Why he came to North America remains a mystery. Many of his descendants were adventurers. Perhaps that was Nicolas' motivation? In France, he would not have been allowed to be a landowner. Maybe he yearned to have his own land? During that time period, the King of France was desperately trying to claim Canada for France. The King offered land to those willing to immigrate in exchange for three years of voluntary work. It is believed that Nicolas Matte was one of those volunteers.
Nicolas Matte was able to read and write which was unusual in the 17th Century. This leads me to suspect that he was from an upper-class family of shopkeepers or tradesmen as few in the peasant class were educated at that time. The picture below is merely a depiction of what Nicolas might have looked like. It is not based on any factual description.
Nicolas Matte was a native of Ste. Genevieve en Bray, a small village about 12 miles from Rouen, Normandy, France. Nicolas was baptized on Dec 4 1636 in Ste. Genevieve en Bray Church (picture follows). He was the son of Charles Matte and Barbe Harache, who were from Normandy.
Ste. Genevieve En Bray, Normandy, France. This is the Church where Nicolas Matte was baptised. This church still stands today.
Matte arrives in New France
In the 1666 Quebec Census, Nicolas Matte was listed as a bachelor living in Notre-Dame-Des Anges, present day Charlesbourg Territory near Quebec City. He was listed simply as a "habitant" - no occupation was provided.
What is a Habitant?
Apparently, in accordance to the wishes of emigrants to improve their lot, their living conditions would have been, in some respects, better in the colony than in France. In New France, a craftsman living in town can become a master after six years of residency and practice. He can now be called a master, own a shop and in turn, train apprentices. The habitant established outside of town owns his land, farms, breeds animals and very often, becomes a jack of all trades...
It is believed that Nicolas Matte arrived in Quebec in 1663 as a "trente six mois" with Pierre Coquin dit Latourelle, a Voluntaire Tapissier (also from Rouen) in 1663. Nicolas and Pierre were married on the same day in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Quebec City. Twenty five years later, Nicolas' son Nicolas married Pierre's daughter Angelique.
On September 5, 1670, Nicolas signed a three-year usufruct lease before notary Romain Becquet with Pierre Lafine, a miller living at Neuville. Auger summed up their contract: Lafine rented Matte a piece of property including one and a half hand-cleared hectares of land and a cabin. Nicolas was to sow, hoe, weed, harvest, thresh and winnow the crop. He must also build a granary or barn for the grain and vegetables, and clear a third of a hectare per year. Lafine was to pay him 40 pounds for every newly cleared third of a hectare and Nicolas was to give him half the grain.
Madeleine Auvray Arrives in New France
Nicolas was still unmarried at the time the lease was ratified. In June 1671, the ship Saint-Jean-Baptiste weighed anchor, carrying a hundred men, a hundred and twenty young women, fifty sheep, ten donkeys, cloth, blankets, and all sorts of useful things to New France. Among the 120 "filles du roi" (women given a 50-pound dowry by the King, and recruited specifically to marry settlers in the colony), was Madeleine Auvray, daughter of Antoine Auvray, deceased, and of Marie LeNormand, of the city of Rouen. On October 10, 1671, she and Nicolas ratified a marriage contract drawn up by the notary Romain Becquet, in the house of Anne Gasnier, widow of Jean Bourdon, owner of the fief of Dombourg (now Neuville). Madeleine brought 300 pounds worth of goods as well as the royal dowry to the marriage. The wedding took place two days later in the church of Notre-Dame in Quebec City. The couple settled down at Neuville and their children were all born there.
More than anything else, Nicolas Matte was a farmer. Presumably because he wanted to work land of his own, he rescinded the agreement with Piere Lafine in May 1672. On May 31, the seigneur of Dombourg granted him a concession of his own, next to the seigniorial domain. It was two thirds of a hectare wide along the Saint-Lawrence River by thirteen hectares deep. The following March, Nicolas rented a neighbor's land for one year's harvest of grain. According to Roland-J. Auger's article, Nicolas also agreed to chop down, clear and burn a third of a hectare of wood and prepare it for sowing, for the sum of forty pounds.
