Marguerite Ouellet 1824-1876


Marguerite Ouellet was born on August 3, 1824 in Ste Croix, Lotbiniére Quebec. She was the daughter of Pierre Ouellet and Elisabeth Groleau. Ste Croix was a seigniory in the county of Lotbiniére. It is described in A Topographical Dictionary of The Province of Lower Canada by Joseph Bouchette, Esq., London, 1832. The seigniory, in the co. of Lotbiniere, is bounded N.E. by Bonsecours, Desplaines and St. Giles; S.W. by the S. of Lotbiniere and its aug. and the T. of Nelson; in the rear by the T. of Leeds; in front by the St. Lawrence. The original title of this concession has not been found; but it appears, from the registers of fealty and homage, that a declaration, exhibited by a notary, proved that the Dames Religieuses Ursulines possessed the seigniory of Ste. Croix, containing one league in front by ten in depth, which was granted to them 16th Jan. 1637, and confirmed by M. Lauzon, the governor, 6th Mar. 1652: it still remains the property of the convent. On the high and steep bank of the St. Lawrence the soil is a light-coloured loam, greatly improved by a very superior style of cultivation. Receding thence, the land decreases in height and the soil changes to a rich dark mould, which continues for some miles and then declines into extensive swamps, covered with cedar, hemlock, black ash and spruce fir: with the exception of the wet lands, the whole seigniory is abundantly clothed with fine timber of all sorts. No stream of magnitude is to be met with throughout the whole tract. The extent of nonconceded lands susceptible of cultivation is 2 leagues by 7 1/2. There is no road across these lands, nor have they been surveyed. The farms granted before 1759 were 2 or 3 arpents in front by 30 or 40 in depth, paying one sol for quit-tent, with fines on alienation, according the custom of Paris, besides 20 sols and a capon for each front arpent. A considerable number of persons are in a state to make new settlements in this S., and the quality of the lands is in general excellent. It is thought that the lumber trade retards the settlement of land in this S. No one goes to settle in the townships, there being at present an abundance of unconceded lands in the S. Population 1,566 Churches, R.C. 1 Cures 1 Corn-mills 1 Saw-mills 1 Notaries 1 Shopkeepers 2 Taverns 1 Artisans 18 The 20 year old Marguerite married the 30 year old Narcisse Boisvert of the same parish on June 20, 1843.  He was the son of Diuedonné Joseph Boisvert from Ste-Croix-de-Lothbinere. and Rose Morin from St. Pierre Du Sud, Quebec. After his marriage to Marguerite Ouellet in 1843, they stayed in Lotbinière. Their first two children – Philomene and Vitaline – were born in the church of St-Louis-de-Lotbinère. By May of 1847, Narcisse moved to Deschaillons, Quebec which is 12 miles down river from Lotbinière. It was here that their third child Joseph Eugene Boisvert was born. The reason for the move might have been the line of 40 sailing ships stretched for three kilometers down river from Grosse Island on the St. Lawrence River with 90,000 passengers; mainly Irish.  Many died from typhus and dysentery. Over 5,000 people would die in the summer of 1847 at this quarantine station, including six doctors tending the dying.  The deadly fever, however, would be carried on into Quebec, Montreal, Kingston and Toronto, where another 17,000 would die; mostly Irish immigrants.  The total of all emigrants who died was 17,477; about 19% of all emigrants.  The total number of deaths on ships was 5,293, and 3,452 at quarantine stations.  Infants under one year of age are not counted.  The average age was 24.4 years.  Many deaths are attributed to overcrowded ships, poor hygienic conditions, and lack of food on board.   Deschaillons, Quebec Deschaillons is located immediately north of Parisville and northeast of Saint-Pierre-les-Becquets in Bécancour. The municipality Deschaillons-sur-Saint-Laurent is bounded on the north by the St. Lawrence River. In 1674, Deschaillons is granted to Pierre Saint-Ours (1640-1724), Knight of St. Louis, a captain in the regiment of Carignan-Salt. The place was formerly known as the Cap Tree, because of bushy headland and presence of oak trees along the Little Oak River. While living in the Deschaillons seigneury, Narcisses & Marguerites’ financial position is reveiled in the 1851 Agricultural Census. Here is what is listed: Occupied Land : 80 Acres Farmed: 29 Arpens Gardens & Orchards: 71 Wheat: 6 Arpens, 40 Bushels Barley: 0 Arpens, 0 Bushels Rye: 0 Arpens, 0 Bushels Peas: 0 Arpens, 0 Bushels Oats: 5 Arpens, 80 Bushels Buckwheat: 1/2 Arpens, 2 Bushels Potatoes: 1 Apren, 50 Bushels Turnips: : 0 Arpens, 0 Bushels Hay: 800 Boots Flax or Hemp: 1.8 lbs Tobacco: 0 Bushels Wool: 50lbs Maple Sugar: 0 lbs Cider: 0 gallons Cloth: 0 yards Canvas: 20 yards Flannel: 10 yards Diary Cows: 1 Heifers: 0 Sheep: 3 Pigs: 0 Butter: 100 lbs Cheese Lbs: 0 Beef barrels: 0 Lard: 4 lbs Amount of fish prepared: 0 They owned a small to moderate amount of land, most he left unfurrowed. Most likely because their main source of labor (their children) were still quite young. He planted large quantities of two grains and a small amount of a third. He stayed away from pigs and cattle but had sheep to provide wool for clothing. He also had 1 dairy cow (no doubt beloved) for butter and lard.  The hay was grown for his animals. This is a typical sub-sistence farm that raises a range of crops and animals needed by the family to feed and clothe themselves during the year. Plant-ing decisions are made principally with an eye toward what the family will need during the coming year, and secondarily toward market prices. Late 1851, Narcisse and Marguerite had moved again, this time the Arthabaska, Quebec, which is 45 miles south of Deschaillons. This area is called the Eastern Townships. By the 1820s, there was not enough seigneurial land left to settle French Canada’s rapidly growing population. Younger sons and daughters began leaving Quebec by the tens of thousands, mainly for the factory towns of New England. Political and religious leaders grew alarmed. Many of them thought it was a national tragedy that, while their younger generation was leaving, large parts of Quebec, including the Eastern Townships, remained unoccupied. They formed colonization societies to assist settlers and to pressure the government. A new law passed by the Legislative Assembly in 1850 allowed the creation of Roman Catholic parishes in the Townships. These parishes would have the right to tax Catholic property and build Catholic schools. This, combined with the new economic opportunities in the region, attracted thousands of French Canadians. The first arrivals to the Eastrn Townships found it difficult – they were strangers in a part of Quebec where the language was overwhelmingly English. English was also the language of business and opportunity. In time, however, more French Canadians arrived, enough to build churches and schools. The new law passed in 1850, coincides with Narcisse and Marguerites migration south.   Victoriaville, Arthabaska Naricisse and Marguerite stayed in the Victoriaville area for roughly 5 years, from 1851-1856. During that time four more children were born. Marguerite (1851), Josesph Pierre (1852), Francois (1854) and Marie-anne (1856). Victroiaville is a town of Arthabaska county, Quebec, situated on the Nicolet river and on the Canadian National Railway, 32 miles north-east of Richmond and 108 miles east of Montreal. The settlement was known as Demersville, after Modeste Demers, until 1861, when it took its present name, in honour of Queen Victoria. The area of Arthabaska, also know as des Bois-Francs, (The Hardwoods) developed slowly because of lack of communication and transporation. It took until 1844 for a road to be built linking the District of Arthabaska to parishes along the river, passing by St. Norbert and Princeville (Stanfold). Unfortunately, the soil conditions made roads impassable for much of the year. Similarly, the exorbitant costs of stagecoach and restrictions on the volume of goods greatly limited regional economic growth. This road was still favored by new settlers, so much so that in 1851, there is the canonical erection of the parish of Saint-Christophe d’Arthabaska, which then had 895 inhabitants in 165 families. It was the arrival of the train in 1854, that kickstarted the development of the region. The Grand Trunk Railway built a railway between Richmond and Charny, uniting the Eastern Townships in Quebec City and Montreal and opening the way to the states of New England. The Eastern Townships The Eastern Townships were first settled by American pioneers after the American Revolution. Called United Empire Loyalists, they still supported the British government and moved from the New England area to land in British possession. The United Empire Loyalists were few in number, but a large number of Americans did arrive at the end of the 1790s. This group of Americans were not Loyalists, just immigrants seeking good cheap land and opportunity. The Americans were followed by an influx of British and Scottish immigrants. So the Eastern Townships with its rolling topography and the patchwork of mountains, hills, plateaus, valleys, lakes, rivers was a predominantly English settlement until the mid 1800’s The final phase of settlement in the Eastern Townships was that of the French Canadians during the 1850’s, which is sometimes referred to as the “French Invasion”. Due to over-crowded seigniorial lands in the rest of Quebec, many French Canadians migrated south to the northern Eastern Townships of Drummond, Arthabaska, and Megantic