Monday, May 30, 2016

Voyageur Legacy - LaPrairie Ancestors (1647 - 1699)

Land on the south side of the St. Lawrence was given to the Jesuits as a seigneury in 1647, only five years after the founding of Montreal. However, war with the Iroquois was raging and LaPrairie was an Iroquois settlement from which attacks were launched on Montreal. Consequently, it would not be until peace with the Iroquois was concluded following campaigns of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment that this seigneury could be settled. The Jesuits established a mission to the Indians in 1667 and opened the surrounding land for settlement. The majority of the first colonists came from Montreal, with a number from the Carignan-Salieres Regiment including Charles Diel (7ggf), Thomas Hebert, Antoine Rousseau, Jacques Testu, Mathieu Faye, and Jean Magnan. By 1670, the population of settlers was significant enough to open the seigneurial administration for LaPrairie de la Madeleine and also to establish the parish of St. Francois Xavier with the building of a chapel for the Indians and habitants on the seigneur’s estate bordering the river. Relations between the early settlers and the Indians were friendly, although many of the Indians soon left as the land was being settled.

This was an area of woods, prairies, lakes, rivers and stone quarries quite suitable for farming. By the end of 1673, the population of habitants in the seigneury was fifty-one men, thirty-six of them unmarried, fifteen women, of which six had come as girls from Montreal, and thirty-three children. But the population did not grow as fast as expected as the Jesuits were charging exorbitant rents, higher than those of the seigneuries run by French laymen, and the habitants were having trouble making payments. For the next two decades, the Jesuits tried to attract settlers by reducing the rents by half, but when the settlement was well established the rents were raised again. Several motives other than farming likely attracted the settlers. Initially the profits from the fur trade were all in the hands of the merchants but, after 1663, local traders started to emerge and included many soldiers who remained in New France after the wars with the Iroquois. The advantage of LaPrairie was that it offered a direct water route via the Richelieu River, Lake Champlain, and the Hudson River to Albany, the trading center for the English.

The dream of Pierre Perras (9ggf) and Denise Lemaitre (9ggm), among the early settlers, was to acquire a farm so that they could pass on to their growing sons an opportunity which would have eluded them in France. This was farmland easily accessible to the growing markets in Montreal. While it was hard work to prepare fields for cultivation, the Perrases had growing sons who could help. Pierre’s farm was a long, narrow strip of land extending back from his house near the St. Lawrence River, one in a line of houses in a settlement isolated enough that the habitants of Cote Saint-Lambert thought of their settlement as distinct from LaPrairie. The small house was built of timber, with a sloping roof and walls filled with clay. The main room had a few pieces of homemade rough furniture, a loom and, likely, a spinning wheel. The walls were bare except perhaps for a religious picture or two brought with them from France. The loft or attic was a busy sleeping place as the Perrases had nine living children.

The house and the nearby barn made of upright posts standing side by side with a straw thatched roof sat in a farmyard surrounded by post and rail fences. Wooden buckets used to carry water and a wooden washtub showed Pierre’s skills as a barrel maker. In the summer, sons and neighbors helped cut hay with a scythe and haul it to the barn on a cart drawn by oxen. At harvest time grain was bound into bundles and stored in the barn for several months until the men of the family flailed it on the threshing floor. Once the crops were harvested until planting time the next spring, aside from cutting firewood and doing the daily chores, there was time to jump in the sleigh and visit neighbors. Winter was a great social time, filled with drinking and smoking, playing cards, dancing and singing. The French habitants worked to the rhythm of work tunes as they threshed, cut wood, and did their chores, while the women did their spinning, weaving, and beating the wash to familiar tunes. The 1661 census showed Pierre Perras (9ggf) with ten acres under cultivation and six head of cattle.

