Thursday, June 26, 2008

Meet Guillaume Couture..

Monument to Guillaume Couture in Lévis, on the south shore of the Sainte-Laurent, opposite Québec city

Have you every met anyone with the last name of Couture? Anyone? Well, if you live in North America and you have met someone with this last name. They are directly descended from this man, Guillaume Couture. My mother is of very near complete French-Canadian descent and Couture is her maiden name. Which makes this man my 8th great-grandfather. Having done much research on this man I can say without reservation that this guy was a hard-core bad ass!

As an American child I learned about the history of the pioneers of the Virginia and Massachusetts colonies and I was always jealous that I couldn't trace my lineage back to these first Americans. Before the birth my first son I became interested in Genealogy and to that end I researched the French-Canadian half of my pedigree. What I learned filled stunned me. My own lineage was here long before those 'limey' Anglos ever set foot on north American soil.

Miles Standish ain't got nuthin' on my ancestor Guillaume...

*Read on:

Guillaume Couture (or Cousture) (January 14, 1618 - April 4, 1701) was a citizen of New France. During his life he was a lay missionary with the Jesuits, a survivor of torture, a member of a Mohawk council, a translator, a diplomat, a militia captain, and a lay leader among the colonists of the Pointe-Levy (actually named (Lévis) City) in the Seigneury of Lauzon. A district of New France located on the South Side of Quebec City.

Early life and recruitment by the Jesuits

Couture was born in Rouen in 1618, Rouen was the political center Normandy, a province in Northern France, the son of Guillaume Couture Sr. and Madeleine Mallet (at this time in France married women kept their birth names). Guillaume Sr. was a respectable carpenter in the St Goddard district, young Guillaume was brought up to follow in his father's footsteps. However, by 1640 Guillaume Couture was recruited by Jesuits to be a donne in New France. A donne was a lay missionary who would assist the Jesuits in converting the natives of New France to Roman Catholicism. Couture had to take a vow of celibacy and give up his inheritance, transferring it to his relatives in Rouen.

Work with Isaac Jogues

Arriving in New France in 1640, Couture went to work among the Hurons. By 1642 Couture was working with the Jesuit leader Isaac Jogues. During this period, Couture learned several major native languages, which increased his stature, for he could now work as a translator for the Jesuits. Couture also learned much about native culture and ways during this period.

Tortured by the Mohawks

In 1642, Couture set out with Father Jogues, another lay missionary, Rene Goupil, and several Huron converts for Quebec. On their way back to the Huron missions, a Mohawk war party ambushed the group. Right before the attack, Couture saw the Hurons, who realized what was about to happen, take off into the woods; Couture followed them as Jogues and Goupil were captured. However, according to Relations des Jésuites de la Nouvelle-France (the official reports sent by the Jesuits to their leaders in France) reported that Couture soon began to regret what he did. The Relations reported that:
This young man was able to escape; but the thought of it having come to him -"no" he says, "I wish to die with the Father; I cannot forsake him; I will gladly suffer the fire and the rage of these tigers for the love of Jesus Christ, in the company of the good Father" That is speaking like a truly faithful man.
On his way to surrender himself to the Mohawks, Couture was ambushed by five Mohawks. One of them fired a gun at Couture, but he missed. Couture shot back, this time killing him instantly. The other four Mohawks, fell upon Couture and with heavy clubs beat him up. They also took a javelin and forced it through one of his hands. Later on, Couture, Jogues, and Goupil were subjected to even more torture. The Mohawks tore out Couture's fingernails, and bit the ends to cause maximum pain. Then the three men were stripped and forced to walk through a party of two hundred Mohawks; as they did, the Mohawks beat the three with sticks of thorns. After arriving at a Mohawk village, a Mohawk leader took out a dull knife and began to cut off Couture's right middle finger. When it failed to work, the chief simply pulled the finger out of its socket. At this point, Couture was sent deep into Mohawk Country (present day upstate New York in Auriesville) where he was given to a family to be their slave.

Diplomacy and release

For the next three years, Couture impressed his captors greatly. No doubt they were impressed with the fact that he withstood his torture (which would had killed most people) and performed the tasks assigned to him with dignity. So impressed were the Mohawks that they invited Couture to sit on their councils. No other European would ever get this honor.

In 1645, [[de Montmagny], the governor of New France, decided it was time to end the war with the Mohawks. He released several Mohawk prisoners and sent them into Mohawk Country to negotiate a peace settlement. The Mohawks in turn released Couture, and asked him to act on their behalf, which Couture agreed to do. Couture arrived at Trois-Rivières and, along with two Mohawk leaders, was able to put an end (for the time) the war between the Five Nations (better known as the Iroquois) and the French.

Instead of settling down after such an ordeal, Couture decided to go straight back to Huron Country. In 1646 he was reported as working in the Huron missions with Father Pijart. He only did this for only two years between 1645 and 1647.

