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PUYJALON, HENRY DE (named Jean-Baptiste-Henri at birth), naturalist and author; b. 15 March 1841 in Gluges, near Martel, France, son of Louis de Puyjalon and Marie-Amélie Maignen de Nanteuil; m. 11 Oct. 1882 at Quebec Angélina Ouimet, daughter of Gédéon Ouimet, superintendent of the Council of Public Instruction, and they had two sons and a daughter; d. 17 Aug. 1905 on Île à la Chasse, one of the Îles de Mingan, Que.
Little is known about Henry de Puyjalon before his arrival in the province of Quebec in 1872. Some accounts say that he studied at the École Spéciale Militaire de Saint-Cyr in France, but his name is not on the lists of its students. He moved in artistic and literary circles in Paris and, since he had a fine tenor voice, he was reportedly approached by composer Charles Gounod about making a career for himself in opera.
After what appears to have been a financial setback, Puyjalon decided to move to Canada. He came to Montreal and after a short time settled at Quebec. Quickly making friends in literary and political circles, he soon became close to such people as writers Arthur Buies and Oscar Dunn* and assemblyman Joseph-Adolphe Chapleau*, a member of the provincial legislature since 1867. In 1878 Puyjalon considered launching a Catholic newspaper at Quebec and invited writer Léon Bloy to take part in the venture. Despite Bloy’s enthusiasm the plan came to nothing. Puyjalon was interested in nature and passionately fond of hunting, and at an early date he started making long expeditions along the rivers that flow into the St Lawrence from the north. Relying on scientific knowledge and endowed with exceptional powers of observation, he investigated the natural resources of the areas he visited.
The provincial government decided to take advantage of his exploration of the northern parts of Quebec and in 1880 it asked him to conduct an analysis of mineralogical conditions on the north shore of the St Lawrence from the Saguenay to Blanc-Sablon. The studies Puyjalon undertook enabled him to make broad observations that covered flora, fauna, and the various species of fish. The Department of Crown Lands showed great interest in his reports on the natural resources in this region. Some members of the legislature, who made a point of consulting his accounts, even referred to them in the house. On 16 April 1884, for instance, Louis-Georges Desjardins, the member for Montmorency, stated: “The province has good reason to congratulate itself on the important services [performed by] Monsieur le Comte de Puyjalon [he was so called because of his family’s noble origins] and there is no doubt that both this house and the country are grateful to him for the signal services he is rendering through his work.”
From 1888 to 1891 Puyjalon was a lighthouse keeper for the federal government on Île aux Perroquets. During this period he continued his research on the minerals, flora, fauna, and fish of the north shore and Labrador regions. In 1892 he brought out the Petit guide du chercheur de minéraux in Montreal. The following year he published, also in Montreal, the Guide du chasseur de pelletrie and a more general work entitled Labrador et Géographie and, in 1894, Récits du Labrador.
On 24 Feb. 1897 Puyjalon was appointed inspector general of fisheries and game for the province of Quebec, a position he held until 1901. In his reports to the government he advocated measures to ensure the preservation of endangered species. He made recommendations to protect cod, salmon, and herring, and took a special interest in the conservation of the lobster. After denouncing the shameful practices of lobster poachers along the coast, Puyjalon suggested that the area concerned be divided into controlled fishing districts, that a government reserve be created in which lobster fishing would be prohibited, and that the opening and closing dates of the lobster-fishing season should be varied from district to district. As for feathered creatures, which were also the victims of flagrant poaching at that time, Puyjalon recommended that bird sanctuaries be set up and that nest robbers be prosecuted. His concern for the eider duck was manifest. He was convinced that its down had commercial value. In order to make fur-bearing animals profitable, he recommended that some species, including foxes, be raised in captivity.
Puyjalon’s major work was his Histoire naturelle à l’usage des chasseurs canadiens et des éleveurs d’animaux à fourrure (Québec, 1900; repr. 1975). It was a particularly interesting contribution to the developing field of natural science. Both in his accurate descriptions of certain northern mammals and in his precise observations about their behaviour, Puyjalon anticipated the tendencies of modern zoology, which at the turn of the century was increasingly shifting to a systemic and ecological approach.
After the death in 1901 of his wife, who used to spend a few months with him every summer, Puyjalon moved permanently into the hunting camp he had built on Île à la Chasse. It was there that he died on 17 Aug. 1905. Fifty years later the Société Historique de la Côte-Nord erected a new cross on his burial site to pay homage to his great pioneering work.
In addition to the publications mentioned in the text, Henry de Puyjalon prepared a number of reports for the government of Quebec. These can be consulted in the Doc. de la session, 1881–82, 1884–85, 1887. Of particular note are those written for the commissioner of lands, forests, and fisheries, in the volumes for 1898 to 1901.
ANQ-SLSJ, Coll. Mgr Victor Tremblay, SSH, dossier 1441, pièces 1–3. Arch. Départementales, Lot (Cahors, France), État civil, Martel, 16 mars 1841 (copy at the Soc. Hist. de la Côte-Nord, Baie-Comeau, Qué.). La Côte-Nord (Baie-Comeau), 3 janv. 1963, 30 nov. 1966. W. E. Greening, “North shore naturalist,” Beaver, outfit 284 (September 1953): 22–25. V.-A. Huard, “Feu M. de Puyjalon,” Le Naturaliste canadien (Québec), 32 (1905): 93–94. Damase Potvin, Puyjalon; le solitaire de l’Île-à-la-Chasse (Québec, 1938). Qué., Assemblée Legislative, Débats, 1884.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 11 oct. 1882; Centre d’arch. du Vieux-Montréal, CE601-S1, 22 août 1893. Fonds Drouin (Longueuil, Québec), Notre-Dame (Montréal), 27 juin 1901. Library and Arch. Can. (Ottawa), R10991-0-4.