La grand recrue de 1653.

Recruiting Habitants for the Colony.

The French saw value in the resources found in Canada, like furs and fish, but for the most part did not attempt to colonize the land the way the British did with its thirteen colonies. However, those with a different vision sought to build up the community which by this time had grown to 2,000 settlers. Over one hundred skilled men were recruited to fill various needed occupations, and equally important, to help defend the fragile existence of the habitants from attacks by the Iroquois. Most of the carpenters, tailors, millers and butchers asserted they could clear land as well.

Jeanne Mance, one of the first to settle in Ville-Marie (Montréal) in 1642, was also the founder of the hospital, Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal. Upon her return from a trip to France she was alarmed by the assaults on the village and resolved to seek reinforcements.

Paul de Chomedy, Sieur de Maisonneuve, was the governor of Montréal and traveled to France to oversee the recruitment. Over 150 men from around the country initially signed a contract, though closer to 100 men and a handful of women actually made the journey. They were to depart Saint-Nazaire in Bretagne in the spring but their ship, Saint-Nicolas-de-Nantes, did not leave port until June of 1653. It traveled about 350 leagues but was so leaky that despite the best efforts of crew and passengers it continued to fill with sea water. They were forced to turn back, but Sieur de Maisonneuve had the vessel avoid the French mainland, docking on an island from which his would-be colonists could not entertain any second thoughts about their decision.

Sieur de Maisonneuve and all of his soldiers stopped on an island from which there was no escape. Otherwise, not a single one would have stayed. Some even set about swimming to save themselves since they were furious and believed they had been taken to perdition.
~Les Écrits de Mère Bourgeoys

It took a few weeks before another ship was procured but they once again set sail on July 20th. Their trials were far from over. Eight men died from an epidemic that plagued the ship.

On 22 September 1653 they landed in ville de Québec. Capping its harrowing crossing, the ship had grounded so firmly it was burned on the shore. Another month elapsed as the voyagers awaited transport to Ville-Marie because the governor of Québec was loathe to lose men he also desperately needed for his settlement. They finally reached their destination on 16 November 1653.

The recruits continued to face trials for by some accounts about a quarter were killed by Iroquois, and several drowned. Among our ancestors one woman made the journey in addition to these others: