PETITPAS, CLAUDE, schooner captain, interpreter, known particularly for his collaboration with the English, third child of a family of 15, son of Claude Petitpas, Sieur de Lafleur, clerk of the court at Port-Royal (Annapolis Royal, N.S.), and of Catherine Bugaret; b. c. 1663 at Port-Royal, d. some time between 1731 and 1733.
During his youth Petitpas was closely associated in his voyages and activities with the Micmacs in the neighbourhood of Port-Royal, where he lived in his father’s home until his marriage. Around 1686 he married an Indian girl of that tribe named Marie-Thérèse, born in 1668, by whom he had at least seven children, according to the 1708 census. On 7 Jan. 1721, after his first wife’s death, he remarried, again at Port-Royal; his second wife was Françoise Lavergne from that town, daughter of Pierre Lavergne, Father Breslay’s servant, and of Anne Bernon. She was only 17; he was about 57. She bore him four children.
While his first wife was alive Petitpas lived at Mouscoudabouet (Musquodoboit), where the Boston fishermen were active; as early as 1698, complaints arose about his association with them. In September 1718, a frigate sent from Boston by the governor of Massachusetts and commanded by Captain Thomas Smart anchored in Canso (Canseau) harbour. The English seized a fair number of French fishermen, among them Marc La Londe, the son-in-law of Claude Petitpas. The latter placed his own schooner at the disposal of the English so that they might better carry out their plan.
On 30 June 1720 the legislative council of Boston, at his request, granted him the sum of £100 for having shown “tender regard . . . to sundry English captives in the late Indian War”; he had gone so far as to obtain their liberty by paying their ransom out of his own pocket. The council further resolved that the government would pay the tuition fees of one of his sons for four years at Harvard College.
He probably went to live subsequently on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), perhaps at Port-Toulouse (St Peters, N.S.) itself, where several of his children had settled. In 1728 Joseph de Brouillan, dit Saint-Ovide [Monbeton*], governor of Île Royale, went there to conduct an inquiry into the loyalty of the Indians towards the French. Claude Petitpas was apparently trying to influence the Indians, particularly the young ones, in favour of the English. Saint-Ovide therefore tried to send him to France towards the end of that same year, with two of his sons by his first marriage, in order to get rid of him. If this plan was in fact carried out, Claude Petitpas does not seem to have been absent more than two years.
He died probably some time between 1731 and 1733: his last known child was born in 1731; moreover, in May 1733 the king gave his widow a sum of money for services rendered by her husband in his capacity as interpreter. In 1747 Governor Shirley of Massachusetts called Petitpas a “faithfull subject of the crown of Great Britain . . . [who] had received marks of favour from this government for his services.”
AN, Col., B, 59, f.516; C11B, 3, 4, 10, ff.67–69; Section Outre-Mer, G1, 466 (Recensements de l’Acadie, 1671, 1686). Newberry Library, Ayer Coll., La Chasse census (1708). PANS, MS docs., XXVI (parish register of Port-Royal), f.63. The acts and resolves, public and private, of the province of the Massachusetts bay (21v., Boston, 1869–1922), IX. Coll. doc. inédits Canada et Amérique (CF), III (1890), 165–68. Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la N.-F., III, 38–39, 379. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IX, 912.
Arsenault, Hist. et généal. des Acadiens, I, 442, 477. Coleman, New England captives. Harvey, French régime in P.E.I., 215. McLennan, Louisbourg, 62–63. Murdoch, History of Nova-Scotia, I, 243.