FLEURY DESCHAMBAULT (d’Eschambault), JACQUES-ALEXIS DE, bailiff, king’s attorney then royal judge at Montreal, founder of the seigneury and village of Deschambault; b. c. 1642, son of Jacques Fleury and Perrine Gabar; buried 31 March 1715 at Montreal. He descended from a noble family, and came originally from the parish of Saint-Jean de Montaigu in the lower part of the province of Poitou.
He came to Quebec at the beginning of 1671 ; he was then a “doctor of laws and lawyer in the parlement.” On 19 Nov. 1671, barely six months after his arrival, he married Marguerite de Chavigny de Berchereau, widow of Thomas Douaire de Bondy and the mother of four children. His mother-in-law, Éléonore de Grandmaison*, widow of François de Chavigny, owned a fief on the banks of the St Lawrence, near Portneuf; it was one league wide by three leagues deep, and little cultivation had so far been done on it. She first granted her son-in-law, on 22 April 1674, a piece of land with a frontage of 10 arpents. Jacques-Alexis went to settle on it with his family, and the 1681 census lists him as having already 20 acres of land under cultivation and 16 head of cattle. Two years later, in 1683, Éléonore de Grandmaison made over the whole seigneury to him, in exchange for a piece of land on the Île d’Orléans. Deschambault was still the only settler on this seigneury. He undertook to develop it, with the help of his children. The following year the new seigneur took part in the expedition of La Barre [Le Febvre*] against the Senecas. He served on that occasion as assistant adjutant in the Quebec battalion. A census taken in 1688 shows that he was energetically developing his land: he had 3 domestics, 39 acres under cultivation, 37 in pasture, and 34 head of cattle. Four families of settlers were established there and three others were in the process of becoming so. Deschambault was living on the yield from the land and from fishing, and he had had a manor-house and a mill built. In addition, the seigneury bore his name.
A considerable change took place in his life in 1690, allowing him to abandon his existence as a country seigneur and to return to the town and resume his legal studies. The Sulpicians, the seigneurs of Montreal, held the right to administer justice on the island; their bailiff, Migeon* de Branssat, had just resigned because of his advanced age and his manifold activities. The Sulpicians thought of the former lawyer Deschambault as his replacement. But Deschambault had difficulty in getting accepted. Migeon was against him, and the Conseil Souverain, which was anxious to abolish seigneurial justice, caused delays, so that the new judge, who was appointed by Abbé Dollier de Casson in August 1690, was not able to take up his office until the 21 November following. On that occasion he delivered a formal address, the text of which has been preserved. In one of his first cases, he incurred the displeasure of the council, which reprimanded him and annulled his decision.
As the population on and around Montreal Island was growing, the king, in agreement with the Sulpicians, established royal justice in the region by an edict dated 15 March 1693. The Conseil Souverain named Charles Juchereau de Saint-Denys the first lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs; at the same time Deschambault became king’s attorney, which meant a reduction in his responsibilities. He accepted this tolerably well, however, and was on close terms with his colleague. In 1696 he had to cease exercising his office temporarily, in order to accompany Frontenac [Buade*] on his expedition against the Iroquois; he was then commanding the Montreal militia forces. In 1698, for several months, he served as judge in place of Juchereau, who made a journey to France. He replaced him again in 1701, for a longer period, when Juchereau, who was possessed by a desire for adventure, obtained a three-year leave and set off for the Mississippi country. When news of this adventurous magistrate’s death reached Montreal, two candidates sought his post: Deschambault and Migeon* de La Gauchetière, the former judge’s son. In 1706, on the advice of Intendant Raudot, Deschambault was officially appointed lieutenant general for civil and criminal affairs for Montreal,
He was called upon to judge several difficult cases, and in one of them, having too readily given credence to the tittle-tattle of some female gossips, he suffered the bitter humiliation of being suspended for a month by the Conseil Souverain in order to “study the ordinances,” and of being sentenced to pay the costs of the lawsuit. He also came into conflict several times with Governor Philippe de Rigaud de Vaudreuil, who wished to protect his old friends in Montreal. Deschambault complained to the court at Versailles, and the governor inflicted harsh reprisals upon him, even going so far as to have the judges’ pew in the church at Montreal suppressed. These vexations did not however harm his career, and he continued to serve as judge until an advanced age. He died in March 1715 at Montreal, having contributed to the administration of justice in various capacities for 25 years. One of his last legal acts was a curious police regulation by which he ordered the inhabitants of Montreal to keep up “the footways” (wooden sidewalks) before their houses, and forbad them to allow their pigs to run about the streets.
He had had seven children by his first marriage, to Marguerite de Chavigny. The eldest, Jacques* (1672–98), was a missionary in Acadia; the second, Charles (1674–1742), went to France and became a businessman and ship-owner at La Rochelle; Joseph* (1676–1755), Sieur de La Gorgendière, married Claire Jolliet, the explorer’s daughter, and continued the Canadian line of the family; Jeanne-Charlotte (1683–1755) married François Le Verrier, then Pierre de Rigaud* de Cavagnial, Marquis de Vaudreuil; Simon-Thomas, Sieur de La Janière, went to settle in Martinique.
After Marguerite de Chavigny’s death in 1705, Deschambault married, on 9 July 1708, Marguerite-Renée Denys, widow of Thomas de Lanouguère* and daughter of Pierre Denys de La Ronde and Catherine Leneuf. He thus became, by the interplay of marriages, the father-in-law of Madeleine de Verchères [Jarret*]. He had no children by this second marriage, and his widow survived him.
AN, Col., B, 32. f.14v; 33, f.381; 34, ff.344, 358; 35, f.307; C11A 31, f.176; 33, ff.199, 201; C11G, 2, f.118v; 3 ff.29ff.; 4, ff.203ff.; 5, ff.37ff. “L’expédition de M. de La Barre contre les Iroquois en 1684,” BRH, XXXI (1925), 55. Jug. et délib., II, VI. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Ordonnance inédite de M. de Fleury Deschambault, concernant les rues de Montréal, en 1715,” BRH, XXII (1916), 81. “Recensement de la seigneurie d’Eschambault (1688),” RHAF, IX (1954–55), 439. Massicotte, “Les tribunaux et les officiers de justice,” RSCT, 3d ser., X (1916), sect.i, 275, 284, 286.
[François Daniel], Histoire des grandes familles françaises du Canada (Montréal, 1867), 371–96. Aegidius Fauteux, “Réponse,” BRH, XXXVIII (1932), 59. J.-J. Lefebvre, “La famille Fleury d’Eschambault de La Gorgendière,” SGCF Mémoires, III (1948–49), 152–74. P.-G. Roy, “Jacques-Alexis de Fleury Deschambault,” BRH, XXXVII (1931), 705–13.