History of the Coins and Tokens of Canada - 1894


 (Illustrated under Nos. 534 to 545.)

These twelve tokens, about which a number of contradictory histories have been written, are the most interesting of any of our Canadian coins.

They were struck at Birmingham and imported to be used as tickets or passes over three different bridges, which bridges stood for only a short time, and the following facts culled from authentic documents will help us to understand the important position they hold in our Canadian collections.

These three bridges were built to unite the Island of Montreal with the mainland, by way of Isle Bourdon, which Islet is situated at the mouth of the L'Assomption River.

Isle Bourdon was ceded to Sieur de Repentigny on the 3rd of November, 1672, and became the property of Mr. Thomas Porteous, of Terrebonne, who, in 1805, secured the authorization of the Lower Canadian Government to build two wooden bridges, of which one is from Lachenaie to Isle Bourdon, and another from the Isle Bourdon to the Island of Montreal. These two bridges were completed in 1806 and approved by experts on the 18th of October in the same year; unfortunately, although built at great expense, they were carried away by ice on Saturday evening, April 25th, 1807.

Notwithstanding this loss, Mr. Porteous asked for, and secured from the Government, on the14th of April, 1808, authority to rebuild, and also to build a third bridge between Repentigny and Isle Bourdon, thus connecting the main road and the one most traveled in the province, but these last structures, which had the same faults as the first, met with a like fate shortly after their completion. Mr. Porteous afterwards sold Isle Bourdon to Mr. Henry Griffin, who later on sold it to a Mr. Ross.


It finally passed into the hands of the Honorable James Leslie. Mr. James N. S. Leslie, of Montreal, grandson of the Honorable James Leslie, and son of Patrick Leslie, is executor of the estate, and along with his sister, Mrs. Godfrey Weir, are the proprietors of this historic island, which does not exceed two hundred acres in extent.

Mr. Thomas Porteous died in Montreal in 1834, and none of his children are now living.

His grandson, Mr. Thomas Porteous, Real Estate Agent, Montreal, who has given me a number of items regarding the family, is the son of Mr. James Porteous, formerly merchant at St. Therese, who, himself, built in 1830, the St. Rose Bridge.

In 1892, Mr. A. Desroches, of Montreal, on hearing of the existence of a model of these bridges, informed roe of the fact, and accompanied me last October to verify the truth of the existence of this valuable relic.

Arrived at Isle Bourdon, we came across the tenant, Mr. Thomas Buchanan, who had the kindness to show us the old Porteous residence, now used as a barn and there in the garret we found the model of a part of a bridge.

This model, which has an antique appearance, and which should be preserved in a museum, is fifteen feet long, and represents a double bridge to allow two vehicles to pass without difficulty.

The bridge and the Porteous House here reproduced were drawn by Mr. Francois Breton, my father, who accompanied me in a second visit to the island; we have also been able easily to locate the positions of the bridges by certain traces still visible; thus, the Lachenaie bridge started from a point below the church, where is now the village of Charlemagne; further, the topographical map here reproduced gives accurately enough positions of each of these three bridges, and will clearly show to our readers how these tokens were used by a comparison of the map with the inscription which each variety bears; thus, the pieces inscribed de L'Isle de Montreal a Repentigny ou Lachenaie, were used for a foot passenger, a horse, a cart or a caleche respectively, from the Island of Montreal across the bridge to Isle Bourdon, and thence by one or other of the two bridges to Repentigny or Lachenaie, and in the same way for the others either to go or return always by way of Isle Bourdon. 


The two errors in spelling on these tokens are easily explained, as the dies were engraved at Birmingham by a workman ignorant of French, who having only a description, perhaps carelessly written, substituted a U for the last N in Repentigny, also in the au Repentigny on Lachenaie made a similar mistake, but this time substituted an "N" for the "U".

The Lachenaie varieties, with the exception of three or four specimens, are all clipped, and this is attributed to the fact that the guardian of the Lachenaie Bridge was unable to read, and clipped them to distinguish from the others.

The different lengths of these bridges appears to have been to acres for the Bout de L'Isle bridge, 2 ˝ acres for the Lachenaie one, and 2 acres for that of Repentigny.

Crossing is now made in this place by a horse boat.

The Bout de L'Isle tokens are very rare and consequently much sought after, and therefore, at no distant date will command high prices.

