BRUNEAU, FRANÇOIS-PIERRE, lawyer, seigneur, businessman, and politician; b. 24 July 1799 in Montreal, son of François-Xavier Bruneau, a dealer in pelts, and Thérèse Leblanc; d. unmarried 4 March 1851 in Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, Lower Canada.
François-Pierre Bruneau, who came from a family of Montreal merchants and was a cousin of Louis-Joseph Papineau* by marriage, was the first of his lineage to study law. He trained under Louis-Michel Viger, and was called to the bar on 25 June 1822, about three years before his brother Jean-Casimir and seven before his cousin Théophile. He then took up residence at Montreal; after practising there for a few years, he joined with Henri Desrivières in purchasing the Montarville seigneury, where he planned to put money into developing mills.
The site was an advantageous one and the terms of purchase were favourable, since the seigneur, René Boucher de La Bruère, was particularly anxious to secure a life annuity for himself. Hence the transaction was concluded expeditiously, and on 8 Aug. 1829 Bruneau obtained three of the six lots in the fief for £2,150, to be paid in equal instalments by 1 Jan. 1850. Desrivières, who had already inherited two lots from his mother, was to obtain the remaining one, together with the title of premier seigneur, for £650, payable under the same terms. On 8 Aug. 1829 the two new partners also signed a ten-year agreement under which they shared equally all costs attached to the properties comprising the seigneury, in order to build and operate mills. Bruneau was to supply the initial capital, on condition that Desrivières oversaw the construction and running of the mills and repaid to Bruneau, by 1 Jan. 1834, his share of the capital including the legal interest of six per cent payable annually. A month later, on 7 and 8 Sept. 1829, arrangements were made to build the first mill; however, owing to delays in installing the machinery, it was not yet finished when Bruneau rendered fealty and homage on 27 Sept. 1830.
It is not possible to estimate the revenues produced by the seigneury at this time, but judging by the partners’ real estate transactions they appear to have been substantial. The seigneurs sought to have new title-deeds issued, bought and resold lots to make higher profits, and claimed the arrears owed to the previous owner, Boucher de La Bruère, which they had acquired by their deed of purchase, including the benefits that would eventually result from actions brought by the former seigneur against some of his censitaires. According to Joseph Bouchette*, after the French régime the lots in this seigneury had been “more heavily rated than those of an older date.” In short, the venture would pay off provided the seigneury received proper attention! For his part, Bruneau thought it at least as lucrative as the real estate market in Montreal, where he was attempting to acquire several sites to resell, particularly around Rue Notre-Dame and the old citadel.
It may also have been at this time that Bruneau embarked on manufacturing conveyances which La Minerve of 9 Dec. 1847 termed “Bruneau Sleighs.” Nothing is known about the development of this enterprise, but it appears to have been profitable, since La Minerve called Bruneau the originator of this kind of vehicle in the province.
In 1839 Bruneau apparently was the owner of the Pierreville seigneury, and for a while refused to take part in the building of the new church there. That, at least, is the gist of a letter Pierre Béland, the local parish priest, sent to Bishop Joseph Signay* on 28 October: “Mme de Montenach [Marie-Elisabeth Grant] has just sold her seigneury to a certain M. Pierre-François Bruneau, who seems in no way to favour the construction of the church. . . . The said seigneur having appeared only once in the parish, I have not had the occasion to see him. . . . The new seigneur of Pierreville refuses to deliver without payment the stone and the wood that Mme de Montenach had promised.” Since this letter closely followed Bruneau’s appointment on 8 July 1839 as a commissioner for the building and repair of churches and presbyteries, it is possible that he is the person referred to in it, and that he took advantage of his office, with the information it afforded about future sites for such buildings, to expand the scope of his investments in property.
On 9 June 1841, only a few months after the Act of Union came into effect, Bruneau was elevated to a much more prestigious post, a life appointment to the Legislative Council. He then divided his time between the Montarville seigneury, where he was engaged in developing the village of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville, and Kingston in Upper Canada, where the first parliament of the united Canadas had just convened. Considered a conservative, he joined the other legislative councillors in opposing the transfer of parliament to Montreal in 1844. What especially drew the sharp criticism of reform circles upon him was his agreement on 8 Dec. 1847 to join the government of Henry Sherwood as a member of the Executive Council and as receiver general. However, the appointment, which came at the very moment when the governor, Lord Elgin [Bruce*], dissolved parliament and called a general election, gained Bruneau nothing, since on 3 March 1848 the government that had appointed him was brought down on a vote of non-confidence.
Bruneau then retired to his Montarville seigneury, where he died on 4 March 1851. He was buried four days later at Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville. His estate went to his two brothers, Jean-Casimir, a judge of the Superior Court since 1849, and Olivier-Théophile, known particularly as one of the first professors of McGill College’s faculty of medicine. Mont Saint-Bruno and the village of Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville perpetuate the name of the seigneur of Montarville.
ANQ-M, CE1-16, 8 mars 1851; CE1-51, 25 juill. 1799; CN1-270, 1829–31. ANQ-Q, P-240, boîte 33. Le Canadien, 11, 16 juin 1841; 10 déc. 1847. La Minerve, 6, 9, 20 déc. 1847; 13 mars 1848; 6 mars 1851. Joseph Bouchette, A topographical dictionary of the province of Lower Canada (London, 1832). J.-J. Lefebvre, “Tableau alphabétique des avocats de la province de Québec, 1765–1849,” La Rev. du Barreau, 17 (1957): 286. Joseph Bouchette, A topographical dictionary of the province of Lower Canada (London, 1832). Political appointments, 1841–65 (Coté; 1866). Turcotte, Le Conseil législatif. Buchanan, Bench and bar of L. C. T.-M. Charland, Histoire de Saint-François-du-Lac (Ottawa, 1942). J. C. Dent, The last forty years: Canada since the union of 1841 (2v., Toronto, ). J.-E. Roy, L’ancien Barreau au Canada (Montréal, 1897). Saint-Bruno de Montarville, 250” anniversaire (Saint-Bruno, Qué., 1961). L.-P. Turcotte, Le Canada sous l’Union, 1841–1867 (2v., Québec, 1871–72). Montarville Boucher de La Bruère, “Le ‘livre de raison’ des seigneurs de Montarville,” Cahiers des Dix, 4 (1939): 243–70. J.-J. Lefebvre, “La vie sociale du grande Papineau,” RHAF, 11 (1957–58): 483–84. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les seigneurs Bruneau,” BRH, 32 (1926): 517.