Hilaire Béliveau: Urban Realities – Into the 20th Century

Seventh of a seven-part series describing the real and imagined life of Hilaire Béliveau of Montreal.

1901 begins on a sad note when granddaughter Alice Yvonne Provost (Michel & Ernestine Béliveau) dies in January. She was barely six years old. On a happier note, a new grandaughter, Ida, was born to Edmond Prince and Anna Béliveau. Hilaire and Aglaë were her godparents.

On February 22, 1902, Jeannette Provost was born to Michel Provost and Ernestine Béliveau in Maisonneuve. Both she and cousin Ida would be married to Louis Comeau of St-Ours, Jeannette as his first wife and Ida as his second.

The first census of the century took place on March 31, 1901. The population of Canada has reached over 5.3 million individuals.

In Pointe-aux-Trembles, Hilaire and Aglaë are empty-nesters. He is still a customs officer and earned $1200 in salary the previous year. Hilaire is bilingual, while Aglaë is francophone. Hilaire’s daughters Anna, Ernestine and Corinne are present in the census. The fate of his eldest daughter Célina Eliza (born in 1862) is not known. Anna and her husband Edmond Prince are living in Maisonneuve with their six children. It’s not clear what his occupation is but he earned $1000 in the previous year.

Ernestine and Michel Provost are also in Maisonneuve. Michel is employed and earned $550. Only their daughter Antoinette is living with them and is attending school.

Hilaire’s youngest daughter Corinne is now an Ursuline sister at the Roberval provincial convent which was founded in 1882 by Malvina Gagné (Mère Saint-Raphaël) to provide support to the colonization movement in the Lac St-Jean area. Mère St-Raphaël’s school was the first to provide a domestic science and agricultural program in the country.

The Stratford-area Beliveaus are also present in the 1901 census and are scattered in Village Beaulac, Compton and Winslow. Ephraim is a day worker and earned about $660 the previous year. He’s living in Village Beaulac with his wife and two children. Théodule is still farming in Compton and his brother Jean, sister Artemise and mother Eléonore are living in his household. Two of his brothers are his neighbours—Camille and Louis, also farmers. Camille’s household includes his wife and eight children. Louis is widowed and he has his 8 children living with him. William is in Winslow with his wife and seven children. He is still farming and he is noted as being bilingual.

On April 28, 1901, Hilaire’s mother, Eléonore Bernard, passed away in Stratford, Québec. Hilaire’s brothers Jean and Théodule were present at the burial on April 30, but it’s not known if Hilaire travelled to be with them.

In 1902, Aglaë prepares a will before notary Joseph Marion. In it she asks to be buried with her family (Beaudry) and she stipulates that as soon as possible $50 be set aside for a high mass and other prayers for her soul. She leaves her clothing to her three nieces (daughters of her brother Camille) and all her other property to her brother Camille.

The following year, on December 29, 1903, Hilaire Belliveau passed away.  He was buried on January 4, 1904 in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery (section J3-00142) near his first wife Célina.

Hilaire was survived by his wife Aglaë Beaudry, brothers William, Ephraim, Camille, Théodule, Ulderic, Louis Pierre and Jean; and sister Artemise. He also left behind four daughters and ten grandchildren (according to known records).

Not long after the death of her father, Anna Béliveau gives birth to Arthur Hector Prince on April 30, 1904. About a week later, Anna likely succumbed to complications from the birth and passed away on May 5, 1904. She was also buried in Notre-Dame-des-Neiges cemetery, near her parents.

In January 1905, Aglaë sells a lot in Pointe-aux-Trembles to Louis Beaudry for $300. It’s not clear what relation Louis is to her, if at all. Then in December, Aglaë borrows $100 from Achille Dubreuil (cultivateur de Pointe-aux-Trembles) to be repaid on the 26 of May 1906 with 5% interest per annum. Her brother Camille consented to guarantee the loan.

A year later, Aglaë is released from her debt and receives $500 from her brother Camille. There is no sign of Aglaë in the 1911 census. According to the notary documents for her loan transaction, she is living in Montréal and no longer in Pointe-aux-Trembles.

Our story of this family ends with the death of Aglaë on August 15, 1913 in Montréal. She was buried on August 18. Her obituary in Le Devoir was brief.

BÉLIVEAU, Aglaë Beaudry. 71 ans, veuve de Hilaire Béliveau, douanier.
Asile de la Providence.

Asile de la Providence was founded by the order Soeurs de la Providence and it was a refuge for aged and invalided women.

Engraving of Asile de la Providence
Asile de la Providence actuel, 1899 (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec)

Sources

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: III

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.

1855 Land transaction

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.

Signatures

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

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.

Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire

Two boys with the same name

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

In 1824, two boys were baptised with the same name in St-Ours – one, Joseph Valentin on January 15 (son of Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire and Marie Anne Dallaire), and the other on the 8th of July, named Joseph Valentin Gregoire, son of Pierre Valentin dit Gregoire and Archange Arpin of St-Jude. The similarity of names and proximity of the two families in the same geographical area presented some research challenges.

As a result, reviewing documented evidence based solely on a name to piece together the life of one or the other of the boys born in 1824 was going to require additional corroborating information to form more definite conclusions. Some documents were too vague to attribute to either one of the Josephs with any degree of certainty.

Are these two Josephs related in some way? Did their paths cross? Were their destinies similar or different? Certainly, they seemed to have almost identical starts in life.

What are the key factors that differentiate one Joseph from the other? Looking at the baptism records we see that one is named Joseph Valentin and the other Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire. One would hope Father Hébert, the parish priest, might have pointed out the name similarities to avoid future confusion (identity theft not being a concern in those days, apparently). Perhaps that’s why only one of them includes the dit name. Regardless, we have this to work with:

  • Parents – Joseph & Marie Anne Allaire vs. Pierre & Archange Arpin
  • Parish – even though both Josephs were baptised in St-Ours, one had a father from St-Jude parish where that family lived.
  • Wives – in later records, we can rely on the wife’s name to validate which record belongs to whom.
Joseph Valentin son of Joseph Valentin of St-Ours
Joseph Valentin Gregoire son of Pierre Valentin dit Gregoire of St-Jude.

 

Notwithstanding the subtle differences in their birth names, in later years both Josephs are seen in records as Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire and eventually just Joseph Gregoire. Further complicating the matter are records that are references to Joseph’s father, also named Joseph in the same manner.

For instance, in the 1825 census we see a Joseph Gregoire listed in St-Ours near an entry for the Allaire family, but the headcount doesn’t match the makeup of the family – no young children under six are listed (there should have been three). Even digging into the census for the possibility that Joseph and Marie Anne were living with one or the other of their parents in an extended family setting doesn’t yield a satisfactory result.

The St-Ours Valentin-Gregoires and the St-Jude Valentin-Gregoires were not close neighbours, but close enough. The two communities were about 17 km apart (a three-hour walk, much shorter by carriage or horseback). Therefore, it’s quite possible their paths crossed at some points. We do know that they both descend from the same St-Ours couple from three generations back – Theodore Valentin and Marguerite Rondeau – who married in 1753. Their two sons formed the two branches of the families in question which would make our two Josephs 2nd cousins.

Thomas Valentin & Marguerite Rondeau
Louis & Marie Josette Girouard
Joseph & Marie Anne Dallaire
Joseph Valentin (of St-Ours)
Pierre & Catherine Fontaine
Pierre & Archange Arpin
Joseph Valentin dit Gregoire (of St-Jude)

© Janet Comeau – July 2018

Paul Comeau: Witness to change IV

Migration

Fourth of a four-part series of the real and imagined life of Paul Comeau (1826-1905)

Sometime around 1870, Paul left for New England with his family. “Between 1840 and 1930 roughly 900,000 French Canadians left Canada to emigrate to the United States…A majority of them were from rural parishes and agricultural problems are determined to be at the root of the economic factors that stimulated emigration.” In fact, the immigrant population of Southbridge Massachusetts, where Paul and his family located, was dominated by Quebec emigrés from St-Ours and Sorel.

We know Paul was in Massachusetts because he and his family appear (with anglicized names) in the 1870 census, living in Hardwick, Worcester, Mass.

Paul Como 46 Works in Woolen Mill
Mary 36 Keeping house
Joseph 14 Works in Woolen Mill
Paul 12 Works in Woolen Mill
Dillon[?] 10 Works in Woolen Mill; Attended school in previous 12 months.
Peter 4 At home

All but Dillon cannot read or write. Paul Sr. is listed as a US citizen without voting rights.

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 well being of French Canadians in the U.S. (including Paul and his family).

The woolen mill referenced in the census listing for Paul and his family is quite likely George H. Gilbert’s new Ware wool factory in Hardwick Gore. It was not uncommon for children to be working in mills to help bring in income.

Ware wool factory in Hardwick (http://www.townofhardwick.com/History.html)

In 1871, his wife Marie died of consumption in Leicester, Massachusetts and was buried in St. Johns cemetery in Worcester. By 1875, Paul had brought his family back to St-Ours. He is recorded on a transaction involving his brother-in-law Etienne Mathieu and Capt. François Lamoureux. He’s also listed in the land registry for the seigneury of St-Ours from 1872 to 1901, so clearly, he still held property ties to the area.

In November 1875, now a widower with four children 5 to 15 years old, he married Florence Duhamel of Ste-Victoire in a ceremony witnessed by his brother Pierre, Marie Mongeon, Sophie Mathieu, Gelinas Lamothe, Narcisse Martin, Pierre Duhamel, Prisque Hebert and others.

