AILLEBOUST DE CERRY (Cery, Cerry d’Argenteuil), PHILIPPE-MARIE D’, mariner and merchant; b. 21 Oct. 1702 at Montreal (Que.), son of Pierre d’Ailleboust* d’Argenteuil and Marie-Louise Denys de La Ronde; m. 27 June 1735 Marie-Madeleine Chéron at Charlesbourg (Que.); four of their 14 children survived infancy; d. 14 April 1787 at Loches, France.
Although he held letters of nobility and his father had been a senior officer in the colonial regulars, Philippe-Marie d’Ailleboust de Cerry became a sea captain and merchant. His older brothers Louis, Sieur d’Argenteuil, and Hector-Pierre, Sieur de Saint-Vilmé, had been introduced to the sea by their redoubtable uncle, Simon-Pierre Denys* de Bonaventure, and during the early 1720s it was they who initiated Philippe-Marie. By 1728 he had command of his own ship, the 60-ton Aimable, on voyages from Quebec to Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) and he soon began to sail between Louisbourg, Île Royale, and Martinique. During the 1730s he sailed continuously between Quebec and France, and from Quebec to Île Royale and the West Indies. Whether he was a good businessman is questionable; an associate in Martinique complained that Cerry and Argenteuil were unfamiliar with commercial practices and failed to keep their books in order. Nevertheless his ventures represented colonial attempts to gain some freedom from metropolitan domination of Canadian trade. In 1739, for example, Cerry commanded a ship owned by Pierre Trottier* Desauniers, his wife’s brother-in-law, on a voyage to Bordeaux and returned to Quebec via Martinique with a cargo from Provence. By that time he had become one of the more experienced masters and pilots on the St Lawrence, and in 1741 he was recommended for the position of port captain at Quebec. He did not receive the appointment and continued as a sea captain, frequently commanding ships owned by Trottier Desauniers.
During the War of the Austrian Succession Cerry served courageously. In 1744 he built and organized a system of fire beacons along the St Lawrence between Île Saint-Barnabé, off Rimouski, and Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon and Lévis) to warn of any British attack. Early the next year he carried dispatches to France and returned to Quebec in time to sail again in December with news of the deteriorating situation in the colony. In June 1746 he took part in carrying the Canadian expedition under Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay to Acadia. Later in the summer, while making a second voyage with supplies, he was trapped off Cap Des Rosiers, near Gaspé, by American privateers; he ran his ship aground and burnt it to prevent it from falling into enemy hands. He made his way to France late the same year and was still there at the beginning of 1748 when he was appointed port captain of Quebec in acknowledgment of his recent services to the crown. On his way to take up his duties he was captured by the British and reached Canada only in the summer of 1749.
His post offered many challenges. Nothing had been done to improve navigation of the St Lawrence since the death of port captain Richard Testu* de La Richardière eight years before. Of Cerry’s immediate predecessors in office, the first had died at sea shortly after being appointed and the second, Charles Latouche* MacCarthy, had never taken up the post. But although Cerry remained in office until the end of the régime he viewed it as a sinecure. His attempt in 1749 to increase his income by charging anchorage fees was rejected and this setback may have dissuaded him from working. A second port officer, Gabriel Pellegrin, was named in 1751 and Cerry turned to his own interests. He clearly had the continuing support of the governor and intendant, who objected on his behalf when his assistant was elevated to fire-ship captain, a rank that Cerry did not enjoy. Although Cerry was a member of the council of war which recommended the capitulation of Quebec in 1759 [see Jean-Baptiste-Nicolas-Roch de Ramezay], he appears to have played no role in the Seven Years’ War.
Evidence of Cerry’s various commercial interests is limited. In 1738 he is known to have become associated with Abbé Louis Lepage* de Sainte-Claire in an abortive attempt to establish an ironworks. He may also have tried his hand at the timber trade. He acquired an arriere-fief from the seigneurs of Île-Jésus in 1739 but three years later the land was reunited to the seigneury owing to Cerry’s failure to encourage settlement. His wife, the youngest daughter of a member of the Conseil Supérieur, was also the half-sister of Charles Chéron, a Quebec ship’s captain who often sailed to Île Royale and Labrador, and in 1753 Cerry obtained a nine-year grant of a large concession at Saint-Augustin, on the Labrador coast, together with the trading, sealing, and fishing rights that had formerly belonged to Chéron.
The conquest apparently destroyed Cerry’s fortunes. His wife had died in 1758 and in 1761 he departed Canada with his two sons. He joined the colony of expatriate Canadians in Touraine and the next year acquired a pension of 600 livres that became his sole support for the next quarter century. He returned to Canada in 1763 to collect his two daughters and a niece, who had been boarding with the Ursulines, and placed them in a convent near Paris. For his sons he obtained commissions in the Légion de Saint-Domingue but they died on the island (now Hispaniola) a few years later. Towards the end of his life, as the number of expatriates dwindled, Cerry moved to Loches where the largest group lived, and there he ended his days a leading member of the tiny community.
AN, Col., C11A, 36, f.165; 46, f.300; 63, f.218; 75, f.92; 81, f.300; 91; 121, f.102; C11E, 11; E, 2 (dossier Ailleboust de Cerry); 67 (dossier Cerry); F2B, 11; Section Outre-mer, G1, 466, no.3. PAC, MG 24, L3 pp.1270, 1314. Inv. de pièces du Labrador (P.-G. Roy): I. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X, 55ff. Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” ANQ Rapport, 1951–53, 470. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, IV. Ægidius Fauteux, La famille d’Aillebout: étude généalogique et historique (Montréal, 1917).