Cape Breton Island

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Cape Breton Island


Philip Ingouville’s letter to his mother, Marie, dated ‘Jersey, 1787’

Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, was a popular destination for emigrants from Jersey to Canada in the 18th century

Philip Ingouville’s letter to his wife, Anne, dated ‘Jersey, 1787’


The Ingouville family were natives of Jersey who settled at Sydney Forks, on the island, in the late 1700s. Philip Ingouville built his home in the area of the Sydney shipyard. He must have returned to Jersey at some point because letters he wrote to his mother Marie and his wife Anne are held in the Ingouville Family Fonds, at the Beaton Institute, Cape Breton University.

It is interesting that English is the language of the Ingouville family as early as this. It may be because they adopted the language after moving to Canada, or it could be that they were one of the early St Helier families to learn English in school and use it as their main language at a time when the majority of islanders spoke French.

It seems highly likely that this is the same Philippe Ingouville who developed a large area of St Helier for housing in the late 18th century. His mother was Marie, he married Ann, and had a daughter Anne, who was born in Jersey in 1787 and married at Sydney, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Canada on 6 Jun 1805.


Another Jersey emigrant to Cape Breton was Douce Belhaché (Bailhache), a distant relative of Philip Ingouville. Douce Belhaché and her daughter, Douce, who died as a child, lie in a seaside cemetery near their former home in Port Hastings, Cape Breton Island. The mother was widowed when her husband, Capt Philip Belhaché, was lost at sea. Douce and Philip were married in Jersey in 1786 and he died shortly after their arrival at Plaster Cove. She remained in the area rather than returning to her family in Jersey, and successfully developed her late husband’s shipping business.

The following is an extract from Chez Douce:A Day in the Life of an Entrepreneur, 1815, by James St Clair, concerning Douce Belhaché and Philip Ingouville.

”But nothing could diminish her pleasure as she welcomed to her home her long-time friend and very distant relative,Philip Ingouville, and his daughter, Ann, who had been born about the same time as her own child. She rejoiced as Ann greeted her as “Tante Douce” and kissed her on both cheeks. The question passed through her mind as to what her own child would have looked like at this age. But she quickly asked them to sit down and, with much interest, she asked Ann about her engagement to be married.
”Although Douce and Philip lived at different parts of Cape Breton Island, and road travel was sometimes all but impossible, they did visit several times a year and were often in correspondence concerning business matters. Douce was able to negotiate very profitable arrangements with Philip who operated a large farm at Sydney Forks and employed many people. He also had several vessels coming and going across the Atlantic and she found that he could always find room on his vessels for the large shipments of dried cod which she could provide for markets in Europe and South America. They both knew that for generations their relatives had participated in a cooperative shipping relationship. Philip enjoyed his negotiations with Douce and never took advantage of her. They were respectful of each other as persons and as business associates.
”Almost the same age, they had seen Cape Breton come to be an important part of the growing import-export business which was so beneficial to the Channel Islanders. They had lived through the early days of the island coming to be a colony with its own governmental officials located in Sydney. And now they were witnessing the arrival of many immigrants, often on the Channel Island boats, from Ireland and from Scotland. Occasionally, they spoke about what life would have been like if they had remained on the Isle of Jersey. Philip had been so bold as to ask her once why she didn’t go back after her husband didn’t return from his journey to Madeira with his shipload of lumber and fish. With a look of pain in her usually happy eyes, she reminded him that her only child lay buried here and she chose to stay where her life had also been happiest and not just the saddest. She revealed as well that she enjoyed the challenge of continuing the business that she and her husband, Philippe, had started.
”As Douce and Philip Ingouville and his daughter Ann sat to the noon meal in the dining room of the sturdy house above the wharf, Douce saw that her good friend looked quite unwell. But she mentioned nothing to him then. After their meal and some good stories shared in Jersiais dialect, Ann went next door to the weaving house to select a piece of fabric which Douce wished to give her as a wedding gift. Douce and Philip went to the small room across the hall and quickly settled their business matters.
”Douce then told him that she was considering bringing a Methodist minister from either England or the Channel Islands to the area, for she felt that it was time to establish a church, so the community could welcome people of different denominations. She added that she had very much enjoyed the service conducted by an itinerant Methodist minister several weeks previously. Ingouville agreed with the concept and said that he would make inquiries through his agents overseas. And then he told her that he was not feeling as well as usual and thought he might go to Halifax to consult a doctor. Furthermore, he wanted her to know that their agreements were in good shape and his agent would continue to honour them even if he were ill, or…He didn’t finish the sentence. Douce, however, realized the import of his words and his loyalty to her was gratifying. “
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