Louis Hebert & Marie Rollet
Louis Hebert and Marie Rollet: Canada's Premier Pioneers
In 1604, Louis helped Samuel de Champlain build the first European settlement of North America, the “Habitation”, a number of wood buildings on Sainte-Croix Island. Louis looked after the health of the pioneers, and cultivated native drug plants offered by MicMac Indians. From a 10/31/2006 AP News story by David Wright: “The earliest confirmed autopsy in North America was conducted more than 400 years ago by French colonists desperate to determine what was killing them as they endured a rugged winter on St. Croix Island. A team of forensic anthropologists from the United States and Canada confirmed that the skull of a man buried on the island over the winter of 1604-05 showed evidence of having undergone an autopsy. Nearly half of the 79 settlers led by explorers Pierre Dugua and Samuel Champlain died over that winter from malnutrition and the harsh weather. This is the same procedure that forensic pathologists use to conduct autopsies today. Scientists using modern techniques have concluded that the French settlers died from scurvy, which is caused by a lack of vitamin C.”
2nd Habitat of 1608: The settlement at Sainte-Croix Island wasn’t successful, so Louis helped Champlain build a second Habitation at Québec in 1608, which was destroyed by the English in 1613. Louis left for France but returned with his family in 1617. Louis was the 1st private individual to receive a land grant from the French government. Louis’ “green thumb” gained him lasting fame as the first successful farmer in what is now Québec. Louis is considered by some to have been the first white settler in Canada. He planted the first wheat in Canada, perhaps in North America. Louis built a stone house, the foundation discovered in 1776 in Quebec, between St Famille and Couillard Streets on the grounds of the Seminary of Quebec and Basilica of Notre Dame, near the gate. Champlain said Louis Hebert, “was the first head of a family residing in the country, who lived on what he raised.”
Marie Rollet came to Canada in 1617 with her spouse, Louis Hebert, and their three children. They were the first European family to settle in Canada, and the first to build a home in Québec’s upper town. Hebert, an apothecary in France, became the settlement’s first farmer. Together, the couple cleared the land, planted crops, and raised cattle. In the early years of settlement, the lure of fur trade riches caused many settlers to abandon or ignore agricultural pursuits, and the Hebert family were often called upon to furnish the small French community with provisions. On several occasions, the local Indian population, on the verge of famine, was also aided by the Hebert’s generosity. The virtuous Heberts were the symbolic cornerstones upon which the French hoped to build their New France. They were devout Catholics, a stable family unit, and they tilled the land. The Heberts were the embodiment of the ideal homesteader, and the civil and ecclesiastical leaders hoped that their exemplary lifestyle would have a positive influence in both Indians and wayward Frenchmen. (S) Marie Rollet: Cultural Mediator, by D. Van Delia.
The couple’s value to the colony was recorded by the historian Christian LeClercq in 1691. LeClercq, writing about the origins of European settlement in Canada, said: “...but we may say that the most fortunate thing he (Samuel de Champlain) effected was his persuading Sieur Hebert to go to Canada with all his family...”. It was reported that the Hebert family had “Beautiful children, fine cattle, good produce and grain”. The clergy often referred to them simply as the “Estimable family.” The Hebert home was built high on a cliff above the main colony. Their role as farmers and their location away from the fort allowed for greater accessibility and more direct contact with an Indian population that was often not allowed within the walls of the barricaded colony. The Heberts traded surplus food to the Indians for beaver skins, and on several occasions gave food to starving Indians.
1372. Louis Gaston Hebert & 1373. Marie Rollet [Fra, Can]
1575, Louis born in House of the Golden Mortar, 129 Rue Honore, Paris, France; s/o 2744. Nicholas Hebert & 2745. Jacqueline Pajot.
1580, Marie born in Paris, Seine, France.
6/13/1602, Louis married Marie in St-Germaine-des-Pres, Paris, France.
1603, Louis traveled to the New World with his cousin, Jean de Biencourt de Poutrincourt, the First Governor at Port Royal. His mother and Poutrincourt’s wife were sisters, and many others on that voyage were also connected to the Pajot family. Whether motivated by gold, furs, or finding a magical cure, it was a chance to start over and bring some dignity back to the Hebert name. He was no doubt ostracized and may have even been harassed by his father’s creditors. It would also have been difficult for him to obtain credit on his own, so he needed a fresh start. Louis sailed to the New World aboard a vessel named Jonas, part of the expedition of Du Gua de Monts, which had set sail from La Rochelle. Louis helped build the “Habitation” on Ste. Croix Island.. They suffered through a terrible winter.
