Saturday, August 8, 2009

Sieur Guillaum Couillard de L'Espinay First Slave Holder

In the Family History and Genealogy of my Great Grandfather Moses Genereaux alias James Cummings, mother Marie Dupuis, was the 5th great grand daughter of Guillaume Couillard dit Dupuis, son of Guillaume Senior and Elisabeth De Vesins, married on August 26, 1621. Guillementte Marie Hebert, Metis dau of Louis Hebert and Marie Rolet. This was the first recorded marriage of a French couple in New France. 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 Quebec was captured in 1629, by the Kirke Brothers [really privateers sailing for English Crown] nearly all of the French including Champlain were shipped to England and eventually to France. The Couillards became the only complete family to live under English occupation. Champlain entrusted the fort to two young Montagnais girls [Natives], 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.
The Treaty of St German En Laye of March 1632 restored the Kebec and Acadia post to France.

The Couillard family 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.

The Couillards may have been the first French-Canadians to own a black slave. [Slavery in the Americas was very common among the native population, most all of the tribes used captives as slave labor] When the Kirke brothers 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", Sieur and Madam de L'Espinay. These honors were later passed down to their sons; Charles and Louis.
Sieur Guillaume Couillard de L'Espinay, died at home on March 4, 1663 and is buried in the chapel of the Hotel Dieu, and three years later Madam Guillimette de L'Espinay 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 part of the Louis Hebert's monument, beside the city hall of Quebec.
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".

The Manor home of Couillard and Dupuis, while still standing was not built until about 1800 on or near Guillaum's original home.
The bronze statue of Sieur Guillaume Couillarde is part of the Hebert monument, it is interesting to note Guillaume ordered from France a ox and a plow before he died, the ox arrived but not the plow until after his death.

One can not study the ancestry of this united Genereaux and Dupuis family without becoming richly rewarded with history of the founding of New France on the American Continent, the sacrifices, hard work, disappointments, and successes of these early pioneers, carving out a settlement in a hostile environment without much more than there bare hands.

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