BYSSOT (Bissot) DE LA RIVIÈRE, FRANÇOIS, a native of Pont-Audemer, in the Department of the Eure (Normandy); b. 1612 or 1613, son of Jean Byssot Du Hommée, bourgeois, and of Marie Assour; d. 1673 at Quebec.
His presence in the colony is noted for the first time when the Jesuits took possession of the Île aux Ruaux, 2 July 1639.
Having subsequently settled at Pointe-Lévy, on the Lauson shore, Byssot went into partnership with Guillaume Couture*, whose neighbour he became. In 1647 Couture cleared a piece of land and constructed a main building, while Byssot supplied the money and materials. This property was 40 arpents deep by 5 wide, and bordered on the St. Lawrence. On 15 Oct. 1648 Jean de Lauson (senior), in Paris, gave a formal title-deed, over his signature, to his first two copyholders (censitaires), Byssot and Couture. At Quebec, ten days later, Byssot, at the age of 34, married Marie Couillard, the fifth child of Guillaume Couillard and Guillemette Hébert.
On 9 Aug. 1653 he was named a deputy member of the body of syndics of Quebec, to represent the Lauson shore. In 1655 he had a mill constructed for the settlers at Pointe-Lévy. Taking part in the organization of seigneurial justice, he became seigneurial attorney for the Lauson estate and seigneury on 19 April 1650, and succeeded Charles Sevestre as provost judge after the latter’s death in 1657. As a member of the Communauté des Habitants, Byssot also concerned himself with fishing and fur-trading. In 1650 he went into partnership with several persons, including Charles Legardeur de Tilly and Jean-Paul Godefroy, with a view to seal-fishing in the Tadoussac region.
On 25 Feb. 1661, for the purpose of hunting and fishing, Byssot received from the Compagnie des Cent-Associés title to the first piece of land granted on the north shore of the St. Lawrence: “L’Isle aux Oeufs as far as the Sept Isles and into the Grande Anse, towards the Esquimaux country where the Spaniards usually fish.” It was as a result of this grant of land that Byssot set up a post at Mingan, on the Labrador coast. Did he ever use this grant? Despite J.-E. Roy’s assertions, it is questionable, for there is no documentary confirmation. On 4 March 1663, Byssot and 17 members of the Communauté obtained from Pierre Dubois Davaugour the “Tadoussac trading concession” for two years, but on 4 October the new governor, Saffray de Mézy, cancelled the agreement entered into by his predecessor.
On 8 March 1664, according to J.-E. Roy, Lauson made Byssot a new grant of land for services rendered; this estate had an area of 400 acres. When Charles de Lauson left, Byssot, together with Eustache Lambert, rented the seigneury. In 1668 he built at Point-Lévy the colony’s first tannery, on the ground that he had received in 1648. A sluice-gate was built in the stream separating his estate from Couture’s; a wooden conduit channelled the water into the tannin vats. Intendant Talon advanced 3,268 livres for the undertaking, while the Compagnie des Indes occidentales allocated 1,500 livres for it. The tannery specialized in the tanning of the skins of cows, calves, and porpoise, which were used for the making of shoes, ankle-boots, muffs, and covers for chests and trunks. It is noteworthy that in the inventory of Byssot’s possessions, drawn up after his death, not a single sealskin is mentioned.
In 1671 Byssot applied to Talon, and received, in conjunction with Nicolas Juchereau de Saint-Denis, “concessions for the fishing of cod and seal, and for the oil therefrom,” but his success in the realm of fishing remains unknown.
On 3 Nov. 1672 he was granted the Vincennes seigneury, a piece of land 70 arpents by one league, which he registered in the name of his sons Charles-François and Jean-Baptiste*. The son of the latter, François-Marie*, was the founder of the post of Vincennes, in Indiana. Byssot had 12 children; one of his daughters, Claire-Françoise, married Louis Jolliet. Byssot died 26 July 1673 at Quebec.
His widow, Marie Couillard, married again in 1675; her second husband was Jacques de Lalande de Gayon. In October 1690 she was taken prisoner by the English and kept on the flag-ship of Phips. The latter sent her back to Quebec on the eve of his departure, in order to suggest an exchange of prisoners between the two camps.
ASQ, Documents Faribault, 21, 78, 80; Polygraphie, XVI, 26. Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la Nouv.-France, I, 213–14. Great Britain, Privy Council, Judicial Committee, In the matter of the boundary between the Dominion of Canada and the Colony of Newfoundland in the Labrador Peninsula, between the Dominion of Canada of the one part and the Colony of Newfoundland of the other part (12v., London, 1927), VII, 3511–27. JR (Thwaites). Jug. et délib., I; II; III; V; VI, 10–12. Papier terrier de la Cie des I.O. (P.-G. Roy), 41–44, 202, 262–64. P.-G. Roy, Inventaire de pièces sur la côte de Labrador conservées aux Archives de la Province de Québec (2v., Québec, 1940–42), I, 3; Inv. concessions, I, III. Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” APQ Rapport, 1957–59, 383–84. J.-E. Roy, “François Bissot, sieur de la Rivière,” RSCT, 1st ser., X (1892), sect.i, 29–40; Histoire de la seigneurie de Lauzon, I, passim. Émile Vaillancourt, La conquête du Canada par les Normands (Montréal, 1933), 46.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Québec, CE301-S1, 25 oct. 1648.