Early in the 17th century lived in France a noted British family comprising five brothers by the name of Kirke. They were Calvinists, known in France as Huguenots. Cardinal Richelieu, the right-hand man of King Louis XIII, put under siege in 1628 the city of La Rochelle, the stronghold of the Huguenots and the most important port of France. This is when the Kirkes moved to England with the intention to take vengeance against France by attacking her possissions in the New World. The King of England provided them with all that they needed: vessels, munition, food, soldiers. La Rochelle was still under siege when they left in the spring of 1628 for Acadia and Québec.
In the mean time, Claude de La Tour was also on his way to Acadia to bring provisions to his son, Charles de La Tour, at Port La Tour; it was in answer to the demand that Charles de La Tour had made to the King and to Richelieu. The Kirkes caught up with his vessel, which was seized, and Claude de La Tour was made prisoner. The Kirkes devastated all the holdings that France had in Acadia, except her most important stronghold, that of Cape Sable, where was Charles de La Tour. It could be that the Kirkes compelled Claude de La Tour to reveal where were those strongholds, that which he did, but concealed the one where his son had at Port La Tour. After having razed to the ground all the French properties in Acadia, they did the same in Québec.
Claude de La Tour was taken to England as prisoner of war. Most probably he gave his allegiance to Great Britain, and then was granted a tract of land, running from Yarmouth along the coast to Lunenburg, by Sir William Alexander, to whom King James I had conveyed in 1621 the whole territory to which he gave then the name of Nova Scotia. He finally married one of the maids of honor to the Queen Henrietta Maria. This was his third marriage.
As all the strongholds and establishments in Canada had fallen into the hands of the British, except Cape Sable, Claude de La Tour felt that there was no hope for France of regaining the territory; in other words, it was foolish for his son to hold on to a few acres on which he was established in Port La Tour. Accordingly, in early Spring of 1630, he set sail from England under the guidance of William Alexander, Jr., having no doubts that he would be able to convince his son that there was only one thing for him to do, that is, to turn over to Great Britain his establishment.
We can easily imagine the frustration, the emotion, the surprise which overwhelmed the son when his own father urged him to cede his territory, the territory that he had erected with much labor. The father must have been just as much surprised when he was faced with complete refusal on the part of his son. Neither his advances, nor his exhortations, nor his offers, nor his threats (sic) had any effect on his son; he was simply running his head against a cement wall.
The father, not being able to budge his son by words, decided to have recourse to arms. The battle lasted one whole day and one whole night, according to one version. We are not told if Charles de La Tour lost any men, but another version says that the attackers "after an assault that lasted two days, having lost some of their men," set sail for Port Royal.
The battle had taken place at the fort that Charles de La Tour had at what is now Port La Tour. That was taking place in the Spring of 1630. A few weeks later, during the summer of 1630 we are told, arrived in Cape Sable two vessels filled with material and laborers for the purpose of building a fort in the premises. It was in answer to the plea that Charles de La Tour had addressed three years before to the King of France and to Richelieu. He decided to build this new fort in a more favorable spot than that of Port La Tour. He chose Sand Hills, at Villagedale, three miles south of Barrington, close to Sabin Beach. It was an ideal place for a fort. It is a huge stone promonotory called sometimes "solid Rock," rising fifty feet over the water level. In front of it extends the beautiful panorama of Barrington Bay. From it, one has a splendid view of both entrances of the bay, each side of Cape Sable Island. An author writes that the choice that Charles de La Tour made the Sand Hills for this fort shows that he had "a good eye." The construction was enough advanced at the end of the year to receive the name of Fort Saint Louis.
During all the time, Claude de La Tour was leading a gruesome life in Port Royal among the Scottish colonists. Champlain tells us that the English "were displeased with him, as he had assured them that he would win over his son to render them many kinds of services." Nicolas Denys, on his part, writes that "he did not dare return to England for fear lest he should be made to suffer ... His wife was also a great embarrassment* to him;" he told her that she could go back to England, if she thought it would be better for her; that himself, he would ask his son if he could go and live in Cape Sable. But she said that she would not abandon him, if his son would permit them to remain with him. Thus, he wrote to his son and "begged him to permit his wife and himself to remain in the country, since after what had passed, he did not care return to England because he would there lose his head."
Charles de La Tour sent for him and his wife. He erected a small dwelling outside the fort for them, telling his father that they were not to enter the fort. They came with their luggage, along with two men as servants, and two maids for his wife. They were to be supported by the son.
Nicolas Denys, going by in 1635, dined with him and his wife, she expressing the pleasure that she had seeing him. He adds: "They were very amply provided."
Claude de La Tour was still living in 1639, when he gave his consent to his son's second marriage. He had arrived in Acadia in 1610 with his son, when he erected at Pentagoët, now Penobscott, Maine, close to Castine, a fortification to carry on a fur trade business. His remains are most probably laying (sic) under the sand of Sand Hills.
