Membre de la SGCF
Tranlate from de French language
1987 Révisé et corrigé janvier 2000
To my children,
I do not
consider this work to be a scientific or academic study, but more a
persistent research study of genealogy and
“It is good to bring the people out of the shadows, where they have been so long hidden and to use their escape to study the collection of events which have, from their depths, influenced the development of humanity”. (Philippe Erlanger; Louis IV)
To one who waits to have illustrious members in the family before writing his genealogy or history, let me quote a passage from l’abbé G.A. Déjourdy taken from his généalogique dictionnaire des familles du Richelieu, and I quote:
of and obscure colonial, may sometimes have in is background, as much of
success, and emotion and qualities of all sorts,
It was that
thought that bolstered my pride to write this history, so that my
descendents might know what
With such grass roots history we find, bit by bit, that certain things oblige us to want to uncover other things, and on, and on, and on…
The more one
progresses in the research, the more one comes in contact with documents
which our ancestors have themselves felt with their own hands, hands
often roughened by work on the land, and if we are lucky, these
documents will be signed, often in hands that waver,
In reading this work, I hope some knowledgeable persons feel the need to
re-do these lines, to inject additional people, or to extend this family
history from generation to generation and to heed the urge to extend and
improve what is already written and at the least, acquaint those who,
for one reason or another, could not write what they learned of their
own family history.
At the birth of my first born, one of the gifts was a baby souvenir album. In the center of that album there was a tree drawn on which to inscribe the name of the newborn baby, of his mother and father, his grandfather, etc…
From that album the idea came to me to build a genealogical tree and perhaps later on, a family history.
At the very
beginning this was not without difficulty to novice, since, never having
done any genealogical research before, I was going from library to
library searching for old books which dealt with the subject. That
drove me to become a member of the Société Généalogique Canadienne
One thing led to another. I began probing the registers of the parishes and notaries contracts of the different palaces of justice of the Province. When I began in 1967, I believed that finding the name of an ancestor would be the final point of my research, but since that time, I have not yet seen the end. Actually I have found their name, their place of birth, marriage and death, but the results of my research has obliged me to learn more of the lives of my ancestors and quite naturally, to rejoin little by little the basic history of Canada, often written too partial to the main purpose in the books of history of Canada of my youth.
moments of my ancestors’ lives, I have tried also to do a history of my
direct line, that is to say,
The Seigneuriale Regime
In New France, a seigniorial was an extensive land domain allocated to certain gentlemen in recognition of good and loyal service rendered to the King of France.
The majority of these gentlemen of the 17th and 18th centuries were military officers of the Regiment Carugnan who had fought in New France in the King’s army against the Iroquois Indian tribe. By the same act these gentlemen became “seigniors”
In this regime, “the seignior was a trustee or the crown. He received concessions of land only to settle local colonials on it. Except for a reasonable portion which he could keep for his own use, the rest was ceded as rental land”. (Firmin Letourneau: Histoire de l’agriculture, p.35)
These seigniors, on the other hand, on accepting the seigniorial, had as a goal ti increase the farming activity under pain of giving up his domain, or seigniorial, to the royal domain. He also had the obligation to establish public services to the colonials who received rental land, such as seigniorial justice, or construction and placing in operation in grain mill.
The colonists who took land were called “censitaires” and their land was called a “concession”. These censitaires were for the most part demobilizes soldiers who remained in the country after demobilization and became farmers instead of soldiers.The censitaire, or colonist, often called “habitant” also had obligations toward his seignior. He was liable for “Cens et Rentes”, that is to say to pay a certain amount of cash, and certain merchandise for each arpent of land in his possession, e. g. one sol tournois (one or two cents) per arpent of surface and one live capon per lineal arpent of frontage. He also had to give, according to the custom, several days of work on the land of the seignior. He then worked his land and established his domicile (feu and lieu) also under threat, like the seignior, of confiscation or return of his concession to the domaine of the seignior. He, on the other hand, received his land free and he became the proprietor with like title as the seignior had in his domaine
The seigniorial of ST-Ours stretched from the south bank of the Saint Lawrence River to the Yamaska River. The firs place of the seigniorial, known under the name of Grand Saint-Ours, was located on the shore of the Saint Lawrence, between the seigniorial of Contrecoeur on the west and the seigniorial of Sorel on the east.
The soil in this location not being very good for agriculture, the habitants eventually established themselves on the bank of the Richelieu River where the land was a lot more arable. From there was born a new location called Petit Saint-Ours. Over the years Grand Saint-Ours disappeared, but Petit Saint-Ours still exists ti this day under the name of the Village of Saint-Ours.
The seigneuries of Saint-Ours and Contrecoeur existed side by side, and both were located in the valley of the Richelieu River which was known to be dangerous, being located in the territory of the Indians of Iroquois tribe, who, by blocking passage through the fort of Sorel, prevented the seigneuries from access to the great Saint Lawrence River.
The registry of the parish of Saint-Trinity of the seigneurie of Contrecoeur was established a long time prior to the registry of the Immaculate Conception of the seigneurie of Saint-Ours.
For that reason, my first ancestor, as well as his family, depended on the parish of Contrecoeur for all the principal events of their lives; baptisms; marriages and funerals. Foe this reason there is a certain confusion to know they resided with respect to the registry. Contrecoeur or Saint-Ours? In his own handwriting when he was a notary, he stated he was resident of “the village and seignerie of Saint-Ours and Contrecoeur”.
