Prospère Gagnon was born in September 1790 in what is today Ste-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, Kamouraska County, Québec. In 1813 he married Marie Anne Ouellette in Kamouraska. By 1825 the family was living in Trois-Pistoles (about 70 km or 45 miles upriver from Kamouraska).
Sometime during the summer of 1831 he, Marie Anne and their children Michel, Marceline, Antoine, Angélique, and Thomas left Kamouraska and settled in the upper St.John River Valley, in what is today Frenchville, but was then a territory claimed by both the United States and New Brunswick, at the time a British colony.
Prospère and his family had left Kamouraska before July 1831; they do not appear in the provincial census of Lower Canada (now Québec) that was conducted at that time. They apparently were living near what is today Frenchville by December 1831, when Prospère's half-brother Michel was living with them; Michel's daughter Céleste was listed as having been born at Ste-Luce at her baptism that month. So it seems likely that Prospère and Michel moved together from Kamouraska to Madawaska.
The earliest record I have found of Prospère in Frenchville (in what was then called the Madawaska Settlements) is in a New Brunswick provincial census taken sometime in late 1833. This census records Prospère, his wife, three sons and two daughters living in the Madawaska Settlements in poverty; they possessed no livestock, had sown and raised no crops, and were living as tenants. The survey describes Prospère as a laborer and as "poor, requires assistance," and noted that the family "requires almost immediate relief."
Some hints about Prospère's move to Madawaska can be found by looking at his siblings. Prospère's sister Félicité, her husband Pierre Landry, and their children seem to have moved from Kamouraska to Madawaska sometime before March 1830 (when they bought land in what is today St.François, NB), possibly in 1828 (Pierre told census takers in 1851 that he had come to New Brunswick in 1828). The family seems to have settled in the area that is today St. François or St. Francis Plantation.
Prospère's half-brother Michel Gagnon and his wife Charlotte moved from Kamouraska to Madawaska in June 1831, according to their responses to the 1851 New Brunswick census. As mentioned above, in December of that year they were living with Prospère near Ste-Luce. Based on subsequent censuses, by 1833 Michel and his family had settled on the north bank of the St.John in the area around what is today St. Leonard.
It is likely that Prospère and his half-brother Michel followed their sister Félicité and her husband Pierre Landry to Madawaska.
I do not know any further details of why the family moved from the St.Lawrence valley, exactly when they moved, or the reason for their impoverished situation. If you have any information on this family I'd love to hear from you.
According to a family legend told to me by my dad, three brothers came over, and one of them disappeared while in the woods. This was probably Thomas, the youngest of Prospère's children. (Update: It turns out that Thomas, his wife and children moved to Trois-Rivières, Québec in 1855 or 1856, then to Montréal in about 1860. By 1865 Thomas was working as a clock- or watchmaker.)
Prospère died in 1847. Marie-Anne survived another 8 years; she died at Rivière-du-Loup in 1855. Their descendants still live in the Frenchville area, as well as around the US, Canada, and the world.
For more information on this family, their ancestors and descendants, click on the links below.
Descendants and Ancestors
of Prospère GAGNON and Marie-Anne OUELLETTE
The earliest recorded GAGNON ancestor: Barnabé GAIGNON, lived in the mid to late 1500s in the Perche region of northern France
Photos of the homestead of the first recorded Gagnons, La Gaignonnière, in Perche, France
The earliest recorded OUELLETTE ancestor: François OUELLETTE, lived in Paris in the early 1600s.
Message Board: Posts on Prospère Gagnon and Marie-Anne Ouellette
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and Cousins of Nellie and Lucas
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(a great-great-great grandson of Prospère Gagnon and Marie Anne Ouellette)
Created 13 Jan 2000 with Family Origins 7.01
Last revised 15 Feb 2011
© 2000-2011 C.Gagnon