European fishermen have frequented the site of Grande-Grave since the French Regime. They were attracted by the schools of cod close to the shore as well as by the harbor represented by the Bay of Gaspé. They are also attracted by the creeks and pebble beaches of the Forillon peninsula, ideal for drying fish (these beaches are also called “tombs” by French fishermen in North America).
In 1798, the Jersey company Janvrin moved to Grande-Grave and encouraged fishermen to settle there permanently. To ensure a good return on investment, fishing companies like Janvrin set up several fishing stations on land and set up a credit system for fishermen. Consequently, fishing families settled in the coves of Forillon – and stayed there.
Shortly after, a second actor comes on stage in Grande-Grave. In 1845, William Hyman, a Russian Jew, set up a new fishing company modeled on those operated by the Jersey merchants. A few years later, Janvrin was taken over by William Fruing. Together, the companies Fruing’s and Hyman’s hire more than 50 fishermen, thus making Grande-Grave one of the main fishing stations at the tip of the Gaspé Peninsula.
For this village, the second half of the 19th century represented its “golden age”, when more than 400 people lived in Grande-Grave (which also includes the hamlets of Petit-Gaspé, Anse-Saint-Georges and the cove which since 1993 was called L’Anse-aux-Amérindiens). The village was bustling with activity. Under the control of the two main companies, seasonal and year-round fishermen, agricultural fishermen, clerks, traders and their families set about catching and processing (i.e. salting and drying ) cod for massive export to Italy, Spain and the Caribbean in what became the famous “Cure de Gaspé”.
Historic buildings in the Grande-Grave area
Visit our exhibitions and travel back in time with our passionate guide-interpreters! The authentic houses and buildings of Grande-Grave are the last remnants of a once common fishing village along the Gaspé coast.