Nims-Seguin Reunion Report

by Betsy Wiscombe

The long-anticipated Nims-Seguin Reunion was held in Vaudreuil, Montreal, Canada the weekend of August 24-26 and it was a success.  We had 32 members of NFA who traveled to this location and about 80 members of the Seguin Association in attendance. 

The Church of the Most Holy Trinity in Vaudreuil where our Abigail descendants once lived was the setting for all of our meetings and meals on Friday and Saturday.

We were welcomed on Friday by receiving a packet of valuable information such as translations of the presentations that would be given, name tags, material for things to do in Montreal and some souvenirs offered by the City of Vaudreuil: paper pad, pen, and lapel pin. Our evening meal was a nice spaghetti dinner served with great efficiency by a catering company.

Following this, Lise Rochette treated us with two presentations: “Meet Marquis de Vaudreuil” and “Meet Godfrey Nims”, presented both in French and English.

Since the meeting was held in Vaudreuil, Lise presented us the story of the life of Marquis de Vaudreuil, from his birth in France, his career as a musketeer for Louis XIV and his life in Canada. Marquis de Vaudreuil was the Seigneur (owner) of the land where the city of Vaudreuil now stands. He was the Governor of New France who ordered the Raid on Deerfield in 1704. He was also the one who did manage to get the reluctant Wendats at Lorette to release Ebenezer Nims and his young family in 1714.

Lise provided us with an excerpt from a history written by Freda Brackley (from the internet site 1704-Deerfield History Museum):

We learned that Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil was the Governor-General of New France at the time of the Deerfield Massacre. Vaudreuil had received this appointment from King Louis XIV and subsequently ordered the successful raid against Deerfield by a combined French and Native Indian army. In its aftermath, he found himself caught up in lengthy negotiations both with the English government at Boston and the Native villages near Montreal and Quebec for the release of the captives. We learned that Vaudreuil must have had mixed feelings about the Deerfield captives. They were emblems of the raid’s success and useful pawns for gaining the release of French prisoners held by the English. But they were fellow Europeans, and the young people held by the Natives faced acculturation into what Vaudreuil regarded as “savage” societies. For some of Vaudreuil’s Native allies, captives fulfilled a role in traditional mourning rituals by being adopted into the family to replace the dead. Vaudreuil continued negotiations for release of English captives for the duration of the war, by correspondence with English governor Joseph Dudley, and in person with emissaries who traveled to New France. Captives were redeemed from the Natives or released by French families with whom they were living and perhaps working as servants, and sent to New England by ship or overland. The first envoys, Deerfield residents John Sheldon and John Wells, returned with only five captives. Vaudreuil allowed the second emissaries, ship captain Samuel Vetch and Governor Dudley’s son William, to meet John Williams and his son Stephen, but that expedition brought only 11 English captives home. After two more releases of small numbers of captives, John Sheldon again went to New France and won Governor Vaudreuil’s release of 44 captives in 1706. John Williams was not among them, despite Vaudreuil’s apparent fondness for the minister. Only after Governor Dudley released Maisonnat/Baptiste and all the remaining French prisoners did Gov-Gen Vaudreuil respond by returning 54 English captives, including John Williams and his sons Samuel and Warham. The release did not include Eunice and six other girls and young women at Kahnawake, all of whom remained part of that community; nor the three children (Abigail, Josiah Rising, and Hannah Hurst) who remained at La Montagne.
After the war’s end in 1712, Vaudreuil received a delegation that included John Williams, John Stoddard and others who had come to secure the “return of the English prisoners there.” Vaudreuil told them that the remaining captives were free to do what they wanted, with his blessing—but that “by force, he could not oblige the Indians to deliver their prisoners.” However, Vaudreuil did manage to get the reluctant Wendats at Lorette to release the Nims family, in large part because Lorette was so close to Quebec and the waiting English ship. The Nims family hid their desire to return to New England until they were safe on board. The next day a large party of Wendats, thinking the Nimses had been kidnapped, went to the ship and demanded their return—in vain. John Williams saw Eunice, now married to Arosen, for the first time since 1704, but he could not persuade her to look at him, let alone leave her new life and husband behind. Apparently ambivalent about the captives till the end, Vaudreuil also told Williams and Stoddard that he would not release those who had become naturalized French subjects, but later relented and allowed them to leave if they wished. 26 captives sailed to Boston with Williams and company on Sep 21, 1741.

In order to introduce Godfrey Nims to the Seguin attendees (and as a refresher for the Nims) Lise presented some facts about the early days of Godfrey Nims in America (mystery about his origin—Huguenot, French descent only), court appearances, etc. She also presented all his children and the impact of the Raid on his family. She presented a brief history of all the four surviving children.

