PETTREQUIN (Petrequin), JEAN, joiner; b. c. 1724 in Montbéliard, France; buried Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, 19 Dec. 1764.
Jean Pettrequin arrived in Nova Scotia from Montbéliard in July 1752 aboard the Betty, a ship carrying European Protestant settlers. These “foreign Protestants,” as they were called, had been arriving in Halifax since 1750, and were part of a British plan to populate Nova Scotia without drawing off badly needed agricultural workers from Britain. For the most part the new settlers were Germans and Swiss. They were offered an initial grant of 50 acres of land free of quit rents and taxes for ten years, with additional grants as their families increased. Free subsistence was granted them for a year upon arrival, as well as any necessary arms, and materials and utensils for clearing and cultivating land and erecting dwellings. Non-British immigrants were not granted free passage to America, however, and so most of these settlers had to indenture themselves to the government and work on public projects in Halifax for a time. By the fall of 1752 about 1,500 of them were crowded together in Halifax in inadequate conditions. In the summer of 1753 Governor Peregrine Thomas Hopson was able to settle them on the south coast at Mirligueche (Lunenburg).
Jean Pettrequin was among those who settled at Lunenburg and achieved some notoriety the first winter as an important figure in the December “insurrection” there. He claimed to have received through a sailor a letter from a cousin in England connected with government stores, who asked how the Lunenburg settlers were being treated and whether they were receiving the supplies ordered for them. Rumours about the kinds of supplies mentioned in the letter began to circulate in Lunenburg, and the list began to appear more extensive than the goods the settlers had actually received. A faction of the Germans, disenchanted with their treatment in Nova Scotia, became angry when Pettrequin claimed that the sailor had forbidden him to show the letter to anyone, and finally, on 15 December, they seized Pettrequin and confined him to the militia blockhouse. He was released briefly by Colonel Patrick Sutherland but was taken again by a mob and returned to the blockhouse. That evening he was tortured by members of the guard to find the letter’s whereabouts. He finally confessed to one current rumour, namely, that he had sold the letter to the magistrate, Sebastian Zouberbuhler*.
The next morning the settlers visited Colonel Sutherland demanding that Zouberbuhler hand over the letter, but the magistrate denied that he had ever seen it. That evening 150 armed settlers attempted to take the lower blockhouse and two attackers were wounded in an exchange of fire. Sutherland immediately dispatched an officer to Halifax for reinforcements. The next day the settlers demanded a vessel to carry 20 deputies to England, “to make their complaints to the Parliament. . . .” A force arrived from Halifax under Robert Monckton* on 22 December and within a few days the settlers had been disarmed.
Pettrequin confessed at a hearing that another settler, John William Hoffman, had read him a letter which he claimed he had received on Pettrequin’s behalf from a sailor in Halifax, and had urged Pettrequin to send a reply and let the contents be known to the rest of the settlement. Hoffman was taken to Halifax where he was subsequently found guilty of “false and scandalous libel” and of inciting the settlers to riot. Pettrequin’s testimony was the only positive feature of the crown’s case.
Whoever the ringleaders had been, someone had used an illiterate newcomer to foment opposition to the administrators of the colony, with not surprising success. From the time of their arrival the settlers had generally felt cheated of the promises made to them by the government, frustrated during the long delay at Halifax, and handicapped by the shortage of supplies at Lunenburg.
Nothing is known of Pettrequin’s life after 1754.