Jean-Baptiste-Moïse St-Laurent Jean-Baptiste-Moïse St-Laurent, c. 1880-1890
© Parks Canada / Maison Compton collection

Around the end of the 19th century, most immigrants who settled in Compton originated from the neighbouring region of the Beauce. Some, however, came from nearby towns, as did Jean-Baptiste-Moïse St. Laurent, Louis's father, who left Sherbrooke in 1878 to move into the village.

Mary Ann Broderick Mary Ann Broderick, c. 1882
© Parks Canada / Maison Compton collection

When he arrived, Compton was a bustling settlement whose architecture and organization still recalled its British past. This commercial centre, full of small shops, boasted five general stores. Jean-Baptiste-Moïse rented one of these and became part of the town life. Some years later, when he married, he became the owner of both the store and its adjoining buildings.

Louis S. St. Laurent as a child Louis S. St. Laurent as a child
© National Archives of Canada / coll. Dale C. Thomson, Montmigny & Cie, Québec / c.1886

With his general store, Jean-Baptiste-Moïse soon became well known in Compton. He did not remain a bachelor for long and in 1881, he married Mary Ann Broderick, a young woman of Irish descent. The first of their six children, Louis Stephen St. Laurent, was born on February 1, 1882.

Until 1896, young Louis lived with his family in Compton. In the St. Laurent family, the children spoke in English to their mother and in French to their father, so Louis grew up in a bilingual environment where francophones and anglophones lived in peace together. This was an experience that would affect his whole later career .

Another advantage that Louis possessed was that he was very studious, so much so that, in 1896, he successfully passed the entrance examination to the Sherbrooke Seminary.