CUSSON, JEAN, farmer, seigneurial attorney, clerk of court, royal notary, and acting king’s attorney; b. 1632 or around 1635–36 at Clair, near Rouen (province of Normandy), son of Jean Cusson and Jacqueline Pépin; d. 8 April 1718 at Saint-Sulpice.
It has been said with a good deal of justice that the settlers of New France, craftsmen or soldiers rather than farmers, attracted moreover by the fur trade, had only a slight interest in farming. For many of them, cultivating their land remained a marginal activity and simply constituted, in the final analysis, a necessary means of supplementing their income but one which they endured impatiently and got rid of at the first opportunitet there were true habitants; Jean Cusson belonged to that group. After his marriage on 16 Sept. 1656, at Trois-Rivières, to Marie Foubert, a girl 15 years of age who originally came from Rouen, Cusson settled down at Cap-de-la-Madeleine. By 1667 the couple owned 7 head of cattle and 28 acres of land under cultivation, a quite extraordinary achievement. Certainly Cusson had sufficient means to take on hired men, such as François Vannasse (who was already there in 1666) and Jean Pilon, the first being 25 years of age, the other 40, both of them being listed in the 1667 census as living in his home. And despite the offices which he was to occupy in the realm of justice, Cusson did not neglect his farming; in 1681 he declared 6 head of cattle and 40 acres!
In 1669, just at the time when the Jesuits, who were the seigneurs of Cap-de-la-Madeleine, gave Cusson a commission as notary, seigneurial attorney, and clerk of court, the intendant, Boutroue* d’Aubigny, was engaged at Quebec in a struggle to take away from the Compagnie des Indes Occidentales the right of appointing notaries and to restrict the powers of the seigneurs in the realm of justice. Although he gladly admitted Cusson to his offices as seigneurial attorney and court clerk, the intendant authorized him to act as notary only provisionally, and on the express condition that he take the title of royal notary. Soon the seigneurs were to have only the right of presenting notaries, the appointment itself falling within the intendant’s competence. Cusson acted as notary at Cap-de-la-Madeleine until 1687, and then in the seigneury of Champlain from 1687 to 1700. In 1700 he moved to Montreal, where he carried on his functions for four years. He lived at Pointe-aux-Trembles. In 1704, at about 70 years of age, Cusson retired, but he came out of retirement for a short time in 1707–8, when he was acting king’s attorney for Montreal.
Cusson and his wife had 12 children. They all reached adult age, which was rather rare for the period.
AJJ, Registres d’état civil de Saint-Sulpice. AJTR, Greffe de Séverin Ameau, 31 août 1656. AQ, NF, Ord. des int., I, 49. F.-L. Desaulniers, “Le greffe de Jean Cusson,” BRH, X (1904), 51–57. Jug. et délib., I, II, III. Ord. comm. (P.-G. Roy), I, 88f. Recensement du Canada, 1666 (APQ Rapport). Recensements du Canada, 1667, 1681 (Sulte). Massicotte, “Les tribunaux et les officiers de justice,” BRH, XXXVII (1931), 189, 304. “Les notaires au Canada,” 25. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat, I, 162, 201f., 211f. Vachon, Histoire du notariat, 19f.