Monday, July 3, 2017

More Fascinating Ancestors from the Fur Trade Era of New France

Pierre Leber's portrait of Marguerite Bourgeoys, c. 1700

In CHAPTER TWO, Our Earliest Fur Trade Ancestors and How they Fit Together, I introduced readers to the Leber brothers: Francois Leber (Lebert) (1626-1694) voyageur (my 8th great-grandfather) and his brother Jacques Leber (Lebert) dit Larose (1633-1706)(my 9th great-uncle) Montreal trading post partner of Charles Le Moyne. Francois and Jacques were the sons of Robert LeBer (1601-1625) and Colette Cavelier (1605-1694).

Two fascinating ancestors in the history of New France are children of Jacques Leber (Lebert) dit Larose:

French colonial period artist Pierre Leber 

Pierre Leber (Le Ber) was for a long time considered as a well-meaning but untalented amateur; he suddenly became famous, however, as the result of the discovery in 1965 of the original of the portrait of Marguerite Bourgeoys, hailed as one of the masterpieces of Canadian art. 

There is, of course, no comparison between this canvas – completely repainted on two occasions – and the formal portrait as the great century conceived it, but its accent of truth and the economy of the means employed could not fail to appeal to modern taste. According to eye-witnesses, Le Ber was apparently seized by a sudden inspiration and executed his work with extraordinary facility. Be that as it may, he rendered with unusual force the human qualities that the early Montrealers saw in Sister Bourgeoys. It is in truth a great work, worthy of the subject that inspired it, and certainly a good likeness.

Was it merely a stroke of luck? There is in any case no doubt that Le Ber, who was probably trained at Quebec, devoted the major part of his time to artistic work. Proof of this is to be seen in the substantial amount of painter’s equipment and the abundance of artist’s supplies enumerated in the inventory of his possessions made after his death. 

Moreover, his will informs us that he concerned himself with ornamentalist architecture. It refers to the chapel of St Anne – a stone building which he had had constructed at Pointe-Saint-Charles to match the one at Bonsecours – and mentions a tabernacle for which he had furnished the design to a carver from Ange-Gardien, no doubt Charles Vézina.

Painting St. Charles Borromée, patron of Pointe-Saint-Charles, 
attributed to Pierre LeBer, early 18th century

In “Ma Saberdache,” Jacques Viger transcribes a text by Abbé Sattin which relates that during the building of the Hôpital Général Le Ber “himself worked at the interior decoration by contributing a large number of pictures painted by his own hand,” and adds “that only one of them remains [in 1843], that it is a daub, and that the others have wisely been burned.” Despite this statement, it is doubtful that the Sisters of Charity resorted to such an auto-da-fé

The question is obscure. When in 1719 Brother Chrétien [Turc] succeeded Charon at the head of the Hospitallers, he had an inventory of the establishment drawn up; no painting is listed in it, except a “picture representing a crucifix,” which was apparently a framed print. On the other hand, when Mother Youville [Dufrost] took possession of the hospice in 1747, the inventory mentioned the presence of 27 pictures in the sacristy and the church. If one can go by the titles, only two of these would seem still to exist in the mother house of the Sisters of Charity: a “St Catherine” and a “Jésus au jardin des oliviers.” According to accounts of the time, it seems that the others were lost in the fire of 1765, and that they were not deliberately destroyed. 

Finally, to Le Ber are attributed various works which are to be found at the Congrégation de Notre-Dame, particularly an “Enfant Jésus” painted for Sister Barbier.

Jeanne Leber, Famous Recluse of Montreal

Jeanne Le Ber, famed recluse; b. 4 Jan., 1662 at Montreal, daughter of Jacques Le Ber and Jeanne Le Moyne; d. 3 Oct. 1714 at Montreal.

Jeanne Le Ber was baptized the day she was born by Abbé Gabriel Souart, Maisonneuve [Chomedey] being her godfather and Jeanne Mance her godmother. At an early age she was interested in a religious vocation and frequently visited Jeanne Mance and the Hospitallers. To complete her formal education she spent three years, 1674 to 1677, as a boarder with the Ursulines in Quebec where her aunt, Marie Le Ber de l’Annonciation, taught. The Ursulines were impressed by her many acts of self-denial and were disappointed when, at the age of 15, she returned to her family in Montreal. She was a pensive, withdrawn, and introverted young lady, who daily spent much time in prayer and in adoration of the Sacrament. A friendship with Marguerite Bourgeoys was greatly to influence her future.

