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The Story of Cantin Dionne

The Story of Cantin Dionne



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Published by Mark Dionne
Life story of Cantin Dionne.
Life story of Cantin Dionne.

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Categories:Types, Research, Genealogy
Published by: Mark Dionne on May 15, 2007
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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The Story of Cantin Dionne
 Mark Dionne
Cantin Dionne
was born October 31, 1788 at St. Roch des Aulnaies, in Kamouraska County, Quebec, the last of 9children. HisDionne ancestors
had lived in the prosperous farming region along the shores of the St. Lawrence Riverfor over 100 years. When he was 14, his mother Marie Louise Caron died, and two years later, in 1805, his fatherremarried and moved nearly 200 miles west to the town of Baie du Febvre
, along with most of the nine children.Within a few more years his father married again.
A Frenchman in a Loyalist Land
, the young man appeared on the shores of New Brunswick, employed by Robert Pagan at the town of St. Andrews. (Map) Squire Pagan was one of the richest men in the province, a Loyalist who had owned a fleet of ships in Falmouth, Maine (now called Portland) during the Revolution. He sought refuge in New Brunswick when the(then Massachusetts) legislature declared himan enemy of the United States. Pagan and his brothers founded St.Andrews—the southernmost town on the coast, bordering Maine—and then built up a large shipbuilding business,lumber businesses, and many other enterprises. Pagan was also a member of the New Brunswick legislature andinvolved in preparations to defend the province during the 1812 war. Robert Pagan died in 1821.Sixty years earlier there had been many French people, theAcadians, who came to the New World separately fromthe French in Quebec, living in what is now Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. Many were deported by the British anddispersed around the globe, a story that was told by Longfellow in the poem
Many who returned wereforced out a second time when Loyalists arrived in New Brunswick after the Revolution. French names wereuncommon in the province when Cantin Dionne arrived.In July 1814, Cantin petitioned the provincial government for a grant of land on the Saint John River. When applyingfor the land, he hadlettersof recommendationmentioning Robert Pagan and signed by Mary Ann Glenie and Stephen Glasier. (Mary Ann Glenie was the wife of James Glenie, an interesting character who had been a British artilleryofficer in the Revolutionary war, a political reformer member of the New Brunswick legislature (and ally of RobertPagan), lumber businessman, and a mathematics professor. Stephen Glasier's family owned one of the biggestlumbering businesses in the province, and eventually had influence in Maine.) Did hobnobbing with these gentlemenput ideas of land ownership into the young man's head?
A German Wife
Cantin Dionne'spetitionwas for "a grant of Two Hundred Acres of Land; on the East side of the River St. John; twoLots above Lands granted or applied for by Hon. Bedel Esquire's son." Inanother neighboring lot
lived JohnDeMerchant, Jr. OnFebruary 23, 1815
, Cantin DionnemarriedMary DeMerchant, his neighbor's sister. Themarriage wasperformed
by William Turner, Justice of the Peace, who then resided at thePresquisle militarygarrison
, in the vicinity of what is now Florenceville. Mr. Turner had been the Lieutenant in charge of the garrison of theNew Brunswick Regimentstationed at that post. John DeMerchant Jr. was married in the same circumstances oneweek later.
Mary was the daughter of a Loyalist, John Cuffman (or Coffman) who lived about five miles down river. Cuffmanlater changed his name toJohn DeMerchant
(Sr.) (Kaufmann means merchant in German.) Cuffman had been aPrivate in thePrince of Wales American Regiment
,fighting for the British
from 1777 until 1783, when he sailed toNew Brunswick along with many other Loyalist soldiers. There is goodevidence
that John was of German origin.While there wereHessian
soldiers fighting for the British in the Revolution, they kept mostly to their ownregiments. In the case of John Cuffman, other German names are not evident in the rolls of his regiment. JohnCuffman was a stranger in a strange land, like Cantin Dionne.Mary Catherine Frances DeMerchant was baptised by Rev. John Beardsley May 28, 1798 at Maugerville AnglicanChurch. That record is the earliest known use of the name DeMerchant. Very little is known about Mary's motherexcept that her name was also Mary. There is indirect evidence that John was married at the time he first petitionedfor a land grant in 1784. After John's death in 1830, his wife received a Widows of Revolutionary War Soldierspension from 1840 until 1848, when she presumably died.
Failure and a Second Try
In Northeastern North America in 1816, there were freezing conditions every month of the year, probably due to theeffect of volcanic activity in the South Pacific. Widespread snow storms occurred in June. Successive years of badweather, including this "year without a summer,"
ruined many New Brunswick farmers, and the young Dionne wasapparently one of them. On Jan 16, 1818 Contin Yon's grant on the "East Side the River St. John—Wakefield"appears on a longlist of lands forfeited
for not fulfilling the official requirements, which included improving theland and paying a yearly fee.In February 1819, Cantinappliedagain for a land grant, this time for 300 acres in Richmond, on the road betweenWoodstock, New Brunswick, and Houlton, Maine, about two or three miles from the border. He tells us that he"...was born in and bred up in the Province of Lower Canada [modern Quebec] but he has resided for the last sevenyears in this Province. He is a married man and desirous with establishing himself in the Province in the farmingline." He already had "...upon the said land about four acres cleared and under cultivation..." He was granted 200acres on Jan 19, 1822, and by 1824 he had cleared another ten acres.
Baptisms in a Foreign Church
