Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire: IV

Migration and marriages

Fourth of a four-part series of the real and imagined life of Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (1824-1895)

Like many other families in the Sorel/St-Ours area, several members of the Valentin-Gregoire clan made their way to build a new life in Massachusetts. Among them were: Florence and Josephine Gregoire, Joseph’s sisters, who left St-Ours with their husbands. Later on, three of Joseph and Eloises’s children would join this exodus – Magloire to Spencer, Amanda to Adams and Louisia to Fall River. The others all established homes in the St-Ours area.

In fact, in 1871, the exodus of French Canadians to the U.S. prompted a two-day convention in Worcester MA, attended by delegates and members of the clergy. The agenda for the conference included:

  • Press canadienne aux Etats-Unis
  • Ecoles françaises
  • Naturalisation et repatriement
  • Moyens d’accroître notre bien-être matériel
  • Etablissement de nouvelles sociétés de secours mutual
  • Questions d’honneur national.

The conference concluded with a number of declarations and resolutions which were reported in La Gazette de Sorel to improve the wellbeing of French Canadians in the U.S.

By now Joseph and Eloize’s children are reaching adulthood. Their oldest daughter, Rosalie (Delima), is the first to leave the nest by marrying Edmond Chapdelaine in 1871. The remaining children are still at the family home in St-Ours. In the 1871 census, Alphonse is listed as a farmer (probably working with his father) and five of the younger children are recorded as being in school. One of their neighbours is Capitaine Pierre Comeau and his family. The 1871 census was the first census after Confederation in 1867 and the total population of Canada (Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) was 3.7 million.

During this period, many of Eloise’s siblings are marrying as well. Her sister Philomene married in 1865 to Simon Morin dit Valcour. In 1871 her brother Clement married Adeline Cusson and her brother Leonard married Emma Chapdelaine. In 1874 her sister Eleonore married Paschal Langelier. This last wedding included a large number of witnesses, Eloise being one of the ones who signed the register.

Before long the first of many, many grandchildren is born when Ida Chapdelaine (Edmond & Rosalie) arrives in 1872. In all, at least 71 grandchildren were born during Joseph and Eloise’s lifetime. Of those, only 10 are known to have died young.

The church bells didn’t only ring to announce weddings, they tolled the passing of Joseph’s father. Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (père) died in St-Ours on April 16, 1874. He was 74 years old.

In a notarized transaction recorded in 1877, Joseph and Eloise made a donation (land or property) to their eldest son Alphonse – possibly as a result of the settlement of Joseph’s (père) estate or in advance of Alphonse’s marriage in 1879 to Melina Peloquin. Joseph and Eloise were present at the marriage, and Eloise, being his only parent able to, signed as a witness.
Joseph and Eloise’s second son, Magloire, married in Spencer Massachusetts in 1878 to Seraphine Lacrois, a native of Connecticut. The couple would return to St-Ours for a short time as their civil marriage in Spencer was not considered legitimate. In 1882 their nuptials were properly consecrated in the church in St-Ours and then they formally recognized their daughter Rosalina as legitimate.

Eloise Duhamel
Joseph Gregoire

On June 22 1879 Joseph and Eloise were present at the signing of their daughter Albina’s marriage contract with Joseph Comeau. The contract is over three pages long and stipulates that they will share their property communally, that Joseph will immediately provide his bride 50 piastres and lists some provisions for the surviving spouse regarding disposition of property. The bride brings to the marriage 1 cow, 2 sheep, 6 chickens and a rooster, a double bed with cover, 6 knives, 6 forks, 6 plates, 6 cups, 6 bowls, a sugar bowl, teapot, milk jug, a candleholder of white iron, 6 terrines, and various linens (provided by her parents).

Signing the contract are:

  • Marie Hermine Albina Gregoire (bride)
  • Joesph Commault (groom)
  • Amanda Commeault (Joseph’s sister)
  • Eloise Duamelle (Albina’s mother)
  • Delima Commeault (Joseph’s sister)

The marriage took place two days later in the church of St-Ours.

Joseph Comeau and Albina’s first child Rosaline was born nine months later in 1880, and Joseph and Eloise were named as Rosaline’s godparents. Sadly, Rosalind would only live four years. Joseph and Albina experienced many sorrows during their marriage. Of the 13 children Albina bore, only three – Aline, Blanch and Louis – reached adulthood. Most died within five years of their birth.

