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René Messier

His origins


Rene Messier has left his mark without being part of history. He was associated with the trappers as decried by civil and religious authorities. They multiplied orders to compel our ancestors to remain on their land. They neglected the land for the fur trade that was much more lucrative. We found some runners wood guilty of disorders involved in selling water spirits to the Indians.


Priests could well denounce from the pulpit stating that their moral was not always exemplary; nothing prevented our ancestors to cross rivers in search of freedom and trade with the sons of nature.


René was born on April 20, 1681, in Cap-St-Michel in Varennes. He was the twelfth and last child of Michel Messier and Anne LeMoyne. The next day, he was baptized and recorded in Boucherville. Young child, René sees his father going to war against the Iroquois. As captain of the militia, his father was often absent several days or longer for war. While he was four years old, he saw his father leaving his family for Ottawa in order to trade with the Indians. Three years later, his father leaves again, always for the same reason with the consent of the civil authority. Eleven years old, René learns that his father is a prisoner of the Iroquois. Having just returned home, his father leaves to trade with the Michilimackinac. All absences of his father must have marked him and predispose him to the life he led later.


On August 9, 1697, at the age of sixteen, René appears in history. At Varennes, he is godfather to Marie-Anne Hebert, daughter of Ignace and Jeanne Messier, his sister. René appears in parish registers for more than forty times. However, it is unclear whether the René mentioned in the registers, is the father or the son. He is sometimes godfather or present at a wedding or a burial.


His family


On January 18, 1706 in Varennes, at the age of twenty-four, René married Catherine Bissonnet, daughter of Jacques and Marguerite Colet. The marriage ended with the death of Catherine, which occurred on January 17, 1715 The burial of his wife takes place the next day at Varennes.


Three and half years later, René finds himself before the altar. At Batiscan, on August 25, 1718, he married Mary Madeleine Cinq-Mars/Guillet, daughter of Louis and Marie Trottier. In Varennes, René will be father sixteen times. Seven of his children, a son and six daughters reach adulthood and take husband and wife. Catherine Bissonnet will be the mother of seven children. Marie Madeleine Guillet will be mother eight times. Who is the sixteenth? This child is Marie Madeleine Louise, daughter of Mary, his servant and slave. This woman was Indian from the Panis nation.


Children of René Messier and Catherine Bissonnet:


  1. René born August on 23, 1706 and died January 21, 1707 in Varennes;

  2. Catherine born on August 5, 1707, married Joseph Lefebvre, son of Jacques and Mary Beaudry, on July 23, 1731 in Varennes. She died on March 30, 1754 in Baie-du-Febvre;

  3. Marie-Anne born on January 2 1709, she married Louis Chevrefils, son of Louis and Genevieve Pailler, on January 7, 1733 in Varennes;

  4. Elizabeth born on March 7, 1710 died on June 8, 1710 in Varennes;

  5. René born on June 4, 1711, married Suzanne Belisle/Lefebvre, daughter of Ignace and Marie Trottier, on November 8, 1734 in Trois-Rivières. After the death of his wife, on May 13, 1749 in Varennes, he married Angelique Lepailleur, daughter of Michel and Catherine Jeremie, on July 28, 1749 at Notre-Dame of Montreal. René died on December 5, 1793 in St-Hyacinthe;

  6. Jean-Baptiste born on November 1st, 1712 and died on March 9, 1718 in Varennes;

  7. Agathe born February 11, 1714, she married Jacques Charbonneau, son of John and Catherine Chaudillon, on January 7, 1737 in Varennes. She died on February 4, 1761 in Varennes.


Children of René Messier and Marie-Madeleine Cinq-Mars/Guillet:


  1. Marie-Agnes born on August 5, 1720, she married Louis Gauthier, son of Jacques and Francoise Lambert, on May 7, 1742 in Varennes. On January 24, 1780 in St-Denis-sur-Richelieu, she married Jacques Deslandes/Champigny, son of Jean-Baptiste and Marie-Geneviève Hugging. Marie-Agnes died on October 24, 1785 in St-Denis-sur-Richelieu and was buried on the 26th at St-   Antoine-sur-Richelieu.

