Philippe Robitaille and Marie-Madeleine Warren

<Translation by David Robitaille of Vancouver>

Jean Robitaille and Martine Cormont must have had many children in France, because there were 20 years' difference between their sons Jean and Philippe. When the three brothers —Jean, Pierre, and Nicolas— left for Nouvelle-France in 1670, Philippe was only seven years old. Nicolas returned to France after spending several years in North America, and it was likely listening to his brother's stories about his adventures that helped Philippe decide to join his two brothers in Nouvelle-France some 23 years later. Philippe set up his family in Montreal, and they loved adventure as much as his brothers' families in Ancienne Lorette loved home life.

On October 14, 1693, Philippe and Madeleine Warren (transliterated as Houarine) signed a marriage contract before Notary Benigne Basset in Montréal. He was 30 years old and listed his occupation as barrel maker. On October 15, 1693, in Notre-Dame church, he and Madeleine, who was the widow of Richard Labosse, were married. She is described as "an English-speaking woman from Annord near Boston, in New England, now living in Ville-Marie."

Madeleine Warren, who had been known as Grizel, was 31 years old at the time of their marriage. She was born in Berwick, New England, on February 24, 1662, the daughter of James and Margaret Warren. She was the third wife of Richard Otis, a blacksmith who had several children. Richard and Madeleine had two daughters, Hanna and Christine. Richard, who was quite elderly, was killed, probably by Indians, as was Hanna, age two.

Madeleine, her three-month old daughter, Christine, and three other children of Richard's were abducted by Indians. The rest of the family, including three of Richard's other daughters, were rescued near the city of Conway by a group who pursued the attackers. Grizel and her daughter Christine were likely purchased from the Indians by French Canadians who brought them to Montréal.

Grizel learned French and was baptized a Catholic on May 9, 1693. She was christened Marie-Madeleine, after her godmother, Mrs. Marie-Madeleine Dupont, wife of the captain of the naval detachment. Her godfather was Jacques Leber, a merchant. She was confirmed four months later, on September 8, 1693, and she married Philippe Robitaille on October 15 of the same year. Her godmother and godfather attended the wedding. In the marriage contract, Philippe agreed to adopt Christine as his daughter. Marie-Madeleine became a citizen in May of 1710. In the official register of recovered captives, she is referred to as Mrs. Grizalem. She apparently tried to help her fellow prisoners, and she also worked with Father Meriel in his work with them.

Philippe and Marie-Madeleine had five children :

  • Georges, born on April 18, 1701 and baptized the following day at Notre-Dame in Montréal, died February 19, 1703 at the age of two.

Three other sons – Philippe, Jacques, and Jean – worked in the fur trade. They signed employment contracts as voyageurs before the notary Antoine Adhémar which required them to "go through the north woods as far as Lake Erie with a canoe loaded with merchandise, and to return the following year with a canoe loaded with furs." There were two kinds of voyageurs:

  1. The bacon eaters, so called because bacon was the staple of their daily food ration. They transported trading merchandise to Fort Williams, and brought back to Montréal the furs collected in the north by the winterers.
  2. The winterers hired themselves out for at least one, usually three, and sometimes five years. Jacks of all trades, they worked as canoers, interpreters, clerks, guides, artisans, explorers, hunters, fishers, builders, and certainly as traders. Many of them took women in lieu of payment, and these marriages were the origin of the Métis.

We believe that Philippe Robitaille's sons were winterers.

  • Philippe, baptized on February 5, 1695 at Notre-Dame in Montréal. He signed a contract as a voyageur on August 29, 1715. He died in Montréal on September 17, 1720 at the age of twenty-six. He was unmarried.
  • Jacques was baptized on January 29, 1697 at Notre-Dame in Montréal. He was a voyageur from September 9, 1715 until September 9, 1728. On August 26, 1719 at Michillimakinac, he signed a note for 1953 livres in favor of Paul Marin who deposited this document in Montréal with the notary Gaudron de Chèvremont on August 11, 1736. Michillimakinac, a French fort, was located north of Lake Michigan.
  • Jean was baptized on March 10, 1699 at Notre-Dame in Montréal. He signed on as a voyageur from March 28, 1718 until September 9, 1728.

What happened to Jacques and Jean? Unfortunately we have no trace of these two sons of Philippe and Marie-Madeleine.

Finally, the Robitailles had a daughter.

  • Marguerite was born and baptized on April 2, 1703 at Notre-Dame. She was married at Notre-Dame in Montréal at the age of 19 on April 13, 1722 to Jean-Baptiste Biron, the twenty-year-old son of Pierre and Marie-Jeanne Dumouchel. Jean-Baptiste was a merchant, and the couple moved to the Sainte-Marie district, in Ville-Marie. Some years later they moved the length of the Richelieu River to Saint-Ours and then to Chambly. They had no children.

There are no known descendants of Philippe Robitaille and Marie-Madeleine Warren.

Christine, the daughter of Marie-Madeleine Warren and Richard Othys and the step-daughter of Philippe Robitaille, was baptized on March 15, 1689 and educated by the nuns. At the age of eighteen, she became the second wife of Louis LeBeau. Their marriage was celebrated in Ville Marie on June 14, 1707. LeBeau was twenty-nine years old and a cabinet maker. The couple had two daughters, Marie-Anne and Madeleine. Christine became a Canadian citizen at the same time as her mother in 1710. Her husband died in February 1713.

In 1714, Captain Thomas Baker came to Canada as an interpreter for the Stoddard and Williams Company. He fell in love with Christine and tried to persuade the young widow to return to New England with him. The Church, the government and her mother all opposed the move. The Church threatened to keep her children and the governor said that her eldest daughter would have to be sent to the Ursulines. Stoddard replied that Mrs. LeBeau could place her child wherever she wished and added that "for as long as she looked after her daughter, no prince could in justice remove her from her mother by force." The Intendant ordered that all her goods be sold and that "the proceeds be placed in the hands of a guardian." Christine, demanded that the money be given to her because she was in need. She was told that, by order of the king, anyone who planned to leave the country would have their money seized and that, since Christine had been a prisoner during the preceding war, she was not covered by the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.

Her mother told her that there were no bakeries in New England and that she didn't know how to bake bread.

Neither the Church, nor the state, nor her mother were able to keep her in Canada. With the grudging consent of the governor, Christine departed by ship, leaving her daughers Marie-Anne (age 4) and Madeleine (age 2) in the care of Philippe Robitaille and Madeleine Warren, her step-father and mother. Christine married Thomas Baker and they moved to Brookfield where their children were baptized. Her step-father, Philippe Robitaille, came to visit her in New England. Christine missed the two daughters she had left in Canada. On March 2, 1721 Thomas and Christine sent a brief to the General Court requesting permission to travel to New France to find them.

Permission was granted on condition that Thomas Baker accompany his wife to Canada. However, Christine returned from this journey without her children, for whom she had become a stranger. As a result, Philippe Robitaille and Madeleine Warren raised Christine's daughters from her first marriage, to LeBeau. Christine died on February 23, 1773, twenty years after the death of her second husband. She was buried in the Pine Hill Cemetery in Dover.

Philippe Robitaille died at the age of 77 on October 3, 1740 at 10:30 in the evening. He was buried in the cemetery located not far from Notre-Dame Church in Montréal.

Marie-Madeleine Warren died on October 26, 1750 "at the age of 89, having been bedridden for nine or ten years." She was buried on October 27, also at Notre-Dame.