Next to tie the knot was Albina’s sister Amanda who married Doula Duguay in 1880.

The 1881 census shows that Joseph and Eloise still have 6 children living with them. Their son, Raphael, has joined Joseph in farming.

In 1882 daughter Rosanne (Rose Alba) married Jean Baptiste Guerremont. On the Gregoire side, Joseph, Eloise, Alphonse, Magloire, Louisia, Alexina, Parmelie all attended as witnesses. It was the following day on January 10 that Magloire and his wife, Seraphine, legitimized their marriage vows as described earlier.

In 1883, Joseph and Eloise’s daughter Louisia married Gelas Paquin, but not until after a dispensation from the diocese was obtained allowing them to marry despite the impediment of a 4th degree of consanguinity. The family connection was probably with the Meunier line (between Louisia’s G-G-grandmother and Gelas’ mother). Both fathers of the couple were witnesses to the marriage.

In 1884, daughter Alexina married Hilaire Dufault. Their wedding was well attended by both families with her father Joseph and siblings Parmelie, Alphonse and Louisia acting as witness for the bride.

In 1886, Parmelie (who signed her name Melina) married Herminegilde Bourque in St-Ours. Of the five witnesses, four are from Melina’s family, including Joseph and Eloise. Raphael was the next to marry in 1887 to Amanda Beauregard. The wedding register recorded a long list of witnesses from both sides – as usual, Joseph was listed as a witness. Four years later Raphael appears to have taken over as head of the Gregoire household which now includes his wife Amanda and their young son, his parents Joseph and Eloise and his sister Lovia. Both Raphael and Joseph are listed as cultivateurs in the 1891 census for St-Ours.

Lovia was the last to leave the family home. Joseph was listed as a witness at his youngest daughter’s wedding to Joseph Bourgeois in 1892. The register notes that Joseph is retired.

The torch passes

Against a backdrop of at least a dozen more births of grandchildren, the older generation takes their leave. In 1894, Joseph’s sister Florence Gregoire, died in Spencer Massachusetts of pneumonia. Is it possible that her nephew Magloire – also living in Spencer – stayed in close enough contact with his nearest relative to provide comfort and attention?

In January 1895, Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire died. His son Raphael and five of his sons-in-law attended his burial as witnesses as did “un bon nombre de fideles…” Joseph was survived by his wife, Eloise, 11 children (all married) and about 52 grandchildren. His ‘doppelganger’ Joseph Gregoire of St-Jude died a few years later (1898) in Hudson, MA.

The first of Joseph and Eloise’s children to pass away was Rosealma who predeceased her mother in 1897. She was only 35 years old and left her husband with eight children ranging in age from two to 16. The cause of her death is not known.

Our story ends near the turn of the century with the death of Marie Louise (Eloise) Duhamel in 1899. She was 70 years old and was survived by 10 children and 64 grandchildren. The dynasty that arose from their union of the Valentin-dit-Gregoire and Duhamel families introduced new bloodlines carrying the following surnames: Bourgeois, Bourque, Chapdelaine, Comeau, Dufault, Duguay, Guerremont, and Paquin as well as countless descendants in both Canada and the United States. Quite a legacy.

© Janet Comeau – August 2018

Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire: II

Joseph (fils) of St-Ours

Second of a four-part series of the real and imagined life of Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (1824-1895)

Let’s turn our attention to the life of our ancestor Joseph Valentin who would later marry Marie Louise Duhamel. He was the third of eight children born to Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire and Marie Anne Dallaire. In fact, he was the only son of this couple, so it’s hard to imagine that he was not the centre of attention at home. His older sisters were Marie Anne and Marie Julie. When he was three, another sister, Marie, was born, followed by Marie Modeste in 1829.

In 1828, Joseph’s future wife Marie Louise Duhamel was born to André Duhamel and Marie Louise Dupré. Eloise (as she signed her name) was the oldest of 10 children born to her parents. Of these, seven would survive to adulthood. Eloise soon had a baby brother in 1831, Octave, who died five months later. Another baby brother, born in 1834, was also named Octave.