Jeanne Le Ber seemed to savour the social status of her family, however, and always enjoyed prominence and praise for her virtues and talents. As the only daughter (she had three younger brothers) of Jacques Le Ber, with a dowry of approximately 50,000 écus, she was rightly considered the most eligible girl in New France.

The death of one of the sisters of the Congrégation de Notre-Dame in 1679 profoundly affected her; she sought the guidance of Abbé Seguenot, Sulpician parish priest at Point-aux-Trembles (Montreal) who was to remain her confessor, and decided to live a secluded life for a five-year period. With her parents’ permission she retired to a cell at the rear of the church of the Hôtel-Dieu, which served as parish church at that time. Her practices of self-mortification increased: she wore an undergarment of haircloth and corn-husk shoes, she refused to communicate with her family or friends, and she reportedly practised self-flagellation. She left her seclusion only to attend daily mass.

Jeanne Le Ber remained undecided about entering a regular order and taking permanent vows; nevertheless, her determination to shun the attractive life her family offered became evident. In November 1682 she refused to leave her cell to attend her dying mother and later refused to assume the management of the household for her widowed father.

Instead, on 24 June 1685 she took a simple vow of perpetual seclusion, chastity, and poverty. Her spiritual directors, the Abbés Dollier de Casson and Seguenot, encouraged her to continue her pious observances. Her poverty and seclusion, however, were somewhat tempered by the fact that, befitting her social rank, she retained throughout her years of withdrawal from the world an attendant, her cousin Anna Barroy, who saw to her physical requirements and accompanied her to mass. Pleading frailty, she did not abstain from meat as did strict observers in the 17th century. When her brother Jean-Vincent was killed by the Iroquois in 1691, her vows did not prevent her viewing his body and assisting with funeral arrangements. At the same time she attended to a number of business matters, for she had not felt obliged by her vows to divest herself of her property. She ceded the farm at Pointe Saint-Charles to the Hôpital Général of the Charon brothers. 

Her self-imposed rule of silence was subject to amendment by her spiritual director, and she does not seem to have been refused permission to receive visitors whenever she desired. In 1693, for example, she had a long conversation with M. de La Colombière who wished to re-enter Saint-Sulpice.

When she heard that the sisters of the Congrégation planned to build a church on their property she gave them generous financial assistance on condition that they reserve for her a three-room apartment directly behind the altar, so that she could view the blessed sacrament without leaving her quarters. The apartment was built to her specifications, one room at each of three levels: the lower storey, a vestry for confessions and communion, with a door to the sisters’ garden; the second storey, a simple bedchamber; the upper level, a workroom. Dollier de Casson witnessed the agreement drawn up by the notary Basset, whereby the sisters of the Congrégation promised to supply food, clothing, and fuel, to offer daily intercessions, and to wait on her whenever her lady-in-waiting was absent. In return Jeanne Le Ber provided the capital funds for building and decorating the church and an annual income of 75 livres.

On 5 Aug. 1695 she took the solemn vows of a recluse at a ceremony attended by scores of curious colonists. She spent much time in making church vestments and altar cloths and in fine embroidery. Six or seven hours a day were devoted to prayer and meditation, communion was received four times a week; and when the sisters of the Congrégation retired for the night Jeanne Le Ber would spend hours prostrate before the altar of the deserted and silent church. According to her confessor she did not find complete consolation in her self-abnegation and her religious exercises were always burdensome to her.

She introduced the practice of the perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and made a gift of 300 livres to the sisters of the Congrégation for its observance. Another 8,000 livres provided for perpetual masses. She also presented them with the tabernacle, ciborium, chalice, ostensorium, and a silver lamp for the chapel.

Throughout the colony she enjoyed a great fame and continued to receive distinguished visitors from time to time. In 1698, Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix], returning from France, accompanied two English gentlemen, one of them a Protestant minister, on a visit to her. Her father visited her twice a year. His request to be buried in the church of the sisters of the Congrégation to be near his daughter was granted, but Jeanne, to the disappointment of the curious, did not attend his funeral.
When a final illness overtook her in September 1714 she divested herself of her remaining possessions. The sisters of the Congrégation received 18,000 livres, the revenue of which maintained seven boarders, and all her furniture. She died on 3 October and was buried next to her father.

In 2015, from: -- Sainthood cause opened for (Jeanne Leber) Montreal laywoman, Calling her a star in a “constellation of holiness,” Montreal Archbishop Christian Lépine has opened the cause for sainthood of a 17th-century Montreal laywoman.

