Québec May 1629 through July 1634

The Missing Sacramental Registers

Note: The info on this page is taken from many different sources and is not meant to provide a detailed history of early Québec.

In 1627, there were about 67 Europeans living in Québec. That same year, the Compagnie des Cent-Associés was created by Cardinal Richelieu to capitalize on the growing fur trade and colonize and manage the area. The company had one hundred partners, consisting primarily of trade leaders. The main function of the group was to own and exploit the vast regions of New France with a perpetual monopoly on the fur trade and a monopoly on all other trades for fifteen years. In return, the company was required to send two or three hundred settlers yearly from France to the new colony, to support each new colonists for three years in return for his labor, and to provide each settlement with three priests.

In early 1628, the Compagnie des Cent-Associés sent the first group of several hundred settlers from the port of Dieppe loaded in more than a dozen ships. These ships contained supplies badly needed by the Québec colonists. However, as the flotilla approached the mouth of the St. Lawrence, they were forced to take refuge in Gaspé Bay due to heavy storms. There, they were intercepted by the Kirke Brothers who had claimed the area for England. With three armed ships and two hundred men, the Kirkes had also taken refuge from the weather in the same inlet. Unfortunately, the newly-arrived French were at an extreme disadvantage. The larger French convoy ships were unable to maneuver in the small bay and, in addition, were not prepared for a battle. This was evident by the fact that most of the cannons had been stored below deck.

A second French fleet, totally unaware of the fate of the first, commanded by Éméry de Caën, arrived in Tadoussac shortly afterwards. The Kirkes awaited them and the fleet met the same fate as the first arrivals. Québec had, effectively, been cut off from France and was without any hope of receiving supplies or reinforcements.

Meanwhile, the Québec colonists anxiously awaited the arrival of the much-needed supplies. When Champlain learned that the British were at Tadoussac and that Cap Tourmente had been destroyed by Kirke's men, he realized that the settlement was in great danger. He was fully aware that the colonists were in danger. The houses were flimsy and had not been well maintained. There were few cannons to provide protection. Upon realizing that an attack by the English was likely imminent, Champlain moved the colonists into his fort. The food supplies were inadequate for a siege so he found it necessary to immediately reduce the daily ration to a small supply of peas and "turkey corn" (maize).

The French waited for the arrival of the English ships but they didn't appear. Little did Champlain know, the Kirke brothers were well aware of the dire situation of the French and pledged to return to seize the site the following year. The Kirke brothers had returned to England.

As the season changed to winter, the suffering experienced by the colonists grew dire as the long, frozen months slowly ticked by. There was not enough supplies in the fort to feed the hungry colonists and the daily ration had to be reduced to a mere seven ounces of pounded peas per person. The settlers became were slowly starving.

Champlain was expecting relief from France in the spring of 1629. However, as the landscape began to show the first signs of rejuvenation in late winter/early spring, the settlers could no longer resist the desire to leave the fort in search for food in order to put an end to their pitiful existence on starvation rations. The men of the settlement began to disperse into the woods to hunt and fish while the wives and children remained in the fort. While many of the men were out hunting, the fort at Québec was without protection when two English ships came into sight from behind the Isle of Orleans on 19 July 1629. Two other English ships were already docked at Tadoussac. There was little resistance that Champlain could offer.

Champlain, nevertheless, held out for best possible terms of surrender. He insisted that the commander of the attacking force must first show his commission from the English King, that no effort be made to come ashore until all terms had been agreed to, and that one of the two ships be used to transport the colonists back to France, including all the priests and two Indians. Above all, he demanded that fair and courteous treatment be accorded to all. The English commander agreed to all of his terms.

On 9 August 1629, Champlain formally surrendered his beloved Québec to the invaders. It is interesting to note that the English men who came ashore to raise their flag over Champlain's citadel found no food in the place other than one tub filled with potatoes and roots. The colony had been on the very brink of starvation.

Champlain and the colonists left Québec on 14 September 1629. When they reached Tadoussac before setting sail across the Atlantic with their captives, Champlain discovered that two Frenchmen had helped the Kirkes navigate the St. Lawrence in their quest to seize New France from the French. Champlain was outraged by the discovery that Jacques Michel was a traitor to the country but, even more so, by the fact that his former servant, Étienne Brulé, was the other traitor! Champlain felt deeply betrayed by his fellow countrymen.

Unknown to the French colonists and English captors, however, peace had been declared between the French and English in late April 1629 - a month or so after the Kirkes left England to said to New France to seize the colony. As soon as the French Government received word of the seizure of their colony, they made an immediate demand that the Québec colony be returned to them and that restitution be made for all the losses the French had suffered. King Charles of England agreed to this. The agreement to return New France to the French, however, did not happen immediately. Instead, it would take almost three years for England to officially cede New France - an agreement expedited by the constant push on the French government from Samuel Champlain. In return, French King Louis XIII was forced to pay a dowry of one million livres to England for Henriette, sister of King Louis and new wife to King Charles I of England. New France was officially handed back to France via the Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye signed in March 1632.

It is believed that one or two families may have remained in New France from 1629 to 1633. One family was that of the deceased Louis Hébert, and another was, possibly, the family of Abraham Martin and Marguerite Langlois. However, the baptismal and marriage sacramental registers provide proof that the colony was, essentially, abandoned during those years. Here is the first page of the Québec marriage register which shows the 16 May 1629 marriage of Guillaume Hubou to the widow of Louis Hébert, Marie Rollet. This marriage took place two months before the arrival of the Kirke Brothers. The next marriage recorded in Quebec was not until 25 July 1634 - the marriage of Noël Langlois and Françoise Grenier.:

Below is the first page from the Québec baptismal register. You'll notice that there was only one baptism which seems to have taken place between the time of the 1629 siege and the return of the colonists in about 1633 - the baptism of Élisabeth Couillard. She was a granddaughter of Louis Hébert. Interestingly, there is reference to a date in 1633 in this baptismal record but it's not clear enough to read. Therefore, it's possible, that her baptism took place elsewhere and was simply recorded in this register upon the family's 1633 return:

At the same time, we have evidence that the colonists of New France were, indeed, back in France after the 1629 siege by the Kirke brothers. This evidence can be found in the sacramental records of Dieppe. For instance, on 20 April 1632, the burial of Françoise Langlois, wife of Pierre Desportes and mother of Hélène, was recorded at St-Jacques. She was erroneously listed as Marguerite Langlois on her burial record:

Cardinal Richelieu sent Champlain back to Québec in 1633 with enough colonists, supplies and laborers to begin the rebuilding of the colony. The Kirkes had virtually razed Québec and very little of the original colony remained. The year following their return, two more colonies were founded - Beauport and Trois-Rivières. Four years later, Sillery and Sainte-Foy were founded. By 1640, the population of Québec was 359 and would continue to grow. However, many horrific hardships were to come...

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