DENYS DE VITRÉ, CHARLES, landowner, fisherman, member of the Conseil Souverain; b. 8 March 1645 at Tours, son of Simon Denys* de La Trinité and Françoise Du Tartre; married first on 18 Oct. 1668 at Quebec, Catherine de Loustelneau (1648–1698), daughter of Charles de Loustelneau and Charlotte de Buday Fleury of Paris, and secondly on 18 March 1700, Marie-Charlotte, daughter of Jean Chrétien; d. in Quebec and was buried there 9 Jan. 1703.
Vitré belonged to a prominent family and distinguished himself by his efforts to develop commercial fisheries in the St Lawrence. As a result of his position and his contribution to the economic life of the colony, he was recognized, encouraged, and, as far as possible, supported by the governor and intendant. He was appointed a member of the Conseil Souverain in 1673, at the age of 28, and continued as a member for the rest of his life. He was granted a succession of seigneuries, some primarily for the purpose of establishing fisheries, and he acquired land in and near Quebec.
Vitré’s properties were: Bellevue, between Contrecœur and Verchères, granted in 1672 and sold in 1678; Le Bic, granted in 1675 and sold in 1688; a lot acquired in 1683 in Lower Town (Quebec) near the present church of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires; Vitré or Montapeine, between Beaumont and Lauson, granted in 1683 and ultimately inherited by his eldest daughter, Marie-Gabrielle; Trois-Pistoles, granted in 1687 and exchanged for Jean Rioux’s seigneury on Île d’Orléans in 1696; a lot on the Champlain quay in Quebec, acquired in 1692; a seigneury at Antigonish, in Acadia, granted in 1697; an arriere-fief in the Jesuits’ seigneury of Notre-Dame-des-Anges near Quebec, granted in 1699.
Vitré formed partnerships and let contracts for the exploitation of his properties and of the fisheries. For example, Le Bic, which was granted originally in part for the establishment of fisheries, was let to a resident contractor on half shares. Trois-Pistoles was leased to Denis Riverin, a director of the Compagnie du Nord. Each year Vitré sent fishing expeditions to the lower St Lawrence. He rented or purchased fishing vessels and engaged active partners who conducted the actual operation, sharing costs and profits. Vitré was particularly interested in developing porpoise fisheries, which might give valuable returns in oil and skins, but was limited by lack of capital. Finally, in 1701, he entered into partnership with two wealthy merchants of Quebec, François Hazeur and Pierre Peire, and with some help from the government in France, which provided rope for nets, he established a porpoise fishery at Kamouraska. The crown awarded Vitré a gratuity of 550 livres for the establishment of the porpoise fisheries and in November 1702, after a successful season, the governor and intendant requested that the subsidy be continued in view of Vitré’s proposal to expand the enterprise. Vitré died, however, in January 1703, victim of an influenza epidemic.
PAC, FM 18, H 13 (Denys family papers). Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F. “Procès-verbaux du procureur général Collet” (Caron), 372, 375, 378. PAC Report, 1899, Supp. A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., VIII, XVIII, XIX. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I, III, IV; Inv. contrats de mariage, II, 159; “Les conseillers au Conseil souverain de la Nouvelle-France,” RSCT, 3d ser., IX (1915), sect.i, 176. Sulte, Hist. des Can. fr. “La famille Des Champs de Boishébert,” BRH, XII (1906), 78. A. J. E. Lunn, “Economic development in New France, 1713–1760,” unpublished Ph.D. thesis, McGill University, 1943. “Notes sur les seigneuries du district de Rimouski,” BRH, XVII (1911), 240, 244. P.-G. Roy, “Charles Denys de Vitré, conseiller au Conseil souverain,” BRH, XXIV (1918), 225–42.