THE VIAU FAMILY

 

Bertrand Viau moved into his own house in 1693 when he married Reine Robin, sister of his father's second wife, and daughter of a censitaire (tenant farmer who worked for a Seigneur) of Boucherville. In 1709, they already had six children. The youngest, Reine, was born on November 2nd, 1708. Then, there was Marie-Charlotte, aged 2 years, Julien, 5 years, Jean-Baptiste was 11 years old and Bertrand was 14. The eldest, Marie-Josephte, was 15 years old. Another son, born in 1702, lived for only 8 months.

Like their neighbors, the Viaus had a house divided into four rooms. The two-foot thick walls were made of field-stone joined by mortar and covered in lime. The steep roof, covered in shingles, had a dormer window which allowed the light to enter into the attic bedroom where the children slept. A bedroom, the kitchen, its huge chimney and oven at one end of the house, as well as a dining / living-room at the other end, comprised the main floor. Almost all the furniture - tables, chairs, buffets and beds - were made of pine by Bertrand and his father, helped by young Bertrand and Jean-Baptiste. At the beginning of the colony, grandmother Viau made clothing for all members of the family with fabric imported from France. As the supply of wool became sufficient, Mme Viau spun her wool and wove her own fabric. The left-overs were used to make blankets and "catalogne" (woven wool floor mats).

Ouside was an ample supply of firewood which fed the fires during the long, hard winters and also served to heat the oven twice a week, during the summer, when Mme Viau made bread. A little farther away, was the barn: pigs and chickens roamed around. Cows and sheep were usually taken to M. Le Moyne's pasture. A vegetable garden behind the house, was surrounded by a stone fence and high rods . M. Viau planted peas, potatoes, beans and cucumbers. Behind the barn were fields of wheat, barley and oats. Further away, was the forest.

When the Viaus wanted to have their wheat ground into flour, they had to take it to the mill. This was situated near the domain, at the spot where the St. Antoine creek and the St. Lawrence river met. The masonry and sails which were designed to "catch the wind", were made locally. But the machinery had to be imported from France, at a very high cost. In order to pay for the maintenance of the mill and the salary of the miller, M. Le Moyne was allowed to charge his tenants for the grinding of the wheat. He charged 1/14 of the grain ground at the mill. Therefore one "minot" (old French measure = 39 litres) of grain of the fourteen brought in by M. Viau was taken by the Seigneur in payment. Originally, on the seigneurie, the mill also had another use. Thanks to the loopholes at the top of the building, the mill was transformed into a fort in case of attack.

The Viaus lived almost exclusively on the fruit of the land. They varied their menu with fish caught in the river and with wild fruit: raspberries, cranberries and grapes that the children gathered in the fields. The Viaus needed to purchase few articles. These they obtained at Ville-Marie when they sold their wheat at 2 1/2 pounds per "minot". When M. Viau went to Ville-Marie, he bought nails, tools, pieces of iron for his wagon, powder and shot. Mme Viau bought salt, pepper, molasses, fabric (the weaver, André Lamarre produced fabric in the village) and sometimes she bought a pot or a pan. In this way, the family had everything they needed.