More about their father, Jacques Leber (Lebert) dit Larose

LeBer-LeMoyne Fur Trading Post in Montreal

Jacques Leber (Lebert) dit Larose (1633–1706)
BIRTH 1633 • Normandie, Eure, Haute-Normandie, France
DEATH 25 NOV 1706 • Montréal, Quebec, Canada
Our 9th great-uncle
married to: Jeanne Le Moyne (1635–1682)
BIRTH ABOUT 1635 • France
DEATH NOV 1682 • Ville Marie, Nouvelle France, Canada
wife of our 9th great-uncle and the sister of Charles Le Moyne Sieur de Longueuil his business partner.

Jacques Leber (Lebert)(Le Ber) dit Larose, merchant, seigneur, ennobled in 1696; b. c. 1633 in the parish of Pistre, diocese of Rouen, son of Robert Le Ber and Colette Cavelier, who may have been related to Cavelier de La Salle; d. 25 Nov. 1706 in Montreal.

Le Ber came to Canada in 1657 and took up residence in Montreal. A brother, François, also settled there around the same time, and a sister, Marie, became an Ursuline nun in Quebec. The Iroquois were then intensifying their war against the colony and Jacques, living in the area most exposed to their incursions, risked his life on many expeditions against these Indians. In 1663, he and François were members of the militia of the Holy Family which Chomedey de Maisonneuve had organized for the defence of the island.

Le Ber, however, was not primarily a soldier but a businessman. On 7 Jan. 1658, he had wed Jeanne Le Moyne, sister of Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, and shortly afterwards he went into business with his brother-in-law. By 1664, the two partners owned stores in Montreal and Quebec and their affairs were in a flourishing state. Le Ber’s activities, however, were not limited to the fur trade and the sale of merchandise. He was keenly interested in Canada’s other economic resources and was one of the principal pioneers of their development. He engaged in the cod fisheries, in trade with the West Indies, was one of the first men to send staves and sheathing to France, and experimented with the transplanting of European fruit trees.

By the 1670s Le Ber was one of the key figures in the closely knit group of wealthy and ambitious businessmen which had emerged in Canada. Among his associates was Charles Bazire, the partner of Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, with whom he engaged in various commercial ventures. 

In 1674, Governor Louis de Buade de Frontenac leased to the two men the post he had founded at Cataracoui, which was strategically located for trade with the Iroquois and some of the western tribes. The following year, however, the governor arranged for the transfer of the lease to Cavelier de La Salle. Le Ber, who had previously acted as a staunch ally of Frontenac, now became one of his chief adversaries. With Le Moyne, La Chesnaye, and Philippe Gaultier de Comporté, who also felt slighted by Frontenac’s policy, he appears to have organized a rival fur-trading network. In 1682, this group of powerful merchants gained the favour ofLe Febvre de La Barre. The new governor promptly placed Le Ber and La Chesnaye in possession of Fort Frontenac (Cataracoui, now Kingston, Ont.) and also encouraged the formation of the Compagnie du Nord, in which Le Ber and Le Moyne invested 21,357 livres.

By the 1680s, Le Ber was one of the wealthiest and most respected men in New France. He owned a store in Montreal and each year sent large quantities of fur and bills of exchange to France. In 1693 alone, those drawn on the state and private parties amounted to 79,380 livres. He was also the seigneur of two-thirds of Île Saint-Paul near Montreal, whose value was given as 18,400 livres in an inventory of 1694, and of Senneville, an estate of 200 arpents on Lac des Deux Montagnes. Le Ber himself lived on Rue Saint-Paul in Montreal, in a two-storey house whose grounds were enclosed by a wooden fence. When he entertained at dinner his guests were probably served on silver plates worth 2,140 livres and waited upon by Jacques, a Negro slave. In 1696, Louis XIV placed a number of letters of nobility on sale in order to replenish his depleted finances. Le Ber promptly purchased his for 6,000 livres and proudly added the title esquire to his name. In August 1715 a decree of the council of state revoked all letters of nobility sold since 1689, but Le Ber’s descendants obtained letters patent exempting them from this law.

Le Ber’s wealth gave him considerable influence in the affairs of the colony. He was one of the 20 notables summoned by Frontenac in 1678 to give their opinion on the brandy trade with the Indians. The majority view was that no restrictions should be placed on this trade, but Le Ber and four others maintained that it should be forbidden outside the confines of the main settlements. The question was temporarily settled the following year when Louis XIV issued an edict that reflected this minority opinion. In 1684, Le Ber sat on another assembly of notables; along with the others present on this occasion, he opposed replacing the tax of 25 per cent on beaver pelts and of 10 per cent on moosehides by a head tax (capitation) and impositions on foodstuffs and property.
When the Iroquois renewed their war on New France in the early 1680s, Le Ber and his family once more came to the defence of the colony. In 1686, he built a stone mill on the island of Montreal near the Ottawa River to provide the inhabitants of that area with a shelter in case of attack by the Five Nations. In 1693, he joined a war party of 300 Canadians, 100 soldiers, and 230 Indians that attacked the Mohawks in their own territory.

