Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron
Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron was my 3rd great grand-uncle. Jean was the son of Pierre to Pierre to Pierre to Jean and Marie-Anne Canol. He married Marguerite Downey/Donelle. Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron was the 5th generation descendant of Jean Doiron, the first to come to North America.
JEAN1 DOIRON was born Abt. 1649 in France, and died between 28 April 1735 - 03 June 1736 at Ste-Famille de Pigiguit, Acadia - DBIM. He married (1) MARIE-ANNE CANOL Abt. 1671. She was born Abt. 1651 and died Aft. the census of 1693. He married (2) MARIE TRAHAN Abt. 1693, daughter of GUILLAUME TRAHAN and MADELEINE BRUN. She was born 1672 at Port-Royal.
According to the census of 1686, they were at Port-Royal with six sons and one daughter. Later we see them with eight sons and three daughters. One of the sons, Pierre Doiron married Madeleine Doucet. They had a son Pierre (dit Pitre) (dit Gould) Doiron who married Anne Forest. This couple in turn had a son Pierre dit Pitre Doiron who married Marguerite Léger. This last couple are the parents of our Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron.
According to the Registers of Franklin Manor, Jean was born 11 March 1764. He married Marguerite Downey/Donelle (this surname has several variations) on 07 August 1786. Jean died 1855 at the age of 91.
Jean's parents had been living at Menoudie/Menoudy when in 1751 they decided to seek refuge at Lac Aulac which was situated between Sackville and Amherst. In the spring of 1755, the year of the Deportation, Pierre and Anne Forest had 4 unmarried sons and 4 unmarried daughters. At the time of Deportation, they were able to escape by crossing to Ile St-Jean (Prince Edward Island). They also escaped the Deportation of 1758 when, with other Acadians from Port-Lajoie (now Charlottetown), they saw the British transports heading from Louisbourg (located at Cape Breton) approaching. They got into canoes and whatever other small boats that were available and traveled up the North-East river. They were thus able to arrive at St-Pierre du Nord. From there they found some schooners belonging to some of the Acadians living there and set sail to the south side of Baie-des-Chaleurs. They lived at Shippagan for three years. In the autumn of 1761, Captain McKenzie, commander at Fort Cumberland (which was once the French Fort Beauséjour) went to Baie-des-Chaleurs and managed to capture more than 700 Acadians that he then imprisoned at Beauséjour. Among this number were the Doiron ancestors.
These prisoners were first located at the fort and then at the Butte (now Amherst), where they remained for a while. Following the treat of 1763, they settled at Nappan. Three years later on 15 January 1770, Pierre Doirion and Pierre Doron, son are living in the Township of Amherst. On 28 February 1791, there were 3 Doiron families living at Menoudie under the name of Gould (an english version of Doiron): Peter Gould; Lewis (Louis) Gould, Isidore Gould. When his parents returned to Menoudy Pierre dit Pitre Doiron did not go with his parents rather, he remained at Nappan. The census of 1791 contains the following names: Francis Gould, Isidore Goold, Lewis Goold and Peter Goold. (with this note: Peter Goold a poor decrepit old man without property.) This poor old man is none other than Pierre dit Pitre Doiron then 77 years old and the three Goold/Gould men are his sons. Having lived in Nappan for 20 years with his wife and children, Pierre Doiron moved to the new settlement of Ruisseau au Renard (today Fox Creek) or Petitcodiac, as the old Acadians used to call it. Today this place is called St- Anselme on the Petitcodiac River it is very near Moncton. Pierre dit Pitre Doiron lived about 20 years at St-Anselme. While living at Fox Creek, Pierre obtained a land grant at Richibouctou Village which he sold 3 March 1800 to Jean-Baptiste Maillet. In this land sale he is named Peter Gould. Pierre dit Pitre Doiron and his wife Marguerite Léger died at Tédiche. He died in 1825 and Marguerite died in 1826. At the time of his death, he was 93 and his wife died the following year also at the age of 93.
One of the sons of Pierre dit Pitre Doiron and Marguerite Léger our Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron. Jean was one of the intrepid pioneers of Fox Creek. Memramcook and the village of Fox Creek (Ruisseau au Renard) were the only colonies of Acadia where the inhabitants occupied the same lands their ancestors had once own prior to the Deportation. The village of Fox Creek was established in 1767. Pierre Doiron dit Pitre settled at Fox Creek about 1788. A land concession was granted to the family of Olivier Doiron on 27 May 1789. This concession consisted of approximately 192 acres and included were the lands beginning with Joseph Doiron and Hilarion Bourgeois lands up to the Boudreau lands. The largest of the concessions was named "The Gould Estate" according to the statement of a M. William Melanson in 1962. The land extened as far as Ruisseau de l'Acadie (Hall's Creek).
