PAINCHAUD, ALEXIS, sea captain, shipowner, merchant, and justice of the peace; b. 22 Nov. 1792 at Quebec, son of Captain François Painchaud and Angélique Drouin; m. 19 Oct. 1815 Marguerite Arseneaux (Arsenault) in Carleton, Lower Canada, and they had ten children; d. 10 Feb. 1858 in Montreal.
Alexis Painchaud, a son and grandson of sailors, was the ninth of 12 children. His brother Joseph* became a doctor and his sister Marie-Louise, named de Saint-Augustin, the superior of the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec. Alexis spent his childhood in the faubourg Saint-Roch at Quebec and was four years old when his father died of smallpox. His mother took a sailor, Pierre Laviolette, as her second husband.
Alexis’s eldest brother, Abbé Charles-François Painchaud*, took him along when he was appointed missionary for the Baie des Chaleurs region. They set off from Quebec on 17 Sept. 1806 with their sister Victoire, the widow of François Normand, and her young son François. The journey by schooner to Carleton lasted six weeks because of storms and a stop at Halifax. Painchaud became the abbé’s travelling companion on apostolic journeys undertaken by snow-shoe in winter and birchbark canoe in summer. He was in good hands: his brother had been tutor to the children of Lieutenant Governor Sir Robert Shore Milnes* and would later found the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière.
The youth learned his trade with sailors from Carleton, among them his future brother-in-law, Captain Sébastien-Étienne Landry. At 18 he was skipper of the Marie-Joseph, a 40-ton schooner owned by Victoire’s second husband, Gédéon Ahier. Soon he had schooners of his own and was known as a “trader in the Gaspé district.” Painchaud carried cargoes of fish between Halifax, Newfoundland, and Quebec, where he decided to live shortly after his marriage in 1815. Around 1820 he settled his family in Montreal. He negotiated profitable deals in partnership with Montreal businessmen Félix Souligny and Hubert Paré*. His 122-ton brig, built at Caraquet, N.B., in 1825 and christened Felix Souligny, took him to Barbados and Trinidad on a number of occasions. He brought back rum and sugar for Jean-Olivier Brunet and Charles A. Holt, merchants at Quebec.
In 1828 Painchaud bought the New Felix Souligny (218 tons) and began trading with the British Isles. His brig took wheat to Liverpool, Cork, and Dublin, and returned with salt, coal, and iron for C. Noyes, G. Ross, and Félix Souligny. He also transported immigrants. The shipping news of 5 June 1833 announced details of the New Felix Souligny’s performance. Arriving from Dublin with iron, coal, and 54 passengers, the brig had covered the distance from Quebec to Montreal in 18 hours and 45 minutes. This was a record for a square-rigged vessel propelled by wind alone. The following autumn this magnificent ship was wrecked on its way back from Liverpool. The wreckage was sold for £250.
Using his schooners Hubert Paré (71 tons) and Marie-Flora (61 tons), Painchaud then developed a fish and oil trade with the Îles de la Madeleine. From 1838 he leased several pieces of land on the islands belonging to Isaac Coffin*, and to his successor, and when need arose acted as justice of the peace and conciliator there. His warehouses and fishing stations, which were on Havre Aubert Island and at L’Étang-du-Nord, were managed by his son Jean-Baptiste-Félix and employed about 50 people. In partnership with that son, who was a notary and merchant, and with another, Joseph-Alexis, a captain, he formed Painchaud and Sons on 23 March 1857.
For half a century Alexis Painchaud, with his score of ships, was a figure of note in the merchant navy. He gained recognition through his intelligence, boldness, enterprising spirit, and integrity. At his death in Montreal on 10 Feb. 1858 he left a flourishing business and a sizeable estate. The latter included a house in Montreal, several lots and beaches on the Îles de la Madeleine, a house, barn, large warehouse, sheds, and three other buildings on the islands, and two schooners, one of which was outfitted for fishing. His sons continued the undertaking together until Joseph-Alexis was shipwrecked on the Marie-Flora in the autumn of 1860. Subsequently Jean-Baptiste-Félix bought back the share of his lost brother. He acted as a notary and served as a school inspector on the Îles de la Madeleine, and later owned coasting vessels that linked these islands to Halifax and Quebec.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 13 févr. 1858; CN1-279, 23 mars, 4, 6 déc. 1857; 19 mars 1858. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 22 nov. 1792. AP, Saint-Joseph (Carleton), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 19 oct. 1815. PAC, RG 31, A1, 1825, 1861, Montreal; RG 42, ser.I. Le Canadien, 1834, 1838–40. La Minerve, 1832, 1852. Le Pays, 1857, 13 févr. 1858. Quebec Gazette, 1815, 1829. Quebec Mercury, 1811–15, 1823–24, 1831–34. Le Spectateur (Montréal), 1811–14. Bona Arsenault, Histoire et généalogie des Acadiens (éd. rév., 6v., [Montréal, 1978]). Antoine Bernard, Histoire de la survivance acadienne, 1755–1935 (Montréal, 1935). N.-E. Dionne, Vie de C.-F. Painchaud (Québec, 1894). Rosa, La construction des navires à Québec.