Le Ber died in Montreal on 25 Nov. 1706. According to the report of Jacques Raudot on the financial status of the principal shareholders of the Compagnie de la Colonie, he was then a wealthy man. Le Ber’s wife had died on 8 Nov. 1682, and two sons had also predeceased him: Louis, Sieur de Saint-Paul, who died in the early 1690s in La Rochelle where he had acted as his father’s business agent, and Jean-Vincent, Sieur Du Chesne, fatally wounded during an encounter with an English and Iroquois war party near Fort Chambly in 1691. Three children survived their father: Jeanne, the famous recluse, Pierre, and Jacques, Sieur de Senneville. While serving in France as aide-de-camp in the 1690s, Senneville dissipated his share of 40,000 livres from his father’s estate. Following his return to Canada, he was made a captain in the colonial regular troops and soon became a successful fur-trader and merchant. When he died in 1735, he and Toussaint Pothier, with whom he had formed a partnership in 1731, had 64,000 livres in cash in their Montreal store.

About Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil

Charles Le Moyne, Monument at Place d'Armes, Montréal

Charles Le Moyne Sieur de Longueuil (1626–1685)
BIRTH 2 AUG 1626 • Dieppe, Haute-Normandie, France
DEATH 1685 • Montréal, Quebec, Canada
brother-in-law of our 9th great-uncle

Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil et de Châteauguay, soldier, interpreter, trader, seigneur, son of Pierre Le Moyne, innkeeper, and of Judith Du Chesne; b. 2 Aug. 1626 at Dieppe (Normandy); d. February 1685 at Montreal.

The fact that his maternal uncle, the surgeon Adrien Du Chesne, was in the colony, encouraged Charles Le Moyne to come to New France. He was 15 years old when he arrived in 1641. At first he was an indentured employee of the Jesuits in the Huron country, and over a period of four years he familiarized himself with the Indian languages.

In 1645 he was serving in the Trois-Rivières garrison as an interpreter, a clerk, and a soldier. The following year he settled at Ville-Marie (Montreal), where he was to remain throughout his whole career. His life there took the form of continual skirmishes with the Indians, who plagued the fort unceasingly with their attacks. In 1646, and again in 1648, he took a number of Iroquois prisoners. In the spring of 1651, with the pioneer Jacques Archambault, he barely escaped a massacre in which several settlers perished; there was only one other survivor, Jean Chicot, and he had been scalped. On 18 June of the same year he repelled another attack, and for his bravery he was named storekeeper of the fort.

In another ambush, in 1655, he and Lambert Closse took half a dozen Indians prisoner, among them a chief. During a trip he made to Quebec in 1657 he instituted an exchange of French and Iroquois prisoners. He very nearly set out with Dollard Des Ormeaux on the 1660 expedition; he did not go, however, because he wanted it to be postponed until after seed-time.

During an attack by 160 Indians in February 1661, only Le Moyne had a weapon with which to defend himself. Just as he was about to be captured he was saved by Mme Celles Duclos, who brought him an armful of weapons. In the summer of 1665 he was taken prisoner by an Iroquois party, but set free thanks to Garakontié, a friend of the French and a chief of the Onondagas.
In January 1666 Le Moyne was in command of the settlers of Ville-Marie who served as the advance guard for Governor Rémy de Courcelle’s fruitless expedition to the Iroquois country. In the autumn he was to be found at the head of the Montreal settlers in the campaign against the Mohawks, which was personally conducted by the lieutenant general, Prouville de Tracy. On his return he escorted the army chaplain to Fort Sainte-Anne on Lake Champlain. In addition, in the summer of 1671, he took part, as an interpreter, in a new expedition to Lake Ontario organized by Courcelle. In 1673 he resumed his role as an interpreter for the chiefs of the Iroquois tribes, when Governor Buade de Frontenac went to Lake Ontario to lay the foundations for the settlement of Cataracoui.

In the autumn of 1682 he took part in the assembly of the notables of the country, called by Governor Le Febvre de La Barre to decide whether New France should take the Offensive against the Iroquois territory. In the spring of 1683, he was again delegated by La Barre, this time to go with four Indian chiefs from Laprairie, near Montreal, to the south shore of Lake Ontario; they were to take gifts to the Five Nations, who were once more defying the authorities of New France and neglecting to send their deputies, according to agreement, to negotiate the terms of the fur trade and of the alliances.