It is interesting to note that concessions of land were granted according to the law of 1786. Land had to be registered with the government but it was possible for a man to own many concessions of land by registering them under different names - thus it was possible for a large family to become owners of vast pieces of land... this is how "The Gould Estate" was so large a concession.
However, "The Gould Estate" suffered some losses when after the establishment of New Brunswick as a province in 1786, measures were taken to prevent wrongful possession of land by the government. If the titles to lands were not registered by the government and mentioned in public registers, then the titles were of no value. Consequently, many of the lands were not officially titled and land was taken away and given to newly arrived settlers.
Nonetheless, Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron wasted no time getting to work on the land clearing woods and building on the land of his ancestors. The Jean Doiron house was simple. After Jean, this land belonged to Hilarion Bourgeois who married Marie Doiron on 14 May 1821. Marie was the daughter of Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron. Later still, the land would pass into the hands of Gérard Marcoux.
Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron as said was born 11 March 1764 at Nappan. He was baptised in 1769. He left the paternal home at the age of 10, so goes the oral tradition, and went to live with the MikMacs in times of trouble. He lived with them for quite a few years forgetting his french language almost completely as he had learned to speak Mi'kmac while living with them. He learned to live relying on nature as did the Indians. He lived all of his life thereafter connected to nature. This explains Jean's preference to voyages and adventures rather than the ordinary work of pioneers/settlers. He loved being free and his work consisted mostly in hunting and mail courier.
When Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron married Marguerite Downey/Donelle, he settled at Fox Creek. He was the father of the folloiwng children: Jean, Paul, Joseph, Madeleine, Marie, Jeanne and Annette (not necessarily in that order). Jean was gifted with herculean strength! In addition to being a big eater and a big hunter of bears, he was also a big walker. When Jean was born in 1764, three large lines of Liners assured service from England to the Americas. Jean's brother Pierre never thought for a moment that his brother would ever beomce a courier for His Majesty.
According to Mr. Philomon Leblanc of St-Anselme, it was Gros Jean Doiron who would carry the first bags of mail and small packages on foot from Halifax to Fredericton - a distance of more than 350 miles. He had been hired by an entrepreneur. During the winter, Gros Jean had two dogs to pull his sled that was 15 inches wide and on which was attached the bag of mail. After three days of travel, the dogs would be fed oats in a soupy oatmeal mixture. When necessary, the mail sometimes need to be transported on snowshoes and then Gros Jean would make these out of birch branches. In the spring during the thaw, he sometimes had to remove his clothing and cross the frigid waters. (From the "Héroiques aventures de McLennan et de McGregor").
In the days when Gros Jean was delivering the mails, it was actually dangerous travel through the woods and forests teeming with wild animals. He would walk 40 to 50 miles a day. Faithful as well as robust, he was not afraid of the danger. He had confronted the cold, storms, faced ferocious animals, skirted the violent water courses, and sometimes had to defend himself against the Indians.. During the long trips, Gros Jean enjoyed singing. He liked hearing his echo in the fortest. When dusk came, he would like stop, light a fire and build lean-to and then prepare his meal of the day. While traveling, he ate only one meal a day.
When the Loyalists arrived in 1783, mail couriers were less in demand. They were replaced by public mail service. During the war of 1812-1814, couriers were in vogue. They transported letters and small packages from Québec to Halifax.
The most honest couriers were the Acadians. The most notable Acadian couriers were: Louis Mitchel, Louis and Michel Mercure, Joseph Dufour, Jean-baptiste Martin and our Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron . Those who traveled on foot from Québec to Halifax often carried important messages that Governor Haldiman of Québec would send to Governor Parr of Halifax. Their pay varied between $400 to $500 for their round trip travel on foot .
