Missing links project – Report # 1

From Saint-Robert (Québec) to Baltic (Connecticut)


Remains of the Baltic Mill in Sprague, Connecticut
(The George F. Landegger Collection )

Basile Cotnoir was born in 1837 in Saint-Michel de Yamaska, a village located near the Yamaska River and about 15 miles from the city of Sorel-Tracy. Many of the Cotnoir families settled in the 19th century in that village and in other localities in the vicinity: Saint-Robert. Saint-David, Saint-Pie-de-Guire, Saint-Germain, etc.

Basile’s wife, Claire Lavallée was born in 1834 in Saint-Robert, a village close to Saint-Michel. This village was initially known as Saint-Pierre de Sorel.

The couple was married in Saint-Robert in 1862 and had five children. The first four were born in Saint-Robert: Louis, died at childbirth in 1864, Célina in 1865, Joseph Ulderic in 1867 and Marie-Louise in 1869. Their fifth child, Jean-Baptiste was born in 1874 in Baltic (Connecticut).

The exodus:

A major event occurred in the life of that family around the years 1869 and 1870.

The couple moved from their village in the Richelieu valley to an area in the U.S.A. which must have been the most southern of all possible  destinations for a French speaking couple and their four young children.

Their arrival point was the village of Baltic, located near present day Sprague (Connecticut). Sprague is a locality situated near the town of Lisbon and is  about half way between Hartford (Connecticut) and Providence (Rhodes Island).

Employment was available there at the Baltic Mill which at the time was one of the largest if not the largest textile mill in the USA. “At its peak, over 1,000 employees operated 1,750 looms and 70,000 spindles to produce some of the country’s finest cotton”. Most of these workers were Irish  and French-Canadians. “By 1870, 804 men, 396 women and 210 children worked in the Baltic Mill”.

Proof of residence:

The US census of 1870 has recorded the presence of Basile Cotnoir, born in Canada in 1840 and living in Sprague, in the county of New London, Connecticut.

The other members of his family listed in the 1870 census are his daughter Célina Cotnoir, born in 1865, Joseph Uldéric, born in 1867 and Mary (Marie-Louise) born in 1869, all reported born in Canada.
The mother is listed under the name of Mary, also born in Canada. In fact her maiden name was Claire Lavallée born in Saint-Robert (Canada) in 1834.
They are the only ones with the surname of Cotnoir registered in the 1870 US census and living in the state of Connecticut.

In the 1910 US census, we find Basile Cotnoir again, aged 76 (born in 1834) and living in Norwich, Connecticut.

His elder son, Joseph Cotnoir, born in Canada in 1867 and now aged 43 is living in Warwick, Rhode Island. He is probably Joseph Uldéric Cotnoir, grandfather of our correspondent, Richard Robert Cotnoir.

Basile’s daughter Célina Cotnoir married Emmanuel Lemoine in St. Pierre de Sorel (or St. Robert) in 1887. The couple had nine children all born in the US. The elder, Joseph, was born in Baltic in 1887.  They are reported living in Sprague (Connecticut) at the time and  died in that city in the mid-thirties.
Célina Cotnoir and Emmanuel Lemoine are both accounted for in the US census of 1880 as living in Sprague. The links with their respective families in the village of Saint Robert (or St. Pierre de Sorel) and St. Michel are still strong at the time. According to the Canadian census of 1881 there were 119 persons in St. Robert whose family name was Lemoine and 45 with the name Cotnoir.

Célina was born in that Québec village  and Basile is from St.Michel de Yamaska nearby. They were married in St. Robert in 1885. They returned to Baltic after their marriage. Their first child, Joseph, was born there in 1887. 

The youngest son of Basil Cotnoir and Claire Lavallée, Jean-Baptiste, is not accounted for in the 1910 census. His name appears only in the 1930 census. He was 57 at the time and was born in Baltic. Our data base shows that he was married to Olivine Plante. This couple had 5 children. Other descendants are known but the data is incomplete.

I am grateful to Robert R. Cotnoir and Brenda Cotnoir for having provided important information pertaining to their family history. They are direct descendants of Basile Cotnoir (1837-1916) and Claire Lavallée (1834-1912) who migrated from the Richelieu valley in the Province of Québec to the United States of America around 1870. 


A Baltic Mill Helps Found a New Town

Sprague – Historic Buildings

Norwich – Historic Buildings

Yantic Woolen Mills (1865) + Ponemah Mills


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