The Perras family was devout Catholics. Attendance at church was difficult, however, because of the distance from either the seigneurial mansion or the Indian mission, with no road and the Saint-Jacques River to cross. Attendance was easier in the winter, when they could travel on the ice of the St. Lawrence. To host religious services at Saint-Lambert, Pierre and Denise donated a building on their farm 25 feet long and 20 feet wide with a thatched roof and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The local habitants were responsible for maintenance. The Jesuits gave permission and agreed to offer Mass for the Saint-Lambert settlers. Pierre and Denise’ son-in-law, Pierre Poupart (8ggf), a local farmer, was one of the church wardens. In 1686, he sold a piece of land to Pierre Foubert and donated 218 livres for church furnishings. Because of the Iroquois threats, Jerome Lonctin, a local carpenter, dismantled the building at Saint-Lambert and built it back up inside Fort Saint-Lambert, recently built to protect the habitants. In 1686, the Jesuits turned the parish at LaPrairie over to the Sulpicians, who began plans to build a new parish church in LaPrairie. At the beginning of the 18th century, the building at Cote Saint-Lambert was torn down, and under the direction of Pierre Roy its furnishings were transported to the new church at LaPrairie.

Meanwhile, the number of families at Cote Saint-Lambert more than doubled and children were growing to adulthood. Denise must have been busy as a midwife for her own and others’ daughters. Four of the Perras daughters married men from Saint- Lambert between 1682 and 1690. In 1682, Marguerite Perras (8ggm), age 16, married Pierre Poupart (8ggf), who had come to Quebec as a domestic for Pierre Gagnon and later bought a farm at Saint-Lambert. Pierre and Marguerite had seven children before Pierre was killed by the Iroquois at age 40 in 1699 and Marie married a second time to Joseph Boyer. At age 18 in 1688, Catherine (9gga) married Eustache Demers, son of local neighbors Etienne Demers and Jeanne Denote, and this couple had 10 children. Later that year, Jeanne (9gga), age 17, married Claude Faye, who had come from France and bought land at Saint-Lambert in 1682. Jeanne and Claude had eight children, while Claude worked in the fur trade. After Claude’s death, Jeanne married Pierre Jolibois. In1690, Marie, age 17, married Antoine Jacques Boyer, son of Saint-Lambert pioneers Charles Boyer (9ggf) and Marguerite Tenard (9ggm). Marie and Antoine’s oldest child of seven, Marie Boyer, later married Jean Francois Patenaude.

Pierre Perras (9ggf) died on April 30, 1684 at LaPrairie. Because of Pierre and Denise’ hard work, at the time of his death they had two farms, one barn, one stable, eleven cattle and six pigs. Yet the revenue from the farm was not enough to support Denise with her large family so she got involved in fur trading with the Catholic Iroquois to make ends meet. Probably resulting from her involvement in the fur trade, a Montreal merchant, Francois Pougnet, had a lawsuit going against Denise in 1687 over a business deal. Denise appealed the sentence in Montreal in 1687, again at Trois Rivieres later that year, and the case was finally brought to the Sovereign Council in January, 1688. In October of 1684, Denise Perras (9ggm) married Francois Cael, another pioneer, at LaPrairie. Denise had at least four children left at home and Francois brought eight minor children into the marriage. When Francois Cael died in 1687, Denise sold their land to her son-in-law, Eustache Demers. Denise still had a family to support and went back to the skill she had learned in Paris, practicing midwifery until her death.

During this time, the attacks by the Iroquois were escalating and a number of habitants from Saint-Lambert sought shelter in the fortification at Montreal. Denise (9ggm) remained behind and was killed at age 55 by the Iroquois at Cote-Saint-Lambert on October 29, 1691, when a group of Dutch and Indian fighters led by Major Peter Schuyler of New England struck the French in reprisal for the French attack on Schenectady. Denise’ daughters were by this time busy raising big families while her sons were still unmarried and likely away in the fur trade. Ironically, Denise’ granddaughter Marguerite, the daughter of Pierre Poupart (8ggf) and Marguerite Perras (8ggm), was also killed by the Iroquois as an eleven year old at LaPrairie in 1696.