  2. Joseph born on November 27, 1721 and died on December 1st, 1721 in Varennes;

  3. Joseph born on October 15, 1722 and died on July 22, 1723 in Varennes;

  4. Marie-Madeleine born on January 2, 1724, she married Edouard Lalonde, son of Guillaume and Madeleine Edeline, on April 17, 1744 in Ste-Anne-du-bout-de-l'Isle where she died on February 20, 1750;

  5. Basile born on June 17, 1725;

  6. Marie-Josephe born August 26, 1726, she married François Beauregard, son of Vincent and Catherine Pinard, on January 21, 1754 in St-Denis-sur-Richelieu. Marie-Josephe died on February 8, 1815 in La Presentation;

  7. Augustin born on November 27, 1728;

  8. Marie-Therese born on February 25, 1731.


His slaves


In his dictionary of slaves in New France, the historian Marcel Trudel has documented a total of 4,092 slaves whose 2692 Indians and 1400 black people. In their war against each other, Indians were prisoners. The Panis Indians captured were taken to Michilimackinac and then sold to the French. They had the reputation of being quite docile if they were treated well. The territory of Panis was located southwest of Lake Michigan in the state of Nebraska.


As mentioned above, in 1707, René had bought at Michilimackinac, Mary, young Panisse aged about fourteen. She had a child with René that she wa pregnant in the same time of the third child of Catherine Bissonnet. The two women gave birth almost simultaneously. Mary gave birth to a girl on December 28, 1708 and Catherine Bissonnet had her child five days later, on January 2, 1709. Children of Mary did not live long. She died on October 2, 1712. Her burial took place on the next 4 in Varennes. The records state that Mary died on February 10, 1762, aged about sixty years. Age mentioned in the register is wrong. She would have had her child at six years. If she fourteen in 1707, Marie was rather about seventy-nine years.


The second slave of René was also a young Panis. He was purchased in late August 1717 at Michilimackinac. René was not lucky with him. Eight months later, the boy, aged about twelve years, fell dangerously ill. After some instructions on religion, he is waved by Mr. St-Claude, pastor of Varennes. René then transports the young Indian in his canoe. He went to see the surgeon Henry Bélisle at Pointe-aux-Trembles. Unfortunately, he can not save the boy. At ten o'clock in the evening, on April 26, 1718, the boy expires very peacefully. He is buried in the cemetery of the Pointe-aux-Trembles.


Finally, the third slave is also a Panis, seven years old, purchased in 1737. On March 15, 1738, he was baptized at Varennes. As an adult, he took the name of Jean-Baptiste Duchesne. On June 15, 1748, at the age of about eighteen years, Jean-Baptiste Duchesne buys from Pierre Viau, a land in Soulange. It is said that Rene Messier is his master. What became of Jean-Baptiste Duchesne? I found nothing on him. Future research a little further could give some information. On August 14, 1750 he is buried in Ste-Anne-du-Bout-de-Ile, a little girl named Marie-Thérèse Duchesne, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Duchesne. Mother Marie-Therese is unknown to me. As baptism is not mentioned in the records, it is possible that she is an Indian. A French would have his child baptized at birth.


Rene was not the only Varennois to possess a slave. The dictionary slaves mentioned that there were forty-six Indians and four blacks in Varennes. We find them and their children throughout the eighteenth century. Little were children of slaves. Among the four blacks in Varennes, there was a woman, Sarah.


Finally, the last note on them: in 1721 a great fire destroyed fifty houses in Montreal. It was lit by a black slave, Marie-Josephte Angélique, who wanted to avenge her master. I do not think the the fire has destroyed the buildings of Michel Messier. Assuming that the wind was blowing from west to east, the property of Michel is located in the west and outside of the enclosure, was probably spared.


The trouble of René with Justice


With the adventurous life of René, one should not be surprised about his problems with the law. At thirty-seven, René has to face for the first time. In early summer 1718, they whisper that fourteen people, including Rene Messier, violated a 1716 order which forbids to go to New England without permission. Rumor reaches the ears of the authorities and react quickly.


On July 23 of the same year, an order to appear is given to a few people who have made these claims. Witnesses are people of Laprairie, St-Lambert, Varennes, Montreal and Ile Ste-Thérèse facing Varennes. A witness, Jean Lemire from Island Ste-Therese, appearing on August 8. He says that he has heard the rumor, but has no evidence that the defendants have violated the law. In his testimony, Jean Lemire says Rene Messier is often away from home.


Witness testimony is unanimous; they all heard the rumor, but have no evidence that the defendants have gone to New England. With these assertions, the judge Pierre Raimbault decides, on August 16, to summon the accused. Three days later, on August 19, other witnesses go before the judge. Jean Larocque from Varennes says that Rene Messier went to Quebec last spring, during the period when he is accused of going to New England. Another witness, Augustin Gauthier, also from Varennes, says that Rene Messier went to Quebec to make arrangements with the priests to travel to Mississippi. He also states that René has an employee: Jean-Baptiste Dessureaux.


