|In less than the last 400 years, there have been in
excess of 400 shipwrecks on the rocky shores of Anticosti Island.
Anticosti Island is situated right at the
mouth of the St. Lawrence
River. Some 8,000 square kilometres in size, Anticosti Island is
large enough to have Prince Edward Island for lunch with room left over
for a dessert of half of PEI again. Now that's big.
It is very sparsely populated (264 people in 1991), with most
residents concentrated in the village of Port-Menier on the western tip of the island. It was discovered by Jacques Cartier in 1534, and was granted to Louis Joliet by Louis XIV as a reward for discovering the Mississippi River. It stayed in Joliet's family until 1763, when it was annexed by the
British colony of Newfoundland. Lower Canada regained it in 1774. It supported timber harvests until 1972, and is now an important site for deer
beautiful island with its cliffs, rocky beaches and teaming wildlife, is
also the home of many treacherous reefs which have proven to be the
undoing of many a mariner.
There are many stories surrounding the
goings-on at Anticosti Island including one of a mad trapper who
convinced other islanders that he was, if not himself the devil, at
least in the company of a devil.
Louis Oliver Gamache lived in Port Menier
between 1831 and 1857. No one really knew where came from but then no
one really cared to find out. Gamache was a strange bird. On
a regular basis he would trick a local innkeeper into believing that he
was having dinner with the devil so that the innkeeper would give him two helpings of dinner.
He would them quickly eat both while paying only for one. Gamache
was a primarily a farmer but he also
shared duties manning the government emergency supply depot. In
this role he saved victims of shipwrecks and salvaged supplies, often for his own use.
Although salvage was a common practice on Anticosti, Gamache was often accused of being a
"moonraker" as he purposefully mislead ships to
hit the island shore.
Gamache died in the winter of 1900. He was found in the spring in his cabin
sitting comfortably in a chair with his feet resting in a small tub of solid ice.
was only one of the many stories of Anticosti. In November of
1828, a ship called the Granicus foundering on the shores of
Anticosti Island. The subsequent discovery of the crew and
passengers some 6 months later turned into a case of murder and cannibalism.
Granicus struck a reef on the eastern part of Anticosti island.
The crew and passengers, numbering 30 in total, including 3 children and
two women, all made it ashore and wintered over near Fox Bay, living on
supplies salvaged from the ship. On May 8th,1829,
a whaling schooner found the camp and were horrified by the sight.
The wreck-survivors were all dead but they did not die of exposure,
disease or malnutrition - they were murdered, cooked and eaten. The
ship's log was found with entries up to April 28th. Nothing in it
gave a clue as to what had happened. Sometime between April 28 and
May 6th, a period of only 8 days, someone had killed the survivors,
cooked some body parts and left others to hang on a line. In one of
the cabins, the horrified whalers found, lying peacefully in a bed, a recently-deceased man, whom
they assumed was the murderer. Below is a report from the
Quebec Mercury dated August 18, 1829:
|Captain Gabriel Gabouri, of the schooner Elize, has
lately returned from Anticosti, and states, in addition to the
particulars already published of the horrible state in which the
bodies of the unfortunate sufferers, from the wreck, supposed to
be of the Granicus, were found; that Mr. La Roque, a
partner in the Northeast Company, at the post of Mingan, showed
him a long boat which he said had been brought to Mingan by the
Indians. He landed with his whole crew at the post in Belle Bay,
Anticosti, on the 16th July, and found in one of the houses,
nearly half a bushel of pieces of bone, about six inches in
length, and scraps of flesh; that a hole was dug in the floor
where they had made their fire. It appears that they were in two
parties; one party in the building above referred to, the other
in a small building about ten feet square, in which there was an
oven; they found seven heads in the oven, one with red hair. On
the 18th July, they found buried in the earth, a box painted
black, covered on the top with a yellow cloth. On taking it up,
they found it filled with bones, entrails, and pieces of flesh,
that the stench was so great they speedily re-interred it. There
was a quantity of clothing, boots, &c., a woman's dress, and
eight or ten children's dresses; that in some of the clothes
they found cut, apparently made with a knife; that in one pair
of trousers which he stretched upon the grass, he counted ten
knife cuts between the middle of the thigh and the waistband; he
adds that he "thinks from the marks he saw, the murders of all
had been perpetrated the same day". Michel Godin, who was at the
post in 1828, left there 15 cords of wood in a shed, there was
about two cords remaining, the rest had been burnt. On one of
the pieces in the house the following letters were written:
S. M. T. H. I. F. S. March,
27 & 28.
What is above related, the captain saw himself, but he also
reports, on the authority of four masters of schooners belonging
to the Magdalen Islands, whom he saw at Belle Bay and on whose
veracity he could rely, that the bodies had been buried by the
people of the Magdalen Islands, who also buried the corpse found
in the hammock, under the head of which was a bottle of tisanne,
(a drink made of roots or plants). These captains also reported
that the ship was wrecked between the southeast and east point
of Anticosti. A vessel from Miquelon went there and was fully
loaded from the wreck, taking also five tents made of the sails
of the vessels. The ship's bell was found hung upon a branch of
a tree in the woods. These people brought a quantity of coffee
and a trunk from the vessel. Mr. Gabouri adds, that after having
heard the report of the captain, he examined some of the sailors
separately, who concurred in the same account.
Stories abound from Anticosti Island,
including one of a French Chocolate King, Henri Menier, who bought the island in
1895 for $125,000 and turned into his private hunting preserve.
Island is considered the "Graveyard of the St Lawrence",
having claimed in excess of 400 wrecks.
you know more stories about Anticosti Island, write them up and sent
them to email@example.com.
We will put them on the site with credit to you.