Giffard et les colons percherons :
Chronique d'une épopée

Signature de Robert Giffard en 1647 au retour de son premier séjour en Nouvelle-France (Source : notariat Mortagne)

«Though the Percheron contribution to the settlement of Canada - about 5% of French immigrants - may seem to be a modest one, it must be stressed that Percheron immigration, the earliest wave, turned out to be remarkably prolific…» Françoise Montagne tells us (Montagne Françoise, Tourouvre et les Juchereau, Ed. Société canadienne de Généalogie, 1965).

And, in fact, the movement that began in 1634 thanks to the persuasiveness of Robert Giffard does stand out to some extent from the general stream of French emigration to New France. This must be ascribed, not to poverty, but to an adventurous spirit. In the space of about thirty years, some 146 adults in 80 families representing various trades, many of them building trades (masons, joiners, carpenters, brick makers, etc.) would embark on the long voyage.

Some of them would return home, but the vast majority, despite the Iroquois threat, elected to settle on the banks of the St. Lawrence to clear the new lands and make them fruitful. Their progeny are now reckoned at 1,500,000 in Canada and doubtless even more if we consider the significant out-migration throughout North America.

1608 : Champlain sets up a “Habitation” at Quebec.

1617 : The apothecary Hébert and his family settle at Quebec.

1621 : Robert Giffard, an apothecary in Tourouvre and native of Autheuil who may have been a school friend of Hébert, leaves for Canada and settles in the Quebec area.

1625 : Arrival of the Jesuits in Quebec.

1627 : Robert Giffard returns to France persuaded that fresh settlers should be coming to the banks of the St. Lawrence. This same year sees the foundation of the Company of One Hundred Associates that include Noël Juchereau of Tourouvre, a friend of Robert Giffard.

1628 : At Mortagne in February, Robert Giffard marries Marie Renouard. In the spring he leaves again for New France to prepare for future settlements. The vessel he is travelling in is intercepted by pirates in the pay of the English. Robert Giffard has to go back to France. In Tourouvre and Mortagne, he makes use of this time to describe the immense land that lies beyond the Atlantic.

1629-1631 : Quebec is in English hands.

1632 : The Treaty of Saint-Germain-en-Laye enables France to regain possession of Canada. Robert Giffard can finally make his dream come true.

1633 : Robert Giffard, assisted by the brothers Jean and Noël Juchereau, readies his expedition.

1634 : In January, the Company of One Hundred Associates grants the seigniory of Beauport to Robert Giffard. He recruits his first settlers and receives the support of Pierre Le Bouyer de Saint-Gervais, Civil and Criminal Lieutenant General of le Perche. In March, Robert Giffard leaves for New France with his wife and children and about thirty settlers. These include Jean Guyon, master mason, Zacharie Cloutier, master carpenter and Robert Drouin, a tile maker and native of Pin-la-Garenne. The ship reaches Quebec in early June.

1635 : At Quebec, Samuel de Champlain dies: the colony now has 132 settlers, of whom 35 are from le Perche. Mortagne witnesses the departure of more settlers, including Gaspard Boucher with his wife and children. One of them is Pierre, born at Mortagne in 1622 and now aged 13. The first organized settlement of new France is under way. Most of the departures from le Perche occurred during the period 1634-1662. A few emigrants are noted in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.

1641 : Arrival at Quebec of Guillaume Pelletier from Bresolettes. The colony’s population stands at 300 souls.

1647 : Arrival at Quebec of 17 young people from the Tourouvre area.

1653 : Pierre Boucher defends Trois-Rivières against the Iroquois.

1662 : Pierre Boucher returns to France and solicits the support of Louis XIV and Colbert to save the threatened colony from the Iroquois. He returns to New France with a large group of settlers.

1665 : Arrival at Quebec of the Carignan-Salières Regiment. 1668 : Robert Giffard dies in Beauport. The colony has 3,000 inhabitants.