ALAVOINE, CHARLES, surgeon; b. c. 1695 in France, son of Charles Alavoine, a merchant, and Marie-Thérèse Macard; d. 8 July 1764 at Trois-Rivières.
Charles Alavoine was less than five years of age when his father settled in Montreal sometime before 1699. Charles learned the rudiments of surgery there and subsequently seems to have had some difficulty in finding a permanent residence. On 27 April 1722 he married Marie-Anne Lefebvre, dit Laciseraye, who was to bear him 19 children; in May of that year he set himself up in Champlain, near Trois-Rivières, and stayed there for more than a year, since his first child was baptized in that parish on 24 May 1723. In August of the same year he bought a lot at Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (Laprairie). His second child was baptized at Montreal on 12 Aug. 1724, and on 4 Nov. 1725 his third son was baptized at Trois-Rivières. He finally settled there.
He was appointed surgeon to the Hôtel-Dieu and surgeon-major for the garrison; he received his official commission on 8 Oct. 1727, and his annual salary was 75 livres. In 1739 the governor, Charles de Beauharnois, and the intendant, Gilles Hocquart*, asked the minister of Marine to raise his salary to 300 livres, but he was awarded only 200 livres. He had therefore to count also upon fees paid by the sick who visited his office. But collection of accounts was not an easy matter – on at least two occasions Alavoine had to appeal to the judicial authorities to obtain what was owing him [see Guillaume Baudry*, dit Des Butes]. The surgeon was himself, however, a bad debtor. Beginning in 1730 he experienced some particularly painful financial difficulties. Unbeknown to his wife he had contracted numerous debts, which he could not pay back. His house was even seized, and in 1743 his wife, who had left him to his fate several years before, harassed him in her turn. Then it was his own father who took legal action against him for a sum of 1,100 livres, owed since 1729.
Alavoine was apparently the only surgeon at Trois-Rivières until 1748, when François-Joseph Rembaud set up practice there. Alavoine enjoyed the confidence of the nuns of the hospital and the esteem of the general public. In 1754 he asked that his family be granted the use, free of charge, of a pew at church. For 20 years he had sung in the parish choir without any reward other than the rent for his pew. He was not able to obtain the favour requested, except that his children would pay a rent of 4 livres only and their pew would not be subject to being “auctioned off.” In 1758 the minister of Marine informed the governor, Pierre de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil, and the intendant, François Bigot*, that Alavoine had obtained a warrant as king’s surgeon, but it seems that because of the war he never received it. In 1759 came one of his finest achievements. Called to the home of Marguerite Chastelain and Marie-Josephte Boucher de Niverville, mother and daughter, whom their servant Marie had tried to murder, Alavoine dressed the two women’s wounds and succeeded, by chafing and bleeding, in reviving the servant, who had tried to hang herself. By an irony of fate the wretched woman was subsequently condemned to be hanged.
After the surrender of Canada Alavoine thought of returning to France. But the numerous entreaties of the nuns of the hospital and the habitants of Trois-Rivières, the possibility that his fellow citizens would be left without a French surgeon, and the hope that the colony would again come under Louis XV’s authority and that he might receive his salary, persuaded him to remain in New France. So he said in a letter to the minister of Marine dated 3 Sept. 1761. Unfortunately New France remained under English sovereignty, and Alavoine never received the salary he had hoped for. He died on 8 July 1764 and was buried the following day at Trois-Rivières. According to the inventory made after his death his possessions were valued at 310 livres 5 sols.
AJTR, Greffe de J.-B. Badeau, 28 nov. 1771. Jug. et délib., IV, 307, 605, 612, 1068. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Chirurgiens, médecins et apothicaires sous le régime français,” BRH, XXXVIII (1932), 516. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces, jud. et not., I, 122; Inv. ord. int., II, 22; III, 128. Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières, 145–48. Les Ursulines de Trois-Rivières depuis leur établissement jusqu’à nos jours (4v., Trois-Rivières, Qué., 1888–1911), I, 185, 229. C.-M. Boissonnault, “L’évolution de la santé publique; protection de la santé en Nouvelle-France,” Revue de pharmacie pratique et professionnelle (Montréal), I (1950), no.6, 7–8. Raymond Douville, “Chirurgiens, barbierschirurgiens et charlatans de la région trifluvienne sous le régime français,” Cahiers des Dix, XV (1950), 81–128. Gérard Malchelosse, “Un procès criminel aux Trois-Rivières en 1759,” Cahiers des Dix, XVIII (1953), 207–26.