BOUCHER DE BOUCHERVILLE, THOMAS-RENÉ-VERCHÈRES (baptized René-Thomas, he added Verchères to his name later in life), fur trader, merchant, militia officer, justice of the peace, seigneur, and author; b. 21 Dec. 1784 in Boucherville (Que.), son of René-Amable Boucher* de Boucherville and Madeleine Raimbault de Saint-Blaint; d. there 13 Dec. 1857.
Thomas-René-Verchères, the tenth of 11 children, was a descendant of Pierre Boucher* and was born into one of the province’s leading families. His father was seigneur of Boucherville and his mother was an heiress to the seigneury of Verchères. In 1792 he entered the Sulpician Collège Saint-Raphaël in Montreal and six years later began his cours classique. Although a prize-winning student, he left the college in 1799 before completing his studies. The next few years were spent in Boucherville where, as he later admitted himself, he was involved in various “foolish pranks.” In 1803 his father obtained a post for him as clerk in the New North West Company (sometimes called the XY Company) under Sir Alexander Mackenzie*. In the spring of 1803, on a seven-year contract as a clerk, he left Lachine in a canoe bound via Lake Nipissing (Ont.) for Grand Portage (near Grand Portage, Minn.). From there he continued to Fort Dauphin, on Lake Dauphin (Man.), where he wintered in 1803–4 under Thomas McMurray. A youth on his first long journey away from his family, he was at first desperately homesick, but the lively journal he later wrote shows that he soon began to enjoy his new life. The rigours of winter travel involved in the collection of furs from the neighbouring Indians, however, brought on high fever and inflammation of his legs. In May, suffering from continued aching of the legs, which he possibly exaggerated because of a desire to return home and his dislike of his occupation, he left the service of the New North West Company and returned to Lower Canada.
In October 1804 he was employed by the French royalist emigré Laurent Quetton* de Saint-Georges, a close business connection of Boucher de Boucherville’s brother-in-law Louis-René Chaussegros* de Léry, and went with him to York (Toronto) to serve as clerk. The business dealt in general merchandise at York and Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake), and also conducted a trade in furs with local Indians. Boucher de Boucherville often made the short visits to the Mississauga villages that this trade necessitated. Quickly gaining Quetton de Saint-Georges’s confidence, he was sent to Amherstburg in 1806 with £2,500 worth of merchandise to open a branch. The new store prospered and two years later Quetton de Saint-Georges sold it to him. A warm friendship had developed between the two men and when in 1811 American customs officials impounded $58,000 of goods belonging to Quetton de Saint-Georges at Lewiston, N.Y., under the terms of the Non-Intercourse Act, Boucher de Boucherville undertook to return his former employer’s kindness. According to his own account, he hurried to Niagara and with the connivance of the garrison at Fort George he successfully led an armed nocturnal raid on the Lewiston custom-house and absconded with the shipment, saving his friend from bankruptcy.
When the War of 1812 erupted, Boucher de Boucherville served as a volunteer on the Detroit frontier and saw action under Major-General Isaac Brock*. For his service at the capture of Detroit he was awarded a medal and clasp. Meanwhile, his business had been badly disrupted by his absence and the hostilities. After a visit to Boucherville in early 1813, he rashly made his way back to Amherstburg carrying £1,348 worth of general merchandise in four canoes. The only merchant to have brought in new stock, he succeeded in selling most of what he had in a very short time and at high prices; during the first three days alone he recorded sales of £4,800. However, the defeat of Commander Robert Heriot Barclay* by an American naval force on Lake Erie in September 1813 forced the abandonment of Amherstburg. Boucher de Boucherville later claimed for losses of £1,271 on his stock, of which £500 was recognized. Fleeing with his money, he was near the site of the battle of Moraviantown when the British under Major-General Henry Procter* were defeated and he hastened on to Montreal. There, as he notes in his journal, he gave a report on the battle to the commander-in-chief of the British forces, Sir George Prevost*. After a short rest at the family home in Boucherville, he joined his regular militia unit, the Boucherville battalion of militia, then at Châteauguay, serving as adjutant with the rank of captain. He was not, however, involved in the battle of Châteauguay and returned to Boucherville for the winter of 1814–15.
After the war, Boucher de Boucherville tried briefly to re-establish his business in Amherstburg, but soon arranged to liquidate his stock. He then unsuccessfully imported merchandise on joint account with Quetton de Saint-Georges and attempted to set up a business in Boucherville and once again tried Amherstburg. He returned to Boucherville in September 1816 and retired from business.
Boucher de Boucherville’s later career presents a complete contrast to his restless youth. He settled at Boucherville, becoming a justice of the peace and a major in the militia. On 17 May 1819 he married Josephine Proulx, daughter of Louis-Basile Proulx, a Montreal bourgeois, and they had five children. By 1829, through inheritance from both sides of the family, he was co-seigneur of Boucherville and Verchères. It was in 1847 that he wrote his journal, a lively account of his fur-trade adventures and wartime experiences intended for his children, which was eventually published in 1901.
Thomas-René-Verchères Boucher de Boucherville is the author of “Journal de M. Thomas Verchères de Boucherville . . . ,” Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal (Montreal), 3rd ser., 3 (1901): 1–167. The journal was translated by W. S. Wallace* and published under the title A merchant’s clerk in Upper Canada; the journal of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville, 1804–1811 (Toronto, 1935); a second English translation, “Journal of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville,” was printed in War on the Detroit; the chronicles of Thomas Verchères de Boucherville and the capitulation, by an Ohio volunteer, ed. M. M. Quaife (Chicago, 1940), 3–178.
ANQ-M, CE1-22, 22 déc. 1784, 16 déc. 1857. ASTR, 0032, Louis Dugas, “Généalogie Boucher,” 70–77. PAC, RG 19, 3754, 4356–57. F.-M. Bibaud, Le panthéon canadien (A. et V. Bibaud; 1891). Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving), 189–91. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, 2: 283, 300; 3: 33–34. Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967). “Les disparus,” BRH, 34 (1928): 622. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Jean-Moïse Raymond (1787–1843), premier député de Laprairie (1824–1838), natif du comté,” BRH, 60 (1954): 111–12.
Agriculture, Agriculture -- Seigneurs, Armed Forces, Armed Forces -- British, Authors, Authors -- Diaries, memoirs, and personal correspondence, Business, Business -- Commerce, Fur Trade, Legal Professions, Legal Professions -- Justices of the peace
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