Last year, some individuals attempted to pass off on collectors, a number of counterfeits as originals, but happily these frauds were soon discovered, and it may prove an expensive operation should anyone attempt to bring them out in the near future.

The following copies and extracts from Acts and other documents will be read with interest by subscribers, as all confirm our contention regarding the existence of these bridges. From these will be learned the amount of tolls charged and the values represented by the coins above described.



The 26th January, 1805. A petition from Thomas Porteous, of Terrebonne, was presented to the House for the introduction of a Bill to enable him to build two bridges.


Extract from the Act of the 45th Geo. III chap. XIV. 

25th March, 1805. 


An Act to authorize Thomas Porteous, Esquire, to build a bridge over a branch of the River Ottawa , otherwise Des Prairies, from La Chenaye to the Island called Bourdon; and an other bridge from that Island to the Island of Montreal, to establish the rates of toll payable thereon, and for regulating the said bridges.

Thomas Porteous, by this Act, was obliged to erect and: complete said bridges, toll houses, etc., within three years.

With a drawbridge or opening of at least 25 feet wide, to be made in the bridge to be erected over the said river, from the said Island Bourdon to the said Island of Montreal, where the river is sufficiently deep, and the said Porteous is also required to employ one or more persons who shall, during the season of navigation, stand at the said drawbridge, to be drawn or otherwise opened without delay for the passage of schooners, or other vessels with standing rigging.

The Tolls:

For every Calach with two wheels, or Cariole or other such carriage, loaded or unloaded, with the driver and two persons or less, drawn by two horses or other beasts of draught, Two shillings and nine pence currency; and if drawn by one horse or other beast of draught, Two shillings and six pence currency.

For every cart, sled or other such carriage, loaded or unloaded, drawn by two horses, oxen or other beasts of draught, with the driver, Two shillings and three pence currency; and if drawn by one horse or other beast of draught, Two shillings currency.

For every person on foot, Six pence currency.

For every horse, mare, mule or other beast of draught, laden or unladen, Ten pence currency. 




We, the subscribers, being appointed experts to examine the bridge erected and built by Thomas Porteous, Esq., of Terrebonne, in the County of Effingham, over that branch of the River Ottawa, otherwise Des Prairies, which lies between La Chenaye and the Island called Bourdon, and. another bridge over another branch of the said river which lies between the said Island and the Island of Montreal, and being duly sworn to give our opinion whether the said bridges are now fit and proper for the passage of travelers, cattle and carriages, do hereby, on the oath we have taken, certify that on the eighteenth day of October., one thousand eight hundred and six, we proceeded to a careful examination of the said bridges, and do depose and declare that in our opinion the said bridges are now fit and proper for the passage of travelers, cattle and carriages. 




BOURDON ISLAND, October 18th, 1806.



District de Montreal.

We, the subscribers, three of His Majesty's Justices of the Peace, for the District of Montreal, do certify that in conformity to an Act of the Legislature of this Province, entitled "An Act to authorize Thomas Porteous, Esq., to build a bridge over a branch of the River Ottawa, etc.", we appointed Gilbert Miller and John Robertson, master carpenters, and Alexander Logie, master mason, all of the City of Montreal, experts, to examine the said bridges now erected and built, and being duly sworn to give their opinion whether the same were now fit and proper for the passage of travelers, cattle and carriages, they, the said experts, did depose and declare that, in their opinion, the said bridges are now fit and proper for the passage of travelers, cattle and carriages, and which deposition is here unto annexed and by them signed.

Given under our hands at Bourdon  Island this eighteenth day of October, one thousand eight hundred and six. 





N.B. - The public will please to observe, that it is. forbidden by law to trot or gallop, either on horseback or in carriages on any public bridge, and the proprietor hopes that due attention will be paid thereto; neither can any person be permitted to go on the said bridges with a lighted pipe or fire of any description. 

T. P.


 "Le Canadien,"

Quebec, Saturday, May 2nd, 1807.

We are sorry to learn that the new bridge lately built at the foot of the Island of Montreal, by Thomas Porteous, Esquire, of Terrebonne, was carried away by ice last Saturday evening. 


14th April, 1808.

Act 48 Geo. III. Chap. XXIII, to prolong the time granted to Thomas Porteous, Esquire, of Terrebonne, for rebuilding certain bridge carried away by the ice.


14th April, 1808.

Act 48 Geo. III. Chap. XXIV, to authorize Thomas Porteous, Esquire, of Terrebonne, to erect a bridge from Repentigny to the Island called Bourdon.



