Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, baron de Saint-Castin
- Régiment de Carignan-Salières
- The 1670s in New France
I am currently trying to tell the story of Jean-Vincent, baron de Saint-Castin (1652 -1707), but fatigue has slowed me down. Jean-Vincent came to New France as a member of the Régiment de Carignan-Salières, under the command of Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy (c. 1596 or 1603 – 1670). Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie was 13 years old when he joined the régiment, which was acceptable in the 17th century, given his birth and education. He was made an ensign.
At that time in the history of New France, Daniel de Rémy de Courcelle (1626 – 1698) was governor-general and the Filles du Roy, the King’s Daughters, were arriving in Nouvelle-France so settlers could marry French women. Eight hundred women immigrated to New France between 1663 and 1673.
The Régiment de Carignan-Salières was sent to New France in 1665, by Louis XIV, king of France, to protect French settlers who were frequently attacked by Iroquois, allies of the British. According to the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, “[i]t is probable that in 1666 Jean-Vincent took part with his regiment in the campaign of the Marquis de Tracy against the Iroquois.” He returned to France in 1668.
Images by Francis Back: Le Régiment de Carignan-Salières
Jean-Vincent in le Maine, Acadia
- Treaty of Breda (1667)
- Hector d’Andigné de Grandfontaine, governor of Acadia (1670 – 1673)
- Castine, Maine
However, in 1670, the Baron of Saint-Castin accompanied Captain Hector d’Andigné de Grandfontaine (1627 – 1696), formerly of the Régiment de Carignan-Salières. Grandfontaine had been appointed governor of Acadia, newly restored to France by virtue of the Treaty of Breda (1667). Both Grandfontaine and Saint-Castin took up residence at Pentagouet, le Maine, on the Penobscot River.
Le Maine is the current state of Maine, in the Northeast of the United States. However, until 1713, le Maine was part of Acadia, one of the two provinces of New France. It was contested territory as ownership of this land was claimed by France, England and Holland. As we know, it belonged to the aboriginals, but …
The town of Castine, Maine, is named after the Baron de Saint-Castin and, from 1670 until 1674, it was the capital of Acadia. However, if Castine is the baron’s namesake, it is largely because he mingled with Amerindians which, of course, benefited New France, but also showed that Jean-Vincent did not look upon Amerindians as inferior human beings. In fact, he married an Amerindian woman and, after her death, her sister.
The alliance he created between the French and the Amerindians was more than friendship. If Jean-Vincent, baron de Saint-Castin, has gone down in the annals of history, the best explanation is that he married Pidianske the daughter of Penobscot chief Madockawando (born in Maine c. 1630; died 1698), renamed Marie-Mathilde.
Pidianske and Pidiwamiska
Marie-Mathilde bore the baron ten children. As for her husband, he became an Abenaki chief after Madockawando‘s death in 1698. Grandfontaine, whom Jean-Vincent accompanied to Maine, served briefly, a mere three years, from 1670 until 1673. He was replaced by Jacques de Chambly, who was taken prisoner by Dutch pirates. So was Jean-Vincent who was tortured, but escaped and alerted officials. Pentagouet, however, ceased to be the capital of Acadia and the baron went to live with his tribe, using his Pentagouet quarters as a trading-post.
According to the video at the bottom of this post FR, after the death of Marie-Mathilde, Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie married Pidianske’s sister, Pidiwamiska, who bore him two children. Charles-Anselme d’Abbadie and Joseph, two of Jean-Vincent’s sons, were also militant Abenakis, but could not match their father’s exceptional leadership.
One Marriage blessed by the Church
There is confusion regarding the baron’s marriages. He seems to have married twice, à la façon du pays, but one couple’s vows were blessed by the Catholic Church in the last quarter of 1684, at Pentagouet. As requested by Monseigneur François de Laval, the Bishop of Quebec, Father Jacques Bigot, the Jesuit missionary to the Abenakis, married the couple. However, the baron had become an Amerindian, spoke the language of Amerindians and lived with them. He was an Abenaki chief and a successful fur trader.
François, évêque de Québec
Return to France
Born in Béarn, Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Gascony), in 1652, Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie returned to France in 1701 hoping to consolidate his title and inheritance as third baron de Saint-Castin. His effort in that regard was thwarted by family members. He had been absent for a very long time. He died at Pau, Pyrénées-Atlantiques, in 1707, in his fifties. Opposition to his legitimate claim proved more deleterious than life in a wigwam.
Longfellow’s “The Baron of St. Castine”
However, he is remembered not only as his namesake, Castine, but because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807–1882), who was born in Portland, Maine, wrote a poem honouring the baron de Saint-Castin, “The Baron of St. Castine,” part of Tales of a Wayside Inn (1864). Longfellow is the author of Évangéline, a Tale of Acadie, 1847. Évangéline is a fictional victim of the Expulsion of the Acadians, in 1755.
The poem refers to Saint-Castin’s father, but Castine’s father had probably died prior to his son departure for New France. However, the image of an ageing father awaiting the return of his son in a French castle was far too compelling for Longfellow not to depict.
A Father Grieves
Facts being at times uncertain in the life of Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie, fiction demanded a grieving father.
Baron Castine of St. Castine
Has left his château in the Pyrenees,
And sailed across the western seas.
When he went away from his fair demesne
The birds were building, the woods were green;
And now the winds of winter blow
Round the turrets of the old château,
The birds are silent and unseen,
The leaves lie dead in the ravine,
And the Pyrenees are white with snow.
His father, lonely, old, and gray,
Sits by the fireside day by day,
Thinking ever one thought of care;
Through the southern windows, narrow and tall,
The sun shines into the ancient hall,
And makes a glory round his hair.
The house-dog, stretched beneath his chair,
Groans in his sleep as if in pain,
Then wakes, and yawns, and sleeps again,
So silent is it everywhere,–
So silent you can hear the mouse
Run and rummage along the beams
Behind the wainscot of the wall;
And the old man rouses from his dreams,
And wanders restless through the house,
As if he heard strange voices call.
Acadia fell to Britain under the terms the Treaty of Utrecht, in 1713, peace treaties that ended the War of the Spanish Succession. However, under the terms of The Treaty of Ryswick, 1698, the French had already lost authority over le Maine.
Founded in 1604, four years before Quebec, Acadia was the first province of New France to be handed however to Britain. At the time Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie arrived in Maine, the total number of Acadians was 885. As for the inhabitants of Quebec or Canada, they numbered 3,200 people. (See Canadian Military History.)
The French and the Amerindians
The story of Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie provides insight into the relationship between the French and the Amerindians. French voyageurs learned to live as did the Amerindians, or would have perished. They entered every nook and cranny of the North American continent and married Amerindians, creating the Métis people. However, there were very few French settlers, and most lived on the shores of the Saint Lawrence River and in Acadie.
My best regards to all of you. ♥
- Madeleine de Verchères: a Canadian Heroine (15 November 2012)
Sources and Resources
- Adrian Leblond de Brumath FR (1854 – 1939), The Makers of Canada: Bishop Laval, Gutenberg Project [EBook #17174] and Internet Archive
- Alaric Faulkner, Pentagoet: A First Look at Seventeenth-Century Acadian Maine
- Maine Historical Society
- Canadian Military History: http://www.cmhg.gc.ca/cmh/page-50-eng.asp
- Francis Back: http://www.newswire.ca/news-releases/drawing-french-america—the-historical-illustrations-of-francis-back-510215831.html
- Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) View Acadian Timeline
“Abenaki”. Encyclopædia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2015. Web. 11 Sep. 2015
© Micheline Walker
11 September 2015