NOËL, MARIE-GENEVIÈVE (Drapeau), seigneur and landowner; b. 13 Jan. 1766 in Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, Que., daughter of Jean-Baptiste Noël, a seigneur, and Geneviève Dussaut; d. 17 Nov. 1829 at Quebec.
Marie-Geneviève Noël was only 16 when on 14 Oct. 1782 at Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly she married Joseph Drapeau*, a man 14 years her senior. He lost no time in carving an enviable place for himself in the business world at Quebec, becoming a merchant, shipbuilder, and major landowner, and at his death on 3 Nov. 1810 he left a sizeable estate to his wife. In particular she came into possession of a considerable fortune in land: the seigneuries of Lessard, Nicolas-Rioux, Rimouski, Mitis, Pachot, Sainte-Claire, Rivière-du-Gouffre, and half of Île-d’Orléans, and numerous other rural and urban land and properties, as well as two shipbuilding yards, one at Quebec, the other at Baie-Saint-Paul. The 44-year-old heiress was obliged to respect the clauses in her husband’s will which required that the estate be kept undivided and which specifically forbad any request for an inventory or deed of sharing.
Unlike the status of a married woman, who at the time had only restricted rights since she was subject to her husband’s authority, status as a widow conferred numerous possibilities. Indeed, the Coutume de Paris, which was in force in the colony, gave a widow the same rights as a male who was of age. Henceforth Marie-Geneviève Drapeau could manage her properties without any man being able to exercise authority over her.
Mme Drapeau decided to give up the retail business and the shipbuilding. In January 1811 she considered leasing the roomy house where she lived on Rue du Sault-au-Matelot, with its cellar, attic, bake-house, sheds, stables, and wharf; she found a taker for it in February of the following year. In December 1815 she leased it again, this time to merchant Rémi Quirouet, who paid her an annual rent of £250. Three years later she concluded a large transaction with Quebec merchant Benjamin Tremain, whom she let have seven lots in Lower Town for £3,530. She reinvested her capital in four properties in the faubourg Saint-Jean, where she went to live. Cautious and sensible, she invested in real estate and did not hesitate to go to court to uphold her rights. In 1819, for example, she learned that part of the lot her husband had bought from the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu in 1803 was to be sold by order of the government, to the prejudice of the owner, for the extension of Rue Saint-Paul. The lot was subsequently sold by the crown to another individual, John Bell, in November 1820, despite her protests. She therefore brought an action and, although she never knew the outcome, it was settled in favour of her heirs in 1832.
As her husband had done, Marie-Geneviève Drapeau entrusted management of the seigneuries to notaries or stewards. Her brothers-in-law Louis Bélair at Baie-Saint-Paul and Augustin Trudel at Rimouski also continued working for her as seigneurial agents. However, she ran her share in the seigneury of Île-d’Orléans herself, attending to such matters as leasing the mills. In 1816 she entrusted administration of Rivière-du-Gouffre and Île-d’Orléans to her daughter Luce-Gertrude. Then in 1827 she gave Luce-Gertrude power of attorney, with full authority to administer the entire seigneurial patrimony owned by the Drapeau family. None the less Marie-Geneviève Drapeau remained attentive to the management of the real estate. For example, it was she who leased out the fisheries at Rivière-du-Gouffre, granted leases for cutting wood on Mitis to William Price*, and negotiated with Pierre Tremblay the terms for building a flour-mill at Baie-Saint-Paul.
In October 1829 Mme Drapeau, being in poor health, drew up a will leaving her property to her six daughters, to be divided equally among them. She died the following month and was buried on 20 November in Notre-Dame cathedral at Quebec in the presence of Joseph-François Perrault*, Amable Berthelot*, Étienne-Claude Lagueux, and Michel Clouet*, among others. Her daughters continued to manage the family fortune and apparently discharged their task in an intelligent manner.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 20 nov. 1829; CEI-94, 30 janv. 1766, 14 oct. 1782; CN1-16, 12 nov. 1822; 31 mai, 21 oct, 1824; CN1-116, 22 sept. 1820; 5 juill., 27 sept. 1827; 25 janv., 21 nov. 1828; CN1-178, 19 févr., 28 avril 1812; 13 août 1814; 22 déc. 1815; 7 oct. 1816; CN1-230, 28 févr., 6 mai, 8 juill. 1811; 16 août 1815; 5 mai 1818; 23 mai 1822; P1000-32-592. Quebec Gazette, 10 Jan., 6 June 1811; 19 Oct., 2 Nov. 1815; 6 March 1817; 4, 11 March 1819. Bouchette, Topographical description of L.C. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions. J. W. M., “Notes sur les seigneuries du district de Rimouski,” BRH, 17 (1911): 237–46, 257–67, 312–20, 331–38, 353–68.