BOIVIN, FRANÇOIS, master-carpenter, the earliest church-builder to whom there is specific reference in New France; b. 1612 or 1616 at Saint-Laurent, diocese of Rouen; d. c. 1675–76.
François Boivin came to Canada prior to 1639 with two of his brothers, Charles and Guillaume, also carpenters, who were Jesuit donnés. (Charles was brought to Sainte-Marie, the Huron mission, as architect in 1640.) François received a grant of land at Cap de la Madeleine from Father Buteux, 1 June 1649.
In 1649, François Boivin appeared at Trois-Rivières as chief signatory on a contract, dated 24 June, to roof a parish church there. This contract made between “Francois Boivin, Maîtrecharpentier” and the “honorable homme Jean Bourdon, procureur et commis général de la Communauté de la Nouvelle france,” is the most important piece of evidence extant for building practices in the first half of the 17th century in Quebec. The dimensions of the church to be roofed (a rather remarkable 90 ft. long by 27 ft. wide, with a round apse and flanking chapels forming a transept) are specified, as are the sizes of the various rafters, beams, joists, and so forth that Boivin is to use. The carpenter is obligated to provide the wood himself, and bring it to the site. Presumably, then, he followed the old practice of master-builders, which survived in barn-raisings even into the 20th century, of cutting and shaping the various parts on the ground where the felled trees lay, then assembling them all in one “bee” with pegs and notches. As an artisan well trained in traditional methods, he needs no plan or drawings, for none are mentioned – but it is stated that his work will be inspected to make sure it conforms “to the art of carpentry” by “people knowing about such things.” For all this he will receive remuneration of 1620 livres, “in addition, Bourdon promises to supply six barrels of flour while the work is going on.” Finally – and this is a frontier touch, indeed, “it has been promised by Monsieur le Gouverneur that the said Boivin and one of his men will be exempt from guard duty during the said work.” About the church we know no more; it was not until 1664 that the first parish church of Trois-Rivières was finally built – a much smaller structure than that called for in 1647, and all of wood.
According to the 1666 census and that of 1667, François Boivin lived on the Beaupré shore with his nephew Pierre, whom Boivin, a widower, had made his heir, and his wife, Thiennette Fafard, aged 14 years. The household does not seem to have been a happy one, as François Boivin, before the Quebec notary, Romain Becquet, made a will 27 Jan. 1675, disinheriting his nephew and leaving his estate to the Hôtel-Dieu. After Boivin’s death, which occurred between 27 Jan. 1675 and 15 Oct. 1676, his nephew contested the will and won a settlement.
AJQ, Greffe de Pierre Duquet, 15 oct. 1676; Greffe de Romain Becquet, 27 janv. 1675. AJTR, Greffe de Séverin Ameau, 1er juillet 1664. ASQ, Séminaire, VI, 23. P.-G. et A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., II, 171; III, 128; XI, 75.
Archange Godbout, “Origine des familles canadiennes-françaises,” extrait de l’État civil français, 1ère série (Lille, 1925), 27. Alan Gowans, Church architecture in New France (Toronto, 1955), 19–21. A. E. Jones, ‘ȣendake Ehen’ or Old Huronia,” PAO Annual Report, V (1908). Wilfrid and Elsie McLeod Jury, Sainte-Marie among the Hurons (Toronto, 1954), 50. “Les frères Boivin,” BRH, XLVII (1941), 309.