The story of the Phaneuf family could start with these words: Once upon a time... Adventure mingled with feelings give to this patronyme an unique flavor. It starts with the birth of Matthias in England, in the small town of Farnworth near Manchester. Of Anglican faith, he is influenced as others by the stern religious precepts that drive him to join the Puritans.
One can see him aboard the Mayflower, reaching the Atlantic coast in December 1620, but considering his age, this is unlikely. Nevertheless, Matthias Farnsworth lives in America around 1628.
It is in Lynn, Massachusetts, that he first settles, and then moving with his family to Groton, Massachusetts. Weaver at first, he becomes land-clearer, encroaching on the forest to gain farmland in order to make a living for his three children born of a first marriage and seven others of his second marriage with Mary Farr. Matthias dies in 1689, followed by his wife in 1717.
To follow the track of the Phaneufs, it is necessary to focus on Matthias, second child of the first Matthias. Matthias II is born in Lynn in 1649 during his father's first marriage with a woman whose name is still unknown. In 1681, he marries Sara Nutting who bears him at least five children.
Among these, a third Matthias, born in Groton on August 6, 1690. Toward 1700, the family lives in the vicinity of Deerfield, Massachusetts. At that place, it is attacked by surprise in one of the numerous Canadian raids against New England villages. On August 11, a teenager is captured by the Indians.
This teenager is Matthias III, son and grandson of the Matthias Farnsworth. He doesn't read nor write. Furthermore, he doesn't speak French nor the language of the indian tribe that adopts him. The child's fate seems to arouse the interest of the French who make attempts to purchase his freedom. In doing so, they have two goals: convert him and, if possible, integrate him to their society.
The priests of the Seminary of Saint-Sulpice in Montreal obtain Matthias's freedom. On January 10, 1706, he is baptized. His godfather is Claude de Ramezay, governor of Montreal, and his godmother is Élisabeth Souart, wife of Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil. To his forename is added his godfather's. The patronyme undergoes its first distortions: Farnsworth becomes Farneth.
In October of the same year, Mathieu-Claude Farneth asks for his letters of naturalization concurrently with "Jean Thomas Charpentier, English; Louis-Marie Strafton, gunsmith; Jean Laha, farmer; Paul Otés, shoemaker; Guillaume James, farmer; André Fray, farmer; Jean Uss, farmer, Jean Making, farmer; Guillaume Straylord, farmer;Jean Ohe, farmer; Thomas Hurt" and others.
The documents rescued from oblivion in 1912 by Brother Elie, professor at Mont Saint-Louis college, as well as researches done by descendants of Matthias-Claude Farnets, show the ancestor being given, on July 19, 1711, a first grant of land by his adoptive Gentlemen of the Seminary and more especially the priest François Vachon of Belmont.
An excerpt of the long document confirms the rights of the young man of twenty one "to procure to the said Claude-Matthias, English of nation, being currently in the service of Gentlemen of the Mission of the Sault-au-Récollet after having been purchased from the Indians that held him in slavery, an advantageous establishment in this country (...) if he settled in this country and live in it as a Christian."
This condition is essential, because the land is granted to a man who has not yet received the letters making him a Frenchman. He will only receive them in March 1714.
On July 19 of the same year, Jean Charpentier receives his parcel of land . The two men share about six arpents of land previously belonging to Jacques Le Moyne de Sainte-Hélène, along the river Des Prairies on the island of Montreal.
On September 14, 1713, three new arpents are added to the others. On the following September 25th, Mathias signs a marriage contract binding him to Catherine, daughter of Jean Charpentier and Françoise Hunault, his neighbours.
Already, the one who is called Matthias Fanef possesses a dwelling, a beautiful land and "three arpents and two perches of frontage by forty arpents of depth (...) besides a cow of four years that will be his own."
Catherine brings an important dowry, because her parents, "as reward for works and significant services received from the said daughter", give her "a half arpent of three by forty of depth joining the said dwelling of the future spouse." To this sumptuous gift, they will add, the day of "nuptials, two bulls of eighteen months, a cow of four years, a pig of eighteen months and two sheep for all to enter in said future community as to property."
The marriage is celebrated on October 2nd by Robert Gay, priest of the Seminary in the Saint-Joseph de la Rivière des Prairies parish. It is there that are born the four girls and the eight boys that Catherine bears to the new Phaneuf family.
Around 1764, the couple gets settled in Saint-Antoine sur le Richelieu, where Claude Matthias will be buried on August 8, 1773, "at a ripe old age of 83." On June 30, 1777 is buried Catherine Charpentier, deceased "yesternight." She was 88 years old.