DEGUISE, dit Flamand (Flamant), JACQUES, master mason, stone-cutter, and contractor; b. 5 March 1697 and baptized the next day in Notre-Dame at Quebec, son of Guillaume Deguise, dit Flamand, a mason, and Marie-Anne Morin; d. 18 Nov. 1780 at Quebec.
Jacques Deguise, dit Flamand, belonged to the second generation of masons working in New France, as did Pierre Renaud, dit Cannard. One of the earliest Canadian master masons, Jean-Baptiste Maillou*, dit Desmoulins, had trained Jacques’s brother, Girard-Guillaume *, and in the absence of any apprenticeship contract bearing Jacques Deguise’s name, it is reasonable to assume that he too was one of Maillou’s group.
Jacques Deguise was active over a period of about 36 years. His name first appears in a notary’s minute-book in 1721, when he was building the foundations for a square-timbered house on Rue Saint-Flavien in Quebec. He was then still a minor and had to have his contracts ratified by his mother. Deguise completed his training in the period from 1722 on, when he worked on the big building site for the prison and court-house in Trois-Rivières. At this time he was working with his brother and with Jean-Baptiste Boucher, dit Belleville, a stone-cutter and masonry contractor whose name often recurs on contracts for fortifications at Quebec and Montreal.
As for domestic architecture Deguise was in charge of preliminary work on several residences in Quebec, including one constructed on Rue des Remparts in June 1725 according to plans by Gaspard-Joseph Chaussegros* de Léry and known today as the Maison Montcalm, one built in 1728 on Place Royale for Joseph Duburon, an officer, and another built in 1729 on Rue Saint-Roch for navigator Abel Olivier*.
From 1730 on Deguise found himself in a difficult situation. Thérèse Rinfret, dit Malouin, whom he had married in Quebec on 10 Sept. 1725, died on 21 Nov. 1730. At that moment Deguise was being harassed in his professional activity because he was unable to meet certain due dates for payment which had been laid down when contracts were signed. In an attempt to restore his fortunes he engaged in various property transactions, for example with Jean-Eustache Lanoullier* de Boisclerc.
Deguise resumed his building activities in 1734, constructing a house for surgeon Michel Bertier* on Rue des Pauvres, and one for Charles Normand at the corner of Rue Saint-Jean and present-day Rue Sainte-Angèle, and then, in the period up to 1745, a number of other buildings designed as dwellings in the neighbourhood of Rue des Pauvres near the site originally granted to the Hôtel-Dieu. Deguise’s technique for assuring his profit consisted in buying a piece of land in this quarter, building a stone house on it, and selling the two together.
The master mason’s career took a new direction when in 1747 he became involved in the undertaking to improve the fortifications of Quebec. Five years later, his brother having died, he took over his role as contractor of the king’s works for the fortifications and barracks. The pace of his financial transactions from that moment indicates a significant degree of prosperity: obviously these works were profitable for him. With funds that must have been increasing rapidly, he was able to make numerous property deals in the present-day quadrilateral bounded by Rues Saint-Jean, Saint-Stanislas, Elgin, and Sainte-Angèle, which was being developed at that time. Moreover, it was Deguise who in 1755 loaned chief engineer Chaussegros de Léry the money required for the dowry of his daughter Josephte-Antoinette, who wished to enter the Hôpital Général – a transaction that has the odour of clientage.
Deguise also worked for the religious communities. In 1754 he supervised the building of a wing for the parlours of the Ursulines’ convent and the measuring for a masonry wall around their property. He was also entrusted with the rebuilding of the convent of the hospital nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu in Quebec which had been destroyed by fire in 1755; the contract amounted to 24,000 livres. In the field of religious architecture the only building that can be attributed to Deguise with certainty is the church of Saint-François-Xavier-de-la-Petite-Rivière (Petite-Rivière). This small, half-timbered, field-stone church is proof that masons in the 18th century were still using the techniques imported from France by their predecessors. Like most of the master masons working in the colony, Deguise had trained apprentices and hired journeymen. Among the names associated with his are those of Thomas Allard, Jean-Baptiste Rouillard, and Joseph Morin. But none of them carried on the master’s work; none even acquired much of a reputation.
Jacques Deguise and Thérèse Rinfret, dit Malouin, had had three children, but only one, François, outlived them. François carried on his father’s occupation, and in 1749 he married into a mason’s family, wedding Marie-Françoise, daughter of Pierre Jourdain, dit Bellerose. After his wife’s untimely death, Jacques Deguise married Marie-Élisabeth Laisné, dit Laliberté, on 5 Feb. 1742 at Saint-Augustin; they had 11 children.
At the time of his death on 18 Nov. 1780, at the age of 83, Jacques Deguise was living in the home of his daughter Élisabeth and his son-in-law Joseph Falardeau on Rue Saint-Stanislas. He was buried the next day in the Cimetière des Picotés.
AMHDQ, Registre des comptes du monastère, IV, 331–32. ANQ-Q, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Québec, 6 mars 1697, 4 juill. 1729, 8 févr. 1774, 19 nov. 1780; Saint-Augustin, 5 févr. 1742; Greffe de Gilbert Boucault de Godefus, 10 juill. 1747; Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 26 déc. 1711; Greffe de J.-É. Dubreuil, 23 janv., 20 nov. 1721, 8, 18 mars, 21 avril 1722, 18 janv. 1723, 3 mars 1724, 5 août, 10 sept., 29 déc. 1725, 11 janv. 1727, 5 oct, 1729, 20 oct. 1731, 4 avril 1734; Greffe de C.-H. Du Laurent, 24 mai 1735, 1er mars 1755; Greffe d’Henri Hiché, 1er févr. 1734; Greffe de N.-C. Pinguet de Bellevue, 27 avril 1749; Greffe de J.-N. Pinguet de Vaucour, 16, 26 févr. 1728 (nos.112, 113, 115), 8 mars 1731, 26 févr. 1737, 17 avril 1738, 31 déc. 1740, 27 mars 1741, 28 janv. 1742; NF 19, 68, ff.174v–90. AUQ, Fonds construction, 20 août 1735, 14 oct. 1754. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces jud. et not. ; Inv. ord. int., II, 48, 59–60, 82. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 165; III, 44, 279–80. Marthe Bergeron-Hogue, Un trésor dans la montagne (Québec, 1954), 225–39. D’Allaire, L’Hôpital Général de Québec, 108. Marthe Lacombe, “Les réalisations du maçon Jacques Deguise, dit Flamand, au quartier du palais,” Le parc de l’Artillerie et les fortifications de Québec; études historiques présentées à l’occasion de la conférence des Sociétés savantes (Québec, 1976), 27–36. O’Reilly, Mgr de Saint-Vallier et l’Hôpital Général, 720.