Francois Xavier Gallant - Murder at
Rosehill Farm By James Perry
In 1812 (1806,[See Note 1]) one of the first recorded murders in Prince Edward Island occurred when 57 year old (51 Year Old [See Note 1]) Francois Xavier Gallant, an Acadian farmer from Malpec, decoyed his wife into the deep woods of the Rosehill Farm on Lot 16, not far from the present day City of Summerside and murdered her.
Xavier was the son of Louis (Hache) and Anne (Chiasson) Gallant. Louis was born about 1727, Anne about 1736. They were married on the 8th of January 1753 at Saint Pierre du Nord, l'Ile Saint Jean. The Gallant family was one of the first settlers in the Rustico area. The Louis River south of the Roman Catholic Church is named after Louis Gallant. Shortly after their marriage, they had to flee for their lives from the English deportations of the late 1750's. They left their Island home and settled in Restigouche County, New Brunswick. It is here, on the 9th of January 1761, that Francois Xavier Gallant was baptized. Some time later the family moved to Shippegan, Anne (Chiasson) Gallant died there on the 13th of April 1814. Louis' parents were François Hache and Anne (Boudrot) Gallant. Anne's were François and Anne (Doucette) Chiasson. Xavier was one of nine children born to Louis and Anne, all of them probably born in Restigouche. In order of birth from the oldest to the youngest they were:
i. Francois Xavier, called Pinquaing (Pinquin), was born about 1756.
ii. Firmin (dit Paneau) was born about 1758. He first married Madeleine Poirier, the daughter of Jean Baptiste Poirier about 1780, probably in Malpec. He then married Martine Bernard on the 5th of February 1821 at the Notre-Dame-du-Mont-Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Mont-Carmel. She was the widow of Simon Arsenault. Firmin and his family was one of the first settlers in the Mont-Carmel area. Firmin and Madeleine had nine children: Joseph, Pierre, Cyprien, Amand Laurant, Firmin, Juliette, Marie, and Sophie.
iii. Fabion (dit Perry) was born about 1760. He married Marie Doucette about 1782, probably in Malpec. She was the daughter of Jean and Marguerite (Gaudet) Doucette, and widow of Pierre Poirier of Miscouche. Fabion was in the Rustico area in 1798. The had ten children: Marie, Fidelle, Fabion (Bianne), Charlotte, Sophie, Isaac, Joseph (Cliven), Thomas, Judith, and Victor.
iv. Victor was born about 1761 and baptized on the 3rd of February 1761.
v. Joseph was born about 1762. He married Scholastique Chiasson on the 21st of June 1792 in Caraquet. She was the daughter of Joseph and Anne (Hache) Chiasson. She may have died in Shipegan on the 13th of July 1812. They had four children: David, Marie, Genevieve, and Jean Noel.
vi. Alexandre G., called Cendre, was born about 1763. He married Scholastique Gallant, the daughter of Joseph a Jacques and Josephte (Boudrot) Gallant about 1780, probably in Port La Joie. They had six children: Clement, Cyrille, Judith, Fabion, Daniel, and Joseph. Scholastique died on the 10th of June 1821 in Egmont Bay.
vii. Jean Baptiste was born about 1764. He married Françoise Hache Gallant about 1786, probably in Miscou. He then married Marie Vautour. Françoise was probably the daughter of Jean Baptiste and Helene (Richard) Gallant. The children of his first marriage were: Joseph, Bruno, and Christian. One child was born from his second marriage, a son named Octave.
viii. Louis was born about 1766. He married Judith Hache Gallant, sister to Françoise in about 1790, probably in Miscou. They had eight children: Sebastion, Fabion, Bruno, Moise, Leandre, Anthime, Edesse, and Bathilde.
ix. Anastasie, who was called Failli, was born about 1768, and married François (Canadien) Doucette, son of Michel and Louise (Belleveau) Doucette and Madeleine's brother. She died about 1812.
Xavier and two of his brothers, Alexandre and Fabion, returned to l'Ile St-Jean at the first opportunity and it is here that Xavier met and married Madeleine Doucette in about 1778, probably in Port La Joie. The deportation of the Acadians in 1758 did not remove all of the Acadians from the Island. About 200 to 300 Acadians who had come back, or who had remained, managed a meagre existence by means of fishing or by hunting. In 1767 when the Island was divided among the landlords, some of them induced some of the Acadians to become their tenants. By 1798 a considerable number of Acadians were living in townships 16, 17, and 19.