In the year of his marriage (1654), Charles Le Moyne had received from Chomedey de Maisonneuve a gift of money and a grant of 90 acres of land, since called Pointe-Saint-Charles, and a site in Saint-Paul Street, where for 30 years he had his home and his headquarters.
The Lauson family, in 1657, granted him a fief of 5,000 acres, in accordance with the uses and customs of Le Vexin in France; this was on the south shore at Montreal, cut directly out of the huge seigneury of La Citière. To this fief was added in 1665 grants of land on the Île Sainte-Hélène and the Île Ronde. In 1669 he had an establishment at the Saint-Louis rapids. 

In 1672 Governor Frontenac and Intendant Jean Talon confirmed him in his title to the seigneury of Longueuil by augmenting it with the unallotted lands between Varennes and Laprairie, and by extending it to one and a half leagues in depth. The following year, “because of the zeal that he has always shown in the service of the king,” Frontenac granted him a seigneury at Châteauguay two leagues across by three in depth, and the Île Saint-Bernard, now called the Île Châteauguay, at the mouth of the Rivière du Loup. In 1676 the intendant Duchesneau, in compliance with his request, still further extended the depth of his seigneury of Longueuil, and Le Moyne collected all his fiefs under the name of Longueuil.

With his brother-in-law and business associate Jacques Leber (Le Ber) he acquired in 1679 the Boisbriant fief, which subsequent documents situate “at the upper end of the Île de Montréal,” which took the name of Senneville, and of which Leber became the sole holder. Under M. de La Barre’s administration he obtained with Leber the right to trade in furs at Fort Cataracoui and to ship supplies there, in compensation for funds advanced to Cavelier de La Salle, a bad debtor.

In 1682 he had been one of the shareholders of the Compagnie du Nord, whose agents, Radisson and Chouart Des Groseilliers, went over to the English in the Hudson’s Bay Company.
He made application, in 1684, for the purchase of the fief of the Île Perrot, which had belonged to François-Marie Perrot, the governor of Montreal.

In addition to his residence in Saint-Paul Street – the finest at Ville-Marie – Le Moyne, from 1674, owned a house and buildings on his fief of Longueuil. In 1675 he had there some 20 copyholders (censitaires). In 1684, in favour of his eldest son Charles, he relinquished his Longueuil fief, which was to be elevated to a barony in 1700.

With Pierre Gadoys, Le Moyne was elected a warden of the parish church of Ville-Marie in 1660, and when the royal government was set up at Montreal in 1663 he was given the office of attorney-general, which he filled for a year of two.

In 1668 Le Moyne received letters patent of nobility. These letters, which were not registered within the prescribed time-limit and which were therefore theoretically cancelled, were nevertheless recognized by the authorities of the colony and by the king himself. Nobody, moreover, seems to have challenged the right of Le Moyne or of his descendants to their titles between 1668 and 1717, at which time the situation was regularized by the registration of the letters patent in the Parlement of Paris and the Cour des Aides.

Governor Le Febvre de La Barre, asserting that Le Moyne had done more than any other person in the war against the Iroquois, recommended him in 1683 for the post of governor of Montreal.
Shortly afterwards, Le Moyne was to perform his final service for his country. It was he who in the summer of 1684, with the help of Father Jean deLamberville, saved from disaster La Barre’s unfortunate expedition against the Iroquois, by inducing the latter to negotiate for peace at Anse de la Famine (Famine Cove).

Worn out before his time, Charles Le Moyne was not yet 60 when he dictated his last will and testament on 30 Jan. 1685. He passed away a few days later and was buried in the crypt of the church of Notre-Dame at Montreal.

At Ville-Marie, in 1654, he had married Catherine Thierry (1640–90), the adopted daughter of Antoine Primot and of Martine Messier. His wife survived him by only five years. He had by her two daughters and 12 sons, almost all of them famous: of the latter several died in battle of their wounds; others were commandants of different localities; and one, Pierre Le Moyne* d’Iberville, was the most renowned soldier of New France.

The inventory of Charles Le Moyne’s possessions, which was drawn up shortly after his death by the notary Bénigne Basset, enumerated, in addition to the titles of landed property quoted earlier, personal possessions to the value of more than 125,000 livres; this makes Le Moyne the richest Montreal citizen of his day.

Also see: Chapter Three - La Prairie's Leber Family

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