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Samsons in Louisbourg

A few years after the signing of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713, many of the French Acadians living in what had become British territory, were encouraged by France to resettle in the northern part of Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, known then as Ile Royale. Around 1720, Gabriel Samson refused to take the Oath of Allegiance to the British Crown and with a few other Acadian families, relocated to the small village of Port Toulouse. While on Ile Royale, his occupation as a coastal trader and ship builder brought Gabriel in close contact with residents of the Fortress of Louisbourg.

Several of Gabriel's daughters married men from Louisbourg, and settled in the fortified village. Anne-Madeleine, his eldest daughter, married about 1722 at Port Toulouse, Jean-Marie Richard, and the couple ran a tavern in Louisbourg. Gabriel's second daughter, Marie-Madeleine, also married a Louisbourg man about 1730, named Louis Le Cuyer. Following the death of Gabriel's wife Jeanne, his third daughter, Marguerite-Louise went to live with her eldest sister and brother-in-law to help them run the Richard family tavern.
It was at Louisbourg that Louise met Jean-Francois Lelarge, a distinguished young naval captain who lived about a block away on the Rue de l'Etang. Early in 1735, the young couple called a few friends to the Richard's inn, where they solemnly exchanged written promises of marriage. The signing was witnessed only by their close friends, but both felt bound by it.
The private engagement lasted two years, and in the winter of 1736-37, Jean Lelarge decided it was time they were married. Louise had the consent of her father and brother-in-law. However, Lelarge was only 25 years old in 1737. Men under 30 needed parental consent to be married and his mother would not give that consent. So, after mass one morning in February, Jean Lelarge and Louise Samson approached the altar as the priest was about to offer the final benediction. Jean and Louise began to announce in loud voices that they took each other for man and wife. The priest immediately fled to the sacristy. In the chapel, pandemonium was erupting. Lelarge rushed from one spectator to another, demanding they be witness to the marriage. Some refused, some accepted. By mid-morning, Louise was escorted firmly to the convent. Jean was imprisoned in the guardhouse.
At that time the church held that a priest could not refuse to bless a marriage of any couple who met the religious requirements. However, society demanded the church tailor its stand to practical requirements. The church yielded to civil pressure and parental permission became a canonical requirement. After a few days in the guardhouse, Lelarge sent a petition to the judges to not waste his time if this matter was not a criminal one. An investigation was held. Six months later Jean-Francois Lelarge and Marguerite-Louise Samson were married. Jean-Aimable Lelarge was born 9 months and 9 days afterwards.
During the 1745 siege of Louisbourg, Louise was in the fortress awaiting the imminent birth of her fourth child.   When Louisbourg capitulated in 1745, the Lelarges went into exile with the rest of their neighbours. At the war’s end, Louisbourg was given back to France but the Lelarges did not go back to Louisbourg. From 1744 until the end of his life, Jean Lelarge put his service to the crown as a privateer and naval officer. They settled in the naval town of Rochefort with his mother, his siblings and his orphaned neice. Jean died in 1761 at Rochefort, France after a distinguished naval career.
The son of Louise Samson and Jean Lelarge, Jean-Aimable Lelarge had a naval career that lasted 52 years. He received the cherished knighthood of the Order of St. Louis in 1777. Later he became an admiral of France. He died in 1805.
Written by Charles Samson and Charlene McKenzie, May 2000.
Source: “Louisbourg Portraits”, by Christopher Moore, 1982


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