Madeleine Doucette was the daughter of Michel, (Isaac, called Digouginge [See Note 3]) and Louise (Belleveau) Doucette. Michel Doucette was born on the 5th of April 1734 in Beaubasin, Acadia, across what is now called the Northumberland Strait from l'Ile St-Jean. He had come with his parents to Malpec in 1741, and is the ancestor of all the Doucette's of Prince Edward Island. Michel married Louise Belliveau of Tracadie, l'Ile St-Jean in 1763. Michel and Louise revalidated their marriage at l'Ile Miquelon on the 9th of August 1765. Michel and Louise were in Miquelon with their three children in 1767. They were still there in 1776 with five of their children. At that time they owned 1/2 Chaffaud, 1/2 Grave, 1/2 Chaloupe, 1/2 Canot, and 3 Bêtes à Cornes. Louise was born on the 22nd of February 1738 and christened on the 6th of March 1738 in Port La Joie. Louise was buried in La Rochelle France on the 4th of August 1779, Michel on the 23rd of August 1779. Madeleine was one of nine children born to Michel and Louise. In order of birth from oldest to youngest they were:
i. Joseph who was born about 1763.
ii Madeleine who was born about 1765. She was not listed on the l'Ile Miquelon census of May 1767.
iii. Charlotte Louise who was born about 1766. She married Joseph Pineau. She died in Rustico about 1815.
iv. Anthanese who was born about 1767. He married Adelaide Arsenault. He and his family settled in Rustico.
v. Marie Josephte who was born about 1768.
vi. Michel who was born about 1770. He married Marie Gaudet, widow of Simon Gallant about 1798. He and his family settled in Rustico.
vii. François who was called Canadien. He was born about 1771. He married Anastasie (Failli) Hache Gallant, Xavier's younger sister. He and his family settled in Rustico.
viii. Pierre, who was born about 1773
ix. Firmin, who was born about 1774.
Madeleine's paternal grandparents were François and Marie (Carré) Doucette. Her maternal grandparents, Louis and Louise Hache (Gallant) Belliveau.
Xavier and Madeleine took up residence on a farm on the shores of Malpeque Bay and proceeded to have a family of five boys and two girls. The boys were named as follows: L'Ange, Daniel, Fidele Major, Victor and Bruno. The Girls: Judithe and Edeste.
About a month before the fateful day in June 1812, Xavier had the notion that the family dog was a sorcerer and asked the family if they would allow him the favor to kill the dog as that would deliver him, as the dog was a witch - after which he decapitated the animal with a broad axe.
On the 11th of June 1812, (1806 [See Note 1]) Xavier's behavior took a violent and sinister turn, he lured his wife into the dark forest of Rosehill Farm and slit her throat. He then hastily buried her corpse beneath a fallen tree trunk. Xavier did not return to the village that night but stayed on a gruesome watch in the forest. The next day the people of the village, anxious for the return of the couple arranged a search party to look for them. Under the direction of the infamous Major Compton, this party, guided by shouts from the deranged Xavier found him pacing up and down the trunk of the tree that he had buried Madeleine under.
There is a touching story in connection with this murder. The day that Madeleine made her fateful trip into the Rosehill Farm woods, she left two young children, possibly her grandchildren, in the care of a young crippled girl, who by some means had lost the use of her upper limbs early in life. Madeleine had befriended this poor child and become a symbol of womanhood to her. She was her mentor and friend. The young girl helped Madeleine as best she could with the household chores and with caring for the younger children. This young lady, also gifted with a poetic talent, was overcome with grief at the untimely death of her close friend, and composed a sad lament which she used to sing while walking up and down the forest paths. This dirge became rather well known in the area, so well known in fact, that the priest of the Parish, L'Abbe de Calonne, who knew the child's history asked her to sing the song one Sunday afternoon between Church services.
