Urbain Tessier dit Lavigne was certainly one of the most prominent among Montreal's pioneers and citizens. Remarkable for his courage in defending the embryonic town against the unending attacks of the Iroquois, he deserved to see his name appear on the old maps which indicate the Place Lavigne, and the Bastion Lavigne. The Rue St-Urbain would further recall the location of the grant, situated outside the town, which Urbain Tessier had received in 1651 from the Company of Montreal.

According to the censuses, Urbain Tessier must have been born between the years 1624 and 1627. His marriage act designates him as "son of Artus Tessier and of Jeanne Meine" and indicates that he came from Chateau, in Anjou.

The first mention of Urbain Tessier in Canada is in a grant which was accorded him at Montreal by M. de Maisonneuve, January 10, 1648. The origin of this colonist appears to designate him as a recruit of M. de la Dauversiere and he presumably been living at Montreal for several years. If Tessier had accepted a piece of land, it was because he intended to settle. One of his fellow workers, established at Montreal since 1644, Michel Chauvin, had gone to Quebec and found a charming wife in the person of Anne Archambault. The latter had left at Quebec two marriageable sisters: Jacquette and Marie. It is not unreasonable to suppose that Dame Chauvin mentioned them to Tessier. In any case, in the autumn of that same year, September 28, 1648, the two sisters were married at Quebec....Jacquette to Paul Chalifou and Marie to Urbain Tessier.

Tessier may have been between 21 to 24 at that time, but his little wife was only twelve years and seven months old, having been baptized at Dompierre-sur-Mer, in Anuis, February 24, 1636. Such a precocious marriage did not affect Marie Archambault's health in the least, inasmuch as she did not die until the age of 83, after having borne her husband 16 children.

Tessier was a sawyer by trade. In the 17th century, when saw mills did not yet exist, the rude trade of pit sawyer was in great demand and highly appreciated. The Montreal registries show many colonists engaged in this rough work. We must attribute, in part, to the muscular exercise which his work required, Urbain Tessier's remarkable vigor, which made him a formidable enemy of the Iroquois. He successfully constructed several houses. Expert in handling the lumberman's saw, the handles of a plow and above all the musket - we shall see how, later on -- Tessier could not write; on several occasions, he stated he was unable to sign his name. This was probably the reason which prevented him from occupying prominent positions at Villemarie (original name of Montreal), like his brothers-in-law, Jean Gervaise and Gilles Lauzon.

On May 6, two Montrealers ''of eminent virtue'' Jean Boudart and his wife, were victims of an Iroquois raid; the former was killed on the spot, and the latter was led away to be burned. Four days afterwards, at two o'clock in the morning, the same aggressors tried to burn the brewery and they set fire to the houses of Michel Chauvin and Urbain Tessier dit Lavigne.

Ruined but undefeated, Tessier more than once took glorious revenge on his barbarous enemies. Here is what Fr. Lauzon has to say: ''On June 18, 1651, four Frenchmen were attacked by a great number of Iroquois between the fort and Point-Saint-Charles. These Frenchmen, in such small numbers were unarmed, but they found no other protection but a miserable stronghold situated in the midst of a large quantity of felled wood, and there, resolved to cling dearly to life, they started to briskly fire on their assailants. On hearing this noise, one of the oldest colonists, Urbain Tessier dit Lavigne, being the nearest to the place where the attack was being made, was the first to run there in all haste, with as much audacity as good fortune, passing through without accident, with unparalled agility and speed, over the felled wood; he got into four Iroquois ambushes, was in the line of fire without being wounded, finally arrived in the hut where he joined the besieged, and cheered them by his couragous act''. Having heard these shots, one said, ''Shall we let them perish?'' and they all ran to the combat as to the feast.''

Urbain Tessier was a brave man in the full sense of the word. It was not without reason, we believe, that the place where the first combat was fought with the Iroquois was called by his name: ''Lavigne'' and that the small fort located there on the old maps is designated by these words ''bastion Lavigne''.

There were many massacres of Montreal's inhabitants from 1651 to 1665 when the Carignan troops arrived. Tessier was always in the forefront continuing, with his father-in-law (Jacques Archambault) and Francois Bailly dit Lafleur, to guard and defend the stronghold known as L'Enfant-Jesus. It was guarded day and night. If it was taken, demolished or burned, they were obliged to reconstruct it at the same place at their expense.

We can read in the first registry of the Montreal parish an act which presupposes the most poignant moral sufferings. It reads: ''On June 7, 1661 was baptized Urbain, son of Urbain Tessier, inhabitant, taken by the Iroquois, March 24 last, and it is not known whether he is dead or alive, and of Marie Archambault. The godfather was Gilles Lauzon, coppersmith; the godmother, Catherine Gauchet, daughter of nobleman Claude Gauchet and of Susanne Du feu.'' And eleven days later (the 18th), in the same reigistry: ''was baptized Jeanne Messier, daughter of Michel taken by the Iroquois March 24'', and again the terrible formula: ''it is not known whether he is dead or alive''. Three months of mortal anguish, which still drags on. News arrives, it is true, June 22, by four prisoners brought back by the Goyogoins, but to let Tesser's sorrowing wife know that Messier, his companion in activity ''was burned by the Oneweronnons''. And as for Tessier, what had become of him?

