A Salute to Nicolas Peltier

William H. Peltier III of Watkinsville, Georgia, FCHSM member

With Benoit Pelletier-Shoja of Nashua, New Hampshire

In the article that I wrote for the Michigan's Habitant Heritage, “Walking in the Footsteps: A Trip to Nicolas Peltier's Hometown of Gallardon, France” (MHH vol. 20, no. 4, Oct. 1999, pp. 166-169), I described the trip I had made with my wife, Dorothy, in March of that year to my ancestral homeland. (Editor's note: To see Bill's 1999 visit to Gallardon, published on this site, click here) Little did we know then that in July, 2005, we would be returning to Gallardon for a grand event. On July 14th, which is Bastille Day in France, we found ourselves back in Gallardon for the dedication of a plaque honoring the memory of my seventeenth-century ancestor Nicolas Peltier, whose descendants today bear the names Peltier, Pelletier, Antaya, Anteau, Antieau, Antaille, Chateauneuf, Pelkey, Pelkie and Pelky, among others. The actual ceremony took place on the outskirts of Gallardon, in the hamlet of Germonval, where many Pelletier families lived at the time of Nicolas.

What made this trip extra special for my wife and me was that our youngest son, Christopher, our grandson, Nathan, and his mother, Carina Madsen, were also present at the dedication. I was very proud to have three generations of our family returning to Nicolas Peltier's birthplace for this celebration of his life. Another descendant of Nicolas Peltier, who came representing the Pelletiers of North America, was our good friend Benoit Pelletier-Shoja from Nashua, New Hampshire. And representing the Association des Familles Pelletier, Inc. of Canada was Pascal Pelletier and his spouse, Lise Lapointe. Pascal is not a descendant of Nicolas but of Pierre Pelletier, who was both a contemporary and an acquaintance of Nicolas. Finally, very much to our delight, that day we met a distant cousin, Jacques Pelletier, and his wife, Jacqueline. They had come from their home in nearby Chartres. Jacques, who is a very young 81 years old, was originally a native of Gallardon.

Now, one may ask how our visit to Gallardon in 1999 culminated in our return six years later. The answer to that lies in great part in the wonders of the Internet and countless e-mails to many friends around the world, along with finding multiple articles written on Pelletier genealogy (Pelletier Genealogy, this site, among others), and mostly, on the cultivation of North American and French friendships. As I sought help to continue my genealogical search in France, I came to know Xavier Guyot, who was founder and president of the Genealogical Club at IBM France. He was very helpful to my initial research by going to Gallardon searching for and collecting information on Nicolas which he sent to me. We were very excited by his findings and decided that we needed to go to France.

In 1999, in preparation for our voyage to France, we contacted the Mayor of Gallardon and told him of our plans to visit our ancestral homeland. And that is how we came to know Florine Perry. Florine was the Mayor's executive assistant who was assigned to help us when we arrived at the Mayor's office. Ms. Perry not only helped us at that time, but she also subsequently became our very good friend as she continued to search the municipal archives for information on the family of Nicolas after our departure and kept in touch with us with her findings. Returning home from this initial trip to France, we made contact with a young man named Ben Shoja; we had learned that he could help us translate the documents that we had collected in Gallardon. Well, it turned out that Ben not only translated the documents we needed, but he provided notes and articles about his historical findings on Nicolas Peltier in the archives in Quebec. Being fluent in French, he was also able to collaborate with Florine Perry on her early findings regarding the Peltier family in the Gallardon Church Acts from 1578 to about 1640. (See MHH, Vol. 25, No. 2, April 2004, pp, 60-69, “Nicolas Peltier, A Chronicle, 1594 - 1678”, The continuing research into the Peltier family in Gallardon has resulted in some changes to the material found over two years ago.)

