Next month marks 370 years since my six times great grandfather and his brother volunteered to join a militia to protect the city of Montreal. Their voyage from France to our city would last five months and require two departures. They faced captivity, an epidemic and enough starvation and illness to cause the death of eight of their colleagues, but they survived.
Marin Hurtubise and his brother André were among 154 men recruited by New France Governor Paul Chomedey de Maisonneuve to help protect the Fort Ville-Marie from Iroquois attacks. They signed five-year contracts with the Société de Notre Dame de Montréal to clear uncultivated land in New France for farming at a price of 100 livres per year1. Their employer, also known as the “Company of Montreal,” was originally founded in France in 1639 to establish a colony in Canada.
According to notes left behind by my grandmother, the Hurtubise brothers came from a town known as Sillé-le-Guillaume in Rouesse-Vasse, southwest of Paris in the Sarthe Departement in the Pays de la Loire region.
They travelled to St. Nazaire to join 120 other men and 14 women who set sail for New France on June 20, 1653. Among their ship mates was Marguerite Bourgeoys, a women with a desire to create schools in New France. She also founded the Notre Dame parish and set up housing for the filles du roi. In 1982, Pope Pius XII canonized her as Canada’s first female saint.
The trip in Captain Pierre le Besson’s ‘Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes’ vessel2 did not go well.
Ships in that era were not the large luxury vessels we cruise on today. According to an unauthored essay that used to appear on the Maison Saint Gabriel website, they measured roughly 25-45 meters long and 8 meters wide. Passengers bunked in a single room at the back of the ship in unsanitary conditions in which everyone slept in their clothes. Buckets collected waste and vomit from those who couldn’t handle seasickness. Meals often consisted of dry biscuits, salt pork and fish.
In this case, the ship also leaked. The ‘Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes’ took on so much water that after sailing 350 leagues (1600km), the crew had to return to Nantes. Passengers were left on an island off the coast of France to wait for another month until a replacement ship could be found. According to Marguerite Bourgeoys’ diary, some of the recruits deserted their posts and swam back to France.
“Sieur de Maisonneuve and all of his soldiers stopped on an island from which there was no escape. Otherwise, not a single one would have stayed. Some even set about swimming to save themselves since they were furious and believed they had been taken to perdition.”3
On July 20th, after a St. Marguerite’s day mass, the replacement ship set sail for the New World with the Hurtubise brothers and Marguerite Bourgeoys on board. This voyage, which featured many storms, an outbreak of the plague and eight deaths (Jacques Audru, Olivier Beaudoin, René Cadet, Jean Chaudronnier, Louis Doguet, Michel Lecomte, Joachim Lepallier and Pierre Moulières), doesn’t sound any better than the first, save for the sea-worthy vessel.
After 64 days, the ship landed at Cap-Diamant, on September 22, 1653. At that point, it seems that the ship was set on fire in the middle of the river. Bourgeoys’ writings imply that it got stuck so that high tide couldn’t even free it.
For the next two months, New France Governor Jean de Lauzon tried to keep the voluntary soldiers and marriageable women in Quebec to defend that city, in part by refusing to provide the barges needed to sail the Saint Lawrence River to Ville-Marie.
Eventually, de Maisonneuve prevailed. The group arrived at Ville-Marie on November 16th.4 They were all given land grants next to the Saint Laurence River. Later, Marin and five neighbours settled in Côte St. Antoine.5
André Hurtubise died six years after the brothers arrived in Montreal. Marin lasted 19 years, successfully marrying and having six children during that time. He died in Montreal on May 12, 1672.6
1Aubry, Louis, Famille Hurtubise Gendron, https://www.mes-racines.ca/fichiers/Lign%E9es/H/Hurtubise-Gendron/Hurtubise-Gendron.pdf, accessed May 2, 2023.
2“Ancestors on the World Stage,” https://www.apointinhistory.net/granderecrue.php, accessed May 2, 2023.
3Les Écrits de Mère Bourgeoys, p. 46
4“La Grande Recrue de 1653.” http://louisianalineage.com/recrue1653.htm, accessed May 2, 2023.
5MacKinnon, Janet S. The Settiement and Rural Domestic Architecture of Côte Saint-Antoine, 1675—1874, thesis 2004
6Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/144617536/marin-hurtubise: accessed 02 May 2023), memorial page for Marin Hurtubise (26 Oct 1631–12 May 1672), Find a Grave Memorial ID 144617536, citing Ancien cimetière Notre-Dame (1672-1830), Montreal, Montreal Region, Quebec, Canada; Maintained by AW (contributor 47829810).
Photo of commemorative plaque courtesy of Jean Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.