While I have spent the last several years researching the history of Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier, my eighth great grandmother, there is at least one other Jeanne whose story should be included in this blog. That’s Jeanne Savonnet. The life of this second Jeanne is more well-known than the life of Jeanne Marguerite, but there are several parallels between the two. [⇒]
Finally, the story of Jeanne Marguerite Chevalier is available in French! Thanks to a wonderful team of translators and editors, I am very happy to announce the publication of the book: Jeanne Chevalier, Fille du Roi : Son histoire.
It is also available at Le Plumier, 22 24 Rue Saint-Jacques in Dieppe, France.
I hope you will find her story as captivating as I did! Please feel free to email me your comments!
One of the first Quebecois entrepreneurs
Jean-Baptiste-François Deschamps de la Bouteillerie was born around 1646 in Cliponville, a small Norman village not far from Rouen. Jean-Baptiste was one of at least 11 children born into the noble family of Jean Deschamps de Boishébert and Elizabeth or Isabeau de Bin. His family, by some reports, could trace its line back at least to the third crusade. Jean-Baptiste’s father was Seigneur de Costecoste, de Montaubert, and des Landes and had been honored by Louis XIII in 1629 for the service that he and his family had rendered to the kings of France. In keeping with the practice and laws of the times, [⇒]
Unlike most other grants made at the time with access to the St. Lawrence, the seigneurie Jean Baptiste Deschamps received was not long and narrow, but wide and deep instead. It was still rectangular in shape, however, measuring six miles wide along the St. Lawrence and 4 ½ miles deep into the valley. The grant included land on both banks of a river that snaked its way through the property, a river that would also take on the name “Rivière Ouelle.”
If you could walk the perimeter of the grant and manage to cross the many twists and turns of the river along the way, [⇒]
Little is actually known about what Jean-Baptiste François Deschamps de la Bouteillerie did during the year after his arrival. He appears to have been busy. He wrote a letter to his father shortly after arriving in Quebec and asked for an additional woodworker. On October 29, 1671, he hired Gabriel Lambert to also help out on the estate. Both actions suggest that he had already investigated and decided on a preferred grant site and was scoping out the work involved. The actual grant did indeed mention that he had already started working on it.
Despite Father Asseline’s reference to a promised land grant between Trois Rivières and Montreal, which I have not been able to substantiate, the land Deschamps was officially granted by Intendant Talon on October 29, 1672, lay 148 kilometers northeast of Quebec City. [⇒]
In the fall of 1674, two years after Jean Baptiste had received his grant, he began to make concessions of land to the men who had served out the terms of their three-year contracts with him and had demonstrated their commitment to settle in Quebec. Many of these men were countrymen from the same area in Normandy who came with him in 1671. My ancestor, Robert Levesque, was one of the first to receive a grant, on November 10, 1674. His land, on the southern bank of the Ouelle River, was right across from Deschamps’ estate.
At the time of their grants, most of these men, Robert included, were still single. I suspect that once they had their land secured, [⇒]
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. [⇒]
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. [⇒]