Iroquois

Good relations between Rigaud and her employers eventually disintegrated. One disagreement ended up with Judith smashing some of their furniture.

As early as June, 1654, Mrs. Leneuf LeGardeur and the Lemaistre/Rigaud household were pitted against one another in a rudimentary court of law, arguing about Judith's alleged refusal to complete her five-year personal services contract signed in La Rochelle only three years earlier.

But, then, French society was very litigious. In New France, from 1663 to 1760, judicial power had been given to a group of nine to twelve men appointed directly by the King of France, called the Conseil Souverain (Sovereign Council) or Conseil Superieure.

old Quebec furnitureFrançois Lemaistre seemed to be especially litigious, a rabble-rouser. He appears in the judicial records of New France, as either defendant or petitioner, over 20 times between 1654 and 1666, in cases such as libel, assault or gaming.

Such legal petitions were not handled as criminal cases but, rather, by civil courts with the alleged victim suing the alleged perpetrator.

In  her case against her original employers, Judith was condemned to reimburse the LeGardeurs 102 pounds and they were ordered to return clothes confiscated from Judith.

Rigaud, it would appear, was not a quiet, timid French wife. Like most filles du roy in the colony, she was forced to adapt to conditions, for which anything less than courage and hard work would not have sufficed.

The women of the colony were, on average, more literate than the men and they ran or helped run the small businesses that imported or exported clothes, furs, brandy or utensils.20 Both sexes shared traditional male chores such as clearing land and both knew how to wield a musket. Few women had a change of clothes, except Judith.

François Lemaistre listened to the advice of his friend Médard des Groseilliers (1618-1696) and began to trade in furs. The commercial value of furs and hides was greatly enhanced by a local decree issued in 1670 that allowed colonists to pay their debts with beaver or moose hides.21

It is said that, by 1665, Judith Rigaud was the real, behind-the-scenes manager of the new fur trading business of her husband.22 The extra income allowed Lemaistre and Rigaud to buy furniture and clothes for the growing Lemaistre-Rigaud family. The couple had eight children. All except Charles were born near Trois-Rivieres.

portage with IndiansThe oldest was Pierre Lemaistre (1655-1711), baptized in Trois-Rivieres on February 2, 1655. Then, François Lemaitre dit Lamorille (1656-1703).23

Marie-Louise Lemaistre, the oldest of two daughters, was born on July 27, 1657.

Two other children, Noël Lemaistre, born in 1658, and Marguerite, born in 1660, died while still infants.

A third son, Jean Lemaitre dit deLongé (1661-1710) was born on October 24 and Marguerite was born on January 23,1664.

On October 23, 1655, François le Maistre acquired a house and land on Saint-Pierre Street in Trois-Rivieres.

Two years later, he and his wife purchased another 2x25 acre piece of land for 150 pounds.

In 1660, they rented additional land on the Saint-Maurice River and in November, 1660, François paid 200 pounds for an estate known as La Marguerite.

The family business was doing well and François was becoming a local community leader. In 1661, he was one of a group of four Trois-Rivieres men who, by special license from the church, opened a tavern. According to the terms of the loan contract, they received a loan for 1,473 pounds and were to return the money on demand at 18% interest.

During the summer of 1665, Judith Rigaud returned to La Rochelle, France. Most historians suggest that she left to establish commercial relationships with suppliers and wholesale merchants.24 One25 speculated that Judith left her husband in 1665:

"... ostensibly to visit relatives and settle an inheritance (because François) Lemaistre continued to gamble, running up debts and ruining his health by drink."

She did not know it upon departure, but she was pregnant.

She would also never see her husband again.

One cold January day in 1666, while his wife was still in France, François was found lying in a field, unconscious, with a severe head wound, the type of wounds left only by an Indian scalping of which the French were becoming increasingly familiar. He was alive but incoherent and died son thereafter.

It was the opinion of most that the 35-year old Lemaistre was felled by an axe or knife wound to the head and that an Indian was likely responsible. One who had crept up on him while he was tending his fields.

He was buried in Trois-Rivieres on January 14, 1666. The burial records say:

"... he was slaughtered most miserably. He perished without regaining his speech."

In the absence of Judith, François' brother Antoine Lemaitre dit la Morille (who was also living in Trois-Rivieres at the time of François' death), took temporary custody of the children.26

Indian scalpingThis was a period of continued and intense warfare between the French settlers and the Iroquois. The French settlers were still outnumbered.

The first census conducted in New France in 1666 showed that there were only 3,215 French inhabitants.27

The Iroquois would frequently stalk French men or women in fields or in the surrounding woodlands, and savagely kill them, often by a tomahawk blow to the head followed by scalping (pictured). Relations were never as tense as in the period that François died.

In 1660, only six years before François' death, a band of 17 French soldiers under Dollard des Ormeaux were massacred at Long Sault. The following brief excerpt from the diary of a Jesuit priest, written in 1652, provide a glimpse of the daily fear of Iroquois attack:

"May 26: A troop of 50 Iroquois killed the cowherd at Montreal, named Antoine Rob, near the hill St. Louis.

"July 29: Two Iroquois, having slipped in under the cover of the corn, attacked Martine, the wife of Antoine Primot who, by defending herself courageously, gave the soldiers of the fort time to come to her aid and put the enemy to flight. She received six shots, none of which are mortal."

Jacques Le Maistre, of whom blood relation with François has never been definitively established, arrived in New France (Quebec) in 1659. In August 1661, he wandered off in a field to tend to his daily prayers, and was shot by Iroquois and then beheaded. The Iroquois wrapped his head in a white handkerchief taken from his pocket.

The rest of the story is an Iroquois legend. The face of Aaouandio (as they referred to Jacques Le Maistre) apparently made a permanent impression onto the handkerchief such that looking at it, one could a perfect image of his face, a death-mask of sorts.28

In 1665, King Louis IV of France ordered the extermination of the Iroquois and in October, 1666, Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy descended upon four Iroquois villages on the south shore of Lake Champlain, with an army of 1,800 men to flush the Indians from the forest and to engage them in direct battle.

The Iroquois chose flight and de Tracy's men burned their cornfields.]

In La Rochelle, France, Judith Rigaud remained unaware of her husband's death.La Rochelle On April 15, 1666, she Rigaud gave birth to Charles Lemaistre (later, Lemaitre-Auger) in La Rochelle, France (pictured, right).

They returned to New France later in 1666 and learned the news of François' death upon their debarkation at la ville de Quebec. Judith and her new child immediately returned to Trois-Rivières. Months had passed since François' death and the family business was in disarray. François' debts had accumulated and the estate owed more money than it possessed in assets.

FURTHER READING: