Esther Bellique (1840-1915)

Esther Bellique (1840-1915)

Esther was born on December 11, 1840 in St. Paul, Marion County, the fourth child of Genevieve St. Martin and Pierre Bellique.[1] She was baptized on December 24, 1840 at the Mission of the Willamette by Father Norbert Blanchet[2] and in 1850 attended the Ste. Marie du Willamette Catholic girls’ school founded by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur at the Saint Paul Mission.[3] The purpose of the school was to provide domestic training as a means of civilizing its students, most of whom were either Native or else métis girls like Esther.[4] She was confirmed in the Catholic faith on October 5, 1851.[5] Esther was nine years old when her father died on the way home from the California gold fields. Her mother remarried the following year, in 1850.

On December 5, 1859 at the age of 18, Esther married the French-Canadian Joseph Hebert (1830-1869) in Marion County.[6] The couple was childless[7] and moved to Frenchtown, Walla Walla, around 1861, living on Mud Creek about seven miles northwest of where Esther’s sister Mary Sophie and her husband Narcisse Cornoyer later owned land.[8]

This proximity made it possible for Narcisse to be a witness to the funeral of Joseph Herbert after the latter committed suicide on December 14, 1869. Joseph’s death was recorded as suicide by insanity, thereby allowing Father J.B.A. Brouillet to give him a Catholic burial in the St. Rose Cemetery at Frenchtown.[9]

Esther soon remarried. Fast remarriages (often within two years after divorce or death) were common among frontier women, especially young widows.[10] Esther married Moses Tessier (1828-1907), another French-Canadian, on September 25, 1871 in Frenchtown.[11] It was the first marriage for Moses, who was 43 at the time. They do not appear to have had any children.

Esther and both of her husbands were very active in the Catholic Church, acting as sponsors, godparents, and witnesses. For example, Esther was godmother and Moses was sponsor for Henrica Esther Pambrun, daughter of James Pambrun and Felicity Dauphin (the Pambruns and Dauphins were both prominent in Frenchtown).[12]


Esther appears to have lived in Frenchtown for the rest of her life. Sometime after 1883, Esther and Moses opened their home to Cyril Gagnon, the nephew of Esther’s late husband Joseph Hebert.[13] Cyril worked their land, with the help of a hired hand named Tascar Lee Broyles, and Cyril purchased the farm from Esther after Moses died.[14] Cyril lived with Esther until her death on March 22, 1915.[15] She is buried by Moses and her sister Mary Sophie in Mountain View Cemetery in Walla Walla.[16]

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[1] Early Oregonians Index 1800-1860, entry for Belleque, Esther, https://secure.sos.state.or.us/prs/profile.do?ancRecordNumber=1360.

[2] Marie Leona Nichols, The Mantle of Elias: the Story of Fathers Blanchet and Demers in Early Oregon (Portland: Binfords & Mort, 1941), 290.

[3] Melinda Marie Jetté, At the Hearth of the Crossed Races: A French-Indian Community in Nineteenth-Century Oregon, 1812-1859, (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2015), 155.

[4] Ibid., 156.

[5] Harriet Duncan Munnick, Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest; St. Paul, Oregon, 1839–1898, (Portland: Binford & Mort, 1979), Vol II, P. 42.

[6] Nichols, Mantle, 330.

[7] “…having had no issue by said deceased, my late husband,” written by Esther Bellique in Washington, Walla Walla County, Territorial Probate Records; Author: Washington (Territory); Probate Court (Columbia County); Probate Place: Walla Walla, Probate Case Files, 5615-5127, 1860-1889 Washington, Image 252, accessed June 7, 2017 at https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9086/005186993_00201/436204?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/46035071/person/330009377742/facts/citation/960296415011/edit/record#?imageId=005186993_00252.

[8] Rob Foxcurran, “The Battle of Frenchtown (1855), Washington Territory: the Political and Demographic Context,” n.p., 33. Also see quote: “…for about eight years prior [to Joseph’s 1869 death] the deceased had his home [in Walla Walla County],” in probate records at Washington, Walla Walla County, Territorial Probate Records; Author: Washington (Territory). Probate Court (Columbia County); Probate Place: Walla Walla, Probate Case Files, 5615-5127, 1860-1889 Washington, Image 264, accessed June 7, 2017 at https://www.ancestry.com/interactive/9086/005186993_00201/436204?backurl=https://www.ancestry.com/family-tree/person/tree/46035071/person/330009377742/facts/citation/960296415011/edit/record#?imageId=005186993_00264.

[9] See death record in U.S. Federal Census Mortality Schedules, 1850-1885, National Archives and Records Administration (NARA); Washington, D.C.; Non-population Census Schedules for Washington Territory, 1860-1880; Archive Collection: A1154; Archive Roll Number: 3; Census Year: 1869; Census Place: Walla Walla, Washington; Page: 17; Harriet Duncan Munnick, Catholic Church Records of the Pacific Northwest: Walla Walla, Register II, Frenchtown, St. Patricks and St. Rose of Lima 1859-1872, P.80-81-82-83, S-9 Joseph Hebert.

[10] Jetté, At the Hearth, 207.

[11] Munnick, Catholic Church Records Walla Walla, P.98-99-100, M-3 Moses Tessier and Esther Belique.

[12] Munnick, Catholic Church Records Missions of Frenchtown and St.Rose of Lima 1876-1888, P.11-12-13, B-5 Henrica Esther Pambrun.

[13] See 1900 US Federal Census, Census Place: Frenchtown, Walla Walla, Washington; Roll: 1752; Page: 13A; Enumeration District: 0084; FHL microfilm: 1241752; Cyril Gagnon became a U.S. citizen on December 17, 1883 (Ancestry.com. Washington, Naturalizations, 1853-1980 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2012).

[14] 1910 US Federal Census, Census Place: Frenchtown, Walla Walla, Washington; Roll: T624_1673; Page: 1A; Enumeration District: 0239; FHL microfilm: 1375686.

[15] Ibid.; For Esther’s death date, see Early Oregonians Index, entry for Belleque, Esther, https://secure.sos.state.or.us/prs/profile.do?ancRecordNumber=1360.

[16] Early Oregonians Index, entry for Belleque, Esther.

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