Our Ancestors in America.
To this date, the only known first North American ancestor was named Nicolas Heppell. Who arrived in Salem, New York, by 1750. Nicolas was a surgeon and chief warrant officer in the army of Lafayette, this French general who fought with the Americans for the independance of the United States of America. He married Mary Reiss in Schenectady, N.Y. by 1752. He probably married in a Lutherian church since we know by his son John-Jacob that he was of that religion.
Nicolas's only known son is John-Jacob, born in Salem, NY, June 24th, 1753. Researches made by Mrs Blanche Massé of Niverville, Quebec, whose mother is Heppell, learn us a little more on John-Jacob. She tells us that he arrived in Rimouski, Québec, through the woods with two cousins, Pinel and Canuel, towards the end of 1780s. During their trip, they would kidnapped by the Indians ( Abénakis ) and John-Jacob lost his wife and his twelve-year-old son. Mrs Massé indicates that the lost son would have rejoined his father later on but John-Jacob never mentionned a word of this past time . John-Jacob surely had been married before his arrival in Rimouski since, on his death certificate, date April 16 1833, it is mentioned that he was the husband of late Victoire Bouillon, on his third marriage. It is knowned that some Pinel and Canuel also lived in Rimouski at the same period. Which family ties made them cousins ? Was John-Jacob's first wife a Pinel or Canuel ? This first marriage would have occured approximately in 1775.
John-Jacob married Agnes Lavoie (DeLavoie), in St-Germain's parish of Rimouski
on July 19, 1790 at the age of 37. His wife was 18 years old daughter of Joseph and Charlotte Gagnon,
native of 'Les Eboulements', a small village
on the north bank of the St-Laurence River. They arrived in Rimouski with their family, some previous years
before their daughter's marriage. Since John-Jacob is lutherian, he had to renounce his religion, receive
the roman catholic sacraments and be married the same day. Furthermore, his older son, Joseph,
one-year-old, is baptyzed on that day.
Documents stating these facts still exist at St-Germain de Rimouski's presbytery.
The late baptism of Joseph, the elder son of Jacob is thus explained : In a souvenir book for the centennial of the Rimouski parish, we find a paragraph related to Jacob Heppell. It si said that we praise the courage of the early seelers and even its proselytism (joining a new religion). By which Jacob Heppel renounced his Lutherian faith. The itinerant priest arrived in Rimouski 13 months later.
We note that Jacob signs his mariage certificate with one L only, and, also on all other found documents concerning his affairs.
Four childrens where born from this marriage : Joseph, Thérèse, Madeleine and Marguerite. Agnès Lavoie, his wife, dies at the age of 25, on May 5, 1797. The body is buried on July 30th only and the death certificate indicates « spouse of John-Jacob Heppell, ploughman in Fathers' Point. ».
He remarries on April 24, 1798 to Victoire Bouillon with whom he will have 7 other childrens : Basile, Jean, Madeleine, Eve, Esther, Pierre and Suzanne.
He dies on April 14, 1833 in Rimouski and is buried on the 16 in St-Germain's parish cemetery. The death certificate states that his two sons, Jean and Joseph « were not able to signed a word effectively » as witnesses.
John-Jacob would be the ancestor of most Heppell of America with the exception of a few later emigrant from England in the 1850's.