would sleep in the main house, but during the day she had her own kitchen/living space."

"After Eugenie died, my father hauled the house over and added it to his property as a work shed. It eventually had to be torn down. There was an original wall cupboard hanging in the new shed. I have all the glass mugs and the top of an old glass butter dish that used to be in it. I also have the chair Eugenie used when she was in her "daytime" house. Because it was the porch, it had a low ceiling so they'd cut the legs down on the chair to lower it as they'd done for the table she had in there. I found the chair in Mom and Dad's basement years ago and stripped all the layers of paint off it. One can tell it's old as it has no nails, just wooden pegs holding it together. (Someone) unfortunately used it as a stand to cut things on, and there are deep gouges in the seat. I use it now as a plant stand."

This photo (which appears to have been taken from a rowboat) shows the "south side" of River Bourgeois. The house with the porch belonged to Celeste Anne and Peter Landry. It has been extensively expanded and renovated, and their great granddaughter and her family live in it (in 2007). The small building behind it was Eugenie and Damien's house previously, after having been moved from its original site on the point. (It has since been torn down.)

Peter(?) and Celeste's son Leo and family live in the house on the left (in 2007) - you can just see its roof overtop of the fishing tackle shed at the water's edge.

The house to the right, with what appears to be an open door, at one time belonged to Henry and Emily Anne Fougere (and daughter Isabelle).

I used streetview to get a picture of the point's cliff edge from the north side, across the water. The houses described above can be seen in this picture, on the left.

Other area features and views...

Views from the South Side. In the left picture, Leo Landry's house, hidden again, is on the left. Celeste Anne and Peter's house would be center-most. Fougere's house would be on the right. In the right picture, the Landry house is revealed. (Leo's son Daniel and wife own the bungalow behind.)

The picture of Theresa and Leo (far above) shows enough of the house siding they are standing beside to match up to this house, evidence enough that I could have been able to find the house during the 2015 trip.

This picture continues eastward movement along the South Side Road. It is of the turn-of-the-century lobster canning factory (established 1911, closed 1929) that was opposite the church on the hill. Many locals worked there at one time or another, including Celeste Anne Landry..

From an article in the River RoundUp, comments by Lawrence Burke: "The lobster factory...was owned and operated by Isaac LeVesconte and an unknown partner. They would purchase the lobsters for five cents each from the local fisherman during the spring & summer and they were canned at the factory and mostly shipped to the U.S.. The bodies were not canned, and the locals would help themselves to the free food. There were six to eight people working there during those months and they were paid $1 a day for wages." LB: "The factory was closed in 1929 and sold to Peter Landry who dismantled the building and used the wood to build hen coops."

Modern-day streetview, looking across the water from in front of the church, looking down Wharf Road, across to where the factory would have been.

N.S. Archives... Links to image source.

N.S. Archives... Links to image source.
N.S. Archives... Links to image source.
N.S. Archives... Links to image source.

This Nova Scotia government site has lots of pictures of places and items of interest to researchers. Here are four pictures of schooners (goélettes).

"...schooners were the backbone of the coastal trade - every seaside community had at least one or two carrying produce, fish and passengers to larger towns, bringing goods back, and in general providing the equivalent of modern-day trucking services to isolated settlements along the shoreline."

While there is a decent copy of the Archives' images on this site, the images at the Archives site are larger and there is a zoom tool. By using the Archives site, you will see more detail, which can bring up interesting finds like this fellow found in the picture of the barrel being handled (above).

Opposite the lobster canning factory (below the church) were warehouses.

While not the exact same perspective (streetview stopped when the South Side Road pavement ended), this is a close modern streetview across the water of the church, of Wharf Road (to the right of the church), of wharves, and of where the warehouses were. (Not sure what the blurred-out building on the left is.)

Saint John The Baptist Church

Follow this link to information about the church, and to pictures of the church, the graveyard and gravestones.

Local Scenery

There is a small lighthouse near the entrance to River Bourgeois. This picture of it was taken (in 2011) from somewhere below the church, likely from Wharf Road.

Somewhere along the road between Louisdale and River Bourgeois, I stopped to take this picture of what was likely a train bridge. I don't have anything to say about it at this time, other than it is a nice photograph, so I am posting it here...

What happened to the land passed down from Urbain Cordeau?

The whole of L'Isle des Cordeaux (encircled) of about 150 acres, which is southwest of Richard's Pond, was originally a land grant to Urbain Cordeau. Part of it was passed on to Damien Burke Sr. when he married Urban's daughter Domitille Cordeau. Other parts of it went to two other daughters of Urbain and Jean Anne Josse, under the Landry and Boucher names.

Damien Burke Sr.'s portion was passed down split between brothers Damien Burke Jr. and Cyprien Burke.

Damien Jr.'s portion went to his only son Alfred Burke (perhaps c1905). Fred later sold it to Peter Landry when he married Fred's sister Celeste Anne (1917). (Fred had land in Louisdale at that time and didn't want to keep both lots.) Peter and Celeste Anne's daughter Jean (wife of Don Eisenhaur) subsequently inherited it. In 2008, two of Jean's sons inherited the land, giving them control of roughly half of the original land grant.

Cyprien Burke's portion had been split up three ways and had been handed down within that family. At some point, Leo Landry bought 35 acres from them. This 35 acres was inherited by one of Leo's sons, Vince. The portion that Leo had bought included the original location where Damien and Eugenie's house had stood. The 35 acres was traded to the Eisenhaurs, who also acquired the remainder of Cyprien's half from Cyprien's descendants. At this point, the Eisenhaurs had control of almost all of the peninsula. Leo's son Vince received six of the lots (in trade) after the recombined parcels were freshly subdivided. His are on the southwest bulge, the area called Savage Point.

According to Vince Landry, there were squatters that claimed title to small amounts of land in the area also. These claims had to be handled as well to get clear title to the entire peninsula. Some of these lesser claims were by families named Dugas, Thibeau, LeBlanc, Fougere, and Lainville. Some purchases were made, and with everything satisfactorily settled, modern development of the area began.

This file last modified 10/21/2023...

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