DAVIS (Device), MARIE-ANNE, dite de Saint-Benoît, English captive, Ursuline; d. 2 March 1749 at Quebec.
Little is yet known about the origins of the Ursuline Marie-Anne de Saint-Benoit. Only by examining together a few documents can the important dates in her life until her entry into the Ursuline convent of Quebec be traced with some probability. It seems that her given name was Sarah, that she was born at Casco (Portland, Me.) in 1679, and that she was the daughter of Isaac Davis and Lydia Black. She was captured in June 1690, at the time of the attack against Casco by René Robinau* de Portneuf and his Abenakis, and is said to have been taken as a prisoner to the Abenaki village at the Saint-François-de-Sales mission on the Chaudière River; Father Jacques Bigot* is supposed to have ransomed her and taken her to Quebec in the late summer or early autumn of 1691. She was baptized 23 March 1692, receiving the name Marie-Anne. She is believed to have lived with different Quebec families, among others with Marie Mars, François Rivière’s widow and Paul Berry’s wife, and to have been a boarder at the Ursulines’ school from February 1696 to February 1697.
On 29 Nov. 1698 Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*] asked that “Marie-Anne Device” be admitted into the convent, and the chapter of the community agreed to “try her out.” On 19 March 1699 she entered the noviciate, and on 24 May the chapter decided to give her six months more in order to “be able to determine whether she could learn to read and what progress she will make there.” Marie-Anne must have satisfied the chapter’s requirements, for she took the habit on 14 September of the same year. On 5 Sept. 1701 Charles de Glandelet* certified that she had been “examined according to the Holy Council of Trent and approved as being acceptable for admission to profession”; she made her profession on the following 15 September.
The annals of the convent emphasize that “she was very clean, careful, tidy, and thrifty . . . [and] was very zealous in adorning the altars, so that she was several times vestry nun, to the satisfaction of the people without [the convent] as well as those within.” Marie-Anne de Saint-Benoit died 2 March 1749, at about 70 years of age and in her 50th year of religion. She was the first Ursuline of English origin to make her profession at the convent of Quebec.
[The author would like to thank Mr Gerald Kelly of New York who provided her with the results of his research on the origins of Marie-Anne Davis, dite de Saint-Benoît. g.l.]
AJQ, Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame de Québec, 23 mars 1692. AMUQ, Actes des assemblées capitulaires, 1686–1802; Actes des professions et des sépultures, 1688–1781; Annales; Cahier du P. Ragueneau, copié par Jacques Bigot, s.j., et dédié à M. S.-Benoît Davis; Entrées, vêtures, professions et décès des religieuses, 1647–1861; Livre des entrées et sorties des filles françaises et sauvages, 1641–1720; Registre de l’examen canonique des novices, 1689–1807. ANDQ, Registre des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 23 mars 1692. JR (Thwaites), LXI–LXXI. Genealogical dictionary of Maine and New Hampshire, ed. Sybil Noyes et al. (Portland, Maine, 1928–39). Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Coleman, New England captives.