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Monday, July 5, 2010

Life Among the Iroquois

There is not much that I can find about the lives of those taken captive by the Iroquois at the end of the 17th century, so I have to make some assumptions about what was happening with Marie Madeleine, her brother, Pierre, and her two sisters, Marie-Francoise and Marguerite, during the time they lived among the tribes. There are also few clues about the family and what was known of their situation by the other inhabitants of Lachine. Much of this part of the story is a mystery, so if you have information that can help infill some of the holes, please comment!

The first unknown is whether Marie Madeleine was pregnant at the time of her capture. She had been married to Pierre Jamme dit Carriere for slightly over five months, and although he was a soldier and most likely gone for periods of time, they would have had sexual relations, if on a sporadic basis. By looking at the parish records and my own family tree from that era, most women gave birth to their first child within the first 18 months of marriage, and often within the first year. So, if she was pregnant, what happened to her baby? Did she miscarriage from the trauma of the massacre and seeing her parents killed? Or did she give birth to a baby who was adopted into the tribe?

Another question also remains: during her years as captive, did she give birth to any children with an Iroquois man? At the time of her capture, she was 16 years old. Would she have taken an Iroquois husband in order to survive, or did the tribe respect her status as a married woman and not expect her to fully assimilate? If she did give birth to children during the time of her captivity, there are no records that I could find about them.

I also am not clear about the status of older captive children. The younger children – Marie-Francoise and Marguerite – would have been adopted by tribal families who had recently suffered a loss of a child, as was the tribal custom. If they had survived, they would have been assimilated into the tribe. There are a few clues that this probably did happen, and I will include these in a later blog.

But what about Marie-Madeleine and 12-year old Pierre? Were they both welcomed as members of the tribe, or would they have been treated as outsiders?

These mysteries aside, I can give you a glimpse of what their lives must have been like among the Iroquois by describing a bit about the native culture. The tribes were matrilineal, so the women owned all property and determined kinship, which was based on clans. They also chose the tribal leaders, which gave them power over political direction. After marriage, a man moved into his wife's longhouse, where other members of her clan also lived. Their children then became members of her clan. The women owned the fields and tended to the crops, while being supervised by the “clan mother.” As mentioned earlier in this blog, the main crops were corn, beans and squash – they were so vital to the tribes that they were called “deohako” or “life supporters.”

The main occupation of the men was waging war and hunting. They hunted in the fall, leaving the village until midwinter. In the spring, they fished. They also cleared new fields for crops and built longhouses. But their tribal status was achieved through their skill at warfare. While the women wore their hair long, the men wore their hair in a “Mohawk” and removed all their facial and body hair. Both sexes decorated their flesh with tattoos.

It was the political structure of the Iroquois that gave them their strength and stability, and made them formidable enemies. The Iroquois League, an alliance of related tribes formed prior to European contact, developed a sophisticated system of checks, balances, and supreme law that was shared by all tribes. Founded to maintain peace and resolve disputes between its members, its primary law stated that Iroquois should not kill each other.

For Marie-Madeleine, life among the Iroquois most likely entailed tending the crops and helping with the cooking for other members of the longhouse where she lived. Whether that longhouse included other captives, or whether the captives were distributed among the many Iroquois villages and longhouses in the area, I don’t know. But as she was a woman living in a matrilineal society, she may have enjoyed some protection, respect and independence even though she was a captive.

Pierre most likely helped with the hunting and building, although as a captive, he may not have had the freedom to venture out of the village on his own. He may not have been able to engage in warfare, in which case it would have been difficult for him to obtain much status as a male in the tribe.

While Marie-Madeleine and her siblings adjusted to their new lives, the wars continued around them, with the Iroquois and other tribes creating alliances with the French or the British. Eventually, other white captives were brought into the Iroquois villages and assimilated into the tribes or eventually released. For Marie-Madeleine and Pierre, it would be 12 years before they were finally taken home.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Life Goes On in Lachine

In the years that Pierre and Madeleine were apart, life continued for them in separate cultures. As far as I can tell, Pierre continued as a soldier while the Iroquois revenge continued around the Montreal area until the end of fall. On October 12, 1689, Pierre lost a friend and comrade-in-arms, Michel LeBourgeois. A soldier from Pierre’s hometown of Lantheiul in Normandy, France, he was killed in battle. Then, On October 25, Louis Frontenac returned from France and replaced the ineffective Denonville as governor. He journeyed to the massacre site in order to evaluate the situation himself and began work to improve the morale of the terrified Lachine population.