On August 23, a named Delafosse, usher, delivers in Cap-St-Michel subpoenas; René is absent. It is awarded to Jean-Baptiste Dessureaux. René has to appear the following Saturday. On August 27, the day of its appearance, René did not show up. On September 2, Rene is located in front of the judge. He claims to be back from Batiscan for two days (just married). In his testimony, René says that the period when he was accused of going to New England, he was in Batiscan at the home of Mr. Guillet to woo his daughter. On days when he traveled, he said he stopped at Trois-Rivières, at Mr. Laroche. Other days, he slept on the banks of the water. He claims that his trip lasted a month, from late April to late May.


In addition to René, four other defendants testified that September 2. One of them, Guillaume Barrette said that every time someone left his home, rumor run he is in the English colonies. In the weeks that followed, the trial continues. Other defendants appear. On November 7, following depositions, five defendants were sentenced to a fine. Judge Pierre Raimbault wants more information about Rene Messier and some other defendants. He wants to call some witnesses, including Mr. Guillet from Batiscan and Mr. Laroche from Trois-Rivières regarding the son of our ancestor.


During the month of January 1719, appearing several witnesses requested by the judge. However, the trial record is silent on the testimony of several Guillet and Laroche. Have these men appeared? If so, their testimony disappeared from the record. The last minutes dated March 19, 1719. They are silent on the judge's verdict.


In conclusion, it is possible that René was acquitted. If we follow him in this year 1718, he was in Varennes on March 15, as a sponsor of Renée Dessureaux. On August 23, a day where he received his subpoena, he is in Batiscan. The next day, he is at the notary who draws his marriage contract with Madeleine Guillet. On 25 August, he is still in Batiscan for his wedding. He takes roughly five days to return to Varennes where he says he was to report on August 23. On September 2, it is his appearance.


Second quarrel of Rene with Justice


On June 30, 1726, René sleeps that night in the prison of Trois-Rivières. What are the events that happened to drive our adventurer in prison?


It starts with a complaint from the merchants of Trois-Rivières. They complain that many trappers roam the St-Maurice River and cause them harm in their fur trade. On the orders of Lieutenant Hertel, commander of the troops in Trois-Rivières, a detachment of some soldiers, commanded by Jean Francois la Guérite, goes up the St-Maurice River to a place called the Gabelle. At this point, the group camps there and monitors the river hoping to catch some trappers.


After five days of waiting, about 5 or 6 pm, patience of the soldiers  is rewarded. They saw two canoes coming down the river. Seeing being noticed, boaters dock immediately. A canoe is sent with three men to identify the occupants. Realizing that they are French, the soldiers summon them to follow them to meet with their officer. He informs them about the orders he has received. The defendants appear to agree to follow the military to Trois-Rivières.


Along the way, boaters decide to separate. The company is too small, it was impossible to pursue both. They put their hands on the occupants of a boat, namely that of Rene Messier and a named Guyon. Both were taken to the prison of Trois-Rivières and their property seized.


On July 16, Rene Messier is questioned by the Governor of Trois-Rivières, Sr. Tonnancourt. After that, the report is sent to Quebec to Michel Begon. He considered the report of the Public Prosecutor and, having found no fur in the boat of René and his companion, he pronounced his verdict: "Insufficient evidence". An order of the July 27, 1726 releases and gives him his property seized "for not letting destroy the evidence that may be against Messier and Guyon." Thus lack of evidence, René was acquitted.


Third unraveled of Rene Messier with the law


On April 29, 1716, René signs an acknowledgment of debt with a merchant of Quebec. This obligation cancels many tickets he has made. Twenty years later, René still draws attention to his activities. The fact that René stays in the prison of Trois-Rivières did not dampen his desire to travel the woods. It seems to play safely. However, he still attracts the curiosity of authorities of Trois-Rivières. Nine years after his release from prison during the winter 1735-1736, he is located on the St-Maurice River. North of Trois-Rivières, René and a person named Troisville, an habitant from Ile Dupas, built a hut. René claims that the place belongs to him, having received from his father, who himself had received the concession of the king.


In the spring, to clear the land surrounding their hut, his companion decided to set fire to the wood to accelerate the work. The fire has grown to such proportions that they lose control. Authorities of Trois-Rivières must send people to help extinguish it. It threatened the new facilities of the forges which  would have caused great damage to the economy. Governor Hocquart knows that this cabin is an excuse to raise trade with the Indians.


