OLIVIER (Ollivier, Halevear), ABEL (sometimes identified as Olivier Abel), navigator; b. probably in 1683, perhaps in London, England; d. 29 May 1768 at Quebec.
An Englishman, Abel Olivier may have been among the many prisoners who were carried into New France during the War of the Spanish Succession and elected to remain. In 1731 he was described as an English gentleman from Boston and a good Catholic, and credited with 19 years’ residence in the colony. Soon after the war, around 1717, Olivier had begun sailing in colonial ships between Quebec, the West Indies, and Bordeaux. During the 1720s he became involved in several suits for unpaid wages owed by local shipowners. As late as 1750 he appears as a ship’s captain in command of a colonial vessel.
On 14 Nov. 1718, Olivier had married at Quebec a widow, Marie-Madeleine Lefebvre; their one child died before reaching maturity. In his marriage contract, dated 6 November, Olivier described himself as the son of François Olivier, merchant, and Marie Castille, “of the city of London in old England.” Ten years later he acquired land along the Rivière Saint-Charles in the seigneury of Saint-Ignace and in 1730 a lot at Pointe-aux-Lièvres on Rue Saint-Roch. Although his name continued to appear in the records as a ship’s captain, thereafter Olivier seems to have settled into semi-retirement. He received his naturalization papers in 1732, and in 1744 was still living on Rue Saint-Roch.
After the conquest, he was named in the affaire du Canada owing to an agreement that he had once made with François Bigot*, but Olivier, who was nearly 75 when it was made, had been merely a front for others. He died on 29 May 1768, aged 85 years, predeceasing his 91-year-old wife by a single day. Both were buried on 31 May. By his will he had left his belongings to his wife’s daughter, Marie-Madeleine Minet, in return for moneys advanced and the care given to him and his spouse in their old age.
Abel Olivier’s career reflects, perhaps, the kind of social mobility in New France that permitted a foreign sailor to end his days as a modest landowner.
AD, Gironde (Bordeaux), 6B, 92, ff.56v, 88v; 313; 373. AN, Col., C8A, 35, f.6; C8B, 20, 21; C11A, 52, ff.301–3v, 304–6v; 54, f.140; 60, f.96v; 61, f.73v; 73, f.410; 76, ff.122–23; 114, f.251; F2B, 11. “Recensement de Québec, 1744” (APQ Rapport). “Recensement du gouvernement de Québec, 1762” (APQ Rapport). P.-G. Roy, Inv. contrats de mariage, IV, 89–90; Inv. ins. Cons. souv., 194; Inv. ins. Prév. Québec, II, 246; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, I, 187, 323; II, 111, 290; III, 8, 218, 231. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 1; VI, 167. P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande, 244–45; “Le sieur Abel Olivier,” BRH, XL (1934), 224–26.