DENYS DE BONAVENTURE, SIMON-PIERRE, officer in the colonial regular troops; b. at Trois-Rivières, 22 June 1659, son of Pierre Denys de La Ronde and Catherine Leneuf; m. in 1693 Jeanne Jannière, widow of Jean-François Bourdon*, Sieur de Dombourg; d. at Rochefort, 7 Feb. 1711, and was buried there in the original church of Saint-Louis.
Bonaventure’s date of birth is frequently given as 15 Feb. 1654 but family papers show this to be the birth date of his uncle, Simon-Pierre Denys de Saint-Pierre, with whom he is sometimes confused. Saint-Pierre was the son of Simon Denys* de La Trinité and François Du Tartre. He became a lieutenant in the colonial regular troops, and while still young was wounded in an encounter with the Iroquois, taken prisoner, and burned. Le Jeune states that Bonaventure was married first in 1686 to Geneviève Couillard, but according to the family records she was the wife of another of his uncles, Pierre Denys Du Tartre.
Bonaventure entered the colonial regular troops and was employed by the Compagnie du Nord, a trading company formed in 1682 by Canadian and French merchants [see Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye]. He also directed at this time a fishery, established at Île Percé by his father, who had obtained a concession of land in 1672 for this purpose. Bonaventure was not, however, free from interruption in this activity. During a period of eight months, from the autumn of 1685 to the summer of 1686, he had to accompany Intendant de Meulles on a voyage to Acadia, commanding a small vessel and crew. Subsequently he made a trip to France to seek payment for this service and to petition for the maintenance of his fisheries.
Bonaventure’s fortunes were soon affected by the wars with the English. In 1690 the English raided and destroyed the fishing establishments at Île Percé. In the same year Bonaventure, in command of the Saint-François-Xavier, accompanied Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville in the Sainte-Anne to attack York Fort in Hudson Bay. The expedition failed to take this fort but threatened the New Severn post, which was burned down by its commander, Thomas Walsh. Iberville wintered at the bay but Bonaventure sailed for Quebec with a cargo of furs, changing his destination to France when he learned that Sir William Phips* was besieging the town. In 1691, in command of the Soleil d’Afrique, Bonaventure carried Robinau* de Villebon, new governor of Acadia, to the Saint John River. At the Saint John, they captured a New England vessel carrying John Alden, John Nelson, and Colonel Edward Tyng*. In 1692, Bonaventure, captain of the 34-gun frigate, the Envieux, and Iberville, in the 38-gun Poli, convoyed six merchantmen to Quebec, taking three prizes en route. Iberville was to have headed another attack on York Fort but the season was too advanced, so he helped Bonaventure to carry supplies to Acadia. The Poli and the Envieux cruised the coast, were driven apart in a storm, and returned to France separately. In 1693, Bonaventure and Iberville, in the Indiscret and the Poli respectively, sailed for Quebec whence they were to leave for another attack on York, but again the season was too far advanced. Bonaventure spent 1694 and 1695 carrying supplies to Acadia and cruising the coast in the Envieux.
In 1696 Bonaventure and Iberville, together with Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin and his band of Abenakis, captured and destroyed Fort William Henry at Pemaquid. The ships then sailed for Placentia (Plaisance). Bonaventure carried the governor of Placentia, Brouillan [Monbeton], and his forces to a rendezvous near St John’s, while Iberville led a detachment overland across the Avalon Peninsula. Brouillan and Iberville went on to capture St John’s but Bonaventure returned to France with dispatches in the Profond.
During the next four years Bonaventure was again transporting provisions to Acadia. In 1701, when Brouillan succeeded Villebon as governor of Acadia, Bonaventure was appointed second in command. Brouillan rebuilt the fort at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.), destroyed by the English in 1690, and Bonaventure was named king’s lieutenant there on 2 Feb. 1702. In July 1704, when an English force led by Colonel Church ravaged some Acadian settlements and laid siege to the fort, Bonaventure was absent at Les Mines (Minas). Brouillan sailed for France in December 1704 leaving Bonaventure in command, but died shortly after returning to Acadia, in September 1705. Bonaventure petitioned for the post of governor, but in spite of his record of service and his popularity with the inhabitants the appointment was denied him, owing to reports which had reached France of his liaison with the widowed Madame Louise Damours de Freneuse [Guyon*]. On 22 May 1706 Auger de Subercase, formerly governor at Placentia, was named governor of Acadia.
In June 1707 the English under Colonel March again laid siege to Port-Royal, but withdrew when Bernard-Anselme d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin arrived with a band of Abenakis. During this siege Bonaventure was ill in bed in the fort. The enemy destroyed farms and burned houses in the vicinity, including Bonaventure’s house and all his effects. The English returned in August and again laid siege to the fort, but withdrew with the arrival of Saint-Castin and after some sharp skirmishes with the French and the Indians.
Efforts were made to strengthen the fort at Port-Royal while French and Indian raids on New England settlements continued and privateers preyed on English shipping, the cargoes helping to provision Port-Royal. In 1710 the English determined to attack Port-Royal in force. On 29 September (N.S.; 18 September, o.s.) a large expedition under Colonel Nicholson sailed from Boston, and on 13 October Port-Royal capitulated. The garrison, including Bonaventure, was transported to La Rochelle. Bonaventure then submitted a plan to the minister for the recapture of Port-Royal. He was not to know that Port-Royal was irretrievably lost. He died at Rochefort in 1711.
Talebearing seems to have been a common pastime in Port-Royal. Bonaventure was accused not only of an affair with Madame de Freneuse but also of trading on his own account with the colonists in the Acadian settlements and, worse, with the English. It was also alleged that he was malingering during the siege in June 1707. There is evidence that his association with Madame de Freneuse cost him promotion, but it is not apparent that the authorities in France took the other accusations very seriously, for he had the confidence of the governors under whom he served. He may have been named a knight of the order of Saint-Louis, for he is referred to as such in the marriage record of his son, Claude-Élisabeth*, on 25 Nov. 1748.
Bonaventure’s career was shaped by the troubled times in which he lived. He was a soldier and spent the greater part of his life engaged in his country’s struggle against the English in America. He seems to have been an active and a likeable man, possibly not overburdened with moral scruples, and a commander who carried out his duties capably and vigorously.
AN, Col., B, 16, 17, 19, 20, 22, 23, 25, 27, 29, 32; C11A, 8; C11D 2, 4, 5, 6. “Mass. Archives,” II, 611–11b. PAC, FM 18, H 13 (Denys family papers). Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., II, III. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1689–99),” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 1928–29. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1938–39. Jug. et délib., III, IV, V. Webster, Acadia. Fauteux, Les chevaliers de Saint-Louis. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. N. M. Crouse, Lemoyne d’Iberville: soldier of New France (Toronto, ). Frégault, Iberville. La Morandière, Hist. de la pêche française de la morue, I, 370ff. Murdoch, History of Nova-Scotia. Robert Rumilly, Histoire des Acadiens (2v., Montréal, ). Pierre Daviault, “Mme de Freneuse et M. de Bonaventure,” RSCT, 3d ser., XXXV (1941), sect.i, 37–56. “Simon-Pierre de Bonaventure,” BRH, XXXVIII (1932), 437.