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d. 24 June 1794 in Montreal (Que.)


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GAMELAIN DE LA FONTAINE, MICHEL, surgeon, colonizer, businessman; b. in 1640 at Blois (France) if one is to believe the census of 1667; son of Michel Gamelain, a wine merchant, and Françoise Bellanger; d. c. 1676.

The first mention made of him goes back to 1661, the year of his marriage to Marguerite Crevier, the sister of Jean Crevier de Saint-François. Gamelain lived at Trois-Rivières and later at Cap-de-la-Madeleine, where he received a grant of land in 1662. He must have practised his profession there, since we find him involved in a court case with Louis Pinard, another surgeon practising in those parts, who feared competition from Gamelain. Thus, when Louis Pinard complained of the slenderness of his earnings as surgeon to the garrison at Trois-Rivières, the Conseil Souverain replied to him that, if he was not satisfied, he would be replaced by Michel Gamelain. The latter preferred to devote himself to the fur trade. In order to do so, he made use of his pharmaceutical knowledge, manufactured beer from wheat, and exchanged it for furs. His lodges, one on the Île Saint-Ignace, the other at the mouth of the Rivière Sainte-Anne, were frequently the setting for most disgraceful scenes in which Indians of both sexes indulged too freely in beer, while Gamelain wheedled their furs out of them, all the more easily because he spoke the language of the natives of the region fluently. Although he was found guilty by the Conseil Souverain on 20 June 1667 of being a “trafficker in liquor,” he nevertheless carried on this trade until the end of his days. Even after having sold his seigneury to two officers of the Carignan-Salières regiment, Thomas de Lanouguère and Edmond de Suève*, in 1670, Michel Gamelain continued to trade in furs, sending his former copy-holders who liked life in the woods to carry on the trade in the hinterland, and buying their surplus produce from those who preferred to devote themselves to farming, which was a terrible encroachment on the rights of the new seigneurs. From 1670 to 1674 he occasionally provided surgical services for the Hôtel-Dieu de Montréal.

The Gamelain household seems to have included four or five children, one of whom, Françoise, married Claude Pinard, son of the surgeon. Gamelain died about 1676; his widow remarried, becoming the wife of François Renou dit La Chapelle.

Charles-Marie Boissonnault

Ahern, Notes pour l’histoire de la médecine. Boissonnault, Histoire de la faculté de médecine de Laval. Raymond Douville, “Chirurgiens, barbiers-chirurgiens et charlatans de la région trifluvienne sous le régime français,” in Cahiers des Dix, XV (1950), 81–128 and in Visages du vieux Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, 1955), 33–91; “L’Épopée des petits traiteurs,” Cahiers des Dix, XIV (1949), 41–63; Premiers seigneurs et colons de Sainte-Anne de la Pérade (1667–1681) (Trois-Rivières, 1946).

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This biography was first published with terms that were regarded as appropriate at the time and are now considered offensive. These terms have been amended.

Cite This Article

Charles-Marie Boissonnault, “GAMELAIN DE LA FONTAINE, MICHEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed June 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gamelain_de_la_fontaine_michel_1E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gamelain_de_la_fontaine_michel_1E.html
Author of Article:   Charles-Marie Boissonnault
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 1
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1966
Year of revision:   2013
Access Date:   June 24, 2024