Elizabeth Corse, the Captive
John P. DuLong
First Draft, 9 September 2001
Elizabeth Corse, the captive, was the daughter of James Corse and Elizabeth Catlin of Deerfield, Franklin County, Massachusetts. In comparison to her father, there is an abundance of information about her life. Elizabeth's life, particularly in New France, has been well documented in the records of Québec (Baker  1990, 204-205; Coleman  1989, 1:127, 2:73-77; Fournier 1992, 116-117, 124-125; Jetté 1983, 384, 823; Lefebvre 1966, 86; Roger n.d.; Sheldon [1895-1896] 1983, 2:133, 398; Tanguay [1871-1890] 1974, 2:575, 3:538, 6:65).
Despite the wealth of information about her in Québec, there is some confusion over Elizabeth's birth date back in New England. According to Fournier (1992, 116-117) she was born on 16 December 1696, Jetté (1983, 384) says 16 February 1696, but Sheldon ([1895-1896] 1983, 2:133) states she was born 4 February 1695/6. Fournier's suggested birth date seems to be wrong for the month and day. The difference between Jetté's and Sheldon's is due to the use of the Julian calendar in New England and Gregorian calendar in New France. Jetté took the date for Elizabeth's birth date from her Catholic baptism in 1705 (PRDH no. 210968). However, it should be the 14 February 1696 as there was only a ten day difference between calendars when she was born (Jacobus  1986, 110-112). For the remainder of this paper, all dates will be Gregorian. Her most likely birthplace would be Deerfield.
Elizabeth died on 29 January 1766 and was buried on 30 January 1766 at Laprairie, Laprairie County, Québec (PRDH no. 370559). Her age was recorded as being 70, which reflects her birth in 1696. She was survived by her second husband, Pierre Monet, and five of her 14 children from two marriages. Between 1696 and 1766 she certainly had a dramatic and full life.
Elizabeth was taken captive at the age of eight, with her mother who was killed on the march to Canada, during the 11 March 1704 Deerfield raid. See Figure 1 for the route the captives may have taken. We do not know when she arrived in Québec and how long she lived with her St-François Abenaki and Caughnawaga Mohawk captors. At some point Elizabeth was taken into the home of Pierre Roy (or Leroy) of St-Lambert. This village is near Longueuil, just north of Laprairie, in Chambly County.
Figure 1: March of the Deerfield Captives, 1704
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On 14 July 1705, age 9, Élisabeth Casse, daughter of the deceased Jacques Casse and deceased Élisabeth Catlin of "Dearfield, Nouvelle Angleterre" was baptized at Montréal by Fr. Henri Antoine Mériel (PRDH no. 210968). Her godparents were Gilbert Maillet, master mason, and her godmother was Catherine Ducharme, the wife of her guardian Pierre Roy.
In New France, Elizabeth Corse is usually found in the records as Élisabeth Casse, but sometimes her given name appears as Isabelle or Marie Élisabeth. Even the marginal notes on her burial record indicates that she was called either Isabelle or Élisabeth (PRDH no. 370559). Likewise, her surname is usually spelled as Casse or Cas in the French records, and never as Corse.
In May 1710, Élisabeth Coss was granted French nationality at the age of fourteen (PRDH no.401438; Roy 1924, 230). It was not uncommon for captives from the Dutch and British colonies to convert to Catholicism, become naturalized, adapt to life in Québec, and refuse to return to their homelands (Eccles 1983, 198, n. 31).
A few years later, Elizabeth gave birth to an illegitimate daughter, Marie Françoise Casse, who was baptized on 20 April 1712 at Laprairie (PRDH no. 18239). No father is mentioned. The godparents were Clément Lériger and Marie Leber and a man named Brion was a witness (probably Pierre Brion who is associated with Elizabeth at other events). Marie François died a few days later and was buried on the 26th (PRDH no.19222).
That same year, on 6 November 1712, again at Laprairie, the parish register records that Élisabeth Casse married Jean Dumontet dit Lagrandeur (PRDH no.18927). Her origins are noted as "Deerfield, Nouvelle-Angleterre" and her parents are recorded as Jacques Casse and Élisabeth Cattelin. Her husband was born around 1659 or 1667, son of Jean Dumontet and Georgette Forand. His origins were mistakenly assumed to be English (Jetté 1983, 384) or Huguenot (Fournier 1992, 124), but other evidence suggest he is French (see Origins of Jean Dumontet dit Lagrandeur). Elizabeth was only recorded as being 17, but she was really 16 when she married Jean. From other records we know he was either 45 or 53. Neither the bride or groom were able to sign the parish register. The witnesses at the wedding included Clément Lériger, sieur de Laplante, Lieutenant in the colonial marines and the godfather of her deceased daughter, Pierre Roy her guardian, Jacques Roy the son of her guardian and husband of Martha French from Deerfield, and François Lefebvre. Fr. Jean Gaschier performed the marriage.
