|The Seigneury of Beauport|
|Created by Robert Giffard|
|When the Company of 100 Associates were once again in control of Quebec, they decided to implement the seigneurial system of land ownership, similar to the feudal system then in place in France.|
|Each seigneury consisted of a strip of land, fronting on the St. Lawrence River and extending inland; controlled by a Lord or Seigneur who would then divide the strip into smaller lots for the settlers under his domain. One of the first to take advantage of this new system of land ownership, was Robert Giffard, who was awarded the first land, just west of Quebec, which he named Beauport.|
|Robert Giffard, was an apothecary and doctor of medicine, originally from Authenuil, a town north of Mortagne. His father was a merchant as well as the official bugler of the town, and the family was quite affluent. After graduating from university in 1615, Robert opened up a practice in Tourouvre, but moved to Mortagne in 1619, where he was recruited by Champlain to act as the doctor for his Kebec Habitation.
In January of 1628, Champlain writes that "Robert Giffard, some time before, wished to have a young Indian woman to educate her & to marry her, but her people would not give her up to him, whatever offers he made." (Marcel Trudeau, The Beginnings of New France, Pg. 155)
It was customary for Canadian women to enter into marriages for the benefit of trade, but they rarely left their own villages, preferring instead that their husband visit when he could, and remain loyal to her people; but any offspring were raised in her own community. Obviously Robert wanted to take her away, and this was rarely acceptable.
In 1628, he did marry Marie Regnouard, and the couple set off for New France, but were captured by the Kirke Brothers and forced into exile.
Giffard remained involved with the New France colony and certainly earned his right to the land grant, even if the whole concept was wrong; considering that the land did not really belong to France at all. However, the Canadian people in the area needed French protection from their enemies; the Iroquois; and were enjoying the benefits of trade with their new neighbours.
On January 15, 1634, he was officially given his grant and set sail with "all his family and a number of persons that he took with him to live in the country", leaving behind his brothers-in-law, Noel, Jean and Pierre Juchereau to recruit additonal craftsmen and laborers for the settlement.
|With Giffard were Jean Guyon, a master mason, with his wife and six children; Zacherie Cloutier, master carpenter, with his wife and five children; Marin Boucher, a relative, with his wife and three children; Thomas Giroux, Francois Belanger, Claire Morin, Jeanne Mercier, and Henry Pinguet, a prosperous merchant from Tourouve.
Others aside from the Juchereau's; were Noel Langlois, Charles Pierre, Francois Baugy, Jean Bourdon and three Gagnon brothers.
|The party arrived on June 24, 1634; and the following year were joined by Francois Aubert, Philippe Amyot, Robert Drouin, Jean Cote and Martin Grouvel. (Amyot may have been sponsored by the Jesuits since he went to Trois Rivieres) Their contracts read in part:
"For the amount of 200 acres, 100 acres for the grazing of cattle, and 100 acres for the cutting of firewood, the leaseholders, following the Seigneur's will, will give two days of work each week. In case of war the leaseholders will take shelter in the Seigneur's house in order to follow the Seigneur's orders and directions. The Seigneur promises the right to fish from the small meadows to the Buisson River, which belongs to the Seigneur of Beauport, to the leaseholders.
"Here we sign this original document on which we set our seal, and let the Notary of
this place countersign, here in Beauport on June 20th, 1634".
(Signed:) Robert Giffard
(Signed ) Badeau, Royal Notary
|The size of the lot depended on the status of the settlers, and the length of servitude also varied. The contract of 'servitude' usually stipulated that Giffard would pay the passage plus food and lodgings for the artisan, and one family member each, for a period of three years to date from June 24, 1634. After two years the men would then be allowed to send for the rest of their families, also at the expense of Giffard. He also agreed to give each man a few head of livestock to get started farming.|
|The first few years were difficult, as the Iroquois constantly harassed the new settlers, often killing them in an ambush, kidnapping their children, slaughtering their cattle as they grazed in the field, sacking their horses while the inhabitants were at church, and burning homes in the middle of the night. Many women watched their husbands leave for work in the fields, not knowing if they wou1d return at the end of day.
Despite the hardships, slowly the fields were cleared and the population increased, and though most of the farmers were still relatively poor, they could see progress and hoped for a better future for their children.
In 1646, the road leading from the small hamlet of Beauport to the common mill on the Buisson River was named the King’s Way, and along the road a small village called Fargy emerged. Since this was a vulnerable spot, Robert Giffard ordered his settlers to build palisaded forts for their protection, and these small forts would become places of sanctuary in case of surprise attack.
Between l634 and 1663, Robert Giffard brought more than 50 men and their families to his Seigneury from France. He died on April 14, 1668 at Beauport.
Between 1665 and 1666, a census was taken in New France, and the following tally was recorded for Beauport:
|Head Count By Age|
|81 - 90 - 2
71 - 80 - 2
61 - 70 - 6
61 - 60 - 8
41 - 50 - 12
31 - 40 - 16
21 - 30 - 41
16 - 20 - 16
11 - 15 - 21
9 - 10 - 8
| 8 - 9 - 5
7 - 8 - 6
6 - 7 - 7
5 - 6 - 6
4 - 5 - 4
3 - 4 - 4
2 - 3 - 8
1 - 2 - 6
Infants - 7
|New Seigneur - New Rules|
|The first Lord of Beauport; Robert Giffard; was always very generous and easygoing, but when he died in 1668, and his land passed to his son Joseph, things would change dramatically for the settlers. At the time, many had fallen behind in their lease payments and obligations, and the young Giffard would prove to be nothing like his father.
On June 18,1668, eighteen inhabitants of Beauport had their concessions revoked. The deposed tenants protested to the Lord's Council, but the eviction was upheld, and the Council further ruled:
- The inhabitants will be reduced to one acre each.
- The fences will be taken off and rebuilt according to the map drawn by Monseur Bouteroue, Intendent
- The buildings near the past will be pulled down or transferred from the locations by the owners at the owners expense.
- The new owners will refund the former owners for any clearing that has been done on the land of the former owners.
This would result in hardship and civil unrest, as these families now had only one acre of land to sustain their families. Some bounced back, but for others it spelled financial ruin.
|Under British Attack|
|In 1690, the English troops from the Atlantic coast near Boston, launched an attack against the French Settlements and on the 18th of October, landed 1500 men with five cannon on the north shore of the St. Lawrence River above Quebec City. They then began to approach the settlements. Lord Juchereau of St. Deny rallied all the able-bodied men of Beauport to defend the village, and the English were repulsed. Four Frenchmen were killed and seven wounded in this attack.
The English soldiers went into camp near Beauport and harassed the villagers for three days, but they could not break down the defenses of the forts. In several skirmishes, the enemy burned six or seven farms, and took some cattle. Two more villagers were killed and 13 more wounded. All the time the English were camped near the settlements, they kept up the continual bombardment of Quebec with their cannon. Very little damage was done, however; and the English became discouraged. During the night of the 21st, they returned to their boats and floated down to the Isle of Orleans which they tried to capture, but again were repulsed. On the 25th of October, the English turned in the direction of Boston, and disappeared down the river.
Due to his courageous leadership during the attack, Lord Juchereau was awarded letters of nobility by the king of France. Meanwhile, the French settlers returned to their daily routine with only the fear of Iroquois raids to keep them on the alert.
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