On 28 May 1736 the Governor, doubting claims of René, asked him to produce the title deeds to prove his claim. In addition, he prohibits him and any other person to trade with the Indians. He forbids him to construct new buildings until he proves that he is the owner of the land, and even to reside under any pretext whatsoever.


It is often said that there is no smoke without fire. I believe that everything we found today about René, it must be noted that he was a great traveler, and his methods of doing business were more or less legal.


His travels


Talking about René is not always an easy thing. There are official travels: those made for business on the banks of the St. Lawrence and those we must guess through his many activities.


René is in the fur trade officially. He teams up with another person, shops at a dealer to trade with the Indians and urges people to accompany him. His father Michel, such shipments were to go to Ottawa, in this case at Michilimackinac. When René leaves, it is to make contact with the Sioux. Is the meeting done at the same place as his father or does he meet the Sioux located in the south of Lake Superior? Anyway, this is a great trip that must be planned.


In 1708, René has a slave, Mary, that he purchased at Michilimackinac.  Did he purchase her at that place? History is silent on this subject.


On June 6, 1731, René is preparing for a trip to the Sioux. It is above all the commitment of a person to accompany him. On 28 of the same month, he gives a proxy to Madeleine Guillet, his wife, to administer his property. What it is curious is that he has signed a ticket, on July 3 when he was among the Sioux. Five days is a bit short to make this trip. If he was at the Sioux there is an error in the date.


He returned the same year. On February 18, 1732, he found himself at the notary to prepare a second trip. On August 20 of the same year, he is still among the Sioux. In July of the following year, he is still traveling. His wife, Madeleine Guillet, must go to the notary to settle his affairs. René is back in spring 1734 after snowmelt.


Borrowings by René let filter a portion of his business as a "runner ​​of wood". To trade furs with the Indians, we must have something to offer in return. For the official addresses, merchants always accept to make credit. However, those made illegally, everything must be paid in cash. 


Between 1713 and 1754, twenty times, René officially borrows money; not counting the unofficial loans. (The land purchases were funded in another way.) The majority of loans are made before 1737 when he was between thirty one to fifty four years of age period, when he was able to make the life of racer wood. They come from many people. As he has not been sued, he had to repay his creditors.

Lands of René


Try to survey the lands of René is a hard work. In the inventory of goods from our ancestors, we often find that they have  land without finding of a purchase act. On several occasions, I have noted in the goods of a person, a reference to a document with the date and name of the notary. Verification made, the document is not found in his minutier. So it becomes difficult to trace the owner of certain lands.


René has received from his father, a stronghold in the seigniory of Cap-St-Michel. There are also land at Guillaudière, manor located in the eastern part of Varennes, belonging to his sister Marguerite. He also has some properties in Beloeil, in Cèdres and on the Richelieu River in the lordship of Mr. de Contrecoeur. He sold in Batiscan, rights inherited from the estate of his stepfather. I also found the contract of a house he owned in Quebec.


He gave concessions in his stronghold and has sold his home in Quebec. During the last years of his life, René had little land. On two occasions towards the end of his life, he gave them to his son René. His land was purchased in Cèdres for his slave Jean-Baptiste Duchesne. On May 15, 1754, it was sold. The story does not say if Jean-Baptiste has abandoned his land. In short, if Rene did a lot of business, he seems to have spent a lot.


He is often identified as Mr. Duchesne, probably in honor of his maternal grandmother Judith Duchesne. I think it is his personal decision to use that title. He is in Varennes from 1721 to 1738 as militia captain, as his father was. History does not say if it's  age or certain conflicts with the law that terminated his career.


On October 29, 1751, René is in Montreal to sign a contract with a blacksmith. With a partner, they plan to build a sawmill in Cèdres. In Montreal, they ask a blacksmith to make all the hardware needed to build the mill. They take possession of the goods the following spring. The year 1752 is devoted to the construction of the building.


Until his death occurred on May 22, 1758 in Varennes, René is active in the business. Sometimes it is a concession that he gives in his stronghold in Cap-St-Michel; on other occasions, he signed some "IOUS". his presence is also mentioned for a baptism, a marriage or a death. He leaves a son whose today the descendants of some families named Messier and more, the name of Duchesne.



Text comes from the volume of Gilles Messier:  Les Messier et leurs ancêtres, 700 ans d'histoire.

Last update:

September 15, 2014

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