Jean Campagna, The Sorcerer

Article No: 74

Jean Campagna, The Sorcerer

When Sieur Hector de Grandfontaine came to Acadia in 1670 on the "Saint Sebastien," to become its Governor at Pentagoet (Penobscot, Maine), where he established the Capital of Acadia, he was accompanied by the astronomer Jean Richer, as I said in sketch No. 70. We know that there was aboard another passenger accompanying him, namely Jean Campagna, sometimes given as Campagnard. If he did not acquire in the world of science the fame which is attributed to Jean Richer, he was to acquire nevertheless in the world of witchcraft, while in Acadia, the dubious fame of a sorcerer.

Born in 1640 in Angouleme, France, about 100 km from the Atlantic Ocean, south-east of La Rochelle and north-east of Bordeaux, Jean Campagna, was coming to Acadia, as hired man of Grandfontaine. He is labeled a farmer. After having been two or three years in Pentagoët, Grandfontaine sent him to Port Royal, as there was not enough food in Pentagoët.

From Port Royal, he moved to Beaubassin, located where will be built later on Fort Lawrence, that I spoke of in sketch No. 71. Here, after some time, he was accused to have caused by sorcery the death of several men and domestic animals in Beaubassin, particularly in 1678 when the death rate was high. In 1684, Michel Leneuf, Sieur de La Valliere, then Governor of Acadia, ordered Michel-Gallant-Hache, who was at this service, to arrest him.

He was detained over nine months before the trial started. One of the first witnesses was Andrée Martin, aged 40, widow of François Pellerin, who testified that in 1675, in Port Royal, Campagna wanted to hit her, but that she struck him with a stick because he was insulting a young girl. Campagna told her right there and then that some day she would be sorry for hitting him. Then in 1678, while Campagna was working at de La Valliere marsh, in Beaubassin, he breathed in the eye of her husband, François Pellerin, who immediately started ailing, that which went to his head, and, that same evening, a high hot fever developed. He died shortly after.

This testimony of Mrs. Andrée Pellerin was corroborated by a number of witnesses, namely, Marie Martin, 43 years of age; Pierre Mercier, about 40 years of age; Martin Aucoin, 34 years of age.

Then came forward Roger Kessy, an Irishman (the ancestor of the Acadians who now go by the name of Quessy), about 33 years of age. He testified that in the month of April 1684, Campagna, after receiving a bottle of liquor from de La Valliere, came to see him at his house and asked for the hand of his daughter. Kessy said that he could not answer by himself, that his wife would have to consent also; but as she was at the time in Monjagouetche (which was located three or four miles on the Missaguash River, that separates Nova Scotia from New Brunswick) he would ask her and give him her answer. But Mrs. Kessy, probably on account of the reputation that Campagna had, refused. It is then that Campagna let her know that in eight days she would regret it. She, on her part, let him know that he could not do her any harm whatsoever. She told him that he was a fool and that she had nothing to fear.

Eight days later, four of Kessy's cows became sick, three of which were about to have calves, also a young heifer and two young oxen. They were laying down, craving to eat, but were not able to do so. That is when Kessy had recourse to spiritual means and asked Father Claude to come and to bless the water that the animals were drinking and the feed and hay that they were eating. But it was of no avail.

Governor de La Valliere, seeing that Kessy was on the eve of loosing [sic] his domestic animals, went to Moujagouetche were was Campagna and told him that he would run his sword through his body if more accidents were to take place at Kessy's. It so happened that next morning, when Kessy went to his barn, all his animals were up and standing, and they ran out in the field completely cured.

Other witnesses testified, either with regard to Kessy's animals or with regard to other "mischiefs" attributed to Campagna, namely Marie Kessy, 16 years of age; Thomas Cormier, 50 years of age; and his wife, Madeleine Girouard, 31 years of age; Françoise Poirier, Isabelle Pellerin, Marie Godet, etc., etc.

Pierre Godin, for his part, testified that he was bewitched by Campagna. But having threatened him that he would do him a lot of harm if he kept on, Campagna finally withdrew his spell.

Finally, Jean Rignauld, about 33 years of age, (although born in 1655 according to another document) came to his defense. He testified that he had known Jean Campagna at Pentagoët from the year that he arrived in Acadia 14 years ago. He had always been a good and hard worker and had earned a nice sum of money. He said that the whole trouble came from that fact that some people, who owed him money, so not to be obliged to pay him, started to say that he was a sorcerer.

Then Campagna was asked if it wasn't true that one day he put his hand on Pierre Godin's chest, when Godin jumped to his feet and said, You wretched! You went to put me to death? Isn't it true that in 1678 you breathed in the eye of François Pellerin while he was working in Sieur de La Valliere's marsh, and then, on his death bed, didn't you tell him that he was well ground for oath? To this Campagna answered [... ?] than when they said that he was referring to himself, as he was the [one ?] in pain, adding that this is an expression that is common where he comes from, being made use of when one is joking. [--can't make sense of that paragraph]

The trial ended June 28, 1685, by the acquittal of Jean Campagna. Was it because the judge did not believe in sorcery? Or did he figure that this was simply a grudge that these people had against Campagna for no serious reason? It does not say.

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