Jean Baptiste Bertrand dit St-Arnaud
Birth and Baptismal Certificate
After Marie-Jeanne and Genevieve Trotain, it is the turn of Marguerite to be the newly godmother of her neighbor. The godfather, is already known us. Brother of Gabrielle, Jean Baribeau whom since 1697, we are told ,has a farm on the north side of the Batiscan River. Otherwise, it is again the Priest Boy who presides the ceremony of the baptism.
In fact, lists of engagements that I (Rene Bacon) consulted, certify to me that Jean-Baptist Bertrand commits to north country no less than six times, between 1726 and 1735. And every time under a different name! A first time, in 1726, one mentions Jean-Baptist Bellec of Batiscan; another time it is about Louis and Jean Baptist Bellec from Batiscan; then Jean-Baptist Bertrand dit Bellec from Batiscan; then one sees Baptist St-Arnaud from Batiscan; and Jean-Baptist St-Arnoue dit Bellique inhabiting Batiscan. For one that knows a little of the 18th century, this diversity of names offers no surprises. Again it is necessary to know to recognize under the diversity of appellations the only and unique individual that hides himself of it. In our case, it made an odd problem.
The first journey of Jean-Baptist St-Arnaud took place in 1726. Indeed, toward the beginning of May he left presumably for Montreal in rowboat, in company of his maternal brother, Louis Bellec. Certainly, Louis Bellec committed on the following May 18, before Adhemar, to go to Missilimakinac; while Jean-Baptist opted for a hike that was going to last two years. We believe useful to transcribe here the notorial act by which this last (named here Jean-Baptist Bellec; but that could be called other of Batiscan thus in 1726) committed for Michipicten and Nipigon, situated on the north shore of the Lake Superior.
Of contracts of this kind, E.Z. Massicotte (as one knows) looked at some one thousand to Archives judiciareses of Montreal. To some expressions near, terms are some always identical for one main thing; alone vary precisions concerning the destination, the salary and conditions of payment. To understand the importance we need to recall briefly however, how it took place, the operation of the fur trade. It is necessary to believe the historian Marcel Trudel, when he describes the life of the fur trader/trapper to the frontiers of New France, except in regions organized in Governments (Quebec, Three-rivers, Montreal).All the country is subdivided in territories of trade. To exercise it in the country of natives, it is necessary to obtain a holiday of trade, permission that ' State grants in number. One grants them, in principle, to individuals in the need and even to some religious communities at times; they cost 1000 pounds. The permission to leave for trade is granted by the Governor or by his intendant; it carries the precise place that he will travel, the number of rowboats and guides, the quantity of liquor that one carries with him for his personal use (8 pint per person) and; ' time of the return.Those that go in expedition in the country of natives without possessing authorization are the" runner of wood": they are the outlaws. It is not necessary to confound them with hired (or travelers or boaters) that, before a notary, commit sometimes to an accredited trader, to drive a load of goods and to come back, the following year, with a cargo of furs.
This and some historic data permit us to understand the life that Jean-Baptist St.Arnaud is going to live between 1726 and 1735. The one had become here indeed, by his contract of 1726,in the hire Sr of Varennes and the Sr Hamelin, his employers. These last probably obtained a permit or holiday of trade that specified the number of rowboats and of hired trappers that had to be included, in 1726 and 1727, the journey of trade(also listed in records as to "engage in quest") to the Lake Superior. We don't know what was the exact number hired for the journey of the long adventure in which our travelers embarked. One had to go up the course of the river of the Outaouaises first, then to put in the Lake Nipissing or, by the river of Frenches and north of the Georges Bay, then one arrived at Sault-Ste-Marie's station, before following the north shore of Lake Superior until the mouth of the Magpie river.It is to the mighty Michipicoten, then to the road, toward the James Bay . After a good distanceon this, one met, the mouth of the Nipigon river, one of stations most important to the French regime, on the road to James Bay. In 1728 the Sieur of the Vereendrye will stay there with his mates.