Despite the unease of the village, marriages still took place and babies were still being born. People began to rebuild their homes and figure out how to make it through the winter with limited provisions. On December 2, at the Lachine church, Frontenac witnessed the marriage of Jacques Chasle Duhamel, another comrade-in-arms of Pierre Jamme.

The people of Lachine – and of Quebec in general – were used to living simply, working hard and making do with what little they had, so they knew how to rebuild their lives. Pierre Barbary dit Grandmaison and Pierre Jamme dit Carriere would have been typical of the settlers in the area. Once their service was concluded, such soldiers would receive a concession of land. Pierre Barbary was older and had been in Lachine for many years, so he was fairly prosperous by Lachine standards, with a larger house on his concession and some simple furnishings. Pierre Jamme was still a soldier and, most likely, did not have his land concession yet.

But getting a land concession was just the beginning of many years of hard work. First, the land must be cleared, little by little, and the wood used to build the first dwelling – a small log cabin about 15 by 20 feet. Some of the logs were carved to a sharp point at one end and secured into the ground, while the other logs formed the walls and ceiling. Bark and grass were used to plug the cracks between the logs and make it water tight. Once the log home was built, the settler continued to clear the land and put aside the best logs to make a permanent, more solid home. Usually, the only tool used for this part of the work was a hatchet. The smaller tree stumps were pulled out, but the larger ones had to be left in the ground to rot – which took four to five years. Wood that was left over was used for heating. Next the brush had to be burned and finally, the ground could be tilled for the first crops. It took an entire year to clear a few acres and several years to finish clearing the entire concession of land.

The first furnishings were apt to be one or two wooden chests, a storage bin, a table and a few chairs. Early on, most settlers slept on pallets on the floor or in alcoves built into their homes. Most did not have linens – they used dog, moose, bear or ox skin as blankets. The storage bin was used to store flour, peas, bacon, lard and butter. With increased prosperity would come a cupboard for pots and utensils, some better bedding, curtains and, sometimes, a mirror.

So, the people of Lachine began to rebuild their lives and their homes as the winter progressed and they began to feel more at ease. In the meantime, Frontenac discovered that the Iroquois raids on Lachine and the Montreal area had been supported by firearms from the English. He asked his general, Iberville, to organize a raid into the heartland of the English colonies, and in February of 1690, Corlaer, now called Schenectady, was burned and destroyed, along with the villages of Salmon Falls and Casco.

"I don't see,” Iberville said, “the reason why we don't do to them what they've done to us in Orange (Albany) and in Manatte (New York) where they've provided arms and pay to the Iroquois to come kill the French of Montreal."

By July, the English and French were fighting in earnest. The skirmishes were so numerous, they could not be counted. The English had many successes from 1689 to 1692, then, in 1693, a detachment of 625 men struck the Mohawks hard in the Albany area. This convinced the Five Nations to negotiate peace with the French and their allies. The negotiations continued throughout 1694.

These negotiations would have an important impact on the fate of Madeleine and her brother, Pierre.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Unknown

The Barbarys had survived the Iroquois attack, with the exception of Magdeleine and her husband, but now they were captives. There were six remaining family members: the parents, Pierre and Marie, and the four children, Madeleine, Pierre, Marie Francoise and baby Marguerite. I try to imagine what it was like for them as they entered the Iroquois village. Were they able to remain together, or were they dispersed among the many longhouses? Or perhaps they were dispersed among several villages? I don’t know the answer.

What I do know is that the parents, Pierre and Marie, did not survive for long.

At the time of their captivity, the Iroquois tribes had reputations as fierce warriors. Becoming a skilled and feared warrior had gained in importance among the men as the tribes had become more dependent on agriculture. While hunting still played a large part in their lives, it did not bring the men the same type of prestige as it had in the past. The cycle of the tribes’ existence revolved around establishing a community for 15 or so years, until the soil became depleted from their crops, and then moving on to a more fertile area. This caused tensions in and between the various tribes as they sought to grab more fertile land. Waging war became a pressure release that focused animosity outward, against others, and a way for successful warriors to gain power and respect.

Taking and handling captives, an essential part of warring, became ritualized and helped bind the community together. Captives were adopted into tribal families, especially those that had lost members due to war or other calamities. Women and children were eventually assimilated, but adult males were handled differently. Here is a description of what happened to the male captives, from A Short History of Quebec:

“Captives were brought into the village and symbolically adopted into the family of a recently killed warrior before being subjected to a long ceremony, during which the whole community – men, women, and children – spent hours mutilating the victim before opening the body and eating the vital organs. The prisoner was expected to show his bravery by singing his war song and threatening his tormentors.”

