FÉZERET, RENÉ, gunsmith; b. c. 1642, son of Claude Fézeret, master locksmith, and of Suzanne Guillebaut, of the parish of Saint-Sauveur in La Rochelle; d. 31 July 1720 at Montreal.
On the strength of some entries in account-books of the parish council, Fézeret is considered to have been the first goldsmith in Montreal, but his activity in this field was limited to minor repairs. On the other hand, he often called himself the first gunsmith in New France, meaning no doubt the first in time. This assertion is perhaps true, for his father, who had come to Quebec sometime between 1643 and 1647, returned to France before 1652, and came back to Montreal with the contingent of 1659. It was probably during this stay in France that Fézeret learned his gunsmith’s trade.
Fézeret affords an intriguing example of someone who rose in society. To be a tradesman, then a member of the bourgeoisie, and finally a seigneur whose daughter married into the nobility of the long robe (she married François-Gabriel de Thiersant), required adroitness, tact, and perseverance; Fézeret lacked none of these qualities. He was, moreover, greatly helped by his wife, Marie Carlié, whom he married in Montreal on 11 Nov. 1670; a stubbornly litigious person, she kept the jurisdiction of Montreal and the Conseil Souverain busy.
In his early years Fézeret was content to practise his trade. Then he began to acquire pieces of land in all sorts of places, even as far away as Louisiana. Finally he obtained the fiefs of Saint-Charles and Bonsecours on the Yamaska River. He eagerly took to fur-trading, and in 1703 he also formed a company “to continue the search for . . . a silver mine . . . on the Rivière du Lièvre.” He was at first successful in business, but then suffered such reverses that in 1705 the list of his creditors was posted in the three governments of the country.
His wife died in 1717, and seven months later Fézeret married Marie Philippe, the 45-year-old widow of Jean Legras, a former Montreal merchant. Of the eight children of his first marriage only the youngest, Marie-Joseph, who had been baptized 17 Feb. 1692 under the name of Marie-Rose, survived him. His three sons were “killed and maimed in the king’s service,” in Louisiana. The eldest of his grandsons, François-Henri de Thiersant, married the daughter of a member of the Académie française; the youngest, Pierre-François, became a priest.
AJM, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar; Greffe de Bénigne Basset; Greffe d’Hilaire Bourgine; Greffe de Jacques David; Greffe de Michel Lepailleur de Laferté; Greffe de Claude Mangue; Greffe de Pierre Raimbault. AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 25 oct. 1703. ANDM, Registres des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures. Jug. et délib., I, III, IV. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie sous le régime français, I, 26. Ovide Lapalice, Histoire de la seigneurie Massue et de la paroisse de Saint-Aimé (s.l., 1930). Télesphore Saint-Pierre, Histoire des Canadiens du Michigan et du comté d’Essex, Ontario (Montréal, 1895), 68. Ramsay Traquair, The old silver of Quebec (Toronto, 1940), 27. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les actes de foi et hommage conservés à Montréal,” BRH, XXVI (1920), 94; “La Saint-Eloi et la corporation des armuriers à Montréal, au XVIIe siècle,” BRH, XXXIII (1917), 343–46.