Thursday, April 09, 2015

Sepia Saturday 274: Le Percheron

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (March 23, 1874 – July 25, 1951)

It's difficult not to select horses for a match with the prompt this week. Even though I've used this picture of my grandfather Hector with his team many times, I'm using it again.

Recently I found out my grandfather's horses were likely of the Percheron breed. These two, as you can see, are quite large and were very strong. They worked constantly, pulling heavy loads, plowing, and pulling all the farm machinery before they purchased motorized equipment. Hector loved them. 

Hector Fortier, Letellier Manitoba.
I've also learned over the course of the last several years from my cousin, that my ancestors emigrated to Canada from the Percheron area of France. I don't think my grandfather had much knowledge about his history, so I doubt that he purchased the horses based on their French pedigrees. It's probably a coincidence. Percheron horses were among the most common draft horses in America.They were developed by breeding Arab stallions to the mares native to Perche in France.The resulting large horses were strong and possessed good temperaments. Percherons carried knights into battle during the Crusades. The first of the breed line in this country came to New Jersey in 1839. 

I found the ancestry information that my cousin provided me fascinating and it led me and my husband to an ancestor hunt in Percheron in 2010, where we visited Mortagne du Perche, the town my ancestors left around 1640, for the wilds of Canada. 
Angels on ceiling of Notre Dame, Mortagne
The town church, Notre Dame, has existed since around 1400. I sat in a pew there and wondered if Zacherie Cloutier*, progenitor of my family, sat in that same space praying for a safe journey. Were my relatives baptized and blessed between those walls before they left?I wondered if Zacherie married his wife, Saincte Dupont, in the church.Saincte's name is interesting...I was sure this was a typo but found it repeated enough times to accept that it is simply the way the name was spelled. Even more interestingly spelled Xainte.

From Wiki: Little is known about the Cloutier ancestors. Most genealogists agree that Zacharie Cloutier was the grandson of Nicolas Cloutier of Perche. The most common variation of the surname is Cloustier. Most sources state the surname was originally given to a person who crafted and sold nails, coming from the Latin word "clavus" meaning nail ("clou" in French). Some descendants of Cloutier who immigrated to the United States from Canada changed their surnames to Nailer in this respect.

If I ever need an AKA for any reason, I'm taking Xainte Nailer. It sounds straight out of Jackie Collins. Maybe I'll use an ax mark** for a signature just like Zacherie did. 

How Mortagne looked in 1640 is anyone's guess but now it's a lovely town with many artisan food shops and pretty gardens, set amid softly rolling fields.You wonder why anyone would have left it for New France and all of it's unknowns.

Zacherie Cloutier
My ancestral connection to France and to the Cloutier's is shared with many, many French Canadians and Americans. By 1800, it's reported that Cloutier had 10,850 French Canadian descendants. They bred like rats. As often happens with genealogy you find you're related to famous people if you go back far enough and search hard enough. In my case, I am connected through Zacherie to Hillary Clinton, Madonna, Angelina Jolie, Camilla, Jack Kerouac, the Dionne quintuplets and Celine Dion.
Do you think they're wondering where I've been for all these years? 

Cloutier family home. Quebec, from 1676-1965

We drove around the larger area from where the French migrated known as Le Percheron, and visited the "Museum of French Emigration to New France" in Tourouvre. This part of France is not well known on the tourist travel circuit but seems to be gaining popularity with Parisians who are buying up the farms and country houses to use as second homes. We spent 4 or 5 hours wandering around the museum. 

Hotel du Tribunal
Emigration museum
The neighborhood
Special at the Tribunal
Chef Freddy Pommier, 23 years old 27 years old
Then we returned to Mortagne to eat and eat and eat.The area has become famous for Perche bread, hearty bread with a lovely coarse crumb and thick, crunchy crust.We had some fabulous local cherry jam, and the very fine Boudin noir, blood sausage of the region.The charming Hotel du Tribunal, where we stayed, had an excellent dining room led by a young ascending star chef.We ate very well and had a few new items including veal brains, a first for me and even for Richard, who has eaten almost everything in his many varied travels. Drank a couple of Medocs, very fruity and pleasant.Their wine list was well-chosen with affordable selections. Breakfast, as you can see in the photo, was lovely.
Le petit dejeuner at Tribunal
S'il vous plait, trot on over to Sepia Saturday for stories of coal, furnaces, horses and other surprises.