What is known about Florence Duhamel? She was born on August 11, 1831 in Sorel to Pierre Duhamel, agriculteur, and Marguerite Proulx. Pierre and Marguerite had six children — five girls and one boy. Florence was the second oldest child. Being in Sorel around the same time as the Mathieu family, it’s possible that Florence may have known Marie or one of her older brothers. In 1846, the Sorel school commission was formed, and it is known from the 1861 census that Florence’s two youngest sisters attended school in 1860. In 1858, the population of Sorel (then called William-Henry) was 3,345.

Interestingly, despite the large influx of United Empire Loyalists after the revolutionary war in the U.S., there are only eight English inhabitants in the town (1 Scot, 7 Irish). In 1861, Florence is still living with her parents and siblings in Ste-Victoire. 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. Five years later, Florence is still unmarried and living with her brother’s family, siblings and elderly parents in Ste-Victoire. In 1874 Florence enters into a series of property transactions – first with her brother Pierre related to a donation to her made by her father. Then a purchase from Pierre Lacroix followed by a sale to Felix Duval. Were these in preparation for her coming nuptials with Paul? The details of these transactions are not fully known.

The first few years of Paul and Florence’s marriage seemed to be occupied with a series of land and loan transactions starting with the sale of a plot of land to Pierre Duhamel (Florence’s brother). In 1878, Paul & Florence borrow $1400 from her sister, Sophie Duhamel to purchase land and build a house.

In 1879, Paul witnesses the marriage contract and the wedding for his son, Joseph, and Marie Hermine Albina Gregoire. A year later, his first grandchild, Rosaline, is born. In the 1881 census, Paul’s household includes his sons Joseph, Paul and Pierre, his wife Florence and Aurelie Harpin. Their daughter, Adelaide is not listed and her whereabouts are not known. Joseph is also recorded elsewhere in the census with his wife, Albina, and their baby, Rose. All four men are recorded as farmers. Another granddaughter, Leontine, is born in the fall of 1881 to Joseph and Albina but she dies a couple of weeks later. Rose dies at three years old.

Childhood mortality was a common reality during this period. In Paul’s family alone, of 14 grandchildren born between 1880 and 1904, only 5 survived to adulthood. We don’t know what caused this high rate of mortality, but the leading causes of death for young children at that time were gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases.

A lot was happening in St-Ours – after years of disagreement on approaches, the church at St-Ours was demolished to make way for a new building. The new church was consecrated in 1882. A couple of years later Mme de St-Ours passed away. She was a large presence in the community as patron of many projects. Her funeral was attended by most of the population.

Wedding bells rang again in 1885 when son Paul Stephane married Marie Gouin in St-Robert. Paul was present at this occasion. Five years later, his third son, Pierre, married Elisabeth Brisebois from Sweetburg (near Cowansville). Perhaps the occasion of this last marriage prompted the family to arrange for a set of portrait photos to be taken in 1890.
In addition to commercial photography, other innovations to reach St-Ours were likely the telephone (the Bell Telephone Company was formed in 1880) and the installation of street lighting on the main street in 1887.

In 1891, Paul is still farming at the age of 64 with Florence by his side. His children have all left the nest and established their own households.

On the political front, the government changes prime ministers five times in as many years. They are: Sir John Abbott (Conservative), Sir John Thompson (Conservative), Sir MacKenzie Bowell (Conservative), Sir Wilfred Laurier (Liberal) and Sir Charles Tupper (Conservative).

Then as the century draws to a close, Paul’s wife, Florence dies in December 1898. Paul’s son Joseph attended and witnessed the burial. After Florence’s death (1899), it appears that Paul headed back to Massachusetts to join his sons, Pierre and Paul in Southbridge. What could have been the reason for their decision to go to the United States? Economic? Nostalgia? The boys did spend some of their early childhood there. Or political – Canada had just entered the Boer war and was sending troops overseas – a development that was opposed by Quebec. We’ll never really know the motive, but we do know that Paul was living with Paul Stephane in Southbridge. The 1900 U.S. Census tells us that Paul Stephane and his wife had been in the U.S. 13 years. Both worked as cotton weavers. Her son Ethier (with her previous husband) and his wife also lived in the house. Ethier was a grocery salesclerk. He could read, write and speak English. The city directory for Ware, MA shows Paul Stephane’s address as 23 Canal St. It’s not known when Pierre went to Southbridge, but it is known that he remained there. Back in St-Ours, Paul’s son Joseph passes away in 1901 at just 45 years old.

Paul Comeau would die in Southbridge on December 27, 1905. Three days later he was buried in his ancestral home of St-Ours. His son Paul Stephane attended the funeral and probably accompanied his father on his last journey home.

Southbridge, MA in 1905 (Wikimedia)

by Janet Comeau, May 2018