Biographie Marie Chauvin



Biographie Marie Chauvin

The name Pombrio first appears in 1851, but it wasn't until the 1920s that it came into constant use.  The first Pombrio to come to the United States was François-Eustache. He was the third child of sixteen born to Jean-Baptiste Pontbriand dit Sansregret and Marie-Therese Perron.  He was born on the 11th of February 1798 at William Henry, Lower Canada (Sorel, Quebec) and was baptized at the church of St. Pierre de Saurel.  He grew up on the banks of the St. Lawrence River where life was dictated by the changing of the seasons.  As a young child he would have had many responsibilities, including specific jobs, such as collecting the eggs and feeding the animals.  As he matured he might have dreamt of following in his father's footsteps, but reality would soon spoil that dream. Over trapping had depleted the once abundant supply of prized furs and hostilities along the U. S. border during the War of 1812 was a constant threat.  Not exactly the way anyone would want to spend their childhood. To complicate matters even further, in 1815 a volcanic eruption in Indonesia sent thick clouds of ash and dust into the air.  The result being a cloud cover that in 1816 would prevent the sun from warming the crops; over 80,000 people world wide starved! The average temperature was so low that snowstorms in July were common.  To a family whose economic stability was based on farming, this had to have been hard to swallow.  Would these events have had an impact on his political and economic choices? Would he have chosen farming as his livelihood? If so, many French-Canadians were uneducated and not up-to-date on agricultural practices. Things that we take for granted today, were not known in the early 1800s. The idea of rotating the crops to preserve the mineral contents of the soil is a fairly modern technique.  Over use of the land and a growing population forced many families to look south of the border.  At age thirty-nine, this is just what Francois-Eustache did. Small industries were popping up all over the northern tier of Clinton County, New York.  Industries such as potash, lumber, charcoal, tanneries, marble, wool and lime were just a few of the developing businesses.  Once a family had sons old enough to work outside the home, they would get a job in one of these industries to supplement the family income.  For some families this was the only cash brought into the household.  Did Eustache and his sons cross the border looking for work?  I will explore this later on.

Commonly called Eustache, he was married at the age of 21, on the 11th of January 1820 to Felicite Vandal daughter of Jean-Baptiste Vandal and Marguerite St. Martine. Felicite was born June 4, 1801 and was baptized at St. Pierre de Saurel. She was the great great-granddaughter of the well known 'Coureur de bois,' Francois Vandal and a descendant of Marin Boucher one of the first settlers of New France.  To learn more about these ancestors read, Our French-Canadian Ancestors, Vols. 4 & 15 by Thomas J. Laforest.

They were married at St. Pierre de Saurel, and the marriage record reads:
"The 11th of January 1820, after the publication of three banns of marriage at High Mass at the parish of Saurel, between Eustache Pont Briand, son, of age, of Jean-Baptiste Pont Briand and Therese Peron, of this parish, of the first part and Felicite Vandal, daughter, of age, of Jean Vandal and Marguerite St. Martin, of this parish, of the second part. Without opposition to the marriage, I, the undersigned priest and curate, as is customary with their mutual consent and knowledge of the benediction nuptials and according to the form prescribed by our mother the sacred Roman Church, and in the presence of Jean Pont Briand brother of the groom, of Antoine Peron uncle of the bride, of Paul Ausang brother-in-law, of Jean Vandal father of the bride, Joseph Desault brother-in-law, of Antoine Mathe brother-in-law, and several others of the bride who did not sign." M. Cusson, Ptre.

Felicite gave birth to fifteen children, nine of which were born in Canada. Marie was born and baptized nine months after the marriage at St. Pierre de Saurel in 1820. Felicite Louise celebrated her birthday on Christmas Day, but was probably born on the 23rd in 1821. Joseph-Eustache in 1823, Francois in 1826, Narcisse in 1828, Edouard in 1829, Maxime in 1831, Marie-Marcelline in 1833, David in 1835 and Emilie in 1836. Both Marceline and David were baptized at Contrecoeur and Emilie at St. Ours. Why these last three were not baptized at Saurel, I do not know. Perhaps the strain of a growing family had already forced Eustache to look for work elsewhere. All seven of the living children immigrated with their parents to the United States some time between August 1836 (the birth of Emilie) and the winter of 1838-39. According to his son Joseph's naturalization papers he came to the North Country in 1839. Pierre was the first to be born in the US in 1839. The twins Julliette and Julianne were born in April 1841 and Moise in 1842 or 43. There are no baptismal records in Coopersville prior to 1844; the area was served by missionary priests who came through on an irregular basis, therefore, their birth dates come from various records. The last to be born was Thomas in 1845. His baptismal record can be found at St. Joseph's de Corbeau in Coopersville, New York (a small hamlet in the town of Champlain).