Similar journies, one can painfully imagine, was not a restful hike. Apart from the miles and miles to clear for his return, all the journey had to take place in rowboats. The Baron of LaHontan described to us, in a letter dated of June 20, 1684 and written in Montreal, what were these rowboats and the pain that waited for men hired for such an adventure. Biggest ,he writes of these boats, can contain fourteen men comfortably: but ordinarily,one wants to transport supplies or goods, three men are sufficient to govern them. With this small number of canoes one can transport up to twenty quintals. The big rowboats are of birch peel are sure and never turn. If they are convenient by their big lightness and by shallow draft that they pull, it is necessary to confess that they are well in reward inconvenient, by their fragility; because if the bottom either on stones or on the sand, the peel itself opens, and water entering by tears spoils supplies, goods and all the cargo. Every day there is new tear someone has to sew up. At nights one is obliged to unload this craft from the stream and to carry it in portage, or one fears that wind doesn't carry him away like a kite ; because it weighs so little that two men carry it on the shoulder, each by an end.
This alone lightness made me judge, annotates LaHontan, that there has not dawned better craft there to the world for navigator in rivers of Canada that are filled of cataracts, cascades and currents.But for the meeting of all these troublesome places one can transport rowboats on the floor , or to extricate them on water the length of the beach. These rowboats are not at all for the navigation of lakes, waves would swallow them if one didn't make shore before wind rises. However one can make crossings of four or five miles to an island or other; but it is still in calm water, because one could be flooded easily, and risks the of lost supplies. Add to that pelts that would be lost if they were wet, what would be the thickest loss in the traffic. It is true that these rowboats can persivere. If wind is a little strong, although in stern, it is impossible to benefit some without exposing themselves to a wreck.
Canoers act on knees, standing, and seated, successively. They are on knees when they make their way down the small cataracts or cascades of rivers. They are standing when they prick the bottom with stafts to drive back currents and shoals, and they sat down in the sleeping waters. Their oars are maple, and shape as I am going to represent them to you. The shovel of the oar is twenty inches in length, six of large, and four of thickness. The handle, is thick like an egg of pigeon, and three feet of length or about. They use stafts or laths of pine to drive back the fastest currents, and it is what one calls to prick bottom. These canoes have neither stern nor prow, they are also same in point and behind; they don't have ninepins, nor nails, nor tollets. They only last five or six years.
Even if this page of LaHontan was written forty years before the journey that Jean-Baptist St.Arnaud conducted to Lake Superior, it describes enough well, let's believe ourselves, some of conditions with which he and his mates had to cope. Those retorted themselves here probably in six or eight rowboats forming a flotilla and traveling together. An engraving preserved to Archives of Quebec shows us a stage representing a flotilla of this kind in row toward the station of Michillimakinac.
A physical energy spectacle, but also that of misery that the one of the portageur takes on like a mule, sweating, a cloud of blackflies and mosquitos, trailing, descendant, on the length of the cataract, the narrow trail of roebucks, going without grumbling, otherwise he cannot concentrate on stones, branches of trees that will hangup his load, the putting down to rest and the time to smoke a pipe. Ways of rest that will serve the travelers to measure distances on water as well as portages. In their vocabulary, they will say: portage of three pipes, portage of five pipes,: number of pauses or stops that it is necessary to make it there, number of pipes that one lights.
A glimpse on the costume of the trapper and the traveler helps us understand it and to define it. Although remote fanciful description, this costume is composed as follows: a brayet or short panties, of the loafer or shoes of skins, that become moth eaten and either gaiters of sheet or leather of roebucks in manner of stocking, this all completed by the tuque or the cap of wool. Nothing that is unnecessary. A garment that lets the full liberty of movements, that doesn't cling to brushwoods, as comfortable as possible wet and dry. Finally a costume or only one thing, adds to the man and makes him complete: the oar.
To the state of mind, the traveler rather offers us an agreeable physique, smiling. Hustler, hard to work, able to endure pain, strength of frugality, he takes life with a soft philosophy.. Let's give to him, besides, an easy lesson on the nostalgia, on the boredom, as well as testifies to so many of his verses or choruses ofof song. Untiring singer, to the excess, sad or happy, under the sun as under rain, he always keeps a song to lips. Later, in the time of English, one will hire him, says Miss Grace Lee Nute, for his reputation is of a good singer, and probably because the good singer revealed a state of mind of better condition and can sustain the ardor of his pain better than another
As we see it: Jean-Baptist dreams to settle. Of the 325 pounds that he brings back from his first journey of trapping, he invests close to a third in planning for the future. It is otherwise remarkable that he chose to fix himself on the neighboring concession of the one of Louis Bellec. These two it seems will always have something between them that will make them good neighbors. February 13, 1745, Louis Bellec will even agree, in return for a couple of beefs, to give up to Jean-Baptist St-Arnoux, three perches of earth of large, holding St-Arnoux debt . However, our two accomplices, to the spring 1729, desire to take to the road again. July 8, they sign a contract of engagement in ‘Quest’ (trapping) with the Sieurs Sailor and Louis Hamelin. They promise to earn and to pay for and hire, half in beavers the price of equipment merchants and half in goods of courant price, scavoir adds it of hundred four twenty two pounds ten pence. It is about this time they to go to Missillimakinac by way of the Big River of Outaouais (Ontario)and descend also of it by the Big River the same year. Michilimackinac constituted the main stage of the road coming from Montreal by the Georges Bay and the Outaouais river. This station of trade, situated to the south of the strait that unites Lake Michigan to Lake Huron, occupied the present site of Maskinaw City (Mich.), not far from Sault-St-Marie.
Iit is where Jean-Baptist St-Arnaud will return to no less than four times again to Michilimackinac: in 1731, in 1732 in 1734 and in 1735. Every time, he will be going to look to earn between 215 and 225 pounds. These expeditions to Countries of the top, permitted our man, in a hurry to a stake in culture of his land, to accumulate an interesting savings in his view to find a home.
The following day, in the parochial church of St.Genevieve they gather for the religious ceremony. One will permit us of transcribe in extenso the restrained act to the parochial register:
"This day November thousand seven hundred thirty four, after the publication of three proclamations of marriage, brings Jean-Baptist Bertrand son of Paul Bertrand and deceased Gabrielle Baribeau his father and mother, on the one hand; and between Marie Josephe Bronsard, girl of Laurens Bronsard and deceased Marie Cosset her father and mother, on the other hand, all parish of St.Genevieve and being is no empedment to this marriage, we priests under-signs, making functions curialeses of the parish of St.Francois-Xavier of Batiscan and the one of St.Genevieve, lordship of Batiscan, has given them the bridal Blessing, after having received their mutual consent of marriage, with ceremonies prescribed by the St.Eglise, in presence of Paul Bertrand father, of Jean Baptist Bronsard and brother of bride marries Etienne Bronsard, of Pierre Proteau and Pierre Baribeau, witnesses, who have sign with us, and of several other parents and friends who declared not to know how to sign, as did the future spouse. Of that inquired, etc.So sign: Paul Bertrand, Bronsard, Pierre Proteau and Pierre Baribeau.There is no doubt that the new spouses leave to stay on the land that Jean-Baptist St.Arnaud had bought in 1728. We know that this one, about 1722 (whereas it belonged to Jean Desranlot Chateauneuf), included three arpentses of earth already in culture and a barn. St.Arnaud will have been able in the meantime to pursue sporadically the work of reclamation; one can even believe that he will have profit of the summer 1733 enough to build themselves a thatched cottage in forecasting of his marriage. Whatever it is some, the newly married didn't linger to carry fruit. Of the the following spring, indeed, it is clear that Marie-Joseph waits for a child by the end of the summer. It didn't prevent Jean-Baptist St.Arnaud to go up a last time trapping in Countries of the north. He returns in time to welcome, August 22, 1735, the birth of the first of his seven children?
Signed François Richard ,Ptre"
Certain thing, his wife succeeded during the winter 1735-1736 to persuade him to go up again to Missillimackinac. Because after 1735 nothing indicates that our man left on a long journey again. Henceforth, as did his Paul brother, he is going to dedicate his energies to raise his family and to put value in his land bought in 1728.
On 19 March 1740 , Jean-Baptiste sells to his brother Paul his portion of the inherited family farm for the sum of 110 pounds.
In the census of 1765 we see that of the 80 arpents of land, 25 of it is cultivated. On his farm he has 2 steers, 4 cows, 2 bulls, 4 sheep 1 horse and 4 pigs. On July 7,1766 ,Jean Baptiste now 61 years old, turns over to his children his farm and land in return for the support of he and his wife Josephe Bronsard. Joseph, Francois and Laurent still living at home.
(*) Excerpts from
the "La Famille St-Arnaud à la Rivière Batiscan, 1695-1770"
by P. René Bacon, O.J.M. Book available from the St-Arnaud Association
(Computer translation from french)
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