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. [⇒]
Although relatively isolated from what was happening politically in the rest of New France, Rivière-Ouelle did not remain entirely untouched by the wars with the British colonies to the south. In apparent retaliation for incursions by the French into New England, a fleet of 32 British ships with two thousand soldiers, commanded by Sir William Phips, appeared in the eastern part of New France in 1690. They first wreaked havoc on Nova Scotia/Arcadia and then later, in early October 1690, showed up off the shores of Rivière Ouelle. Their presence produced a tale that has been told and retold, often with embellishments and not without confusing facts. (http://www.apointinhistory.net/Rivière-ouelle.php). I will just summarize the events here. [⇒]
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. [⇒]
The reasons why Jeanne decided to marry Jean Baptiste Francois Deschamps de la Bouteillerie and why he waited 20 years to marry again are lost to history. I’ve asked around for opinions and have come up with some explanations.
Possible reasons for Deschamps’ long celibacy range from [⇒]
Jeanne remained single for 18 months after Robert died. On April 5, 1701, she married Jean-Baptiste François Deschamps, Seigneur of la Bouteillerie. There was no contract of marriage. No documents have been found to explain why they decided to marry or why he had waited 20 years to marry again, longer than just about all the other men of his class. [⇒]
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. [⇒]
In addition to providing as many details as possible about my ancestor, the posts will also include anecdotes about experiences encountered in my search for Jeanne’s story. As Jeanne’s 8th great granddaughter, writing almost 300 years after her death, I am in the process of weaving together many historical bits and pieces of her life with archival research, live interviews and conversations in France, Quebec and the United States. And of course, I’m having to use some creative hypothesizing and my intuition to fill in any gaps in information. Jeanne’s is a story full of both facts and mysteries. It’s a story of endings and new beginnings. And it’s a story of much courage, stamina, will, and many choices. Please read Suggested Table of Contents for some tips on how to read the posts.
Three months after Jeanne’s death, in February 1717, her sons had the 1705 Agreement ratified. Her youngest son Joseph died in 1755 and was survived by 9 children. Her second son, Pierre Joachim who left 12 children, died in 1759, just before the fall of Quebec to the English. Francois-Robert, her oldest son, lived until 1765, leaving behind 11 children, among them Jean-Baptiste, my ancestor. In all, 32 of Jeanne’s grandchildren survived her and then went on to create thousands of descendants. [⇒]
On Monday morning, January 30, 1713, Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier sat in her room and dictated her will. She was 69 years old and was now living in the home in Rivière Ouelle, Quebec, along the St. Lawrence River, where she had lived for so many years with her second husband, Robert Levesque. It now belonged to her second son with Robert, as a result of the agreement reached in July, 1705.
I found the copy of the will just by chance, 300 years later in the summer of 2013. [⇒]