In May 2003, Florine Perry and her fiancé, Eric Blaise, came for a two-week visit to Quebec. During their fortnight in the Belle Province, they met for supper with Ben, Pascal and Lise, as well as with Claude E. Pelletier and his wife, Laure E. Gauthier, who were the genealogists of the Association des Families Pelletier at that time. Florine's research and findings on Nicolas were the main topics of discussion that evening; over the course of the meal, friendships were forged. Also that evening Florine and Eric sprang a big surprise on everyone. They presented a letter from Mr. Beaufils, the Mayor of Gallardon. The Mayor indicated his desire to honor his city's native son, Nicolas Peltier, who had emigrated with his family from France in 1636 and sailed to Quebec City, and whose descendants had returned to his homeland seeking their roots. The letter stated that a plaque would be erected in the hamlet of Germonval, which is just outside of Gallardon, because it was the location of a property that is still today referred to by locals as the “Pelletier Farm”. The Mayor extended an invitation to all those related to Nicolas Peltier to come to Gallardon for the dedication of this plaque; those who could attend this ceremony would be welcomed as his honored guests. When we learned of this invitation, my wife and I initially feared we would be unable to make the trip to France for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The following year Florine and Eric visited with Dorothy and me in Athens, Georgia, for two weeks in August, 2004. Ben Shoja was able to come down to Georgia as well. Leaving Dorothy at home as she had to work, Florine, Eric, Ben and I headed down to New Orleans and the Cajun country of Louisiana, where many early French immigrants had settled. Unfortunately Ben had to leave after visiting New Orleans as he was due in Quebec where he was going to study at the provincial university in Chicoutimi. Florine, Eric and I continued on to visit Memphis, Tennessee, the mountains of North Georgia, and the Smoky Mountain National Park. We had a very good time exploring these areas. It was a wonderful visit and during this time we again discussed what specific date would befit the ceremony to honor our ancestor Nicolas Peltier. Sometime in 2006 had seemed appropriate as that would be the 340th anniversary of Nicolas' emigration from France, But July 14, 2005, was finally selected as the best date, as the dedication could coincide with Bastille Day festivities in Gallardon and that seemed like a good idea.

A week prior to the July 14th ceremony, Dorothy and I flew to Brussels, Belgium, to visit with our son, Christopher, and his family. After a week there we rented a car and then drove down to Gallardon, arriving at the town hall on July 13th, where we were met by Florine, Eric, and Eric's sister and brother-in-law, Joelle and Roger Alamichel. Ben Shoja, who had traveled to southwestern France at the start of the month, had arrived in Gallardon earlier that week. Also there to greet us were Pascal Pelletier and Lise Lapointe. French hearts and homes were opened to us during our stay as Eric and Florine hosted Ben, and Joelle and Roger hosted Pascal, Lise, Dorothy and me. Accommodations at a nearby bed-and-breakfast were provided for Christopher, Carina and Nathan. That same evening Roger and Joelle hosted a down-home BBQ cookout, French style, for all at their home. The food was accompanied by a sampling of a variety of homemade and local wines, and some wines from the Loire Valley. Our entertainment was provided by Christopher and Nathan. As Christopher played his guitar and sang for us, Nathan danced happily along with the music. We also lit sparklers to celebrate the holiday. It was such a memorable evening, setting the tone for the following day's jubilant celebration.

The next day, Bastille Day, the “delegates” from the United States and Canada, along with the Mayor and other citizens of Gallardon, and surprising us all, Jacques and Jacqueline Pelletier, who drove up from Chartres, assembled at the Place du Jeu de Paume, the square in front of the city hall. While waiting for everyone to gather, I noticed American and Canadian flags waving beside the French tricolor and the European Union flags. They were hanging from the second-story balcony of the city hall. I thought that this was a very nice salute to the North American guests.

City Hall
Gallardon City Hall on Bastille Day 2005

When everyone had arrived, we proceeded about a mile down the road to Germonval to the site of the dedication ceremony.

Group gathering

The plaque, which was draped with a small French flag, was attached to a sixteenth century rock wall surrounding some very old farm buildings that were slowly being renovated into modern homes. The participants, who must have numbered between thirty and forty persons, included the Mayor, other city officials and townspeople, two local journalists and us the honored guests. We were also again surprised and delighted to see that Xavier Guyot along with his wife, Véronique, had traveled from Orléans for this occasion and had arrived just in time for the dedication. After an introduction and welcome speech by the Mayor, Pascal, Ben and I each made a small speech of appreciation and thank you to the Mayor and to all the people of the city of Gallardon.

Bill reading
Ben reading
Bill Peltier reading speech in front of the plaque
Others: Mayor of Gallardon, Ben Pelletier Shoja and Chris Peltier
Ben Pelletier Shoja reading Bill's speech in French

Then my son, Christopher, joined us at the wall and on the count of three we removed the flag and revealed the plaque. A very special feeling of pride came over all of us when we viewed this magnificent tribute to our ancestor. The marble plaque was etched with gold lettering; the French inscription translates to:

It was here in Germonval that Nicolas Pelletier was born September 2, 1594.
Having left one day in the year 1636 to conquer “the New World”,
he cofounded several large cities in Canada and America

Covered plaque Plaque
Plaque covered
The Plaque

At the Plaque
Front: Florine Perry and Jacques Pelletier
Back: Pascal Pelletier, Ben Pelletier Shoja, Chris Peltier with Nathan, and Bill Peltie