Pierre (9ggf) and Denise (9ggm) had only a few grandchildren to pass on the Perras name. Their oldest son, Pierre, died at age 27 in 1687. Their second child, Jacques, died at age 25 in 1688. The Perras sons were more interested in the fur trade than in farming. Jacques received a concession of land in 1679 and sold it in less than one year to A. Marsil. Jean Perras, also in the fur trade, married twice; the first time with Marguerite Testu, with whom he had one child, and secondly with Madeleine Roy, the daughter of neighbors Pierre Roy and Catherine Ducharme. Jean and Madeleine had eight children, including their son, Andre, who married Marie Catherine Leber, the daughter of Francois Leber (8ggu) and Marie Ann Magnan. The youngest son of Pierre Perras (ggf) and Denise Lemaitre (9ggm), born after they moved to Cote Saint-Lambert, also used the name Pierre. Pierre and his brother-in- law, Antoine Boyer (8ggf), bought land conjointly in 1690 for 600 livres from the sale of beaver pelts. Like his brothers, he was away in the fur trade, marrying only at age 36 to Marguerite Diel. He died three years later, leaving his widow with a fifteen month old son.

Like the Perras family, members of the Patenaude family had relocated from Ile d’Orleans to work in the fur trade. Charles LeMoyne in the neighboring seigneury of Longueuil gave concessions to Pierre and Charles Patenaude. Pierre married Catherine Brunet and they parented ten children. The oldest brother, Jean Patenaude, first married Marie Brunet, sister of Catherine, with whom he had two children, and had a second marriage to Marie Robidou, daughter of Andre Robidoux (9ggf) and Jeanne Denote(9ggm) of Cote Saint-Lambert. Jean and Marie’s son, Jean Francois Patenaude, married Marie Boyer, the daughter of Antoine Boyer (8ggf) and Marie Perras (8ggm). Charles married Francoise Seguin, daughter of Francois Seguin and Marie Petit, and they parented ten children. Elizabeth, the younger sister of the Patenaude men, married Jean Ferron, a soldier, shoemaker, and fur trader, and they raised their nine children in Montreal.

Among these early settlers in the LaPrairie seigneury, we can recognize many familiar names of our ancestors. Charles Boyer (9ggf) and Marguerite Tenard (9ggm) earned their farm by serving as domestic servants to the Jesuits. Housed by the Jesuits, their responsibilities included delivering 500 pounds of wheat to Montreal annually, preparing food for the priests and guests, providing 12 pounds of bread weekly, cutting 12 cords of stove wood, and maintaining the fences and bridges. They received a farm with two arpents along the river when they finished their commitment. Even during the time that he served as a domestic servant, Charles Boyer (9ggf) was also involved as a coureurs des bois in the fur trade. It was their son, Antoine  (8ggf), born at LaPrairie in 1671 and a captain in the local militia, who married Marie Perras (8ggm).

Denis Brosseau was the miller at a mill the Jesuits built to grind the habitants’ wheat. The farmers were obligated to grind their grain at the mill, which was built as a service to the community. Denis signed a five year contract as miller in 1692. Denis and his wife, Marie Madeleine Hebert, had eight children and, since he could not make enough at the mill to support his family, he bought two farms totaling 100 arpents for 600 livres, which he would pay off in annual installments. They had their home in the village. Their son, Pierre, also a miller, was married to Barbe Bourbon, daughter of Jean
Bourbon, who was killed in the battle at LaPrairie in 1690 when Dutch forces and Indians led by Peter Schuyler of Albany were retaliating for a raid led by Pierre LeMoyne. Governor Frontenac had gathered 1200 military and habitants at LaPrairie to counter this attack. It was Schuyler’s forces that would be responsible for the death of Denise Lemaitre (9ggm) the next year.

Jean Bourbon’s wife, Anne Marie Benoit, was the daughter of Paul Benoit and Elizabeth Gobinet. They had four daughters before Paul was killed. In 1695, Jean Besset decided to defy his father’s authority and marry Anne Marie Benoit. His father, a former Carignan-Salieres soldier now farming, judged this a poor union and was scandalized that his twenty-three year old son would marry an older widow with three children and tried to stop the wedding. The vociferous elder Besset appeared with witnesses and threatened the priest if he married the couple, but the priest deemed the consent of the
marrying parties was mutual and authentic and witnessed the marriage of the couple at the 6:00 a.m. Mass at Ville Marie on May 16, 1695. Jean and Anne Marie had one daughter, who was buried on May 25, 1697. In August of that same year, the Iroquois struck again and tried to take Anne Marie captive. She defended herself valiantly, but, like her first husband, died of her wounds. Ironically, her second husband, Jean Basset, along with Eustache Demers, had been captured by the Iroquois in 1693. Both were scalped and left for dead but survived to tell about it.

