Our Bessette line in Clinton County


Our Bessette line in Clinton County, New York starts with Jean Marie Bessette, and his wife, Marie Gelineau Dit Daniel.  Jean Marie Bessette was born on May 2, 1795 in Chambly, Quebec, Canada, and was baptized a day later at St. Joseph's Catholic Church. He was the son of Jean Francois Bessette and Marie Charlotte Desroches, and had at least 9 siblings.

Jean Marie married Marie Madeleine Gelineau Dit Daniel on November 27, 1821 in Chambly, Quebec. She was born on July 31, 1803 in Longueuil, Chambly, Quebec, Canada and was the daughter of Joseph Gelineau Dit Daniel and MarieDesanges Bouteiller. 

Jean and Marie continued to live in Chambly until sometime in the 1830 to 1840's. It is not clear exactly where they went at that time, but some records indicated they lived for a time in Vermont. In any case, by 1845 Jean and Marie had moved their family to Plattsburgh, Clinton County, New York, where they lived for the rest of their days. Their oldest daughter, Sophronie Bessette must have stayed in Quebec when her family immigrated because on May 13, 1845 she married Charles Malboelf at St. George's de Henryville, Quebec and her marriage record states that her parents were residents of Plattsburgh at that time.  In the 1870 census, Jean Marie is listed as a ladder maker.

We may never know the exact reasons why Jean and Marie decided to emigrate from Quebec to New York.  They may have left Quebec during the 1838 revolution or perhaps it was during the time from 1840 to 1930 when roughly 900,000 French Canadians left Canada to emigrate to the United States. Historically, the great mover of large numbers of people has been poor or deteriorating economic conditions, and the emigration in this case was no exception. The fundamental underlying causes of French Canadian emigration can be found in the unequal levels of industrial development and thus standard of living between Quebec and New England at the time. Many were pushed to emigrate in order to earn a living and care for their families.

Around this time, Quebec's agriculture underwent tremendous strains. Throughout the previous century, Quebec had experienced very rapid population growth, and by the 1830's and 1840's, Quebec's most fertile farmland had been systematically occupied, leaving thousands of landless farmers searching either for affordable, accessible and fertile land, or gainful employment. Between 1784 and 1844, Quebec's population increased by about 400% while it's total area of agricultural acreage rose only by 275%, creating an important deficient of available farmland.  

In many cases emigration was at first seen as a temporary solution to short-term financial problems such as debt or unemployment, but for many the higher standard of living of the US became difficult to forego. Many emigrants having left Quebec found themselves unable to return home. This may be the case with Jean and Marie, because even after they came to reside in Plattsburgh, records still show that they were having their children baptized in Chambly, Quebec at St. Joseph's church, the church they were raised in.

Jean Marie died in December 1973 at the age of 78 years and was buried on December 27, 1873 in the St. Peter's Catholic Cemetery in Plattsburgh. His burial record names him as Jean Baptiste, which appears to also be a variation of his name he used.  His sons Leon and Noel are listed as witnesses on his burial record.  Marie died on January 06, 1894 in Plattsburgh, NY at the old age of 90 years.  Her burial record indicates she was buried in the St. Peter's Catholic Church Cemetery, although I do not believe there is a headstone for either Jean or Marie. Many of their children, and their children's children are also buried in this cemetery.