In any case, Saint-Ours was the location of my ancestors in New France. On the other hand, the descendents of later years, after more than tree centuries, are dispersed in several places throughout North America.
My own family branch was displaced from the shore of the Saint Lawrence River, to the shore of the Richelieu River and then to Beloeil, to L’Acadie near Saint-Jean, then to Hentyville and Notre Dame of Stanbridge, Granby and Varennes.
Another branch still lives in Saint-Ours, still another in Kankakee, Illinois U.S.A., plus other branches too numerous to mention in different parts of Canada and of the United States of America.
After some research, one perceives that there are many Menards. The name is often spelled in different ways. For example: Mesnard, Mainard, Maynard, Menart, and they are joined with lineages such as Bellerose, Laplante, Lafontaine, Saintonge, etc.
My first ancestor in New France had a surname of Xaintonge (becoming Saintonge or Saint-Onge) making his name Pierre Mesnard dit Xaintonge. This identification was only rarely used, and mostly only in the first generation. The name Mesnard or Menard was always the first name but Saintonge identified the lineage.
It became known that from the first generation families in colonization that within the family a name of a deceased infant was given to a child born afterwards. Whether this was to honour the departed one, or to perpetuate a certain name in the family. I cannot say.
It was also the custom to give the name of the father to the first born son, and the name of the mother to the first born daughter. This custom, has led to certain problems for the genealogist not knowing who is who. However, a big advantage to the genealogist was that the Wife Kept always her maiden name, so that Pierre and is wife were not “Monsieur and Madame Pierre Menard” but were rather, Pierre Menard and his wifeThat single advantage allowed me to identify with greater facility some Menard of the 17th and 18th century. Without the name of the wife, the genealogist would never identify, or only with great difficulty, some family affiliations
I wish here to express my thanks to those near and far, who have helped me record these notes and especially the notes of my father, who, in the beginning undertook travels in order to research different cities in Quebec and the U.S.A.
To my mother, uncles, aunts, cousins for having answered with greatest possible sincerity all the questions.
To all those
who had the kindness to make corrections in the spelling in this work,
as well as all those unknown to me
special thanks to my wife Jacqueline and my children for having the
kindness to endure my many hours of writing
Notes: All the passages written between quotation marks are written according to the original spelling
A. N.Q. Quebec
Pierre Mesnard et Marguerite Deshaies
In 1608, Champlain found Quebec by landing on a tiny point of land which today is the lower city. The name Quebec, like the name Canada, has a meaning in the native dialect: Quabec in the Algonquin language and Kibec in the Micmac idiom which described the narrowing of the St.Lawrence at Cap-Rouge, where the river is only five hundred rods wide. 2
Several years passed and the project to establish the Isle of Montreal took shape. M. de la Dauversiere, wanted to augment the population for this project with a balance of several families and a few soldiers. To do this he sought to find a chief to be the commander.
M. de Dauversiere after consulting with Father Charles Lalement, solicited Paul Chomedey Sieur de Maisonneuve, to become commandant. De Maisonneuve eagerly accepted the post of Chief of the Isle of Montreal.
When de Maisonneuve arrived in Canada, the governor advised him to settle on the Isle d’Orleans, outside the reach of the Iroquois. Not wishing to be intimidated by danger, de Maisonneuve, in 1647, set upon laying the foundation of the city of Montreal. He called it Ville Marie. 3
These discoveries and foundations were not the only beginning that we have learned of the history of Canada. We are not able to affirm that the New France of that time reacted, making progress for all to see. On the contrary, there remained more or less a standstill in both population and in establishment.
We can say that is was the end of the middle 17th century that the population really began to grow, with the arrival of immigrants and contract workers.
In 1661, the King had promised to send to Canada three hundred colonists each year for ten years. Recruiting and shipment seemed to meet with little luck. On the contrary, if we can believe Louis de Villeray, counsellor to the sovereign, the new colonists often arrived in pitiful condition after a long and punishing voyage. 4Despite the exhausting crossing, three hundred new colonists were expected in 1664. Several ships came to Canada that year. There was no mention of passengers with the exception of a list of passengers on the ship “Black of Amsterdame” which arrived from La Rochelle on 25 May 1664, and Captain Pierre Fillye. That list had the names of fifty one passengers, including one female, Jeanne Besnard, married to Pierre Gadois on 20 April 1666. 5
The population of Canada in that historic year was 3035 inhabitants, of which 1976 were in Quebec, around 597 in Montreal and 462 in Tree Rivers, which were the three leading locations in the country.
“This Mew France, for more than twenty years, weak and disorganized, was in a struggle with an insatiable and cruel enemy, who more and more every day threatened its fragile existence. Canada was depleting its life force to combat the Iroquois, whose bloodthirsty and warlike nature, was growing in proportion to their success. The entire colonial life was affected. This prompted the King of France, Louis XIV and his secretary of state, Colbert, to decide to intervene before it was too late. In particular, the naming of an Intendent was written into the plan of reorganization become necessary in New France. 7
Meanwhile, in Quebec, the Governor Augustin de Saffray de Mezy fell ill. Monsignor de Laval assisted him in his last moments. The Governor died 5 May 1665. The King, even before the Governor fell ill, had named his successor, in the person of Daniel Remy de Courcelle, governor de Thionville in Lorraine, who was assisted by an Intendent, Jean-Talon, presently and Intendent of Hainault. Colbert appreciated Jean-Talon, already distinguished by Mazarin, and he entrusted him with extensive administrative and financial powers. 8
On 23 March 1665, Jean-Talon received his commission as Intendanr and on 24 May of that same year, on board the ship Saint-Sebastian, in company with governor Remy de Courcelle, he set sail for New France with four companies of soldiers of the Regiment Carignan. One of those companies of the Regiment was under the command of Pierre de Saint-Ours, a minor nobleman of France. Of all the passengers the most notable in my view, was my first ancestor in America: Pierre Mesnard dit Saintonge, a soldier of the company commanded by Pierre de Saint-Oues. The vessels Jardin de Hollande and Justice accompanied the four companies of the regiment, and arrived Quebec the 12 and the 14 September 1665. 9 Several other companies of the same regiment had preceded in the same year, representing the troops promised by the King to subdue the Iroquois.