Reports from Lachine captives who had survived their ordeal suggest this was done to some of the captives, while others were burned at the stake.

I don’t know what happened to Pierre, if he was mutilated or burned at the stake shortly after his arrival in the village, but his death was surely not pleasant. As to his wife, Marie – my 8th great grandmother – she may have been burned at the stake or died of grief or natural causes. All that is written is that she did not survive.

The two youngest Barbarys, Francoise and baby Marguerite, were probably adopted into families and assimilated. They were never heard from again.

To Madeleine and her brother, Pierre, it must have seemed that life with the Iroquois would be their destiny, too. What is not known is whether the newly wed Madeleine was pregnant at the time of her capture. If so, the baby would have been raised as an Iroquois.

I wonder how long Madeleine waited to be rescued before giving up all hope. As time passed and she realized no one would come for her, she must have felt that she would never again see her husband, Pierre Jamme dit Carriere.

Saturday, February 13, 2010


On the night of the massacre, it is believed that only one of the Barbary family members was killed. The records are sketchy, but suggest that Marie Magdeleine, the eldest of the children, was killed with her husband, Andre Danis dit Larpenty, a soldier with the di Lorimier Company.

Magdeleine had been married before, in 1684 to Jean Tillard, when she was about 16. The couple had one child, a girl who they named Marie Madeleine. Unfortunately, the baby only lived for nine months. Then, in 1688, Jean died leaving Magdeleine alone. Six months later, on June 21, 1688, Magdeleine married Andre.

The couple had been married just over a year, and may have been staying with an unmarried Barbary neighbor, Noel Charmois. Andre was probably on leave at the time and enjoying the company of his new wife before returning to his duties at the fort. Records show that both Larpenty and Charmois were killed, along with an unnamed wife. Although this provides strong evidence, the conclusive location of Magdeleine's death may always remain a mystery, as many bodies in Lachine had been burned by the Iroquois, and couldn't be identified.

The six remaining members of the Barbary family - Pierre, Marie, Madeleine, Philippe, Marie-Francoise and two-month-old Marguerite - survived the massacre only to be taken as captives, along with between 90 and 120 others. An eyewitness, Geodon de Catalogne, wrote, "around 10 o'clock, we saw them go around the island of La Presentation as there was a well-manned fort there where three Iroquois were killed".

I try to imagine the Barbarys, exhausted and frightened, huddled together as the Iroquois launched their canoes into the water. They must have watched with sinking hearts as the shore disappeared, along with their still-burning village.

Most likely, Pierre Jamme dit Carriere was at the fort, as he was not taken captive that night with his wife, Madeleine. One can only imagine his anxiety as he waited, unable to attack, with the rest of his troops. It is not known how long it was before he received news that his wife was still alive.

As the canoes floated within view of the Iroquois village, the Barbarys would have seen many longhouses built on terraced land and connected by a network of paths. The Iroquois longhouses were 20 to 30 meters long and about 7 meters wide and covered in bark. Inside, each longhouse had several fireplaces and raised platforms around the edge where related families slept and where food was stored. Close by, there would have been cultivated fields with crops of corn, squash, beans and sunflowers. Perhaps they saw Iroquois women working in these fields as the canoes drew closer.

As the Barbarys stepped from the canoes that day and onto the soil of the Iroquois village, I wonder if any knew what fate had in store for them.

Sunday, February 7, 2010


Lachine, the home of Pierre and Marie Barbary dit Grandmaison and Pierre and Madeleine Jamme dit Carriere, was a center for the fur and alcohol trade. Located on the Island of Montreal it was a natural stopping point for ships. Further on, the ships would reach the unnavigable Lachine Rapids where they would have to transport their goods overland to reach calmer waters. Warehouses stood by the river's edge that stored the furs and alcohol, ready for transporting to their markets.

The Mohawk Indians, part of the Iroquois nation, brought furs to the warehouses to sell. At first, they were not overly concerned about the French fur traders in the area, as they benefited from their trade. But by the latter half of the 17th century, they became agitated as settlers moved into the area and cleared land that had been valuable hunting grounds. Relations between the settlers and the Mohawks became strained.

