DESCOUTS (Decous, Decoust), MARTIN, surgeon; originally from Salies (Salies-de-Béarn), France; fl. 1682–1745.
Martin Descouts arrived at Plaisance (Placentia, Nfld.) around 1700 as a surgeon with a fishing company. He himself engaged in commercial fishing at Plaisance until 1714. After the treaty of Utrecht, by which Plaisance passed into the hands of the British, Descouts went to fish at Canso, Nova Scotia. In 1715 he employed ten fishermen and curers as well as a clerk. He claimed that he lost 10,000 écus in 1718, probably as a result of the British expedition led by Thomas Smart* which seized the French fisheries at Canso that year. Descouts had difficulty in liquidating this bankruptcy, and he even had to sell properties in France to pay his debts.
In 1726 the French settled on Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island), and Descouts was enlisted as a surgeon for the troops. According to the census of Port-La-Joie (Fort Amherst) in 1734 he was a bachelor and was still practising his profession as a surgeon. He owned 19 cattle and had a servant. Because of his age and infirmities he asked to be put on half pay in 1743 in order to retire. François Bigot* and Jean-Baptiste-Louis Le Prévost Duquesnel, the financial commissary and the commandant of Île Royale, communicated this demand to Maurepas, the minister of Marine, praising Descouts, whom they described as “a man who has carried out his duties to the satisfaction of his superiors.” He was still on Île Saint-Jean in 1744, but disappears from sight after the British occupation in 1745.
AN, Col., C11B, 8, pp.134–35; 25, p.8; C11C, 12, pp.147–81; Section Outre-Mer, G1, 466/1, p.585; 466/2, pp.244–45 (PAC transcripts); G3, 2046/2, 2057, 2058. Harvey, French régime in P.E.I., 202. McLennan, Louisbourg, 9, 60.