The L'Abbe was a personal friend of Colonel Compton and a brother of King Louis XIV's Finance Minister at the start of the French Revolution. L'Abbe Calonne being of a noble French family, feared for his life and fled to England during the French Revolution. His papal leaders in Rome then assigned him to minister to the Catholic population of Prince Edward Island. The young lady replied that she could not possibly sing it, for it was Sunday, the explanation being that Sunday was the day her dear friend met her awful fate. The L'Abbe persisted and the young lady finally sang the lament on the banks of a small stream that ran through the Pavillon Farm. The Pavillon Farm was the country estate of the Compton Family. The young girl's singing brought tears to the eyes of the congregation, for the song was lovely and her voice exceedingly sweet, standing there with her white face and dark sad eyes.
The story of Xavier and Madeleine has never died, today a fair portion of the Parishes of Egmont Bay and Mont Carmel, in Prince County, P.E.I. are descended from this unfortunate couple and one of the most famous and popular Acadian folk songs is "Le Meurtrier de Sa Femme" (The Murder of his Wife), the origin of which is unknown but may well be the ballad that Madeleine's young friend composed. For it first became popular early in the 1800's. There are now at least 25 different versions of this folk song and it is sung in Acadian Settlements on the east coast of New Brunswick, in the Magdeleine Islands, and even as far away as the North Shore in the Province of Quebec, as well as in Prince County, P.E.I. [See Note 2]. The original song probably had about 50 lines. Among the versions Georges Arsenault recovered from tradition, very few contain more than 30 lines.
Xavier was taken into custody and because there was no jail closer to the village than Charlotte Town, Xavier was taken there. The constable who escorted Xavier to jail, later stated that as they approached Charlotte Town, Gallant said "he was delivered (from his sins) by two geese and that St. John and St. Paul appeared to him and delivered him - but that he fell into sin again." On the 3rd day of July he appeared before Judge Caser Colclough in the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island. Judge Robert Gray and Judge James Curtis sat with the jury. Here Xavier pleaded "not guilty" to the murder of his spouse Madeleine before a twelve man jury consisting entirely of Englishmen. James Bardin Palmer was assigned as his attorney and eleven witnesses were subpoenaed to appear before the court. The crown had six witnesses testify on its behalf, Xavier had five. Testifying for the crown were Victor (Choutte) Gallant, son of the accused, Fidelle Major Gallant, another son, Jean Baptiste Gallant, cousin of the accused, Prosper Poirier, Daniel Campbell, a prominent landowner in the area, and Colonel Harry Compton. Testifying for the defense were Placide Arsenault, William Clark, George Blood, Samuel Cameron, a neighbor of the accused, and L'Ange Gallant, Xavier's oldest son.
Punishment attached to the breaking of English laws in the late 18th and early 19th centuries was swift and intense. Public humiliation, corporal punishment, sometimes torture and mutilation of the offender were the norm. Punishments in ascending order of severity were: Detention in the stocks or pillory, branding on the hand with a hot iron in open court, whipping at one of the three town landmarks, and public hanging by the neck until dead. Added to that, was that the jails were often worse then animal barns. No heat, barely shelter from the rain or snow. Care of the prisoner was at the expense of the family, who would have to provide for his upkeep, by providing the jailor with monies to provide food and clothing.
Most of the witnesses gave their opinion that Xavier was mentally unstable. His son Fidelle Major testified that the people of the village believed that Xavier was responsible for the mysterious death of his Father Louis. Another son, L'Ange Gallant testified that his father's strange mental state appeared at the Mardi Gras two years previous. Since that time his parents quarrelled regularly. Another witness testified that Xavier had lost his senses after obtaining a sum of money from a Mr. Marsh. Prosper Poirier agreed in his testimony that Xavier was different after the money was given to him. Daniel Campbell testified that the sum of money was three hundred and eighty dollars ($380.00). Living in a cash poor society, he became obsessed that he would lose his wealth. He stopped working, began to talk about witchcraft, and often slept out in the woods at night. Further in Fidelle's testimony, he said that his father blamed his wife Madeleine and the children for stealing the money from him and also for putting a curse on his dog. He also testified that his father sometimes imagined that Madeleine was married to his sons and not to him.