Saturday morning the Nims group had a short business meeting at which we had introductions and a remembrance of our late vice-president, Ronald Graham who was looking forward to being at this reunion along with his wife, Mary Ann. We also had a treasurer’s report by Nancy Garreaud, a short overview of recent work by Allan Wiscombe, and election of officers and board. We are pleased to have some new people on board whose names are David Nims of Richmond, VA, Jeff Nims of Union, ME, Frank Nims of Chicago, IL, Dina McCrum of Arroyo Grande, CA, and Cynthia Smellie of Norwell, MA. Cynthia has been the secretary in the past. For the time being, the following will continue on: Betsy and Allan Wiscombe, Nancy Garreaud, David Nims (the Pt. Charlotte David), and Vicki Coutu. I thank them all for their willingness to serve with various assignments. We also express our gratitude to our long-standing board members and faithful NFA members who have been released and they include George Babineau, Gordon Bean, Judy Graves, Judy Nelson, Pat Potter, and Lise Rochette. Thank you!

Following this, we learned more from Lise about Abigail Nims, Josiah Rising, and the Seguins. Lise gave an overview of the history of the Seguin-Nims connection via a slide show. As you know, our common ancestor Godfrey only had four children remaining after the raid-massacre at Deerfield in February of 1704. We were shown a chart outlining Godfrey’s family. There was also a chart which showed the town of Deerfield and which homes were destroyed and how the raiders came into the town. Abigail was carried to Canada and that indicated that she was chosen and special to the Indian chief. The English people were unfamiliar with snowshoes so of course that was something they had to learn as they walked. Abigail eventually married fellow captive, Josiah Rising at which time their names were Mary Elizabeth and Ignace Raizenne. Lise explained that Abigail was much too Protestant of a name to be baptized into the Catholic Church. Since baptismal and marriage records of Abigail and Josiah are available, a chart of their family was given to us. With eight children, they all settled in the Vaudreuil-Oka area where we had the reunion.

Andre Seguin reviewed the history of the Seguin Family in Canada. The Seguins in Quebec all descend from Francois Seguin who married Jeanne Petit. At our reunion, this was celebrated by a Seguin couple who dressed in the costume of the 1700’s and portrayed Francois and Jeanne. They cut a special cake commemorating their marriage in Boucherville, New France in 1672 making it a 340th anniversary. They also danced on Saturday night and many photos were taken of them (see below for our photo). Nicole Seguin, current president of the Seguin Family Association, was also dressed in period costume.

Our tie to the Seguins is that Abigail Nims who married Josiah Rising (names changed to Elizabeth and Ignace Raisenne) had several children and two of their daughters, Catherine and Marie-Anne, married two Seguin brothers, Jean Baptiste and Louis, respectively.

The Seguin Family Association is very active and they publish a newsletter 4 times a year. If you are interested in being on their mailing list, you can contact Association des Seguin d’Amerique, 15 rue Jacqueline, Rigaud, QC J0P 1P0, Canada, or www.lesseguindamerique.ca. Just be aware that the newsletter will be in French. Nicole Seguin is the president of their Seguin Family Association and Andre Seguin is their current historian. Their Association was formed in August, 1990 and much information can be found on their web site.

Sat. afternoon we visited the lovely Church of St. Michel in Vaudreil and had a tour led by a very competent and knowledgeable guide. We then walked across the street to the Musee regional de Vaudreuil-Soulanges and Centre d’histoire de la Presqui’ile. After this, about four carloads of Nims cousins opted to drive the short distance to Oka. We used a ferry to get across the bay and that was a pleasant ride. We drove past acres of gardens filled with vegetables and autumn pumpkins. We stopped at a beautiful apple orchard. Oka is definitely a fertile agricultural area and Abigail and Josiah had this setting in which to raise their family.

Our Sat. evening meal was a pot roast dinner. While we were eating, we were treated to music by Louis Seguin and daughter Celyne. They had beautiful voices. This was followed by a program which included a presentation of an “achievement” award called a “Berger” which translates to Shepherd. They honored Gilles Chartrand who helped in organizing many of the Seguins’ annual meetings, including this one in Vaudreuil. They also acknowledged some past members of their Board of Directors. In addition to awards and presentations given to various Seguin members, there were some drawings for door prizes and dancing for anyone who cared to participate. Several attendees said their good-byes on Sat. night while others opted to stay for Sun. morning mass and to tour the Oka area.

On Sun. morning, Lise and Louis brought some of the Nims cousins to Oka by the ferry. The sightseeing continued for some to the Mt. Royal and downtown Montreal, including the grounds of the Old Sulpician Seminary. They took pictures of the two old stone towers, the only remnants of the Fort de la Mission de la Montagne where Abigail spent her first days in Montreal with her Indian family