Monday, January 3, 2011

Featured Biography- Ancestor Ren`e Ouellette 1639 - 1675

Ancestor, Rene' Ouellet

      Riviere~Ouelle was a charming village which received it's name from one of the directors of the 'Company of One~Hundred Associates', Louis Houel, the Sieur de Petit~Pre', in France. Benjamin Sulte was right when he said that ancestor Ouellet had nothing to do with the name of this picturesque locality. In a beautiful script, Rene' Ouellet signed his name as Rene' Houallet. This diminutive means ' a small hoe', like a trowel. Most of us prefer a variation of Ouellet meaning 'oeiller', a carnation, because no one can say whether ancestor Ouellet was a nobleman become a commoner or a commoner become a nobleman!
         The question is raised in the reading of his marriage
contract presented on March 4th, 1666 at Quebec. Notary Romain Becquet had indeed written that "Rene' was the son of Francois, Collector General of the Province of Poitou, and of Elisabeth Barre', from the town of Beaupere, Bishopric of Lucon". The following statement is more questionable; "the fiancee', Anne Rivet was the widow of 'Gregoire Hise', during his lifetime, Collector of the Eighth of Bretagne". The Marquis de Tract, Monsieur the Governor de Courcelles and Jean~Paul Maheu were present, signing with their admirable initials. The contract also noted the presence of Intendant Talon and the widow of Louis Daillebout, himself a former governor. However, Anne Rivet presented herself as a protege of the King, bringing property to the marriage with a value of 300 livres, a worthy dowry for any respectable lady.
        Thus, began the life of this couple, passing from prestigious parents, to a humble but more promising future for the thousands of Ouellet or Ouellette descendants.

A Parisian in Quebec~

          When the pastor of the Cathedral of Quebec drew up the marriage act of Rene' Houallet, on March 8th, 1666, he wrote that "The father and mother of the groom were living in the parish of St~Jacques du haut~Pas, archdiocese of Paris, and the bride, Anne Rivet, was originally from Saint~Germain, Bishoric of Seas in Basse ~Normandie. Abbot Henri de Berniers does not mention the names of the bride's parents. Present at the ceremony as witnesses were Martin Boutet, Pierre Soumandre and Mathurin Mauricet.
        It is necessary to go back to 1180 to discover a monastery in Paris, where Italian monks, originally from the Altopasso in Tuscany. were living; hence the French name of Haut~Pas. For centuries these religious brethren kept up their charitable works. During the time of ancestor Ouellet their large hospital had become the "Seminaire de l'Oratoire". Beginning in 1630, the parishioners of St.~Jacques added a new chancel to the former chapel. However, Rene' Ouellet was not around to see the new facade and bell tower which were built after his departure in 1675.
        In what year was Rene' Ouellet baptized? In Paris, Archange Godbout found only one document concerning the family of our ancestor; 
"On the 1st of June,1639, before notaries Gaultier and Poureil, Me Francois Houalclerk to five large farms in France. Elisabeth Barre', his wife, living in Paris on rue des Urselins, parish of Saint-Landry, made a mutual donation to the remaining survivor. 

