The Story of Louis Guertin dit Le Sabotier

The following story of Louis Guertin, the first of our ancestors to come to the New World is taken from many sources.

I want to put down as much as I have quickly, to get as much input from any interested parties who may be able to contribute more to our understanding of out heritage.

To this end, I would like to keep it as informal as possible, until we/I have gathered as much information as possible. Also I would like to leave out certain dates, etc. that might tend to get a bunch of us arguing off on a tangent as to whether something happened in 1711 or 1712, etc. (There'll be time for that later!)

If I do happen to write something that someone would like to expand upon, jump on it, send me an e-mail and I'll put it up for public consumption (then you take the rap for it.)

I do want to keep this as light-hearted as possible, but with footnotes so we're also as historically accurate as possible. I admit I have taken the liberty of not calling the Iroquois "barbarians", or "savages", etc.

Update: 1 October 1996

The Story of Louis Guertin dit Le Sabotier

The following comes from my liberal translation of "La Grande Recrue de 1653" (see references) and other sources.

Ten years after its founding, Montréal agonized. Casualties from Iroquois attacks increased without pause and one witness wrote:

"The Iroquois have spread their rage and cruelty all over our country, not just against the Algonquins and Hurons who they have conquered, but now they're turning their fury to our French villages."

Another wrote:

"...the colonists feel well justified in their fear that since the Hurons have been destroyed, they are now surrounded by the Iroquois."

In 1651, a priest wrote :

"It's a marvel that the French of Villemarie have not been exterminated by the frequent surprise (attacks) that have repeatedly been beaten back."

and another wrote:

"The courage of the French in Villemarie came as a terrible surprise to the Iroquois on many occasions...It will be a long time before Montreal becomes a peaceful place to live, the Iroquois have been fighting for many years and the barbarities they have committed against many of their prisoners are those not even the most cruel tyrant could have invented."

A nun wrote:

"We have seen on many occasions 10 men of Villemarie, and sometimes less than that!, fighting off groups of 50 or 80 Iroquois; this is how they gained a great reputation in all of Canada, and in France, and the Iroquois themselves have avowed that 3 Montrealers had more fight in them than 6 others."

It was from this tiny colony, reduced to fifty or so inhabitants, that its founder Monsieur de Maisonneuve departed in the fall of 1651 for France with the mission to recruit no less than 100 settlers. He had already decided that if he couldn't get the 100, he would have to abandon Villemarie and pull all the colonists back down river to Quebec.

By the end of the summer of 1653, the Iroquois had concluded peace arrangements with other tribes and some 600 warriors were traveling to Montréal with the objective of attacking and destroying Villemarie.

M. De Maisonneuve En France (1652)

When he left Maisonneuve had hoped to return by July 1652. (Since I'm writing this while I translate it on the fly, I'll leave off the financial problems he had on page 6 for later or someone else!)

To supplement the colony he was looking for young, strong, and courageous men familiar with weapons and possessing a useful and needed profession. And sincerely Catholic!

He hired a M. de la Dauversiere to help in the enlistment, and between March, April and May of 1653, men he had organized in Picardie, Champage, Normandie, Ile de France, Touraine, Bourgogne (Burgandy), but principally in Maine and Anjou, and above all in the region surrounding La Fleche, concluded contracts with notaries and the "Compagnie de Montreal".

Those from the La Fleche region numbered 119, and another 34 from elsewhere brought the total to 153.

The men signed on for periods of three to five years with the passage and salary, each according to his profession, paid by La Compagnie de Montréal.

(The recruits were advanced a portion of their wages, to settle their affairs in France, etc.)

Each colonist promised to appear to board the Sainte-Nicholas-de-Nantes captained by Pierre le Besson, owned by M.Charles Le Coq, sieur de Beaussonnière. The departure date was set for the last day of April, 1653 from the port of St-Nazaire.

(There is some discussion and at least one or two papers written on the actual numbers of colonists, but I will stick to the following.)

Of the 153 recruits, 50 didn't show up for departure, leaving 103. Of the 103, 8 died during the crossing, leaving 95. Of these 95, 24 were destined to be massacred by the Iroquois, 4 would be drowned accidentally, and another would die in a fire. Fewer than 49 would eventually leave heirs (never married, returned to France after the enlistment period, etc.) , and 29 of them would end up joining the St-Famille militia in 1663.

The role for the recruitment taken at dockside in St-Navaire lists the annual salaries for the recruits and the amount advanced. Here is:

"A Louis Gueretin La somme de soixante Et quatorze livres quatre sols huict deniers"
Translated: To Louis Gueretin the sum of seventy-four livres (4 sols, 8 deniers)

Further, he is listed as being hired at 60 livres per annum, and acknowledges the receipt of 74 livres in advance. He had been hired as:

"Guertin dit le Sabotier, Louis, defricheur et sabotier."

A defricheur is someone who clears bush, and a sabotier is a boot maker. What kind of boot, or shoes, I'm not sure of. The wooden clogs everyone associates with Holland are also called "sabots", and are not exclusive to Holland, but they could have been what we think of as shoes or boots.

Leaves France

Louis concluded his contract on the 24th April 1653, and the acknowledgement of having received an advance on the 20 June 1653, the same day the Saint-Nicholas-de-Nantes left St-Nazaire.

La Soeur Bourgeois who was on board wrote:

"A peine avait-on levé l'ancre qu'on s'aperçut que le navire était pourri et faisait eau de toutes parts" !
Translated: As soon as the anchor was raised, it was apparent the ship was rotten and water appeared (leaked in) everywhere.

By the time the ship was 350 leagues at sea, it was found to be so unseaworthy that it returned to port and another ship had to be chartered. It proved to be difficult to find another ship on such short notice, and in the meantime Maisonneuve put all of the soldiers on an island to ensure they wouldn't desert. None did. This ship (name lost to history) finally left on the 20th July 1653.

Louis appears in the list as number 70. Out of curiosity, what happened, or was to happen to his shipmates? Well...:

The crossing took 60 days. As mentioned above, as many as 8 recruits died during the crossing and the ship arrived at the city of Quebec on the 22nd September 1653 where attempts were made by the locals to convince the colonists to disembark and take up life in Quebec. (How could they resist? In the Upper Town there was five or six houses and in Lower Town, two stores!) None did.

After more than ten years of existence the people of Quebec still thought of Montreéal as "une folle enterprise" (a crazy undertaking) and refused to furnish Maisonneuve with barges to travel upriver. The vessel they had crossed in was too large to travel further up river and apparently in such disrepair it was burned where it floated to dispose of it! The month of October was spent trying to find smaller boats to go upriver, which the authorites finally gave in to and the settlers did not arrive in Villemarie until the 16th November 1653. A full two years after Maisonneuve had left for reinforcements.

Part 2

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