Major political changes were taking place during this time in Canadian history (1836-39). We do not know whether Francois-Eustache was a Redcoat or a Patriote, but it is safe to say that he wouldn't have moved such a large family unless he was involved in the rebellions or feared for his family's safety. He would have become painfully aware of this danger during a bitter snowstorm on the night of November 16, 1837 when the Royal Montreal Calvary set out to arrest some of the Patriote leaders. Word had leaked out about the plan and the troops were only able to arrest two of the rebels sought. Upon their return to Longueuil on the 17th, they were met by a barricade blocking the road and over 200 rebels waiting to ambush them. Though the soldiers were tipped off, they continued on towards the ferry. This mistake cost them their prisoners: Pierre-Paul Desmaray (Desmarais) and Jean-Francois Davignon were now free. Several of the rebels who participated were interrogated on the 22 of November about their part in the attack. Ironically, this was only one day before the hostilities would escalate. Among those arrested was Eustache's cousin, Regis Pontbrillant, (Archives de Quebec, 1925-26, p152) would have been a major blow to the family, and may have even prompted the move. If his family was still in St. Ours by as late as November 23-25, 1837 he would have witnessed the battles of St. Denis and St. Charles. Reinforcements "from Contrecoeur, St. Ours and Vercheres sailed past the regulars unharmed, the Patriote soldiers defiantly singing their national songs turned the tide of battle in favor of the Patriotes" (from Redcoats and Patriotes by Elinor Senior 85). Their victory was short lived for at the battle of St. Charles over 150 rebels died, homes were burned and families destroyed. Did Eustache play a role in this conflict? That is a question that I can not definitively answer, but according to Dr. Elinor Senior, "a great number of Canadians [were] taking up quarter at Plattsburg, Champlain and other villages on the frontier where arms and ammunition [were] collected for their use" (Senior 151). The History of the Town of Chazy, Clinton County, New York by Sullivan and Martin mentions that the stone house of John-Baptiste Trombly became a refuge for many of them (Patriotes), some made Chazy (which included Altona at this time) their permanent home. The hamlet of Sciota, especially, was settled by these people" (Sullivan and Martin 319). The danger that many families were in, was real for on the 8th of January 1838 we find eleven men were taken prisoner in the town of Mooers and taken back to Canada (Town of Champlain). We can only imagine the fear these people must have lived through. We later find these men being interrogated on the 8th of February 1838 (Archives de Quebec, 1925-26, p252). The largest movement of French-Canadians into the Champlain Valley took place during the second rebellion in November 1838. The family most likely came during this wave of immigration. It was during this time that the military court-martial against insurgent leaders was going on in Montreal. The result was the execution of twelve rebel leaders and the deportation of fifty-eight of their followers to Australia's penal colonies. William Lyon Mackenzie published a letter from a refugee relating the conditions in the North Country, "in cold open barns, on straw, hundreds of poor dejected exiled and wounded Canadians, destitute of everything, receiving but little succor from the people of this place who are themselves poor" (Senior, Lifelines, 23). These brave immigrants "took a gamble for what they hoped would be a good or at least a better life" (Senior 76). "Coming on foot, as they often did, it was impossible to bring with them anything of consequence. Many of the settlers were reduced nearly to salvation" (75).

This poverty was described by Dr. David Kellogg in his personal journal. He "described the squalor of a French-Canadian household that he had visited in order to deliver a child. This passage dispassionately described the poor woman who had no cloth in which to wrap the newly delivered infant and so was forced to remove one of her petticoats to receive him. Dr. Kellogg's observations included the fact that there was little furniture: it was icy cold in spite of the fact there was a stove in the main room of the house: that this was the woman's ninth child: and his final comment on the whole affair concluded that 'they ought to have named the baby Klondike, but instead they called him Napoleon'" (Ouellette 11-12). Dr. Kellogg's description of this birth is similar to the birth of Julliette and Julianne in April 1841. Our ancestors were very poor and now they had twins! How easy it is to picture their dilemma. The following story was retold prior to 1967 by Gladys Lamondy Gould Demerioux in a letter to Audrey Pombrio Dragoon, it tells the story of the adoption of Julliette: 
 
"About the child that was given away. Mother's father had twin sisters. One named Louise but she doesn't remember the other ones name. Louise was married to Pisson (Passant) Jeannotte. When they were young they were poor and this women was well to do had lost a child recently, had begged the mother of the twins to let her have one of the girls and promised to take good care of [her]. They were Americans and the child was not brought up Catholic. When she became the age to make her First Communion her mother wanted her back but the lady refused to to give her back to her mother. They went to the law about it and the law told the parents that they either had to pay for the child's bored and room all the time this lady had her or if they could steal her, they could keep her. They did get a hold of her one day but the woman saw them and got a hold of the girl and nearly pulled her arm off. So the parents gave up, rather then hurt her. The child grew up and married a well to do man. Mother says she was a handsome woman" (Lamonday Letter, nd). 
 
Note: Felicite Louise (pictured in an earlier post) was not one of the twins. Jullianne died at age 16 and her twin Julliette who was given away married Stephen Chilton (6).