1605, Louis, with the other colonists, already greatly reduced in number, moved to the north shore of the Baie Française, then built and settled at Port-Royal (today Annapolis Royal, N.S.) for about two years.
1608, Louis helped Champlain build a second Habitation at Québec.
1611–1613, Louis was grocer and apothecary in Port Royal, Acadia.
1613, the 2nd Habitation was destroyed by the English. Louis returned to France after the attack; probably with new herbs he had acquired in New France. [Enslavement of Huron Indians was the primary motivation for the English pirates in this area.]
1617, Champlain met with Louis in Paris.
4/11/1617, Louis, Marie, and the 3 children Guillaume, Guillemette & Anne, and Marie’s brother Claude Rolet embark [with Champlain] from Honfleur on the ship “le Saint-Etienne” for New France. About 60 leagues off Grand Banks their vessel encountered heavy weather. Everyone said Confession, and Madame Hebert raised her young son up through the hatch for the blessing.
7/14/1617, the colonists arrive at Québec and settle there, rejoining Guillaume Couillard [future husband of daughter Marie], already in New France for 4 years.
They had been promised 200 crowns per year [they received only 100], and would be able to select their own spot for a garden, provided that it was close to the habitation. Louis selected ten acres of land on the cliff overlooking the little fort by the water’s edge. Louis constructed a stone house with wood gables. The house remained the only private residence in the colony until 1632. Though Louis would not be allowed to trade in furs, he was free to study herbal medicine.
1621, Louis named Attorney for the King in Québec, the 1st French judicial officer of New France. His signature appears on a petition of August 18, 1621 to King Louis XIII asking for a charter for the City of Quebec.
1622, Louis traveled back to France and returned.
2/4/1623, Louis requested a land grant of the Duke of Ventadour. He said that for the advancement of the country, he had sold all his goods in Paris, having left his friends and parents to start a colony and a Christian people.
1/30/1625 in Quebec, Marie is the godmother to her granddaughter Louise Couillard.
1626, the land grant was confirmed. The duc de Ventadour gave him a fief on the Saint Charles River, 1 league by 4 leagues. This elevated him to a noble rank, a first for Quebec.
1/23/1627, Louis died after falling on an icy path in Haute Ville. Buried 1/25/1627 in Québec. Father Joseph Le Caron was present when Louis died and recorded what the said: “I die content, in as much as it has pleased our Lord to grant me the Grace of seeing converted savages die before me. I crossed the seas to come help them, rather than for any private interest, and I would willingly die for their conversion if such were God’s pleasure … This life is of short duration, and the one to come it for eternity: I am ready to go before my God, who is my judge, to whom I must render an account for all my past life; Pray for me, in order that I may find grace before His Face, and that one day I may be counted in the number of His elect.” The body of Louis was interred in the cemetery of the Recollects at the Convent of St. Charles. Later, his remains were found and were deposited in a cedar coffin; and in 1678, Father Valentine Le Roux Superior of the Recollects, had them transferred to the crypt of their church at Hante Ville in Québec. It burned in 1796 and Louis’ remains were moved to the Basilica-Cathedral of Notre Dame in the ossuary section. Each of his surviving children inherited half of his estate.
Guillaume Couillard decided to take over the role of his father-in-law.
1627, Champlain and a group of Recollect priests asked Marie to help with the baptism of Nancogauchit, s/o an influential Indian leader. Marie took part in the ceremony, serving as the child’s Godmother, then hosted the celebration following the ceremony. A large group of colonists and Indians consumed 56 wild geese, 30 ducks, 20 teals, 2 cranes, and other game; as well as 2 barrels of biscuits, 15 or 20 pounds of prunes, 6 baskets of corn, and more.
Summer/1628, a disagreement between Marie’s baker and a Montagnais Indian visitor over some bread led to the murder of the baker on Marie’s farm.
5/16/1629 in Quebec, Marie “Roolet” married 2nd Guillaume Hubou. Governor Samuel de Champlain attended the ceremony conducted by recollet Joseph Caron.
