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. One of the most easterly seigneuries to be granted on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River at the time, it was apparently named “Rivière-Ouelle” in honor of Louis Houel, a companion of explorer Samuel Champlain and possibly a friend of the Deschamps family. It was also known as “La Bouteillerie,” in honor of Deschamps’ grandmother, Suzanne Le Bouteiller.
Marriage and family
While securing the land grant, Jean-Baptiste must also have spent time looking for a wife. Perhaps his aunt, the Augustinian nun Sister St. Joachim who had preceded him to Quebec decades earlier, had been making discrete inquiries to find a proper woman for her noble nephew. Or perhaps other arrangements were being pursued by Deschamps or by his family in France.
Somehow the appropriate connections were made. A year after arriving in Quebec, having resolved the location of his land grant and having arranged for a home to be built on the property, Jean Baptiste François Deschamps de la Bouteillerie signed a contract to marry Catherine Gertrude Macard on October 16, 1672. They were married 8 days later in Quebec City. Among those attending the wedding was Comte de Frontenac, the newly appointed Governor of Quebec, along with other members of high society and the new government and several officers of the recently disbanded Carignan Regiment.
Catherine Gertrude was not quite 17 years of age at the time, having been born in Quebec on November 15, 1655. She was the daughter of Marguerite Couillard, who had also been born in Quebec and who had deep family roots in New France. In fact, Catherine Gertrude’s great grandparents, Marie Rollet and Louis Hebert, were the first couple to establish a home in Quebec City less than a decade after its founding. Their daughter had married Guillaume Couillard, who became a prominent figure in Quebec history. Guillaume and Guillemette had ten children, among them Marguerite, Catherine Gertrude’s mother. Marguerite’s first husband, the Canadian explorer Jean Nicolet, had died in a canoe accident because he could not swim. Her second husband and Catherine Gertrude’s father, Nicolas Macard, died four years after Catherine Gertrude was born.
After their marriage, Jean-Baptiste and Catherine Gertrude almost certainly stayed in Quebec City until their home in Rivière Ouelle was completed, although Deschamps of course must have spent time on his grant, supervising the building of his home and the clearing of the land. On the 27th of September 1673, the couple’s first son Jean Baptiste François was born and baptized in Quebec City eleven months after their marriage.
Life in Rivière-Ouelle
Sometime over the next couple of years, Jean-Baptiste and Catherine Gertrude moved into their new home in Rivière Ouelle. Their next two sons Charles Joseph and Jean Baptiste were probably born there, since there was a time interval between their births, in July 1674 and July 1676 respectively, and the registrations of their baptisms in Quebec City.
Few records exist to tell us what the family’s life was like in Rivière-Ouelle during those early years. It could not, however, been verysimilar to the society living they would have had in Quebec City. If they were like other noble families living on their land grants, their home was not very palatial and was probably built at least at first out of wood. By 1681, they apparently had at least one servant to help out with domestic chores.
Since Rivière-Ouelle was still an outpost at the time with few inhabitants, class lines could not have been all that rigid – at least in the beginning. As far as I can tell, there were no other women living in Rivière-Ouelle until shortly after 1674 when men who had received grants of land began to bring wives back to settle there. Only one other woman similar in rank to Catherine Gertrude – Catherine Baillon, wife of Jacques Miville — would come to live in Rivière-Ouelle, and they didn’t arrive until around 1676.
Jean Baptiste and Catherine Gertrude must have been quite happy to welcome new families to Rivière-Ouelle. There are records that provide evidence that they were involved in village activities, such as baptisms, acting as godparents for several children, including my ancestor François Robert, Jeanne’s first son with Robert. Apparently, they did enjoy some symbols of respect due the nobility. While there are no documents or journals, there are stories of the traditional Maypole event on the first day of May. Rents and other levies were apparently paid at the Deschamps manor on St. Martin’s Day, November 11. The family also had a special seat in the church when it was finally built and received certain recognition during a church service or other village event. And at least once a year, Jean-Baptiste had to pay homage to the King’s representatives in Quebec City.
As the years passed, their family continued to expand. A fourth son Henri-Louis was born to Catherine Gertrude and Jean-Baptiste on February 7, 1679 – this time apparently in Quebec City. Then almost three years later, tragedy struck in Rivière-Ouelle. On November 21, 1681, Catherine Gertrude died, giving birth to their last son, Jean François, just a few days after her 26th birthday. Her baby son died with her. The attending priest registered their deaths in L’Islet, several kilometers down the road since the parish of Rivière-Ouelle was not yet organized. Catherine Gertrude and her son were, however, buried on land that was to become Rivière-Ouelle’s first cemetery.
Since their first son had not survived long enough to be in included in the 1681 census, Jean-Baptiste would have been left with three young sons at the time of his wife’s death: seven-year old Charles Joseph, five-year old Jean Baptiste François, and three year-old Henri-Louis. According to Paul-Henri Hudon, the prominent Canadian historian, the sons would have been sent off to live with their godparents, members of the well-to-do Couillard family and Catherine Gertrude’s relatives, until they came of age, in keeping with the custom of the time. Those families lived in Quebec City, and they thus would have been able to raise the boys to the “noble way of life,” to ensure they received the proper education at the seminary or in military academies and learned appropriate manners, postures, dress and speech. Their father would not have been able to arrange such a suitable upbringing because he was occupied with developing the seigneurie far from Quebec City.
We don’t know for sure how frequently Jean Baptiste saw his sons, whether they came to Rivière-Ouelle to visit, whether they got together on his visits to Quebec City, or many other details of their early lives. But one thing we do know is that Jean Baptiste stayed single for 20 years after his wife died, a rare occurrence that deserved mentioning in at least one Canadian history book.