At the heart of the Auberge des 21 lies a fascinating story, one that pays tribute to the visionaries who have forever shaped the destiny of the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region. Our name, “L’Auberge des 21,” is a vibrant testament to the legacy of the Société des Vingt-et-Un.

À force de bras
Jean-Thomas Bédard, presented by the National Film Board of Canada

On June 11, 1838, a historic event was recorded in the annals of Quebec: the arrival of the Société des Vingt-et-Un in Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean, a region then in full economic bloom. Initially made up of twenty-one investors and pioneers from La Malbaie, Charlevoix, the company was originally known as the “Société des Pinières du Saguenay.” Their mission was clear: exploit the region’s rich white pine resources and, at the same time, initiate the colonization of these still virgin lands.

The context of the time was conducive to such an undertaking. The fertile lands along the St. Lawrence were overpopulated, prompting people to venture further and further into unexplored territory. On the international scene, the UK sought to diversify its sources of timber, disrupted by the Napoleonic blockade, by turning to its American colonies. This commercial thrust stimulated the forest industry, while encouraging the exploration and settlement of new frontiers.

In 1828, in response to the growing demand for new land for settlement, the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada appointed a commission to evaluate the Saguenay’s colonial potential. The conclusions were unequivocal: the soil was fertile, the climate favorable and the forests abundant. Despite petitions signed in Charlevoix in 1829 and 1835, respectively gathering over 2,000 and 1,800 signatures in favor of opening the Saguenay to colonization, no concrete action was taken.

The major obstacle to the colonization of the Saguenay was the monopoly exercised by the Hudson’s Bay Company, holder of the region’s logging rights, which stood in the way of settlers. However, in 1837, the company sold its license to a group of La Malbaie residents, on condition that they restrict themselves to logging. The “Société des Pinières du Saguenay,” known as the Société des Vingt-et-Un, was born. The company was initially made up of 21 shareholders, led by Alexis Tremblay dit Picoté and represented by Thomas Simard.

In 1838, the Société des Vingt-et-Un established a partnership with William Price, a major supplier of materials and buyer of wood. A team of 27 men was sent by the company to set up in L’Anse-Saint-Jean and La Grande Baie, starting on June 11. Gradually, new settlers joined their ranks, erecting nine sawmills. Not all shareholders took part in this adventure, but their financial support was invaluable.

From 1838 to 1842, despite the constraints imposed by the Hudson’s Bay Company, members of the Société des Vingt-et-Un and their families cleared and settled the land. In 1842, when the Hudson’s Bay Company renewed its lease on the Saguenay, the government modified the terms of the contract, putting an end to the settlers’ clandestine existence. Thanks to the Société des Vingt-et-Un, resistance to colonization disappeared, and many towns and villages in the Saguenay-Lac-Saint-Jean region began to flourish.

In 1843, the company was dissolved and its assets sold to William Price and Company, but its legacy lives on. At Auberge des 21, we’re proud to bear this name, which recalls the boldness, vision and dedication of the pioneers who shaped the region. Our story is their story, and we’ll continue to celebrate that legacy every day.

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