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  • Rebecca Drew

Zacharie Cloutier


Signature of Zacharie Cloutier looks like an ax

How do you like the signature of Zacharie Cloutier, Québec's most prolific progenitor? Yes, Monsieur Cloutier could not sign his name, so he sealed Québec's first marriage certificate with an image of an ax. He was signing on behalf of his daughter, another one of my ancestors (and of many other Québécois), and that contract is another story altogether. Let's focus on the enterprising Zacharie Cloutier for now!


Monsieur Cloutier was born around 1590 in Mortagne-au-Perche in Normandy, France. He married Xainte DuPont in 1616 and eventually set sail for Québec, later followed by his son and namesake, also Zacharie Cloutier. Our Monsieur Cloutier was a maître-charpentier, meaning a master carpenter. This occupation is what led him to North America. Québec's founder, Samuel de Champlain, promised land to his surgeon and apothecary, Robert Gifford de Moncel, who in turn, needed skilled workers as a new seigneur. He eventually granted a fief to Monsieur Cloutier, known as "la Clouterie" along with access to many arpents of woodlands and meadows along the St. Lawrence River. In exchange, Monsieur Cloutier, alongside close friend (and yet another ancestor) Jean Guyon du Buisson cleared other woodlands for Monsieur Gifford while building his manor house, among other homes in the area. He is also credited with building the parish church in Québec City and the fort at Saint-Louis. Some believe that some of his buildings still stand today.


There is historical documentation indicating Zacharie Cloutier was a peacemaker among his large family, yet his relationship with Seigneur Gifford eventually soured. Both Cloutier and Guyon decided not to submit the usual payments expected within the old regime of France. Guess you could say Cloutier had an ax to grind with Gifford! Historians have designated this lawsuit as one of the first incidents of the New World throwing off the shackles of the stifling Old World hierarchy.


While wielding his ax among the woodlands of New France, did Zacharie Cloutier have any idea that his efforts would eventually make him one of the most prolific ancestors among the Québécois? At least that's the verdict by the Université de Montréal's Historical Demography Research Program. Thanks to the vast genealogical records in Québec, the university was able to recreate the family trees of Québec's pioneers. As of 1800, Zacharie Cloutier had the most descendants of all those pioneers. Making a living from his environment certainly paid off for him. He lived until his late eighties, and his grandson's house, where he passed away, is still standing today. Many of his descendants have paid homage to this patriarch by visiting his origins in both France and Québec, where they can find plaques honoring his contributions to the colony. Hopefully, this journal will pay a bit of homage to Zacharie Cloutier, as well.


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