Saturday, 28 January 2012


Cajetan Arsenault was born in Egmont Bay on August 7, 1845, and died there in June 1904.  He was of the sixth generation (Cajetan à Joseph à Joseph à Joseph à Claude à Pierre) of the Arsenault family to have lived on this side of the Atlantic.  Cajetan’s Joseph ancestors carried the ‘Magitte’ nickname, so he would have been known as ‘Cajetan à Jos Magitte’.  (In a future blog, I’ll write about the official of the ‘Musée Magitte’; an entertaining day for sure!)

The first Joseph inherited his nickname from his mother, Marguerite (Magitte) Richard.  This Joseph was born around 1741 in the first Malpèque, at Low Point, near what is now called Port Hill.  His father, Claude, died when Joseph was very young, and this may explain why Joseph was called after his mother, a widow, rather than his father.  His family escaped the 1758 Deportation and returned to Prince Edward Island around 1763.

In 1804, the second Joseph ‘Magitte’ married Bibianne Arsenault, daughter of Joseph (Jos League) Arsenault.  Jos League and Jos Magitte were among the founding families of Saint-Chrysostôme in 1812 and, in fact, in the early days, the village was known as ‘Le village des Jos’.  The second Jos Magitte was one of the first teachers in Egmont Bay; he died around 1835.

Cajetan’s father, the third Jos Magitte, was probably born at Rivière-Platte, near present-day Miscouche, and would have moved with his parents to Saint-Chrysostôme when he was very young.  He and his wife, Marie Gallant, raised nine children; Cajetan was the second youngest.

Cajetan married Véronique Arsenault, daughter of Fidèle and Agnès Arsenault of Bloomfield, in Egmont Bay church on November 13, 1865.  They had eighteen children, though only eleven reached adulthood.  Three of Cajetan and Véronique’s daughters became members of the Congégation de Notre-Dame in Montrèal: Cyrienne, Agnès and Julie-Anne.  One son, Arsène, died seeking his fortune in the Klondyke.

There is no known photo of Cajetan, although several exist of Véronique, including the one below which was hand-coloured from the original black-and-white.

There are also several photos in Mémé Aline’s collection, showing Cajetan and Véronique’s children and grandchildren, including the one below, taken in front of Augustin (Gus à Jos Hubert) Arsenault’s house in Urbainville in the summer of 1942.  Mémé Aline is second from the left; she would have been sixteen at the time.  Her parents, Denis (à Cajetan) and Mélanie, are in the back row near the right; Denis is the one with the moustache.  Notice the nuns; not much skin showing, not even their hands!

Father Albin (Albin à Aline à Denis à Cajetan) was given a copy of Cajetan Arsenault’s last will and testament.  It’s written in English by a notary, and is dated March 12, 1904.  Cajetan was buried on June 14 of that year, so he must have been aware of his approaching death.  You will note that a few words were spelled differently then than they are now: untill instead of until; maintainance instead of maintenance, equavalant instead of equivalent, etc.  Maybe the notary was just a bad speller!  But, the most interesting detail to me is the fact that Cajetan spelled his last name with two ‘e’s: Cajetan Arseneault.

In the name of God ÷ Amen
This twelfth day of March in the year of Our Lord One Thousand Nine Hundred and Four, I, Cagetang Arsenault of Higgins Road Lot and Township Number Fifteen in Prince County Prince Edward Island ÷ Farmer ÷ Being through the blessing of God in a sound state of mind and memory, but calling to mind the frail tenure of life, and, that it is appointed to all men to once die. Do make and order this my last will and testament ÷ That is to say ÷ principally and first of all, I recommend my Soul to God Who gave it to me and the disposal of my body I leave it entirely to the discretion of my friends.

With respect to my wordly estate I will, give, bequeath, and dispose, of it, in the manner, here following. First. I will, and bequeath, to my beloved - wife, Veronique Arsenault, and to my mother in law Agnes Arsenault, their reasonable maintainance during their natural lives, and a decent burial. I allso will the sum of Forty-four Dollars to be given to the Parish Priest of Egmont Bay, for the purpose and means here following. Twenty Dollars for high masses for the repose of my own Soul, Twenty Dollars for the repose of the Soul of my beloved wife, and Four Dollars for the Soul of my mother in law.

I will, unto my own daughters who are depending on me for a living, their reasonable maintainance untill they either get married or are otherwise able to substantially maintain themselves, and in the event of one or any of them getting married I wish to give to each one, getting married the following, one cow, one sheep, and one spinning wheel, or their equavalants.

Second. I will and bequeath, to my son John Babtiste all my real, and personal property - providing he pays my just and honest debts, if any and carries out all the terms of this my last will and testament.
Third. It is my desire that in the event of any or all of my remaining boys buying land property anywhere within the Dominion of Canada, to give to each one, a young horse two years old, or its equavalent, and if one or more buys land property near the old homestead my son John Babtiste shall give them as much help as he possibly can, in putting in crops, for the first two years.

Fourth. In regard to George LeBlanc (my adopted son) he shall be clothed, boarded, and schooled free untill the age of Eighteen, and in the event of him (LeBlanc) working, and helping, my son John B. after attaining the age of eighteen he shall be paid reasonable wages, or given help to acquire property for himself.

I hereby appoint Messrs. Hubert J Arsenault ÷ and Azade M. Arsenault, to be executors of my will and testament.

In witness, I have hereto set my hand, and Seal this Twelfth day of March A.D. 1904.

Signed, sealed, published
by said Cagetang Arsenault
as and for his last will and
testament in the presence of us
Theoplilus Arsenault
? F. H. Arsenault

Cajetan’s story doesn’t end with his will.  He left behind many descendants in Egmont Bay and elsewhere and, believe it or not, the house where he lived, probably built by his grandfather, Jos à Magitte, still stands.  An acquaintance of the family, Carter Jeffery, examined the house in the summer of 2009 when it was for sale, and wrote a blog about it last December:

It shows that the house was built in the 1830s and has some very unusual features, especially in the original subfloor.  The old part of the house is one of the oldest structures in the Évangéline Region.

And speaking of longevity, check out the bottom of Carter’s blog, where he includes a link to the story of Mary Josephine Ray.  She was born on May 17, 1895, and was the second oldest person in the world, 114 years and 294 days, at the time of her death.  Mary Josephine Ray was born in Bloomfield, Prince Edward Island, and was the daughter of Sabin Arsenault, Véronique’s brother.  How cool is that?


  1. It's interesting also that in the will, his name is spelled Cagetang. I have never heard the name Cajetan before. Do you know anything about the name or its history?

    1. The name Cajetan was not unusual for that period, though certainly not as common as some other first names. English lawyers spelled names the way they heard them: in this case, 'Cagetang'. I can't explain why, because Cajetan himself knew how to spell his name, and wrote it out as 'Cajetan', in longhand.