Jean and Elizabeth would have eight children, four sons and four daughters. Only two daughters and two sons survived to adulthood. The children from Elizabeth's first marriage were:
Figure 2: Relationship between the Corse, Dumontet, and Monet Families
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Jean Dumontet, recorded under the name Jean Baptiste Lagrandeur in the register, died on 20 May 1729 and was buried on the 21 May 1729 at Laprairie (PRDH no. 19404). His age was recorded as 70. The witnesses were René Jorian and Moïse Dupuis. The latter witness is an interesting case, he was married to Marie Anne Louise Christiansen, a captive from Schenectady (or Corlar, as the French called the place), New York (Jetté 1983, 391; Lefebvre 1966). However, Dupuis's appearance on the burial record in truth reveals no special relationship with Jean as he was apparently a sexton and is recorded on many Laprairie burial records as a witness.
On 19 January 1730 at Laprairie, Elizabeth remarried to Pierre Monet (dit Laverdure) from the coast (côte) of La Tortue (Coleman  1989, 2:75; PRDH no. 123781). The location of La Tortue is open to debate. It was probably a small hamlet along the La Tortue (tortoise) River, probably near the present-day town of Delson, Laprairie County, west south west of Laprairie. Pierre was the son of François Monet and Marie Dumats (Dumas). Elizabeth is recorded as being "Anglaise" and the daughter of Gimse Casse and Élisabeth Queteline, "Anglais" and "Anglaise" respectively. The register records that the bride is age 35 and the groom age 26. The witnesses were François Monet and Jean Baptiste Monet the brothers of the groom, Marie Roy wife of (Clément) Lériger, René Dupuy (Dupuis), and Pierre Jorian. Fr. André Jorian performed the wedding. Curiously, there is a duplicate record of this marriage dated 16 January 1730 but it is incomplete, lacking signatures of the witnesses. A marriage contract was also drawn up on 19 January 1730 before the notary Guillaume Barette dit Courville (Jetté 1983, 823).
Pierre Monet was baptized 19 March 1704 at Laprairie, the son of François Monet and Marie Dumas (PRDH no. 18063). Ironically, he was born the same year that Elizabeth was taken captive and in a sense reborn. Having tried an older man as a husband, Elizabeth now took a younger man as her mate. Pierre was only 26 years old, while Elizabeth was almost 34. Curiously, as we have already noted, her daughter, Elisabeth Dumontet, from her first marriage, would wed François Monet dit Laverdure in 1732, the older brother of Pierre. Elizabeth was probably still an attractive woman in 1730 to attract such a younger man. Pierre Monet was buried on 16 February 1774 at Laprairie, age 69 (PRDH no. 370692).
Pierre and Elizabeth would have six children, two sons and four daughters, but only a daughter would reach adulthood. The children from Elizabeth's second marriage were:
Elizabeth was not forgotten in New England. In 1716, Elizabeth's brothers agreed to pay her, on demand, 17£, 4s., which was a third of the value of their mother's estate. The estate included, among other items, three yards of lace, one child's coat, and "one box & what was in it" (Coleman  1989, 2:76). Her brother James Corse, Jr., visited her in 1730 to recover her. Since he departed on 27 April 1730, he arrived after her second marriage (Sheldon [1895-1896] 1983, 1:518). Elizabeth decided to remain in New France with her children and new husband. It is unknown if her brothers distributed her inheritance to her. Unfortunately, her brother makes no mention of Elizabeth in the journal that he kept on this trip (Coleman  1989, 2:77).
We do not know if Elizabeth socialized with her Deerfield childhood friends also held in captivity. Her cousin Martha French, daughter of Thomas French and Mary Catlin, was married to Jacques Roy, sieur de St-Lambert, on 24 November 1711 in Montréal (Coleman  1989, 2:84). Roy was the son of Elizabeth's guardian. Did Elizabeth attend the wedding? She is not listed among the witnesses (PRDH no. 48043). But is seems very likely that she would have been there. Martha and Elizabeth would have lived nearby one another. Did they share memories of their past lives when they would meet by chance? Or did they rendezvous regularly to discuss the twists and turns of their lives? We simply do not know, but it seems unlikely that they would not dwell on it occasionally when they would come into contact.
Looking at the people who were godparents or witnesses at the baptisms and marriages of her children, it is clear that Elizabeth was part of a network of friends and in-laws in Laprairie. However, it is interesting to note that Elizabeth appears as a godmother only three times. We only find her mentioned in this role at the baptisms of Pierre Decent in 1714, Marie Félicité Lamarque in 1744, and her own granddaughter, Suzanne Élisabeth Dumontet, in 1745 (PRDH nos. 18297, 123343, and 123457). Why she was not asked to be a godmother more frequently? Was there some doubt about her conversion to Catholicism or was she just too busy raising her own children to be a godmother to other children? Furthermore, it is interesting to note that she is not marked as being present at most baptisms and marriages recorded in the parish register for her children. This was probably because she was illiterate and hence did not sign the registry and thus her presence is not verified. It is very unlikely that she would have missed all these opportunities to be with her children at turning points in their lives.
One wonders at the end of a long day of doing chores and caring for her children if Elizabeth ever thought back on her childhood in New England. Did she retain some of her English language or customs? Did she tell her children of her Puritan up bringing? Did she have any knowledge of her father's origins? Did she welcome the English soldiers who came as conquerors in 1760? Here the records of Québec are silent and we are left to ponder her solitary thoughts.
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