|A New Generation|
|Marie Guillemette Hebert
(1592 - 1663)
|Marie Guillemette Hebert was born about 1608 in Paris, France; the last child of Louis Gaston Hebert, a druggist, and Marie Rollet.
Though she would spend the first nine years of her life in Paris, she had always felt a connection with the 'New World'. Her father had been there before she was born, and would tell her stories of beautiful lakes and rivers, forests as far as your eyes could see, and medicinal herbs that could be found nowhere else in the world.
Several uncles and cousins had also been there, to validate his stories, and one had remained behind, living like a woodsman in the forests of a place called Arcadia. When her father informed her that they would be going there to live for a few years, she could hardly wait.
|The family did a little farming, but nothing on the scale of the Aboriginal Canadians|
|They arrived on June 14, 1617; and though her parents seemed disappointed at first, they settled in at Kebec, a trading post run by family friend Samuel Champlain, and were shown the spot where they would have their little farm. An employee from the fort, Guillaume Couillard, helped them get settled, and he would spend a great deal of time with the Hebert family, when he wasn't off on an errand for Champlain.|
|Initially it seemed like a frightening place. The Canadian people were not at all like she had imagined, though her father was careful to warn them all of their appearance. However, they were very friendly and helpful and before long she had a multitude of playmates.|
|Their home was never without visitors. Her father was studying herbal medicine so the local people were always bringing him plants and showing him how to use them, which he in turn would use to help the French residents of Kebec. With no local doctor, he was often all they had, so at times their home would serve as a makeshift hospital.
Her mother was employed as a teacher, instucting the Canadian children in reading and arithmetic, while also teaching them the French language and Christian Faith. As a result, the Hebert family also learned several Native dialects, which would serve them well throughout their lives.
|She also embraced the customs of her adopted country and enjoyed tobogganing and snowshoeing in the winter and in the summer, foot races, swimming and canoeing. Though her family had never farmed before, her father seemed to have rather enjoyed it, and even planted a few apple trees that he had acquired from back home as sapplings, though their animals destroyed them before they had a chance to bear fruit.|
|Her sister Anne married Etienne Jonquest, soon after their arrival, in a ceremony performed by Father Le Caron; the first by a priest at the settlement, but she died the following year without children.|
|She herself would marry Guillaume Couillard, son of Guillaume Senior and Elisabeth De Vesins, on August 26, 1621. Guillaume had arrived in Kebec in 1613, employed as a carpenter and caulker by the Compagnie des Marchands de Rouen et de Saint Malo. The ceremony was performed by Recollect Father Georges and witnessed by Champlain himself and his brother-in-law Eustach Bouille (brother of Helene). In all reports sent to France by Champlain, he always spoke very highly of the young man who would play an important role in the settlement of French Quebec.
When Guillemette's father died in 1626; Champlain presented them with 100 acres of farmland along the St. Charles River, as well as enough seed to get them started on their first crops. His colony depended on agriculture, and he needed to ensure that there would be future farmers, to keep them fed in later years.
|Guillemette and her brother also inherited half of their father's estate, which gave them a substantial amount of land to maintain, and with her husband always busy with the affairs of the habitation, they had to employ local field hands to help with the chores.
At the end of June, 1627; Champlain became alarmed after hearing of attacks by the English along the St. Lawrence, and was concerned that his colony would face starvation, as supply ships were constantly being pirated. He decided to send the only man he felt he could trust, her husband, to Tadoussac to repair and bring back a boat, for the purpose of moving unessential people out towards the Gaspe.
However, fearing for his own family’s safety if left alone, he had to refuse. When Quebec was captured in 1629, their's became the only complete family to live under English occupation. Champlain entrusted the fort to two young Montagnais girls, Charite and Esperance, whom he had adopted, and Marie-Guilemette was asked if she would keep an eye out for them. They had already spent a lot of time at her home, as she and her mother instructed them in French customs, so that they might one day marry one of the male colonists.
When the French returned in 1632, her husband continued to work doggedly for the colony and was always held in high regard. He took part in it’s defense against the Iroquois, frequently piloting boats between Quebec and Tadoussac. He also gave part of his land for the construction of a church and became the warden of the parish.
All the while they continued to farm and by 1632, had more than 20 acres cultivated. In 1639, they opened a flour mill and the same year, the governor of Quebec, appointed Guillaume as “clerk responsible for inspecting the sown lands and the food of the settlers of Quebec".
|Her brother Guillaume married Helene Desportes on October 1, 1634, and they would have three children, before he was killed in an Iroquois raid on September 23, 1639.|
|On a different note, the Couillards may have been the first French-Canadians to own a black slave. When the Kirkes removed themselves from Quebec, they left behind a little boy that they had captured at Madagascar, so Guillaume purchased him from the bailiff. In July of 1632, they had him baptized under the name Olivier, after son-in-law Olivier Tardiff. Later, a Jesuit priest called him "Paul the Young Person", so the little boy grew up as Olivier Le Jeune.
In one letter, Champlain refers to him as the Couillard's "pet", and on official documents he is listed as a servant.
|When the new Company of 100 Associates, were in control of New France, Guillemette's husband made lime for the new buildings, while continuing to work his farm and perform other duties as needed. In December of 1654, the Governor Jean de Lauson, on the authority of the king, presented him with a noble title, "on account of services rendered to the country of Canada", and the couple became Sieur and Madam de L'Espinay. These honours were later passed down to their sons; Charles and Louis.
Guillaume Couillard died at home on March 4, 1663 and is buried in the chapel of the Hotel Dieu, and three years later Guillimette sold the house and a portion of his land to Jean Talon and gave the rest to Bishop Laval, for the establishment of the Seminary of Quebec; though later her children would contest the transaction. A statue of her husband stands near the Louis Hebert's monument, beside the city hall of Quebec. Not bad for a man who could never read or write.
Madame Marie-Guillemette Hebert de L'Espinay never remarried and died October 20, 1684, in Quebec City. She had been in Canada 67 years; gave birth to ten children, and buried six of them.
Daughter Louise married Olivier Tardiff, but died soon after the birth of their first child. Marguerite married Jean Nicolet and had two children. Louis married Genevieve Despres and had six children. Elisabeth married Jean Guyon and had fifteen children. Marie married Francois Bisot and had twelve children. Charles married Louise Couture and had eight and Catherine married Charles Audet and had one child before her death; again soon after childbirth.
And as for Marie Guilemette Hebert, a second generation French-Canadian: it had been an eventful life.
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