BERTHIER, ISAAC, called Alexandre after 1665, captain in the Régiment de l’Allier and often called captain in the Carignan regiment, seigneur; son of Pierre Berthier and Marguerite Bariac; b. 1638 at Bergerac in the bishopric of Périgueux; d. 1708 on his seigneury of Bellechasse.
We have little information about Isaac Berthier before his arrival in New France. His promotion in the army was rapid, for he landed at Quebec on 30 June 1665 at the head of his own company; at that time he was with the troops brought from the West Indies by Prouville* de Tracy.
A few months after his arrival Isaac Berthier, who was a Huguenot, embraced the Roman Catholic religion. On that occasion he probably changed his first name and adopted that of Alexandre, which has led some historians to believe that there were two Captain Berthiers in Canada. One may well doubt this. The only two references to Isaac Berthier are in 1665; they are contained in a marriage contract drawn up on 12 Aug. 1665 at Quebec, which he witnessed, and in the register of abjurations of the archbishopric of Quebec, under the date of 8 Oct. 1665. After that we lose all trace of the name. As for Alexandre Berthier, the name appears for the first time on 1 May 1666, in the “Registre des confirmations” of the archbishopric of Quebec. In his correspondence with Colbert, Talon* speaks only of the “Sieur Berthier”; if there had been two Captain Berthiers, the intendant would not have omitted to specify whether Isaac or Alexandre was meant. However, the certificate of Alexandre junior’s marriage at Notre-Dame de Québec on 4 Oct. 1702 provides us with the best proof: in it we read that Alexandre senior is a “former captain in the regiment de l’aliers,” the regiment to which Isaac Berthier belonged. Hence we are presumably concerned with one and the same person.
After being billeted with his men at Quebec during the winter of 1665–66, Captain Berthier was appointed commandant of Fort de l’Assomption (Saint-Jean, Quebec), then named with Pierre de Saurel* to command the rear-guard of the troops during Prouville de Tracy’s 1666 expedition against the Mohawks. He returned to France with the soldiers of the Carignan regiment, and came back in 1670 to Canada, where on 11 Oct. 1672, in the parish church of Notre-Dame de Québec, he married Marie Legardeur de Tilly, sister of Catherine who had married Pierre de Saurel in 1668. Eighteen days later he received from Talon the Bellechasse seigneury (Berthier-en-bas), and the following year he bought the seigneury of the Sieur Hugues Randin* (Berthier-en-haut or Villemur), which was considerably enlarged by a subsequent land grant. Meanwhile he had taken part in two expeditions against the Iroquois.
After 1674 Alexandre Berthier devoted himself particularly to agriculture and to the settling of his seigneuries. The data of the 1681 census show that he was the largest farmer on the Villemur fief. In the same year, Buade* de Frontenac pointed out in a report that Berthier and several associates had “five canoes and ten men engaged in fur-trading in the woods.” Some while later, he went to live on his seigneury of Berthier-en-bas, and as captain of the militia of that seigneury he led his own company at the time of Brisay de Denonville’s expedition against the Senecas in 1687.
Although he was not a personage of the first rank, Alexandre Berthier enjoyed a certain esteem, since the authorities invited him to the assemblies of notables. At the meeting organized by Frontenac in 1678 to discuss the brandy trade, Berthier and his brother-in-law Pierre de Saurel declared themselves jointly in favour of such trading. As a seigneur, Berthier also took part in the council of war in Quebec in 1682. It is therefore not surprising that Le Febvre* de La Barre considered proposing him for the post of governor of Montreal in 1683.
Alexandre Berthier died at the end of 1708 at Berthier-en-bas. Five years before his death he had bequeathed all his possessions to his daughter-in-law, Marie-Françoise Viennay-Pachot, Alexandre junior’s widow; at his death he also left her with the burden of a 24-year-old lawsuit that he had brought against the seigneuress of Rivière-du-Sud (Montmagny, Quebec), Geneviève Després, over the boundaries of their seigneuries.
AJQ, Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 3 juin 1699, 18 juin 1704. AQ, NF, Cahiers d’intendance, I, 6, ff.238–43; 7, ff.310–19. Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 207. “Correspondance de Frontenac (1672–82),” APQ Rapport, 1926–27, 123. “Correspondance échangée entre la cour de France et l’Intendant Talon pendant ses deux administrations dans la Nouvelle-France,” APQ Rapport, 1930–31, 39, 45, 61. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), I, 407f. Jug. et délib. JR (Thwaites), L, 140; LXII, 156. Recensement du Canada, 1681 (Sulte). A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., XVIII, 347f.; XIX, 121. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, II, 179–83, 187–89; Inv. ord. int., I, 38, 68f. Bonnault, “Le Canada militaire,” 275, 333. Regis Roy et Malchelosse, Le régiment de Carignan. Sulte, Mélanges historiques (Malchelosse), VIII, M. Berneval, “Régiment de l’Allier,” NF, V (1930), 316. “La famille Berthier,” BRH, XX (1914), 379f. Amédée Gosselin, “Les deux capitaines Berthier,” BRH, IX (1903), 310f. S.-A. Moreau, “Le capitaine Berthier,” BRH, IX (1903), 273f. P.-G. Roy, “Les deux capitaines Berthier,” BRH, IX (1903), 56–58; “La mort de M. de Berthier,” BRH, XXII (1916), 209–10; “La seigneune de Bellechasse ou Berthier,” BRH, XXVII (1921), 65–74. Régis Roy, “Isaac et Alexandre Berthier, capitaines au régiment de Carignan,” RSCT, 3d ser., VII (1913), sect.i, 125–37. H. Têtu, “Les abjurations a Québec en 1665,” BRH, XI (1905), 26.