first as summer farm labourers and later as colonists. The French chose these specific areas of the region because the American and British settlers had already taken most of the uplands, and also because the heavy clay soils of the valleys were similar to those they were accustomed to in the St. Lawrence lowlands. Once settled in the townships, the French would colonize the land, work as labourers, or purchase a farm from an English family that was moving out of the region. The settlement of the French in the Eastern Townships was made possible by the establishment of the Association des Townships, by Father Bernard O’Reilley in 1848. This was designed to alleviate the overcrowded seigniories by providing new land, to prevent the French immigration into the United States, and to ensure the survival and preservation of French culture. The influence of both the Catholic Church and the Association helped raise the population of French Canadians in the Eastern Townships to a majority by 1860, due to high levels of immigration as well as the high natural increase rate of the French. The reason French settlement in the region did not occur earlier is that until 1849, the Catholic Church, which was central to seigniorial life, was not allowed to purchase any land, or establish any parishes in the area due to English Protestant laws and control. The arrival of the railway in 1853 also encouraged French Canadians to migrate to the Eastern Townships because the entire area became suddenly more accessible. The lure of factory work also brought many French Canadians into the area, as they were more than willing to work as unskilled labourers at low wages, which differentiated them from the English. The French Canadian outlook on life during this time was centered around the Catholic Church, which formed their disposition, ambition, and views on education. Whereas the English saw education as a tool for economic success, the French believed that hard work was just as successful, which is why so many English left the area and so many French stayed, making them the cultural majority in the Eastern Townships. While much of Quebec and the Canadian economy was depressed at this time, the Eastern Townships flourished. The rapidly growing French population in Quebec, had ran out of land around the St. Lawrence river valley and were looking to expand. Marguerite Ouellet and Narcisse Boisvert were one of many who packed up his family and moved to open land. Danville, Quebec Around 1856, there was another move, this time to Richmond County, which is about 30 miles south of Arthabaska. They had settled in Richmond County, near the town of Danville. Ste-Bibianne de Richmond, was their church. It was here that four more children were born. Marie-Elisabeth (1858), Alexandre (1860), Rose de Lima (1862) and Narcisse (1864). In 1866, Ste. Anne was built in Danville, Narcisse and family switched churches. In the early years of the church, Narcisse and son Francois Xavier donated their time to the church. They are listed as witnesses in many burials, starting in 1867. Danville and the surrounding areas were rural and farming was the major source of income and sustance. But other industries grew. One of the first was the Potash trade. As the settlers cleared their land for farming, they had the opportunity to make money by selling potash made through the burning of stumps and roots. It was carefully collected and stored in barrels, which would be hauled to market. From 1860 to the early 1900s, the St. Francis Valley was the main centre in Canada for the production of slate. At that time, there were no less than ten slate quarries in the area around Richmond, Melbourne, Kingsey, and Danville. Entire villages grew up around the quarries which provided a living to hundreds of workers for the most part from Great Britain. 1861 Canada Census Narcisse, Marguerite and family are shown living District 1, in the village of Danville, Richmond County. Narcise Boisvert Laborer 48 Margrt Bosivert Wife 37 Eugene Boisvert Laborer 13 Joseph Boisvert Laborer 8 H Boisvert 6 Margret Boisvert 10 Anna Boisvert 4 Alex Boisvert 1 E. Ouellet House Maid 29   1871 Canadian Census Narcisse, Marguerite and family are shown living District 138, Richmond, Sub district of Danville. Narcise Boisvert Laborer 58 Margurit Bosivert Wife 37 Joseph Boisvert Laborer 18 Francis Boisvert Laborer 16 Alexis Boisvert 10 Delima Boisvert 8 In 1876, at the age of 51, Marguerite died in Montreal (Basilique Notre-Dame), Quebec, on the 25th of February. It is unclear why she died and was buried in Montreal when she and Narcisse were consistenly located in the Arthabaska Regions, hundreds of miles away. It is known that her son Francois-Xavier was living in Montreal at that time and was soon to be married. It is possible she died while on a visit.