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Jean PELLETIER dit GOBLOTEUR - Life in New France


The "Canadian" Ancestor

Guillaume Pelletier (1598-1657) and his wife, Michelle Mabille (1597-1665), who were already 43 and 44 years old when they arrived in New France in 1641, did not leave an heir of Canadian birth. It was their son, Jean, who traveled across the Atlantic with his parents from France, who would eventually perpetuate the Pelletier name in Canada. Although French by birth, Jean Pelletier deserves to be regarded as the first “Canadian” ancestor of this branch of the Pelletier family; his progeny has settled in great abundance throughout Canada, especially in the area of Quebec City, and more still in the “Bas Saint-Laurent” region of the Province. Having arrived in the colony in 1641 at the age of fourteen, a youth uprooted from his home and transplanted in a foreign land, it was in this rich Canadian soil that he truly took permanent root. Young Jean undoubtedly savored the sense of adventure while traveling west across the Atlantic, but a greater adventure awaited him: to settle in this new country and grow along with it.

Jean Pelletier and Religious Devotion

It did not take long for Jean to seek adventure in New France: in 1646, he volunteered with the Jesuits as a “donné”, a sort of missionary in training. At that time, Jean was nineteen years old, and he worked with his father at different construction sites in the area, mostly in Quebec City, where the Jesuits had established their missionary center; Guillaume and Jean were in constant contact with members of the order. Father Jérome Lalemant wrote in the Jesuit Journal on August 28, 1646, “I left alone in a canoe to go to Trois-Rivières. I brought with me in a rowboat two men and a child. One of the men was the son of the gobloteur, named Guillaume Pelletier, logger, sawyer, carpenter, coalman, etc. Although he volunteered with us suddenly, we promised his par-ents one hundred francs for his first year.” Somehow young Jean had learned of Lalemant’s departure for Trois-Rivières, perhaps from the good Father himself, and in an unexpected manner, he offered to accompany him, and volunteered with the Jesuits.

Fort Sainte-Marie-des-Hurons

To establish that Jean Pelletier was a Jesuit volunteer is one thing, but to conclude that, as such, he went as far as the Huron country at the edge of Georgian Bay, is another; no archives or rosters from the period in question provide us with a list of those laymen assigned to work at Fort Sainte-Marie-des-Hurons there. At most, a letter from Father Paul Raguemeau, dated May 1, 1647, tells us that the preceding fall, the Fort housed fifteen “donnés,” five hired hands, and four children. It is only by combining and consulting different texts that historians have been able to reconstruct, with any degree of exactitude, the lists of names corresponding to each on the these categories. With regard to Jean Pelletier, therefore, we have only the information that the Jesuit Journal provides, an extract of which is quoted above, telling us that Jean accompanied Lalemant on his voyage to Trois-Rivières. As Trois-Rivières was the site of a mission of great significance in New France, it is not surprising that this is where Jean went to serve the Jesuits as a “donné.” However, after a more attentive reading of the account, even if the name of Jean Pelletier is nowhere else mentioned explicitly, we can conclude that in 1646, he did not stop at Trois-Rivières, but instead accompanied a Huron convoy to Fort Sainte-Marie-des-Hurons.

A Difficult Wedding

If Jean did really go to Huron country, there is no way to tell how long he stayed there. Historian Jean Côté has concluded that Jean would have had to return from Fort Sainte-Marie in 1649, given that he wed Anne Langlois in Quebec City on December 9 of that year. Jean Pelletier had had to wait to marry the young Anne, but not because he was serving the Jesuits at Fort Sainte-Marie; he had been forbidden to marry her earlier. Speaking of Jean’s volunteering with the Jesuits in 1646, Léon Roy indicates, “He was not meant for a life of vocation. The next year, he pledged himself in marriage to Anne Langlois.” In fact, Jean wanted to marry her that very year, 1647, but he had to wait two more years. The laws of the Church prevented their marriage be-cause, at that time, Anne was only 10 years old! The three marriage banns had been published on three different feast days in June and July, but when the wedding day arrived, someone had discovered the canonical law preventing the union. Born September 2, 1637, Anne was not even technically ten years old! To be in order with the law of the Church, Anne and Jean had to wait until after her twelfth birthday to marry.

