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  • A French and Indian Wars Enigma: Tracing My Descent From an English Captive Beatrice Couture Sawyer

    Beatrice Couture Sawyer

    Published Date : October/November 1986
     I am searching for the true identity and ancestry of a paternal great-great-great-great-great-grandfather who was captured during an Indian raid into New England prior to 1706.  Brought back to Canada by the war party, my English forebear first appeared in Quebec records when baptized at the age of 17 on 12 December 1706 at Cap St. Ignace (about 38 miles northeast of Quebec City on the opposite shore of the St. Lawrence River).

    As was customary, the captive was given a French Christian name during the church ceremony.  The brand new Catholic’s full name appears on the baptismal document as “Joseph-Philippe Ouabard,” followed by the explanation, “an glois de nation” (English by nationality).  Later 18th century Canadian records spell his surname variously as Wabard and/or Langlois, L’Anglois, Langlais.  Sometimes the name Ouabard on a document is followed in parentheses by “Weber or Hubbard.”

    Listed as godfather on the 1706 record is “M. Bazert, Missionary Priest,” who evidently performed the baptism. “Marie-Elisabeth Duomeny, Madame de Vincelotte,” is identified thereon as the godmother.

    A 36-year-old Joseph-Philippe Ouabard was married at Cap St. Ignace 19 years later, on 20 August 1725, to Charlotte Guillet, baptized on 10 November 1703, daughter of Mathieu and Marie (Pelletier) Guillet.  The marriage record further identifies the bridegroom as “son of Nicholas Ouabard and Marie ______." Emma Lewis Coleman, in her work entitled New England Captives Carried to Canada, lists Marie’s surname as “Jicormus.” In this instance, however, the French word Inconn us, meaning “Unknown,” was obviously misinterpreted.

    The union of Joseph-Philippe and Charlotte produced seven children whose births were recorded in Cap St. Ignace parish records.  According to one source, Joseph-Philippe married a second time, on 5 October 1761, to Louise Guyon, but Tanguay and Coleman [see below] both state that Joseph Philippe was buried on 29 December 1756, aged about 65.

    One of Joseph-Philippe’s sons, Joseph-Placide, born in 1726, married at Cap St. Ignace on 29 April 1748, aged 22, to Marthe Gravel.  That particular document lists the bridegroom as Joseph-Placide Ouabart-Langlois, son of Joseph L’anglois and Charlotte Guillet.

    The preceding information is all that I know of Joseph-Philippe Ouabard, except for certain data on his children, some of his grandchildren, and their spouses.  Also, I can trace two lines of descent from Joseph-Philippe through Marie Lucie Ouabard (wife of Louis Boisvert) who was my father’s great-grandmother.

    Most of the foregoing information was obtained from Cyprien Tanguay’s Dictionnaire Genealogique des Families Canadiennes (Genealogical Dictionary of Canadian Families), published at Montreal in seven volumes between 1871 and 1890, and Emma Lewis Coleman’s two-volume New England Captives Carried to Canada, published in 1925.

    One of the Coleman volumes lists Joseph-Philippe Ouabard as “still missing” along with the additional comment, “although no captives of the name have been found.”  This is at odds with the other volume of her work wherein she tells quite a bit about a Weber (Webber) family which was attacked by a Canadian Indian war party at “Kepen” (Cape Ann), Massachusetts.  Various spellings of the Weber surname were subsequently given: Ouabert, Ouaberd, Wabard, etc.

    Curiously enough, Coleman and Tanguay cite another interesting marriage recorded on 14 May 1730 at Cap St. Ignace - that of a Jean-Baptiste Ouabard, son of Mathieu and Marie Guardine, “an glois de nation” (English by nationality).  Jean-Baptiste’s bride was Hèléne Bovry, daughter of Jean Bovry.

    Since these nuptials took place only five years after the 1725 Joseph-Philippe Ouabard marriage to Charlotte Guillet in the same parish, I am tempted to believe that perhaps these English captives were brothers, even though the names of their parents are dissimilar.  The French and the English of that period often misspelled each other’s names.  Consider, too, the French practice of discarding th English Christian names of their captives during the baptismal process and bestowing on them the religious names of Roman Catholic saints.