After six hours of testimony, the jury was dismissed to decide the verdict, another one and a half hours later the jury returned with a "guilty as charged" and a recommendation of mercy from the Crown. The judge dismissed the court until the 9th of July for sentencing. When Xavier was brought before Judge Colclough that day, the Chief Justice ignored the jury's recommendation of mercy and Xavier was sentenced to be executed for his crime by hanging by the neck until dead, following which his body was to be anatomized or cut up into pieces- as if the cause of his mad crime might be found within. Xavier was the first Islander to be sentenced to death for murder. Xavier's lawyer, Mr. Palmer immediately proposed that he penalty of death was too severe and the execution be postponed while the court debated the motion. Mr. Palmer succeeded in persuading the Judge to re-evaluate his decision. The court was adjourned until the next Saturday to discuss Mr. Palmer's motion. From that meeting Judge Colclough decided that the execution should be rescinded and Xavier's punishment should be imprisonment until he died in the Charlottetown Jail. This was decided in light of the evidence given that Xavier was not mentally stable and not fully responsible for his actions.
So in July of 1812, Xavier went to prison for the rest of his life. However the jailer was not provided with food and wood to maintain his prisoners. They slept on bare floors in filth. Xavier's upkeep was supposed to come from the sale of his property. These funds ran out in February 1813, although the jailer did not officially mention it to the Executive Council until September 1813.In this jail, Xavier lived under such terrible conditions that it prompted the warden, Caleb Sentner to write to the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Prince Edward Island, on the 21st of September 1813, a petition protesting the wretched and deplorable state and inhuman conditions some prisoners were forced to live under in this dreadful place, particularly one Xavier Gallant. Another inmate by the name of "Murphy, the person deranged in his mind, is under the necessity of being pinioned down to the floor for want of a strait jacket, such are used in Bedlam, and that he is in the most shameful situation, every office of nature being done in his place of confinement, which in itself is enough to breed disease in the place, it being so small and close."
The first crude jail structure built in Charlottetown was constructed in 1797. A log house jail was built in the city about 1812. Until 1830, the jail was primarily a holding cell where prisoners were chained until their punishment and release. In 1820, Xavier's ex-counsel Mr. James Bardin Palmer, now counsel for some of the prisoners presently being detained in the Charlotte Town jail, in response to a motion from the prosecution for an adjournment of criminal cases, urged the necessity of proceeding immediately from the miserable condition of the Gaol (sic), and the consequent weight of shackles with which they were secured. In 1824, at the time of Lieutenant Governor Smith's departure, the jail was a ruin, a disgrace to any community, and, therefore, not entitled to be called a public building. A new Queen's County jail was built in 1830.
Xavier died after 16 months of incarceration in the Charlottetown Jail on the 6th of November 1813, apparently from starvation or malnutrition and cold. The inquest determined that Xavier Gallant "died of the visitation of God, and in a natural way." He is thought to be buried under what is now the Malpeque Road at the edge of the City of Charlottetown.
For many generations after the murder and so long as the dark spruce forest bordered the edge of the highway, people who travelled through Rosehill Farm at night sensed an eeriness, and rumors of strange and weird goings-on in the darkness of the woods of Rosehill abounded. According to the legend which continues to this day, Xavier's "treasure" is still buried somewhere in Rosehill, Lot 16. The year 1812 also saw an exodus of Acadian families leave the Riviere Platte area and move to the Egmont Bay and Mont Carmel areas. Many English settlers were moving into the Lot 16 area and looking with covetous eyes upon the beautiful farms cleared by the hard working Acadians. They quickly profited by the unhappy circumstances of the Acadians by giving very little value for the land they were occupying. By 1820 all of the Acadians had left the Riviere Platte area, the last even taking their small wooden chapel with them to the newly formed parish of Miscouche.
The Murder of His Wife
Come listen to the song I'll sing for you
About a strange thing that happened here.
Oh, he was a man, but alas he was a pagan;
He put to an end the life of his poor wife.
"Armed he still is and in the attic he sleeps.
Armed he is with an axe, and a poker too.
For the love of God, dear brethren, come spare me,
Share in my pain, for I fear great danger."
One day he said to his wife, "I must head forth
To the top of my field. Will thou come with me?"
He took her then, leading her to the hemlock tree.
So cruel was he that he left her in shreds.
After this great carnage, off to the house he went
With barely a glance for this terrible thing.
He said to their children, "Take all my money.
I shall flee, but to you I leave all my money."