Nicolas was buried in the Neuville cemetery on July 20, 1704. His widow, Madeleine, died in early May 1734.
Charles MATTE, Nicolas Matte's father was born 1610 in St Saen, Rouen, Seine Maritime, France and was christened 1610 in Ste. Genevieve En Bray, St Saen, Dieppe, France. He married Barbe HARACHE in 1630 in Rouen, Seine Maritime, Normandy, France.
Nothing is known about Charles Matte. All records for Ste. Genevieve en Bray have never been recovered for the years 1586 - 1631. There are still Mattes in the general area in Normandy, and perhaps someday the mystery will be solved.
Barbe HARACHE, Nicolas Matte's mother was born 1612 in St Saen, Rouen, Normandie, France. She died before 1671 in France. Barbe Harache's family were Huguenots (Protestants). The Harache family fled to England from France in the mid-1600s to avoid persecution. One of her nephews, Pierre Harache was a famous silversmith in London. His work is still on display in London.
Pierre Harache was an English goldsmith of French birth. On 21 July 1682 he became the first Huguenot goldsmith to be admitted to the Goldsmiths Company in London. His surviving pieces show a simplicity of form with the ornament largely applied or engraved. Confusion often arises between the work of Pierre Harache and that of his son Pierre Harache (ii) (b 1653; fl 16981717), as their registered marks are similar.
Pierre Harache II, whose father was the first Hugenot to be admitted into the Goldsmith's Company first appeared in the Denization list on the 29th of September 1698. He came to England with his family in 1682 'to avoid persecution and live quietly'. He became free by redemption on the 24th of October 1698 and on that day entered three marks as a large worker. Heal records him as residing in Compton Street, St Ann's Church. Despite the similarity between the marks of father and son, it is accepted that any work after 1698 belongs to Pierre Harache II due to the father's retirement before his death in 1700.
Harache's work is of the highest standard in both design and execution, showing an elegance and restraint not evident in the work of others at the time. He enjoyed the patronage of the greatest clients of the day and was rivaled only by fellow Huguenot David Willaume.
The Harache Trademark
Pierre Harache the elder, it is believed, to have come from a long line of silver workers in Rouen. Unlike most of his fellow Huguenots, Harache managed to leave France well before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes and took with him many of his assets, for on 20 October 1681 he is recorded as being granted customs-free delivery of plate brought by him from France. The mark attributed to Harache appears as early as 1683 on a set of candlesticks made for Lord Spencer but there is uncertainty regarding Haraches date of death. When the enforced higher silver standard was introduced in 1697, requiring all silver smiths to register new makers marks, a Pierre Harache entered a new mark, but it now looks likely that this was Pierres son, who was born about 1653, for in the Petworth archives, the same book of accounts records a payment to Mrs Harrache for a dish, suggesting that by 1690 Pierre the elder was already dead and his business continued by his widow.
Antoine AUVRAY, Madeleine's father died before 1671 as he was listed as deceased when Madeleine married Nicolas in 1671. Antoine married Marie LENORMAND on 22 Aug 1649 in Rouen St Vivien, Normandie, France.
Marie LENORMAND, Madeleine's mother was born about 1625. Nothing more is known about Marie.
In the 25 five years after their marriage, Nicolas and Madeline produced 11 children. All were baptized at Saint Francois de Sales Church in Neuville, Quebec.
These are the names of their first Mattes born in Canada: Pierre-Léonard, Marie-Françoise, Laurent, Marie-Jeanne, Nicolas, Marie-Madeleine, Marie-Anne, Marie- Madeleine, Alexis, Marie-Louise, and Marie-Angélique.
Léonard, their first born died in 1698 at the Hotel Dieu in Quebec from injuries suffered in an Indian battle. He was a member of the Iberville Regiment. This Regiment was responsible for the founding of Biloxi, Mississippi in 1700. Leonard left no descendants. This left three Matte sons: Laurent, Nicolas and Alexis to ensure the Matte name would be passed down through present day. Nicolas was the only Matte to have immigrated to Canada. It is almost certain that all Mattes who originated in Canada are descendants of this couple.