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SJJ Burial Vault


Sir John Johnson Burial Vault: Ownership


Constructed initially on his Domaine Seigneuriale of his Seigneurie de Monnoir on Lot 76 (a three arpents[1] by 30 arpents lot) at Mount Johnson by Sir John Johnson, his burial vault will be conceded by him to his three daughters, Catherine Maria, Anne and Marianne on May 9, 1825 charged with an annual rent of one penny.[2] It will be part of a 173.4 arpents parcel comprising parts of Lots 76, 77 and 78, as surveyed by Alexander Stevenson under Sir John’s personal supervision on March 25 and 26, 1824. The concession does not include Sir John’s “Country Seat” (manor house and other buildings) as shown on Stevenson’s sketch.

On Saturday, September 9, 1826 Sir John will sell the “Fief & Seigniory of Monnoir” to John Roch Rolland who will acquire it subject to the concessions already made by his predecessors, including the one mentioned above to the Johnson sisters. The right to “occupy and dwell in the Manor House at Mount Johnson” will also be reserved from the sale by Sir John.[3]

On Monday, November 10, 1828 Archibald Kennedy Johnson will acquire from his two sisters, Catherine Maria and Marianne, their undivided two-thirds interests in the three lots, “save and except the family vault thereon erected with an acre of ground round the same [text bolded for effect] which at the death of the said Archibald Kennedy Johnson shall revert to his brother (older by five years) Charles Christopher Johnson his heirs and assigns”.[4] Charles Christopher predeceases Archibald on September 30, 1854 leaving his property (after the payment of his marriage settlement) equally to his four children, John Ormsby Johnson, Maria Bowes Johnson, Edward Colpoys Johnson and Mary Anne Johnson.

On Saturday, May 22, 1830 (barely five months following her father’s death) “Anne MacDonnell Born Johnson”, will attend before the Lord Mayor of London to sign a Power of Attorney in favour of her brother Charles Christopher and sister Catherine Maria to convey her undivided one-third interest to her son, Charles MacDonnell. That authority is then ‘shipped’ back to Montreal where, on Saturday, August 17, 1830 Anne’s instructions are carried out and the last one-third of the 173.4 arpents parcel (with the family vault) finds its way to Charles MacDonnell.[5]

Uncle Archibald Kennedy Johnson, himself a resident of Mount Johnson, and nephew Charles MacDonnell will exchange lands on March 11, 1831. Archibald will acquire the last one-third interest from Charles but not the “one equal undivided third part share & interest of in & to the family Vault” that Charles will reserve “for himself and his heirs”.[6]

On October 17, 1833 Archibald Kennedy Johnson will sell his three-thirds of what remains (55 arpents) of the 173.4 arpents parcel “to the Honorable Jean Roch Rolland Esquire one of the Justices of His Majesty’s Court of King’s Bench … and Seignior of the Seigniory of Monnoir”. There will be an important reservation added to the sale, ostensibly as an after thought, in a marginal note (#):

“ # The purchaser reserves as not being included in the sale of the above foregoing property the family vault thereon erected with an acre of ground round the same and also the right at all times and fore ever of passing and repassing to and from the said Vault [text bolded for effect] through the land now sold from the road of communication with the King’s highway by him reserved in and by the Deed of Exchange had and made with Mr. Charles McDonell before Griffin & colleagues notaries the eleventh of March one thousand eight hundred & thirty one.”[7]

Consequently, neither Judge Rolland nor his successors and assigns will ever have the “paper title” to the Vault or to the “acre of ground round the same”.

Charles Macdonnell “formerly of St. Andrews, now of Chambly” will, by his Last Will & Testament dated August 3, 1855 name his wife Ann Turner his sole executrix and bequeath to her the usufruit of all his property. Thereafter it is to be shared with his children, Frances (married to William Wilson), Catherine Sophia (married to Archiblad Johnson, son of John Johnson junior and Mary Dillon), Edward (succeeded by his daughter, Mrs. Emily Margaret Kenrick, nee MacDonnell) and Julia.[8] Archibald Kennedy Johnson will pass away in 1866 permitting the heirs of his brother, Charles Christopher Johnson, to acquire their father’s two-thirds interests in the family Vault.

The property upon which the Vault is located and the access to it will remain with Judge Rolland until his death in August, 1862. Thereafter, widow Rolland, Dame Marguerite d’Estimauville and her two sons, Charles Octave Rolland and Dr. Henri Auguste Rolland will share the property until it is sold to Mount Johnson resident François Béchard, Membre de la Chambre des Communs de la puissance du Canada (and Senator-to-be) on July 15, 1870. On June 14, 1881, in the Renvoi Officiel de la Paroisses de St. Grégoire, lot 76, with other lots, will be incorporated into Lot Nº 166 (133.88 arpents) that currently retains the same cadastral designation.

