FORTIER, MICHEL, navigator and merchant; b. 31 Aug. 1709 at Saint-Laurent, île d’Orléans (Que.), eldest son of Michel Fortier and Angélique Manseau; m. 30 Sept. 1748 Marie-Anne Cureux, dit Saint-Germain, at Quebec; of their six children, one, Pierre-Michel, also became a merchant-trader; d. 29 March 1776 in Quebec.
The earliest known documents concerning Michel Fortier date back to 1743, when he signed an engagement with Guillaume Estèbe and his partners in the presence of notary Gilbert Boucault* de Godefus. His job at that time was to go to the post of Gros Mécatina on the Labrador coast as master of a ship, to hunt seals there and trade with the Indians. During each of the three years of this contract Fortier brought back 3,000 to 4,000 sealskins and 450 barrels of oil.
On 13 Oct. 1751 Governor La Jonquière [Taffanel*] and Intendant Bigot granted him land with about two leagues’ frontage on the Labrador coast, bounded by Pointe de Blanc-Sablon on the southwest and Pointe de la Forté or Grincedents on the northeast. He was authorized to engage in cod-fishing, seal-hunting, and trading with the Indians there for six years. In return he had to pay two beaver pelts or four livres annually. Fortier was not, however, able to enjoy free use of this grant, for François Martel* de Brouague, owner of Baie de Phélypeaux (Baie de Brador), disputed its territorial limits. The Canadian authorities then had to intervene to settle the dispute. Through an ordinance dated 15 May 1752, Bigot initially allowed Fortier to continue exploiting his grant in Baie de Sainte-Claire, but only for a year. Meanwhile Gabriel Pellegrin was to determine the exact boundaries of the two grants. While waiting for Pellegrin’s geographical specifications, Fortier got the authorities to renew his fishing permit for 1753. But in the summer of 1754 Fortier, who had in fact established a post on the territory allocated to Martel de Brouague, had his grant revoked. He consequently lost all his hunting and fishing gear, except some 200 barrels of oil and about a hundred shallops, to the profit of Pierre Glemet and François-Joseph de Vienne, the lessees of the concession of Baie de Phélypeaux.
For 20 years after this brief venture Michel Fortier’s career is obscure, although he is known to have remained a merchant. In 1775, after Governor Guy Carleton* had proclaimed martial law in the province of Quebec, he was commissioned a militia captain, at 66 years of age. On 31 Dec. 1775, leading the 77 men of the 9th company of the faubourg Saint-Roch, he played his part in repulsing Brigadier-General Richard Montgomery’s attack on Quebec. Shortly afterwards, on 29 March 1776, Michel Fortier died; his burial in the crypt of Notre-Dame in Quebec suggests that he enjoyed a certain prestige in Quebec society.
ANQ-Q, Greffe de Claude Barolet, 29 sept. 1748; Greffe de Gilbert Boucault de Godefus, 18 sept. 1743; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 15 mars 1753; NF 2, 40, ff.31, 44, 91, 103. Inv. de pièces du Labrador (P.-G. Roy). “La milice canadienne-française à Québec en 1775,” BRH, XI (1905), 227, 261. P.-V. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” BRH, XX, 241. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. Pièces jud. et not.; Inv. contrats de mariage; Inv. ord. int. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. “La chasse des loups-marins autrefois,” BRH, XXIV (1928), 734.