In the summer of 1665, with the prospect of battles to come, the lieutenant general, Prouville de Tracy, in order to set up a base of defence, ordered the erection of several forts.
They were the forts of Richelieu or Sorel, Saint-Louis de Chambly and
Sainte-Therese on the island of the same name near to Saint-Jean.
The company of M. de Saint-Ours wintened in the fort of Sorel, which it came to construct and it seems participated in the expedition of M. de Tracy against the Iroquois in 1665. 11
After several campaigns against them, the Iroquois panicked and tributes concluded the peace in 1667. The colonist’s alresdy in place were able to return to their fields without fear. The regiment Carignan was recalled to France, but Talon had orders to carry out the interest of Louis IV, the King, to populate the land and stimulate agriculture.
Why not offer the officers and men of regiment Carignan the opportunity to fulfil their need for work by exchanging their lives as soldiers for the life of a farmer. This, two birds with one stone, furnished New France new colonists, but also soldiers available if ever the savages decided to renew their incursions.
Mother Marie de l’Incarnation wrote on 18
The soldiers were discharged in August of 1667. Talon received instructions from the King to continue to;
“Establish gun drills in the countryside and other nations that prove troublesome to the peace in the country… and to support by all possible means the habitants in their clearing and agriculture, not only to have ample nourishment, but able, as well, to sustain the kingdom as needed”. 13
For all who volunteered to settle on the land, to each of them was given, to facilitate their settling, a hundred francs or fifty pounds with subsistence for one year, at their choice. 14
“To lure these new settlers to the land and to establish their self reliance, to free them from poverty, their inexperience and in most cases, rid them of helplessness and discouragement. So says Louis XIV. So that the new comers will not have to depend on their concession for their daily bread, it provides for their needs”. 15
Mother Marie de l’Incarnation wrotw to her son on 29 October 1665:
“ A family had no wealth at beginning of an habitation, it took two or tree years before having the wherewithal for nourishment needs, to say nothing of clothing, furnishings and an infinity of small things necessary to furnish a house; the first difficulties solved, they began to be at ease, and leading from that, in time they became rich, as much as they were able, in a new country such as this. At the start they lived on the grains and their vegetables and their hunting which was abundant in the winter. And for clothing and the other household needs, they made planks to enclose the houses and marketed carpenters lumber which they sold profitably…” 16
And on 18 October 1667, in another letter, she said:
“They set up a household; they had beef cattle, cows and chickens. They had beautiful lakes well stocked with fish, both in winter and in summer and hunting was ample at all times” 17
I felt that the preceding lines should be included here, because they give us a general perception of the life in those times.
By contrast, life described for the French peasant:
“It is, your Majesty (Louis XIV) ten years since the countryside was ruined, pessants reduced to sleeping on straw, their furniture having been sold to pay for the taxes which they cannot satisfy”
wrote Omer Talon to the King, (was he a relative of Jean Talon?) and Fenelon also wrote to Louis XIV,
“Your people are dying of hunger…all of France is nothing but a great hospital, destitute and without provision” 18
In 1669, more than 400 soldiers decide to adopt Canada for their homeland. 19The seigneuries were distributed to the officers of the regiment Carignan by the intendent Talon.
On 29 October 1672, M. de Saint-Ours, captain of his company, received a seigneuriy of two leagues frontage and seven leagues in depth. This faced the Saint-Lawrence River, was bordered on the north by the seigneury of M. de Sorel, in the rear by the Yamaska River and on the south by the seigneury of M. de Contrecoeur.
By the same act, Captain Pierre de Saint-Ours became Seigneur of is seigneury of Saint-Ours, eager to establish himself there and to distribute concession consisting of about two arpents (acre) of front and thirty arpents depth.
To whom did de Saint-Ours bestow the first concession? To one of his soldiers named Pierre Mesnard dit Xaintonge (Saint-Onge or Saintonge) who would be inscribed in the next census of 1681 as shoemaker, and a notary for the seigneury of Saint-Ours and surrounding. The contract bestowing the concession was passed before the notary Antoine Adhemar on 5 November 1673.
Translator’s note: What follows is a listing of the provisions of the contract. A complete translation, which contains numerous legal terms in use at the time which would in themselves require explanations diverting attention from the main purpose of this translation. The contract is translated elsewhere.
Conceded to Pierre Mesnard dit Xaintonge, his heirs and successors, a concession of two arpents front and thirty arpents bounded on the north by the concession to Pierre Dextras dit Lavigne, and elsewhere by the lands of de Saint-Ours. Rent annually and in perpetuity, one sol tournois (French money) for each arpent of woodland and one live capon for each arpent. Mesnard required maintaining in good condition a section of the Royal road through the concession, for public use. Also, Mesnard, to cause his grain to be ground at the mill furnished by the Seigneur, (when constructed). Leave a strip of a half arpent of land consisting of two perches and a half of frontage along the shore for pasturage for animals of other habitants as well as for those of Mesnard.
