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Nos Ancestres

Antoine Desrosiers
           
By Thomas J. Laforest (Vol. II, Chapter 8)

On that autumn evening in 1645, at Quebec, Father Jerome Lallemant was thinking about the missionary staff in New France. He thought about the community of Trois-Rivieres where three domestic servants were employed, who earned 100 livres each per year. And then he wrote the name of "Ant. des Rosiers." This Father Lallemant, whom the Hurons called "Achiendasse," was the new Superior of the Jesuits in Canada ever since 1644. Did this great missionary know Antoine Desrosiers? Perhaps he met him in the summer of 1645 while passing through Trois-Rivieres on his way back to Huron country. 

Desrosiers, after his arrival in the colony, had settled in the Quebec region. Antoine's name appeared in the baptismal book at Sillery, where, on 10 January, 1642 he is called "A servant in this house." This minute detail allows us to fix the arrival of ancestor Desrosiers at about 1641, when he would have been about 24 years old. 

Where did this man come from? One American descendant, who has done extensive research on the family, claims that Antoine was born on 14 April 1617 at Forez, the son of Antoine and of Sophie Trou. Others claim that he was originally from Renaison, a town in the Department of the Loire, District of Roanne, Province of Auvergne. Both Forez and Renaison are nearby Lyon. 

Antoine, an active and practical man, lost no time in being accepted among his trifluvien companions, both as a colonist and a carpenter. The time he had spent with the Jesuits, serving as a domestic, had given him a knowledge of the country: the land, the climate, the people. He was a man who would fly on his own wings. 

On the 28th of October, 1649, Monsieur D'Ailleboust, at the Chateau Saint-Louis I Quebec, granted Antoine, in writing, a piece of land of 20 square arpents for cultivation. It was located on the right bank of the Saint-Maurice River, on the outskirts of Trois-Rivieres. This grant was approved by Pierre Boucher on the 28th of July, 1656. Antoine paid 6 deniers in "cens."

The next year, on 2 June 1650, Desrosiers found himself a pied-a-terre in the market town of Trois-Rivieres on Rue Notre-Dame, northwest side. This plot was 128 feet square, on which he built a house and a very small stable. Seventeen years later he sold it to Michel Godefroy dit Lintot for 150 livres. It was on this very same spot that Major of the Militia of Trois-Rivieres, Monsieur de Gannes, built his house in 1756. 

On 8 June 1657, Antoine obtained a concession of 10 arpents at Riviere-aux-Sables, Point du Lac, from Pierre Boucher. Pierre Lefebvre and Guillaume Pepin already had some land in this corner of Lac-Saint-Pierre. The financial obligation of our concessionaire was but to pay 10 deniers of "cens" per arpent of frontage. Urbain Beaudry acquired this land in 1674 for 50 livres. 

In April of 1664, on the Ile-aux-Cochons at the mouth of the Saint-Maurice River, Desrosiers acquired a small strip of land between Pierre Dizy and Jacques Leneuf. Finally, Quentin Morel granted him a plot of land at l'Arbre-a-la-croix, the former fief of Jacques Hertel at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, land which he then sold to Pierre Proulx on 3 September 1679 for 300 livres. This plot was 5 arpents wide by 40 deep. 

According to the words of Father Charlevoix, the Iroquois, " Came like foxes. Fought like lions and fled like birds." 

Their rolling river roads were the Richelieu and the Saint-Lawrence. The situation was most tragic for a long time. 

"On the 7th of August, 1651, there was killed by the Iroquois at Trois-Rivieres, one Maturin, the domestic of Antoine des Rosiers. Having left at 4 o'clock in the morning to go and shoot crows in his fields, he was found dead on the road, with two shots in his chest and a tomahawk in his head." 


This tragedy is only one of many reported in the Jesuit Journals. We know that in 1653 Governor de Lauzon ordered all able-bodied men, 16 to 60 to stand night watches in Trois-Rivieres. Antoine took up his duties just like the others. 

"A canoe has arrived from Trois-Rivieres which informs us...that Antoine des Rosiers was rescued from the hands of the Onondagas near Lake Ontario and that he has returned to Trois-Rivieres." 

As a matter of fact, Antoine had been captured around the 26th of May at Lac-Saint-Pierre, along with two other companions, of whom one was tortured and put to death by fire. We could never depict accurately enough the anguish and the suffering of our ancestor and his family during those eleven weeks of his absence. This adventure reminded Antoine of the fact that he had asked too quickly for an inventory of the assets of Adrien Jolliet the preceding year. On 13 June 1658, Jolliet had been taken away "that day." We know that the latter had pulled through alive, and that he married Jeanne Dodier in January, 1664. 

