The other Joseph
Third of a four-part series of the real and imagined life of Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (1824-1895)
What about the other Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire that was baptized in St-Ours? We might assume that the census records in St-Jude relate to him. But it looks like his path led him to Massachusetts – like many others of his generation in the Sorel region.
Before heading there, his marriage took place, coincidentally, just a few days before our other Joseph. Joseph son of Pierre married Marguerite Dauphin in St-Jude. After that, the similarities between our two Josephs end.
Picking up his trail, we find Joseph Gregory in 1863 enlisting in Massachusetts (at 40 years old) to serve with the Union Army in the Civil War that began in 1861. After the war, he petitioned in 1878 for, and was granted, naturalized citizenship in Boston. His application records show that he is a shoemaker and his point of entry to the United States was St-Albans, Vermont.
Later, according to the 1880 U.S. census, he is a labourer living in Hudson MA with his wife Margaret (45), children Edwidge (20), Mary (16), Joseph (12) and Johannis (2).
Joseph Gregory died in 1898 in Hudson MA, three years after Joseph Gregoire of St-Ours.
Building a family dynasty
There is some evidence that the Comeau, Gregoire and Duhamel families were well acquainted. In 1852, Joseph (fils) was a witness to Paul Como‘s marriage contract with Francoise Mathieu and he also appeared as a witness at their wedding. Paul Como’s second wife is Florence Duhamel of Ste-Victoire, probably a not-too-distant relation to Eloise’s Duhamels.
In March 1852, Joseph and Eloise’s second child, Alphonse, is born and the following year another son, Magloire, is born.
In 1854, the seigneurial regime of land grants was abolished and changed to a freehold system of land ownership. This might have been the reason for a couple of land title transactions involving Joseph Valentin (likely Joseph the father) in 1854 and 1855.
Three more daughters are born in St-Ours: Amanda in 1855, Albina (future wife of Joseph Comeau) in 1856 and Alexina in 1858. These are followed by a son, Raphael in 1860. With a quick succession of babies in the household, one must wonder if the latest home innovation, the rotary washing machine (patented in 1858) was something high on the family’s wish list.
In 1861 there are six schools with 453 students in the parish. The two village schools have 40 boys and 50 girls. Many, if not all, of Joseph & Eloise’s children attended school as evidenced by their ability to sign various documents as witnesses to weddings, burials and baptisms.
Joseph and his family finally appear in the 1861 census, living in St-Ours with seven children and his widowed father. He is listed as a farmer – an occupation he held all his working life. The census also describes their dwelling as a single-storey house of wood construction.
Three more daughters are born to Joseph & Eloise over the next few years: Louise in 1862, Rosanna in 1863 and Parmelie (Melina) in 1865. Their youngest child, Marie Louise (Lovia) is born in 1868.
The centre of village life was of course its church. In 1861, a group of men were elected as syndics to oversee the repairs to the church. Eloise’s father, André Duhamel, was among them. The debate over the remediation of the church ranged from extensive repairs to demolition and rebuilding on the existing or other sites. In 1870 a group of parishioners sign a resolution favoring the demolition of the old church to build a new church. About 280 are for the resolution. A smaller group of parishioners who had the right to sign, did not – Andre Duhamel and Joseph Gregoire were among that group. Despite the resolution, the matter won’t be resolved until 1877.
It was a debate that went on (and on) with the diocese for decades until finally in 1882 the old church was demolished to make way for a new one. André, no longer a syndic, didn’t live long enough to see the new church constructed. He died just as the old church was being demolished to make way for the new build.
In 1865 catastrophic floods affected the area. Particularly hard-hit were the islands of Sorel where the population was decimated with over 30 deaths from drowning.
In 1866, Eloise experienced the loss of another sibling, her youngest brother Francois Xavier. He was only 16 years old. His cause of death is unknown.
In 1867, on July 1, the Dominion of Canada is formed, uniting the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The proclamation appears in the June edition of the Sorel Gazette. There is speculation about who will form the first government and fill the new ministerial positions in advance of elections to be held in August.
© Janet Comeau – August 2018