Admittedly, Jesuit volunteers of this time, like Jean, were not bound by a vow of perpetual celibacy, but within this particular order, his having attempted to marry Anne ended Jean’s contract as a “donné”. One might wonder also if Jean had not outlasted the probationary period to which all such volunteers were subject; Father Lalemant, to convince his reluctant superior general to maintain the institution, had introduced a one-year probationary period for all candidates before considering them for a more permanent engagement. We do not know exactly how long this period lasted, but we do find an indication in the Jesuit Journal, which mentions that Jean Pelletier’s parents would receive one hundred Francs for their son’s “first year” of service; this “first year” was probably the probationary period. On December 20, 1648, Jean Pelletier was godfather to the son of his soon-to-be brother-in-law; this child was christened Jean Langlois.

His children

On December 9, 1649, Jean Pelletier and Anne Langlois married in Quebec City. The young couple settled with Guillaume Pelletier, Jean’s father, in Beauport. Anne, daughter of Noël Langlois and Françoise Grenier, was herself from Beauport; her father’s land was the sixth tract to the west from that of Guillaume. Anne’s being only twelve years old at the time of her marriage, her first child was born five years later; seven of the couple’s nine children survived to adulthood:

1. Noël (1654-1712), married Marie-Madeleine Mignot in 1674

2. Anne (1656-1696), married Guillaume Lizot in 1670

3. René (1659-1713), married MARIE-Madeleine Leclerc in 1691and Wed M.-Jeanne Godbout in 1703

4. Jean (1663-1739), married Marie-Anne Huot St-Laurent in 1689

5. Marie (1667-1727), married Jacques Gerbert and Mathieu Guillet in 1686.

6. Charles (1671-1748), married fMarie-Thérèse Ouellet and Marie-Barbe Saint-Pierre in 1711

7. Marie-Charlotte (1674-1699), married André Mignier in 1693.

With the exception of Marie (1667-1727), born in Sainte-Famille, all of Jean and Anne’s children were born in Beauport; two children died at birth, Antoine in 1661, and Marie-Delphine, in 1666.

Living in Beauport

After Guillaume Pelletier’s death in 1657, Jean Pelletier inherited his father’s land in Beauport. His rambling youth, marked by crossing the Atlantic at 14 and by his evangelic calling to the missionaries at 19, had poorly prepared him for his future life as a sedentary colonist. His future travels, which would lead him to change homes at least four times, seem to confirm this hypothesis. However, the census of 1667 reveals that his land included twenty-five arpents of arable land, implying that he had been active throughout the years. This is a good average of land cleared, but we should also point out that by this time, Jean was the land’s third occupant, after his uncle and father. We are left to wonder, therefore, how many of these arpents belonged to Jean.

A Brief Stay on the Isle of Orleans

In 1665, Jean Pelletier and his family temporarily left their home in Beauport. On January 21 of that year, Jean lost his mother, Michelle Mabille, who died at the age of 73. Later that same year, Anne’s mother, Françoise Grenier, was killed in an accident on October 31. It is almost as if Jean, previously tied to Beauport through familial obligations, could now realize an old dream: to move to the Isle of Orleans, where he had acquired property some two years before. This parcel of land was situated in the so-called “arrière-fief de la Chevalerie,” conceded to Jean by the Juchereau brothers, sons of Lord Jean Juchereau de Maure. Jean Pelletier’s brothers-in-law had preceded him to the Isle: Jean Langlois dit Boisverdun and Noël Langlois dit Traversy owned and cultivated the two parcels closest to Jean. In 1666, the census does not mention the number of arpents Jean had cleared; we learn only that his daughter, already eight days old, had not yet been baptized, and that he had a servant, Guillaume Lemieux, whom he paid monthly. A year later, a second census reported that Jean cultivated five arpents of land.

That same year, on December 8, 1667, Jean sold his rights to the land on the Isle of Orleans to his sister’s brother, Jean Langlois dit Boisverdun, and the next spring, he and his family returned to Beauport, to his father’s land. The reason for this sudden departure is unknown, but we might assume that the impetus was related to the fact that most of his land in Beauport had been yielded to him in consideration of his farming it, which is to say, for a limited time, and if he did not farm it, he would forfeit his rights to it. It was undoubtedly in the Pelletier home in Beauport that, two years later, Guillaume Lizot proposed to Anne Pelletier, Jean’s daughter; indeed, only two years later, notary Paul Vachon drafted their marriage contract. Like her mother, Anne Pelletier married young, at the age of 13. In 1674, another wedding was celebrated, when the eldest son, Noël, married Madeleine Mignot. That same year, another joyous event greeted Jean, as his wife, Anne Langlois, although already a grandmother, became a mother for one last time, giving birth to a girl, Marie-Charlotte.