Witnesses: Jean Bouvet and Jean Riout both of whom signed with the Seigneur de Saint-Ours, before noon, 5 November 1673. 20Even if the seigneuries had not passed under contract until 1672, the seigneurs and colonists or censitaires were already on their seigneury and bits of land since 1668 and 1669. Some were already married.
One of the seigneurs who set the example for his companions-at-arms, was Monsieur de Saint-Ours who married to Mlle. Marie Mullois of Champlain on January 1669.
Hence, we have come to see, we
are now sure that our ancestor Pierre Mesnard, of the company of
Monsieur de Saint-Ours had arrived in New France on the king’s vessel
named Saint-Sebastian, along with the governor de Courcelle and the
intendent Talon on 14 September 1665
*The Surnames of Soldiers *
At the time of joining the regiment, the new recruits received from their comrades a sobriquet replacing their family names. This “nom de guerre” (war name) often stayed attached to their names and for some, finally replaced their family name.
The sobriquet, serving as a borrowed name, was often derived from their particular moral or mental physique, as well as places, trades, etc. such as LaBonté, (the good), La Douceur (the meek), La Joie (the jou), La Malice the sly), Prètaboire (ready to drink), Le Meusnier (the miller), La Tonnelle (the arbor), Le Boulanger (the baker), As well as: Vadeboncoeur, Le Parisien, Xaintonge, St.Martin, De St.Marc. etc…
Did Pierre Mesnard dit Xaintonge or Saintonge, really come from that ancient province of Saintonge, whose capital Sainte was located about 70 kilometres from La Rochelle, which was the departure point of the regiment Carignan? Nowadays Saintonge is called Charente Maritime.
“His surname of Saintonge certainly means, beyond any doubt, that he was native of that province of France” 21 (Roland Auger)
Since I started to write this work, I cannot say any tangible proof certifying him as a native of that place has ever been found. What a joy it would be to me to share that windfall, which would allow me to inform you of his relatives and many other things so dear to my heart, but it is not for this moment for such joys, which I hope one day will fulfill the wished of my descendents.
Pierre Mesnard et Marguerite Deshaies
The soldiers with their own concessions of land, were clamoring for a wife and it was sometimes necessary to moderate their impatience and not permit a marriage before they finished the cottage where the new spouse would be settled. 23
Do you have any idea what was the cottage that our ancestors built, or had built, to raise their future family?
Abbé Couillard Després in is “History of the Seigneury of Saint-Ours” gives a view according to the description of the manor the seigneur of Saint-Ours had built on the land facing the great river of Saint-Lawrence:
“The manor was constructed of square cut beams in manner of the majority of houses of that period. It was only distinguished from the homes of the settles by its larger dimensions. It was fifty feet long by eighteen feet wide. It was paneled with planks. It had only one story, topped by a gable. Its only floor was divided into faur apartments: a sp-acious kitchen opening to the garden, a large room viewing the river and serving for gatherings, the seigneurs chamber on one side near to which was one destined for babies,” 24
Such was the house of Pierre Mesnard. A bit different, of course, in the dimensions. Neither Marie de l’Incarnation, nor Abbé Després made mention of the difficulties the habitants had during the two or three prior years to obtain reasonable nourishment before that house would be built. The forest had to be cleared before building a house, to establish the placing of the house.
“The clearing of the land is a hard and long task for which few immigrants were prepared. Imagine, to begin, a settler, thanks to the economies he was able to realize during his years of service, or with the soldier’s military pay, able to devote his entire time to put value in is standing forest, which came to give him personal stature.
In April of 1670 the snow is at its depth. The first task is to cut down what trees he can, to construct a cabin of about fifteen by twenty feet, built of stakes made of small trees, sharpened at one end and driven in ground. It is rough construction without flooring or chimney, but made water proof enough to go through at least one winter.
Grass and the bark of trees are used to cover the roof and plug up the gaps. At the end of tree week’s personal belonging and provisions can be moved into that cabin, (done with preparing for the winter). Now trees of greater size and quality of close to equal shape, are cut down, which will suit the construction of the house.
The work will be shorter if the second woodcutting is kept within a narrow zone coinciding with the first clearing. All depends on the nature of the wood. Oak is preferred choice, otherwise, pine, cut into eighteen or twenty foot lengths and set aside. With a pickaxe as the only tool, without a team to haul the trunks, it takes several weeks to complete this second step.
In June, begins the clean up of the area, clearing the site, doing no more than one or one and half arpents at a time. Then the digging, out of stumps of trees, one foot or less in diameter. The larger, which are too much for the axe, are stripped and grooved. (A circular groove around the bark and the heartwood at ground level). There is only to wait for their death, the stumps rotted, which takes about four or five years. The leftovers are cut up, corded, placed near to the cabin for firewood.
All that remains on the ground and the undergrowth is then burned. The arpent is “neat” and almost de-stumped. Work for autumn is: churn up the soil and cinders on the surface between the large trunks to prepare to receive the first seeding of grain later in the season, or in the spring.
Finishing the layout of the cabin fot the winter is next, not waiting too long before preparing the felled trees that are set aside. The squaring by hacking protects them. The settler during the winter starts another wood yard, cutting then at tree ou four feetfrom the soin, at the level of the snow cover. This type of clearing is not planted in wheat in the spring. There is, though, some seeding of maize, beans and gourds in the Indian manner, after the clearing in the autumn.
