Friday, November 29, 2013

Louis Guimont (c 1625 - 1661, 9ggf)

Probably the most famous of my direct ancestors is Louis Guimont (c 1625-1661), son of François Guimont (c 1595-1630) and Jeanne Delauney (c 1595-1629).   He was born near Champs, in the Orne region of Lower Normandy in France, and according to some accounts worked as a domestic under the employ of Mathurin Mauduit at his estate (Mulotière) located a few miles from Tourouve.
Location of Champs in Lower Normandy.
Paris is about 100 km to the east.

He became interested in emigrating to New France after meeting recruiters for colonization, in particular, Nicolas Juchereau, the brother of Jean Juchereau who was the general clerk of the storehouse in New France, having settled there in 1634 with his wife and family.   On February 17, 1647, he signed a six-year contract to work as a laborer for Juchereau in New France.   The contract provided Guimont with passage to Québec City, a sum of 40 livres each year, a pair of shoes and a wool suit (for the entire term of the contract).

He left France from New Rochelle on June 6, 1647 for the 60-day journey to New France.   The ship also carried Jean Malefant (also under a 5-year contract with Juchereau) and Pierre Tremblay, himself the ancestor of what would become the largest French-Canadian family.  They arrived at Québec on August 6th of that year.

Shortly before his contract ended, he married Jeanne Bitouset (1636-1707) a "Filles à Marier" (not to be confused with the "Filles du Roi") who had arrived in Québec herself in 1652, at the chapel of Saint-Jean at the Coast of Sainte-Geneviève in Québec on Feb. 11, 1653.

There, for the next three years, he rents a plot of land from Martin Grouvel, clearing the land (for 120 livres for each acre cleared) and planting crops (shared with his landlord).    During this period, his first three children are born:  Jacques (born 26 Sep 1653, and dies a week later),  Joseph (born 19 Oct 1654), and Louise (born 28 Aug 1658).  His youngest son, Claude, was born in 1660 - and is my 8th great-grandfather.   In October 1657, he purchases five acres of nearby land from Louis Brouchard.

Wax figures showing the construction of the church at Beaupré.  Louis Guimont is the figure at right.

Drawing of Chapelle des Maleots
Meanwhile in Beaupré, construction of a log-cabin chapel, called Chapelle des Maleots (Seamen's Chapel)  dedicated to Saint Anne had begun.   The land was gifted by Etienne Lessart, himself a resident for seven years with the express purpose that a church be built.   On the 13th of March 1658, Monsieur Vignal blessed the site of the church and the local governor, d'Ailleboust, placed the first stone for the foundation.

Basilica of Saint Anne de Beaupré today.
The different accounts vary as to whether Louis Guimont was one of the construction workers of the chapel.   I suppose that given how small the community was, he must have played some role.  Shortly after construction begins, Louis Guimont is the recipient of the first miracle associated with Beaupré.   At this time, he is apparently afflicted with some crippling ailment;  different accounts have it being "a severe back ailment", "rheumatism", "an affliction of the kidneys".   Over time, this has been exaggerated to Guimont being described as a "poor invalid" and even the depiction of the miracle in the altar panel of the present Basilica shows Guimont leaning with crutches.    In any case, out of devotion to Saint Anne, he places three stones within the foundation of the chapel, and is instantly cured of his afflictions, commencing an over 350-year tradition of pilgrimage to the site.    The church was expanded or replaced on several occasions to accommodate the pilgrims.   In 1887 it was raised by Pope Leo XIII to the rank of a minor basilica.   Construction of the current basilica was begun in 1926 and completed in 1946.

However, the story of Louis Guimont doesn't end here.    On the morning of June 8, 1661, fourteen people from Beaupré and L'Île d'Orléans, including Louis Guimont, were captured by the Agniers tribe of the Iroquois, who had recently raided Tadoussac (about 100km down river).     From there,  they traveled 15 hours south to Lake Champlain where they were tortured and eventually killed.   One account (written on birch bark by François Hertel, signed by Fr. Jérôme Lallement that made its way back to his mother) says that Guimont was scalped after infuriating his captors by refusing to cease praying aloud.

1 comment:

  1. There seems to have been several attacks in June 1661 on L'Isle d'Orléans. Nicolas Coullard was also killed there in June 1661 (he was buried on 24 Jun 1661 in Québec). I haven't deteremined whether or not Louis is one of the 14 people mentioned in the records for Louis Guimont.