A well? Not exactly. Under the walls visible in this photo we found part of a large circular pit extending deep into the soil in that period. The walls are associated with buildings erected after the well was abandoned.
De Maisonneuve’s well
The 2004 dig season ended on a real high note. The archaeologists discovered a circular pit extending deep into the natural soil. Could this be the well dug in 1658 on the parade ground of Fort Ville-Marie, across from Maisonneuve’s seigneurial residence?
The settlers began building Fort Ville-Marie in the same year as Montréal was founded. The wooden palisade was completed four years later, in 1646. Inside were Maisonneuve’s seigneurial residence, armed with a cannon, and a number of houses, a chapel and a hospital, all protected from Iroquois raids.
That is what history tells us, at least. Archaeology may have more to add. We should know soon, for at the Field School site there are more and more indications that Fort Ville-Marie is not far away.
The fill dumped here when Callière’s residence was built isolated and preserved the earlier archaeological contexts, including two pits that may have been used as privies by the first generations of Montrealers.
But it is another hole that is intriguing the archaeologists. The pit extends more than eight feet into the natural soil so far, below the water table, and they haven’t reached the bottom yet. Minuscule traces of wood, impregnated with iron oxide, suggest a circular lining, like a huge barrel with metal bands.
Could this be the well that served Ville-Marie? Maisonneuve signed a contract in 1658 calling for a man named Jacques Archambault to dig “a well in the villemarie fort in the middle of the courtyard or parade ground.” It was to measure five feet across, and the worker would be provided with wood to support the walls.
This discovery, needless to say, is of great interest — especially since a number of objects linked to the first decades of Montréal history have been recovered from the pit: three barrel staves, basket fibres, construction debris and two coarse earthenware potsherds of local origin.