The Soubirous family lived in the far north of the little town of Lourdes, in the Lapaca district. A large stream flowed there, and on this stream there were seven mills; one of them known as the Boly Mill, and this had been the residence of the Soubirous. Francois Soubirous leased the mill from relatives of his wife, Louise. In many ways, it was the trade of the miller that had brought the couple together. They had married on the parish church on 9th January 1843.
By 1855, the family income had decreased drastically - trade was not good at the mill, and the Soubirous were not the best of business people; often filled with pity for the poor of the local people, they would tell their customers to pay when they were able to, and they never refused credit. And of course there was the family to raise, which further drained their resources.
No longer being able to pay for the rent of the mill, the Soubirous were forced to quit their dwellings, give up the millers trade and take on whatever work they could find for themselves. Francois Soubirous recalled that another relative owned a building in the Rue des Petits Fossés - this building was the former Lourdes jail. The old jail was locally known as 'the Cachot'. The Soubirous were allowed to remain there rent-free.
Each evening, the family gathered around the old fireplace for family prayers. This concluded with the recitation of the Rosary - often led by one of the Soubirous girls, Bernadette.
The marriage of Francois Soubirous and Louise Casterot produced six children. The eldest of these was Bernadette.
She was born on 7th January 1844, and was baptized the next day by Abbé Forgues in the old...