R. 4 ˝.


R. 4 ˝.

R. 4 ˝.

R. 4 ˝.

R. 4.

R. 4.

R. 4.

R. 4.

R. 4.

R. 4.

R. 4.

R. 4.

(Illustrated under Nos. 546 to 557.)


These twelve Repentigny tokens remained unknown until 1890. Since their discovery they have been the object of considerable, controversy, many eminent collectors holding that they are of recent fabrication.

It seems to me, that if it had been the purpose to issue such a series for gain, that they would have attempted something similar to the regular Bout de L'Isle tokens but this is a totally different series, all relating to Repentigny.

The fact that the Repentigny Bridge was built after the others (See History of the Bout de L'Isle tokens,) may explain why these tokens were ordered. Mr. Lyman H. Low, of New York, who came into possession of these tokens, has written me a letter, from which I give quotations, which gives a clear explanation regarding the discovery of these coins. 


NEW YORK, N.Y., Oct. 19th, 1893.

In the year 1890, a set of Repentigny bridge tokens, of the series known as the "Bout de L'Isle Tokens," came into the hands of the writer from England. This set has excited considerable interest on this side of the Atlantic, from the fact that it is of a type differing in character from any heretofore known, and, so far as known, is unique. An illustration of these tokens appears in the Supplement to Mr. Breton's Canadian Coin Collector, 892. (Nos. 349G to 349R.)

After a careful examination of these pieces, I reached the conclusion that they are genuine patterns, and are of the same period as those which were used, while these were rejected, I have since seen no reason to change the opinion then formed.

One of the principal objections raised against their authenticity is that the inscriptions are misspelled the word ON being substituted for OU and that therefore, since the same error occurs in the dies of the accepted series, those were blindly imitated perhaps through the workman's ignorance of the language. This objection, I believe, has little weight. There is no reason why the dies from which the pieces under consideration were struck, may not have been an experiment by the same maker, who fell into the same error into which he had stumbled on his previous effort, if indeed the others were really the earlier in point of time; and, as to this, who shall decide which are the older and therefore the original dies on which the error first occurred? Even were both sets cut by different English engravers, probably having no knowledge of French, it would not lie surprising that both had fallen into a similar error. In either case it cannot be doubted that the blunder arose from a careless reading of directions furnished from this side of the water ; certainly nothing could be more easily confounded by one not familiar with the language, than "on" and "ou" in a manuscript. The character of the workmanship is not that of later time; in fact, it is perceptibly different.

The pieces were sold at auction in London, by Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge, on the 31st of July, 1890, in a catalogue of "various collections," Lot No. 80; with them, were some 107 Eighteenth Century tokens, and the purchaser of the lot has informed me that he then attached more importance to the latter than to the Bridge Tokens, a ground evidently taken by the cataloguer. If these pieces had been of recent fabrication, and intended to deceive, it is hardly conceivable that they should have been thrown in with a number of other pieces without protection, in a market so distant, and in a sale of such brief announcement that none of the Catalogues were sent to America. Certainly, no one would presume to intimate anything like collusion on the part of that old and well known house. The pieces simply possessed no special value, so far as the sellers had knowledge, and not the slightest effort was made to attract the attention of collectors here or abroad to their rarity. There can be but one conclusion, and that is, that the pieces are just what they profess to be neither more nor less.

Were anything further needed to corroborate this view as to their genuineness, it might he mentioned that not a single duplicate of any of them has ever been seen or heard of.

Taking, then, the facts which I have gleaned touching this set of tokens, and judging them from my experience and observation of the known series and its history, I can come to no other conclusion than that they are authentic, and struck from dies made in the early part of the century, and the pieces not having been approved, were neither issued nor duplicated.

















Contents & Directory

All images are illustrated approximately 1.5 X.


Includes - Table of rarities, Wampum & Card Money.

French Regime

Breton 501 to 519.


Breton 520 to 533.


L'Isle and Repentigny tokens.
Breton 534 to 557.


Breton 558 to 669.


The Bouquet Series.
Breton 670 to 716.


Breton 717 to 856.

Colonies in general

Province of Canada, Nova Scotia,

New Brunswick & Prince Edward Island.

Breton 857 to 924.


British Columbia, Dominion of Canada, 
Newfoundland, Anonymous and Miscellaneous
Breton 925 to 924.


Of the Principal Canadian Collectors.

Paper money


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