        The legal instructions of the time would be dispensed within his contract, if they had children, Rene' would have been born after 1639 and after his family moved to the parish of Saint~Jacques u Haut~Pas. Was Rene' an only son? Did he attend school for several years? When did he decide to go to Canada? What ship brought him to the shores of North America?
       Generations of researchers have asked these questions without obtaining satisfactory answers. The book 'The Armuriers of New France' contains a fragmentary text, from the notes of P. Laurant, in which a transaction is recorded, on September 26th, 1662, between Father Claude~Jean Allouez and Rene' Vallet at Trois~Rivieres. It seems that Rene' Vallet agreed to work for the term of one year at the Jesuits' forge. For this, compensation would be 150 livres. Historian, Marcel Trudel concludes that this entry does, indeed, refer to our Rene' Vallet or Ouellet.
        On May 27th, this twenty~four year old gunsmith from Saumur, in Anjou, agreed to work for the great explorer, Medard Chouart des Grosseillers, then living at Trois~Riviere. In addition to the seventy~five livres per year, Rene' was to receive lodging, food, and drink from his cousin, Christophe Gerbault, a soldier. Chouart and Gerbault signed the act before notary Moreau at La Rochelle. The two disturbing facts about this: Rene' Vallet made his mark before Father Allouez at Trois~Riviere in spite of the fact that Rene' Ouellet knew how to write, very well. Was it not to offend the notary that he made a mark instead of signing his name? Perhaps the notary had presumed that Rene' did not know how to write. At La~Rochelle and at Trois~Riviere, why a 'V' instead of a 'U'? Or was Rene' Vallet really Rene' Ouellet? A mystery...
        In conclusion, Rene' Ouellet arrived in Canada, probably aboard the good ship Saint~Andre', in the summer of 1659, to go to work at Trois~Riviere, in the service of Medard Chouart, for three years.
Courtesy Archives Nationales du Quebec
 The Colonization of Quebec
         So, our ancestor Ouellet quietly entered the halls of Canadian history. At his marriage, he presented himself as a citizen of Quebec. The book entitled 'L'histoire de l' lle de Orleans' reports him in 1664 or 1665, as living on the next to the last piece of land at Saint~Famille, between the farms of Pierre Mailloux and Guillaume Bauche', almost across the river from Saint~Anne de Beaupre'. The census of 1667 reports the existence of a certain Rene' Oudin. Could not this name be confused with that of Rene' Ouellet, working on the farms of Msgr. de Laval with Pierre Roberge, Pierre Brulot and Jean Auray?
        On April 25th, 1667, Rene' signed as a witness to the marriage contract of Mathias Campagna, farmer for Charles Gaultier dit Boisverdun on the l'lle d'Orle'ans. 
        In the absence of Msgr. de Laval, on February 6th, 1673, the Abbot Dudouyst, administrator, officially initialed a land grant to Ouellet. Let us read about "the number of three arpents of land, parish of Sainte~Famille, crossing to the north", the owner wrote. Notary Vachon, will only be able to fish across from his concession. Why does the text contain the following, unusual words; "he (Msgr. de Laval) wanted to make and ratify and to inhabit the land's of the uninhabited concessions?". Had Rene' already begun to clear this plot for several years, as many serious authors claim? Did he wish to own a deed in order to resell it? Why were the witnesses young men from Beauport, ie., Jean Crete and Nicolas Belanger? Was the Ouellet family living at Beauport?
        Sixteen days later, Rene' Ouellet sold the same three arpents of land, situated between Bauche' and Mailoux to Robert Coutard. The notary specified: "with this cleared land there is a cabin and a shed. "The buyer promised to pay one~hundred silver livres in two installments.
        On March 13th of the same year, surgeon Timothe'e Roussel from Quebec, proprieter of a farm situated between those of Germain Lepage and the aforesaid, Robert Coutard, offered to rent it to Ouellet for the paltry sum of twenty minots of wheat a year! Rene' could live in the cabin but must build a shed, twenty by fifteen feet, to store the grain and maintain the fences, etc. Why was this lease never signed?
        Where did the Ouellet family live then? On October 13th, 1674, before notary Rageot, Rene' Ouellet, "inhabitant of the seigneurie of Beaupre", rented for one year, another farm on the lle. belonging to Pierre Soumandre' ", an edge~tool maker from Quebec. It was the first time that our ancestor became responsible for an old cow of seven years and a pair of oxen. This farm, measuring four arpents in frontage, was situated between those of Thomas Rondeau and Mathieu Cote', at Saint~Pierre. It was rented for six years in October of 1677 by Nicholas Goulet.