    Emma Coleman’s work identifies English captives of the French and Indian Wars era who were still missing: [232] “As of Casco, remaining in 1695, are Sara Davis and Thos Baker, and on the Roll of 1710/11, Zacha, Joshua, Grace and Mary Davis; Two Jourdains; Elizabeth, Nathan and ____ Webber; and ____ Slew” (vol. 1, p. 199).  She goes on to state that “The Webers were probably children of Michael of Purpooduck.”

    Is it possible that the Webers, Webbers, Ouabards, and Ouaberts mentioned above were the children of Michael and Deborah (Bedford) Webber of Purpooduck (Falmouth) Maine, and Cape Ann, Massachusetts?  At this point such a premise would have to be considered speculation based on circumstantial evidence.  Here follows the story from the pages of Emma Coleman’s work (and other sources as shown) of Michael and Deborah (Bedford) Webber, the possible parents of Joseph-Philippe Ouabard.

    Deborah was the daughter of Nathan and Anne (Munden) Bedford of Scarborough, Maine.  According to Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, Volume II, prepared under the editorial supervision of William Richard Cutter, A.M. New York (1908), Nathan had “been one of the prominent men of Scarborough,” and “constable of that town in 1665.  In 1675, he was licensed by the selectmen to keep a house of entertainment for strangers, and his ordinary appears to have been in the locality of Blue Point Ferry.  In 1679 he removed to the mouth of the Spurwink and died there in 1681."  Anne married again in 1682 to Richard Calley (or Kelly) per New England Marriages Prior to 1700, by Clarence Almon Torrey.

    Deborah Bedford herself married a 47-year-old Michael Webber on 14 August 1686 at Falmouth in York County, Maine.

    Michael and Deborah had a son Nathan born in 1687 at Casco Bay, and another son Michael born 1689 at Falmouth, Maine.  Then, in early 1690, Indians totally destroyed the settlement in Falmouth.  All of the buildings were burned down, and Michael and his family were driven away.  Eleven years later, the family was living at Cape Ann, where a daughter, Mary, was born 16 May 1701.  It is possible that other children of Michael and Deborah were born between 1690 and 1701, but none seem to be recorded at Cape Ann.

    In 1702 Michael and his family returned to Falmouth where he built a house on the Purpooduck side of the river.  On 10 August 1703, during the second year of Queen Anne’s War, almost the entire settlement of nine families at that place was slaughtered by the Abenaki Indians.  This attack was the culmination of a three-pronged plan by Frontenac to exterminate the English “heretics and traitors” from American soil. “To accomplish this, three war parties of Frenchmen and savages were set in motion from different points in Canada toward the settlements; one to fall upon Albany, another upon the settlements in New Hampshire, and yet another upon those of Maine.” (Pioneers o New France in New England, by James Phinney Baxter [1980])

    Among those killed was Deborah Webber who was “knocked on the head dying instantly.” The History of Portland states “Indians came suddenly upon the defenseless hamlet when the men were absent, killed twenty-five persons and took several prisoners.” And, “The Indians ripped open Webber’s wife, who was pregnant, and took two children from her.”

    Michael Webber must have been one of the men who was absent when the Indians took their vengeance, because not long after this unspeakable event he returned to Gloucester where he received a land grant from the town.  On this land he built a house and lived there until his death 12 January 1729, aged almost 90 years.

    Could my Joseph-Philippe Ouabard, born about 1689 per his 1706 Canadian baptismal record, be the Nathan Webber who was named for his grandfather, Nathan Bedford?  Or, was he the ____ Webber” shown on Coleman’s 1710/11 roll of English captives?

    The author can be reached at 23 Bermuda Road, Westport, Connecticut, 06880, and welcomes any clues that might lead to the true identity of Joseph Philippe Ouabard.

    By Beatrice Couture Sawyer

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