*From the Canada Dictionary:CLOUTIERZACHARIE, master carpenter, pioneer at Beauport, originally from Saint-Jean-Baptiste de Mortagne in Perche; b. c. 1590; d. 17 Sept. 1677 at Château-Richer.
Having married Xainte Dupont on 18 July 1616, Cloutier entered into an undertaking at Mortagne with Robert Giffard, the seigneur of Beauport, on 14 March 1634; by the terms of this agreement he was to come to Canada that same year with his fellow-countryman Jean Guyon De Buisson, senior, and he received at the same time the grant of an arriere-fief at Beauport. The two settlers took formal possession of their lands on 3 Feb. 1637. The previous year, if not before, their families had joined them in Canada, for the two households figure in the marriage contract of Robert Drouin and Anne Cloutier on 27 July 1636.

Cloutier’s holding, the fief of La Clouterie (or La Cloutièrerie) brought him into conflict with his neighbor Guyon and with Giffard, his seigneur. He sold it to Nicolas Dupont de Neuville on 20 Dec. 1670 in order to go and settle at Château-Richer, where he had already received a grant of land from Governor Jean de Lauson on 15 July 1652. Zacharie Cloutier brought up five children; he appears to be the ancestor of all the Cloutiers in Canada. **He signed himself with a mark shaped like an axe.


  1. I could do some of that eating. Nice photo of your grandfather and his horses, even if you have used it before. Photos were made to be seen again and again, not looked at once and then forgotten.

  2. Excellent story. In the US, if you can sit or stand in a building from the 1700s, it's pretty amazing. That's why I am fascinated by buildings in Europe -- so OLD. There you were - walking where your ancestors walked. Gives me goosebumps. You should host a family reunion with all those connections. Invite me -- I'll even add an "X" to my name.

    1. XHillary Clinton might even come!

  3. I really liked the picture of your table by the window at the Tribunal with a lovely view, & your breakfast looks scrumptious. Don't know that I could go for the veal brains at dinner, though. I don't even eat veal - or lamb, for that matter. At least not any more. Driving from Groveland to Sonora for 30 years, watching new-born lambs & calves cavorting in the fields along the way sort of put me off that source of protein, I'm afraid.

  4. That road probably inspired quite a few vegetarian conversions.

  5. Your grandfather's horses actually do look loved, and also intelligent.

    1. As I recall, they very well treated and my grandfather was careful about their diet. He spent more time with them out in the fields than he did indoors with his family.

  6. Anonymous4:31 AM

    My dad had a coal business in Winnipeg before we moved to So Cal. Beth Cobb

    1. I should have asked if you had any pictures. Do you have anything with a ladder in it? That's next week's prompt.

  7. I like how a pair of horses inspired you to write a story of family history and a travelogue too! Adds another line to my list of places to visit one day.

  8. That must have been a fascinating trip with your ancestral connections to the area. I always try to include a bit of family history in our travels.

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  10. This weeks prompt led you into a great tale of discovery!

  11. That breakfast looks delicious and being able to walk around where your family walked several centuries ago must be magnificent.

    1. It was a great experience and I learned my ancestors left looking for adventure and new frontiers, not because of persecution.

  12. Great story. I can imagine you sitting there in that pew and wondering whether your ancestors had worshipped there. Quite thought provoking I should think.

  13. Anonymous4:47 PM

    I tend to forget how early the European settlement of Canada took place, so much earlier than Australia. That was an interesting story..

  14. That was fascinating...every bit of it!

  15. Anonymous12:02 PM

    Very interesting. You've had some great travel experiences. That French hotel looks very inviting - especially for the food. Would love to try some of that bread.