In the Catholic Church First Communion and Solemn Communion were significant events in a child's life. Near the end of the first grade, children received First Communion in a group at a very informal ceremony in the church sacristy. Solemn Communion was a very "impressive ritual. Girls wore white dresses, gloves, shoes, stockings, and veils; boys dark blue suites with a white arm band. At Mass, the communicant was given a cloth scapular to wear and a certificate that was often framed and proudly displayed in the parlor. A festive meal in the young person's honor followed in the home. It was customary for parents and Godparents to present to their child gifts on this occasion" (Brault 33). When Eustache and Felicite realized that Juliette was not going to be brought up in the Catholic faith, it must have been quite a blow to them. 

Felicite died soon after the attempt to get Juliette back, on the fourth of April 1848, at the age of forty-two, and is buried at St. Louis de France Cemetery Sciota, New York. Since Felicite is buried in Sciota and Eustache didn't purchase land there until 1849 it may be safe to say that the family was probably renting at this time. 

According to the 1840 U. S. census the family was listed in Champlain, New York. Eustache was listed simply as working in agriculture. By 1849 he purchased land from Allen Wilson situated in lot #4 of the 420 acre lots of the Refugee Patent (Clinton County Deed Books Vol. 17, 1850:261). This chosen lot is located two miles east of the village of Sciota on the Miner Farm Road (see map). He was one of the first settlers on the road in 1848. Prior to the purchase of land, there usually was a gentlemen's agreement to clear the land, and keep whatever lumber was needed to build a house and the rest of the trees went to the lumbering company that owned the land. Once a large enough section was cleared and was of no use to the company, they'd sell the land to their tenant. Settling in this area of Clinton County was no easy task, the "forest [was] so thick [you] couldn't see the sun till noon" (Sullivan and Martin 133). Eustache and his sons would have needed to first clear the land and then build a cabin to live in. "The ideal time for cutting trees was in early summer. They were then left lying on the ground until September, when they were set fire and burned ...the choice oak and pine were saved for lumber. After the initial cutting, it took another half dozen years to rid the fields of the stumps" (73).

The first dwelling used by the family was a log cabin. The logs would have been hewn on the inside and the cracks plugged with cedar wedges and moss and plastered over with clay. At first the windows were covered with greased paper or wooden shutters that could only be opened in good weather.

The roof was often made of thick shingles pegged to the roof with hand whittled pegs. There was one, all purpose, room with a packed dirt floor and a loft reached by a ladder (74). "Wheat and turnips seemed to have been the first crops. With the help of only a sickle, a hoe, a grain cradle, and a plow or even just a forked stick to break the soil...corn was eventually available. Later apples, pears, and peaches, plums and cherries were added. It took several years before there were many apples as the trees were mostly started from seeds...Apple brandy, cider, and various kinds of strong drink were usual beverages"(75). 

Eustache married for the second time to Marie Anne Chauvin at St. Joseph's de Corbeau on the 22nd of September 1848. Marie Anne was the widow of Joseph Livemois and the daughter of Joseph Chauvin and Marianne La Roche. This marriage did not produce any children. They were married only five months after the death of Felicite in April. It would not be fair to judge this union with today's standards. A widower with eight children at home, six under the age of thirteen, needed a woman to run the household and take over the raising of the children. One month after this union the family celebrated another wedding, that of Marie-Marcelline to Alexander Faureault, grandson of Lt. Alexander Faureault of "Congress' Own Regiment" (10). 

Eustache was quickly turning his home into a prosperous enterprise as demonstrated in the 1850 U. S. census for Chazy, which listed the value of his real estate at $300. Another document pertaining to Eustache is found in the Clinton County Mortgages between his son Francois, himself and his wife Mary of Chazy, New York in consideration of $680 sold to Francois, twenty-four acres of land off the north part of the west 150 acres of lot #4 in the Refugee Tract, also a piece of land which was part of lot #3 of the 420 acre lot. Also sold were all cattle, horses, and all other personal property of any description. The grant was intended for the fulfillment  of the following,...to be supported in a manner in sickness and in health at his present residence or any other suitable place, they should also have the use of a horse wagon needed for business or comfort for taking rides for health or to be furnished with a necessary amount of money when there [is a need]...recorded July 15, 1864 (Vol. NN, p97). 

Marie-Anne died on All Saint's Day (11) in 1865 at Sciota, and was buried on the 3rd of November at St. Louis de France Cemetery, Sciota. The witnesses to the burial were Francois Pontbriand and Michel Paquet. 

Eustache lived out his remaining years with his son Francois' family. It is impossible to give an accurate description of Eustache, but after viewing photographs of five consecutive generations of Pombrio men, one might determine that he was quite tall, fit and trim with brown hair and brown eyes. 

Over the years Eustache saw his family spread throughout the country. During his lifetime he saw the birth of fifteen children and at least seventy-one grandchildren. He died on the 30th of April 1878 at Sciota (12) and was buried on the 1st of May at St. Louis de France Cemetery. The witnesses to the burial were James Pelletier and Louis Pontbriand (13). The burial record at St. Joseph de Corbeau Coopersville, New York recorded his name as "FanFan."

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