This story about the witchcraft trial of Rene Besnard may interest the decendants of Marie Pontonnier and Honoré Langlois dit Lachapelle et Croustille.I pasted two articles from Peter Gagne's book.Enjoy, Janet
“Before the King’s Daughters: The Filles à Marier, 1634-1662” by Peter J. Gagné
Marie Pontonnier was baptized 22 January 1643 in the parish of Saint-Vincent in Le Lude (arrondissement of La Flèche, diocese of Angers), Anjou, the daughter of Urbain Pontonnier and Félicité Jamin. She is related to Jean Valiquet, who married fille a marier Renée Loppé. After the death of her father, Marie came to Canada in 1656, at age 13.
On 06 May 1657, notary Saint-Père drew up a marriage contract between Marie and Pierre Gadois fils. Barbe de Boulogne, Jeanne Mance and Major Lambert Closse were among the witnesses to the contract. Marie and Pierre were married in Montréal 12 October 1657 by Father Claude Pijart. A master armorer and gunsmith, Pierre was baptized 17 November 1631 in the parish of Saint-Martin in Igé (arrondissement of Mortagne, diocese of Sees), Perche, the son of merchant Pierre Gadois and Louise Mauger, who were married in Saint-Martin d’Ige about 1627.171 Pierre and his sister Roberte came to New France in 1636 with their parents, who were recruited by Robert Giffard. After a stay in the Québec City region, Pierre moved to Montréal with his parents about 1647 and became the first altar boy in Montréal, according to Marguerite Bourgeoys. His father is known as the first habitant of Montréal, since he received the first land grant from Governor Maisonneuve in 1648. Pierre probably learned the trade of gunsmith from Jean Tavernier dit La Forest et La Lochetière and may in turn have taught his brother Jean-Baptiste the trade.
With marriageable men outnumbering women by six to fourteen in colonial Québec, there was bound to be some competition for brides, and there apparently was competition over Marie. She chose Pierre as her husband over another suitor named René Besnard dit Bourjoly, a corporal in the Montréal garrison. Rebuffed, The jilted Besnard swore revenge, proclaiming that the marriage would be childless and vowing to ensure this by casting a spell over the couple using a knotted cord. Superstition held that if the person casting the spell secretly knotted a cord three times in the presence of the couple during the marriage ceremony, the couple would be sterile unless the cord was un-knotted.
Pierre was allegedly told to recite the psalm Miserere mei Deus backwards in Latin during the wedding Mass to ward off the spell, as was the custom in France at the time. In the church that day were numerous dignitaries, for not only were Marie and Pierre getting married, but the ceremony would also celebrate the marriage of Major Lambert Closse and Elisabeth Moyen. Governor Maisonneuve was present, as were notary Bénigne Basset, Charles Lemoyne, Mathurin Langevin, Sieur de La Croix.. .and René Besnard dit Bourjoly, there to celebrate the marriage of his superior officer Lambert Closse and to curse the marriage of his rival Pierre Gadois.
When no children were born in the first year of their marriage, the couple was advised to go to Québec City to receive a second nuptial blessing from Bishop Laval. When the bishop’s blessing proved ineffective, Besnard was accused of making Pierre sterile. On 02 November 1658, he was tried for sorcery in the seigneurial court of Montréal, the first trial for witchcraft in New France. The proceedings were presided over by Louis d’Ailleboust, Seigneur de Coulonge. Faced with the prospect of being burned alive for sorcery, Besnard denied using witchcraft on the couple, but alleged that Marie had promised to sleep with him if he would break the spell, claiming that she suggested this “remedy” to him and not the other way around, as Marie testified. Confronted with testimony that he had boasted of “knowing how to tie the knot and who tied it for her husband,”172 Besnard claimed that he was speaking of lacing a corset. Fellow fille a marier Françoise Bénard testified that Besnard told her that he knew of the spell, which he claimed could last 17 years. He also allegedly spoke of the spell to file a marier Jeanne Godard. Besnard admitted speaking with Jeanne, but claimed not to remember what the conversation was about. He also testified that he was only joking if he spoke about witchcraft, in an effort to scare Pierre. The court did not believe Besnard’s denials and equivocation. He was imprisoned and later banished from Montréal, settling at Trois-Rivières.
Whether Besnard actually cast a spell or not, the damage had been done just the same. After a three-year waiting period imposed by canon law, Marie and Pierre’s marriage was annulled by Bishop Laval on 30 August 1660, “because of permanent impotence caused by an evil spell.”173 Two weeks after the annulment, on 13 September 1660, Governor Maisonneuve sentenced Pierre to pay Marie 100 livres on the feast of Saint-Michel (29 September) and another 300 livres on Christmas, as an “indemnity” for the time that she lived with him, based on a provision in their marriage contract that would give Marie a rent of 60 livres, plus an additional 300 livres in the event that the couple had no children. In 1665, Pierre married Fille du Roi Jeanne Bénard, who helped him disprove the stigma of “impotence” by giving him 14 children.
Less than a month after the annulment, on 08 October, notary Basset drew up a marriage contract between Marie and Pierre Martin dit La Rivière in his Montréal study. The two were married 03 November 1660 in the church of Notre-Dame de Montréal, in a ceremony celebrated by Father Gabriel Souart. An interpreter and surgeon, Pierre was born in the parish of Sainte-Colombe (canton and arrondissement of La Flèche, diocese of Angers), Anjou, the son of Jacques Martin and Simone Closteau. He enlisted to go to Canada on 14 April 1653 in La Flèche (notary Lafousse), arriving at Montréal on 16 November with the Grande Recrue. Before he left, Pierre acknowledged receiving 75 livres advance wages.
