Source: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
LE MOYNE DE LONGUEUIL ET DE CHÂTEAUGUAY, CHARLES, soldier, interpreter, trader, seigneur, son of Pierre Le Moyne, innkeeper, and of Judith Du Chesne; b. 2 Aug. 1626 at Dieppe (Normandy); d. February 1685 at Montreal.
The fact that his maternal uncle, the surgeon Adrien Du Chesne, was in the colony, encouraged Charles Le Moyne to come to New France. He was 15 years old when he arrived in 1641. At first he was an indentured employee of the Jesuits in the Huron country, and over a period of four years he familiarized himself with the Indian languages.
In 1645 he was serving in the Trois-Rivières garrison as an interpreter, a clerk, and a soldier. The following year he settled at Ville-Marie (Montreal), where he was to remain throughout his whole career. His life there took the form of continual skirmishes with the Indians, who plagued the fort unceasingly with their attacks. In 1646, and again in 1648, he took a number of Iroquois prisoners. In the spring of 1651, with the pioneer Jacques Archambault, he barely escaped a massacre in which several settlers perished; there was only one other survivor, Jean Chicot, and he had been scalped. On 18 June of the same year he repelled another attack, and for his bravery he was named storekeeper of the fort.
In another ambush, in 1655, he and Lambert Closse took half a dozen Indians prisoner, among them a chief. During a trip he made to Quebec in 1657 he instituted an exchange of French and Iroquois prisoners. He very nearly set out with Dollard Des Ormeaux on the 1660 expedition; he did not go, however, because he wanted it to be postponed until after seed-time.
During an attack by 160 Indians in February 1661, only Le Moyne had a weapon with which to defend himself. Just as he was about to be captured he was saved by Mme Celles Duclos, who brought him an armful of weapons. In the summer of 1665 he was taken prisoner by an Iroquois party, but set free thanks to Garakontié, a friend of the French and a chief of the Onondagas.
In January 1666 Le Moyne was in command of the settlers of Ville-Marie who served as the advance guard for Governor Rémy de Courcelle’s fruitless expedition to the Iroquois country. In the autumn he was to be found at the head of the Montreal settlers in the campaign against the Mohawks, which was personally conducted by the lieutenant general, Prouville de Tracy. On his return he escorted the army chaplain to Fort Sainte-Anne on Lake Champlain. In addition, in the summer of 1671, he took part, as an interpreter, in a new expedition to Lake Ontario organized by Courcelle. In 1673 he resumed his role as an interpreter for the chiefs of the Iroquois tribes, when Governor Buade de Frontenac went to Lake Ontario to lay the foundations for the settlement of Cataracoui.
In the autumn of 1682 he took part in the assembly of the notables of the country, called by Governor Le Febvre de La Barre to decide whether New France should take the Offensive against the Iroquois territory. In the spring of 1683, he was again delegated by La Barre, this time to go with four Indian chiefs from Laprairie, near Montreal, to the south shore of Lake Ontario; they were to take gifts to the Five Nations, who were once more defying the authorities of New France and neglecting to send their deputies, according to agreement, to negotiate the terms of the fur trade and of the alliances.
In the year of his marriage (1654), Charles Le Moyne had received from Chomedey de Maisonneuve a gift of money and a grant of 90 acres of land, since called Pointe-Saint-Charles, and a site in Saint-Paul Street, where for 30 years he had his home and his headquarters.
The Lauson family, in 1657, granted him a fief of 5,000 acres, in accordance with the uses and customs of Le Vexin in France; this was on the south shore at Montreal, cut directly out of the huge seigneury of La Citière. To this fief was added in 1665 grants of land on the Île Sainte-Hélène and the Île Ronde. In 1669 he had an establishment at the Saint-Louis rapids.
