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

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