Friday, 3 February 2012

Further details about Antoine Desrosiers
 and his accomplishments

Where did Antoine Desrosiers 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 so it is safe to assume that he was born in that region.
("berceau" means cradle - this picture was taken from Doreen's research)
Based on Our French-Canadian Ancestors (Vol. II, Chapter 8) by Thomas J. Laforest, Antoine was an active and practical man, and lost no time in being accepted among his companions, both as a colonist and a carpenter. The time he had spent with the Jesuits, serving as a domestic, had given him knowledge of the country: the land, the climate, the people.
On 2 June 1650, Desrosiers purchased a pied-a-terre on the northwest side of the market town of Trois-Rivieres on Rue Notre-Dame. This plot was 128 square arpents (about 128 acres) 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 (pounds).  

As stated in Doreen's account, Antoine had been captured along with two other hunters by the Iroquois in 1659 and in the 1650's, there were several Iroquois attacks in this region.  The Governor de Lauzon ordered all able-bodied men from the ages of 16 to 60 to stand as nightwatchmen to protect the inhabitants of Trois-Rivieres and Antoine was amongst the many who participated. While Antoine managed to escape after eleven weeks of capture, his companions were not as fortunate: one was tortured and the other put to death by fire. No historian could ever depict accurately the anguish and the suffering of our ancestor and his family during those eleven weeks of his absence. 

As a Master Carpenter, Antoine demonstrated his engineering talents in the community. Along with the assistance of Guillaume Larue, Antoine constructed a windmill for the Jesuit Fathers at the Pointe de Sainte-Eloy in 1668 according to the careful specifications of Father Beschefer, S.J. . Without trying to identify the many assorted pieces needed for windmill construction, there were two challenging items to be built: the two sails, 48 feet long, only 9 inches thick at the middle and 10 inches at the ends. Father Beschefer was very strict with the carpenters and judged their work in detail as suggested by one of his written instructions: “the hole (must be) well and duly squared and planed according to the judgment of the experts thus signed" (see Nos Ancestres: Antoine Desrosiers online for further details).

Antoine's energy was absolutely astounding. In 1667, Desrosiers lived at Cap-de-La-Madeleine, where he owned a farm with 5 animals and he was the father of 8 children. His son Michel had replaced the farm hand, Jacaues Bourdin, on the family farm. In 1669, he became fiscal manager, a position which he filled until his death, as the new seigneurie of Champlain. He was also a trustee and a seigneurial judge. By this time, Desrosiers had two domestics, four rifles, four pistols, nine animals and forty arpents (one arpent = 0.85 acres) of land under cultivation. With so many firearms, one must assume that the family was well versed in hunting and self-protection. Perhaps his experience with the Iroquois made him more alert to unexpected happenstance. 

When Antoine arrived in New France, he could not sign his name; therefore the presumption of illiteracy is logical. After some years, his signature appears quite legibly on numerous documents. By 1670, he held important administrative duties and books at a time when they were considered rare commodities. Thus, it is likely that his literacy abilities increased over time.

Upon his death, amongst his belongings included some works on law and history, the Coutume de Paris in two volumes, the Ordinances Civile, and six small books by various authors. Obviously, Antoine had understood the value of an education and sent his daughter Marie to study under the Ursuline.

Anotine also admired justice and detested deceit. For example, a disagreement arose concerning his neighbour, Helie Grimard and the matter was brought before Notary Ameau. The issue according to was
"The dispute concerned the alignment of the concessions granted to them. Antoine Desrosiers claimed as his own a tract of land he had cleared and that was found to belong to Helie Grimard. At least the official opinion issued by Gentlemen of the Sovereign Council. The judgment, Desrosiers was willing to comply, but it was he had done the clearing for his neighbor. Where new baffles, new disputes. Fortunately, we arrived at an agreement. Desrosiers will enjoy another year of three acres of cleared land on Grimard. Meanwhile, it will clear three acres of land owned by Antoine Desrosiers Champlain. A notarized contract first went to Quebec in the spring of in 1665. It is confirmed by the notary Ameau on 17 November."

It is quite evident that Antoine's wife Anne came from a wealthy family. Anne, probably born in Caen, was only 4 years old when she disembarked for New France with her father in 1636. The family lived at Trois-Rivieres for more than 15 years and for a time early in their marriage, Anne and Antoine lived in a house belonging to Jacques Hertel. On August 10, 1651, Jacques died suddenly in the house of his tenant, Antoine Desrosiers. The large dowry received (as described by Doreen) must have made the newlyweds happy, considering the poverty in which most of the early settlers found themselves. Anne's father, Michel Leneuf, was one of the largest landowners in New France. On 9 March 1652, 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 arpents of land, something to make an Emir of the Persian Gulf envious. He was also a commercial brewer.


1 comment:

  1. Wow!!! This is really interesting. I knew my Mother had lots of material on our family history but I'm ashamed to admit that I didn't take much interest.

    You're doing a great job Deborah. Thank you.