PETIT, PIERRE, merchant, seigneur, royal notary, deputy king’s attorney, clerk of court, and court officer; baptized 16 Nov. 1660 at Lyon, son of François Petit, a businessman, and of Jeanne Gobin; d. 23 April 1737 at Trois-Rivières and was buried there the following day.
Having lost his parents, Pierre Petit was attracted to New France by his uncle Jean Gobin, a Quebec merchant who was associated in several undertakings with Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye. Petit arrived around 1690 and settled at Trois-Rivières, probably in the service of the merchant Étienne Veron de Grandmesnil, whose daughter, Marguerite, he married on 4 Nov. 1692.
From that time on, Pierre Petit’s career progressed favourably. Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, who among his seigneuries owned that of the Yamaska (or Les Savannes) River and 12 adjoining acres, asked Pierre Petit, who had been married only a month, to be the tenant farmer of this land for three years. On 9 July 1694 La Chesnaye sold him the whole property for 3,333 livres, payable in the form of an annual rent of 166 livres. From then on, Pierre Petit styled himself “seigneur of the Yamaska River,” while continuing his business at Trois-Rivières. In less than a year he lost his two protectors: La Chesnaye died in 1702; Jean Gobin and his wife, Gabrielle Bécasseau, were stricken by cholera during an epidemic and died on 11 July 1703. Being a prudent man, Pierre Petit accepted the complicated estate that he inherited from his uncle only without liability to debts beyond the assets descended. In many ways, this estate was affected by that of Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, which was even more complicated. In 1717, to avoid legal difficulties, he agreed to pay off the price of his seigneury, that is, 3,333 livres, to Abbé Philippe Boucher, the attorney of François de Galiffet* de Caffin, one of La Chesnaye’s creditors.
Petit took an interest in his seigneury from the period when a few settlers from Sorel and Berthier began to establish themselves on his unoccupied land. But he only occasionally spent time there and continued to live at Trois-Rivières, where all his children were baptized. On 5 March 1721, however, he accompanied eight of his copyholders and the parish priest, Jean-Baptiste Dugast, to the manor-house of Saint-François, where the commissioner, Mathieu-Benoît Collet, was conducting his hearings for the district. Petit, appointing himself the settlers’ spokesman, complained of the lack of help from the church and the bad state of the roads.
This amateur seigneur had other ambitions. In 1721 he secured, one after another, nearly all the official judicial offices of the government of Trois-Rivières: clerk of court, court officer, royal notary, and then deputy king’s attorney in place of Étienne Veron de Grandmesnil, who had died on 18 May that year.
On 1 Oct. 1735 Petit, by then old and infirm, was replaced as notary and court officer by Hyacinthe-Olivier Pressé*. He died at the Ursulines’ hospital and was buried in its cemetery. His three sons divided his seigneurial interests among themselves.
AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 28 août 1692, 9 juillet 1694, 26 oct. 1695. PAC, FM 8, F97 (Yamaska, 1718–1888). AJTR, Greffe de Pierre Petit, 1721–1735. AQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 2048. Jug. et délib. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, II, 77; Inv. ord. int., I, II. “Les notaires au Canada,” 39. Vachon, “Inv. critique des notaires royaux,” RHAF, X (1956–57), 257f. T.-M. Charland, Histoire de Saint-François du Lac (Ottawa, 1942). Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières. J.-E. Roy, Histoire du notariat, I, 194. “Au sujet de Pierre Petit,” BRH, XXXVII (1931), 447.
Bibliography for the revised version:
Arch. Municipales, Lyon, France, “Reg. paroissiaux et d’état civil,” Saint-Paul, 16 nov. 1660: www.fondsenligne.archives-lyon.fr/ac69v2/genealogie.php (consulted 29 July 2021). Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de la Mauricie et du Centre-du-Québec (Trois-Rivières, Québec), CE401-S48, 4 nov. 1692, 24 avril 1737.