Louis Hébert was born around 1575 at 129 Saint-Honoré Street in Paris to Nicolas Hébert and Jacqueline Pajot. He was the third of four siblings: Charlotte (1564- ), Jacques (1568- ) and Marie (1577- ).
Nicolas was an apothecary at the court of Catherine de Medici, which was a rather well respected profession as I understand it; he also worked as a grocer. His wife Jacqueline was the daughter of Simon Pajot (1513-1563) and Jeanne Guerineau (1520-1572) and was twice widowed before they were married in 1564. She had at least one child from her previous marriages.
Louis grew up in one of the three properties owned by his father, the Mortier d’or at 129 Saint-Honoré Street (although Nicolas would later sell much of his property due to his financial difficulties and those of his new wife’s family). His mother died in 1580 when he was only four years old; his elder sister, Charlotte and later his step-mother, Marie Auvry raised him thereafter. After his father was sent to prison for failure to pay his debts, Louis and his sister Marie stayed with the Maheuts, on the Quai de la Megisserie. He was a studious child and eventually obtained his apothecary’s diploma as his father had. He began working in his chosen profession as early as 1600, at the age of 25.
Louis married Marie Rollet in 1602 in Paris. They had three children: Anne (1602-1619), Marie-Guillemette (1608-1684) and Guillaume (1614-1639). He purchased a rather decrepid house at Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Rue de la Petite-Seine where they stayed.
Though Louis was by all accounts a good apothecary, he wasn’t fond of city life. He also had a great interest in herbs. He dreamed of a garden, perhaps even a farm far from Paris. He heard of New France from his uncle and was instantly enchanted. He left for the New World almost immediately.
Louis in the New World
Louis made three trips to New France between 1606 and 1617.
He sailed to Port-Royal on the 13th of May 1606 aboard the Jonas with is uncle, the baron of Poutrincourt and his cousin, Charles de Biencourt de Saint-Juste, leaving his wife and children behind in Paris. One account claims that he left them in the care of his father, but as Nicolas died six years earlier, this is unlikely. He returned home eighteen months later because funds were withdrawn for the expedition.
He stayed in Paris for three years after this first, failed trip. He left from Dieppe in Normandy on the 26th of January 1611; the trip took 4 months. He returned to Port-Royal that summer where he hoped to settle. During his time there, he was in charge of food and medication for the struggling colony. He treated sick colonists and natives alike. In the summer of 1613, he and his companions were taken prisoner by the British. In November of the same year Samuel Argall burned the settlement at Port Royal to the ground, and Louis was forced once more to return to Paris.
In 1617, the Canada Company offered Louis a post as the apothecary of Québec. He sold his house and prepared to leave France with his family and brother-in-law Claude. But the company that employed him wasn’t true to its word. By the time he signed the contract, his salary had been reduced by half and he was expected to treat patients for free. Moreover, while the Canada Company permitted him to work the land granted to him he was not allowed to draw any profit from it for two years. During this time the land would remain the property of the company. Even after these two years were up, he would only be allowed to sell his produce to the company. Nor was he permitted to trade with the natives.
I could imagine that Louis was not pleased with this new agreement. But he had already sold all his property and had no choice but to accept. The contract was signed on March 6th 1617 and sailed April 11th on the St Étienne under the command of Captain Normand Morin. They arrived in Québec on July 15th.
Louis Contract with the company
Engagement de Louis Hébert et sa famille à la Compagnie de Canada.
“J’ay, Louis Hébert de Paris recognois et confesse m’estre loué par acte à la Compagnie de Canada pour habiter avec ma famille deux filles et un fils, avec un homme que je mène avec moy nommé Claude Rolet audit pays de Canada et pendan les deux première années travailler à tout ce que me commanderont ceux qui auront charge de ladite Compagnie à Québec, pour le service d’icelle et, lors qu’il ne s’offrira affaire meritant s’y occuper, lesdits commis de Quebec me donneront licence de deffricher, labourer et ameliorer les terres dudit pays, et le provenu de mesdits labeurs et de mes gens, les mettre ès mains de la dite compagnie pendant les deux années, laquelle en pourront disposer comme de chose à elle propre, moyennant qu’elle s’est promise me payer pour tous mes gens et moy, par chacune desdites, la somme de trois cens livres tournois.
