The Second Generation: Homestead in Chateauguay

Francois and Marguerite were comfortably settled in Chateauguay, near Montreal. It was 1690, and Francois was 23 years old, supporting his wife and himself as a farmer. They looked forward to making a family.

But 1690 was not a peaceful year in Quebec. The previous August, 1,500 Iroquois warriors attacked the nearby settlement of Lachine and massacred 72 French settlers, taking around 90 others captive. While the colonists had slept, the invaders crept into the settlement and on signal broke down doors and windows, dragging the inhabitants outside to be killed. Some of the colonists barricaded themselves in a building, and the Iroquois set fire to the structure, cutting down the colonists as they fled the flames. Fifty-six of the settlement’s seventy-seven structures were destroyed by fire. Of the captives, nearly 50 were tortured, burned to death and cannibalized, some escaped or were released in prisoner exchanges, and a few young children were spared and adopted into the Iroquois tribe.

To make matters worse, the French military commander elected not to deploy troops immediately so as not to provoke the Iroquois further, and while he dithered the Iroquois attacked the village of LaChesnaye and killed 42 more colonists and attacked and wiped out a squad of soldiers travelling between Fort Remy and Fort Rolland. The Iroquois had been allowed to wander freely for several days spreading death and destruction across Montreal Island without intervention by the French military, sending a shiver of dread and unease through the neighboring areas, including Chateauguay.

The French governor was convinced that the Iroquois raids had been encouraged and abetted by the British, and he launched retaliatory raids against English colonists to the south. He finally roused the military commander into action, and three years of armed conflict with the Iroquois and against the British spilled out of the Lachine massacre.

It was against this backdrop of war and invasion that their first child, Claude Primeau, was born to Francois and Marguerite on July 16, 1690. Francois must have been proud of his first-born son who would carry his name into the next generation, but he was surely anxious about the prospects that his son would face in those uncertain times.

The conflicts raged around Montreal after Claude’s birth, and only a year later, on August 11, 1691, a smaller British force under Major Peter Schuyler surprised a regiment of French troops and Huron allies in a rainstorm at LaPrairie, only a few miles from Chateauguay, and inflicted heavy casualties. Raids and battles continued spasmodically through the region for years, until 1701, when peace returned to Quebec with the signing of peace treaties with the Iroquois, and the British frontier calmed down. With no further fear of Iroquois raids and British incursions, the neighboring towns of Terrebonne, LaChesnaye, Boucherville, Lachine and Longeuil began to grow and thrive, and the farmers in Chateauguay prospered.

In this atmosphere of prosperity, Claude grew into manhood. He farmed in Chateauguay as had his father. He courted Angelique Babeu, the daughter of Andre Babeu and Anne Roy, and he married her on June 14, 1717, at Notre Dame in nearby LaPrairie, which may have been Angelique’s hometown.

LaPrairie figures in this story as the marriage place of Francois Primaut and his bride Marguerite, in the war with the British and Iroquois, and also in the marriage of Claude and Angelique. La Prairie is also the locale where Blessed Kateri Tekawitha founded her religious community and died April 17, 1680. LaPrairie is also known by its Native American name, Kahnawake.

In 1722, a tragedy darkened the Primeau family lives when the infant Jacques died. It must have been a blow for the young family. The infant son would have been a helpmate for his father on the Chateauguay farm. There were two daughters, Marie Joseph and Marie Anne, but they would marry and leave the household, and farm work was in those days a backbreaking endeavor more suited to men. The farm produced the food that the family would consume, as well as marketable products that generated income for items they could not produce themselves, so it was essential to survival of the family that there be capable hands to do the farm work. Male children were expected to help on the farm, and as the father aged and could no longer perform all of the physical labor required, the sons would play an increasingly larger role until one day they would inherit the operation. The death of a son would indeed be tragic and a threat to the entire family.

The cloud of misfortune did not remain over the Primeau family for long. In 1725, another Jacques was born, and he survived. Claude fils came along in 1735, and Pierre Francois followed in 1736. The tragedy of the infant Jacques’ death was alleviated by all of the later sons, and the viability of the family farm was secured. Life continued in pastoral happiness at Chateauguay, home of the growing Primeau clan.

On May 3, 1768, Claude died at the age of 77 at Chateauguay. Angelique died in Chateauguay in October, 1781, having survived Claude by more than 13 years.

Claude and Angelique had six children. Their youngest child, Pierre Francois Primeaux, is our ancestor. The children were: Marie Joseph Primeau, born 1718; Marie Anne Primeau, born 1721; Jacques Primeau, born 1722; Jacques Primeau, born 1725; Claude Primeau, 1735-1788; and Pierre Francois Primeau, born 1736. All of the children were born in the vicinity of Chateauguay and Montreal.