The story of the encounter between father and the son has been recounted in many ways. In 1842, a young French Canadian poet, Antoine Guérin-Lajoie, composed a tragedy in three acts in poetry of the drama, which has been played many times, especially in the province of Québec. Also there is a beautiful artistic drawing of the encounter by an unknown author, which we find reproduced in different places.
|19||iii.||Daughter - name unknown|
This was Antoinette de La Tour, daughter of Charles de La Tour and of an Indian woman, born at Port LaTour in 1627.
In last week's sketch, I told you that two of Biencourt's men were the fathers of children whose mothers were Indian women, one of them being Louis Lasnier; the other one was Charles de La Tour. We know of three of these children of Charles de LaTour, all girls and all born at Port LaTour. According to speculations, it could be that he had also some boys. All these children were born after Biencourt had died in 1623, when Charles de La Tour took charge of the men I was telling you about in that sketch; Chebogue was left definitely for Port LaTour. They were at the most 20 men in all.
His first daughter was Jeanne de La Tour, born in 1626. She married in what is now Castine, Maine, a rich merchant by the name of Martin d'Aprendestiguy, from the Basque country, southwest of France. She had five children. She is the ancestor of a number of Acadians, of all the Bourgeois' and of many Boudreaus, Dugas', LeBlanc, etc.
Was born the following year Antoinette de La Tour, the one that we are interested in. The birth of the third daughter, whose name we do not have, followed.
In 1632, Charles de La Tour brought his three daughters to France, at the time that Louis Lasnier took to France his own child, Andre Lasnier, whom I told you about last week.
Antoinette was placed by her father with a woman relative in La Rochelle, Madame de Saint-Hilaire. Some time after, Claude de Razilly, brother of Isaac who in 1632 had brought to La Have a group of settlers from France, wanted to put her with his sister, who was a nun at a Benedictine Abbey in Tourraine, located about half way in a straight line between Paris and La Rochelle. But Madame de Saint-Hilaire, who was a Protestant (Huguenot) "strong zealot in her religion" did not want to let her go, for fear that the child would be "perverted" by false doctrines. So Claude de Rasilly appealed to an uncle of Cardinal Richelieu, whom I mentioned in last week's column. And on June 13, 1634, Antoinette entered the Abbey in Tourraine.
Nine years later, in 1642, Antoinette asked to join the Order, which she did. Authors tell us that this is a proof that her parents were married. In fact, children born out of wedlock were forbidden to become nuns; or it was required that at least, at the time of their entrance to become nuns, their father and mother would be married. Thus Charles de La Tour and the Indian mother of those three girls got married; it could have been before they were born or after.
When Antoinette took the religious habit, a large number of people of rank and some of the principal dignitaries of the town attended, including the King's Attorney and Assessor with their wives, dukes and duchesses. Most of them had come to hear her most beautiful voice. In fact, after she arrived at the convent, it was not long before it was discovered that her singing was "out of this world". She was given music lessons for eight years. A certain Franciscan Friar, after hearing her once, came back three times to hear her sing. More than that, he gave to the Queen of France such an account of it that she also wanted to hear her sing and, for that purpose, she sent a stagecoach to take her to a convent in Paris, even "leaving all other seats unoccupied, so that there would not be anybody else on board." This was taking place in June of 1644.
The Queen was to gather all the high dignitaries of the Royal Court to hear Antoinette. After hearing her sing, the Queen wanted to keep her in Paris. But after three months, Antoinette begged very humbly to return to her former convent. So after singing a number of times for the Queen and her suite, she returned to the Benedictine Abbey in Tourraine.
This is where she was to pronounce her vows in 1646, in the presence of the Intendant of Tourraine, the Lieutenant-General, the King's Attorney, the President and the Assessor, plus a number of other persons of high rank.
And so, Sister Antoinette, this Port La Tour born child, this first child born in North America to become a nun, after having captivated the people of high rank with her beautiful young voice, preferred in her modesty, to the splendour of a convent that the queen had just built, the less dazzling cloister of the Benedictine nuns of Tourraine, where she, in its obscurity, shut herself up from the rest of the world so completely that she was not heard of afterward. The only time that she is mentioned is when she was godmother at the baptism of her niece, which took place March 14, 1660, at La Rochelle, daughter of Jeanne, to whom she gave her name Antoinette.
With regard to her youngest sister, whose name we do not have, as soon as she arrived in France with the rest of the family, her father asked Claude de Rasilly to take care of her. He took her to his sister at the Benedictine Abbey in Tourraine, who would have liked to keep her but Claude told her that he had promised the Ursuline Sisters of the place to commit her to them. That is when it was agreed that Claude's sister would take Antoinette. We do not know much about this third child, only that she died a few years later at the Ursulines' convent.
