Jacques Poissant dit Lasaline was born on July 12, 1661 in Marennes (diocese of Xainte), France, where he was baptized on August 4, 1661. He was the son of Jacques Poissant and his second wife, Élisabeth (Isabelle) Magord, who were Huguenots (French Calvinists), as were most of the population of Marennes. His father, Jacques, was Sergeant Royal; charged to apply the decisions of court, he would have been equipped with a mace and would precede the personalities at the time of any court processions. At the time of Jacques birth, trading in salt was an important industry in Marennes, and the nickname "La Saline" may have been a reference to the nearby salt-marshes.
In 1548, over 100 years before Jacques' birth, residents of Marennes revolted against the King’s salt tax and broke from the Catholic Church (as the crown and the church were one). Religious persecutions lasted more than twenty years until the Edict of Nantes brought some relief and tolerance. But after Louis XIV became king, the position of the Huguenots became increasingly unfavorable - they soon saw themselves excluded from public office, preaching was restrained and emigration forbidden under pain of confiscation of property. By October 1685, Louis thought it no longer necessary to observe half measures and revoked the Edict of Nantes, forbidding the exercise of public worship by Protestants. The revocation did not produce the desired effect - in spite of prohibitions, a mighty movement of emigration developed. Vauban wrote that "Revocation brought about the desertion of 100,000 Frenchmen, the exportation of 60,000,000 livres (~$12,000,000), the ruin of commerce; enemies' fleets were reinforced by 9,000 sailors, the best in the kingdom, and foreign armies by 600 officers and 1,200 men, more inured to war than their own."
Meanwhile, beginning in the early 1600's, the young colony of New France was established and managed by the Compagnie des Cent Associés (Company of the Hundred Associates). Each year, the Company sent a fleet bringing more settlers and supplies. After 1641, the journey also was made by independent ships and vessels from the Royal Navy of France (Marine Royale). The main points of landing were the town of Québec and Port-Royal in Acadia. After 1662, Canada was managed directly by the Sovereign Council in Québec, reporting to the government of France through the Ministry of the Navy.
It is likely that Jacques Poissant dit Lasaline arrived in New France on Nov 12, 1684, about a year before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. In response to pressing requests not to abandon the young colony, King Louis XIV sent 300 soldiers under the command of Montortier, Denos and du Rivau. Jacques came as a "Troupes de la Marine," probably aboard the L'Emerillon. While the L'Emerillon passenger list is not available to confirm that Jacques was aboard, it is known that he was present in New France by April 1685. After arriving, he was assigned to Cadillac and later to Payon DeNoyan.
At that time, if a Protestant or Huguenot settled in New France they had little choice but to convert to Catholicism. In 1621, the Catholics in Quebec had joined together and appealed to the King to make it "forbidden to all subjects of your Majesty who profess the alleged Reform Religion, to live here or associate with persons of the Nations which profess the so called Reform Religion or suffer a penalty which shall be judged reasonable." Since the King was the representative of divine authority, it was argued that his subjects should profess the same religion as he and the idea of having a single religion in order to build a strong country took hold. Despite the ban on Protestants in the colony, many of them came to settle in New France, where most converted to Catholicism.
We know that Jacques Poissant dit Lasaline was a Calvinist by an act of abjuration executed on Palm Sunday in April 1685, in the church of Pointe-aux-Trembles in Montreal. Jacques, 24 years old, along with Daniel Fore dit Laprairie, disavowed the "heresy" of their Calvinist faith and professed their allegiance to the Catholic Church. The written act of abjuration names Jacques’ parents and notes that neither Jacques nor Daniel could read nor write, so one of the officials read the profession of faith to them and other witnesses signed the document.
After 10 years as a French Marine, Jacques was discharged and on July 3, 1694 was awarded a land concession of 100 acres in Cote de La Tortue on the banks of the St. Laurence River on the western side of La Prairie. Such land grants were common at that time to discourage discharged soldiers from returning to France; 6 of the original 13 landholders in La Tortue were ex-French Marines. Four years later, Jacques then 38 years old, married Marguerite Bessette, the daughter of Jean Bessette dit Brisetout and Anne Le Seigneur. The Bessette farm was between the Poissant farm and the common where cattle were grazed, so perhaps he became acquainted with his future wife when passing this way. The marriage probably took place in the chapel at Fort Chambly or in the church of Saint-Joseph de Chambly.
Jacques died at 73 years of age on August 19, 1734 in Laprairie and Marguerite on January 24, 1763 at more than 80 years. Over time, their descendants migrated across Canada and to many parts of the United States (one very famous descendant is Madonna; the singer-actress is descended through her mother, Madonna Louise Fortin).