DU VAL, PETER (baptized Pierre), ship’s captain, privateer, merchant, and justice of the peace; b. 11 Oct. 1767 and baptized 14 Oct. 1769 in St Brelade, Jersey, son of Jean Du Val and Marie Piton; m. Elizabeth Hubert, and they had three sons; d. 12 Feb. 1851 on Île Bonaventure, Lower Canada.

Popular Gaspé legend suggests that the ancestors of Peter Du Val were French Calvinist refugees exiled in the Channel Islands. He was strongly influenced by the Jersey aristocracy, with its usufructuary system of landed entailments, its desire for a base of independent wealth, and its adherence to a chivalric military tradition.

By the 1790s the partners of a transatlantic company trading in cod and staple commodities, Philip, Francis, and John* Janvrin of Jersey, engaged Du Val as a master mariner. Serving in this capacity for more than 20 years, Du Val developed a reputation as a daring captain. During the Napoleonic Wars, letters of marque and reprisal were issued for ships under his command, including in 1806 letters of marque directed against the Batavian Republic (Netherlands) for the Young Phoenix. On a voyage from Jersey to Arichat, Cape Breton, in the spring of 1813 the Young Phoenix was seized and plundered by the Paul Jones, a licensed American privateer. The Orpheus, a British naval vessel, captured both ships in the harbour of New London, Conn. All three vessels made port at Halifax, where an inquiry took place before Alexander Croke*, judge of the Vice-Admiralty Court. The Young Phoenix was returned to its owners after they guaranteed payment of the expenses incurred in the salvage of the ship.

In 1814 Du Val had leased a lot near Dundee, Cape Breton, which was granted to him in 1818. He continued to work for the Janvrins until about 1818, buying fish at Arichat, at Havre Boucher and Tracadie in Nova Scotia, and in the Gaspé region, and trading in Mediterranean and Baltic ports as many as three times per season. Having acquired the capital necessary to engage in his own commercial ventures, by 1819 Du Val was established on Île Bonaventure. The partners in his new fishery, Peter Du Val and Company, were his brother Nicholas, John Perrée Sr, Philip Godfrey, and Philip Le Gresley. Du Val’s son Peter John purchased the company on 8 Oct. 1825 and proceeded to expand its operations, constructing additional fishing stations at Havre de Gaspé and Newport, Lower Canada, and at Caraquet, Miscou Island, and Shippegan, N.B., although he seems to have made Spain, and later Guernsey, his main residence and place of business. By the late 1820s his father, established as a merchant on Île Bonaventure in partnership with Amice Du Val of St Helier, Jersey, also began to acquire fishing stations, at Île Bonaventure, Anse à Beaufils, and Cannes-de-Roches. He also acted as agent for his son, and father and son may have jointly operated some fishing stations. In 1830 either the father or the son, or perhaps both, owned three vessels involved in the codfish trade. In 1833 Peter John sold his interests at Shippegan to his financial backers, five Jersey merchants, for £1,000. That year father and son sold assets on Île Bonaventure and water lots at Havre de Gaspé to the Jersey merchants to cover their debts to them of more than £978; they retained the use of the land and the right of redemption for five years. Deteriorating relations with John Fauvel, who replaced John Le Boutillier* as agent at Percé for the company of Charles Robin*, the most important fishery in the Gaspé and northern New Brunswick, seriously affected their business. In 1835, on arriving at Île Bonaventure from Jersey, Peter John found the sheriff auctioning some of his property. He died shortly afterwards.

Peter Du Val, as tutor to his grandchildren, assumed responsibility for his son’s business affairs and, with some reluctance, attempted to collect outstanding debts by prosecuting local fishermen. By 1838 the losses he had sustained prevented him from redeeming the property but the agreement with the Jersey merchants, now the firm Bertram, Godfray, Gray and Company, was renewed for another five years on the understanding that Du Val would pay 800 quintals of “good dry merchantable cod fish” to them. Du Val anticipated that he would be unable to meet this second commitment. He transferred his son’s estate together with his personal property in entail to his grandson, now 21, in an effort to provide his descendants with a lasting inheritance. After challenging this settlement, Bertram, Godfray, Gray and Company took over the unredeemed property in 1843, discharging the debts to the company of both Du Val and his son’s estate. Du Val then leased the fishery from its new owners for two years.

Throughout his career, Du Val was active in community life. He received a commission in the Jersey militia in 1812 and was appointed centenier in 1829 at St Brelade. Yet his interest in Jersey gradually lapsed and it was to Lower Canada that he looked for the future of his grandchildren. From 1831 to 1838 he received four appointments as justice of the peace on Île Bonaventure, where because of a lack of notaries he was called upon to draw up and witness deeds for the transfer of property. The documents he prepared display an intimate knowledge of property conveyance. Tradition attributes to him the cultivation of literary talent and credits him with having written an account of his family.

Peter Du Val’s career has been confused in secondary sources with that of his twin brother, John, a British naval officer, and with that of his son Peter John. As well, the body of myths surrounding his privateering days has obscured his importance as a mariner for the Janvrin firm, as the mainstay of his own and his son’s international commerce, and as a minor rival to Charles Robin and Company, which exercised a near monopoly in the maritime fishery.

Aldo Brochet

AC, Bonaventure (New-Carlisle), minutiers, Martin Sheppard, 3 avril, 2 juin, 2 juill. 1832; 22 juill. 1833; 1er, 3 août 1835; Gaspé (Percé), État civil, Anglicans, Protestant Episcopal Congregation (Gaspé), 13 févr. 1851. BE, Gaspé (Percé), reg. A, 1, no.130, reg. B, 1, nos.14–16, 26, 244, 263. Gloucester Registry Office (Bathurst, N.B.), vol.1, no.511. PAC, MG 24, D9, 1; MG 28, III18; MG 55/24; RG 1, L7, 79; RG 4, A1, 37: 71, 73; RG 8, IV, 134, Young Phoenix; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: 382, 389, 397, 643. PANS, RG 20B, petitions, nos.569, 1896. Soc. jersiaise (Saint-Hélier, Jersey), Saint-Brelade, reg. des baptêmes, 1769, 1822. J.-C. Pouliot, La grande aventure de Jacques Cartier (Québec, 1934). Thomas Pye, Canadian scenery: district of Gaspé (Montreal, 1866). Donat Robichaud, Le grand Chipagan: histoire de Shippagan (North Beresford, N.-B., 1976). Joan Stevens, Victorian voices; an introduction to the papers of Sir John Le Couteur, Q.A.D.C., F.R.S. ([Saint-Hélier], 1969). M. G. Turk, The quiet adventurers in Canada (Detroit, 1979).

Cite This Article

Aldo Brochet, “DU VAL, PETER (baptized Pierre),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 25, 2024, https://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/du_val_peter_8E.html.

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Permalink:   https://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/du_val_peter_8E.html
Author of Article:   Aldo Brochet
Title of Article:   DU VAL, PETER (baptized Pierre)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1985
Year of revision:   1985
Access Date:   July 25, 2024