1- Arrival of Mathurin
It is likely that, as numerous immigrants to New France, Mathurin sailed from the port of La Rochelle on a merchant ship that linked the metropolis to its colony. Generally, recruiting agents in Poitou tended to send their recruits to New France. In fact, they sent 569 persons to Canada between 1608 and 1700. Mathurin was the only settler who came from La Chapelle-Thémer, but 45 others came from Fontenay-le-Comte, the capital of Lower Poitou, in the south of Vendée, some fifteen kilometres from our ancestor’s birth place. Mathurin was an immigrant duly hired by contract who, as many of his contemporaries, hoped to improve his socioeconomic status by crossing the Atlantic.
There is no consensus amongst genealogists as to Mathurin’s date of arrival in New France. According to genealogist Michel Langlois, Mathurin Dubé “comes to Canada as a hired hand toward 1663.” (1) Most of the immigrants at that time were soldiers, seamen, artisans or other poor people, some of whom committed themselves to an employer by signing a three-year service contract. At the end of their contract, they could return to France or stay in America, where they could ply their trade or become landowners. The hiring contract signed by Mathurin has not been found in spite of considerable efforts spent in the Archives of Charente-Maritime and Vendée. As Mathurin was granted a piece of land in 1667, we can presume that he arrived at the latest in the Summer of 1664.
Our ancestor’s name was mentioned for the first time in the Census of 1666, in which he was identified simply as “the said Dubé,” (2) 33 years of age, and one of twelve farm servants hired by the bishop Mgr de Laval to operate his seigniory in Beaupré. These servants, ranging in age from 18 to 40 years, plied various trades: farm labourer, carpenter, mason, tailor and shoe maker. As was the case for six of his companions, Mathurin was registered as a “worker” (3) and was assigned to farm chores on the seigniorial estate bordering the brook which much later (1695) would power the flour mill commissioned by Mgr de Laval, this building serving today as a historical interpretation centre and being known as the “moulin du Petit-Pré”. Since contracts usually required servants to serve their master for a period of three years, marriage was thus postponed. Often, servants were dressed, fed and housed, and might even be paid a modest stipend. A dire shortage of girls to marry forced many settlers to remain celibate for more than three years. As for Mathurin, he became the owner of a piece of land in 1667 on Orléans Island, near Quebec City. In the following census, he is registered under the family name “Duberg” amongst a group of unmarried men, two of whom are former companions from Petit-Pré, and he was said to be 30 years of age. At this point, he finally started his life as a settler and directed his efforts to the accumulation of sufficient wealth to consider marriage.
2- Arrival of Marie and First Contact with Mathurin
Marie Campion arrived in Quebec City after a long and arduous crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, most likely aboard the St-Jean-Baptiste that left Dieppe in the Spring of 1670. She travelled in the company of some 150 other “King’s Daugnters” (4) recruited in Paris by Élisabeth Estienne. She was then only 16 years of age and an orphan. However, she was no exception, since amongst the King’s Daughters listed from 1663 to 1673 by Yves Landry, 194 were between 14 and 20 years of age and some 65% were orphans. Many of these girls were cared for by one of two nun orders, the Ursulines or the Hospitalières, until they found a husband. Whether Marie was sheltered by one of these orders or in one of the houses owned by Mrs. Gasnier-Bourdon, her future was certainly influenced by the place where she stayed. Did Mathurin meet Marie in one of the establishments operated by these orders at the western tip of Orléans Island or at the Sainte-Famille church? The most likely hypothesis is that Marie met Mathurin through Anne Gasnier-Bourdon on the advice of the staff working for Mgr de Laval, who had granted his former servant a piece of land in his seigniory in Orléans Island.
3- Marriage of Mathurin and Marie
It is not exceptional that Marie Campion, as most of the other King’s Daughters, quickly found a man to marry. Her period of courtship was short as it was the case for most of her companions. In his letter addressed to minister Colbert and dated September 30, 1670, Mgr de Laval stated that “the major portion of the one hundred and fifty girls you sent us this year were married in a very short period of time.” (5) Indeed, in 1670 and 1671, authorities coerced celibate men to marry without delay. Moreover, King’s Daughters had to be married quickly since they were provided for by the Royal Treasury. Marie and Mathurin met with royal notary Romain Becquet in Mrs. Gasnier-Bourdon’s house on Sunday, August 24, 1670, to sign their “undertakings” and marriage settlements according to the Customary Law of Paris (aka Custom of Paris). The lower part of the contract was also signed by Marie’s protectors, Mrs. Estienne and Gasnier-Bourdon, by Louis Rouer de Villeray, member of the Sovereign Council, and by Jean Baptiste Gosset and Claude Morin, both respected men from Quebec City. The marriage was celebrated ten days later, on Wednesday, September 3, in the Sainte-Famille church, Orléans Island, in the presence of Pierre Rondeau and Nicolas Odet, who had been Mathurin’s work companions on the Petit-Pré seigniorial estate of Mgr de Laval and became his neighbours on Orléans Island.
In short, we have good information about Mathurin’s departure point in Europe as revealed by his marriage contract, but we have only sparse details on his arrival in New France. Conversely, uncertainties surround the exact origin of Marie, but we have precise information on the context of her arrival in the colony and her marriage contract crowns the available information.
Original French quotations
(1) « vient au pays comme engagé vers 1663. »
(2) «le nommé Dubé.»
(3) « travaillans ».
(4) « Filles du roi ».
(5) «la plus grande partie des cent cinquante filles que vous y avés envoyées cette année, ont esté mariées en très-peu de temps.»