CHARRON DE LA BARRE, CLAUDE, business man, alderman of Quebec, police magistrate, churchwarden, syndic; b. some time between 1621 and 1627 in France; d. 1687 at Quebec. He appears to have signed himself “Charron” or “Charon,” without distinction; one document only-the 1666 census-gives him the surname La Barre.
Arriving at Quebec in 1652 or shortly before, Charron and his wife Claude Camus (or Le Camus) settled first on the Île d’Orléans. Even at this time Charron had servants, which suggests that he had some financial resources. Two of his servants, perhaps planning to rob him, wounded him in the throat with a pistol on 29 April 1653.
On 20 May of that year, Governor Jean de Lauson granted him a commoner’s holding of ten acres on the Île d’Orléans. But Charron had little interest in clearing and cultivating land. Thus we soon find him back in Quebec, where he kept a shop. His business flourished to such an extent that on 7 March 1660 he sold his land on the Île d’Orléans, although he retained another property there to which he retired from time to time.
About 1660 Charron appears to have been one of the chief merchants of Quebec. on 5 November of that year he sailed for France, probably on a business trip, because in 1661 he imported goods to the value of “five or six thousand livres." In March 1663, he was one of the 17 merchants to whom Governor Pierre Dubois Davaugour farmed out the Tadoussac trade. When this concession was annulled by the Conseil Souverain and the Tadoussac trade was put up for auction, Charron gave Aubert* de La Chesnaye-the wealthiest merchant of the day-a lively battle, bidding up to 46,000 livres and offering an advance payment of 15,000 livres for each year of the concession, before finally yielding to his powerful rival.
Being now one of the notables of Quebec, Charron could expect to receive appointments and honours. And in fact, on 7 Oct. 1663, the leading citizens of Quebec elected a mayor and two aldermen, of whom the Sieur Charron was one. But the mayor and his aldermen-and Charron in particular-“making little effort to fulfil the said functions,” the council decided shortly thereafter to abolish these offices and “make do with a syndic.” When the election of this officer took place on 3 Aug. 1664, the Sieur Charron was once again named by the few notables present. But the people opposed this choice, fearing that with Charron’s support the merchants might acquire too much influence over the fixing of retail prices on goods sold in the colony. As a result the council suggested discreetly to Charron that he resign, and this he did in September 1664.
Although not a member of the Conseil Souverain, Charron was nevertheless often called upon to sit on the council in the absence of one of the regular judges. Furthermore he is mentioned in documents dated 8 Aug. 1669 and 7 Oct. 1671 as a churchwarden of the parish of Quebec. In 1673 and 1674 he was police magistrate of the town of Quebec, and in 1675 he was once again an alderman.
As a prominent businessman, having held public office and owning land at Quebec, on the Île d’Orléans, and at Montreal, Charron was one of 20 leading members of the colony selected by Buade de Frontenac on 26 Oct. 1678, to give an opinion on trafficking in spirits. He expressed himself in favour of bartering with intoxicating liquors, as did the majority of the merchants present at this meeting.
As a result of his knowledge of the colony and his business experience, Charron had views of his own on New France’s economic development. Although favouring the trade in spirits, he nevertheless deplored the fact that settlers were abandoning their lands in order to hunt beaver or live in the woods. In a brief addressed to the minister about 1680, Charron proposed the founding of a colony on the Detroit River in order to give stability to the settlers and create centres for the production of woollen material, cloth, and shoes. Lamothe de Cadillac [Laumet*] was to attempt just such a project a few years later.
Claude Camus died at Quebec on 12 April 1684. Charron was married a second time, on 21 August of that year, to Élisabeth, daughter of Mathieu Damours de Chauffours and Marie Marsolet. On his death in 1687 he left behind him his second wife, four children-two of them by his second wife-and a sizable fortune.