From the Dec. 16 2009 Hudson Gazette
Story and photo by Jim Duff
Sandy Beach Nature Trail regulars are in shock over seeing the stone-filled culvert installed by Allen Blenkinship in the late 1950s replaced by a temporary wooden bridge some 20 feet upstream.
Last summer’s torrential rains caused the Viviry to back up behind the culvert, prompting concerns of a washout similar to that on McNaughten. So the former council contracted with Arcade Inc., the company building the new boardwalk over the mouth of the Viviry, to dig out the half-century-old culvert. The work was completed last week.
Hudson town inspector Natalie Lavoie said the temporary bridge will be replaced after Christmas by a permanent wooden structure where Blenkinship’s bridge once conveyed paying customers traffic down to the beach for a day’s outing or to stay in the rental cottages along the shore.
The plans to replace the culvert with a wooden span required approval from the provincial environment ministry and Hans Muhlegg, owner of most of Sandy Beach, she added.
By design or by chance, Arcade’s construction crew positioned the temporary wooden span atop two rows of massive flat stones on each bank — exactly where McGill historian and Hudson Historical Society consultant Maben Poirier believes Marcellin Farand dit Vivarais anchored the dam that powered his gristmill at the turn of the 18th century.
If so, the bridge is sitting on the last vestiges of Hudson’s pre-conquest New France heritage.
Poirier anchors his belief in oral history and admittedly incomplete seignieurial documents. “I well remember when I first heard Marcellin Farand’s name in connection with this piece of land,” he writes in a brief history on the HHS website. Blenkinship was straightening out the gravel road leading down to the waterfront and replacing the old bridge that crossed the Viviry.
“As the old bridge was being dismantled, Allen observed, ‘See those rocks that are just below the abutment for the old bridge? They were placed there by Marcellin Farand, when he operated a small mill at this precise location.’”
Poirier continues: “…the well positioned flat stones situated on the very edge of the stream…were certainly not the product of happenstance, nor were they needed as support by the old bridge, which was resting at least six inches above the stones. As Allen spoke, some amongst us had visions of a small lake backing up behind a low dam. We could see that it all made sense, given the lay of the land. It was the perfect place for a small mill and a low-lying dam that would have been capable of backing up the waters of the Viviry for about 150 feet or more in what was a natural basin.”
Standing on the bank of the river bearing the name of that first settler, Poirier theorized what would have brought Vivarais to the region. The 1689 Lachine Massacre, in which scores of settlers were slaughtered by the Iroquois, was still fresh enough in everyone’s minds that they lived in stockades for part of the year. Vivarais may have moved into the general area some time after the signing of the Great Peace of 1701, initially as a summer resident who spent his winters at the fort at Oka.
Poirier’s thumbnail history on the HHS website traces the land through a succession of owners to the Blenkinships, part of the wave of Cumberland settlers who settled here in the first half of the 19th century and whose family names endure to this day.
He admitted to being less concerned once he had seen the site. “I don’t suppose they’ll have done much damage if they stick to where Blenkinship’s bridge was,” Poirier added. “But I wish they’d consult with us before they start digging.”