Master Carpenter

In 1634 Champlain ordered La Violette to build a small fort at Trois-Rivieres, and it was done. In 1649 Pierre Boucher, agent and clerk of the Company of New France, wanted a fortfied enclosure for the defense of the town. Thus he commissioned Desrosiers, Sauvaget and Signoret to supply and deliver 500 stakes "11 feet long" to the foot of the fort commanded by Jacques Leneuf. Two oxen, some rope and strong arms--that is all this task required of the contractors. Price: 15 livres per hundred stakes. 

On another, more interesting occasion, Antoine was permitted to demonstrate his engineering talents. In 1668, as a master carpenter, he and Guillaume Larue undertook the construction of a windmill for the Jesuit Fathers at the Pointe de Sainte-Eloy, "away from the danger of the tide." according to the careful specifications of Father Beschefer, S.J. Without trying to identify the forty or so different pieces that go into the construction of the windmill, let us mention only the two sails, 48 feet long, with but 9 inches at the middle and 10 inches at the ends. 

"The hole (must be) well and duly squared and planed according to the judgment of the experts thus signed." 


Citizens of Champlain

Antoine's energy was absolutely astounding. On the 17th of March 1665, Antoine Pezard mad 50 grants in Champlain, one of which, 3 arpents in frontage by 40 deep, went to our ancestor. In 1667, Desrosiers lived at Cap-de-La-Madeleine, where he owned, according to the census, 15 cultivated arpents and 5 animals. His son Michel had replaced the farm hand, Jacaues Bourdin, for the work on the family farm. In 1668, therefore, Antoine became a colonist of Champlain. On 29 August 1669 he was named fiscal manager of the new seigneurie, a position which he filled until his death. He was also a trustee and a seigneurial judge. 

When Antoine arrived in New France he could not sign his name; therefore the presumption of illiteracy is logical. After some years we see his signature appearing quite legibly on numerous documents. Given the administrative responsibilities he assumed, plus the fact that he owned books at a time when their very presence was a rarity, we must assume that he was a self-taught literate of considerable talent. Upon his death, an inventory listed these tomes: some works on law and history, the Coutume de Paris in two volumes, the Ordinances Civile, and six small books by various authors. Antoine had understood the value of an education. As a result, he sent his daughter Marie to study under the Ursuline. 

A Family to be Loved

Antoine had a heart. He admired justice and detested chicanery. An example would be his agreement before Notary Ameau in regard to a problem arising between Helie Grimard and himself. 

On 24 November 1647, Notary Flour Boujonnier (who died five years later in the disastrous expedition of Duplessis-Keebodot against the Iroquois) drew up a 

"contract of marriage which, God willing, will be made in the presence of our Holy Mother, the most Catholic, Roman and Apostolic Church, between Antoine Desrosiers, native of Bourg de Ranaison, in the vicinity of Lyon in France, and Anne du Herisson, a native of Bourg de Thierry in Normandy." 

Michel Leneuf du Herisson, father of the young woman, bestowed upon his future son-in-law 

"a dowry of 500 livres in cash, plus two suits of clothes, a mattress with bolster, two blankets and twelve sheets, six tablecloths, three dozen napkins, twelve plates, twelve dishes, and a pot, all of pewter; the best one of three pregnant heifers and a pregnant sow;" 

All of which certainly must have made the newlyweds happy, considering the poverty in which most of the early settlers found themselves. Michel Leneuf, Squire de Herisson, as well as his brother, Jacques Leneuf de la Poterie, signed the contract along with Jacques Hertel, Gaspard Boucher, Adrien Duchesne, Thomas Godefroy de Normanville, Jean Poutrel, Jean Amiot, Pierre Boucher, Pierre Lefebvre, Pierre Le Gardeur de Repentigny, and the Notary Boujonnierl. Bertrand Fafard and Guillaume Isabel had to content themselves with making their marks. 

Antoine actually married Anne Leneuf in 1649. Her father, in addition to being one of the largest landowners in New France, was also a commercial brewer. 

On 9 March 1652, this Michel Leneuf granted himself the littoral and all the Islands from Miscou to New Brunswick, actually as far as Cap-des-Rosiers in the Gaspe. In 1663, says Marcel Trudel writing in "Le Terrier du Saint-Laurent," Hertel owned more than 807,514 aprents of land, something to make an Emir of the Persian Gulf envious. 

Anne, probably born at Caen in 1642, was only 4 years old when she disembarked at Quebec with her father in 1636. Therefore she must be considered a "Canadienne." The family lived at Trois-Rivieres for more than 15 years. For a time they lived in a house belonging to Jacques Hertel. History tells us that, on the 10th of August 1651, Jacques died suddenly in the house of his tenant, Desrosiers. In 1681 the census mentions that Antoine lived with his wife and four children at Champlain. The colonist Desrosiers had tow domestics, four rifles, four pistols, nine animals and forty arpents of land under cultivation. With so many firearms one must assume that the family was well versed in hunting and self-protection.