Charles Deneau (8ggu), the son of a pioneer of Montreal, was married to Madeleine Clement at LaPrairie. Charles and Madeleine had eleven children. Charles was one of the first coureurs des bois with the Ottawa Indians and did not return from one of his trips. Their son, Charles, married to Marie Anne Demers, was the father of Genevieve Deneau, who with her husband, Pierre Pinsonneau, were the grandparents of Joseph Perras. As was the case with so many intermarriages between families in the community, Charles and Madeleine’s son, Claude, married Marie Poupart (8gga), the daughter of Pierre Poupart (8ggf) and Marguerite Perras (8ggm).

Two Demers brothers, Joseph and Eustache, were pioneers at LaPrairie. Joseph, who had been a domestic for the Jesuit mission among the Outaouis, married Marguerite Guitaut and was a major in the militia at LaPrairie. Their son, Jacques, married Marie Barbe Brosseau, the miller’s daughter. Jacques and Marie Barbe’s daughter, Marie Anne Demers, married the second generation Charles Deneau (8ggu). Joseph Demers was also the second husband of Marguerite Perras (8ggm), the widow of Pierre Poupart. Eustache Demers was the husband of Catherine Perras.

Andre Robidou (9ggf) was a Spaniard who came to New France in 1661 as an engage of Eustache Lambert, a prominent interpreter, settler and fur trader. Andre was a sailor living with his employer. In 1664, Andre received a concession of land on Ile d’Orleans and another in 1665 at Cote Lauzon near Quebec. His wife, Jeanne Denote (9ggm), came to Quebec in 1666 and resided at a house on the grounds of the Ursuline monastery until she married Andre on June 17, 1667. In 1771, Andre and Jeanne moved to the village of LaPrairie with their first daughter, Marie Romaine, most likely because of involvement in the fur trade. In 1672, Andre acquired property on the Cote de la Riviere Saint-Jacques near LaPrairie, which he exchanged in a few months for property at Cote de la Tortue of LaPrairie. He also sold his property in the village. Andre and Jeanne had four more children before he died in 1679, when their youngest child, Joseph, was three months old. Four months later, Jeanne Denote married Jacques Suprenant, a soldier originally with the Carignan Salieres Regiment, with whom she had eight more children at LaPrairie. Son Joseph Robidou married Jeanne Seguin, and they were the grandparents of Etienne Perras. Joseph would later be well known in the fur trade at Detroit. Daughter Marie Robidoux married Jean Patenaude and they became the parents of Jean Francois Patenaude.

Trouble with the Iroquois started up again with vigor in 1684. Because of Iroquois threats, Governor LeBarre designated LaPrairie as a frontier against the English and Iroquois and a fort was built around LaPrairie in 1687. The fortification would surround the habitants and animals for refuge in case of an attack. Another fortification was constructed at St. Lambert.

LaPrairie was a major target of the two reprisals by the Iroquois for the French attacks on Albany. On August 30, 1690, responding to four cannon shots which served as a signal to reassemble, troops who were now dispersed to help with the wheat harvest hurried back to the fort. 1200 men gathered at LaPrairie. Governor Frontenac of Montreal was alerted to the presence of Iroquois near Lake Champlain but, when scouts did not find any traces of the Indians, they returned to their quarters. On September 4 th, the Iroquois stealthily attacked the habitants and soldiers harvesting wheat. Unfortunately, the French had failed to post sentinels or to have a guard ready to resist. The consequence was that eleven habitants, three women, one girl, and ten soldiers were killed or captured. Before help could arrive, the Iroquois had set homes and haystacks on fire and slaughtered the farm animals. Among the habitants killed in this attack was Jean Bourbon.

