PERRAULT, FRANÇOIS, merchant; b. c. 1694 in the parish of Saint-Jacques in Cosne-sur-Loire, France, son of Jacques Perrault, a surgeon, and Marguerite Caché; d. 7 Aug. 1745 at Trois-Rivières.
François Perrault perhaps came to Canada with his brother Jacques. In 1715 François was settled in Quebec, where on 26 November he married Suzanne Pagé, sister of the silversmith Jacques Pagé, dit Carcy. Jacques, for his part, married the daughter of a surgeon in 1724 and settled at Lachenaie, where he practised the same profession as his father and father-in-law.
François Perrault was an ambitious man and displayed great initiative in increasing his dry goods business. In 1719, in partnership with Louis Dunière, he signed a trading lease for three years for the seigneuries of Restigouche, Miramichi, and Nipisiguit, situated on Baie des Chaleurs and belonging to the commissary of artillery, Pierre Rey Gaillard. Gaillard tried to have the lease broken before its expiry date, but the two partners had no difficulty in obtaining a judgement in their favour.
In 1732 Perrault bought at auction an immense house on Rue Sault-au-Matelot in Quebec. At that time he had a large family, of which he soon had to take sole charge, since his wife died the following year. In 1737 he took over the management of the trading post on the Nontagamion (Nétagamiou) River in Labrador (Que.), in partnership with Jacques de Lafontaine de Belcour, a merchant and councillor of the Conseil Supérieur who some years earlier had obtained an exclusive privilege to operate the fisheries in that region. In 1740, in partnership with his son Jacques* and Charles Levreau, Perrault took a trading lease on the same post. Thanks to these new interests Perrault added profits from fishing, hunting, and especially trade in peltries to his already prosperous business. In 1741 the three partners were accused by the merchant Pierre Trottier Desauniers, syndic of the Quebec merchants, of having misappropriated certain funds coming from the post, but no proof could be brought against them.
In addition to his store in Quebec François Perrault owned branches at Trois-Rivières, at the Saint-Maurice ironworks, and in the parish of Saint-Sulpice near Montreal. In them were a great variety of materials, from the finest linen to the loveliest lace – serge, cotton, pulled wool, basan, and even tanned sealskin. Perrault also sold handkerchiefs, sheets, blankets, gloves, stockings, necklaces, pewter knives and spoons, needles, thread, nails, and fishhooks. He supplied his stores by a schooner, the Marie Angélique, which he owned with his son Jacques. His clientele was found particularly on the north shore of the St Lawrence, between Quebec and Saint-Sulpice, but also on the south shore.
It was during one of his business trips that this active man died, on 7 Aug. 1745 at Trois-Rivières, where he was buried the next day. On 2 November following, Jacques was appointed guardian for his under-age brothers and sisters; the inventory of Perrault’s possessions was drawn up on 8 June 1746.
François Perrault left a large inheritance to his children, thanks to the wealth that he had been able to acquire by hard daily work. Besides Jacques, certain of his descendants played an important role in the society of their times, among them his son Joseph-François* (1719–74), who was the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general at Trois-Rivières and provost of the chapter, and Joseph-François* (1753–1844), a grandson, who became one of the most eminent organizers of elementary teaching in Canada.
ANQ, Greffe de Florent de La Cetière, 22 nov. 1715; Greffe de J.-C. Panet, 8 juin 1746. Inv. de pièces du Labrador (P.-G. Roy), I, 46–47. Recensement de Québec, 1716 (Beaudet), 51. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces jud. et not., I, 90–99; Inv. jug et délib., 1717–1760, I, 58, 145, 273, 334; II, 96; IV, 42, 65, 90; Inv. ord. int., II, 150–51, 160, 226, 285. Tanguay, Dictionnaire; Répertoire. Jacques Mathieu, “Un négociant de Québec à l’époque de la conquête: Jacques Perrault l’aîné,” ANQ Rapport, 1970, 27–34.