DENYS (Denis) DE LA TRINITÉ, SIMON, member of the Conseil Souverain, second son of Jacques Denys de La Thibaudière and Marie Cosnier; younger brother of Nicolas Denys; ennobled by Louis XIV; b. 1599 at Tours, France; buried 11 Nov. 1678 in the parish of Saint-Barthélemy in La Rochelle, France.
Simon Denys came from a family of some distinction, with a record of service to the state in both military and civil affairs. During the greater part of his life Simon was established at Tours. He was at some time “conseiller du roi et lieutenant civil au grenier à sel de Tours,” presumably in charge of the collection of the salt tax, or gabelle. He was twice married in France, first to Jeanne Dubreuil, also of Tours (d. 1639), secondly to Françoise Du Tartre (1621–70), and founded a large and notable family.
In 1632 Simon accompanied his brother, Nicolas, to Acadia. Nicolas established a fishery at Port Rossignol (near the present-day Liverpool, N.S.) and put Simon in command of a vessel purchased for the trade. When the ship was unloading its first cargo of cod at Oporto, hostilities broke out between France and Spain, of which Portugal was then a part, with the result that the ship was lost and Simon was imprisoned in Madrid. On his release he returned to France, bearing confidential messages from the French ambassador to Cardinal Richelieu. As compensation for his sufferings, the cardinal gave Simon command of one of the king’s ships.
Evidently Simon maintained his residence in Tours until he moved to Paris in 1648. In 1650 he rejoined his brother, moving his entire family to Acadia. In 1645 Nicolas had set up a post at Miscou, holding a concession possibly from the Compagnie des Cent-Associés. In 1647 Menou d’Aulnay was appointed governor of Acadia and, asserting his authority over the whole domain, seized the post. At some later date, perhaps after the governor’s death in May 1650, Nicolas attempted to establish himself in Cape Breton, setting up a habitation at Saint-Pierre, while Simon rebuilt Capt. Charles Daniel’s post at Sainte-Anne. In the fall of 1651 Mme d’Aulnay [see Motin], widow of the governor, sent forces to seize these posts. The brothers were taken prisoner and, in October 1651, sent to Quebec. Thus Simon, too, was drawn into the rivalry between Menou d’Aulnay and the company.
Nicolas returned to Acadia but Simon remained in Canada. In August 1652 the Jesuits, seigneurs of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, granted him a concession, called the “ferme de la Trinité.” He subsequently received several additional grants, established himself and his family, and put his land under cultivation. In addition he is mentioned in 1660 as being seigneurial attorney and receiver general (“procureur fiscal et receveur général”) for the Compagnie des Cent-Associés. In September 1664 he was appointed to the Conseil Souverain, serving until 6 Dec. 1666.
Simon Denys apparently amassed no great fortune but he won the esteem of the authorities for, on the recommendation of the intendant, Talon, he was ennobled by the king in 1668. Although the patent of nobility was not registered by the Conseil Souverain until 1680, after Simon’s death, no one contested the right of Simon or his descendants to bear arms. Louis XIV’s abolition of unregistered titles in 1669 had, in practice, no application in New France.
Denys, Description and natural history (Ganong). Hugolin Lemay, Le père Joseph Denis, premier récollet canadien (1657–1736) (2v., Québec, 1926). JR (Thwaites), passim. Thomas Guérin, From the Crusades to Quebec: “The Knights of Malta in the New World” (Montreal, 1949), 202. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, I, 493–94. “Lettres d’annoblissement de Simon Denys,” BRH, XII (1906), 345–46. Lettres de noblesse, généalogies, érections de comtés et baronnies insinuées par le Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France, éd. P.-G. Roy (2v., Beauceville, 1920). Benjamin Sulte, Histoire des Can. fr., III. P.-G. Roy, “Les conseillers au Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France,” RSCT, 3d ser., IX (1915), sect.i, 175.
Revisions based on:
Arch. en Ligne, Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle, France), “Reg. paroissiaux, pastoraux et d’état civil,” La Rochelle, Saint-Barthélémy, 11 nov. 1678: charente-maritime.fr/CG17/jcms/cg17_34489/les-archives-en-ligne (consulted 2 Aug. 2011).