Off for the village the children went all in tears
To look for their mother, lost in the woods.
All able folk did hasten forth to find her.
But the devil led the killer and kept him hidden.
He showed them the place he had killed her.
The edge of her skirt was not hidden.
She lay dead, all covered in blood,
Her face on the ground, her mouth all bound.
They lifted up her body and carried it home,
An example for to show her young children.
The young children, in tears, dared not come near,
Saying, "Alas, what misfortune befalls us!"
And so, poor criminal, may you receive what you deserve.
May the ground open up and swallow you whole.
For so long did you linger behind bars,
From hunger and thirst you died a slow death.
Xavier and Madeleine had eight children. All of them born in or around Malpec.
1. L'Ange was born about 1780. He married Marie (Helene) Gallant. She was the daughter of Jean Baptiste and Helene (Richard) Gallant. They had twelve children: Helene, Ursin, Madeleine, Hypolyte, Judith, Moise, Lucile, Jean, Vital, Eulalie, Marie, and Casimir
2. Daniel was born about 1782. He married Marguerite Arsenault on the 26th of September 1814 in Rustico, P.E.I. She was the daughter of Paul and Anne (Bernard) Arsenault. Daniel and Marguerite had fifteen children: Marie, Joseph, Daniel, Damien, Fidelle, Julithe, Christostome, Laurant Amand, Dosithee, Bruno, Elie, Madeleine, Norburt, Bonaventure, Dorothee, and Philomene. They lived in Mont Carmel.
3. Fidelle Major, born about 1784, he first married Barbe Poirier and second he married Marguerite Arsenault. Marguerite was the daughter of Paul and Claire (Brun) Arsenault of Mont Carmel. Fidelle and Marguerite were married on the 14th of November 1837 at St. Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic Church in Miscouche. The only child of his first wife was Louise. The children of his second wife were Joseph, Marie, Stanislas, and Hubert. They lived in Tignish.
4. Victor, who was called Choutte, he was born about 1786. He married Charlotte Bernard on the 10th of February 1817 at St. Philippe et St. Jacques Roman Catholic Church in Egmont Bay. She was the daughter of Hilarion Bernard and Marie (Gallant) Bernard. They were one of the first settlers in the Egmont Bay area and settled in the village of St. Christostome. They had nine children: Marie, Madeleine, Ursule, Sophique, Pacifique, Judith, Meleme, Zephiron, and Louise. Charlotte died on the 30th of July 1862, age 70 years in Egmont Bay.
5. Bruno was born about 1788. He married Henriette Aucoin in the Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Roman Catholic Church in Mont Carmel, P.E.I. on the 19th of February 1822. She was the daughter of Jean Charles (Yankee Jean) and Rosalie (Bernard) Aucoin. Bruno and Henriette had seven children: Julie, Madeleine, Marie, Theophile, Elie, Philomene, and Clothilde. They lived in Mont Carmel.
6. Julithe was born about 1790. She married Clement Martin who was called Lesse of Rustico. He was the son of Pierre and Anne (Gallant) Martin.
7. Edeste was born about 1792. She first married Amand Martin of Rustico. Her second marriage was to Joseph Gallant in about 1876.
 Roads to Summerside, Ada MacLeod, pages 24,53
 Complaintes Acadiennes de l'Ile du Prince Edouard, Georges Arsenault, pages 14,19,27,82,84,88,117-168
 Genealogie de St. Christostome, Aubin J. Arsenault, pages 35,36,37,42,44
 Rustico, une Paroisse Acadienne de L'Ile du Prince Edouard, J. Henri Blanchard, pages 33,74-76,78,80-82,93,113-116
 In the Shadows of the Gallows, Jim Hornby, pages 16,45,46,47,55-56,63
 Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume 5, pages 335-336
 By the Old Mill Stream, Various, pages 466-467
 The Prince Edward Island Magazine, Volume #4-5, July 1899, "The First Settlers of St. Eleanor", Hubert G. Compton, pages 169-170,
 The Island Magazine, #37, Spring-Summer 1995, "Venez Ecouter la Complainte", Georges Arsenault, pages 3-12
 Michel Hache Gallant et ses Descendants, Tome 1, Patrice Gallant, Ptre., pages 17-18,22
 ibed 10, Tome 2, pages 33-36,39,40,41,48,72-74
 Miscouche Acadian Museum Records
 Notre Dame du Mont Carmel Roman Catholic Church Records, Mont Carmel, P.E.I.