On August 11, 1691, Major Peter Schuyler led another surprise attack on a much larger force of 800 French and allies at the fort at LaPrairie. Schuyler’s force attacked in a rainstorm just before dawn, inflicting severe casualties before withdrawing to the Richelieu River. This was the raid in which Denise Lemaitre (9ggm) was captured and lost her life. Schuyler’s force was intercepted by a force of 160 men who were detached to block his road to Chambly. Among the habitants who participated in this expedition to revenge these attacks we find the names of Jacques Perras, Pierre Poupard (8ggf) and Francois Cael. The two sides fought in vicious hand-to-hand combat for about an hour before Schuyler’s force broke through and retreated back to Albany. As mentioned, some of the families sought refuge at Montreal because of the dangers. On the positive side, a few of the Troops de la Marine decided to settle at LaPrairie, including Claude Guerin. When the fighting was ended, Claude received a plot of land in payment for his services. His neighbors introduced him to a widow whose property included the prime source of water in the area, a natural spring. The widow, Marie Cusson (8ggm), the daughter of habitants Jean Cusson (9ggf) and Marie Foubert (9ggm), was one of sixteen children and had already been widowed twice. She had settled at LaPrairie with her first husband, Jean Bareau, and they had five children when Jean was killed by the Iroquois. Two years later she married Joachim Leber, who was lost on a fur trading expedition to the west, with whom she had a daughter. She was thirty-three when she married Claude Guerin and they added four more children to the family before Marie was left again as a widow with small children.

LaPrairie grew between 1694 and 1697 as Iroquois hostilities diminished. A number of new residents sought refuge there, including merchants, craftsmen and skilled workers. By 1697, the fortification enclosed 120 persons, among them Charles and Jacques Deneau (7ggf), Francois Leber (8ggf), Denis Brosseau, Francois Bourassa (7ggf) and Claude Guerin.

The story of the Bourassa family is somewhat typical of the times. A native of France, Francois Bourassa (7ggf) married Marie Leber (7ggm), the daughter of LaPrairie pioneers Francois Leber (8ggf) and Jeanne Testard (8ggm), and widow of Charles Robert. After five years of marriage, Francois was captured during a skirmish with the Iroquois and presumed dead but returned after a prolonged absence. Francis and Marie had seven children, with five living to adulthood. Their daughter, Marie Leber (6ggm), married Jacques Pinsonneau (6ggf). Francois Bourassa had two concessions of land and also a home in the village of LaPrairie but had prospered even more by being involved as a fur trader in the west. When Francois died at age 48 in an epidemic at Montreal, Marie married a third time to Pierre Herve. Like most of the families of LaPrairie at this time, the Bourassa family watched their sons head west to make a profit in the fur trade.

Lineage and Pedigree:

Denise Lemaitre (1635-1691) - my 9th great-grandmother

Marguerite Perras dit La Fontaine (1665-1708) - daughter of Denise Lemaitre

Joseph Poupart (1696-1726) - son of Marguerite Perras dit La Fontaine

Marie Josephe Poupart (1725-1799) - daughter of Joseph Poupart

Pierre Barette dit Courville (1748-1794) - son of Marie Josephe Poupart

Marie Angelique Baret dite Courville (1779-1815) - daughter of Pierre Barette dit Courville

Marie Emélie Meunier dit Lagassé (1808-1883) - daughter of Marie Angelique Baret dite Courville

Lucy Passino (1836-1917) - daughter of Marie Emélie Meunier dit Lagassé - 2nd great grandmother

NOTE: Great Grand-Father = (_ggf);  Great Grand-Mother = (_ggm), etc

Source "Minnesota, eh?" pages 68 -- Chapter 6 LAPRAIRIE: Second Generation Perrases, Patenaudes, et al.


  1. Charles Deneau ,son of Marin Deneau was my 5GGF

  2. Charles Deneau ,son of Marin Deneau was my 5GGF

  3. M. Angelique Baret was my 4th GGM

  4. Marie Angelique Baret is also my 4th great-grandmother. I am descended through her daughter Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier dit Lagassé.

  5. My ancestors from LaPrairie are Pierre Perras, Charles Boyer, Mathieu Faye, Jean Bourbon, Andre Robidou, Marc Jean Cusson, Jean Magnan and others. Great information Thank you!

  6. Guess we are some kind of cousins . :-)

  7. Excellent piece of work! Thanks for sharing your efforts!