Robert Levesque, my eighth great grandfather, was over 36 years old when he made his official entrance into Jeanne’s life in late 1678 or early 1679. The books and chapters that have been written about him tell his story so I only need to briefly note the highlights here. Robert’s baptism took place on September 3, 1642 in Hautot St. Sulpice, a small village in upper Normandy, 45 kilometers northwest of Rouen. He was the son of Pierre Levesque and Marie Caumont, who had married on October 27, 1641. His father died in May 1648, and his mother in September 1660, leaving Robert an orphan at 18 years old. When Robert sailed from France in 1671, he left behind a brother, Francois, baptized on April 5, 1644, and possibly other siblings. [⇒]
On April 22, 1679, 36 year-old Robert married 35-year-old, newly widowed Jeanne Chevalier in L’Ange Gardien, a village located just northeast of Quebec City. How he met Jeanne is another mystery. I speculate that he used his community of friends and colleagues in those days before the Internet and the telephone to spread the word. At the time the number of people living in or around Quebec and on the north and south shores of the Eastern St. Lawrence River was still relatively small. With trading trips, work projects, and baptisms and weddings taking him to Quebec City, a young man from Riviere-Ouelle could have solidified friendships, particularly with compatriots from Normandy who spoke his native dialect. So the word could have gone out: “Hard-working single French male from Normandy, well positioned and respected carpenter, with home and good prospects, seeks wife. French-speaking young widows with young children will be considered.” [⇒]
On April 21, 1679, nine months after the birth of her son and sometime after the mysterious disappearance of her first husband Guillaume Lecanteur, the newly widowed Jeanne Chevalier married Robert Levesque in her village of L’Ange Gardien. Although no death certificate for Lecanteur has been found, the church must have been convinced of his death since bans of marriage were published and the marriage was blessed by a priest. Jeanne renounced Lecanteur’s debts the next day, as a widow was allowed to do. The three pieces of land that Guillaume had acquired was either returned to their owners or sold off by the court. [⇒]
When Robert, Jeanne, and her three sons arrived in Rivière Ouelle, they must have received a warm welcome from Jean-Baptiste and his wife Catherine Gertrude, who were probably delighted to have Robert back with his new family. In addition to the work Jean-Baptiste had been doing to grow the seigneurie, his family was also growing. In early February, shortly before Jeanne and Robert arrived, Catherine Gertrude had given birth to a fourth son, Louis Henri, who would have been 6 months younger than Jeanne’s son Guillaume.
Jeanne’s family with Robert soon started to grow as well. [⇒]
While isolated in its location far to the northeast of Quebec along the southern shore of the St. Lawrence, Rivière Ouelle had not been immune from epidemics. In 1688, nine people had died, and in 1699 the epidemic that took the lives of Jeanne’s husband Robert Levesque and of her last Lecanteur son also took nine other lives.
Four years later yet another epidemic spread through New France. There were six deaths in Rivière Ouelle between April 1703 and the end of that year. [⇒]
Another epidemic in New France in 1699 did not leave Rivière Ouelle untouched. By the end of the year eleven people had died. Among the dead was Robert Levesque, Jeanne’s husband of twenty years, on September 11, 1699 less than two weeks after his 57th birthday. Twenty five days later, Charles, Jeanne’s second son with Guillaume and the last to survive their father, died at the age of 24.
Jeanne was now a widow, for the second time. She was 56 years old. [⇒]