In 1687, two years before Pierre and Madeleine married, the governor of the area, M. Denonville, invited the local Indian tribes to a festival of games and feasts to be held at Cataraqui. As the tribes arrived, a number of tribal chieftans were seized and placed into captivity. Later, they were forced into hard labor and taken to France to be exhibited as curiosities. Needless to say, this added to the tension between the Mohawks and the settlers.

With their chieftans gone, it took some time for the the tribes to regroup, but when they did, they created a plan for revenge.

The night of August 4, 1689, was stormy with rains falling heavily as the settlers in Lachine went to bed. By then, there were 320 people living in this community of farms and homesteads. As they slept, 1000 to 1500 Iroquois paddled silently across the river in their canoes and set up a base camp to the west of Lachine. Then they moved swiftly through the wooded areas along the river and surrounded the farm houses and homesteads. At a signal, they attacked and slaughtered a good number of the settlers.

But some escaped. A doctor hid in the woods and returned later to offer help to those who were still alive. Anther man ran to the closest military camp of 200 soldiers only to discover that the commanding officer, Subercase, was at a dinner in Montreal with governor Denonville. The soldiers did not want to act without his command, so the man was sent on to Montreal to find Subercase.

When Subercase arrived back at the camp, he was angry to find that his soldiers had done nothing as they waited for his return. He quickly organized them, along with other residents in the area, to launch a counter-attack. His scouts reported that the Indians had broken ino the warehouses and had consummed much alcohol. Subercase realized he had a good opportunity to attack while his enemies were drunk, but orders arrived from the governor to hold a defensive position and not to attack.

Subercase and his soldiers watched helplessly as the Iroquois eventually left their base camp with over 100 prisoners and paddeled to the opposite shore. All night, torture fires could be seen burning along the river and the screams of the victims filled the dark hours.

But what happened to Pierre and Madeleine Jamme dit Carriere and the Barbary dit Grandmaison family?

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Family history

This is a good time to think about how the past touches us, before I tell you what happened to the people you have just read about. After all, what is this kind of personal history if not a way to connect with something bigger than ourselves? A touchstone for us as we spin through our lives.

As I think about my ancestors, I feel as if I am stretching my hand through a time curtain and touching flesh on the other side. I may never know if these people were kind or generous or loving. But I do know that they were very strong to have lived through the hardships they faced. And I know that they were very determined. I have a sense of who they were.

I am part of that history. I have come to realize that I am not simply the mix of my parents' DNA, but a complex blend of almost infinite possibilities. I realized this as I began to build the history of my family. A history is not a simple cultivated tree with a branch of people who have the same surname. It is a huge leafy maple with branches that intertwine and head off in all directions, held together by a sturdy trunk. From this complexity, you can create an organized "fan chart" of your grandparents. By the time I had found eight generations, I could see 256 gggggg-grandparents. These are my direct line ancestors, the ones who have given me their characteristics. And each one has a story to tell.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Pierre Jamme Arrives

On May 29, 1687, Pierre Jamme arrived in Quebec on the ship Arc-en-Ciel. He was a soldier and, along with his company, commanded by Captain M. de Creusel, had departed from La Rochelle, France, on April 26, 1687. Pierre was the son of Jean Jamme, a farmer, and Marie-Charlotte Husse of Lantheuil, diocese of Bayeux in Normandy.

I try to imagine Pierre, at the age of 25, making such a journey. The trip across the Atlantic took over a month, and anyone who has sailed the Atlantic knows that the seas can be quite rough. What was that journey like for him? As he watched the receding shoreline of his homeland, I wonder if he planned to return as soon as his military service ended, or if he knew he would settle in New France.

When he arrived at the port of Quebec, he and the rest of his company was assigned to the garrison of Fort de la Presentation of Lachine. At the time, it was customary to house young soldiers among people in the community. Most likely, Pierre Jamme was assigned to the home of Pierre Barbary dit Grandmaison who was retired from service by then.

Marie Madeleine Barbary dit Grandmaison, Pierre's third eldest child, was only 15 when she caught Pierre Jamme's eye. In the fall of 1687, Pierre Jamme asked for her hand, and on October 24, 1688, they had signed a marriage contract, notiarized by the royal notary, Jean-Baptiste Pottier. The contract stated their intention to marry and set out the terms of the marriage, such as any dowry to be paid. The record showed, the dowry of 300 "livres" (approximately $300), on behalf of Pierre Jamme to his wife and one heifer, two pigs, a half dozen hens and a cock from Marie Madeleine's parents.