Two baptisms were recorded at the Woodstock Anglican Church on January 30, 1822: Charles Edward John, bornJuly 22, 1818 and Charlotta John born January 31, 1820. Parents were listed as Mary and Conter John, a farmer fromRichmond. On the same day, Mary's sister Francis Maria DeMerchant, also from Richmond, was baptized as an adult.Was Francis Maria helping her older sister with her children?
More Land Transactions
In August, 1823, Cantin and Mary sold half of their Richmond property to Samuel Parks, for 50 pounds. John Bedellwas a witness to the sale.In March 1824, he was again petitioning the government over land. He claimed that the previous April he purchased300 acres of land in Kent Parish, from Nathan Messer. Messer died before he had clear title to his grant, and Cantinpetitioned to clear things up. The land in question was north of lot 106, on the east side of the St. John River, at themouth of Shikatehawk Stream, about 6-7 miles north of the Military Settlement where he was married in 1815. [Thelot is probably the one marked George Dixon on the grant map.] He says, "...having moved upon the land, renderedthe old house formerly occupied by Messer habitable and put the land under fence and cultivation in doing which andmaking the first payment [30 pounds of the 75 pound total] he has completely for the present exhausted his slendermeans, his entire ruin must be the consequence of his being deprived of the land which Messer's Step Son has notonly threatened to do but also to insist upon the Balance unpaid upon the obligation whenever due."He "... throws himself upon the clemency of Your Honor...," and apparently won, for in September 1825 he turnedaround andsold
the land to Edward Kermott for 200 pounds. The previous March he had sold the second half of hisRichmond land to John and Walter Bedell for 20 pounds.
Cantin's actions were consistent with the land speculation that was rampant at the time. He leveraged a free grant toan ultimate profit of 200 pounds, probably with the assistance of John Bedell, who was a prominent Woodstock businessman and, conveniently, Judge of common pleas and registrar of deeds and wills for the County of Carleton.
Move to Madawaska
Another baptism was recorded at the Woodstock Anglican Church on September 11, 1826: ThomasYon
, son of Mary and Conter, a farmer from Kent parish. Shortly after the baptism, Cantin and Mary returned to the French-speaking community in the upper St. John River Valley, about 100 miles up the river. Was Thomas baptized inpreparation for the trip?The switch from the Anglican Church to theCatholic Church
was sudden. On January 14, 1827, Julie Dionne wasbaptized at St. Basile, about five miles east of the current city of Edmundston. More births are recorded at St. Basilein 1828, 1830 and 1832. On August 10, 1835, three children who were christened at the Anglican Church inWoodstock were again baptized at the St. Basile Catholic Church (Thomas, age 10, Angelle, age 15 and Edouard, age17).Ten children
are known in all.At that time, the name Madawaska referred to the area around the upper St. John River Valley, above Grand Falls.Settlement of Madawaska began around 1785 when French Acadians forced from the area around Fredericton joinedothers from Quebec andpetitionedfor land in Madawaska.In the 1830 US Census of Madawaska, he is listed as Cortor Yon, on line 21 of p.382 in "Madawaska Settlement, St.John River". In the 1831Survey of the Madawaska Settlements
by Deane and Kavanagh, commissioned by the Stateof Maine, Quintin Yan appears on the South Bank of the St. John. The report reads, "Almost opposite the old churchof the Parish of St. Basil, is a path which leads to a back settlement. On this road which runs in a southerly direction...beginning not less than 500 rods [1.5 miles or 2.5 km] south of the St. John River... [the third lot on west side of road,in what is today the town of St. David, Maine]" The report says that Quintin Yan was "From Canada, began clearing12 years ago, occupies a width of 60 rods [1000 ft or 300 meters], has a house and a barn and 12 acres in cultivation."This is curious because he was living 100 miles away in Richmond 12 years before, in 1819.Starting about this time, and for the next ten years, a dispute arose over the proper location of the border between theUnited States and New Brunswick. The two sides very nearly went to war, but the situation was eventually settled bythe Webster Ashburton Treaty in 1842. The international border was set as the St. John River, dividing thecommunities of Madawaska.In the1833 New Brunswick Census of Madawaska
, he is listed as Contre Yon, living in the "Back Settlementopposite Chapel" (which seems to refer to the church at St. Basile, across the river). Like many others in Madawaskathat year, the census lists him as being in need of assistance. His only livestock was a single horse, and no crops wereplanted or harvested, making him one of the poorest in the census. (Or perhaps he concentrated his efforts onlumbering, the vocation of a number of his descendants.)In the 1840 US Census he is listed as Conte You, on line 14 of p.49, living in "Madawaska North of the St. John". Hehad moved back across the river. In 1845, John Hartt brought suit against him in Supreme Court for 36 pounds 16shillings.The 1851 Census of New Brunswick shows Cantin Dionne living in the fourth dwelling on the west side of theMadawaska River, which joins the St. John river just west of Edmundston. His oldest daughter Mary Anne and herhusband Charles Fournier lived in the next dwelling upriver and Charles is listed as "Farmer Tenant". Three morehouses upriver lived his daughter Julie and her husband Joseph Beaulieu, who apparently was working for thelandowner Peter St. Onge (or St. Ange).In 1853 Conter and Mary Dionnedeeded
their "lot No. 7 on the West side of the Madawaska River" to Mary Annand her husband Charles Fournier. Earlier that year, his son Edwardsold
the adjacent lot 6 to Charles Fournier. Thisland was about three miles up the river, not far from Edmundston, with a nice section of intervale along the river, butvery hilly further back.

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