In the early days of New France Robert Giffard, a doctor and a seigneur living in the new colony of Beauport was recognized for his determination to fulfill a specific role. The Company of One Hundred Associates was instrumental in requesting him to establish the new colony. At the time there were approximately one hundred people living there. For it to become a viable settlement they needed to attract new immigrants. Giffard was up to the task. He set out to recruit the most skilled and talented craftsmen in Perche, Basse Normandie. Men signed contracts with Giffard and emigrated to New France in the first wave of settlers.
Zacharie Cloutier, my ninth great grandfather, a master carpenter, in his mid-forties, along with an ever-growing family were eager to participate. He and his great friend, Jean Guyon, a master mason both signed three-year contracts with Robert Giffard on March 14th, 1634.
There were several stipulations in the contract:1. Robert Giffard
- would pay passage from France to Canada for Zacharie and Jean
- plus one family member each.
- promised them 1,000 arpents of land on which they could hunt, fish, and build a home
- also promised to foot the bill for all their living expenses for the duration of the contract.
- After two years, Seigneur Giffard would pay passage for the rest of the mens’ families to join them.
- There was also a clause indicating that the men would be required to render fealty and homage to Giffard.
Although Zacharie did not know how to read or write, his signature was not the regular X, that was used by many, but, rather a unique, distinctive, creative drawing of an axe.
The marks of Martin Grouvel (left) and Zacharie Cloutier (right)2
The ship carrying the men arrived in New France on June 4,1634 after a two-month journey at sea.3.Historians did not appear to agree on the time the men’s families arrived. Some indicated that they brought their families–in their entirety on the initial voyage, whereas, others noted that a passenger list for ships arriving in1636 contained the names of Zacharie’s wife and children. We do know that his family is among the first to settle in Beauport along with the Guyons.
Zacharie was born at the close of the 16th century about 1590 in Mortagne-au-Perch (Orne)and married a widow, Xainte Dupont July 18, 1616 in Saint Jean in the same village.4. Together they had six children, 3 girls and 3 boys. A young daughter, Sainte, sometimes spelt like her mother Xainte, died in France. She was only ten years old.
Within a short period after their arrival in Quebec City, June 4th,1634 our master carpenter set to work. He began building Robert Giffard’s manor home in Beauport.5.
Once his contract was terminated, he continued building the parish church in Quebec City, and the Saint Louis Fort. Meanwhile he worked for the nuns and others at their request and in his free time began clearing and cultivating his land that was granted February 3rd, 1637. La Clouterie, the arriére fief measured 322 metres in width and 7.4 kilometres in length.6.
An arriéve-fief is a subdivision of a seigneurie.6.
Zacharie was not from a noble family. These titles were given by the King, however, as a seigneur he became known as a ‘bourgeois seigneur’ with the same duties and titles of noble seigneurs.7
The issue of fealty and homage rose to the forefront between Giffard, Cloutier and Guyon., There was a parting of the ways caused by a dispute over the clause in their contract that requested fealty and homage to Giffard. Zacharie Cloutier and Jean Guyon resisted for several years and were adamant. They refused to pay tribute to Giffard. Court actions ensued. Zacharie chose to sell his land in Beauport to Nicholas Dupont and moved to Chateau Richer where Governor Jean de Lauzon had granted him land.8.
On the 12th of May 1669, Zacharie and Xainte, his wife, made their will and placed themselves in the hands of their son Zacharie.
In 1670 Zacharie and Xainte were now about 76 and 70 years of age. They chose to prepare an “Actes de Donation”.9 Their sons and families had settled in Chateau Richer. The act consisted of a donation of all their possessions. Land and goods were given to their son and his family. In return, they were to provide the parents a home, food, clothing, and all that comes with caring for their parents for the remainder of their days.
Zacharie died on September 17th, 1677 at the age of 87 or 88 and was buried the following day in Chateau Richer Cemetery.10 Xainte succumbed on the 13th of July 1680. 341 years ago today, as I put the finishing touches on this story. She too is buried in the same cemetery.
The Cloutiers are one of the foremost families of Quebec, noting that over the years there have been between 5 and 6 million descendants.11. I’m in good company, Prime Minister Louis St Laurent is also a direct descendant.
6. https://www.geni.com/people/Zacharie-Cloutier/6000000003137750084 The best overview of the life and times of the Cloutiers
The name ‘Cloutier’, itself, supports the contention that Zacharie was a skilled person. It appears the name is a contraction of the French word “clou” meaning nail and “métier” meaning to make; thus, a Cloutier being a ‘maker of nails’
Zacharie and Xainte were the first couple in Canada to celebrate their diamond and golden wedding anniversaries in New France.