A Tribute to Nicholas Marsolet (My 8th great grandfather) The Man in the Muddle
After Jacques Cartier the next major player for exploration of the St. Lawrence River was Samuel de Champlain. The first trading post set up in Quebec was Tadoussac. The explorers had contact with the Montagnais, Alongquin, Micmac and Malecite people. One of the first settlements to be attempted was at Port Royal in Nova Scotia, but later the focus for settlement moved to Quebec. Samuel de Champlain was the man who was instrumental in starting the settlements in Quebec. In 1608 he erected the first building in Quebec City. That was the beginning of the French colonization of New France.
It is believed that Nicolas Marsolet arrived in New France sometime in 1613 on one of Champlain’s visits to New France. Nicolas, my great grandfather, was born in Rouen, Normandy, France as were many of the first French settlers in New France.
He and Etienne Brule accompanied Champlain on one of his voyages as deck hands. They were selected by the King to become interpreters for the Indians and to live among them.
Nicolas was to be interpreter for the Algonquins and Etienne was interpreter for the Hurons.
In those days there was a milieu of several competing factors. There were the French who wanted to colonize New France, and the missionaries who wanted to convert the native population. There were the fur traders who didn’t want colonization to interfere with their business and then there was the English who wanted to take everything the French had. Champlain accused Nicolas of being in cahoots with the English when they came to New France. He was the only one who knew the language of the natives and Nicolas seemed to want to play a go between for them. While most of the French returned to France during this time, Nicolas stayed put with the Montagnais. Champlain wanted to take two Indian girls back to France, but Nicolas frustrated these plans. Champlain was very angry and accused Nicolas of wanting to debauch these girls. It seems to me more likely that Nicolas was trying to protect those girls. After having lived with the Indians for many years, it is more probable that he wanted to protect them.
In 1622, when he reached age of majority, he received the estate of St. Aignan (Gentilly) as a reward for his services. The Compagnie des Cent-Associés (Compagnie de la Nouvelle France) was founded 29 April 1627 by Cardinal Richelieu, chief minister of Louis XIII, to establish the French empire in North America. It was given New France from Florida to the Arctic and from the Atlantic to unknown west. However, the English captured all of France’s land in the Quebec area in 1629. They returned it in 1632. While many French people returned to France at that time, Nicolas stayed in Quebec. He was accused of helping the English, but when the English left he remained in the employ of the Compagnie des Cent-Associes as a clerk. The Compagnie des Cent-Associes folded after the English incident and then handed over their rights to the Communauté des habitants (Compagnie des habitants)in 1645. This community consisted of the colonial merchants who were involved in the Fur Trade. However, the Community was not very successful either and folded in 1663.
In 1636 Champlain died. Here’s what was recorded from that year in Cyprien Tanguay’s Dictionnaire Genealogique des Familles Canadiennes :
December 25: Kebec, death (I)-Samuel Champlain, b-1567, died December 25, 1635,
December 25: Stricken with a paralytic stroke, (I)-Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635), Lieutenant of Fort Kebec, died on Christmas day, one hundred years after the discovery of Hochelaga. He left no known relatives. Some historians believe he suffered from senility, as he dictated a will leaving his possessions to the Virgin Mary. Dates of his death vary from 1635 to 1637. Some believe his grave is in Mountain Hill cemetery which adjoins the Chapel of Notre Dame de la Recouvrance. It is noteworthy that Champlain had crossed the ocean more than 20 times to support his colony in New France.
After Champlain died Nicolas made a move to a permanent home in Quebec City. He married Marie LeBarbier in 1637 and they had their first child in 1638, a daughter. They settled in Bellechasse or Bethiers in Quebec city area. He was given many other tracts of land, mostly on the eastern side of the St. Laurence River, but he never farmed or developed any of it. He was a trader and a ship’s master. Farming was not his thing. He had ten children with Marie who was about half his age. His second daughter, Louise, is my 7th great grandmother. When he started his family he seemed to change his mind about the settlements. I guess he figured if you can’t beat join them. Apparently he operated a store as his source of income.
Nicolas passed away in 1677 and was one of the last witnesses of the early years of Quebec. He had gone from living in France, to living with the Native population in New France, to living among the French population in Quebec city.
Some notations for Nicolas Marsolet from Cyprien Tanguay’s Dictionnaire Genealogique des Familles Canadiennes include:
(I)-Nicolas Marsolet de Saint-Aignan (1587-1677) arrived Kebec having spent (1608-1677) as chief interpreter at Tadoussac, (Quebec). He would spend 1635 to 1677 in Kebec and 2nd married 1636 Marie Lebarbier, b-1620, epouse May 8, 1681, Quebec Denis Lemagire. No mention is made of his first wife in Tadoussac or his Metis children. He did however frequently visit them looking after their welfare.
- (I)-Nicolas Marsolet (Marsollet) De St. Agnan (1587-1677) aka “The Little King of Tadoussac” has been in Canada since 1608 spending most of his time at Tadoussac married for the fourth time to Marie La Barbide, b-1619 epouse May 8, 1681, Kebec, Denis Lemaitre. His first three wives were at Tadoussac and likely relocated to Kebec. Marsolet was not subordinate to Champlain and it is presumed he still reported directly to France.
- (I)-Nicolas Marsole(Marsollet) (1587-1677) the Little King of Tadoussac (1608-1635) upon hearing of the death of (I)-Samuel de Champlain (1567-1635) departed Tadoussac for Quebec where he spent his remaining years. Some suggest he arrived Kebec 1635. This year he married 4th (I)-Marie Le Bardier (1620-1688), likely a savage or Metis. He had three savage girls previously by country style. He was a 50 year old man who married a 16 year old girl and they had 10 children. After his death Marie married 1680 Quebec, Denis Gabriel. It is noteworthy that there is no mention of his Montagnais Metis children fathered over the 27 years that he lived among them. He did however visit Tadoussac frequently over his life time. He went over to the English during the occupation.
- Kebec or Tadoussac, birth (II)-Marie Marsolet, Metis daughter (I)-Nicolas Marsolet (Marsollet) De St. Agnan (1587-1677) and Marie La Barbide, savage or Metis, (1620-1688) epouse May 8, 1681, Quebec, Denis Lemaitre: married April 30, 1652 Mathieu D’Amours. This is likely the daughter of one of his 1st three wives?
- February 22: Kebec, birth (II)-Marie Marsolet, Metis daughter (I)-Nicolas Marsolet (Marsollet) De St. Agnan (1587-1677) and Marie La Barbide, savage or Metis, (1620-1688), epouse May 8, 1681, Quebec, Denis Lemaitre:
- May 17: Kebec, birth (II)-Louise Marsolet, Metis, died April 19, 1712, Kebec, daughter (I)-Nicolas Marsolet De St. Agnan (1587-1677) and Marie La Barbide, savage or Metis, (1620-1688) epouse May 8, 1681, Quebec, Denis Lemaitre: married October 20, 1653, Kebec, Jean Lemire
- May 31: Kebec, birth (II)-Joseph Marsolet, Metis, son (I)-Nicolas Marsolet De St. Agnan (1587-1677) and Marie La Barbide, savage or Metis, epouse May 8, 1681, Quebec, Denis Lemaitre
- August 10: Kebec, birth (II)-Genevieve Marsolet, Metis, daughter (I)-Nicolas Marsolet De St. Agnan (1601-1677) and Marie La Barbide, savage or Metis (1620-1688), epouse May 8, 1681, Quebec, Denis Lemaitre: married September 4, 1662, Quebec, Michel Guyon