Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Hebert Monument - Quebec City, Canada

The Monument to the left was erected to honor Louis Hebert first European settler dedicated 1918 on the 300 anniversary of his arrival in Quebec, 1617 four years before the Mayflower landing. It stands behind Notre-Dame de Quebec Basilica, next to Cote de La Montague Street.

Many of us can trace out genealogy to those hardy Puritans that came to America shores in 1623 to establish the first colony. Well Jim Cummings (my great grandfather) can boast that his mother Marie Dupuis 6th and a 7th great grandfather was Louis Hebert, who is considered to be the first European settler in Canada. The honor of being the colony's first seigneur belongs to Louis Hebert, a curious chain of events that brought him to the role of a yeoman in the St Lawrence valley. Hebert has left to posterity little or no information concerning his early life and his experience as a farmer. we must gather what we can from stray allusions to him in the general narratives of early colonial life. Hebert was Canada's first patron of husbandry. The greater portion of his adult years were passed with a spade in his hands. But he embodies a type, and a worthy type it is. Louis Hebert was a native of Paris, born in about 1575. He had an apothecary's shop there, but apparently was not making a very marked success of his business in 1604. he fell in with Biencourt de Poutrincourt, and was enlisted as a member of that voyageur's first expedition to Acadia. It was in these days the custom of ships to carry an apothecary or dispenser of health-giving herbs. His functions ran the whole gamut of medical practice from blood-letting to the dosing of sailors with concoctions of mysterious make to cure about everything. Hebert probably set out with no intention to remain in America; but he found Port Royal to his likeing, and there the historian Lescarbot soon found him not only sowing corn and planting vines, apparently taking great pleasure in the cultivation of the soil. All this in a colony which comprised of five persons, namely, two Jesuit fathers and their servant, Hebert, and one other.

In 1613 with serious dangers all about, and lack of support at home, Port Royal about to be destroyed, Hebert made his way back to France. The apothecary's shop was re-opened, the daily customers were no doubt regaled with stories of life among the wild aborigines of the west. But not for long. There was a trait of restlessness that would not go away, in 1616 the little shop again put up its shutters. Hebert had joined Champlain in the Brouage navigator's first voyage to the St Lawrence. This time the apothecary burned his bridges behind him, Hébert sold his house and its garden in Paris and with Marie his wife and there three children, Anne, Guillemette and Guillaume start out, with them and all his worldly effects.
The trading company which was backing Champlain's enterprise promised that Hebert and his family should be paid a cash bonus and should receive, in addition a tract of land, provisions and stores sufficient for their first two years in the colony. For his part, Hebert agreed to serve without pay as general medical officer of the settlement, to give his other services to the company when needed, and to keep his hands out of the fur trade. Nothing was said about his serving as legal officer of the colony as well; but that task became part of his varied experience. Not long after his arrival at Quebec, Hebert's name appears, with the title of "procureur du Roi", at the foot of a petition sent home by the colonists to the king.

All this looked fair enough, but as matters turned out, Hebert made a poor bargain. The company gave him only half the promised bonus, granted him no title to any land, and for three years insisted upon having all his time for its own service. A man with less determination would have made his way back to France at the earliest opportunity. But Hebert was loyal to Champlain, whom he in no way blamed for his bad treatment. At Champlain's suggestion he took a piece of land above the settlement at Quebec, and without waiting for any formal title-deed began devoting all his spare hours to the task of getting it cleared and cultivated. His small tract comprised only about a dozen arpents on the heights above the village; and as he had no one to help him the work of clearing it moved slowly. Trees had to be felled and cut up, the stumps burned and removed, stones gathered into piles, and every foot of soil upturned by hand with a spade. There were no ploughs in the colony at this time. or Oxen, no horses at Quebec. It was some years later that farm implements were imported.

Nevertheless, Hebert was able by hard work to get the entire twelve arpents into cultivable shape within four or five years. A house had been built chiefly by the labor of himself. It was a stone house, about twenty feet by forty in size, a one-story affair, regarded as one of the most comfortable abodes in the colony. The attractions of this home, and especially the hospitality of Madame Hebert and her daughters, are more than once mentioned in the annals of the settlement. It was the first dwelling to be erected on the plateau above the village.

In 1623 the authorities were moved to grant him the honor of rank as a seigneur, and the first title-deed conveying a grant of land en seigneurie was issued to him on February 4 of that year. The deed bore the signature of the Duc de Montmorenci, titular viceroy of New France. Three years later a further deed, confirming Hebert's rights and title, and conveying to him an additional tract of land on the St Charles river, was issued to him by the succeeding viceroy, Henri de Levy, Duc de Ventadour.
The preamble of this document recounts the services of the new seigneur. "Having left his relatives and friends to help establish a colony of Christian people in lands which are deprived of the knowledge of God, not being enlightened by His holy light," the document proceeds, "he has by his painful labors and industry cleared lands, fenced them, and erected buildings for himself, his family and his cattle. to encourage those who may hereafter desire to inhabit and develop the said country of Canada" the land held by Hebert, together with an additional square league on the shore of the St Charles, is given to him "to have and to hold in fief noble for ever," subject to such charges and conditions as might be later imposed by official decree.

Hebert died in 1627. Little as we know about his life, the clerical chroniclers tell us a good deal about his death, which proves that he must have had all the externals of piety. At the time of Hebert's death Quebec was still a struggling hamlet of sixty-five souls, two-thirds of whom were women and children unable to till the fields. Hebert certainly did his share. His daughters married in the colony and had large families. By these marriages a close alliance was formed with the Couillards and other prominent families of the colony's earliest days.
Attached to this monument is a bronze plaque inscribed "Les Premiers Colons De Quebec" with about 90 names of which are 14 ancestors of Anthony Moses Genereau alias Jim Cummings.
These settlers came to Kebec with Champlain, some were shipped back to France by the Kirk bothers in 1627, others remained under English rule until the treaty March 1632 when Kebec and Arcadia was returned to France. Champlain returned in May 23 1633 with three ships loaded with supplies, and the settlement once again started to grow.
Jim Cummings, is not only full blooded French but could boast that he is a decedent of the very first European to settle in New France, He has many cousins that can do the same but his line is documented.
How I wish I could spend a few moments with my grandmother "Maggie" she was loyal to her fathers wishes to keep secret his change of name due to a unfortunate incident, but a family with this genealogy can not be denied to those coming after us. All of "maggie's" family on her fathers side both Paternal and Maternal have been traced for each generation back to 1600's in France, and in some cases beyond the middle ages.


Jim C said...

Thanks Bob.

Keep em coming this is great reading. I continue to be amazed at all you come up with. It is too bad that more of the family do not know of this.

Jim C.

Distressing Delilah a.k.a. jenn said...

Wow, great post Pop!

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