PETIT, PIERRE, merchant, seigneur, royal notary, deputy king’s attorney, clerk of court, court officer; b. c. 1670 at Lyon, son of François Petit, a businessman, and of Jeanne Gobin; buried 24 April 1737 at Trois-Rivières.
Having lost his parents, Pierre Petit was attracted to New France by his uncle Jean Gobin, who was a merchant at Quebec and was associated with Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye in several undertakings. He arrived around 1690 and settled at Trois-Rivières, probably in the service of the merchant Étienne Véron de Grandmesnil, whose daughter, Marguerite, he married in 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 acres adjoining, 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 a cholera epidemic and died on 11 July 1703. Being a prudent man, Pierre Petit accepted the complicated estate which he inherited from his uncle only without liability to debts beyond the assets descended – this estate was involved in many ways in the still more complicated one of Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye. 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 any 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, Collet, was conducting his hearings for the district. There he constituted himself the settlers’ spokesman in order to complain 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, then deputy king’s attorney in place of Étienne Véron de Grandmesnil, who had died on 18 May of 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 the cemetery of that institution. His three sons divided up 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.