Tragically, only four months after her second marriage, Marie became a widow at the age of 18. Pierre Martin dit La Rivière was killed in an Iroquois ambush on 24 March 1661. His decapitated body was found on 22 June 1661 and buried at Montréal six days later. On 09 November 1661, his posthumous daughter was baptized in Montréal and given the name Marie, after her mother.
On 05 December 1661, Marie married Honoré Langlois dit Lachapelle et Croustille, with Father Souart again performing the ceremony. Both spouses signed the marriage contract drawn up 16 October by notary Basset. A hat maker, Honoré was born about 1632 in Paris, the son of Jean Langlois and Jacquette Charpentier. He is noted at Montréal as early as 03 July 1659. Honoré and Marie had ten children, disproving her “impotence” as surely as Pierre Gadois’. Daughter Jeanne was baptized 16 January 1664 at Montréal, followed by Honoré, who was baptized 30 December 1665 but buried 18 February 1666. Marguerite was baptized at Montréal 25 February 1667, followed by Anne-Thérèse (19 September 1669), Jean (26 June 1672), André (15 April 1675) and Françoise (born 20 November at the Cóte Saint-Jean, baptized 27 November 1678 in Montréal). The family moved to Pointe-aux-Trembles in or before 1681. Sadly, Marie lost her last three children, all before the age of three: Antoine (baptized 25 September 1681, buried 30 October 1684), Joseph (baptized 22 April, buried 30 April 1684) and a second Antoine (baptized 13 June 1685, buried 01 December 1688).
Honoré Langlois dit Lachapelle et Croustille was buried 12 December 1709 at Pointe-aux-Trembles. Marie Pontonnier was buried at Pointe-aux-Trembles 07 January 1718.
The incident of the alleged spell cast over Marie’s marriage to Pierre Gadois had its legacy in the official policies of the Catholic Church in New France. In his Ritual of the Diocese of Québec, published in 1703, Bishop Saint-Valuer included an article that admitted “It sometimes occurs that by a just judgment of God, the married persons are prevented by an evil spell or charm from consummating the marriage.”174 The afflicted couple was to pray for release from the spell, confess their sins and take communion. If this remedy did not work, they were to seek the assistance of priests, who would determine if Church prayers or an exorcism were necessary. Under no circumstances were they to ask the person who cast the spell to undo it with another or to renounce the first marriage and contract another, “which would cause insult to the Sacrament, and could only come from the Devil”175
171Pierre Gadois père was buried 20 October 1667 in Montréal and Louise Mauger was buried in Montréal 18 March 1690.
172Séguin, Sorcellerie, p. 58.
173Perrault, p. 273, quoted from the Archives Judiciaire de Montréal.
174Boyer, p. 295, quoted from the Rituel du Diocese de Québec.
175Boyer, p. 295, quoted from the Rituel du Diocese de Québec.
Page 61-62 Bénard, Françoise
Françoise Bénard was born about 1630 in Vouvray-sur-Loire (arrondissement and diocese of Le Mans), Maine, the daughter of Pierre Bénard and Catherine Riverin.
At 25 years old, on 30 August 1655, Françoise married Marin Janot dit Lachapelle at Montréal. She signed the marriage contract drawn up 01 August. by notary Saint-Père, but it is not known if her husband could. A carpenter, Mann is the son of Robert Janot and Jeanne de Piennes from La Chapelle-Monthodon (arrondissement of Chãteau-Thierry, diocese of
Soissons) in the Brie region of Champagne. He arrived in Montréal on 16 November 1653 aboard the Saint-Nicolas with Marguerite Bourgeoys and the Grande Recrue. Before departure, Mann acknowledged receiving 108 livres advance wages. He received a land grant from Maisonneuve on 02 February 1654 and served as syndic from 1656 to 1660.
Marin and Francoise had five children. Cécile was baptized 11 June 1656 at Montréal, followed by Françoise (21 January 1658) and Pierre (27 March 1660). About 1661, Mann Janot was captured by the Iroquois and held for a while before being released. Son Robert was baptized 29 May 1662, followed by Jean, baptized 18 July but buried 02 September 1664 at Montréal. Marin served as a soldier in the 17th squadron of the Sainte Famille militia in 1663. Son Robert became an engage Ouest from 1685 to 1695. In November 1658, Françoise testified in the witchcraft trial of René Besnard dit Bourjoly, accused of making fille a marier Marie Pontonnier and her husband sterile.
Marin drowned on 20 July 1664. He was found five days later at Trois-Riviêres and was brought back to Montréal for burial. On 20 July 1665, Françoise married Guillaume Bouchard in Montréal. Guillaume was born about 1632 in Neufchâtel-Hardelot (arrondissement of BoulognesurMer), Picardy, the son of Laurent Bouchard and Nicole Bourguignon. He “signed his name in a strange manner.”61 Guillaume and Françoise had one child, Marie, baptized 20 April 1667 in Montréal.
Françoise had a run-in with the law, and on 19 July 1673 (notary Basset), she had to make retribution to Montréal bailli Monsieur d’Ailleboust and his officers for an undisclosed offense.
Guillaume Bouchard died at Montréal some time before 06 February 1707, when Françoise Bénard was buried in Montréal.
61Massicotte, p. 50.
More about the trial at