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Thankful Stebbins was born September 5, 1691 at Deerfield, a village in the English colony in modern Massachusetts, USA. Her parents were John Stebbins and Dorothy Alexander. Her great grandfather Rowland Stebbins had been born in Stebbing, Essex, England (likely where his surname originated) and sailed to New England aboard the ship Francis in 1634 with his wife and children – a bold action, considering the puritan colonists in New England faced constant danger of Native American raids and hostility, not to mention the harsh weather and wild landscape. Deerfield was a small village on the frontier, right on the edge of English settlement.
In March of 1704 there was a particularily notable attack on Deerfield, known as the Deerfield Massacre and it was associated with Queen Anne’s War. A force of some 200 French soldiers and about 150 Native warriors under the command of Jean-Baptiste Hertel, Sieur de Rouville from the New France colony attacked the village, razing the buildings to the ground, killing dozens and taking dozens more as captives. 13-year-old Thankful and her family were among those taken captive. The French brought these captives back north to Canada – walking on foot in March, mind you – and along the journey many more died. They were handed over to the French authorities in Canada at Chambly.
Thankful was baptized into the Roman Catholic faith on April 23, 1707 and re-named “Therese Louise Stebenne”. Four years later, on February 4, 1711 in Ste-Famille-de-Boucherville church, she married Adrien Charles LeGrain dit Lavallee, Captain of the militia at Fort Chambly. The couple had 11 children in total, the last was born in 1729. Thankful passed away one week after the birth of her last child, aged 38 years – likely due to a complicated birth – and was buried at Fort Chambly, rather than in the church graveyard.
Thankful is my 9x great grandmother through her son Charles Legrain dit Lavallee. The surname had transformed into just the dit name of Lavallee by the time it was given to my 4x great grandmother Ozilda Lavallee (who married Joseph Bessette). The line goes Thankful – Charles – Jean Marie – Jean Baptiste – Pierre – Ozilda -Louis Bessette – Corinne, my great, great grandmother.