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BERNARD DE LA RIVIÈRE (Darivière), HILAIRE, mason, building contractor, “architect,” royal surveyor, court officer, legal practitioner, seigneurial attorney, and notary; b. c. 1640 in France; buried 1 Dec. 1729 at Quebec.

Hilaire Bernard de La Rivière was a building contractor. It was in this capacity that in 1688 Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix], who was at the time in France, engaged him to direct the work of enlarging the cathedral of Quebec and of building a church in Lower Town, the future Notre-Dame des Victoires. Once in Canada, La Rivière asked Intendant Champigny [Bochart] to commission him as “royal measurer and surveyor”; this was done on 20 July 1689, even more easily perhaps since – as the intendant mentions – he had already exercised the same functions in France. He came to Canada with his wife, Marguerite Gillet. As far as we know, the couple had no children. Madame La Rivière was drowned at Sept-Îles, in 1693, when the Carossol was shipwrecked on the way back to France.

Having decided to stay in Canada, Bernard de La Rivière, displaying an enthusiasm and ambition worthy of a much younger man, made a remarkable career for himself. As an architect and contractor – two terms which were at that time more or less synonymous – he did a great deal of building, particularly in stone. On 28 Sept. 1692, with his confrère François de Lajoüe, he undertook to do the stonework for the new fort of Quebec, as well as for the governor’s residence, and on 3 June 1693, with the same partner, to build the Saint-Jean gate, according to plans by Dubois* Berthelot de Beaucours. He also worked a great deal for private individuals, and trained several apprentices. His competence was acknowledged: the judges of the Conseil Souverain regularly commissioned him to “inspect” works or buildings and make reports on his findings. Nor did Bernard de La Rivière remain idle as a surveyor; theodolite in hand, he ranged tirelessly through all the seigneuries in the government of Quebec.

In 1707, without giving up any of his former occupations, he launched straight into another career. On 14 January Intendant Jacques Raudot appointed him court officer to the Conseil Supérieur, and on the following 7 May notary and process-server in the côtes (land divisions) of the government of Quebec, “so long as there are no other notaries or serjeants at law [process-servers] established in the aforesaid places.” Then, on 15 July 1711, he was appointed seigneurial attorney of the Lauson seigneury. On 6 November of the same year, Raudot allowed him to receive ratification at Quebec of any deeds which he might have drawn up on the côtes. (This did not give him the right to exercise the profession of notary at Quebec, as has been claimed, but only to have ratified there deeds made in the absence of one of the parties.)

Hilaire de La Rivière embarked upon his career as a legal officer and notary when he was nearly 70 years old. But the most remarkable thing is that all of his functions necessitated constant journeys, in winter as in summer, to all corners of the government of Quebec, and this in the extremely arduous conditions of the time, when the canoe and the snow-shoe were virtually the only means of getting around. His commission of 1707 made him the first of those itinerant notaries who covered one seigneury after another, with their pack on their back, in search of clients. Philippe Aubert* de Gaspé, in Les Anciens Canadiens, has given a picturesque description of these roving members of the body of notaries. As a process-server, Bernard de La Rivière had to serve notices, writs, decrees, and ordinances in the most remote places: on 10 Feb. 1710, for example, Jacques Barbel was sentenced to pay him 36 livres for the six days taken up “in the journey that he [Bernard] made to serve on Julien Laigne living at Tilly a decree of this Council.” As a surveyor, Bernard was in demand in seigneuries as far from Quebec as Sainte-Anne de la Pocatière to the east and Sainte-Anne de la Pérade to the west. His numerous and repeated absences prevented him from officiating as a legal practitioner; only rarely did he act in this capacity before the council.

This tireless walker did not cease his surveying trips until 1723, at the age of 83. His vigour was declining. The following year, on 26 Aug. 1724, in a commission that resembled a medical bulletin, Intendant Michel Bégon* appointed François Rageot court officer to the Conseil. Supérieur, “in view of the infirmity of the Sieur Hilaire Bernard de La Rivière which does not make it possible for him, because of his great age, to continue working.” La Rivière received his last notarial act on 7 Oct. 1725. We know that on 30 June 1726 he was paralysed, but he lived another three and a half years.

Bernard de La Rivière had remarried 3 Nov. 1694 at Quebec; his second wife, Marie-Madeleine Voyer, bore him nine children, of whom three girls and one boy, born between 1703 and 1708, were still dependent on him in 1720. His family responsibilities must perhaps be considered as the reason for his protracted career. He had become a widower a second time at the beginning of October 1711, and on 22 Sept. 1712, at Beauport, he had married Gabrielle d’Anneville, Mathieu Lagrange’s widow, who was buried 13 Oct. 1728 at Quebec.

When one contemplates the admirable activity of this old man, one inevitably thinks of La Fontaine’s fable beginning: “An octogenarian was planting. . . .” But, in life as in the fable, it was the old man who was right.

André Vachon

AJQ, Greffe d’Hilaire Bernard de La Rivière, 1707–25; Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 22 oct. 1693, 2 nov. 1694, 31 janv., 21 mars 1695, 31 mai 1702, 8 mars 1715; Greffe d’Étienne Dubreuil, 20 sept. 1712, 30 juin 1726, 10 juillet 1729; Greffe de François Genaple, 3 oct., 25, 29 nov. 1688, 4 mai, 28 sept., 9 nov. 1692, 29 mai 1695, 22 oct. 1696, 2 oct. 1698; Greffe de Gilles Rageot, 2 mars, 28 mai 1691, 22 nov. 1692. AQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 254, 2036; NF, Ins. Cons. sup., III, 9f., 44f.; VI, 31v et seq.; NF, Ins. de la Prév. de Québec, I, 629, 707, 731; II, 353; III, 295, 306; NF, Ord. des int., I, 83v et seq., 101v; IV, 17v. Jug. et délib., III, IV, V, VI. Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy), II, 183. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet). A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., VIII, 238–74. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1716–1760, VII, 44f., 62f. Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” APQ Rapport, 1955–57, 420–22. Philippe Aubert de Gaspé, Les Anciens Canadiens (Québec, 1863), 351f., 410. Auguste Gosselin, Henri de Bernières, premier curé de Québec (Les Normands an Canada, Québec, 1902), 160f., 374f. Jean Langevin, Notes sur les archives de N.-D. de Beauport (2v., Québec, 1860–63), I, 102. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat, I, 109, 134, 158–60. P.-G. Roy, La ville de Québec, I, 520 (plate facing); II, 424f. J.-E. Roy, “La cartographie et l’arpentage sous le régime français,” BRH, I (1895), 38–40, 53f.

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Cite This Article

André Vachon, “BERNARD DE LA RIVIÈRE, HILAIRE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 22, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bernard_de_la_riviere_hilaire_2E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/bernard_de_la_riviere_hilaire_2E.html
Author of Article: André Vachon
Title of Article: BERNARD DE LA RIVIÈRE, HILAIRE
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 2
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1969
Year of revision: 1969
Access Date: October 22, 2014