A Woman of Courage

Marguerite, a young teenager along with her three siblings boarded the ship. She could only fathom in her wildest imagination what lay ahead. Her head and heart were filled with sorrow and sadness leaving behind everything she had ever known. The one thing that brought her solace and comfort: knowing she would soon become a marriageable young woman and had signed a contract to marry Jean Veron de Grandmesnil when she arrived in New France.

Excerpt: definition of filles a marier – marriageable young women  

“Filles a Marier (1634 to 1662) One of the first organizations formed to settle New France was a group called the Company of 100 Associates. They recruited young single men to come to Quebec under a three-year contract. This organization soon realized it was in their best interest to encourage these men to stay at the end of their indenture period, but they needed women in New France to encourage these men to stay. Thus, they began recruiting “marriageable young girls” who would sign a contract in France and then given a dowry to become the wife of a settlor in Quebec. Some were sponsored by their church; a company associate or merchant. Others were of minor noble families, cousins, or sisters of men already in the colony. ….. Later, critics of the plan tried to say that all the girls were prostitutes taken off the streets of Paris, but this was rarely, if ever, the case. Most settled down, raised families, and formed the roots of many French-Canadian families.”1.

Sebastien Hayet,3. Marguerite’s father had married her mother, Madeleine Henault around 1628 and she was born around 1630. Some historians note that her birth took place in Paris, Saint Paul, Ile de France, while others place her birth in St. Malo. Perhaps, St. Malo would most likely be correct. Both Sebastien and Madeleine were from there. Not long into their marriage Sebastien died leaving Madeleine, a young widow and young Marguerite.

Madeleine, Marguerites’ mother was now a widow. At the age of 25 she married a second time in Paris in 1635 to Pierre Esprit Radisson, 44 years old.4. They had three children, Francoise, Elisabeth, and Pierre Esprit, the famous explorer. Their father, a merchant in Paris and owned a prosperous clothing store. The marriage lasted only several years. Pierre died in 1641.

On the 16th of September 1641 Court records in the Chatelet de Paris indicate that Madeleine requested an inventory of Pierre’s possessions.5 A six-page inventory was prepared which she signed. Now a widow for the second time and mother of four young children, no doubt she must have been overwhelmed. She wondered about her future. Life had taken another abrupt turn. How would she cope with another changing event?

Little is known about Madeleine’s life with her children after Pierre’s death. Within five years she too died leaving behind four children. Perhaps that is when the three girls, despite their young ages signed contracts with promises of marriage once they arrived in New France.

After a long and arduous journey crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the Radisson siblings arrived most probably in Quebec City during the summer of 1646. There is no doubt Marguerite was living in the home of Jean Godfrey de Linctot in service to his family and it seems possible that the three siblings were also living there. In the meantime, her future husband, Jean Veron, a soldier, had arrived in Three Rivers several years earlier in 1644.

Jean Veron de Grandmesnil and Marguerite Hayet were married November 25th, 1646. Marguerite received a wedding gift of 50 acres of land from Jean Godefroy on the Lintot concession. 6.

Jean Godefroy’s wedding gift of 50 acres parcel of land to Marguerite.

In 1649 Jean Veron was one of fourteen soldiers to receive a concession at Cap de la Madeleine. The couple settled into their home, and it is speculated that the Radisson siblings lived with the young couple.

Marguerite gave birth to a daughter named Marguerite, followed by a son, Etienne, followed by another son, Guillaume.7.

Jean Veron and Marguerite”s children

It was a rough and dangerous period filled with tensions in New France between the settlers and the Iroquois. In less than a year after giving birth to Guillaume, Jean Veron was killed by the Iroquois in a skirmish on August 19,1652 and was buried the same day.8. This was a shocking blow for the young mother now responsible for three very young children. Once more her courage and resilience were being tested.

Less than a year after Jean’s untimely death Marguerite married widow Medard Chouart DesGroseilliers 9. whose wife, Hélène Martin, the daughter of Abraham Martin had died while giving birth. Marguerite and Medard were joined in Holy Matrimony on August 24th, 1653 in Quebec City and settled in Three Rivers. 10. Their first son was born in 1654, a daughter in 1657, another daughter in 1659 and a third daughter in 1661. Marguerite now had seven young children under her care, the eldest being an eleven-year-old.