Following the dedication ceremony, Florine had arranged a full day of activities, beginning with a reception at Gallardon's city park. Champagne, fruit juices and pastries were provided. The Mayor thanked Florine and many others who helped in the preparation for the festivities. Gifts were presented by the North American descendants to the Mayor and Ms. Perry. They in turn presented us with framed pictures of early and present day Gallardon. After the reception, an invitation-only luncheon was held at a local restaurant and crêperie, called the Entr'Act Café, which had been asked to stay open on this holiday especially for us. As Ben Shoja said, “How could you go wrong with succulent confit de canard (duck conserve), ample bottles of Loire wine, fresh fruit, and fresh crepes for desert?” It was magnifique. This was truly one of the best meals that we have ever enjoyed.

Reception at Gallardon City Park
Presentation to the Mayor of Gallardon
Florine Perry is at his right and Ben Pelletier Shoja is behind him

Next on the agenda was a walking tour through the narrow, winding streets of Gallardon with local historian Maurice Vie as our guide; the man is a walking, talking encyclopedia. In 1999, when Dorothy and I visited Gallardon, we were able to visit some of the major sites in town.

Group walkin
Group walking the narrow streets of Gallardon

This time, Maurice's explanation at each of these sites made it much more informative and interesting for us and the others who joined in our walking tour. Three main points of interest included the ruins of an early twelfth-century tower partially destroyed in 1421; a carved-facade timber-frame house constructed in the sixteenth century; and the magnificent Church of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, the historic focal point of the town. Construction on the church had begun in the 1lth century and was finally completed in the 16th century.

Gallardon Tower
The Church of St-Peter and St-Paul

At the church some of us more adventurous tour participants climbed to the top of the bell tower. There we viewed the exposed timber frames supporting the roof. Some of us even tightrope walked along the beams that were holding up the ceiling of the sanctuary. We soon realized that this part of the church now served mainly as a large aviary for the pigeons who flew back and forth and as a final resting place for those who unable to find their way out. As we made our way back down to 'terra firma' and to fresh air, we found we were soaking with sweat. Later we learned that this day had been one of the hottest days of the year in Gallardon. After a quick visit to the local tourism bureau, which houses a collection of ancient tools and pottery discovered in and around Gallardon, everyone decided that it was time for a break. Most of the touring group had been going since early morning, and the effects of going from one outdoor venue to another in stifling heat began to be felt. A two hour time-out was scheduled, and we all retreated to our hosts' homes for some much needed rest and relaxation.

With renewed vigor, we reassembled that evening at the city park for an outdoor dinner prepared and provided by the citizens of Gallardon. Held under a large tent at the park, the relaxed atmosphere lent itself to very animated discussions with our French hosts, our French and American cousins, and our many new French friends, After dinner, a group gathered around Ben as he traced a chronology of Nicolas' trip with his family to New France. He literally put pen to the paper tablecloth and traced Nicolas' journey to Quebec City. During Ben's genealogy lecture, townspeople began arriving at the park for the evening's grand finale, the annual fireworks display to celebrate Bastille Day. The fireworks were scheduled for 11 o'clock and the Peltier/Pelletier contingent was escorted front and center to the VIP section of benches set up in the park for viewing the show. Meanwhile, several hundred people began to assemble for the fireworks show and prior to the start we were introduced to the crowd. The show was entitled “The Conquest of the World” and was a combination of synchronized music and fireworks display with Florine acting as commentator. Our friend Eric Blaise was in charge of the fireworks display and his title of the show was very appropriate for both their native son, Nicolas, and for the descendants of the voyageur to New France.

So it looks like we had come full circle...France to America and then back to France again. Voila! What a wonderful ending to a fantastic day. To say that this was a memorable trip hardly describes what this day meant to us. We cannot say enough about being treated so well. We hope that the friendship we have forged with the people of Gallardon will never be forgotten. Just as I concluded my speech at the dedication of the plaque, I say here, “Vive la France et vivent les descendants de Nicolas Peltier!” (Long live France and long live Nicolas Peltier's descendants).

Note: Nicolas Peltier (this is as he signed his name) had a great-great grandson, Jean-Francois Peltier, who arrived in Detroit in 1706 with his mother, Marie-Madeleine Thunay and his stepfather, Pierre Mallet. Jean-Francois Peltier's great-great-great-grandson, Ezechiel Peltier, moved to Monroe, Michigan, in 1826, after marrying Véronique LeDuc. Ezechiel's great-great-grandson, William H. Peltier III, was born in Flint, Michigan, in 1937. William's grandson, Nathan, was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 2001, thus bringing this branch of the Peltier family back to Europe after four centuries.