At the end of a year’s occupation the settler can declare one arpent in stump clearing and two arpents being cut. Each year he adds two arpents to his wheat planting, at the same time building his permanent house, piece by piece, floor of oak planking, planks for the roof, and mud walls for the chimney. He buys a steer, a sow, several chickens, and the cabin is made into a stable as soon as he moves into the new house.
About five years after the start of improving the site, he can, without too much trouble, with one or two oxen, pull the rotted stumps from the soil and gradually put the land to the plough. The work of clearing begins to ease off as the property called agricultural tasks increase. If he maintains the rhythm which we have sketched, he will need ten or eleven years before having a dozen arpents under the prow, the minimum to put in crops enough to sustain a family.” 25
Such were the difficulties that the settles met during the first years of clearing but:
“There were a few necessary economies to subsist eighteen months whilst awaiting the first harvest, paying the notary, the surveyor, buying tools, utensils, nails and seeds. (This represents a capital of 200 to 250 livres for the first eighteen months and at least as much in the following two years to buy animals, hay, etc…so that the produce from the land remains insufficient.) And as these ancient contractor employees and soldiers normally took a wife before acquiring land, or soon afterwards, rations were doubled because the dowry, if sometime there was one, did not cover the support of the newlyweds for so long a period.” 26
But in order to marry, young women were needed, and to furnish them:
“Louis XIV and Colbert conceived a plan which guaranteed success. For the first time, the royal treasury undertook to contribute to the cost of the voyage and a part of the cost of establishing in New France, emigrants recruited in the mother country. These young women, called “Filles du Roi” (Daughters of King), would be young, healthy and capable of backing up their husbands in farm work and also fulfilling their role as mothers. The Canadian settlers of the XVIII century would necessarily have to live on the income from the land, very modest at first, for feeding family members and making clothing etc… It is in that ways that his wife could help him and in fact, she did so, thanks to the training receive in the shelters where she lived or within her family.
The possibilities to do the work of sewing added to the care of the house of the habitant and the care of the babies, kept the wife of habitant busy during a long day which ended late in the evening. This labour of love of the wife of an habitant was and still is esteemed in our countryside. Was that tradition of the long gone pioneers transmitted to their descendants? 27
Even though it is bellieved that Pierre Mesnard was married around 1670, we still have no proof, the act and contract of marriage being undiscovered. Mother Marie de l’Incarnation wrote on the 18th October 1667:
“In that year ninety two Daughters of France, the majority of whom married soldiers or working men, were given habitation and provisions for eight mounts to enable them to clear the land for their need.” 28
It was Talon who gave the exact figure: eighty four young people recruited in Dieppe, and twenty five in La Rochelle, in all, one hundred and nine brides headed to the matrimonial altar. 29
These young women so often degraded and vilified by the “recorders of history” (least scrupulous of whom Saint-Amant, Bussy-Rabutin, La Hontan, Vergennes, etc..), were not too far from the thoughts of others. Pierre Boucher said in 1664:
“It is not true that this sort of women came and those who speak in that fashion, are greatly misguided and have mistaken the islands of Saint-Christopher and Martinique for New France: If they appear they are recognized for what they are before embarking, it is required that relatives or friends attest to their good behaviour. If by accident some of them slip by, who are discredited, or who, during the voyage are reported of bad behaviour, they are returned to France.” 30
These Daughters of the King ordinarily were recruited in schools for orphans, or from poor families, it not, from families of lesser nobility, some of them, mostly those who came from a convent, with a fairly complete training in house work:
“They found themselves in a lonely location, in a miserable cabin, with a man that they didn’t know, without having had a choice, but they did gain a certain security in their adventure.” 31
Among the Daughters of King, there was one named Marguerite Deshaies, who became the future wife of Pierre Mesnard. Was she of the group of 1667? I believe so, since Marguerite had a sister named Marie who was married to Adrien Bétourné dit Laviolette. That act of marriage is also undiscovered, but it is known that Marie had been confirmed at Fort Saint-Louis de Chambly on 20 May 1668 and is said to be from the diocese of Rouen, France.She (Marie) was thirteen years old and she married in the same year, Her son, was twelve years old in the 1681 census. Since Marie was confirmed in New France, she certainly was with her elder sister Marguerite. So these two Daughters of the King had arrived together in the 1667 or 1668 group.
But, you say, how can it be sure that Marie was the sister of Marguerite Deshaies?
In the contract of marriage between François Gélineau and Marguerite Menard, daughter of Pierre and Marguerite Deshaies, dated 26 June 1689, before the notary Jean-Baptiste Fleuricourt, it says:
“Passed at Repentigny, in the house of
Adrien Bétouné dit Laviolette and Marie Deshaies, uncle and aunt of the
said Marguerite Menard.”
“On the occasion of marriage of the Filles du Roi, they were given a present of all sorts of effects, worth fifty livres. These effects comprised a little trousseau and included the following articles: a cash box, a cap or hood, a kerchief of taffeta, shoe laces, 100 needles, a comb, white thread, a pair of stocking, a pair of gloves, a pair of scissor, 2 knives, 1000 pins, a bonnet, some laces, 2 livres argent.” 34
And then, the intendent Talon established a custom of giving to each, after setting in the country, the sum of fifty livres Canadian money in foodstuffs appropriate to their household. 35
Mother Marie de l’Incarnation wrote in October 1669:
sooner than the ship arrived when the young men were there seeking a
wife and in great number of the one and the others,
If the Filles du Roi were married as soon as they arrived, or nearly so, according to the writing of Marie de l’Incarnation, why did Pierre Mesnard wait until 1670 for his marriage to Marguerite Deshaies? According to historians, no soldiers of the division of Saint-Ours returned to France the 28th of August 1667 with Monsieur de Tracy. 37 So why not Pierre be married in 1668?
