PERÉ, JEAN, merchant from La Rochelle, France, explorer, prospector, coureur de bois, interpreter, guide; b. 13 June 1639 at Arthez (Arthez-de-Béarn, France), son of Guiraud (Girard) Peré (Perer) and of Marie (Arosete) Dabos (Arosse); m. 17 Jan. 1673 Mare Bouneau at La Rochelle; d. 1701 and was buried 2 August that year at La Rochelle.
Jean Peré probably arrived in Canada before 1660, where he signed several documents, among them a petition, dated 15 Aug. 1659, against the surgeon François Belleman. After Intendant Talon* gave 1,000 livres to Peré and 400 livres to Adrien Jolliet, the two set off in 1669 “to go and reconnoitre to see whether the copper mine situated to the north of Lake Ontario . . . is rich and of easy extraction.” Peré, however, was apparently interested chiefly in the furs that he collected among the Ottawa indigenous people and at Sault Ste. Marie. Talon complained that he was slow in fulfilling his mission and presenting a report. Finally it was learned that the explorer had discovered mines in the region around Lake Superior.
Peré’s marriage record, dated 17 Jan. 1673, states that he was a merchant by occupation. In 1677 he was at Cataracoui. In November 1679 Intendant Duchesneau* accused him of being a coureur de bois: he informed the minister, Seignelay, that Peré, having been at Orange to sell his furs to the English, had been taken prisoner by the local governor and sent to Major Andros at Manate (Manhattan, N.Y.). The latter, added Duchesneau, had treated Peré very well, since he wanted to make use of him with a view to establishing trade relations with the Ottawas.
In 1684 Peré pushed on as far as Hudson Bay, where he was captured by the English. Two years later, during the attack on Fort Quichicouanne (Albany), the Chevalier de Troyes* demanded that Peré be handed over. But he was informed that the captive had been dispatched to France by way of England.
Peré, however, was not long in returning to Canada, where he won the favour of Governor de Brisay de Denonville. He was a member of the latter’s expedition against the Iroquois and brought back a number of prisoners to him, among them the famous Iroquois chief Ourehouare*. In 1690 he was thought of as a useful man for the foray planned against Manate; but that year he was at La Rochelle, where he and his brother Arnaud were engaged in selling furs.
We find Jean Peré back at Quebec in 1692 and 1693, pleading a case before the Conseil Souverain. He seems to have returned to France subsequently, since at the time of a lawsuit opened in 1698 before the same tribunal he had a court officer represent him and signed a power of attorney on 12 June 1699 at La Rochelle. These legal differences were debated at Quebec in his absence until March 1700.
He had given his name to a river that rises in Lake Nipigon and empties into the southwest end of James Bay. On a map Franquelin noted: “R. du Perray which is the name of the first European to navigate this river as far as Hudson Bay.”
Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la Nouv.-France, I, 409, 553, 558, 560; II, 5. Correspondance de Talon, APQ Rapport, 1930–1, 136f. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), I, 81, 88, 296; VI, 19; passim. JR (Thwaites), XLV, XLVII, LV, passim. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain), passim. Jug. et délib. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IX.
Chapais, Talon, 406f. J. H. Coyne, “The pathfinders of the Great Lakes,” in Canada and its provinces (Shortt and Doughty), I, 83f. Delanglez, Jolliet. Nute, Caesars of the wilderness. P.-G Roy, “Jean Peré et Pierre Moreau dit la Taupine,” BRH, X (1904), 213–18.
Revisions based on:
Arch. Départementales, Charente-Maritime (La Rochelle, France), “État civil,” La Rochelle, Saint-Barthélémy, 17 janv. 1673; La Rochelle, Saint-Jean-du-Pérot, 1er août 1661, 2 août 1701: archives.charente-maritime.fr/archives-en-ligne/consulter-documents-numerises (consulted 2 March 2018). Arch. Départementales, Pyrénées-Atlantiques (Pau et Bayonne, France), “L’État civil,”Arthez-de-Béarn, 20 nov. 1627, 6 juill. 1629, 22 févr. 1637, 26 juin 1639: earchives.le64.fr (consulted 2 March 2018). Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de la Mauricie et du Centre-du-Québec (Trois-Rivières, Québec), TL3, S11, P151.