Pierre Hudon comes to New France

birchbark canoe

Image of a birchbark canoe on a Canadian River, from Glenbow Archives, image na-843-14, used with their permission

So how and when did Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu come to New France?

Why is easy to understand why: his father was dead of disease and his mother apparently safe. There was nothing left for him in France. “Opinions differ,” Gisèle Piou says in her study, “History and Genealogy: in pursuit of Pierre Hudon-dit-Beaulieu.” She continues, here:

The first document that indicates his presence in New France dates from April 3, 1664. It is a judgement of the Sovereign Council of New France which condemns a named St. Martin, domestic servant, of the Sieur Abraham Martin, to pay damages of 20 Livres to Pierre Hudon, domestic servant of M. Marsollet, because of the excesses committed in her [his] person by the named St. Martin. (Judgement of Deliberations of the Sovereign Council, vol. 1, p. 72, 76, 157.)

Pierre Hudon was claiming food and medicine following injuries resulting from an altercation. The young Pierre Hudon, about 15 years old, wins the case before the Sovereign Council. But this document teaches us especially that Pierre Hudon is in the employ of a figure of importance in New France, the Sieur Nicolas Marsolet (1601-1677).

Nicolas Marsolet of Saint-Aigman, interpreter of the Indian languages, clerk of the fur trade, wine trader, master of boat, lord of Bellechasse (Saint Vaillier), companion of Champlain 1613, lived in New France for several years. In 1661 he made a trip to France, from whence he returned in 1663. (Biographical Dictionary of Canada, volume 1, pages 504-506, by Andre Vachon).

There is plenty on Nicolas Marsolet in the book, Champlain’s Dream, by David Hackett Fischer. Let’s see what we can find out! We have always heard stories of the French going out to live with the First Nations people. Marsolet did exactly that! The author explains that “Champlain never wanted to conquer or enslave the Indians, and never imagined that he could control them… He admired their many strengths, treated them with respect, tried to learn from them — and they reciprocated.” 

Between 1620 and 1624, he [Champlain] also sent more young men to live among the Indians. Nicolas Marsolet went to the Montagnais in the Saguenay country; young Jean Nicollet and Jean Richer lived among the Nipissing…

In about 1620, the Montagnais and the French under Champlain disagreed, and the Montagnais planned an attack on Quebec and Tadoussac. Then the British came, and Champlain surrendered to Louis Kirke in July 1629. Two of Champlain’s interpreters, Etienne Brule and Nicolas Marsolet, began to work for the British, much to Champlain’s fury. New France was almost immediately returned to France, however, because of treaties that predated the conquest of New France. A defeated Louis Kirke sailed for England, taking Champlain with him. Champlain returned to New France in 1633, and found that Brule lived among the Huron people. Brule came to a bad end. He betrayed the Huron and was killed by them.

But where was Marsolet? He had a different fate, according to this book:

For a time he also got on the wrong side of the French. Jesuit father Paul Le Jeune wrote angrily, “In all the years we have been in this country no one has been able to learn anything from the interpreter named Marsolet, who, for excuse, said that he would never teach the Savage tongue to anyone.” But Marsolet dealt with his difficulties by continuing to work as an agent among the Montagnais. He acquired his own boat, traded in furs with much success, and his profits brought him wealth and respectability. He came to be called “the little king of Tadoussac.” After Champlain’s death, Marsolet settled down, married a French wife, raised a family of ten children, acquired a seigneury from the Company of the Hundred Associates, and accumulated land and offices. He lived to the ripe age of ninety and died in 1677, a respected citizen of New France.

So it seems that in about 1663, Nicolas Marsolet returned to New France after a visit to France. Gisèle Piou writes:

At this time he [Marsolet] was a shopkeeper in Quebec. Would he bring back with him the young Pierre Hudon? Did he need a young labourer suitable for all trades to clear his concessions, run the woods, hold shop? This hypothesis is very probable. Especially since Pierre Hudon declares in his marriage contract to be an orphan (father).

Another clue: his marriage contract is countersigned by Genevieve Marsolet, daughter of Nicolas, married to Michel Guyon, Sieur de Rouvray. This marriage contract is made in the house of Dame Elisabeth Boucher, wife of Denis Guyon, bourgeois of Quebec. What to conclude? Pierre Hudon was employed, or he was well [enough] known to Guyon and Marsolet, to sponsor his marriage. Now the Guyons, the Marsolets, and the D’Amours were bourgeois families of Quebec, related to each other; they engaged in furs and various enterprises. Pierre Hudon could have been their committed man (Homme engagé.) (The fur trade by Norman Cazelais, Living Winter in Quebec. Book that was offered to me by Paul Henri Hudon.)

In 1663, Marsolet, D’Amours and 15 other bourgeois are associated to lease the fur trade in Tadoussac, Quebec.

And so, Pierre Hudon dit Beaulieu is likely working for Marsolet at Tadoussac, on the St. Lawrence River east of the town of Quebec. Or is he? “The 1666 census in New France was the first census conducted in Canada (and by extension, in North America). It was organized by Jean Talon, the first intendant of New France, between the years 1665 and 1666.”

In this census of 1666, there is a Pierre Hudon in Quebec practicing the profession of baker, among the list of “non-resident volunteers.” He is 18 years old. Then between 1666 and 1676, no document or census indicates his presence. He “reappeared” on July 12, 1676, the date of the signing of the marriage contract with Marie Gobiel. Where was he? What is he doing during these ten years?

Obviously, whatever he was doing, he came away with funds enough to set himself up on 8 acres of land on the river front “in the Anse [Bay] Iroquois.” In front of his property flowed the Rivière-Ouelle. Pierre Hudon would have settled on Rivière-Ouelle between 1672 and 1676 as a colonist. “Ambitious but wise, he enlarges his domain; he enjoys the confidence of the Lord who grants him the desired enlargements upon request.”

In the census of 1681, he is 32 years of age and his wife, Marie Gobeil, 23 years. They have by this time three children, 2 rifles, 2 horned animals and 10 arpents of land in value. In 1696, he acquired 18 arpents front both Riviére-Ouelle and Kamouraska. At his death on April 24, 1710, in Riviére-Ouelle, Kamouraska, he has many children. Thousands of us are descended from this one man and his fertile wife!

There are quite a few Beaulieu families found in French genealogy, and I had no idea which Beaulieu family we came from, until I did my DNA through Ancestry. I had already collected and built family trees of all the Beaulieus I found in the PRDH (University of Montreal: Programme de Recherche en Démographie Historique, or Research Program for Historic Demography). When my results arrived, it became obvious that I was a Hudon dit Beaulieu descendant, because all of my close Beaulieu relatives fit into that family and no other. From checking other peoples’ family trees, I determined which members of their families I am closest to. I was given permission to search through other family member’s DNA to see where they fit in, and the same members of the Hudon dit Beaulieu family appeared in all our family DNAs. It was amazing. Here’s how it stands today.

Pierre (1679-1748).

Jean Bernard (1721-1786).

Francois Germaine (1758-1850). 

Then, perhaps, Francois (1788-?).

It must be noted that any one of these Canadien men might have worked in the fur trade of the North West Company or an earlier company, and left a mixed-blood son in the wilds. This man grew up and became my ancestor, Joseph Beaulieu, born about 1775 so far as I can tell. There has also been a massive amount of information added since I last looked at the PRDH. Who knows what I will learn today, that I did not learn ten years ago?

To go back to the beginning of this Hudon dit Beaulieu thread, see here: http://nancymargueriteanderson.com/hudon-dit-beaulieu-1/

Copyright, Nancy Marguerite Anderson, 2020.