It was not before 1802 that the road from Fox Creek to St-Jean became permanent. When it was time to make this road a permanent one, there was nobody more knowledgeable about this than Gros Jean. Another time, when it was decided to redo the route to the capitol, Gros Jean and his son Jean accompanied a group of four Englishmen. In retracing the route, they found themselves in the middle of the forest and far from people and homes. One day, Gros Jean and his son had left this little group of men to go hunting and a torrential rain came soaking their clothes completely. They didn't know what to do about it. In their anxiety caused by the storm, they got lost. By the time Gros Jean and his son found the group again, they still had not figured out what they should do and they truly believed themselves lost in the forest. Gros Jean reproached them for having taken on work that obliged them to go so far from home and into the woods without survival skills. "I will build a fire", he said. Picking up what he needed in the forest, Gros Jean built the fire with material he had brought with him in case he needed it to start the fire along with a flint stone. He lit a good fire and the men could then dry their clothes all while staying in a lean-to he had made of branches. During this time, Gros Jean told them about when time he lived with the Indians. The Indians are the kings of the forest, said Jean. The Indian knows where he is at every hour of the day and night. As they listened they ate the frugal meal Gros Jean had prepared for them.
One time when Gros Jean went hunting alone for three weeks, he had run out of food. Returning and feeling very weak, he headed toward the sugar refinery located on Irishtown Road (in the area of Fox Creek/St-Anselme). Every Spring the people of Fox Creek would work at the sugar refineries. The Harris refinery on Irishtown Road was one of the most popular. One day, some of the men noticed that something was moving in the undergrowth off in the distance. It seemed headed toward the refinery. After a while, they noticed a man crawling on his hands and feet. Some of the Acadians of Fox Creek approached and to their great surprise found that it was Gros Jean. They carefully carried him to the cabin where they fed and took care of him until he was strong enough to return home.
In 1784, a road between St. John (St-Jean) and Westmorland (County) was begun. For 40 years, this road as well as four other roads of the New Brunswick Province were just little paths in the forest without bridges to cross over the streams and rivers. It was actually easier to travel by water. It was not until 1802 that the road was really constructed with posts to mark it on each side of the road. When it was time to mark where the road should go there was no one more knowledgeable than Gros Jean. The road Gros Jean used to go to Fredericton had been dubbed Old Gould's Trail.
A few days later, the surveyors ran out of food. Jean shared his with them but the little he had left was devoured by them and there was nothing left at all. Before long, the men were hungry, getting weak and there were still many miles to go before the work was completed. Finding the surveyors could do no more, Jean took control of the situation by checking to see if there were any inns in the area. Having found one, he told of the situation the surveyors were in. Jean carried them one by one to the inn where the owners had agreed to care for them and feed them until they regained their strength. As soon as the group was on its feet, they resumed their work and the English could not help but recount as to how the blue cross (Jean) had saved their lives. The blue cross has saved us they recounted again and again. From this time on, the English spoke of Gros Jean Doiron with the greatest respect.
Gros Jean had many adventures and was a very respected man not only by the Acadians but by the English as well. Toward the end of his life, he built a cabin next to his son Paul at "Paul Lake" - later this would be renamed Job Lake. He often entertained Indians who would come to visit him. He would speak their language and would tell of his exploits through the forests. It was a hero who was speaking and they would listen. He had overcoming hundreds of obstacles. He had lived a full life in the forest fully connected to nature. He had known the benefits: the ordor of the woods, the birds with the beautiful songs, the herbs, the sun, the wild flowers, etc. In this forest where he had wanted to live, he wanted to also die. It was not meant to be. One day his son Joseph wanted his father who was now an octogenarian, to come live out his days in his home. It was in this beautiful home that Gros Jean died. It is said that his body is buried at the old cemetery of the first chapel built at St-Anselme on the land of Philemon LeBlanc. There is nothing in the church registers to prove this. In summary, Gros Jean left his family a wonderful and proud heritage! He left an undying hope in the future and many lessons of courage and strength in the face of adversity.
After Jean-Baptiste dit Gros Jean Doiron died, members of his family continued to gather often at the home of his son Joseph where he had died. The women would bring sprinning wheel and in a corner next to the chimney, they would sing old triumphal hymns as well as popular songs. Meanwhile, in another corner of the kitchen, Joseph, Paul and Jean would tell stories of the difficulties they and their father Gros Jean had overcome. They spoke of their difficulties with poverty and misery. They retold the glorious exploits their father had accomplished with great emotion as they also spoke of the perilous journeys that accompanied those accomplishments. Gros Jean is considered among his descendants as a legendary person. Hopefully, some of his ancestors who have known nothing about him until now will be filled with pride at the true accomplishments he achieved and the contribution that he made during his life. His story, as well as the story of many other Acadian families, tell not only of adventure and daring but rather of the tenacity and courage with which they lived!
Source: Excerpts from le Deuxième Cahier of La Société Historique Acadienne, Moncton, New Brunswick - 1962.
All Rights Reserved
Acadian Ancestral Home Site and Blog
Lucie LeBlanc Consentino