Marguerite”s marriages

Medard Chouart Des Groseillers was an explorer who partnered with Pierre Esprit Radisson, Marguerite’s half-brother. They were often on very long journeys. She often wondered if, and when they would return home safely. While Medard was away for extended periods of time she assumed all the responsibilities of caring for the children, managing their several business ventures and those of Pierre. Over the years she became a very astute businesswoman. Many notarial records indicate a plethora of transactions made in her name. However, there came a time in her life when all the family assets and property were seized while Medard was on one of his lengthy journeys.

“On January 27, 1663, Arnaud Perré had her assets and property seized. He then asks for the auction of these. Marguerite opposes this on February 7, stating that she had to protect the rights of her children. On March 6, Perré demanded that the seizure of the property and assets be carried out, or that she pays him 1952 “livres” in the name of her husband. Also, he demanded that she make an inventory of her property. Marguerite tried to negotiate and even offers her share of an inheritance. On April 6, the property was seized.” 11.

Marguerite overcame these hurdles; just as she had done throughout her life.

Many of Marguerite’s children’s lives were cut short. In 1664 Marie Anne Chouart died at the age of seven. On the census of 1666 the names of Marguerite Veron and Marguerite Chouart do not appear, having died prior to 1666. The following year Guillaume also succumbed and in 1678 Jean-Baptiste died. Five of the seven children died in the span of a dozen years. These were trying times for Marguerite often finding herself alone to cope while Medard on an expedition. There were times of joy when the two surviving children, Etienne and Marie Antoinette were both married in 1677.

Médard returned from all his explorations in 1684 and settled in Québec City highly indebted. In 1698 Medard Chouart Des Groseilliers passed away in Sorel.

Marguerite return to Three Rivers where she lived a remarkable life for another 27 years. During that time on May 19, 1701, she contracted an obligation to her son Étienne Véron and died on the 22 of June 1711 at the age of 81 leaving behind her two surviving children and her sister Élisabeth Radisson, wife of Jutras, who died in 1722. 12.

Marguerite’s burial record.

Marguerite Hayet-Radisson-Veron-Chouart became an orphan in her teens, married twice, had seven children, buried five of them during her lifetime. She took care of business while Medard explored the Great Lakes and along with his partner founders of the Hudson Bay Company.

The young “fille à marier” lived a life filled with adventures, hardships, and deep sorrows, along with sprinkles of joy along the way. My seventh great aunt proved to be a resilient woman throughout her life, one who possessed an overabundance of courage.

13. A brief summary of Marguerite’s life,

Sources:

  1. http://fahfminn.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/04/Ancest-PW-100818-website.pdf
  2. https://www.prdh-igd.com/en/home
  3. https://www.prdh-igd.com/en/home
  4. https://www.wikitree.com/wiki/Henault-6
  5. https://robertberubeblog.wordpress.com/2017/04/27/1646-linfluence-de-marguerite-hayet-aupres-des-explorateurs-radisson-et-desgroseillers-the-influence-of-
  6. https://www.prdh-igd.com/en/home
  7. https://www.facebook.com/groups/394084010943300   Robert Berube
  8. https://www.prdh-igd.com/en/home
  9. https://www.prdh-igd.com/en/home
  10. https://www.facebook.com/groups/394084010943300   Robert Berube
  11. https://www.facebook.com/groups/394084010943300   Robert Berube
  12. http://www.migrations.fr
  13. http://www.migrations.fr

4 thoughts on “A Woman of Courage”

  1. Thank you Karen for noting the many documents online at Advitam. It is a tremendous source for researchers.
    Indeed, the Radisson and their extended families were great contributors to the development of New France.

    Like

  2. I am a descendant of Marie Antoinette Chouart. They were a remarkable family. On-line at the Bibliothèque et Archives Nationale du Quebec (BAnQ) you can find many digitized copies of records about them. Years ago I used PISTARD to find them, but now I think its name has changed to ADVITAM

    Like

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