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Etienne Denevers - Sieur de Brantigny


Ancestor on the Pitt line.





• Origin

• Champagne

• Departure for a new life

• First appearance

• Settling in Sillery

• Life in New France





Etienne De Nevers sieur de Brantigny came to New France from Espinay in the province of Champagne. We learn this from the register of his marriage on October 28, 1652, performed by the Jesuit priest Pierre Bailloquet, in a church in Sillery. He presumably left his home in Champagne around 1649.


The political, economic and social climate at that time in France were probably responsible for his departure to New France. To understand the situation, we should look at events in the history of Champagne before his departure.





It is interesting to note that, among Champagne natives who left for New France in the mid-17th century were Jeanne Mance and Marguerite Bourgeois. In Champagne this was a time of religious wars and famine.


Protestantism had been gaining adherents, particularly among the townspeople. The religious wars were touched off on March 1, 1652 by the Massacre of Wassy, following a skirmish between Huguenots and troops of the Duke of Gise; the wars lasted for thirty years.


The 17th century saw a severe climatic change sometimes referred to as a “minor ice age”. Winters were longer and colder, spring planting was late, harvests were meager. The economy suffered. Then came rainy summers from 1648 to 1651, and the crops were lost. By 1650, bands of outlaws were roaming the countryside in order to survive, while a large part of the population died from dysentery.


In the northern part of Champagne “... villages are empty and cannibalism is reported. People are eating straw and dead horses...”





The prevalence of poverty and misery and the threat of war in Champagne undoubtedly convinced Etienne to seize the opportunity to cross the ocean in search of a better future. He was probably about 22 years old when he embarked on this adventure, and presumably arrived in Quebec in the summer of 1649.


Quebecers doing research in France have been unable to find any contract for Etienne’s departure. It is assumed that he landed in 1649: here is what Marcel Trudel tells us about the ships which landed in that year.


The fleet of six ships, commanded by Jean-Paul Godefroy, as admiral came in sight of Quebec on August 23; it included the Cardinal, 300 tons, the Bon-Francois, 90 tons, the St-Sauveur ou Neuf, 150 tons (Captain: Jammes: petty officer: J.Descombes), the Notre-Dame, 250 tons and two other ships: l’Anglois and an unidentified ship commanded by Captain Jean Poulet; also with the fleet was Captain Faloup. Among the 200 arrivals, 100 were identified as immigrants, of whom five were destined for Montreal. (Ref: Marcel Trudel, Catalogue des immigrants 1632-1662, Montreal, 1983, Cahiers du Quebec, Coll. Histoire, Hurtubise HMH, p. 207).





The first record of Etienne De Nevers’ presence in New France is in Trois-Rivieres (an outpost upriver from Quebec City, about half-way to Montreal), on January 15, 1650. On this occasion he was godfather to an Amerindian child named: Etienne, son of Kaouboukouchich (the father) and Kouekassouekoue (the mother). The baptism was performed by the Jesuit priest Pierre Bailloquet. What was Etienne doing in Trois-Rivieres? Was he in the service of the Jesuits? Was he part of the team of the Sieur Le Neuf du Herisson who needed a great deal of manpower to cultivate the land in the Trois-Rivieres area? Both these hypotheses are plausible, but there is no documentation to prove either.


We know however that he spent some time in Trois-Rivieres before settling down in Sillery, just west of Quebec City, where other immigrants had already settled, including Nicolas Pinel, Nicolas Goupil, Thomas Hayot, Jean Jobain, Gilles Esnard, Jean Routhier, Mathurin Trut, etc.





In Sillery Etienne met Anne Hayot, the daughter of Thomas Hayot and Jeanne Boucher. Thomas was one of the first colonists of New France.  The registers mention his name for the first time on October 30, 1638.


His daughter Anne was born on July 26, 1640. The parish register of Notre-Dame Church in Quebec City reads:


‘On July 26, 1640, was baptized in the Kebec chapel by Ambroise...

Jesuit, Anne, daughter of Thomas Hayot and Jeanne Boucher.’


In 1646 the Hayot family received a grant of land in Sillery from Governor Huault de Montmagny. On October 1st, 1652, Etienne De Nevers and Anne Hayot met with notary Rolland Godet to sign their marriage contract. Unfortunately this document has not survived, but we know of its existence since it appears in a list of papers and legal documents inventoried by notary Duquet on April 12, 1679, after the death of Etienne De Nevers.