There is no doubt at all that he was conducted to a barbarous tribe. The cruel reception which ordinarily awaited the unfortunate captive is well-known. On his arrival in a village, he was forced to pass between two rows of savages who, armed with rods and sticks, vied with each other in beating him. He was sometimes stopped, to have his fingernails torn out, or to smoke the ends of his fingers in a calumet pipe, when cruelty was not pressed to the extent of removing a few of his phalanges. Urbain tessier had to undergo this latter torture, according to the evidence of Blessed Marguerite Bourgeois. Actually, she spoke of Lavigne, from whom the Iroquois ''have detatched a finger'' in her autobiographical writings. Meanwhile the months went by at Montreal, and Tessier's wife, Marie Archambault, was still harrowed by the same worries.

Meanwhile, the months went by at Montreal, and Tessier's wife, Marie Archambault, was still harrowed by the same worries. On June 22, two months therefore after the capture of March 24, four French prisoners had returned, but without furnishing definite news. On July 21, Pere Simon Lemoyne, a Jesuit, had no fear in leaving for Onhontague for the purpose of negociating the exchange of the prisoners. The emissary turned out to be very successful. On October 1, the first contingent arrived, composed of nine men.

Urbain Tessier had formed part of the group of French captives which the generous Garakontie had assembled in his village. There, a small group of veritable Christians, French and savage, had been formed under the sponsorship of Pere Lemoine. The unfortunate captive was able to find peace there, and above all, the comfort of religious exercises.

The day of liberation finally dawned for the last nine captives of the Iroquois. On August 31, 1661, Urbain Tessier and his companions, led by their liberator, Pere Simon Lemoine, returned to Montreal, in the midst of tears of joy and shouts of gladness. Their first act was to kneel at the foot of the altar to thank God for their deliverance. It was exactly one year, 5 months, and one week since the ancestor of the Tessier-Lavignes had been snatched away from his family and from his second country.

Once freed, Urbain Tessier resumed his peaceful labors of land clearing and cultivation of the soil. He enrolled, it is true, in 1663 as a soldier in the 8th squadron of the Sainte-Famille militia, but his warlike ardor abated; thus it was also during this year that he disposed of his stronghold of L'Enfant-Jesus to Francois Bailly.

If it can be said that a large family is a blessing of God, Urbain Tessier fully received this blessing. He left 16 children, of whom 10 (7 boys and 3 girls) contracted marriage, all among the good bourgeoisie of Montreal. Raised in the shadow of the parish church, they had received from Pastor Souart, ''school-master at Villemarie'', and from Blessed Marguerite Bourgeois (see picture at right), a solid instruction. Louise, Paul, Laurent, among others, signed their name very well.

The Angevin Urbain Tessier dit LaVigne expired at Montreal at the age of about 65 and was buried May 21, 1689. July 28, 1690 (Adhemar registry): Inventory of the property of Urbain Tessier and division, among Marie Archambault and her children, of the land amounting to 30 arpents (2x15) situated near the town. The mother received half of this land contiguous to the l/5 received from her parents. The other half is divided into 10 lots allocated to the children, who were: Anne Lemire, widow of Laurent Tessier, Ignace, Jean, Nicolas, Louise, Jacques, Agnes, Jean-Baptiste, Petronille, and Paul Tessier.

Marie Archambault, widow of Lavigne, survived her husband by 30 years. It was not until August 6, 1719 that she died, and was buried at Pointe-aux-Trembles.

[NOTE: Regarding the Carignan regiment mentioned in this biography. Before 1645, French soldiers did not wear uniforms. That of the soldiers of the Carignan-Salieres regiment scarcely differs from civilian clothing. Under a maroon coloured jerkin is a short blue jacket and breeches whose legs are covered by stockings. To adapt the uniform to the climate of New France, the soldiers would cover the stockings with woollen or leather leggings and replace their French shoes with fur-lined boots.]

{This is taken from the publication FRENCH CANADIAN

Plans de la ville de Montr�al, 1655-1805
ADHEMAR (French)

[NOTE: The above plaque is known to have been placed in the corner of the Royal Bank in Montreal in days gone by. My husband and I spent our honeymoon in Montreal (1984) and decided to look for it. We went into a Royal Bank in the designated area, but we were disappointed to learn that the aforementioned bank had been demolished many years ago. We thought that the plaque had been destroyed as well, but I was very pleased when someone at the Tessier message board said it was alive and well. I recently found the photo of it in the Association des Familles Tessier site. If you are a descendent of "Grandpa Urbain", you might want to join that association (see link above).]