The probable date of the marriage of Pierre and Marguerite given by the historians is deduced from the census of 1681, with their first child Marie-Marguerite ten years old. That indicates to us 1671 for the birth of that infant and a little bit closer to 1670 for the date of marriage. This is a deduction, but suppose Pierre and Marguerite, before the birth of their daughter Marie-Marguerite had had another birth of an infant, stillborn, or who died at an early age, something we can not verify since the records of that time were destroyed in the fire of the house of the doctor Bouvet, sieur de la Chambre on 24 October 1724, where the father Benjamin Lived. 38
This hypothesis of a birth before the daughter Marie-Marguerite gives us the year 1669 for the arrival of that new birth, and 1668, more or less, for the marriage, which for me would be most plausible; but still, that, like with the other historians, is only another hypothesis.
Even though the agreement of peace had been signed between them, occasionally, at the beginning, it did happen that the Iroquois attacked the habitants during their work of clearing. This required always being on their guard and, if necessary, being ready to defend themselves with a rifle which became, at the moment, the only friend on which they could depend.
At the outset of their life as couple, how many times had Pierre and Marguerite been obliged to retreat behind the walls of the fort of Saint-Ours to protect themselves from the Iroquois attacks? Certainly several times. (Note: Saint-Ours, Contrecoeur and Verchères, as well as most of the seigneuries had their own fort or walled enclosure.)
In this fashion, Pierre and Marguerite had a life of several years together and in spite of the repeated attacks by Indians, the couple did not fare too badly, because in 1681, the census showed five living children, to wit: Marie-Marguerite (named for her mother) 10 years old, Pierre (named for his father) 9 years, Madeleine 7 years, Genevieve 4 years and Catherine 2 years. They had to their credit: a rifle (probably that from the regiment) four beef cattle and six arpents of land in production. 39
At the outset of their life as habitant, the facts did not come to us in abundance, save for the writings of notaries and others. The title of habitant was an honourable one of the times in contrast to a peasant working in France; the difference was that the habitant was the proprietor of an expanse of land and the buildings thereon, for an annual rent. While in France, the peasants with some exceptions were only workers, the land belonging to the rich and nobles of that time, or to the King.)
Contrariwise, his professional side as seigneurial notary has been very well noted. A hundred and eight contracts or legal acts of all forms and kinds comprised these contracts of private agreements. Even to this day, they are conserved in the National Archives of Quebec at Montreal. (I palaeographer partially and indexed these contracts of Pierre Mesnard, and have placed them in the Archives at Montreal.)
His minutes are not voluminous, but one must consider that the population of Saint-Ours and Contrecoeur, in the census of 1681, together totalled only twenty six households or families. Besides, it must not be forgotten that Pierre Mesnard, in addition to being a notary and settler, according to the same census, practised the trade of shoemaker, so it wasn’t that he lacked activity. In fact, I would like to know where and when Pierre Mesnard learned his trade of shoemaker? Was it in France before becoming part of the regiment of Carignan? Did he “improvise” shoemaking? I would like to know, since no writing or deeds, other than the census, confirms or denies this trade being practised along with his notary’s profession.According to the ordinance of Talon dated 22 May 1667, which required two arpents of land to be cleared and in production per year, 40 Pierre should have had, after a dozen years of clearing, twenty four arpents of land. Therefore, why had he cleared only six arpents according to the census of 1681? Could it have been that the simultaneous practice of trades along with land management delayed putting in production his concession?
But even so all that says that in a dozen years the economic status of Pierre Mesnard and Marguerite Deshaies, as can be judged, had reached a degree of solvency and probably close to prosperity.
The trade of shoemaker in those times, realized an annual gain of about five hundred livres. 41 The revenue of Pierre as notary is not know, but it is considered not voluminous. As for the revenue from the farm, I believe the products harvested served to feed the family.
The sum of five hundred livres, revenue of shoemaking, has plenty significance when it is compared to a list of prices of diverse items, commonly in use in that era.
1 table, six
chairs, pine and cherry
TOTAL 298 livres
At first glance, you are certainly going to believe or imagine that Pierre ought to have an easy life, but it must not be forgotten that many people of that era, not having a fluid money system, were paying their debts with produce. Hence a rising total perhaps attractive at the beginning, but with little real meaning.
Of difficult times, he was certain to encounter, on top of Indian attracts, “a type of contagious illness had laid low 1400 people in Canada in 1687, and on top of that, followed a famine which lasted several years.” 42
Between 1689 and 1694 the Iroquois planted desolation in the countryside and in the depth of bad times there came three bad harvests. 43
As one could say, the life of the pioneer was always rosy, as the expression goes.
Pierre and Marguerite had only one son in 1681, probably the girls themselves also worked in the fields with their brother, handling a pickaxe, like all the children of the same period.