7/1629, Quebec surrended to the British. Louis Kirke, a Scot who had married in France, was sympathetic to the French after his conquest. Marie Rollet had recently married Guillaume Hubou, and Kirke asked the couple to remain in Canada. He promised that they could raise their own crops and dispose of them as they thought best. They could continue to trade with the Indians, and if they chose to return to France, he would arrange for their beaver skins to be bought for the price of 4 livres each. Considering that Marie had eleven years invested in the farm: and her husband, a daughter, and a grandchild were buried nearby, she chose to remain in Canada. They were the only family that remained.
12/7/1632, by the treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye the French returned to Québec. A mass was performed in Marie’s home celebrating the return of French contol of Quebec. Before leaving Canada, Louis Kirke sold his young Madagascar Negro slave to a Frenchman. The Frenchman give the boy to Marie to help with the farm.
1633, with the French returned, Indian girls were more easily recruited by priests as converts. Marie Rollet volunteered to board and educate some young girls at her home. Sometimes the children had a sponsor, and other times Marie and her husband incurred the cost.
9/1634 in Quebec, Marie and Guillaume legally divided up the property of Louis for his heirs. The document is quite lengthly and ultimately will be contested multiple times in court by grandaughter Francoise Hebert343 and her husband.
4/10/1635 in Quebec, Marie godmother to Marie Martin, d/o Marguerite Langlois2750i.
12/1635, Marie left 2 white “fustian” bodices in the will of Champlain, probably belonging to his estranged wife.
1636, Marie and Guillaume take in Marie Oliver Sylvestre, 10-year-old daughter of Oliver Tardif, an interpreter to the Huron Nation, and his Huron wife; so she could receive a Christian education.
11/3/1636 in Quebec, Marie godmother to her grandson Joseph Hebert686iii.
10/22/1637, Marie and her husband attended the marriage contract of her granddaughter Marguerite Couillard.
1/23/1638, they attended the baptism of their granddaughter Francoise Hebert373; Guillaume “Hebou” the godfather; daughter Guillemette the godmother.
2/22/1638 in Quebec, Marie godmother to Marie Marsolet, d/o Nicolas Marsolet.
1639, Marie transferred responsibility for educating Indian girls to the Ursuline nuns. Marie continued to aid the Ursulines and her family remained involved with the Indian population. Marie served as an educator, advisor, godmother, farmer, diplomat and trader. As a liaison between the French and Indian communities her contribution was immeasurable.
5/27/1649 Marie died; buried in Québec. Both of her husbands were listed in the death record. The priest wrote “veuve du sieur Hebert depuis longtemps” – “widow of Mr. Hebert for a long time”.
1678, Louis’ remains moved to the crypt of the church at Hante Ville in Québec. (S) Family notes.
(S) PRDH. (S) Rene Jette, 561. (S) Marie Rollet: Cultural Mediator, by D. Van Delia. (S) New Findings on Louis Hébert and His Family Before His Departure for New France, by Jurgens, “French Canadian and Acadian Genealogical Review”, V-5, No. 1&2, 1975.
• Marie was widowed in Jan of 1627. Her youngest daughter, Anne, had died in 1620 while giving birth. Marie’s oldest daughter, Guillemette, had married a farmer, Guillaume Couillard, and the couple already had two young children. Marie Rollet was left to work the farm with her young son. The following summer an incident at Marie’s farm strained relations between the French and the Indian population. A disagreement between Marie’s baker and a Montagnais Indian visitor over some bread led to the murder of the baker. In Jan of 1628, the Montagnais attempted to appease the French by giving them three young girls, aged 11, 12, and 15. The historian, H.P Biggar, comments that this was the first time that the Indians had turned over any girls to the French, even though a French surgeon had previously asked for one to educate and marry. The girls appear to have been given unconditionally to the colonists. Religious sanctions prohibited priests from educating young girls, and Champlain personally undertook to look after the girls, giving them the names Faith, Hope and Charity. Champlain hoped to have these three girls educated in France. He reports that he personally instructed the girls in needlework, and taught them “all that they were able to comprehend.” Faith returned to her people, but Hope and Charity remained with Champlain until the surrender of Québec in 1629. The seizure of Québec forced Champlain to leave Canada and return to France. He attempted to take the girls with them, however the English fearing native reprisals refused him permission. Before Champlain sailed for France on 9/14/1629, he gave each of them a rosary. They asked if it would be possible for them to stay with Guillaume Couillard and his family [wife Guillemette, d/o Marie Rollet]. Sieur Couillard replied: “Be assured sir, that as long as they are willing to stay with me, I will take care of them as if they were my own children.” The fate of the two Indian girls left with the Guillaume Couillard family is unknown.
