Sunday, May 29, 2016

Great Grandma was an Orphan, Killed by Indians

The fascinating story of my 9th great grandparents Pierre Perras and Denise Lemaitre

Pierre Peras or Perras, dit(1) Lafontaine, was the first Perras to come to Québec. He was the son of Pierre Peras, a baker in St-Jean-du-Perrot, a parish in La Rochelle and of Jeanne L'Asnier.

He was born in La Rochelle, Anis, France and was baptized on the 21st of August 1616 in the Sainte Marguerite chapel. He had two sisters: Marie and Catherine.

We know that in Québec he was a 'tonellier': a master tradesman skilled in the art of making of wood barrels. It is also known that he signed a marriage contract on the 10th of January 1660 with Denise Lemaistre. The marriage took place on the 26th of January 1660 in Ville Marie (Montréal) in the presence of Jeanne Mance, Jacques Lemoyne and Louis Charier, a surgeon.

They had ten children together. Pierre Peras died on the 30th of April 1684 in Laprairie, Québec.

Denise Lemaistre, his spouse, was better known and, therefore, more is known about her life. She was born in Paris in 1636 the daughter of Denys-David Lemaistre and of Catherine Deharme. They lived on rue St-Antoine and worshiped in the St-Paul parish church.

Her mother died while Denise was still a young girl. She was consequently put in pension in the "Hôpital de La Pitié" of Paris. Since, in those days, the king (or his administration) paid for almost everything, the hospital was also known as the "Hôpital du Roi", the King's Hospital and any orphan child leaving the hospital at maturity was known as a "Fille du Roi" or "Fils du Roi" - the King's daughter or the King's son.

While at the hospital, Denise obtained the certificate of Midwife. Jeanne Mance, who was looking for girls of good morals, with constitution capable of enduring many hardships and possessing an education that would be useful in the new world, naturally came to the hospital to find them. So it was, then, that Denise Lemaistre became part of the first group of "Filles du Roi" which came to Québec.

Denise set out on her voyage on a ship called the St-André whose captain was named Poulet. The ship sailed from La Rochelle on the 2nd of July 1659. There were 109 persons aboard, some of whom would serve pivotal roles in the early history of the new colony of Nouvelle France.

On the 7th of September 1659, the vessel laid anchor at the foot of the Cap Diamant, Québec. From the onset of the voyage, the plague had reared its ugly head aboard the non-disinfected vessel. The food, which was mediocre at best, had been rationed. Fresh water was also rare so that the hard biscuits served to the passengers had to be crushed with cannon balls to make them edible.

One can imagine the tireless efforts put forth, upon arrival in Québec, by Denise Lemaistre, Jeanne Mance, Marguerite Bourgois and the other Filles du Roi to help the sick and the dying. After three weeks of helping the sick, Denise slowly found her down to Ville-Marie using the only safe mode of transportation, a canoe.

Once she arrived in Montréal, she went into service with the Hospitalières de St-Joseph. Hardly one week passed by before a Montréal pioneer solicited her hand in marriage.

So on the 5th of October, Denise Lemaistre and André Heutibise signed a marriage contract. However, on the 2nd of December 1659, he died in the arms of his fiancée, mortally wounded in a battle with the Iroquois.

The hard life in the new colony in those days did not allow individuals to grief for very long. Therefore, barely a month later, on the 10th of January 1660, and in front of the same notary, Sevigne Basset, she signed a new marriage contract with Pierre Pera dit Lafontaine, tonellier from St-Jean-du-Perrot in the La Rochelle diocese. The marriage took place on the 26th of January as mentioned above.

Note that he signed his name in small letters. At that time, capital letters were optional: pierre pera. His family got that name from Pérat, a small community of Salignac-en-Pons, 25 kilometers from Xaintes, a village in Charente-Inférieure. His trade did not provide enough of an income to buy the necessities for his family. So, on the 25th of August 1667, Pierre Pera bought a 24-acre farm on the edge of the St-Pierre valley between the farms of Pierre Malet and Jacques Beauchamp.

Denise and Pierre had ten children. At the 1681 census, it was noted that they had a 40-acre farm with ten of those acres under cultivation and six heads of cattle. It was further noted that their two oldest sons were absent: they were in the fur trading in the deep forest. Six of their children got married, three of them twice. We are descended from a daughter, Marguerite Perras dit Fontaine, who was born on December 27, 1665, in Montréal, Quebec. Only two of the sons, Jean and Pierre, carried out the Perras name. Pierre Pera never had a chance to see all his children grow up, get married and settle down.

He died the 30th of April 1684. Because of their efforts and hard work, they possessed, at the time of his death, two farms, one barn, one stable, eleven heads of cattle and six pigs.

But even the revenue from all those assets was not enough to support her large family so Denise had to do some fur trading with the Catholic Iroquois to make ends meet.

Eventually, on the 9th of October 1684, she married François Cahel, another pioneer. Three years passed before another catastrophe came into her life: her second husband died on the 18th of November 1687.

Denise Lemaistre did not contemplate starting a family for the third time. Instead, she went back to the skill she had learned in Paris. She practiced midwifery until her death. She died as a martyr for the colony. On October 29th 1691, in the village of Côte St-Lambert, she was killed and massacred by the Iroquois. She was 55 years old.

source (edited):

(1) The term 'dit' means surnamed. It was used extensively in 17th century France as a way to tack on another name to the given names of a person. It was a mean of distinguishing between similarly named individuals. Not much is known about his trip to Québec.

Our Lineage form Pierre Perras, dit Lafontaine:

Pierre Peras dit La Fontaine (1616 - 1684) - my 9th great-grandfather

Marguerite Perras dit Fontaine (1665 - 1708) - daughter of Pierre Peras dit La Fontaine

Joseph Poupart (1696 - 1726) - son of Marguerite Perras dit 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 (Mary) Meunier dit Lagassé (1808 - 1883) - daughter of Marie Angelique Baret dite Courville

Lucy Passino (1836 - 1917) - daughter of Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier dit Lagassé

Abraham Lincoln Brown (1864 - 1948) - son of Lucy Passino

Lydia Corinna Brown (1891 - 1971) - daughter of Abraham Lincoln Brown - my grandmother

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