However, the record of their marriage in Sillery on the 25th of that month, by Father Pierre Bailloquet, is on register.




The 28th oct 1652, after publication of two banns of marriage the 29th of sept and the 8th of oct and dispensation obtained from the third, finding no impediment, Father R.P.Pierre Bailloguet, authorized to do so, questioned Estienne Tenevers, son of Estienne Tennevere and of Agnes Luosbisec, his father and mother, of the parish of Espinay in Champagne; And Anne Hayaut, daughter of Thomas Hayot and of Jeanne Boucher, her father and mother, living in this country; having given their mutual consent verbally, he married them solemnly in the Church of Sillery, in the presence of known witnesses. Rene Mesere a.k.a.  Nopce, Jacques Archambault, Charles Gautier.


To encourage settlement on the Côte Saint-Francois-Xavier, a hill in Sillery overlooking the St. Lawrence river, where Iroquois raids were a constant threat, the Jesuits divided 45 arpents of land they administered for the Christian Indians of Sillery into 18 farms of approximately 2 ½ arpents, each large enough to accommodate barns and stables. Here Etienne De Nevers and Thomas Hayot established neighbouring homesteads in 1653, counting on the mutual support of their neighbours to protect them from Iroquois attacks.




We first learn something of Etienne’s financial affairs in a 1654 document drawn up by notary Guillaume Adouart. On May 14th of that year Etienne signed a contract of association with Thomas Hayot and Jacques Leber a.k.a. Larose, for an expedition that he and Thomas planned to make to Acadia and other areas that year. The contract stipulated that Leber would share in the profits and benefits of the undertaking, based on the state of the merchandise delivered, and that any losses would be prorated.


This document was drawn up in Thomas Hayot’s home in the presence of Etienne, Jacques, Doctor Claude Bouchard a.k.a. Dorval, and Julien Quentin. The planned trip was probably a hunting and fishing expedition, since beaver was very much in demand at the time, as well as eel, porpoise and cod. However, we cannot be certain that the expedition actually took place.


On August 25th of that year the De Nevers’ first child arrived; a boy whom they christened Guillaume. On September 20th, Etienne bought a parcel of land from Julien Quentin, two arpents wide along the river front, 20 arpents deep. The sale price included all crops already planted, as well as chopped and split wood, planks and weirs. At the same time, Etienne acquired the right to accommodation in the fort which had been built between Cap-Rouge and Sillery. The sale price was 250 Tours pounds; Etienne paid it with 150 pounds worth of beaver skins and 100 pounds he was owed by Mathieu Hubert a.k.a. Des Longchamps. This would seem to indicate that Etienne actually made the planned expedition since he had on hand a large number of beaver skins to help pay for the land.


On December 17th, 1656, a second son was born: Daniel Jean. Two years later a daughter, Elisabeth-Ursule, arrived, and, around 1660, another son, named Etienne. On October 10th of that year, the Jesuits offered Etienne and Anne a concession three arpents wide, bounded by a hill overlooking the St. Lawrence river. They acquired fishing and hunting rights in front of the concession. The yearly rent was 20 sols for each arpent of frontage, plus a tax of 2 deniers, payable on the 27th of December each year to the Sillery Indians whose land it bordered.  They were committed to build a house and occupy it within a year, and to cultivate the land. The Indians were permitted to chop and remove kindling wood without hindrance. The De Nevers were obliged to have their grain ground at the Indians’ mill nearby.


On November 15th, 1662, surveyor Jean Guyon drew up an official report of this concession, which included a small house and barn. In 1667 Etienne sold the land he had bought from Julien Quentin to Jean Routhier. In addition to the rent and tax to be paid to the Indians, Routhier was to give them two live capons or two hens.


Why did Etienne sell this land? Perhaps the concession obtained from the Jesuits keep him too busy, or as a good businessman, he saw a chance to make a large profit; he asked 700 pounds for the property for which he had paid 250. Routhier agreed to pay 150 pounds on All Saints Day (November 1st), 1667, the same amount a year later, 200 pounds on January 1st, 1669, and 200 on All Saints Day, 1670.


