In 1667, while still unmarried, Mathurin was granted by his former employer a farm in a seigniory situated close to Quebec City. This was an important step for a man who wanted to establish himself in the colony and eventually attract a suitable spouse, as previously mentioned.
1- Concession of Land on June 22, 1667
In his capacity as seignior of the Côte de Beaupré (west of Québec City) and Orléans Island, Mgr de Laval granted land to some twenty men, one of whom was Mathurin Dubé, in June 1667. On Wednesday, June 22, 1667, before royal notary Paul Vachon, Mgr de Laval granted Mathurin Dubé “three arpents of waterfront land on the said St. Lawrence River, on the south shore of the island” (1) this concession extending on a depth of nearly two miles toward the centre of the island. This land, adjacent to those of Pierre Michaud and Jacques Dugas, was the second farm on the western side of the small Lafleur River and was situated in the Sainte-Famille parish, the only parish then established on the island. After 1678, this land became part of the St-Jean parish. Orléans Island, also called Saint-Laurent Island, had 529 inhabitants at the time.
As was then the case for any vassal, Mathurin had the obligation “to establish himself, to have a fire and abode in this place … in one year from the present day, to till the land,” (2) short of which he might loose the said lands without any compensation. He had to pay his seignior the cense and rents stipulated in the concession contract, as well as mill his grain at the communal mill. In addition, he had to provide a fifteen-foot wide road on each side of his land as well as on the river shore, to build and maintain fences around his land and to reserve part of his land to serve as a communal area accessible to other tenants. The contract was concluded in the presence of Paul de Rainville, bailiff of the seigniories of Beauport and Notre-Dame-des-Anges, Jean Creste, master cartwright and settler, and Jacques Dugas, these persons having signed along with Mgr de Laval and notary Vachon, Mathurin Dubé declaring himself “to be unable to write or sign.” (3)
2- Family of Pioneers
Some documents yield bits of information concerning the commitment of Mathurin and Marie towards their new living environment. In 1667, Mathurin arrived on Orléans Island along with former work companions he knew at the Petit-Pré settlement: Pierre Rondeau and Nicolas Audet dit Lapointe. As Mathurin, they came from Poitou, but were younger than our ancestor. Their lands were in the vicinity. They served as witnesses at each other’s marriages. Pierre Rondeau married Catherine Verrier in 1669, and Nicolas Audet married Madeleine Després 12 days after Mathurin’s wedding, all three brides being King’s Daughters. Mathurin also acted as witness for other marriages contracted by his neighbours or friends. Marie was godmother several times when she lived on Orléans Island. The minutes kept by notaries shed some light on our ancestors’ daily life. On June 9, 1671, Mathurin and his wife were called upon to bear witness in an enquiry relative to physical abuse Mathurin Thibodeau dit Lalime inflicted Marie Ancelin, their neighbour Pierre Michaud’s wife. Mathurin was present at the inventory of Jean Allaire’s estate on June 19, 1673, and Pierre Therrien’s on May 4, 1676. Mathurin served as arbitrator in a conflict between the defendant Pierre Rondeau and the plaintiff Julien Dumont on August 16, 1678. Mathurin is mentioned in the marriage contract entered into by Jean Mourier-dit-le-Père-Véron and Marie Mineau on October 26, 1678.
In 1676, Mathurin purchased a few basic items to improve life for his family, as witnessed at an auction held by notary Paul Vachon for the estate of Jean Allaire, a deceased neighbour. Mathurin bought a fork and a sickle for 1,5 pounds, half a bushel of salt for 1 pound, two old casks and two half-casks fitted with spouts for 7 pounds. According to Pierre Boucher, governor of Trois-Rivières, wine was served “in the better homes, beer in others and another beverage called bouillon in most houses; the poorest people drink water, which is very good and abundant in this country.” (4) Bouillon was a barley beer containing wheat or maize, fermented with water and aged in casks. The Sovereign Council had forbidden the sale of bouillon to the colony’s inhabitants, but the makers of this beverage did not comply. Mathurin’s family probably used their former neighbour’s casks to brew their own bouillon. Marie likely fulfilled all of a housewife’s duties, as did most women at the time. The census of 1681 indicated that Mathurin owned only one cow [or head of cattle] and had cleared only three arpents of his farm. To feed his family, our ancestor likely resorted to fishing, hunting – even though he declared not owning a firearm for this census – and food-gathering to complement his agricultural production. His situation as a pioneer was probably similar to that of his neighbours.
3- Leasing Éléonore de Grandmaison’s Farm
Possibly counting on his family’s growing manpower – his son Mathurin and his daughter Madeleine were then respectively 12 and 10 years old – Mathurin appeared before notary Gilles Rageot on October 29, 1684, and signed a lease committing him to manage for a five-year period the farm owned by Mrs. Éléonore de Grandmaison, who lived in Quebec City and was the widow of a former member of the Sovereign Council. This farm, “extending on a width of forty arpents from one shore to the other on St. Laurent Island,” (5) was then known as Beaulieu farm and was part of La Grossardière’s estate in fee, in Saint-Pierre parish on Orléans Island, some 10 miles from Saint-Jean parish. Mathurin leased this farm with the buildings, the animals, the hay and the straw, as well as all “other things required to operate the said farm.” (6) In return, he had to till the land, maintain the fences and leave the whole property in good condition at the end of his lease; he also had to deliver a portion of the crops to Mrs. de Grandmaison’s home in Quebec City. Other than Éléonore de Grandmaison and notary Rageot, the act mentioned as witnesses Pierre Rondeau, of Orléans Island, Pierre Biron and René Hubert. Once again, it is mentioned that “the said Dubé declared to be unable to write or sign.” (7) In spite of the obligations set therein and the distance between his own house and the new farm, Mathurin most likely accepted to subscribe to this lease because he could foresee a possibility to improve his family’s condition and his own. However, we have no indication that Mathurin ever moved to this farm and fulfilled his commitments. Indeed, on February 13, 1685, Éléonore de Grandmaison signed another five-year lease for her Beaulieu farm with Jean Marandeau Junior.
Original French quotations
(1) « trois arpents de terre de front sur led. Fleuve St Laurent au passage du sud ». According to Wikipedia: 1 arpent = 180 French feet (of approximately 32 centimetres) = about 192 English feet = about 58.47 metres.
(2) « sy establir dy avoir feu et lieu…dans un an de ce jour, de cultiver les terres ».
(3) « ne scavoir escrire ny signé ».
(4) «dans les meilleures maisons, de la bière dans d'autres et un autre breuvage qu'on appelle du bouillon qui se boit communément dans toutes les maisons; les plus pauvres boivent de l’eau, qui est fort bonne et commune en ce pays icy ».
(5) « contenant quarante arpens de front traversant Lisle St Laurens dun bout a lautre ».
(6) « autres choses nécessaires pour faire valloir lad. terre. »
(7) « led Dubé(a) déclaré ne scavoir escrire ny signer ».