“Even the two daughters of the seigneur de Saint-Ours were working in the field cutting wheat and Monsieur de Saint-Ours tented to the ploughing. There was no place for those who would not work. The first condition of all existence in New France was to sustain life.” 44
It is not everyone who can be permitted to have one of these : “A plough with plough-share, blades, chain, beam, iron pin, iron tires, since it requires a team of at least two oxen, if possible four, to pull this plough… so for many, the pickaxe was a substitute.” 45
By chance, two other sons were to come along later to augment the family of Pierre and Marguerite. There was Adrien, 29 October 1682 and François-Marie, 19 December 1685.
In the early years the seigneuries of Saint-Ours and Contrecoeur did not have a permanent pastor for their churches. The missionaries passed through from time to time to meet their flock and register acts of baptism, marriages and deaths. (The registry of the parish of Saint Trinity of Contrecoeur started in 1668, while that of the parish of the Immaculate Conception of Saint-Ours began in 1750.) Several baptisms were performed in the home at the moment of birth by a member of the family, principally the father, it is perhaps for that that we did not find the acts of baptisms of the first infants of Pierre?
(See the history of Sorel by Abbé A.Couillard Després about the missionaries of the seigneuries, on page 78) What applied to Sorel, may also be the same for Saint-Ours and other seigneuries.
There are also other points of question. In 1676, 1678 and 1681, Monsignor de Laval visited successively at Saint-Ours, Contrecoeur and Sorel to administer the sacrament of confirmation. He registered the list of persons confirmed. Strangely, no Ménard was so included although some children of Pierre and Marguerite were at the age to be confirmed. Why? Mystery.
The register of Contrecoeur from dates 5 June 1678 to 1 January 1681 having disappeared or was lost, does not aid us to eliminate our points of question.We find ourselves then with two and a half years with no source of information. They were however reconstituted by means of the census of 1681 and for the year 1678. 46 That for the years 1687 and 1699 no longer exists. They were destroyed in the fire on 24 October 1724 in the house of the surgeon Jean Bouvet, Sieur de la Chambre, as previously stated in this work.
The family of Mesnard or Menard had none the less a certain adventage that several other families did not have…they had relatives. (At about 1710, one wrote Mesnard and following that, mainly for civil acts, the parson wrote either Mesnard or Menard and even both ways in the same act!) It was certain that all the people of the village went along, as much as for a friend as for the survival of the colony, but blood kinfolk most certainly have settled the matter.
“The Menard children had from time to time, a visit of their uncle Bétourne and their aunt Deshaies with their son Pierre, without doubt named for his godfather Pierre Mesnard. There must have been talk about relatives far away in France and related to the children, how they passed their youth in that country of Europe, good stories told in the corner of the fireplace during the long evenings of winter.” 47
In July of 1688, the Indians of the Iroquois Agnier tribe, attacking from Richelieu, burned houses, and slaughtered the animals of Contrecoeur, Saint-Ours and Sorel. 48
In 1691 the villages of Saint-Ours and Contrecoeur were again ravaged by the Indians. They burned several habitations and ravaged for eight days. 49 Pierre and his sons were certainly battling, body and soul, trying to save as much as possible: animals, building and who knows, his notaries acts? Of course, in times like these, one tries above all to save one’s skin and that of those around him before thinking of other things.
I said that Pierre and his sons were embattled, why not his daughters also, those having reached from twelve to twenty years of age.
Was not Madeleine de Verchères only 14 years old when she defended the fort? She knew how to use a rifle, as did many other children of that age and in that epoch. Survival depended on it.
I have not found many notaries papers or others on the private and social life of Pierre Mesnard and his wife Marguerite Deshaies.
On 1 January and 27 October in 1669, Pierre signed as intermediary, two contracts passed before the commissioner Christophe Richard at Saint-Ours. And then, there was the contract of concession by M. de Saint-Ours, previously described and one other contract dated 18 July 1667, and passed before the notary Adhemar. This contract was permission grant by M, de Saint-Ours to six residents of the seigneury:
“Master Pierre Mesnard dit Xaintonge notary of the seigneury of Saint-Ours etc… to place, in perpetuity their cattle to browse on the island called St-Pierre, (today Saint-Ours) opposite the seigneurie of Saint-Ours.”
These are the sole notary’s acts that I have found which concern him personally. To me it is unthinkable that Pierre as a notary did not have to untangle with someone or other, such acts as purchases, sales or other such obligations. This appears to me impossible to believe.
As far as properly called social life, I cannot say that it was too strenuous, at least according to writing available to us to this day. He was several times godfather for children of his best army companions, such as Jean Blet dit Gazaille and Mathurin Banlier dit Laperle. Also, because he could read and write, he was sought as signer as a witness at different times in notaries acts.
His public or professional life was much fuller as seignerial notary, judge and bailliff.
Historians put the debut of Pierre Mesnard as notary in 1673. 50 Does that follow his records which begin with a contract of sale under date of 16 April 1673? Strangely, that contract is numbered eighteen. Must it be believed that already by that date Pierre had to his credit eighteen contracts which have disappeared, been lost, or I don’t know what? Why is it recorded that civil acts by the notary Pierre Mesnard of the marriage of Jean Blet dit Gazaille to Françoise Jardinier on 16 April 1671 and also that of Louis Charbonnier dit Saint-Laurent to Anne Blainvillain on 1 January 1672? These contracts are missing from is records. Hence, it can be said that the notary Mesnard was active before 1673. It is regrettable at this time, that one cannot recover the act of ratification or a hint about notary Pierre Mesnard that would give the exact date of his debut as notary.