 Reste En Paix
      If there was ever a humble and retiring ancestress it was, indeed, Anne Rivet. Nevertheless, she gave her husband three hardy sons: Abraham~Joseph, Mathurin~Rene', and Gre'goire, all baptized at Saint~Famille between 1667 and 1672, confirmation that the Ouellet family was living in this parish. The sons all, headed families; the first, by marrying Francoise Lizot, and Reine Meneux; the second by marrying Angelique Lebel, daughter of ancestor Nicolas; and the third, by marrying Anne Lizot and Madeleine Dube'.
        Anne Rivet, after less than ten years of marriage, fell gravely ill and died on April 5th, 1675. Two days later, she was buried in the cemetery of Chateau~Richere. Did these two days between the death and the burial mean that it was necessary to transport the body from Ill to Chateau~Richere over an icy bridge? Was it a question of bad transport due to temperature or thawing? Reading between the lines of the lives of this family contains more history than all of the text, itself.
        In the autumn of 1670, Francois Pollet de la Combe Pocati'ere, accompanied by Jean Langlois de Beauport, settled on his fief of Grande~Anse. After his unexpected death on March 20th, 1672, his widow Marie~Ann Juchereau, "pulled strings on her father's side", according to historian Gerard Ouellet, and on October 29th, 1672, obtained the seigneurie of Grande~Anse or La Pocatie're from Frontenac. In 1674, Jean Mignault of Beauport, became ne of concessionaires. The permits to clear land must have been given verbally. Nicolas Lebel, owned the land bearing the number 18.
        After the death of Anne Rivet, Rene' Ouellet put his affairs in order before moving to La Pocatie're, about 1677 or 1678. It is there that we find him on February 6th, 1679, at the time of his marriage to Therese Mignault, daughter of Jean, widow of Nicolas Lebel, and mother of four children. The missionary, Pierre Thury blessed their union in Marin Fouquet's house, before Nicolas huot dit St.~Laurent and Madeliene, the bride's sister.
        Rene' then concentrated all his efforts on clearing his new wife's land. The seigneuresse Jachereau became demanding with her censitaires. In 1683, her marriage to the wastrel francois d'Auteuil, a sort of "bleeder of money", did not improve the situation. Several colonists preferred to go to Riviere~Ouelle to escape her ill temper. On March 15th, 1680, the seigneur of Riviere~Ouelle, Jean~Baptiste~Francois Deschamps granted Rene' Ouellet a piece of land measuring eight arpents of frontage by forty~two in depth. Rene' lived there for seventeen consecutive years. His wife, nevertheless, kept the property of her first husband at Sainte~Anne.
        The census of 1681 affirms that Rene' and Therese had six arpents of land under cultivation, seven head of cattle and one gun, with Nicolas Huot and Jean Grondin for neighbors. At this time, how did the children from the first marriage, to Anne Rivet, earn a living? The eldest, Abraham~Joseph had been entrusted, it seems, to the home of Jacques Meneux, from Saint~Laurent, I.O., where he was working as a servant. Mathurin~Rene', twelve years old, was in the service of Msgr. de Laval on July 30th, 1681. As for Gregoire, 11 years old, remained with his aunt, Madeleine Migneault, wife of Noel Pelletier, at Grande~Anse des Aulnaies. Such was the "Aid to Dependent Children" of those days.
        Let us say, right away, that the new Rene'~Therese couple brought six offspring into the world: two boys and four girls. Se'bastien went to find his future life in the Lizot home; Francois preferred Marie~Anne Bouchard; Angelique~Marguerite married Ignace Berube', then married Jean~Baptiste Pelletier; Francoise married Andre' Mignier dit Lagace'; Marie~Therese married Charles Pelletier and Marie~Anne married Charles Boucher. All of these marriages took place at Riviere~Ouelle, with the exception, perhaps, of Francois', because his marriage record was not entered in the registry.


