GERVAISE, LOUIS (later the final e of the surname was dropped), sawmill-owner, militia captain; b. 12 April 1708 at Montreal to Charles Gervaise and Marie Boyer; m. 18 Feb. 1737 to Marie-Madeleine Langlois; d. 5 Feb. 1763 at Detroit.
Louis Gervaise, formerly a voyageur, moved from Montreal to Detroit in 1740 and entered the lumber business. His sawmill was at the pinery up the St Clair River, in the vicinity of the present city of Port Huron, Mich. From there the planks and joists were floated downstream 25 leagues on timber rafts to the fort at Detroit.
In 1749, Gervaise, Louis Plichon, dit Saint-Louis, and Pierre Dinan, dit Saint-Étienne, were among settlers granted lots of three arpents frontage on the so-called south shore by the commandant, Charles de Sabrevois*. Gervaise’s land was just below the mouth of the now-vanished Ruisseau de la Vieille Reine (about two miles below the Windsor end of the present Ambassador Bridge). He immediately erected a better-than-average dwelling and outbuildings, and soon the stream became known as Rivière à Gervais. A 1760 census of Detroit listed Gervaise as a well-to-do inhabitant having two slaves and one hired man.
Gervaise was captain of the militia company formed among the inhabitants of the new agricultural settlement on the south shore. Besides training and commanding the militia, as captain he was responsible for civil administration in his locality. During the Seven Years’ War the company remained at home for defensive purposes and saw no action.
After the British occupation of Detroit in late November 1760, Louis Gervaise was reappointed militia captain, probably by Donald Campbell. Two years and two months later he died at his home and was buried at Detroit. His widow died in October the same year. In 1766 their two sons moved from Detroit to the parish of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue (Sainte-Antoine-sur-Richelieu, Que.).
Library of Congress (Washington), Peter Force collection, census of Detroit, 1760 C. [G.-J. Chaussegros de Léry, “Les journaux de M. de Léry,” APQ Rapport, 1926–27, 334–48. Windsor border region (Lajeunesse). Tanguay, Dictionnaire.