Anne and Antoine had 8 children: 

1. Marie, baptized on 16 June 1650 at Trois-Rivieres, married Alexandre Rault on 19 February 1664 at Trois-Rivieres (contract 19 January by Ameau). They had ten children: 4 boys and 6 girls. 

2. Michel, baptized on 3 September 1652 at Trois-Rivieres, married Marie-Thomasse Artault on 14 January 1679 at Champlain. They had nine children: 4 boys and 5 girls. Michel added the surname Desilets to his already distinguished family name. 

3. Joseph, baptized on 29 July 1655 at Trois-Rivieres, died at an early age. Joseph was no longer with the family when the census was taken in 1666.

4. Jean, born on 29 September 1657 and baptized the next day at Trois-Rivieres, married Marie-Francoise Dandonneau on 20 January 1682 at Champlain. They had ten children: 7 boys and 3 girls. Jean added the surname Dutremble to his family name. 

5. Anne, born on 12 November 1661 and baptized the same day at Trois-Rivieres, married Jacques Turcot on 4 April 1674 at Champlain (contract the same day by LaRue). They had eleven children: 5 boys and 6 girls. 

6. Antoine, born on 30 August 1664 and baptized the same day at Trois-Rivieres, married Marie-Renee Lepelle on 26 November 1696 at Champlain (contract the previous day by Normandin). They had eleven children: 5 boys and 6 girls. Antoine added the surname Lafresniere to his family name. 

7. Pierre, born around 1667, married Marguerite Aubuchon on 27 April 1693 at Champlain (contract the previous day by Normandin). They had nine children: 3 boys and 6 girls. Pierre added the surname Dargy to his family name. 

8. Marie-Jeanne, born around 1671, married Claude Drouet on 18 March 1687 at Champlain (contract 27 August 1688 by Merommont). They had eleven children: 8 boys and 3 girls. 

Around the year 1683, sons Antoine and Jean signed up to go out to the Illinois country. 

Some Roses from the Rosebush

The ancestor Desrosiers, covered with honors, was buried at Champlain on the 9th of August, 1691, at the age of about 72. As for Anne Leneuf, we don't know about her demise. We believe her to have been alive in Champlain in 1701 when "the widow Desrosiers" gave a half minot of grain to the church, for the poor. 

The Desrosiers spread into all of the Quebec region, into the Maritimes and into New England, where their descendants are very numerous. Desrosiers have distinguished themselves in different sectors of society.

Let us mention Leo-Paul Desrosiers (1896-1967), a native of Berthier-in-Haut, husband of Antoinette Tardif, curator of the municipal library of Montreal, a columnist of the newspaper, Devoir, author of several works, among which are Les Opiniatres and Les Engages du Grand Portage. In Trois-Rivieres, on Boulevard Turcotte, if you happen by the monument to the Sieur de la Verendry, remember that, in 1647, ancestor Desrosiers owned this land.

End Notes 

Adhemar, 14 August 1679; 8 December 1679

Ameau, 28 July 1656; 8 June 1857; 2 April 1664; 17 March 1665; 17 November 1665; 9 February 1667; 25 July 1674; 18 July 1678; 15 August 1691.
 
Audouart, 24 November 1647; 1 August 1649; 28 October 1649.
 
Boujonnier, 24 November 1647.

------. BRH, Volume 6, pages 227 to 231; Volume 8, page 286; 
Volume 15, page 59; Volume 21, page 107; Volume 34, page 252.
 
------. CD, Volume 24, page 109; Volume 29, page 58; Volume 33,, page 246.
 
Cloutier, Histoire de Champlain, Volume 1, pages 32, 52, 61, 83 & 88. 

Cusson, 8 June 1669; 20 July 1671. 

Douville, Daily Life etc., pages 24, 103, 347. 

Duquet, 7 November 1665. 

Gatineau, 2 June 1650. 

Godbout, AG-TR, pages 55 to 57. 

------. JJ, pages 6, 158, 261. 

------.RAPQ, JDCSNF, Vol 1, pages 218-219; Vol 2, page 223. 

Roy, P.-G., ICPJ, Volume 1, page 15; Papier Terrier de la Compagnie des  Indes  Occidentales, pages 290, 369. 

Scott, H.-A., Notre-Dame de Sainte-Foy, Volume 1, page 311. 

Seguin, R.-L., La civilization traditionelle, etc., pages 403, and 425 

 
 

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