Those Places Thursday ~~ The Plains of Abraham, New France

"The Death of General Wolfe" by Benjamin West (1770)

“The Death of General Wolfe” by Benjamin West (1770)

My French-Canadian ancestors arrived in New France in the 1500s and 1600s. As I traced my paternal ancestors back further and further I admittedly felt my Canadian patriotism kick into high gear. Discovering that my ancestors were among the founding families of New France, clearing land, trading furs and establishing trading companies, in a harsh new environment has instilled in me a sense of pride in their fortitude and endurance.

As a Canadian student I remember studying the tireless travel of the Coureur de bois through endless wilderness, the arduous journey across the ocean to New France to establish settlements where only forest existed before, and the battles for territory in this new country between the French and the British but at the time I had no idea how attached my family had been to all these experiences, events, and places! Pivotal places as the Plains of Abraham are tied indelibly to the French- Canadian roots of my paternal family tree!

A depiction of my 9th Great-Grandfather Abraham Martin by artist Charles Huet

A depiction of my 9th Great-Grandfather Abraham Martin by artist Charles Huet

The battle of the Plains of Abraham was a defining battle in the Seven Years’ War.  It was the 13th of September 1759, and British Troops, lead by General Wolfe, ascended upon Marquis de Montcalm’s French forces upon the Plains of Abraham after scaling the cliffs at L’Anse-au-Foulon (near Quebec City).  The Plains of Abraham were on a plateau at the summit of Cap Diamants.  A force of 4500, the British stretched across the great expanse of the Plains of Abraham.  Montcalm rushed a response in a battle which meant a defeat for the French and resulted in the death of both leaders–Montcalm and Wolfe!

Named for my 9th Great Grandfather, Abraham Martin, the Plains of Abraham are today recognized as a key battleground in the history of New France and marked a turning point for British control in North America.  Abraham Martin was born in France in 1589.  One of the earliest settlers in New France he arrived with his wife Marguerite Langlois and her family in 1620. He and Marguerite had 9 children together. He was a ship’s pilot on the St. Lawrence and a deep sea fisherman, known as “Pilote du Roi” (the King’s Pilot).  He was granted 12 acres of land on the outskirts of Quebec City in 1635 by the Company of New France, and was then gifted another 20 acres ten years later by Sieur Adrien Du Chesne, a naval surgeon.

The intriguing and somewhat contradictory story of Abraham Martin is one I shall reserve for a future post!  Many French-Canadian’s can boast of him as an ancestor of their own!
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