NOYON, JACQUES DE, voyageur, coureur de bois, sergeant in the colonial regular troops; b. 12 Feb. 1668 in Trois-Rivières, second son of Jean de Noyon, master edge-tool maker, and Marie Chauvin; m. 1704 to Abigail Stebbins at Deerfield, Massachusetts; d. 12 May 1745 in Boucherville (Que.).
Jacques de Noyon first comes to our attention at age 20. In 1688 he led a trading party from Fort Nipigon (built on the lake of that name by Daniel Greysolon* Dulhut four years before) up the Kaministikwia River and across Dog Lake to Rainy Lake where he wintered among the Assiniboins. He had penetrated farther west than any previous Frenchman. His trip home in 1689 was marred by the accidental drowning of a man named Lacroix and two other men in a lake later called Lac Sainte-Croix.
In 1690 Noyon was hired by François Charon* de La Barre to travel west with Gilles Papin, Charon’s commis, to collect a debt from Nicolas Perrot*. Noyon earned 200 livres a year for the duration of this assignment, and was allowed to trade on his own account. In 1693, with an outstanding bill of 118 livres at Louis Marchand’s inn in Quebec and a loan of almost 200 livres from Charles Macard*, he left for the Ottawa country (probably the Michigan peninsula) in a party of voyageurs headed by Pierre-Charles Le Sueur*. Noyon went west again two years later, this time with 150 livres credit from Charles Aubert* de La Chesnaye.
On 2 Jan. 1698, perhaps still celebrating the arrival of the new year, the slightly drunk Noyon exchanged insults in Boucherville with Gilles Papin, now a merchant. In the ensuing mêlée Papin drew his sword. The outcome of Noyon’s complaint to the Montreal tribunal the following day was that certain goods belonging to Noyon were removed from Papin’s house by Charles de Couagne*, probably to settle Noyon’s unpaid 1688 account.
Most western traders established a credit rating with one merchant and patronized him year after year, but Noyon’s mismanagement of credit had been such that he was unable to borrow from the same merchant twice. By 1700 he appears to have been swamped with debts. In that year, Noyon and Louis Gosselin offered their services to the governor of New York, Lord Bellomont, promising that 52 comrades, 10 or 12 Ottawa chiefs, and furs would be brought to Albany within one year. All they wished in return was permission to live and trade in Albany. Although Noyon did settle in New England, his evasion did not last long. In 1704, the Reverend John Williams* married him to Abigail Stebbins in Deerfield. Two weeks later Williams, the entire Stebbins family, and the bride and groom were among the captives taken by Jean-Baptiste Hertel* de Rouville in a raid against Deerfield.
This all-expenses-paid honeymoon was an event Noyon would have gladly missed. He returned to Canada to face unpaid bills with a wife to support. Abigail, referred to in Montreal notarial deeds as “Marguerite Stebens,” had greater cause for disappointment, however; not only was she in a foreign country with which her people were at war, but her husband had described himself to her family as the owner of substantial property and a man of considerable means.
When back in Canada Noyon may have written a narrative about his 1688 westward journey which is mentioned in several documents, for while in New England he had learned to write. Within a few months of his return to the colony he borrowed over 100 livres from a new creditor, Jean-Baptiste Crevier Duvernay, and set out for Fort Pontchartain (Detroit) in a party of 64 engagés. Noyon apparently made a sincere effort to mend his ways, for by 1708 he had found more stable employment. He had become a sergeant – the highest non-commissioned rank in the colonial regular troops – in the company of Alphonse Tonty* with a net monthly salary of 15 livres 2 sols 5 deniers. This was insufficient, however, to placate his creditors and support a family. His total movable property in 1708 was less than 400 livres, and Marguerite had to rely on charity for assistance in raising her children. As a result the Noyons were declared separate as to property in July, and in August Marguerite bought a modest house and property in Boucherville. In 1719 she was able to visit her relatives in England.
The Noyons had at least 13 children between 1704 and 1726. The Danio families in Massachusetts today may trace their ancestry to Jacques-René de Noyon (spelt “Danio” in the registration of his parents’ marriage), eldest son of Jacques and Marguerite, who was sent to his grandparents in Deerfield in 1714.
On 26 April 1742, 17 months after the death of his wife, Jacques de Noyon bequeathed his few resources to his children since he was no longer able to work his land. He moved in with his daughter Marie and son-in-law Louis Renaud, and here he spent his last three years, supported by a 200-livre life annuity from his children.
Was Noyon’s indebtedness typical of most voyageurs? Were the coureurs de bois who transferred their allegiance to Louisiana or New England simply adventurers, were they greedy, or were they hopelessly in debt? These and other questions raised by Noyon’s experiences may remain unanswered because of inadequate documentation.
AN, Col., C11A, 6, f.301. ANQ-M, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar, 13 mai 1688, 21 janv., 12 sept. 1693, 31 juill. 1704; Greffe de Marien Tailhandier, dit La Beaume, 10 juill. 1708, 10 avril 1713, 11 avril 1716, 30 nov. 1717, 20 août 1719. ANQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 29 oct. 1695. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IV, 782, 797. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Champagne, Les La Vérendrye, 21, 40. Coleman, New England captives. N. M. Crouse, La Verendrye, fur trader and explorer (Toronto and Ithaca, N.Y., 1956). C. J. Russ, “Les troupes de la marine, 1683–1713” (unpublished ma thesis, McGill University, Montreal, 1971). Jean Delanglez, “A mirage: the sea of the west,” RHAF, I (1947–48), 346–81. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Jacques de Noyon: nouveaux détails sur sa carrière,” BRH, XLVIII (1942), 121–25. Benjamin Sulte, “Jacques de Noyon,” BRH, XIV (1908), 183–85; “Le lac Lacroix,” BRH, XXII (1916), 350.