And this concludes the story of those children born not far from here, granting a couple of firsts to our neighbours of Port LaTour, one of whom was probably the only "star" ever born in their midst.
|16||i.||Son - name unknown|
She was Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, originally from a place called Nogent-le-Rotrou, in France, the daughter of a doctor by the name of Jacques Jacquelin. Late in 1639, Charles de La Tour asked his secretary and administrator Desjardins to go to France to get him a wife. He came back the following year with Mademoiselle Jacquelin. Both, herself and La Tour, were complete strangers to each other. Shortly after her arrival in early Spring, the wedding took place at Fort St- Louis, which stood on the Sand Hill, at Villagedale, Shelburne County; it was performed by the Capucin Fathers, with a large audience, including Claude de La Tour, father of Charles, and his wife.
Charles de La Tour, at the time, was Governor of Acadia. He had shared this title with Issac (sic) de Razilly, the one who founded La Have in 1632. Razilly died in 1636. He had designated as his successor the Sieur de Poincy, who had been his administrator. But what happened is that one of his relatives, the very ambitious and haughty Charles d'Aulnay, Sieur de Menou and de Charnisay, seized the power and brought the colony from La Have to Port Royal.
He was not satisfied of sharing the administration of Acadia with Charles de La Tour and vowed to trample him even to death, if necessary. Charles de La Tour had two forts, the one at Villagedale, just mentioned, and one at the mouth of the Saint John river, New Brunswick, Fort Ste-Marie. In the Fall of 1642, d'Aulnay, on his way from France to Port Royal, taking advantage of the absence of La Tour and his wife, stopped at Fort St-Louis, got the best of its guards and set it on fire; all was consumed, including the church that the Recollet Fathers had here. It was the first and largest of the forts that Cardinal Richelieu, Secretary of State in France, had asked to be erected in what was then New France, including Acadia.
Although he had made of La Tour a lame duck, the greedy d'Aulnay had not yet crushed him to his satisfaction. La Tour still had a fortified stronghold at the mouth of the St. John River, where he had some 50 soldiers. After burning Fort St-Louis, d'Aulnay stayed a few months at Port Royal to take fresh supplies, and proceeded to Fort Ste-Marie. He put the fort under seige. La Tour was in the fort at the time, ready to defend himself at the first assault from the enemy. But d'Aulnay chose to block all entrances to the fort and reduce the occupants to starvation.
But lo and behold! There were two months that d'Aulnay was anchored at the mouth of the river, when arrived from France the Saint Clement, a vessel of 120 tons, that Desjardins had equipped for La Tour. La Tour managed to get on board. They went to Boston for help and came back with four other armed vessels, to which d'Aulnay was no match; instead, he speeded towards Port Royal. The seige had lasted close to five months.
Charles d'Aulnay was too proud to admit that he had been frustrated and too eager to get rid of La Tour to call it quits. All this time, the most faithful and courageous Françoise- Marie Jacqueline was giving a very precious helping hand to her husband. In Boston, she had so much success that an author tells us that when d'Aulnay learned about it, "his rage knew no bounds." He wrote an insolent and abusive letter to Governor Winthrop.
When Françoise-Marie came back to the fort at St. John River, her husband left for Boston on business with seven of his men, leaving the fort in her hands. Charles d'Aulnay learning of it, left immediately for the St. John River. Here is what happened, as it has been told by Nicolas Denys, an Acadian pioneer of the time: "(Lady La Tour), after having sustained for there days and three nights all the attacks of d'Aulnay, and after having compelled him to withdraw beyond range of her cannon, was in the end obliged to surrender on the fourth day, which was Easter Day (April 16, 1645), having been betrayed by a Swiss who was then on guard (Hans Vaner), while she was making her men rest, hoping for some respite. The Swiss yielded to bribery by the men of D'Aulnay and allowed them to mount to the assault, which was again resisted for some time by the Lady commandant at the head of her men. She only yielded at the last extremity and under the condition that they (sic) d'Aulnay should give quarter to all."
Unfaithful to his words, the barbarian d'Aulnay asked which one of the captives wanted to have his life spared by hanging the others. A certain André Bernard came forward, choosing to be the hangman of his companions in order to save his skin. The nauseating and cruel d'Aulnay put a rope around Françoise-Marie's neck, set her up probably on a platform, tied her fast to a post, in front of a number of scaffolds to which mounted one after the other 40 of the soldiers who had so valiantly defended the fort of their master, under the command of his wife, until all 40 of them were hung by the neck till they died. Françoise-Marie Jacquelin, strong of character as she was, could not bear the sight of such a slaughter; she died of horror and grief a few days later. She is known in history as "The Heroine of Acadia."
This is one of the saddest episodes in the history of Acadia. Even the Expulsion, which was to take place 110 to 115 years later, inhuman as it was, we do not find such cruelties as that of hanging innocent people. The English, indeed, hung two Acadians and three Indians in Boston, as I said in Sketch No. 5, but it was after they were tried and found guilty of piracy. Did the Indians go that far? A very ancient author wrote, referring to d'Aulnay: "To dishonesty he adds an excess of barbarity which would be hard to believe, if it was said of an Indian."
|15||v.||Charles II (~1659-1731)|