First of our Pelletier line to arrive in "New France"
(1598 - 1657)
This bio is from George A. Pelletier's website Pelletier Genealogy and is reproduced with his permission.
Guillaume Pelletier was born in 1598 in Bresolette(s), Perche, France, the son of Eloi Pelletier and Francoise Matte.
There are documents in the genealogy archives of the Paris National Library that indicate that the Pelletiers from Perche are probably descendants of Barthelemy Le Pelletier of Brittany. Barthelemy was given the Perche forest by the French King, Charles V, as a reward for his bravery in the battle of Thouars, in Poitou, August 7, 1372. (Louise Pelletier in La Pelleterie, Bulletin #25, Volume 11, No. 1, Winter 1997.)
Perche, an old French province, founded in 1115, is west of Paris and east of the coastal province of Normandy. Perche no longer exists as a province today - it is part of Lower Normandy. The ancient province of Perche was dismantled into four uneven parts in 1790, when the French Assembly divided France into "departements". Today, the province of Perche would correspond roughly to the eastern portion of the "departement" of Orne, and the western portion of the "departement" of Eure-et-Loire. Perche is still referred to as a region of France. Approximately 4% of the early Canadian settlers were from the Perche region.
The region of Perche is a quiet countryside where the original Trappist monastery, "La Grande Trappe", is lost in the Perche forest. However, in the 17th century, Perche was an important iron works center, especially in that part of Perche called the "Val de l'Avre", the Avre River Valley.
The Pelletier ancestral home, in Bresolettes (see picture on Home Page), whose walls are made of silex, still stands today and is occupied by one of Guillaume's descendants, Jacqueline Pelletier Gaudet, born in Canada and who returned to France in 1986.
Guillaume's trade was that of "marchand de charbon", a coal (charcoal) merchant. On February 12, 1619, Guillaume left his native village to marry Michelle Mabille, six years his elder, daughter of Francois Mabille and Etiennette Monhee (Monhay). The wedding took place in St-Aubin Church, in the neighboring town of Tourouvre.
Guillaume and his bride took up residence in a section of Tourouvre called "Gazerie". The couple also lived in an adjacent area of Tourouvre, called "Babonniere", with Michelle's parents. According to Tourouvre archives, 3 children were born to Guillaume and Michelle: the eldest, Claude, was baptized on February 11, 1622; the second, Guillaume, was baptized on February 26, 1624, and the youngest, Jean, was baptized on June 12, 1627. Other than the baptismal records, no additional information, neither in Tourouvre archives nor in any Canadian archives can be found for the two older children, Claude and Guillaume. The prevailing opinion among Pelletier historians is that they both probably died in early infancy.
In 1627, Cardinal Richelieu, chief of the King's council, organized "La Compagnie des Cent-Associes", the Company of a Hundred Associates, also known as "La Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France", the New France Company.
This company was made up of one hundred partners, mostly trade leaders. As organized, the Company was to own and exploit the vast regions of New France. It had perpetual monopoly of the fur trade and monopoly of all the other trades for 15 years. In return for these benefits, each partner was required to furnish a certain of number of colonists over the period of the contract. The Company was to support each new colonist for 3 years in return for his labor. The Company owned all the land and had the right to grant estates to "Seigneurs", under the French feudal laws.
Such a grant is made to Robert Giffard, originally from the Perche region. In 1634, Giffard was named "Seigneur" of the Beauport area, just northeast of Quebec City. Giffard recruits heavily from his native province of Perche. Among his principal recruiters are the Juchereau brothers from the town of Tourouvre.
Apparently Guillaume Pelletier and his bachelor brother, Antoine, were recruited by the Juchereau brothers before 1640. Guillaume, however, did not feel free to leave at that time because of his in-laws' extremely poor health. He stayed on in Tourouvre with his wife, Michelle, to care for the elderly couple. Both in-laws died within a short time of each other in 1640, and the Pelletiers were free to leave for Beauport.
Guillaume, age 43, his wife Michelle, age 48, their youngest son Jean, age 14, and Guillaume's brother, Antoine, left Tourouvre in the spring of 1641. No information about the family is available for the following 3 years. As mentioned previously, the Company of New France obligated itself to support the hired settlers for 3 years in exchange for their labor. It is assumed that Guillaume and his brother are hired as carpenters and wood workers. They worked either at Quebec City for the Company, or at nearby Beauport for the "Seigneur" Giffard.
On September 12, 1644, Guillaume became the owner of a piece of land in the "seigneurie" of Beauport. The land is purchased from Martin Grouvel. Guillaume purchased a piece of land which had a six-acre frontage on the St-Lawrence River and extended northwest to the Montmorency River near the Montmorency Falls. His brother, Antoine, bought a piece of land next to his brother, but closer to the Falls.
Guillaume's brother, Antoine, married Francoise Morin on August 19, 1647, at Quebec City. Less than 2 months later, on Wednesday, October 3, 1647, Antoine drowned as his canoe overturned near the Montmorency Falls. Since Antoine and his wife had not entered into a formal marriage contract, half of Antoine's property passed to his nearest living relative, his brother Guillaume. Guillaume, in turn, bought Antoine's widows half of the property. Later, in 1655, Guillaume sold his brothers former property to Jean Migneault.
According to the Ursuline Sisters' archives in Quebec, Guillaume was instrumental in the construction of the Chateau St-Louis, the Governors home, in 1647, and of the parish church in 1648, which still serves the community today. In addition to being a master carpenter and beam maker, Guillaume distinguished himself as a community leader. He participated in the "Communaute des Habitants", the land-owners' syndicate, and was elected to represent Beauport to the syndicate in 1653.
Guillaume died at the age of 59 on Tuesday, November 27, 1657. He was buried the next day in the "Cote de la Montagne" cemetery at Quebec City. His wife, Michelle Mabille, lived on at Beauport where she died eight years later at the age of 73. She was buried beside her husband on January 21, 1665.