On December 26th, 1667, Etienne’s last child was born, Simon-Jean. The next recorded transaction, January 29th, 1669, is a debt to Charles Aubert de la Chenaye, a Quebec merchant, to whom Etienne owed 116 pounds, one sol, for the “balance of sale and delivery of merchandise”. To pay it off, he authorized the Sieur De La Chenaye to deduct it from the 200 pounds Routhier still owed him. At the same time, Etienne asked to be reimbursed 45 pounds for 15 cords of wood he had delivered to Sieur Toupin, as instructed.


The following year, on the 1st of June, Jean Grignon demanded payment of 80 pounds for merchandise delivered. Etienne authorized it to be deducted from the amount Routhier owed him.


On October 8, 1671, Etienne bought a parcel of land from the Seigneur of Lauzon, Mr De La Martiniere, located in St-Nicholas (on the south shore of the St.Lawrence, slightly west of Sillery), near “where he had harvested that year”; it measured 4 arpents along the waterfront, where the first church was to be built. As well, Mr. De La Martiniere sold Guillaume and Daniel De Nevers a parcel of land 4 arpents wide by 40 deep. As in all such transactions, the conditions were that the land must be cleared and cultivated; their grain must be ground at the new windmill or water-mill to be built shortly.


On June 4th, 1674, Etienne and Daniel De Nevers made their final payment to the Seigneur de Lauzon for the land they had purchased from him in 1671. On October 21st of that year, Adrien Hayot sold his brother-in-law, Etienne De Nevers, a ¾ arpent lot fronting on the river, for 80 Tours pounds. Bartering as he had done in the past, Etienne paid in part with a cow valued at 45 pounds, which Adrien would have to fetch from Etienne’s Cap-Rouge property. For the remaining 35 pounds, Etienne gave him two barrels of pickled eel.


It is evident that Etienne’s farming and fishing activities were profitable. Eeling on the river was a flourishing industry.


“ Much better tasting than in France”, they “keep very well pickled”.  “A splendid food, naturally tasty, can be eaten roasted over the fire, even without butter or sauce; when boiled, the water makes a good soup stock”.


Eels were a desirable food; the Jesuit Relations refer to them as the manna of the people. Obviously eels were abundant in the St.Lawrence at this time.


In a single night, one or two men can catch between 5000 and 6000; this will last two full months.


5000 eels would fill ten barrels, each with a capacity of 25 pounds. 

The profit for a single night would be 250 pounds.


On October 8th, 1675, Etienne signed a lease with Denys Jean for the farming of his property on St. Francois-Xavier hill; the lease shows that the land measured 3 arpents by 40, with a house on the property.  Half was farmland, half woodland. His neighbours were Squire Denys Joseph Ruette, Sieur of Auteuil, and the attorney-general of the Royal Council, Mousseau. The property ran from the St. Lawrence river to the Saint-Ignace road. Under the terms of the lease, Denys Jean was to supply 30 measures of wheat and 1000 fresh and pickled eels to Etienne De Nevers for a period of six years. Etienne undertook to build a barn on the property, to protect the wheat and hay, and reserved the right to build a cabin on the shore for his personal activities (probably fishing).


The following year, Etienne signed a lease with the Ursuline Nuns, giving him fishing and farming rights on the Platon de Sainte-Croix, just west of the present town of Lotbiniere. Etienne was to pay 60 pounds annually, for a period of five years beginning July 16th. On August 6th of that year, he sold a three-quarter arpent lot, running from the river to the road known as the “Grande-Allee”. There was no building on the property; the sale price was 200 pounds. If this was the same property that he had bought fron Adrien Hayot two years earlier, he made a profit of 120 pounds on the transaction.



The following year, Etienne was called upon to act as tutor of the two minor children of Marin Pain and Olive Morin, whose farm was on the border of Sillery, in the neighbouring seigneurie of Gaudarville. The couple had been married on August 2nd, 1643, in Berthault, Thury-Harcourt, in the district of Caen, in the archdiocese of Bayeux, in Normandie. They came to New France with two children: Jean, born in 1645, and Jacqueline, born in 1648. After their arrival, another son, Jean-Baptiste, was born in 1662; Francois arrived the following year.


Marin Pain was a butcher as well as a farmer. His daughter Jacqueline married Jean Larue in 1663, and his son Jean married Anne Masse on December 29, 1670, in Sillery. Marin Pain died in 1671, sometime before December 16th; Etienne De Nevers was named executor and tutor of the minor children, Jean-Baptiste and Francois.


