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74 – JEAN CAMPAGNA, THE SORCERER

When Sieur Hector de Grandfontaine came to Acadia in 1670 on the "Saint Sébastien", to become its Governor at Pentagoët (Penobscot, Maine), where he established the Capital of Acadia, he was accompanied by the astronomer Jean Richer , as I said in article No. 70. We know that there was on board another passenger who accompanied him, by the name of Jean Campagna, sometimes written Campagnard. If he did not acquire in the field of science the reputation that was attributed to Jean Richer, he was nevertheless going to acquire in the world of witchcraft, while he was in Acadia, the dubious reputation of a sorcerer.


Born in 1640 in Angoulême, France, about 100 km from the Atlantic Ocean, southeast of La Rochelle and northeast of Bordeaux, Jean Campagna came to Acadia as a hired servant from Grandfontaine. He is registered as a farmer. After having been two or three years in Pentagoët, Grandfontaine sends him to Port-Royal given that he had enough food in Pentagoët.


From Port-Royal he moved to Beaubassin, situated where Fort Lawrence was later to be built, of which I spoke in article No. 71. Here, after some time, he was accused of having caused the death by sorcery many men and domestic animals at Beaubassin, particularly in 1678, when the mortality rate was high. In 1684, Michel Leneuf, Sieur de la Vallière, then Governor of Acadia, ordered Michel Gallant Hache, who was in his service, to arrest him.


He was detained for more than nine months before his trial began. One of the first witnesses was Andrée Martin, aged 40, widow of François Pellerin, who certified that in 1675, at Port-Royal, Campagna wanted to hit her, but that she herself beat him with a stick because he was insulting a young girl. Campagna then tells her that one day she would regret hitting him. Subsequently, in 1678, while Campagna was working in the marsh of La Vallière, at Beaubassin, he blew into the eye of her husband, François Pellerin, who immediately began to suffer, the pain rose to his head, and, this same night, he developed a high fever. He died some time later.


This testimony of Mrs. Andrée Pellerin was corroborated by numerous witnesses, including Marie Martin, 43 years old; Pierre Mercier, about 40 years old; Martin Aucoin, 34 years old.


Later arrives Roger Kessy, an Irishman (the ancestor of the Acadians who now bear the name of Quessy), about 33 years old. He testifies that in the month of April 1684, Campagna, after having received a bottle of spirits from La Vallière, came to see him at his house to ask for his daughter's hand. Kessy said he couldn't give her an immediate answer, that his wife also had to give her consent; but she was at that time in Monjagouetche (which was located three or four miles from the Missaguash River, which separates Nova Scotia from New Brunswick) he was going to ask her and give her his answer.


But Madame Kessy, probably because of Campagna's reputation, refused. It was then that Campagna let her know that in a week she was going to regret it. She, on the other hand, let him know that he couldn't hurt her anyway. She tells him he was an idiot and she had nothing to worry about.


Eight days later, four of Kessy's cows became ill, three of them were about to calve, in addition to a young heifer and two young oxen. They were lying down, trying to eat, but couldn't. It was then that Kessy had recourse to spiritual will and asked Father Claude to come and bless the water that the animals drank and the food and hay that they ate. But it was in vain.


Governor de La Vallière, seeing that Kessy was about to lose his domestic animals, went to Moujagouetche where Campagna was and told him that he would put his sword through his body if more came. accidents in Kessy. It so happened that the next morning, when Kessy went to the barn, all the animals were up on their four legs and they were running around the field completely healed.


Other witnesses have certified, as much with regard to the animals of Kessy as with regard to other "misdeeds" attributed to Campagna, including Marie Kessy, aged 16; Thomas Cormier, 50 years old; and his wife Madeleine Girouard, 31; Françoise Poirier, Isabelle Morin, Marie Godet, etc., etc.


Pierre Godin, for his part, certified that he had been bewitched by Campagna. But having threatened him with great harm if he continued, Campagna finally withdrew his spell.


Finally, Jean Rignault, aged about 33, (although he was born in 1655 according to another document) came to his defense. He certified that he had known Jean Campagna in Pentagoët since the year of his arrival in Acadie 14 years earlier. He had always been a good and valiant worker and had a good amount of money. He said that all the trouble came from the fact that some people, who owed him money, so as not to have to pay it, started to say that he was a wizard.


Afterwards, Campagna was asked if it were not true that one day he put his hand on Pierre Godin's chest, while Godin was jumping at his feet saying to him, You detestable! You were going to kill me? Isn't it true that in 1678 you breathed in François Pellerin's eye while he was working in the Sieur de La Vallière marsh, and then, on his deathbed, didn't you tell him that he was in a good position for an oath? To this Campagna replied (…?) that when they said that he was referring to himself, that he was (the one?) who suffered, adding that it is an expression which is common where he comes from , used when someone is making a joke. (…cannot make sense of this paragraph)


This trial ended on June 28, 1685, with the acquittal of Jean Campagna. Was it because the judge didn't believe in witchcraft? Or did he imagine that it was simply a grudge that these people had against Campagna, without serious reasons. Nothing is said about it.

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