In 1672 Governor Frontenac and Intendant Jean Talon confirmed him in his title to the seigneury of Longueuil by augmenting it with the unallotted lands between Varennes and Laprairie, and by extending it to one and a half leagues in depth. The following year, “because of the zeal that he has always shown in the service of the king,” Frontenac granted him a seigneury at Châteauguay two leagues across by three in depth, and the Île Saint-Bernard, now called the Île Châteauguay, at the mouth of the Rivière du Loup. In 1676 the intendant Duchesneau, in compliance with his request, still further extended the depth of his seigneury of Longueuil, and Le Moyne collected all his fiefs under the name of Longueuil.
With his brother-in-law and business associate Jacques Le Ber* he acquired in 1679 the Boisbriant fief, which subsequent documents situate “at the upper end of the Île de Montréal,” which took the name of Senneville, and of which Le Ber became the sole holder. Under M. de La Barre’s administration he obtained with Le Ber the right to trade in furs at Fort Cataracoui and to ship supplies there, in compensation for funds advanced to Cavelier de La Salle, a bad debtor.
He made application, in 1684, for the purchase of the fief of the Île Perrot, which had belonged to François-Marie Perrot, the governor of Montreal.
In addition to his residence in Saint-Paul Street – the finest at Ville-Marie – Le Moyne, from 1674, owned a house and buildings on his fief of Longueuil. In 1675 he had there some 20 copyholders (censitaires). In 1684, in favour of his eldest son Charles*, he relinquished his Longueuil fief, which was to be elevated to a barony in 1700.
With Pierre Gadoys, Le Moyne was elected a warden of the parish church of Ville-Marie in 1660, and when the royal government was set up at Montreal in 1663 he was given the office of attorney-general, which he filled for a year of two.
In 1668 Le Moyne received letters patent of nobility. These letters, which were not registered within the prescribed time-limit and which were therefore theoretically cancelled, were nevertheless recognized by the authorities of the colony and by the king himself. Nobody, moreover, seems to have challenged the right of Le Moyne or of his descendants to their titles between 1668 and 1717, at which time the situation was regularized by the registration of the letters patent in the Parlement of Paris and the Cour des Aides.
Governor Le Febvre de La Barre, asserting that Le Moyne had done more than any other person in the war against the Iroquois, recommended him in 1683 for the post of governor of Montreal.
Shortly afterwards, Le Moyne was to perform his final service for his country. It was he who in the summer of 1684, with the help of Father Jean de Lamberville*, saved from disaster La Barre’s unfortunate expedition against the Iroquois, by inducing the latter to negotiate for peace at Anse de la Famine (Famine Cove).
Worn out before his time, Charles Le Moyne was not yet 60 when he dictated his last will and testament on 30 Jan. 1685. He passed away a few days later and was buried in the crypt of the church of Notre-Dame at Montreal.
At Ville-Marie, in 1654, he had married Catherine Thierry (1640–90), the adopted daughter of Antoine Primot and of Martine Messier. His wife survived him by only five years. He had by her two daughters and 12 sons, almost all of them famous: of the latter several died in battle of their wounds; others were commandants of different localities; and one, Pierre Le Moyne* d’Iberville, was the most renowned soldier of New France.
The inventory of Charles Le Moyne’s possessions, which was drawn up shortly after his death by the notary Bénigne Basset, enumerated, in addition to the titles of landed property quoted earlier, personal possessions to the value of more than 125,000 livres; this makes Le Moyne the richest Montreal citizen of his day.
AJM, Greffe de Bénigne Basset, 1657–99, passim. Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), III, IX. Royal Fort Frontenac (Preston and Lamontagne). Crouse, Lemoyne d’Iberville. Faillon, Histoire de la colonie française, II, III. E. Falardeau, Les pionniers de Longueuil, 1666–1681 (Montréal, 1937). Frégault, Iberville, 9–64. A. Jodoin et L-L. Vincent, Histoire de Longueuil et de la famille de Longueuil (Montréal, 1889). Sulte, Mélanges historiques (Malchelosse), VIII. Tanguay, Dictionnaire.