Now the father of seven, including a baby girl, at this point Jean Pelletier seemed resolved to finish his days in Beauport, on the land he had inherited from his father. Nevertheless, in 1675, he decided to leave Beauport again, this time moving to Île-aux-Oies; his wife and children joined him the following year. In 1678, we find the family on a parcel of land measuring six arpents across and limited in depth by the Île itself, totalling approximately twenty-six arpents at the east-end of the isle, across from L’Islet. His eldest children, Noël, husband of Madeleine Mignot, and Anne, wife of Guillaume Lizot, had remained in Beauport; in 1676, these two families established themselves at the Grande-Anse (Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière), an area that Jean had already investigated on behalf of the Juschereau brothers. At this point, Jean was faced with a decision: either stay on the Île-aux-Oies, or join his children and their families at Grande-Anse.

Jean did not stay longer than four years on the Île-aux-Oies. Selling his property there to Guillaume Lemieux, his former servant on the Isle of Orleans who had since become his brother-in-law, Jean departed for new land where to again clear a home for his family. Léon Roy, remarking that Jean Pelletier had thus occupied four different territories before finally settling permanently, asks, “Should we praise him as a valiant pioneer clearing land, or, on the contrary, should we wonder if these inconsistencies were not somehow detrimental to him?” Although it is true that if Jean Pelletier had resolved to die poor, he could not have taken better means to achieve his goal, that his movements were “inconsistent” is hardly the case. Speaking only of his moving from one place to another, we can say that Jean was not unlike many of his peers. At its beginning, Grande-Anse was populated by colonists once well-established in Beauport; it was a time of great expansion in the colony, and at the instigation of Intendant Jean Talon, new fiefs were established all over New France, and their seigneurs were encouraged to grant as many concessions as possible. The Juchereau brothers, who controlled Grande-Anse and its surrounding area, wanted to populate their domain, so they solicited compatriots who, like themselves, originated from Perche. Besides, it was in the blood of these first Canadians to make their way in life by breaking new ground. At 52, Jean Pelletier, if he did indeed lack consistency, he certainly did not lack courage. Instead of settling near his children and family at Grande-Anse, he chose to start this new chapter of his life in a nearby concession, Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, an isolated dominion in the middle of the forest, where he had but one neighbour, Pierre Saint-Pierre.

The Grande-Anse Era

From 1675 to 1680, seven colonists from Beauport established themselves and their families in the seigneury of Marie-Anne Juchereau, in La Pocatière. They were:

1. Noël Pelletier, son of Jean Pelletier, husband of Marie-Madeleine Mignot

2. Guillaume Lizot, husband of Anne Pelletier, Jean's daugther

3. Nicolas Lebel, husband of Thérèse Mignot, daughter of Jean

4. Jean Mignot, husband of Louise Cloutier and father of Marie-Madeleine and Xaintes

5. René Ouellet, who later wed Thérèse Mignot, widow of Nicolas Lebel

6. 6. Nicolas Huot-Saint-Laurent, husband of Marie Fayet

7. 7. Jean Grondin, husband of Xaintes Mignot

We need not look far to find the familial relationships linking the members of this group! On March 16, 1676, Guillaume Lizot, son-in-law of Jean Pelletier, sold his land in Beauport to move to Grande-Anse-de-la-Pocatière (Sainte-Anne) with three of his brothers-in-law, Noël Pelletier, Nicolas Lebel, and Jean Grondin; Lizot and Anne Pelletier went on to have nine children. While he and Anne settled at the western end of the seigneury, close to Saint-Roch, Noël Pelletier chose to settle at the opposite end, close to Rivière-Ouelle; Noël eventually had eight children of his own.

Pionneer of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies

In 1679, instead of settling in La Pocatière, near his children who had established themselves there three years before, Jean Pelletier chose to settle in the seigneury of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies, where Nicolas Juchereau had conceded him five arpents of forest. At the same time, another colonist, Pierre Saint-Pierre, received a concession of land next to him; as Léon Roy comments, Jean Pelletier and Pierre Saint-Pierre were the first two colonists of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies. Indeed, two years later, the census ordered by Monsignor Laval reported that Saint-Roch included “only two family: eleven souls”; Roy believes that for the next fifteen years, Jean and Pierre were the only two colonists of Saint-Roch, the two families living approximately fifteen arpents from each other. It was only in 1694 that their first neighbor, Joseph Oullet, son of René Ouellet, joined them.

