GADOIS, PIERRE, Montreal Island farmer, armourer, gunsmith, witchcraft victim; b. 1632 in Saint-Germain-des-Prés parish near Bellême in Perche; d. 8 May 1714 in Montreal.
Pierre Gadois was the eldest son of Pierre Gadoys* (1594–1667) and came to Canada with his parents. The family arrived at Ville-Marie (Montreal) about 1647 after a sojourn in the Quebec region. Pierre the younger was, according to Marguerite Bourgeoys*, the first altar-boy in the frontier settlement of Ville-Marie. He was probably trained in gunsmithery by Jean La Forest [Tavernier] and possibly transmitted his skill to his brother, Jean-Baptiste (1641–1728), who also became a gunsmith.
On 12 Aug. 1657, Pierre Gadois was married to Marie Pontonnier by Father Claude Pijart* who pronounced the customary “nulloque Legitimo impedimento detecto.” Yet there was indeed an impediment. Mlle Pontonnier had wed Gadois in preference to another suitor. The rejected lover was René Besnard, dit Bourjoly, a corporal in the Ville-Marie garrison, who openly declared that the marriage would be forever sterile. When the bride failed to conceive in the first year of marriage, Besnard was accused of having made the groom impotent by an incantation over a thrice-knotted string.
Upon the complaint of the injured couple and others, a seigneurial tribunal was convened in November 1658 to investigate the charges of sorcery against René Besnard. The defendant denied any association with witchcraft even though, he claimed, Gadois’ wife had offered him the fullest intimacies if he would acknowledge the deed and break the spell. When faced with testimony that he had boasted suggestively in public of “knowing how to tie the knot,” Besnard replied that he had been speaking about the lacing of his hose. Sieur Chomedey* de Maisonneuve, as acting magistrate, sent the corporal to prison and later into exile.
Bishop Laval repeated the marriage blessing after an ecclesiastical investigation and on 30 Aug. 1660, the required three years after the first marriage having elapsed, he declared the marriage null “because of permanent impotence caused by witchcraft.” Marie Pontonnier remarried two months later, but Gadois delayed his second essay at matrimony until 20 April 1665, when he took Jeanne Besnard (no relation to René) as his spouse. His second wife bore 14 children, with twins as a final tour de force.
Pierre Gadois had an honourable public life. In the 1660s he served in the defence of Ville-Marie as a militiaman and as a member of the Saint-Pierre river cooperative farming community, which guarded the southern approach to Ville-Marie. In the next decade, Gadois moved into a new house on Rue Notre-Dame, opposite the first seminary. He now devoted more of his time to his craft as armourer-gunsmith and participated in the religious and social activities of the St Éloi society of armourers. As a churchwarden he supervised in 1672 the construction of a public well in the Place d’Armes. The 1681 census listed Gadois as the relatively prosperous owner of 30 cultivated acres. Two years later, he arranged an advantageous marriage for his eldest daughter, Jeanne-Françoise, to the merchant Antoine Hattanville. In later years, Gadois supplemented his income by selling town lots and by leasing out his farmlands. Pierre Gadois, the respected Montreal burgher, would soon be eclipsed by his more famous son, Jacques Gadois*, dit Mauger (1686–1750), the silversmith and merchant.
AJM, Greffe de Bénigne Basset, 29 nov. 1672, 11 sept. 1673, 21 avril 1675; Greffe d’Hilaire Bourgine, 30 nov. 1689; Greffe de Pierre Cabazié, 30 mars 1685; Greffe de Claude Maugue, 28 mars 1678; Greffe de Jean de Saint-Père, 6 mai 1657; Registres d’état civil de Notre-Dame de Montréal, mariages (1643–70), 235, 267–68, 297; baptêmes, mariages, sépultures (1714), 62. AJTR, Greffe de J.-B. Pottier, 6 juin 1690, 5 oct. 1696. ASSM, armoire 7, tiroir 4 (28 oct. 1694); tiroir 25 (3 juillet 1670, 19 juin 1678); tiroir 40 (15 oct. 1683, 25 févr. 1690, 14 sept. 1694, 6 août 1710); tiroir 46 (1 déc. 1695, 1695 s.d., 4 févr. 1700); tiroir 51 (7 oct. 1683). Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy), I, 266–77. Recensement du Canada, 1666 (APQ Rapport).
É.-Z. Massicotte, “La milice de 1663,” BRH, XXXII (1926), 408. Raymond Boyer, Les crimes et les châtiments au Canada français du XVIIe au XXe siècle (Montréal, 1966), 293–95. R.-L. Séguin, La sorcellerie au Canada français du XVIIe au XIXe siècle (Montréal, 1961), 9–21. Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic J. (Montréal), 3d ser., XIII (1916), 13. É.-Z. Massicotte, “La Saint-Eloi et la corporation des armuriers à Montréal, au XVIe siècle,” BRH, XXIII (1917), 343–46.