Even being only a seigneurial notary, he had, just the same, to remain current to certain legal rules, since the sole difference between the royal notary was empowered to practice in a territory that was directly subordinate to the royal authority, while the seigneurial notary was named by the seigneur and could only draw up deeds or practice within limits of the seigneury. 51
“To be accepted as notary, the person must first have submitted information on is life and customs, that is to say testimony as to the dignity of is life and of is Roman Catholic religion. He then addresses his application to the “lieutenant of the prévôté”, requesting him to please receive him and his witnesses, and process his application. The day comes, before the “lieutenant prévôté, appear several persons of good character, not related to the candidate and who testify to the uprightness of his life. The permission of the priest was also necessary. The information judged satisfactory, the applicant takes the “required and customary” oath. He can then exercise his duties as notary within the limits designated by his commission.” 52
|This is a facsimile of a document written in the handwriting of Pierre Mesnard. It is a quittance following a contract of sale by Jean Cellurier to François Deguire dit Larose done under private contract on 1 January 1669, by Christopher Richard.|
Before Pierre Mesnard
notary in the seigneury of Saint-Ours
P. Mesnard Notary (with flourish)
“Seeing that there is no notary in Vercheres, and that the judge there who is at Trois-Rivières where it is difficult to travel because of the distance and the war, we have commissioned … Xaintonge notary of Saint-Ours, to make the inventory of the property left by André Jarret de Beauregard.” 53
That inventory was made on the following 12 April by the royal notary
Basset. Vercheres being outside the limits of the seigneury of
Saint-Ours, it was perhaps for that reason that Pierre did not fulfill
Pierre Mesnard was also named bailiff by virtue of an ordinance of Judge Claude Jaudoin of the village and seigneury of Contrecoeur, on 30 December 1675, concernaing a report of the seizure of grain and other objects belonging to Pierre le Siège dit Lafontaine of Contrecoeur. He signed P. Mesnard Sergeant. 54 Thus acting faithfully as bailiff. This is the only act relating to the bailiff function found to this date of which I have knowledge.
As far as the participation of Pierre Mesnard as seigneurial judge, 55 I have little to say since I have not found any document of a judiciary act of ratification. On the other hand, I say to myself that if an archivist as famous and experienced as Monsieur J.Jacques Lefebvre affirms such a thing, he certainly must have seen judicial acts pertaining thereto.
We know that there was a court of justice at Contrecoeur in the 17th century, but as so well said by monsieur E.Z.Massicotte:
“Where then have gone all the judicial documents of that tribunal? Some researchers will furnish us an answer some day, we have no doubt.” 56
This researcher, after sixty years still does not know. For the present, I would like to repeat the last phrase of monsieur Massicotte, hopefully not waiting too many years.
I am still lacking many documents and I still have many questions to which there are perhaps no answers. Among them: why did Pierre Mesnard receive the first concession, which is moreover neighbour to the seigneur of Saint-Ours, as is described in the contract of concession? Pierre was not listed as officer, sergeant or other rank that I know of in the company of monsieur de Saint-Ours, which could inspire the captain de Saint-Ours to name him first as reward for his good service, Or could it be bacause he could read and write and then be named seigneurial notary by the seigneur? I still do not know.In a history on the seigneury of Saint-Ours, l’abbé Couillard Després poses the following question:
“Who are the ones who persevered? First there was Pierre Mesnard dit Xaintonge.
He apparently combined the functions of notary and shoemaker in is parish” 57
If l’abbé Després names him the first, I am likewise permitted to call him Pierre-1, for the comprehension of this work, and since other Pierres will follow and each carry their number according to the chronology.
Above all it is not to be believed that everyone who wished to become settlers persevered at that task:
“There were unfortunate settles, which hadn’t the physique, the basic qualification required to subsist during the first years and were not cut out to be farmers. They became discouraged and often returned to France where, if married, were installed in the city where they continued to wallow in misery.” 58
From notary to shoemaker, or from notary to colonial, there is no disgrace. From my point of view there is no trade that is degrading. Even in France in the 17th century the sons of noblemen practiced the trades of shoemaker, tailor, armourer, etc…
“There was in 1663 a Pierre Piron who, a surgeon became a sawyer in saw pit in New France.” 59
What trade did Pierre I practice before embarking for New France? Was it shoemaker, notary or soldier? The fact that he could read and write tells us that he had received some above average education since, even in France, illiteracy was about 80 percent. 60
The notarial acts of Pierre I ended in August of 1693. Could that mean departing to the hereafter? I cannot say, because unable to recover the record of death, that record having been burned as previously described. I am however able to suppose that his death occurred between the date of 28 August 1693, date of is last contract, and 21 January 1695 date of the contract of marriage between his son Pierre-2 to Suzanne LaPorte, in which it says Marguerite Deshaies was the widow of Pierre Mesnard. Thus his life span was no more than fifty seven years, twenty three years of which were with his wife, residing in Great Saint-Ours.
Pierre-1 saw only one of his children marry, but he lived long enough to leave a mark on his community and his descendants.Not knowing the exact date of the death of Pierre, Marguerite Deshaies, his wife, survived him by between fourteen and sixteen years. She died at Repentigny, at the age of sixty three, on 17 November 1709. At the time she very probably had been residing in Repentigny, living whit her daughter Marie-Madeleine and husband Pierre Chevalier.
Their seven (known) children lived to adult age, were all married and had their own families.
I hope some day to learn the answers to questions still remaining in suspense, allowing me to bring to a successful conclusion this first generation, those who implanted in New France the Menards of the Saint-Onge line
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Pierre Mesnard et
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