Senator François Béchard will die on April 13, 1897 leaving the use and enjoyment of the property in question to his widow, en seconde noces, Marie Rose Larocque and naming House of Commons colleague, the Honourable Michel Esdras Bernier, as his executor. Some 18 years later, in 1915, and being out of pocket over $3,000, Bernier records a charge against Lot 166 and assigns it to his daughter Esrnestine, nee Bernier, now Mrs. Louis Victor Benoit. In February, 1919 Bernier as executor redeems the charge by transferring to his daughter, among other properties, the remainder of Lot 166. Ernestine Bernier wastes no time selling the property to Joseph Aldéric Benoit, “bourgeois, de St. Grégoire” on August 15th, 1919.

Widow Béchard, Marie Rose Larocque, en seconde noces, marries Joseph Aldéric Benoit. Together as a couple they have both the usufruit and the ownership of the Mount Johnson property in question, namely, Lot 166. That land at Mount Johnson is conveyed to A. J. Benoit, the son, barely six weeks before the death of Rose on June 10, 1931. Her husband J.A. Benoit, the father, dies in 1936. The remaining property passes to A. J. Benoit and remains in the Benoit family until December 8, 1943 when Romuald Meunier acquires it.

Meunier will remain the owner until August 13, 1969. It is during the 1950s that Jean-Paul Lasnier is hired by him to bulldoze the Vault. Meunier, formerly an accountant but transformed in 1969 to a pomiculteur, will sell what he retains of Lot 166 to Jean Duchesne, avocat, Jean-Guy Rondeau, contracteur, and Jean Duchesne, directeur de succursale, and the deed will be recorded in the Registry Office for the district on August 27, 1969 as instrument No. 85417.

It is on Tuesday, August 19, 1986 that the CENTRE D’INTERPRETATION DU MILIEU ÉCOLOGIGUE (CIME), a Quebec corporation incorporated February 19, 1986, acquires a droit de passage or right-of-way over a part of Lot 166 from André Vasseur. A little over two years later on Monday, May 9, 1988 CIME acquires by purchase from Les Terrasses Mont St-Grégoire a 50-foot strip of land from the Chemin du Mont Johnson over part of Lots 178 and 166 to access a 4 arpents (767.4’) by 6.6 arpents (1267.6’) parcel of Lot 166 directly north of the part of Lot 166 formerly owned by Romuald Meunier and at the time owned by Mr. and Mrs. Deschênes. Some six years later, in 1994 CIME acquires from Daniel Labbé for $4,000 an additional 40,000 square foot part of Lot 166 on Mount Johnson.

Jean-Paul Deschênes and his wife, Madeleine Dugal will end up as the owners of the part of Lot 166 where the Vault is located (now reduced to 79.335 arpents) and they will donate it, along with eight other properties added to it over the years, to their daughter Marie Deschênes, pomicultrice, on February 15, 1995 (deed registered April 4, 1995 as instrument No. 266953).

CIME will acquire, with the other Deschênes lands, that part of Lot 166 described as la partie verger, les aires résidentielles et les bâtiments by deed from Marie Deschênes registered on February 2, 2006 (instrument No. 13 028 933) and will mortgage it to Caisse Populaire Desjardins de Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu as security for a $200,000 loan used by CIME to purchase the property (instrument No. 13 028 932). The mortgaged property includes un duplex avec bâtiments dependants, un verger et un boisé, situé au 16, 16A, chemin du Sous-bois, Mont Saint-Gégoire, Québec. In all, the area covered is 106,448 square metres.

Raymond J. Ostiguy,
© Chambly, P.Q., July 26, 2007

1. “arpent” old French linear measure equivalent to 191.835 feet, English measure; and area or square measure equivalent to 0.845 of an acre or 36,801 square feet. [keep reading]
2. Minute Nº 120 of Notary Paul Bertrand [keep reading]
3. Minute Nº 219 of Montreal Notary J. B. Lindsay. [keep reading]
4. Minute Nº 308 of Montreal Notary J. B. Lindsay. [keep reading]
5. Minute Nº 8937 of Montreal Notary Henry Griffin. [keep reading]
6. Minute Nº 9316 of Montreal Notary Henry Griffin. [keep reading]
7. Minute Nº 1995 of Montreal Notary G. D. Arnoldi. [keep reading]
8. MacDonnell Family Papers (Item 305) at Library and Archives Canada, textual record R 3009-0-6-E, formerly MG 24 – I 151. [keep reading]