The marriage contract was a cermony of great importance in both France and New France. At least 10 witnesses attended the ceremony; among them were Marie Madeleine's parents, several neighbors of the Barbarin family, some comrade-in-arms such as Pierre Buisson who also belonged to the De Cruzel company from whom Pierre Jamme had obtained permission to marry, and Captain M. de Creusel, Pierre's commanding officer.

By the time this contract was signed, Pierre Jamme was known as Pierre Jamme dit La Carriere, shown by his signature on the contract. The addition of "dit La Carriere" to his name signified his "career" as a soldier. From this time forth, my family was known as Jamme dit Carriere, and, eventually, simply Carriere.

On February 29, 1689, Pierre Jamme dit Carriere and Marie Madeleine Barbary dit Grandmaison were married in Lachine at the church of Saints-Anges. It is not known if they moved into their own home, but most likely they continued to live with Marie Madeleine's parents. This may have been because Pierre Jamme dit Carriere was still in the Navy and was often away.

By this time, three of the Barbary children had died in childhood, and Marie Lebrun was pregnant with her 10th child. A month before she gave birth to her last child, baby Marguerite, two other Barbary children met with tragedy. Anne, age 4, and Jean, age 2, were killed accidently in a household fire. The parish priest, Pierre Remy, wrote about the incident in the parish register: ". . . lesquels furent trouves a moitie brules le 28 avril proche le four de Pierre Barbary leur père, auquel le feu prit par hasard . . . (both having been found half-burned on April 28 near the oven of their father, that had accidently caught fire)."

This proved to be an omen of what was yet to come.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Perre and Marie Lebrun Marry

When Pierre came to Quebec (New France) there were a total of 3215 white settlers and laborers. Although the colony had been in existence for over 50 years, there were a large majority of men and not many single women, so the population was growing slowly. Anxious to populate the colony to create a stronghold, Louis XIV began sending single women to New France. Called "Filles de Roi" they were offered a dowry to make the journey and marry a settler. The 700-900 women sent from France between 1663 and 1673 endured more than 100 days at sea to reach the colony. Once there, it was not difficult for them to find a husband - even with the influx of women, men still outnumbered women 3 to 1. Most were married within a month of their arrival.

In 1668, Pierre married Marie Lebrun, who may have been a Filles de Roi. Her parents are shown on the marriage records as being in Normandy, so it appears they did not travel with her. By then, Pierre was listed as a Captain in the Contrecour Company, part of the Carignan-Salieres Regiment.

They settled in an area on the Island of Montreal called Lachine, and Pierre became a laborer. He most likely received a land grant for his service as a soldier. Over the next 20 Years, Marie gave birth to 10 children.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Pierre Barbarin dit Grandmaison comes to Quebec

My direct ancestors left Europe for the New World in the 17th century. Some landed in America, while others settled in Quebec. My earliest ancestor in the New World was Pierre Barbary (Barbarin) dit Grandmaison, my 8th great grandfather. He was a member of the Carignan-Salières regiment from France, a regiment of 1200 men who arrived in Quebec in the summer of 1665, under the orders of King Louis XIV. A nun living in Quebec, Marie de L'Incarnation, described the arrival:

"The ships have all arrived, bringing us the rest of the army, along with the most eminent persons whom the king has sent to the aid of the country," she wrote." They feared they would all perish in the storms they braved on their voyage...we are helping them to understand that this is a holy war, where the only things that matter are the glory of God and the salvation of souls."

Prior to arriving in "New France", his regiment had fought successfully against the Ottomans. Now, their task in New France was to fight the Iroquois and protect the fledgling French colony. Part of that work included building new defences along the Richelieu River. Inadequately clothed for the brutal winter and with few tools, they still succeeded in building 3 forts. After all their hard work, they looked forward to spending the worst of the winter in the shelter of the new forts.

But the Governor had other ideas. He wanted them to launch a campaign against the Iroquois in January. The Marquis de Salieres had this to say:

"When I understood and saw the state our soldiers were in for this enterprise, I saw all things ill disposed, the soldiers having no snowshoes, very few axes, a single blanket, no equipment for the ice and having only one pair of moccasins and stockings. When I saw all this, I said to the captains that it would require one of God's miracles for any good to come of this. Some of them replied that M. le gouverneur did as he pleased and took advice from no one."

During the campaign, they lost 400 men from the cold and never came across a single Iroquois.

Pierre survived this ordeal, and, like many other soldiers from the regiment, decided to stay in Quebec. Years later, when disaster gripped his family, he may have regretted this decision . . .