• The PRDH statistics research center in Canada estimates that Louis and Marie had 4,592 married descendents before 1800 in Canada, 10th highest of all of the original settlers.
• Books about the family:
-Bouvet, Maurice. L’Apothicaire Louis Hébert; premier colon français du Canada. 1954.
-Conan, Laure. Louis Hébert : premier colon du Canada. [Quebec : s.n.], 1912.
-Couillard-Després, A. Louis Hébert, premier colon canadien et sa famille. Montréal : Imp. de l’Institution des sourds-muets, 1918.
-Louis Hébert. Toronto: Ryerson Press, 1928.
-Le Clercq, Chrestien. First Establishment of the Faith in New France. Now first translated, with notes, by John Gilmary Shea. New York: J. G. Shea, AMS Press, 1881-1973.
-Ville, Léon et P. Monnin. Marie Rollet : les premiers colons franco-canadiens. Paris : Tolra, 1928.
Children of Louis and Marie:
i. Joseph Guillaume Hebert ( 686), born 1604 in Paris, Seine, France.
ii. Marie Guillemette Hebert, born 1605 in Paris, Seine, France.
8/26/1621, Marie married Guillaume Couillard. [The 1st preserved marriage record of New France.] It was agreed at the time of the marriage that he would have half of the personal property and real estate of her father Louis Hebert.
9/14/1629, they took guardianship of two Native American girls. (S) Family notes.
8/26/1636, Guillemette was the godmother to Charles Amiot.
1/23/1638 in Quebec, Guillemette godmother to her niece Francoise Hebert343.
12/27/1639, Marie and Guillaume attended the wedding of Noel Morin to the widow of Marie’s brother Joseph.
Aft. 1639 when her brother Guillaume died, Guillemette tutored his children.
Guillemette became involved in multiple lawsuits with her neice Francoise’s husband Guillaume Fournier. (S) See No. 342.
8/10/1659 in Quebec, Guillemette, given age 50, and her daughters Marguerite and Marie, confirmed.
3/4/1663, Guillaume died. Sieur Couillard was buried in the chapel of the Hotel-Dieu, in recognition for the gifts made by him to this institution.
1666 Census of Quebec, Guillemette and her son Charles have 4 servants.
1667 Census of Quebec, Guillemette 59, Charles 20, 5 servants.
2/11/1672 in Quebec, Guillemette godmother to an unnamed Couillart child baptized by Helene Desportes687.
7/5/1681, Guillemette had her will made out.
10/7/1683 Guillemette’s will ratified [and modified it on the 12th.]
10/20/1684 in Quebec, Guillemette, given age 78, died. She is also buried in the Chapel of Hotel Dieu.
Marguerite Couillard, born ~1622.
10/22/1637 she married Jean Nicolet, clerk and interpreter of the Company of New France; he was famous for exploring the new territory. The Algonquin Indians called him their name for a “superman”.
1642, Jean drowned, the body was never found.
Louise Couillard, baptized 1/30/1625.
Her godmother was her grandmother Marie “Roolet”.
Louis Couillard, baptized 5/18/1629.
His godmother was Francoise Langlois1375.
Elisabeth Couillard, born ~2/9/1631.
11/27/1645 at Quebec, Elisabeth married Jean Guyon.
Marie Couillard, born 1633.
Guillaume Couillard, baptized 1/16/1635.
His godmother was his aunt Helene Desportes687.
Charles Couillard, born 1647.
iii. Anne Hebert, born after 1606 in Paris, Seine, France.
6/6/1618, Anne, 15 years old, married Etinne Joseph-Marie Jonquest (of Normandy), the 1st French woman to marry in Canada.
1620, Anne died in childbirth. Etinne died shortly afterwards.