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Helene DESPORTES - Biography

DESPORTES, HÉLÈNE (Hébert; Morin), said to be the first white child born in New France, daughter of Pierre Desportes and Françoise Langlois; m. Guillaume Hébert in October 1634; m. secondly Noël Morin 9 Jan. 1640 at Quebec; d. 24 June 1675.

The date of Hélène’s birth has not been definitely fixed. Dionne says that she came to Quebec with her parents in 1613, Sulte that she was born in Quebec about 1622. Statistics from other sources indicate that she was 14 years old in 1634, 38 in 1659, 46 in 1666, and 48 in 1667. Anne Hébert, according to Champlain, had died in childbirth prior to 1620; but since there is no further mention of her child, it was presumably still-born. Eustache Martin was born in October 1621. If, however, we assume Hélène’s birthdate to be 1620, which seems most probable, her claim is established as being the first white child born alive in the St. Lawrence region. (Sulte, to be sure, claims for Guillemette Hébert the honour of being the first-born Canadienne, on the assumption that Louis Hébert had his wife with him in Acadia in 1606, but Lescarbot’s evidence refutes this (History (Grant).)

Pierre Desportes probably came to Quebec in 1614 with Abraham Martin: their wives were sisters. Desportes’ occupation is not known, but he must have had some standing in the community and sufficient education to be able to write, for he signed on behalf of the inhabitants the document of 1621 appealing to the king. No other facts are known about him. (He is not to be confused with Pierre Desportes de Liguère, to whom the Compagnie de la Nouvelle-France ceded Île Royale (Cape Breton) in 1636.)

Neither of Hélène’s parents witnessed her marriage contract with Guillaume Hébert, drawn up at Quebec in October 1634. The marriage took place the same month in the parish of Notre-Dame de Québec. About this only son of Canada’s first settler little is recorded except an occasional instance of his helping the priests in their relations with the natives. Since he had inherited half his father’s land, which included some acres on the St. Charles as well as the original site above the cliff, it is to be assumed that his chief occupation during his short life was the cultivation of his fields. He was but a little boy when he came to Quebec with his parents in 1617, and therefore probably still in his twenties when he died in 1639. Three children were born of this marriage, one of whom died in infancy. The other two were a son, Joseph, and a daughter, Françoise (b. 1638), who married Guillaume Fournier, 1651.

Hélène, having been widowed, married on 9 Jan. 1640 in the parish of Notre-Dame de Québec Noël Morin (1616–80), a wheelwright who became one of the early pioneers of Montmagny. Their son Germain* was consecrated to the priesthood by Mgr Laval* in September 1665, the first Canadian-born priest. Another son, Jean-Baptiste (1645–94), was a member of the Conseil Souverain. A daughter, Marie*, was the first Canadian-born nun.

Ethel M. G. Bennett Dictionary of Canadian Biography, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003

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