CHAREST, ÉTIENNE, seigneur, merchant, and militia captain; b. 4 Feb. 1718 at Pointe-Lévy (Lauzon, Que.), son of Étienne Charest and Anne-Thérèse Duroy; d. 6 Aug. 1783 at Loches, France.
Étienne Charest’s father, who had built his fortune upon lucrative business houses, industries, and real estate, was one of the richest landowners in the colony. When he died in 1735, Étienne and his younger brother Joseph Dufy Charest control. Fearing that Charly Saint-Ange would misuse his authority, their guardian and trustee Pierre Trottier* Desauniers obtained letters of emancipation and benefit of age for them in 1737.
In 1738 the two young seigneurs named Jean de Latour, a royal notary at Quebec, as a judge of bailiffs court for Lauson, which had been without seigneurial justice since 1712. That year Étienne issued an ordinance appointing surveyor Ignace Lafleur, dit Plamondon, to establish the boundaries between the seigneuries of Beaurivage, Lauson, and Tilly. A census in 1739 enumerated 1,237 persons in Lauson, an increase of 806 in 33 years.
Since their father’s death the two brothers had continued to run his business and industries in partnership, concentrating in Labrador on the cod- and seal-fisheries. Joseph, who had chosen a sailor’s career, and Étienne, who lived on Rue Sault-au-Matelot in the lower town of Quebec in their father’s shop (one of the most flourishing and best stocked in the city), overlooked nothing, however, that might encourage more settlement in the seigneury. In the spring of 1745 they had their censitaires provide new title-deeds to their property in the seigneury. The following year Étienne built a flour mill on the Rivière Etchemin for the habitants’ convenience, and this step led to the founding of the parish of Saint-Henri, for whose church and presbytery he gave a piece of land. Between 1750 and 1754 he made 20 land grants in an area which covers the present parishes of Saint-Joseph-de-la-Pointe-de-Lévy, Saint-Romuald-d’Etchemin, and Saint-Nicolas.
In 1759 Monckton landed at Pointe-Lévy and established a camp from which the city of Quebec could be bombarded. As militia captain, Charest led some 40 of his censitaires and about 300 Indians against the invaders, putting up a strong and resolute resistance and slowing their advance by some hours. Seventeen years later, in 1776, he was rewarded with the cross of Saint-Louis for his services, the only militia soldier from the colony ever to receive this decoration.
Following the treaty of Paris in 1763, Étienne Charest signed the address from the citizens of Quebec to Governor Murray proclaiming their loyalty to their new sovereign. In October that year he went to England, with a commission from his compatriots to ask for the maintenance of their religious institutions in Canada, the reestablishment of French laws, a reform of justice, and a more favourable financial settlement. Disappointed with his lack of success – London did not permit the appointment of Briand as Catholic bishop of Canada until three years later – and despairing of ever finding tranquillity, Charest left Canada with all of his family in August 1765, shortly after his return from England, and went to live at Loches, in Touraine. Before departing he sold his houses in Quebec and his seigneury; Governor Murray purchased the latter, which at that time had 1,540 censitaires holding 33,706 acres, for the sum of 80,000 livres.
Étienne Charest was the last seigneur of Lauson under the French régime. On 22 Oct. 1742 he had married Marie-Catherine, daughter of Pierre Trottier Desauniers, at Saint-Joseph-de-la-Pointe-Lévy; on the same day his brother Joseph married Marguerite, her sister. Étienne Charest and his wife had 13 children; his sons settled in Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola).
ANQ-Q, NF 25, 38, no.1381; 39, no.1397; 41, no.1496. Archives paroissiales, Notre-Dame de Québec, Registres des délibérations du conseil de la fabrique, IV, 164. Æ. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis, 204–5. P.-G. Roy, Inv. ord. int., II, 242; III, 3, 193. Georges Bellerive, Les délégués canadiens-français en Angleterre, de 1763 à 1867 . . . (Québec, ), 8–22. Burt, Old prov. of Que. (1968), I, 86, 100. J.-E. Roy, Histoire de la seigneurie de Lauzon (5v., Lévis, Qué., 1897–1904), II, 138–43, 157–59, 175–77, 186, 211–13, 282–86, 360–64, 370–79, 385, 416. “Comment fut reçut le traité de Paris,” BRH, LI (1945), 310–11. O.-M.-H. Lapalice, “Étienne Charest,” BRH, XXXIV (1928), 500–1.