Sex: Male. Birth: 1603 in Fecamp, Caux, Normandie, France Death: 10 Aug 1651 in Trois Rivieres, Canada
Family: Wife: Marie Marguerie 1620* - 1700. Children:Marguerite Hertel 1649 - 1711. Marie Madeleine Hertel 1645 - 1679. Francois Hertel 1642 - 1722. Marriage: 23 Aug 1641 Trois Rivieres, Canada. Parents: Husband: Nicolas Hertel 1570 - .
Wife: Jeanne Miriot 1570 - .
The 'Bible' of early Canadian genealogy, Dictionnnaire Geneaologique des Familles Canadiennes' (Abbe Cyprien Tanguay, 1871) gives his birth date as 1630. But other accounts say he arrived in New France as early as 1615, making a birth in 1590-1595 more likely. Other geneaologies assume a transposition in Tanguay and give his birthdate as 1603. He became a trapper and woodsman, familiar with the customs and languages of the First Nations.
An article published in 1836 in the newspaper Schenectady Reflector in New York states that he lived among the Hurons near Schenectady in the early 1620's and fathered two daughters there:
"The last aboriginal proprietor of Van Slyck's island, was Shononsise, an Oron chief who had taken to wife the daughter of a French trader by the name of Jacques Hertel. This Hertel had take up his abode in Schenectada as early as 1623, or '4. Shononsise had by his French wife two beautiful daughters, "Otstock" and 'Kanudesha'. The first named and oldest, was of an imperious temper, the last of a mild and sweet temper; yet both were worthy women. Shononsise and his family resided during the summer seasons on the island; and there his remains lie buried".
The authenticity of this account, published over 200 years after the fact, has been questioned. However it is very likely that he fathered these or other children among the First Nations during the many years he spent among them.
His name is first mentioned in Canadian records in 1626. In 1629 he and seven other diehards went to live among the Algonquins for four years rather than surrender with the rest of the Quebec garrison to the British privateer Kirke. These diehards actively and successively discouraged the Indians from trading with the Englishmen.
The colony was restored to France by treaty in May 1632. Founder Samuel Champlain returned with an expedition of soldiers, tradesman, and Jesuit missionaries to resettle Quebec under the effective control of Cardinal Richelieu in May 1633. Hertel's fortitude in not submitting to British rule was rewarded on 16 December 1833. Richelieu's Company of the Hundred Associates in Paris deeded him land at Trois Rivieres, where he was the first settler. Two other estates there were granted him by Montmagny on August 18, 1636.
Trois Rivieres, or Three Rivers, was long a favorite fur-trade rendezvous for the Indians. The Recollet missionaries established a residence there in June, 1615, which was maintained until the British incursion of 1628.
Hertel was followed a year later by other interpreters, the Godefroy brothers (Jean-Paul, Jean and Thomas), who established themselves not far from him. Champlain's strategic plan was to centralize the fur trade at Quebec, but establish a second fortified place 40 miles upriver at Trois Rivieres to prevent traders from selling their furs to the British rather than Richelieu's company. There was competition and animosity between the traders at Quebec and Trois Rivieres - the traders of the latter wearing white scarves to differentiate themselves from the red-scarfed traders of Quebec.
La Violette, Champlain's lieutenant, erected a stockade in the spring of 1634. Two months later, the Jesuit missionaries Le Jeune and Buteux arrived, having obtained from the Company of New France six arpents of land at Trois Rivieres on February 15, 1634. The church registers has been continuous since February, 1635, the oldest records existing in Canada. The first entry gives the exact date on which the settlement was begun: July 4, 1634.
Hertel provided translation and negotiation services between the Jesuits and the Indians. New immigrants arrived in the area each summer now, and the Trois Rivieres grew into a more settled place. In 1637 Francois Marguerie, another famed interpreter, settled at the town. It seems he must have interested Hertel in marrying his sister, for she was sent from Rouen, France to the New World to become Hertel's wife. Otherwise, aside from an earthquake recorded by the Jesuits on 11 June 1638, things remained peaceful.
In February 1641 Marguerie and Thomas Godefroy were captured by the Iroquois while hunting near the town. They were to be used as pawns to neutralize France in a war the Iroquois planned against the Algonquins the following summer.