At 52, Jean Pelletier was thus starting a new life from scratch, but, admittedly, he was not alone. He could count on the assistance of his two young sons, René, 23, and Jean, 16, the youngest, Charles, being still but eight years old. After two years, again citing the census of 1681, Jean and his sons had cleared five arpents of arable land; he had nine cows and owned one musket. He would, however, soon lose the assistance of both his sons. In 1682, René left Saint-Roch and purchased his father’s old land on the Isle of Orleans; he was the only one of Jean’s children to not settle in the “Bas Saint-Laurent” region of Quebec. In 1686, twenty-three-year-old Jean decided that his time had come to leave his father’s house, and he settled in Grande-Anse-de-la-Pocatière, close to his brother, Noël; about 1688, he married Marie-Anne Huot-Saint-Laurent, with whom he had eight children. That same year, 1686, Jean Pelletier also saw his daughter, Marie, marry Jacques Gerbert, of Cap-Saint-Ignace, leaving with him only his son Charles, age 15, and daughter Marie-Charlotte, age 12. By now Jean was almost sixty years old. We might imagine him alone on his small land in the middle of the dense forest, with only one neighbour, Pierre Saint-Pierre, and with only one route connecting him and his family in Grande-Anse, the Saint Lawrence River.

His death at Saint-Anne-de-la-Pocatière

From 1690 to 1698, the year of his death, Jean Pelletier is not cited in the annals of New France. We have, however, been able to establish that Jean did not die at Saint-Roch, but at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (Grande-Anse), in late February 1698, at the age of 71 years. We believe that Jean, old and sick, did not want to be a burden to his young son, Charles, who, now married to Marie-Thérèse Ouellet, daughter of René Ouellet, could manage on his own at Saint-Roch; Charles and Marie-Thérèse had five children, and with his second wife, Marie-Barbe Saint-Pierre, he would eventually have ten more. Undoubtedly, Jean felt it more suitable to go and live the rest of his days with one of his other children in Sainte-Anne. Given that his widow, Anne Langlois, died some years later at the home of her son, Noël Pelletier, it is almost certain that Jean died there as well. As Noël was the couple’s first child, a pioneer of Sainte-Anne, and undoubtedly well-established, it is possible that he supported his father and mother in their old age.

Having died at Sainte-Anne, Jean Pelletier was buried in Rivière-Ouelle, the only cemetery and church in the area of Grande-Anse. As for his widow, Anne Langlois – referred to as “the good woman Pelletier” by Father Bernard de Roqueleyn –, on January 12, 1704, she went “to the farm of Monsieur d’Auteuil with her son, Charles Pelletier, to declare having sold to him, her son, a portion of land, given her according to her right as widow to choose, that she has declared having taken in the northeast [of the property], consisting of two and a half arpents of frontage…” (Cf. notary Janneau, 1710). Anne thus sold to Charles his share of the family land, which was due to him after his father’s death; the same notaries registry reports that she also sold to him her furniture. Anne Langlois died at the age of 65 on March 16, 1704, and was buried in Rivière-Ouelle. At the time of his death, Jean Pelletier had been able to see all his children marry and settle: Noël, Anne, Jean, and Charlotte in La Pocatière, René on the Isle of Orleans, and Marie in Cap-Saint-Ignace. Charles, the youngest son, had succeeded his father on his land in Saint-Roch. On the day of his death, in addition to his wife and children, Jean also left twenty-six grandchildren, and he had even had the pleasure of knowing some of his great-grandchildren, as Noël Pelletier, Jr., had a daughter, and Nicolas-Claude Mignot, eldest son of Anne Pelletier, had two children as well.

Having been uprooted from its native Tourouvre in 1641, Jean Pelletier and his family quickly prospered greatly in North America.

Taken from “Histoire et généalogie de Guillaume Pelletier 1598-1657 et son fils Jean,” by Maurice Pelletier, s.j. (Montreal: Société généalogique Canadienne-Française, 1976; 24 pp).
English translation by B.J. Shoja. 2003

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