BARSALOU (Barçalo, Barsolou, Barsoloy, Bersalou, Borsalou), JEAN-BAPTISTE (baptized Jean), voyageur and merchant-tanner; b. 9 Sept 1706 at Montreal (Que.), son of Gérard Barsalou and Marie-Catherine Legras; d. there 18 March 1776.
Jean-Baptiste Barsalou’s father was related through his mother to the prominent Montreal merchant Charles Nolan* Lamarque. By marrying the daughter of merchant Jean Legras on 6 May 1700, Gérard Barsalou found himself strengthening his ties with the business world. On 19 April that year he had made a notarized contract to establish a tannery with Charles Delaunay*, who was married to another daughter of Legras. Delaunay supplied the capital while Barsalou contributed his experience as a master tanner. Their partnership lasted six years, after which Barsalou set up on his own account in the faubourg Sainte-Catherine. The location, being well supplied with streams, allowed him to establish the reservoirs indispensable in his trade. Nevertheless, the scarcity of manpower and the difficulty in procuring skins seem to have caused him some problems. Gérard Barsalou died prematurely in 1721, leaving 11 children, most of them young, and a widow, who the same year married the notary Nicolas-Auguste Guillet* de Chaumont.
After his marriage in August 1723 the eldest Barsalou son, Joseph, took possession for the duration of his minority of the tannery, a sawmill which had recently been built in collaboration with his uncle Jean-Baptiste Neveu*, and other buildings, on condition that he assume care of six of his brothers and sisters, including Jean-Baptiste; his mother and stepfather would keep the four remaining children with them. Later, in 1735, Jean-Baptiste was to quarrel with his stepfather, who would accuse the young man in court at Montreal of having attempted to kill him.
Jean-Baptiste Barsalou entered the working world by making a few trips to the fur country on behalf of his uncle Neveu and of another merchant, Ignace Gamelin the younger. Meanwhile, at the beginning of the 1730s he assumed management of the tannery, making agreements with Montreal butchers to reserve the hides of oxen, cows, and calves for him, and with shoemakers to settle the price of leather prepared in his shop. In partnership with his brother Jean-François, who was also a merchant-tanner, Jean-Baptiste competed with two other families of Montreal tanners, by name Lenoir, dit Rolland, and Plessy, dit Bélair [see Jean-Louis Plessy*, dit Bélair]. From 1747 to 1765 Barsalou varied his activities by buying and selling land in the faubourg Saint-Laurent. Anxious to defend his own interests, he forbad the purchaser of one of his properties to carry on any tanning business on it, even going so far as to put flagstones in the stream running through the property.
In May 1733 Barsalou had married Marie-Jeanne Becquet, with whom he had had a daughter the previous January. Although at the time of her baptism the infant was declared to be of unknown parentage, Barsalou acknowledged his paternity when he signed his marriage contract on 10 May. Marie-Jeanne Becquet died in 1743, at the birth of their ninth child, and the following year Barsalou married Geneviève Bouchard, dit Dorval, the widow of Pierre Forestier. He was to be married again in 1763, this time to Élisabeth Urtebise.
The inflation to which Canadian business was subject during the final years of the French régime and the losses experienced when paper currency was regulated after the conquest strongly affected Barsalou’s trade. Having worked hard to consolidate his father’s business and to hand it down to his sons, he saw it gradually deteriorate and his efforts meet with failure. The inventory taken after his death shows the wretched state of his business: he owned no more than his house, his tannery, and some tools; he left no cash. His sons had become voyageurs, and the Barsalou name disappeared from the tannery business. A century later, however, a grandnephew, Joseph Barsalou, would make his mark in an allied field, by founding the first, and very important, French Canadian soap industry in Quebec province.
ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 6 mai 1700, 10 sept. 1706, 6 nov. 1721, 4 mai 1744, 8 janv. 1763; Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 30 nov. 1718, 21 déc. 1731, 7 sept. 1749; Greffe de Pierre Raimbault, 10 mai 1733. Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” ANQ Rapport, 1953–55, 492. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, III, 260, 309; IV, 41; V, 273–74, 276, 294, 296, 298; VI, 2. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, II, 132. J.-N. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie, II. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Un notaire dans une ménagerie,” BRH, XLII (1936), 132–35.