On 5 June 1641 the war party and the two captives arrived across the Saint Lawrence River from Trois Rivieres. The Iroquois released the two hostages as a token of good faith, but the Governor of New France refused to betray his Algonquin allies or give the Iroquois the guns they wanted. After negotiations broke down there was an exchange of ship-to-shore gunfire between the governor's boat and the Indians on the shore. The Iroquois were bested and retreated from Trois Rivieres.
The danger averted for the present, on 23 August 1641, Hertel signed a contract, notarized by Martial Piraube, to marry Marie Marguerie. A year later, Hertel had a son, who was named Francois after Marie's brother. It seems that Jacques raised Francois in the languages and ways of the Indians, for Francois' fame in this regard would surpass even that of his father, being known to history as the 'Hero of Trois Rivieres'. Meanwhile Francois Marguerie replaced Jacques Hertel as the official translator for the trading post in 1942. A daughter, Madeleine, was born to Marie and Jacques on 2 September 1645. Jacques was named the agent for the Hundred Associates in Trois Rivieres in 1647.
Things seemed to be going well for Hertel and his family. But then Francois Marguerie drowned when his canoe overturned in the Saint Lawrence River off Trois Rivieres on 23 May 1648. Marie and Jacques had another daughter, Marguerite, on 26 August 1649. Then Jacques died in an accident of an unknown nature on 10 August 1651.
It was perhaps no accident that an awful war would break out with the Iroquois a year later, leading to the near-destruction of the settlement that he had founded. Marie and her children would survive. She would remarry Quentin Moral, a king's lieutenant at Trois Rivieres, a year later. Marguerite would marry Louis Pinard, the surgeon of the fort at Trois-Rivieres; Marguerite would marry Jean Crevier, the seigneur of Saint Francois; and Francois Hertel would become the greatest fighter against the Indians and the British in the early history of the colony.
Hertel is mentioned three times in the Relations of the Jesuits:
30 April 1636:
We did do him a service which he will enjoy through the lapse of all the centuries, and beyond them; for we conferred holy Baptism upon him, and the name Jacques, given by his Godfather, sieur Hertel.
18 June 1637:
On the 18th of the same month (18 June 1637) Monsieur de sainct Jean came down from the three Rivers. He related to us a pretty story, showing the fear the Savages have of their enemies. He said that when he was in a bark on the River des Prairies, they perceived a canoe prowling around the Islands on the lookout for some Hiroquois; they immediately fired several shots from the arquebuses, to summon it to them.
The Savage who was in it, seeing the bark, brought his canoe alongside. After he had been questioned about various things, he was asked if he would not like to go down to the three Rivers, as Monsieur de St. Jean and sieur Hertel desired to go there. He replied that, indeed, he greatly wished to go there, but that the Hiroquois would be sure to kill him on the way. Sieur Nicolet rejoined that he ought to fear nothing when these two young men, both of them courageous and children of brave Captains, were with him; that they were armed with good arquebuses, and that no misfortune could befall him in their company. He insisted that his death would be inevitable if he went on this journey; but at last, being strongly urged, he agreed to embark these two young men, but on condition that at the first sight of an Hiroquois canoe on the river he would set them down upon the bank and flee into the woods, having no desire to die so soon.
They accepted this condition, explaining that if they had a firm foothold upon the land they did not fear the approach of the Hiroquois. My Savage, thinking to intimidate our Frenchmen by this threat of leaving them, was quite taken aback when he saw them so determined. This put his heart in his stomach (as the saying is), and led him to utter these words: "Let us go; I will take you and, what is more, I will not leave you; I will die with you;" then, turning to sieur Nicolet, he said to him, "If thou hearest news of my death, tell those of my nation, I pray thee, that I died bravely, in the company of two valiant French Captains." Even this poor barbarian desired to have glory, and an occasion for vanity, in his death. Accordingly, he embarked our two Frenchmen, and took them to the three Rivers, encountering nothing else than water and woods.
14 August 1651:
On the 14th, a shallop arrives from Three Rivers, which brings us the news of the death of Monsieur Hertel, who died on St. Lawrence's day. Otsie'ka moritur. Change: 29 Oct 2006 Time: 15:01:18.