We may wonder why Etienne De Nevers was chosen for this responsible role in the Marin family. His education was probably an important factor; he was literate, and used the “flourish” with his signature that educated men of note did in those days. From his financial transactions, he was apparently a shrewd businessman. Marin Pain’s farm was not far away from the one owned by Etienne from 1654 to 1667, so the two men had undoubtedly become good friends.


Sometime between July 1673 and March 1674, the oldest son, Jean, died.  When Marin Pain’s widow, Olive, died in 1677, Jean’s share of the Pain estate was claimed for his widow Anne Masse by her father, Pierre Masse. This amounted to 300 pounds, which Etienne agreed to pay out of the estate in three equal payments, on Christmas of that year, the same date the following year, with the final payment in 1679.


On June 27th, 1678, while residing in the seigneurie of Lauzon, Etienne acting as tutor, sold a two-arpent property belonging to Jean-Baptiste Pain, to Michel Desorcis. This contract was the last document signed by Etienne. The exact date of his death is not known, but it was obviously between June 27th and December 7th, because on that date the “widow” Anne Hayot appeared before notary Gilles Rageot to finalize a marriage contract with Leonard DeBord Sieur De La Jeunesse.


Many prominent people from the area were present:

Squire Louis Theande Chartier, Sieur de Lotbiniere, King’s Counselor and Lieutenant General of the aforementioned precinct, his wife Elisabeth Damours, their son Squire Rene Louis Chartier, Sieur de Lotbiniere, King’s Counselor and Criminal Lieutenant General of the precinct, his son and his wife Marie-Madeleine Lambert, Dame Marie-Francoise Chartier, widow of Squire Pierre de Joubert, Seigneur of Marcon and Soulange, in his lifetime Lieutenant and Major of Lacadie, and Sieur Guillaume Dennever, son of the widow, and Sieurs Denis Guion, Thomas Lefebvre, Lucien Boutteville, Sieur of Trois-Rivieres, and bourgeois Maximilien of Chefdeville, and Florence Gareman, widow of Francois Boucher.


Thus it was before the local gentry of the day that widow Anne Hayot and the Sieur de Lajeunesse finalized their marriage arrangements.  Leonard was the son of Antoine Debord and of Catherine Nicar of St-Jean d’Argenson-sur-Creuse, in the district of Châteauroux, in the archdiocese of Bourges, in the province of Berry. He had come to New France in 1665 as a soldier in the Monteil company of the Carignan Regiment. This regiment, with a complement of more than 1000 men, had been sent by King Louis XIV to help the local militia protect the colonists from the constant Iroquois attacks.


When Leonard DeBord became a member of the De Nevers family, Guillaume and his sister were no longer at home; Guillaume had married Louise Vitard in 1671, and Elisabeth-Ursule had married Jacques Gauthier the following year.


On April 12th, 1679, Leonard, identifying himself as a resident of the Seigneurie of Lauzon, requested an inventory of Etienne DeNevers’ estate. This inventory tells us of the quality of his life, examining his fixed and movable assets, and his past and current debts. This inventory is the last record of ancestor Etienne De Nevers Sieur de Brantigny.


His sons Guillaume (a notary) and Simon-Jean (a surgeon) carried on the name Brentigny; Daniel and Etienne used the family name De Nevers.  Most of the younger Etienne’s sons were also known by the name Boisvert. (The oldest son, Joseph, was confused with another Joseph Boisvert, the son of Jean Joubin of Grondines, by Monseigneur Simeon Tanguay when he was preparing his dictionary of Quebec families).  Gradually the family name DeNevers was replaced by Boisvert (or Boisverd).


We know little of Anne’s second marriage. She died on November 27th, 1694, at the Hôtel-Dieu hospital in Quebec City. After her death, her children felt that their step-father was claiming more than his share of the DeNevers estate. They took him to court, and the Supreme Council of New France ordered an inventory of the assets of the estate. The Council ruled for a fair division between the heirs and Leonard, taking into account the debts of the estate.


On September 19th, 1697, Leonard de Bord married Francoise Millot, widow of Rene Mezeray. Once again, all the important people of Lotbiniere were present for the signing of the marriage contract, before notary Guillaume Roger. This contract is interesting because Francoise Millot willed her estate to the Ursuline Nuns of Quebec to pay off the debts of the Hôtel-Dieu. The marriage took place on September 30th in Notre-Dame-de-Quebec Church.