Travels with Elizabeth Simcoe: A Visual Journey Through Upper and Lower Canada - Page Banner

Winter in Quebec City


The Simcoes reached Quebec City on November 11th, 1791. Elizabeth was not impressed.

“I was not disposed to leave the Ship to enter so dismal looking of a Town as Quebec appeared thro' the mist sleet & rain...it snows so much that I can give you no drawing of Quebec, but what I can distinguish among the snow it looks a pitiful place...”

November 11th, 1791

Watercolour: View of Quebec, [Lower and Upper towns, from the River], [ca. 1791] (detail)
Click to see a larger version (112K)

View of Quebec, [Lower and
Upper towns, from the River]
, [ca. 1791] (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash/paper
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-14
Archives of Ontario, I0006866

But her spirits soon improved and after the family settled in Elizabeth began to explore the town.

“Quebec is divided into Upper and Lower Town. The latter is inhabited by the Merchants for the Convenience of the Harbor and Quays - they have spacious Houses 3 stories high, built of dark Stone, but the Streets are narrow & gloomy....The Upper Town is more airy & pleasant tho' the Houses in general are less...”

December 5th, 1791

Watercolour: From the Ramparts, Quebec, November 18, 1791 (detail)
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From the Ramparts, Quebec, November 18, 1791, (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash/paper
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-13
Archives of Ontario, I0006865

The couple was wined and dined and soon became fixtures of local society. The Simcoes were to winter at Quebec before beginning their long trip into the interior, and the town's social and military elite was intent on seeing that they enjoyed their time there.

But the time in Quebec was not without its share of adventure.

“"During the winter, large masses of ice float down the river, and the people who come to market from the opposite shore pass in canoes, which they quit when they come to one of these large bodies of ice, and carry their canoes across the ice on their shoulders and launch them again in the water, and this is repeated several times before they reach Quebec . . . The mode of crossing the river appears so difficult and dangerous that it hardly seems credible till it has been seen."”

Tuesday Feb. 14, 1792

Click here to listen to a recording of the quote in wav format (410K)

“Colonel Simcoe and I were going to walk on the ice bridge. As there was a narrow space containing water between the land and the ice, a plank was laid across, which Colonel Simcoe had passed, and stepping back to give me his hand, he slipped into the water, but luckily caught hold of the plank which supported him until the Canadians who were near and on my screaming out "au secours" (help) assisted him out. Had the plank given away he must have gone under the ice and it would have been impossible to have got out.”

February 15th, 1792



Watercolour: Road to the Provision Store [officer going his rounds], Quebec, February 26, 1792 (detail)

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Road to the Provision Store
[officer going his rounds], Quebec,
February 26, 1792, (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash/paper
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-26
Archives of Ontario, I0006878



“From hence I went in an open Carriole (which is a sort of Phaeton body on a sledge or Runners shod with Iron instead of Wheels) to Woodfield to call on Dr. Mabon's sister. It is 3 miles from Quebec, a beautiful Situation among Woods on the Steep & high banks of the St Lawrence, & within a mile from Wolfes Cove the spot where Gen'l Wolfe Landed.”

December 1st, 1791

Watercolour: Officers Carriole [prettier and perpetually over setting]; Canadian carriole [safe and pleasant], [ca. 1792] (detail)
Click to see a larger version (160K)

Officers Carriole [prettier and perpetually over setting];
Canadian carriole [safe and pleasant], [ca. 1792], (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash/paper
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-18
Archives of Ontario, I0006870

In a letter to a friend in England, Elizabeth described the pleasant sojourn of seven months at Quebec as a "new chapter in my life" and eagerly captured the scenery, flora and fauna of the area in a series of watercolours.

Watercolour: Montreal, June 1792 [the Black as rich as velvet; the inside of the above butterfly], (detail)
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Montreal, June 1792 [the Black as rich as velvet; the inside of the above butterfly], (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash/paper
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-32
Archives of Ontario, I0006884

Watercolour: A Snow Bird, Quebec, December 15, 1791 (detail)
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A Snow Bird, Quebec,
December 15, 1791, (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash/paper
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-19
Archives of Ontario, I0006871

One of the landmarks Elizabeth found particularly memorable was Montmorency Falls.

Located 13km east of Quebec City, the water cascades 83 metres into the St. Lawrence River at the mouth of the Montmorency River.

The waterfall, which is 27 metres higher than Niagara Falls, was named in 1608 by Samuel de Champlain and has been a tourist attraction ever since.

“This afternoon we drove up to Montmorency & drank tea there. I walked a little way up the River which dashes over a very Rocky bed among the woods which being now in leaf made the accompaniments of the fall much finer than when I was last here.”

June 5th, 1792



Watercolour: Falls of Montmorency, [179?] (detail)
Click to see a larger version (160K)

Falls of Montmorency, [179?], (detail)
Elizabeth Simcoe, (1766-1850)
Wash card, grey
Reference Code: F 47-11-1-0-35
Archives of Ontario, I0006887

But Colonel Simcoe's duties were in Upper Canada and with the arrival of better weather the family prepared to leave Quebec.