First settler of Pointe-Levy in the Seignory of Lauzon (actually named City of Lévis since 1861)

On May 15, 1647, he became the first settler of the Seignory of Lauzon at Pointe-Levy (located in front of Quebec City) which will become the city of Lévis in 1861. However, he was not a seignor because the Seignory of Lauzon was the property of Jean de Lauzon (Governor of New France between 1651 and 1657.). In 1649, he had decided to finally settle down. The Jesuit leaders in New France voted unanimously to release Couture from his vows and to allow him to get married. The woman who Couture chose to be his bride was Anne Aymard, who was from St Andre de Niort, in Poitou region of France. The couple would have ten children during their years of marriage.

Last Mission and Last Expedition in New France

During the 1650s and 1660's, Couture acted as a diplomat, going to New Netherlands to negotiate trade and to settle boundary disputes between the two colonies.

In 1663, Couture was recruited by French Governor Pierre du Bois d'Avaugour for a mission in the North of New France. The main mission was to find the North Sea. However, Couture found the Mistassini Lake and he goes to the Rupert River. He was accompanied by Pierre Duquet et Jean Langlois and many Amerindians. This shipment consisted of 44 boats. No doubt Couture's skills with native languages came into good use. The party worked among the Papinachois, who lived in present day northeastern Quebec.

The administrator and Captain of the Militia of Pointe-Levy

Sometime around 1666, with war with the Iroquois and the English looming, Couture, now living full time in Pointe-Lévy (Lévis) since 1647. Couture was the main administrator and he has been named Captain of the Militia for the area he lived in. This was a major honor in New France, only going to those who had proved themselves, something Couture had done again and again. In 1690, when Admiral William Phips invaded Quebec City Area, Couture was able to prevent the English from attacking Pointe-Levy at the age of 72 yrs old.

By this point, Couture was also the Chief Magistrate of the Pointe-Levy (actually named Lévis) district. Among his jobs were to run the censuses, enforce government edicts, and run the local assemblies that met from time to time. Couture was also in charge of local court cases, being both judge and jury. On some occasions, Couture was invited to sit on the Sovereign Council, which ran New France for Louis XIV. The fact that the status-obsessed French government offered Couture, who was low born, a part time seat on the council shows how highly the leaders of New France viewed him.

Couture died in 1701

On November 18, 1700, Couture's wife Anne died. In the Springtime of 1701, Couture was 83 yrs old and he was sick (probably the Smallpox). He has been moved to the Hotel Dieu of Quebec City, where he died on April 4, 1701. The location of his tomb is actually unknown, as Samuel de Champlain, founder of Quebec City.

*Copied from a wikipedia entry which was translated from a French history located here.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Christ-killers and Time-machines and blood sacrifice...oh my!

It's been a little while since I posted. Generally it's been because of the summer season conspiring against my need to engage with people on matters philosophical and theological, but I digress...

I've been wanting to bring this subject up for a long while now and I haven't known quite how to broach it. The subject I'd like to discuss is the penchant for some of those who claim to be Christian to attach a label to those of the Jewish persuasion. That label is a horrible one: Christ-killer.

First an emphatic disclaimer: I do not in any way believe that ALL those who would call themselves Christian or a Christ-Follower believe that the Jewish people are 'Christ-killers'.

What is the basis for leveling such a charge at a whole group of people who weren't even present at the doleful events described in the Gospels? When is it EVER acceptable to hold accountable the descendants of those purported to have caused, through action or inaction, some horrible event?

Would it be acceptable or fair for an American of African descent to hold some American of English descent accountable for the evil of American slavery?

I think most if not ALL of my theistic friends who come here to read my verbal regurgitations would agree with me that the whole 'Jew = Christ-killer' math is horribly wrong and misguided.

This line of thought does however pose more interesting questions. That said I'd like to unpack this a little further so I ask your indulgence as I engage in a measure of temporal experimentation.

Suppose one of us had access to a time machine.

You could go anywhere in the past and you could interact with persons in the same way you do with people in your everyday life. Putting aside the arguments of temporal paradoxes such as killing your father before he and your mother engaged in the act that conceived you. What would you, the prospective time traveler, do with your power to change history for the better?

Would you act in such a way as to prevent the trial and death of Jesus Christ?

The reason I ask is this: The aforementioned people who would ascribe the label of Christ-killer to the Jewish people betray a certain unhappiness with the Jesus' end and a wish that he had not been killed. Why should this be so? It seems to me that the entire narrative of the 'Good News' is that Jesus came here to die for the sins of all past, present and future. So why should any believer in Christ and his work be upset that Jesus died? He did his job as prescribed and you are all the beneficiaries.

It seems to me that saving Jesus from the cross is much different than saving Lincoln from John Wilkes Booth. My reading of history tells me that saving Lincoln may very well have saved the South from a humiliating and punishing Reconstruction period as Lincoln very much wanted to bring the South back into the fold in a much more compassionate and forgiving manner.

To wit; What would have been the fruits of rescuing Jesus from the mob in the Garden of Gethsemane? Had he not died in the manner recorded would that have detracted from his general message? What is the voodoo or magic behind the blood-sacrifice of an innocent that somehow miraculously assuages or cures the blight that possesses all sinners provided they accept said innocent as his Lord and savior?

Isn't it more likely that the stories of the Gospels are better taken as mythological truths that convey a deep meaning but need not be taken as literal truth?

I don't claim to have all the answers I just ask the questions and see where the queries lead...