The Duhamels lived a short distance downstream from the Gregoires in 1831, closer to St-Roch than St-Ours. From the 1831 census, we know that Joseph Valentin had more land and both families seem to have been successful in growing crops and raising livestock. The Valentin dit Gregroire family were neighbours of Joseph Comeau and Marguerite Chapdelaine. The grandchildren of these two families (Albina Gregoire and Joseph Comeau) would marry in 1879.

A cholera epidemic in 1832 claimed many victims and St-Ours was also hard hit. Most affected were the elderly and children, as were many adults. Between May and September, St-Ours held 46 burials due to the illness. Fortunately, the Valentin-Gregoire and Duhamel families seemed to have escaped the effects of the epidemic.

In 1835 and 1836, two more sisters were born in Joseph’s family–Florence and Eloiza. Florence would later live in Spencer, Massachusetts, but nothing is known of Eloiza after childhood.

Eloise Duhamel also gained a sister in 1836, Antoinette, who would only live to be 13 years old. Eloise very likely attended school in 1837 as we know she was literate. At that time, François Hughes was the schoolmaster at La Fabrique. It’s unlikely that Joseph attended school, as all his life he was recorded as being unable to sign his name.

Both families were residents of St-Ours during the 1837-1838 rebellion in Lower Canada. As far as can be determined, neither were actively involved in the movement as neither Gregoires nor Duhamels appear in records on either side of the divisive issue of political reform.

Both families continued to grow after the troubles ended. Eloise’s family welcomed Philomène in 1838, Clement in 1841 and Eleonore in 1843. On the Valentin-Gregoire side, a new sister Josephine was born in 1840 to complete their family. Their happiness was short-lived because on Sept 18, 1843, Joseph’s mother Marie Anne Dallaire died. She was survived by her husband, and most of their eight children:

  • Marie Anne, married to Pierre Giard
  • Marie Julie who would marry the following year to François Pichet
  • Joseph, aged 19
  • Marie, aged 16
  • Marie Modeste, aged 14
  • Florence, aged 8
  • Eloiza, aged 7
  • Josephine, aged 3.

It does not appear that Joseph (père) remarried after his wife’s death, even with a young child in the household. Perhaps caring for the younger children became the responsibility of one of his older daughters.

Joseph (père) was a farmer all his life and his son followed in his father’s footsteps, probably working the same land when his father retired around 1862.

As Joseph (fils) was reaching adulthood, construction of a series of dams and locks on the Richelieu River was taking place, opening transportation links to Montreal and New York. The 10th lock in St-Ours was completed in 1849. As a result, St-Ours was booming – becoming a municipality in 1845, acquiring a water-powered flour mill, expanding the school system, and establishing a fire brigade complete with pumper. By 1847 the population of St-Ours had reached 3,600.

The last three of Eloise’s siblings were born around this time. Leopold or Leonard in 1845, Elisa in 1847 and François Xavier in 1850.

There was more sad news for Joseph’s family, though. The family patriarch, Louis, Joseph’s grandfather, died at the age of 77 in 1848.

Joseph the family man

In 1850, a year marked by severe spring flooding in the St-Ours area, Joseph prepares to settle down. His father arranges to donate some property (presumably some farmland) to him in a notarized transaction made on January 26, 1850. A couple of days later, Joseph agrees to a marriage contract with Marie Louise (Eloise) Duhamel. Both documents are handled by the notary Paul-Narcisse Leclaire. On February 4, 1850 they are married in St-Ours. The ceremony was witnessed by their fathers, Joseph (père) and André Duhamel, both of whom could not sign. Also in attendance as a witness was Capitaine Pierre Comeau, the brother of Paul Como whose son Joseph would later marry their daughter Albina Gregoire.

Marriage record of Joseph Gregoire and Eloise Duhamel

Less than a year later, Joseph and Eloise’s first child Rosalie is born. Rosalie is the first of 11 children born to this couple, all of whom reached adulthood and married.

The census of 1852 is considered to be the first “thorough” Canadian census and it included Canada West, Canada East, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island. Unfortunately, the records for St-Ours in the 1852 census are missing, so it’s hard to know the status of the Valentin-Gregoire and Duhamel families. A Joseph Gregoire is listed in St-Jude as cultivateur, but not the members of his family, which should have included Eloise. In fact, there are several entries for Joseph Gregoire in St-Jude – none of them fitting what we know about Joseph & Eloise. We must assume that our Valentin-Gregoire/Duhamel family were listed in those missing St-Ours records.