Et lesdites deux années passès, ne sera ladite compagnie tenue nourrir ny defraier d’aucune chose moy ny à mes gens et ny donner aucuns loyers, moyennant aussi qu’elle me permet faire tels labeurs qu’aviseray bien estre, soit estre, soit petum, blé d’Inde, jardinage et autre agriculture, dont les provenus seront à ma disposition pour les vendre à la dite compagnie par delà, au mesme prix que telle marchandise pourroit valoir deçà en France, et accorde que je pourray, à peine de confiscation et perte de mes loyers susdits, de traicter ny faire traiter par moy ny par mes gens aucune chose avec les Sauvages ny autres.
Et pour subnenir a mes necessitez, la dite compagnie m’a baillé et advancé la somme de six-vingts escus vallant trois livres tournois dont ladite compagnie court le risque sur le navire de Saint Estienne allant et venant, scavoir trois cents livres que luy avons fourny d’advance, et soixante livres tournois pour le riaque, dont je les quite. En outre Promets assister de tout mon pouvoir des malades qui seront de par delà, gratis, sans salaire.
Faict à Honfleur, le 6 mars 1617.
Signé: Thomas Porée, Louys Hébert, Vermule, Boyer
Life in Québec
Not long after their arrival, on November 23rd 1617, Louis’ eldest daughter, Anne married Normand Étienne Jonquest. Hers was the first French marriage in New France. Unfortunately she died shortly thereafter in childbirth.
After his contract with the Canada Company ended in 1620, Louis was given administrative and judicial powers in the colony and Champlain named him King’s Attorney. On February 4th 1623 he was given possession of the lands he had been working until that day (the fief of Sault au Matelot, the first seigneurie in Canada). On February 28th 1626 he was granted land along the St. Charles River and the title of seigneur of L’Espernay.
In 1626, Louis had a serious fall on a patch of ice and was bedridden for a year. He died on the 23rd of January 1627. (I have come across at least one account of Louis being crushed to death by a tree but while less funny, the ice story seems to be more authoritative). The funeral was conducted by the Recollets of Québec and he was buried in the cemetery of the Saint Charles monastery.
Today Louis Hébert is known as the first farmer of New France. He was also the first Canadian apothecary treating colonists and natives alike. You can find a statue of him and his family in Québec city.
The Héberts currently in Québec are not descendant from Louis. Louis’ son, Guillaume had one son, Joseph. Joseph in turn had only one son who died at a young age, shortly after he was captured, tortured and killed by Iroquois.
My link to Louis Hébert:
1. Louis Hébert (1575-1627) m. Marie Rollet (1580-1649)
2. Marie-Guillemette Hébert (1606-1684) m. Guillaume Couillard (1591-1663)
3. Louis Couillard (1629-1678 ) m. Geneviève Després (1634-1706)
4. Jacques Couillard (1665-1737) m. Elizabeth Lemieux (1739- )
5. Marthe Couillard (1698- ) m. Pierre Bélanger (1692- )
6. Pierre Bélanger (1717-1750) m. Elisabeth Deneau
7. Louise Bélanger (1763-1828) m. François Picard (1768-1831)
8. Jean-Baptiste Picard m. Emerence Morin
9. François Picard (1835-?) m. Cédulie Ruel (1841-?)
10. Samuel Picard (1869-?) m. Josephine Kelly (1873-?)
11. Joseph Picard (1895-1969) m. Marie-Anne Ruel (1906-1936)
(note: the most recent three generations have been omitted for the sake of privacy.)
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