GAULTIER DE VARENNES, RENÉ, officer in the Carignan-Salières regiment, seigneur, governor of Trois-Rivières; baptized 2 June 1636 in the parish of Saint-Louans, France, son of Adam-Pierre Gaultier de La Vérenderie and Bertrande Gourdeau; d. 4 June 1689 in the parish of l’Immaculée-Conception, Trois-Rivières, and was buried there the following day.
As a lieutenant he belonged to Arnoult de Loubias de Broisle’s company, which was stationed at Trois-Rivères in the autumn of 1666. On 26 Sept. 1667 he married there, in the parish of l’Immaculée-Conception, Marie, the 12-year-old daughter of Pierre Boucher*, governor of Trois-Rivières. The marriage contract, drawn up before the notary Séverin Ameau* on 22 September, stipulated that Boucher should board his daughter and her future husband for a period of six months, and that M. Rémy de Courcelle, the governor of New France, should be respectfully requested to obtain for Varennes the office and the privileges of his father-in-law.
Pierre Boucher had in fact decided to leave Trois-Rivières to settle on his seigneury at Boucherville, which he did in 1667. René Gaultier probably took over the office of governor as soon as Boucher left, but he appears as such, in the extant records, only on 10 June 1668. His official appointment was to come in 1672.
In 1671 Gaultier de Varennes took part in de Courcelle’s expedition to Lake Ontario, and acquitted himself well. In October of the following year Talon granted him the Varennes and Du Tremblay seigneuries, “in consideration of the good, useful and commendable services that he has rendered to His Majesty in various places, both in Old and New France. . . .” In addition, in 1673 Governor Buade de Frontenac granted him as a noble fief the La Vérenderie seigneury, also known as La Gabelle.
In 1681 the governor wrote to Colbert “the Sieur de Varennes and the Sieur de Boucher, his father-in-law, have each five canoes and ten fur-traders in the woods.” This additional source of income did not prevent the governor of Trois-Rivières from living in poverty, so modest were his emoluments. As a governor he received initially 1,200 livres a year, and then, from 1685, 3,000 livres. Against this he had to maintain at his own expense the officer and seven soldiers of the Trois-Rivières garrison. Moreover, his three seigneuries yielded very little, since their total population in 1681 was 101 settlers. Du Tremblay then numbered 30 persons; it had only 67 acres under cultivation, and its livestock consisted of only 3 horned beasts. At Varennes there were only 71 settlers, 218 acres under cultivation, and 57 horned beasts. As for the La Gabelle fief, it was uninhabited.
Gaultier sometimes went there to make contact with the Indians, and carried on with them a clandestine fur trade, which, incidentally, brought upon him the remonstrances of the court. Intendant de Meulles* in particular complained sharply about it in a letter dated 28 Sept. 1685. “M. de Varennes, the governor of Trois-Rivières,” he wrote, “uses his authority to trade privately with Indians in a place named La Gabelle, four leagues from Trois-Rivières; this is forbidden by His Majesty’s ordinances, which permit it only at Trois-Rivières. I have not failed to express my feeling about it several times to the said Sieur de Varennes, who has not appeared to be very pleased as a result. . . .” So displeased was he that de Meulles, if we are to believe his word, was forced to suffer the thunderous ire of Gaultier’s cousin, M. de Montortier, and of Governor Brisay* de Denonville. The latter is even supposed to have pointed out to the intendant that in France “intendants come after the governor,” which provoked the retort “that governors here [such as the one at Trois-Rivières] should properly be considered as majors or mere commandants. . . .” Moreover, had not M. de Varennes married “the daughter of a man who was an indentured employee of the Jesuits for 36 months, and who served them in the capacity of a cook, [and] this same man had had as his first wife an Indian woman. . . .”
In March of the following year the king informed the governor of Trois-Rivières that he had been apprised of the trade he was carrying on, and that he hoped this would not recur. Be that as it may, M. de Denonville was to recommend the renewal of Gaultier de Varennes’ commission, stressing that “he is a very worthy gentleman whose only vice is poverty.” The latter therefore found his commission renewed every three years until his death.
His young widow survived him by 44 years. She first spent some years in her father’s house at Boucherville, then settled at Varennes, and in 1712 went to Montreal for good. She belonged to one of the most illustrious families in Canada, the Bouchers, to whose fame she made a substantial contribution, for the majority of her nine children played a prominent part in the life of New France.
“Documents et renseignements inédits sur la Vérendrye et sa famille,” ed. Antonio Champagne, BRH, LXII (1956), 60–75, 171–93. “Documents inédits, Les Gaultier de la Vérenderie en France et au Canada et leurs relations par delà l’Océan,” éd. Antonio Champagne, RHAF, XII (1958–59), 262–77, 411–27; XIII (1959–60), 97–122. “Documents sur Pierre Gaultier de la Vérendrye,” éd. Jean-Jacques Lefebvre, APQ Rapport, 1949–51, 33–67. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IX. Ivanhoë Caron, “René Gaultier de Varennes, gouverneur des Trois-Rivières,” BRH, XXIII (1917), 117–24. Ægidius Fauteux, “Les Gaultier de Varennes et de la Vérendrye,” BRH, XXIII (1917), 244–49. Benjamin Sulte, “Les Gaultier de Varennes,” RC, X (1873), 781–89, 849–56, 935–50; “Les gouverneurs des Trois-Rivières,” BRH, II (1896), 69, 72; “Officiers de Carignan,” BRH, XVII (1911), 193–97; “La Vérenderie avant ses voyages au Nord-Ouest,” BRH, XXI (1915), 111.
Revisions based on:
Arch. Départementales d’Indre-et-Loire (Tours, France), “Reg. paroissiaux,” Saint-Louans, Chinon, 2 juin 1636: cg37.oxyd.net/mdr/index.php/rechercheTheme/requeteConstructor/2/1/R/0/0 (consulted 27 June 2012). Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de la Mauricie et du Centre-du-Québec (Trois-Rivières, Québec), CE401-S48, 26 sept. 1667, 5 juin 1689.