History and Cultural Heritage
The municipality of Hinchinbrooke is located in the Montérégie region of Quebec, specifically within the Regional County Municipality (RCM) of Haut-Saint-Laurent.
Hinchinbrooke is an interesting example of how colonization, geography, and culture have shaped communities in Quebec. The challenges and opportunities of the past and present provide insight into the rural dynamics in this province.
The birth of a village
The history of Hinchinbrooke is closely tied to the British colonization of the region and was founded in the early 19th century, primarily by settlers of Scottish and Irish origin.
The Township of Hinchinbrooke, located in Montérégie, was proclaimed in 1799, while the municipality that bears its name was established in 1845. In 1847, the municipality of the Township of Hinchinbrooke was abolished and became part of the County Municipality of Beauharnois. Eight years later, it was re-established under the same name, with its territory reduced to exclude the part within the boundaries of the Village Municipality of Huntingdon, which was created in 1848.
The first inhabitants, of Irish descent, began settling in the area around 1820. The mission, which became a parish in 1840, was named Saint-Patrice-de-Hinchin(g)brook(e), in English St. Patrick (de) Hinchinbrook, following a variable spelling convention. In this regard, the municipal name, which was long spelled as Hinchinbrook, adopted its current spelling in 1993. Its status changed from a township municipality to a regular municipality on November 5, 2011.
Pertinent information and data
Primarily agricultural, the territory of Hinchinbrooke encompasses a protected precolonial forest known as Boisé-des-Muir, several rivers, orchards, and hamlets: Herdman, Rockburn, Powerscourt, and Dewittville (the latter also partially overlaps with the municipality of Godmanchester).
Its territory borders with the state of New York. The municipality of Hinchinbrooke is flanked by the Township of Elgin to the west, and the municipalities of Godmanchester and Huntingdon to the north, as well as Ormstown to the east.
Since 1970, another residential and recreational area has emerged, known as Davignon Park, located near the Herdman border crossing, both accessible via Montée Herdman. The regional arena of Huntingdon, serving several surrounding municipalities, is also located within the municipality. The current town hall was built in 1989 following the fire that destroyed the previous one.
The term “Hinchinbrooker,” reflecting the local predominance of Anglophones, corresponds to the fact that the name of both the township and the municipality originates from an old estate that is now part of the town of Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, England. However, the spelling of the English place name included a “g” (Hinchingbrooke), which Anglo-Canadians removed since it was not pronounced.
Powerscourt Covered Bridge
The Powerscourt Covered Bridge was designated as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1984. Located on Chemin de la 1 Concession, it connects the municipality of Hinchinbrooke to Elgin.
It is a long wooden covered bridge that still rests on its original stone foundations. Currently in use, it allows vehicular traffic on Chemin de la 1 Concession to cross the Châteauguay River.
The bridge is characterized by its three masonry piers with dressed stone, irregular roofline, and two self-supporting spans. It is now the world’s only example of a bridge with a McCallum truss constructed using the McCallum technique. This technique, invented in 1851 by Daniel McCallum, a New York bridge builder, was more commonly used in the construction of railways. When iron replaced wood, covered bridges became rarer. This one is among the oldest surviving covered bridges in Canada.
Source: Parks Canada
Réserve écologique du Boisé-des-Muir
The Réserve écologique du Boisé-des-Muir, covering an area of 11.53 hectares, protects an ancient forest where the oldest individuals are over 300 years old. It consists of a sugar maple and American beech forest with eastern hemlock.
The ecological reserve was named in honour of the Muir family, who owned the site from 1830 to 1989. They were committed to preserving their ancestral customs: they conserved and used the same tools and furniture as their ancestors. This conservative attitude also applied to the forest, where they only harvested wood for their own needs, taking only dying or twisted trees.
According to the hydrological regime of the ecological reserve, two vegetation zones can be distinguished, each with distinctive forest cover: the hydric zone and the mesic zone.
The hydric zone occupies the southwest portion of the forest. The slope is flat, but the surface is slightly undulating. The water table is close to the surface. This area is dominated by black ash and American elm, along with bitternut hickory and American basswood.
The sugar maple and American beech forest covers the mesic zone, which constitutes the majority of the ecological reserve’s territory. Drainage varies from moderate to good. The maximum slope is 10%, although it is generally less than 5%. The coarse deposit is of morainic and glacial origin. The soil is a melanistic orthic brunisol. The pH of the B horizon ranges from 6.1 to 7.0. Sugar maple is the dominant species, followed by American beech, eastern hemlock, and American basswood.