 St. Philippe et St. Jacques Roman Catholic Church Records, Egmont Bay, P.E.I.
 St. Jean Baptiste Roman Catholic Church Records, Miscouche, P.E.I.
 Baie des Chaleur Parish Records, Janet B. Jehn, pages 21,26
 Histoire et Genealogie des Acadiens, Volume 2, Bona Arsenault, pages 409,412
 ibed 17, Volume 3, pages 903,959
 ibed 17, Volume 5, pages 2098,2106,2111-2112
 ibed 17, Volume 6, pages 2206-2207,2230
 The Abigweit Review, Fall 1990, pages 85-103, "Les Chansons Acadiennes de Composition Locale", ?
 The Acadians of Prince Edward Island, J. Henri Blanchard, pages 75,77
 1798 Census of Prince Edward Island
 Cinq Cinquatieme Anniversaire de la Paroisse N.D. du Mont Carmel, Various, pages 15,25,32,33,46,47,50
 Premier Centenaire de l'Eglise Notre Dame du Mont Carmel, David LeGallant, pages 1-2
 Les Acadiens de l"Ile Saint Pierre et Miquelon, Michel Poirier, page 211,287
 L'Acadie de Mes Ancestres, Yvon Leger, page 157
 Parish of St. Charles Borromeo, Antoinette DesRoches, CND, pages 27-28
 In Ada MacLoed's "Roads to Summerside" she writes that the murder occurred in 1806, this is an error. As a result her calculation of his age is inaccurate.
 In Georges Arsenault's "Complaintes Acadiennes", a comprehensive verse by verse comparison of the various renditions of "Le Meurtrier de Sa Femme" is on pages 117 to 168.
 In Aubin J. Arsenault's Genealogie des St. Christostome, he records Madeleine's father as Michel. Patrice Gallant, Ptre. agrees with this on page 35 of his "Michel Hache Gallant et ses Descendents." J. Henri Blanchard in "Rustico, une Paroisse Acadienne" lists Madeleine's father as Isaac.
 Probably and about birth dates were calculated from census records. Probably and about marriage dates were calculated 1 to 2 years before the first child was born. Probably marriage places were determined from location of residence of the family, probably birth places from census information.
 Over the last 300 years, there have been at least 3 locations for the village of Malpeque. All of them situated around Malpeque Bay. The earliest location was on the west side of the Bay. The location during Xavier's time was on the south side of the Bay. These two locations are now in Prince County. The present location of Malpeque is on the east side of the Bay. Remember that west to Islanders is generally in a north direction, and east is generally south. It's an Island thing! From where I live in Summerside, its always "Up West" if one is referring to places like Tignish or Alberton. Also I have used an earlier spelling of Malpeque (Malpec) in the text.
 The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, Volume 5, page 335, says there was an eighth child born to Xavier and Madeleine, no further information is available, may of been a child who died as a very young infant.
 Any inaccuracies with dates, places, names, and relationships, is purely my responsibility and I am always happy to change same to reflect more recent research. Please send corrections to my attention at email@example.com along with complete documentation.
8] My descent from Xavier and Madeleine is two fold:
1. Xavier Gallant & Madeleine Doucette,Daniel Gallant-Marguerite Arsenault,Joseph Daniel Gallant-Bathilde Richard,Justine Gallant-Joseph Gallant,Mathilde Gallant-Calixte Arsenault,Joseph Theodore Calixte Arsenault (m29Feb1916) Mary Bella Arsenault, Marie Gertrude Arsenault-Joseph Edward Elmer Perry,James Henry Perry
2. Xavier Gallant & Madeleine Doucette, Bruno Gallant-Henriette Aucoin,Julienne Gallant-Hughues Arsenault,Bathilde Arsenault-Germain Arsenault,Joseph Balcide Arsenault-Marie Anne Gallant,Joseph Theodore Calixte Arsenault (m29Feb1916) Mary Bella Arsenault, Marie Gertrude Arsenault-Joseph Edward Elmer Perry, James Henry Perry.