1842: Resurrecting war-torn St. Eustache

Fourth in a series about my French-Canadian ancestor Laurent Charbonneau, who emigrated from Québec to New York State around 1852.

The family of my great, great grandfather Laurent Charbonneau may have arrived in St. Eustache, Deux-Montagnes, Québec not long after a major battle took place there during the Patriots’ War — an uprising of French-speakers and working class English-speakers against British colonial rule in Canada, which I wrote about  in 1852: The Charbonneau family of St. Eustache.

The Battle of St. Eustache (14 Dec. 1837). During the Patriots’ War, British forces burned the town, including the now land-marked Catholic Church of St. Eustache (at center above), to suppress the uprising against colonial rule. My Charbonneau ancestors were likely among the French-speakers who helped resurrect the war-torn village. By: Lord Charles Beauclerk (1813—1842)

The Battle of St. Eustache unfolded on 14 Dec. 1837 and ended in defeat of the Patriots — who were vastly outnumbered by British military forces and who suffered significant casualties in the struggle.

To suppress the insurrection, the victors terrorized Deux-Montagnes county and burned and looted the village — partially destroying the now land-marked Catholic Church of St. Eustache, where the Patriots sought refuge.

Yet despite the damage, St. Eustache rose from the ashes and endured — and my French-speaking Charbonneau ancestors appear to have been among those who helped resurrect the war-torn village.

Judging by the entry abstracted  below, my ggg grandfather Louis was enumerated in St. Eustache village, with a family of five, in the 1842 Recensement du Bas-Canada [Lower Canada Census] — just five years after the smoke of battle had cleared. My great, great grandfather Laurent, his second son, would have been ten years old at the time.

1842 Recensement du Bas-Canada [Lower Canada Census] – Deux-Montagnes (county) – St. Eustache Village – p. 1103 – from Library and Archives of Canada http://www.bac-lac.gc.ca/eng
Person No. Head of Household Occupation No. of family members
13 Louis Charbonneau Groceur 5

Although the 1842 census only names the head of household, the return provides some details that point to this being my ancestor, specifically:

  • Family size. The number of people in the family is correct when compared to the 1851/52 census return for my ggg grandfather Louis Charbonneau. (He and his wife Suzanne Marcille would have had three children in 1842 for a family total of five.)
  • Neighborhood. Some of their neighbors’ names are the same as those in the 1851/52 census — putting this Louis Charbonneau family in the same neighborhood ten years earlier.
  • Occupation type.  One could easily see Louis, a blacksmith in 1832, becoming a grocer in 1842 then morphing into an innkeeper by 1851/52 — all of these occupations being sole proprietorships of one sort or another.

Eliminating unlikely possibilities

The two other possible matches in the 1842 census seemed unlikely to be my ancestor because of:

  • Family size and occupation. The other Louis Charbonneau living in St. Eustache in 1842 had a family of 11 and was working as a bouche [a hawker or trader]. Neither his family size nor his occupation appear to be a good fit.
  • Location and occupation. The other Louis Charbonneau in Québec with a family of five lived in St. Jérôme, Terrebonne (county), with none of the same neighbors, and worked as a journalier [day laborer] — an unlikely transitional job from skilled blacksmith in 1832 to innkeeper in 1851/52.

What more can we learn about this intrepid family? More in the next post.

To be continued.

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