elcome to a virtual village modelled after those found throughout Quebec's countryside during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. At the end of the 19th century, thousands of villages dot the countryside of Quebec, principally along the St Lawrence River and in the Eastern Townships. Large or small, these villages have many of the same basic characteristics that are shown in this virtual village. The general storekeeper, the priest, the school teacher and the various craftsmen represented here provide essential goods and services that help bind their communities together.
To explore this village and discover more about how some of its inhabitants work and live during this period, simply click on a building. For each building you can choose between two texts: The first explains the context in which a person makes his or her living and the second examines what that work involves. Objects from the Museum's collection illustrate particular details of the work, for example, the tools that a craftsman uses as well as the goods he produces. To learn more about these objects, click on their image.As you explore the village, it is important to remember that the structure of life a century ago was very different from today, without many of the conveniences we take for granted. By the early 1900s, electricity is becoming more available in large urban centres, but it is absent from rural areas. As a result, tradespeople depended on natural light, therefore would work from daybreak until sunset. The length of their day would depend on the weather and the season. Many tasks are done by hand since many of the labour-saving devices we know have not yet been invented. To move about, people travel by foot or horse and carriage, only using trains and boats for journeys of greater distance. The chief means of communicating and sharing information are by newspaper, mail and word of mouth.
Quebec villages, 1890-1910
Between 1890 and 1910, the number of villages in Quebec with a population under 2000 nearly doubles from 90 to 176. The average population is about 800-850 people, but some villages have as few as 200. Rarely having a planned form, the village often grows spontaneously around some significant feature, such as a crossroads, ferry, church, mill or train station. Smaller villages consist only of a main street, while in larger ones the main street is part of a grid of parallel and cross streets. The most important buildings – the church, the hotel, the general store and post office, the town hall – are located on the main street; they are at least two stories high and are frequently built of brick or stone. Houses are commonly made of wood and have one and a half stories under their pitched roofs.
The principal function of the village is to serve as a centre for the exchange of goods and services. The more a village participates in commercial and industrial activities connecting it with the outside world, the larger its population and the greater the diversity of its services. Merchants in the village ship agricultural products and other local goods to urban markets. Their stores offer a window on the latest products of the North American economy, whether new seeds, agricultural implements or clothing styles and fabrics. Local craftsmen produce and repair everyday goods for the community, while doctors, notaries and lawyers offer their professional services. Farmers, villagers and visitors gather and exchange information at the village's churches, inns, post office, and community hall, as well as at various artisanal shops.