Family Fable

For many generations a story was passed down in my family about 5 Belair brothers who owned the land where Montreal Square sits today. The family story says that five brothers went to France to fight a war and left the deed to the land in the hands of the Jesuits for safe keeping. The brothers never returned and the family never got the land back, the Jesuits used it for their own gain. There was a law suit pending sometime in the early 1900's and it was said that my great aunt, Florence Cadotte (nee Belair) had a copy of the land deed but after she died the document went missing.

Throughout my genealogy research I have looked for documents to settle the facts of this story. I have collected an enormous amount of information in the span of less than a year as I am meticulous (not flawless!) about confirming information and dates. I was going through information on my great great grandmother, Emilie Tessier dit Lavigne, and discovered a paper I had printed off of the Tessier Family History by Helene-Andree Bizier from the website "Our Ancestors of European Origin". The history of Urbain and his wealth and land that he owned hit a note of familiarity with me. He didin't own just any land but rather one piece in particular. The following is an excerpt from that history paper;

The following year, Urbain Tessier dit is granted a sizeable tract of land; "thirty arpents near the area set aside for the construction of the city plus an other arpent within the limits of the said city(...)". The land is located north of Saint-Jacques Street, along the extension of modern-day Saint-Urbain Street while the arpent situated within Ville-Marie itself is comprised of the area at Place d'Armes and some lands crossed by Saint-Jacques Street. Three centuries after the ratification of the title deeds which were registered in Paris on March 30, 1653. The descendants of Urbain Tessier will try to regain possession of these lands...

This had to be the makings of the story passed down in my family.

I further read in the history of Urbain that he had been captured by the Iroquois on March 24, 1661 along with six other French settlers who were attempting to settle the Montreal site, then known as Ville-Marie. Although some of those men lost their lives during the capture, Urbain was kept alive and used as a slave and tortured, losing a finger. Urbain was realeased 1 1/2 years after his capture on August 31, 1662 and went home to his family where he continued to defend the community from the Iroquois.

When you begin to compare the family story of my learning with the facts of the life of Urbain Tessier dit Lavigne you can begin to see what I refer to as the telephone game effect take place. If you have ever played the game telephone with a group of people you know how a simple message communicated from one person to another down a line of many can become distorted and twisted. I think the five brothers were in reality the six settlers that were captured by the Iroquois. Further the war was not in France but NEW France against the Iroquois. The last name was thought to be Belair but that is the last name of my family, in reality, Emilie Tessier dit Lavigne, the descendant of Urbain was married to Jean Baptiste Abraham Courville, their daughter Virginie married Adolphus Belair. Although not all of the settlers returned, Urbain (our family ancestor) did and went on to have 9 more children and lived to an old age of 64 years (this was a long life by the standards of the 1600's and the incredibly hard life these people led).

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2002 copyright by Roseanne Bensette
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