        With active men like the seigneur Deschamps and Robert Leveque, ancestor Ouellet knew stability at Riviere~Ouelle. The children married and founded families. The little Lebel children inherited the land of their late father. It was valued at eight~hundred livres, that is, two~hundred livres for each heir. Angelique Lebel, wife of Mathurin~Rene' Ouellet, took on double~duty by adding the rights of her husband to hers. Rene' and Therese Migneault made some special arrangements. in order to keep them nearby, they detached three arpents of frontland from their eight arpent farm in favor of Rene's son and Therese's daughter. The third arpent was an exchange with one coming to Angelique at La Pocatie're, But on October 2nd, 1695, Mathurin~Rene' sold his three arpents of land to Pierre Soucy and went to settle at Kamouraska, on a concession with five arpents of frontage.
         As for Rene', whose talents for farming were not the best, he was rather, up to his ears in debt. One example of an attempt to collect from Rene':

"At the request of Francoise~Catherine Juchereau,
widow of Francois~Vianney Pachot, merchant during
his lifetime at Quebec, a summons to Rene' Houellet,
from Grande~Anse, so that he may pay 157 livres and
6 sols for merchandise sold and delivered, with
interest and expenses."

        In addition, genealogist J.~Eugene Ouellet maintains that the named Jeanneau availed himself, by ruse, but legally, of a part of the land that Rene' Ouellet had in the seigneurie of la Boutellerie. Then did Rene' and Therese move once again?

        In 1690, at Riviere~Ouelle, Rene' Ouellet and his sons joined parishioners, led by their curate, to prevent Phipps's soldiers from landing. The group successfully used the strategy of surprise and trickery.
        Rene' and Therese enjoyed their golden years at the home of their son, Abraham~Joseph, living in the present~day territory of St~Roch~des~Aulnaies. when he reached his 80's, Rene' decided to draw up his will. This was on August 7th, 1721. Etienne Janneau wrote:

"Renne' Houellet... parish Saint~Anne living at
present in the house of Joseph... commends his
soul to God... and I wish and request that one of
the two arpents of front land by a depth of one
arpent... be given in perpetuity to the church of 

This square arpent had first belonged to Nicolas Lebel and Therese Migneault.
        Rene' Ouellet died the following year and was buried at Sainte~Anne~de~la~Pocatiere on January 15th. It was probably abbot Maurice Imbault, present at the reading of the will, who said the fifty masses promised after the death of Rene'.
        On August 23rd, 1728, Therese Migneault, living at Petit~Kamouraska, gave her son~in~law, Gabriel Bouchard, the remainder of the land near the site of the future church of Sainte~Anne. the buyer was to pay 180 livres and have ten masses said for the intentions of his mother~in~law after her
death. The contract was signed in Francois Ouellet's house.
        The widow of Rene' Ouellet died and was buried at Kamouraska on December 5th, 1728. Therese, baptized at Quebec, by Father Poncet on September 5th, 1651, was therefore, seventy~seven years old when she left her Lebel and Ouellet families.
        The Ouellets have spread throughout the eastern part of Canada and the United States. They have representatives in every trade and every profession. The first Ouellet to be elected delegate was named Edouard (1860~1931). He represented the county of Yamaska at the Assemblee' Nationale for eighteen years. The first Ouellet priest, Louis~Charles~Arthur (1824~1891), a veritable apostle, was born at Riviere~Ouelle. Anne~Marie Ouellet (1873~1943), known as Reine du Clerge', founded the Servants of Notre'~Dame, in 1929, at Lac~au~Saumon. She was the director of her congregation for twenty~one years. Other descendants have given two bishops to the Canadian Church, Msgr. Andre' Ouellet, former Bishop of Mont~Laurier, and Msgr. Gilles Ouellet, P.M.E., Archbishop of Rimouski.

"A Little Hoe Can Turn Over the Soil in a Great Garden."

Written and researched by Thomas J. Laforest

Ouellet Family Name Variations~  
Aillet, Ailette, Auclair, Boncourage, Chaume, Crochet, Deschenaux, Houallet, Houallette, Lesperance, Menage, Oilette, Oualet, Ouallet, Ouelett, Ouellette, Ouillette, O'Willet, Oylet, Paincor, Wallette, Wellet, Wellette, Wells, Willard, Willet, Willett, Woolet, Wouallet, and Woullette. 


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