In looking at one friend’s family tree recently which has been particularly rich in fascinating and compelling aspects and through which I’ve learned gobs about the history of France and colonial America, a connection recently came to light between one of his ancestors and one of mine. Making this little discovery more entertaining is that the friend in question is my oldest and deepest friend; our families form a larger extended family.
The connection, though a ways back, is relatively tangible, which is to say it’s not so long ago that it just seems utterly disconnected from any current reality (like the lives of ancestors common to many people, such as Arnulf of Metz, c.581 – 640 CE, or William the Conqueror, 1027 – 1087 CE). Seeing the links to this day and time from my and my buddy’s ancestors actually possible, which makes it potentially attention grabbing to people — like this friend in question — who aren’t as interested in genealogy or history as some of us.
Both ancestors involved in this connection happen, maybe somewhat oddly, to hold just a little bit of fame; they each have their own Wikipedia page, for instance. Because indeed, they each did things with their lives that we humans pretty much across the cultural and temporal boards deem worth remembering, even honoring (in both cases, but for different reasons).
One’s remembered for two things: what he did for a career, and while engaged in that job, a particular decision and resultant statement he made. The other entered the halls of history because of doing something out of sync with their station in society that re-cast their action as bold and dramatic; cuz it was a SHE who did the thing.
The “he” in question, and my friend’s 10th great-grandfather, was Joseph-Antoine le Fèbvre de LaBarre, 1622 – 1688, Governor of New France (when that referred to practically half of North America). The “she” was my 8th great-grandmother, Hannah Emerson Dustin, 1657 – 1737, a colonist in New England who escaped capture by Indians.
Humans tend to make lists of head administrators throughout the ages, so La Barre’s name would’ve been preserved for us regardless of anything else. But for what ever reason or reasons, he gets an extra little boost into the history books because of a rather big blunder. While Governor of New France he tried to play a bluff on some dudes who knew better: representatives of the the Native American Iroquois Confederacy that his far superior military forces could and would decimate them (when he had hardly an army to speak of in reality). They didn’t buy it — and didn’t appreciate their intelligence being insulted. Their continued attacks on the Illinois, allies of the French, and other things evolved into a war. La Barre’s boss didn’t like that, so he canned him. (His boss was the King of France, and not just any king, but King Louis XIV, the frikking Sun King, who had just got done personally leading military conquests and re-conquests of tons of land in Europe).
Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…
So it was that at the end of September 1682, Monsieur LaBarre, then 60 years old, landed in Quebec after King Louis XIV had appointed him in May. He’d done extraordinarily well as a ship’s captain in the Caribbean, defending against the Dutch alongside then allies the English. Before that, as governor of French Guyana, he’d improved that colony and its agricultural promise impressively over his predecessor. And prior to that, during Louis’ minority, LaBarre had been appointed the Intendant of Paris during what was essentially a civil war, the Fronde rebellion of the 1650s, when certain nobles had tried to wrest some power from the French national rulers. I.e., he’d stood by the King and his authority at a critical time — a time which so shook young Louis that he chose to move the royal family and the seat of government out of Paris, turn the old palace, there, into a museum (the Louvre), and create Versailles as an enticement for all French nobles to live in luxury so as not to rebel anymore —and through display of administrative skill and sheer prowess in combat in the Caribbean possessions our LaBarre had some cache with the Sun King.
When he landed at the recently burned down town of Quebec, my ancestor Hannah Dustin was 260 miles due south, living in a little settlement called Haverhill, which represented pretty much the northern limit of the Massachusetts colony, two miles from the New Hampshire colony. Born there, to a dad fresh off the boat from England who’d married a daughter of other immigrants like himself, Hannah had married a fella named Thomas Duston and had by September 1682 given birth to three kids.
Click here for part two…