GODEFROY DE TONNANCOUR, CHARLES-ANTOINE (also called the Chevalier de Tonnancour), soldier and seigneur; b. 4 Nov. 1755 at Trois-Rivières (Que.), son of Louis-Joseph Godefroy de Tonnancour and Louise Carrerot; m. 21 Nov. 1785 in Quebec, Reine, daughter of Jean-Louis Frémont, a merchant-trader, and they had ten children; d. 6 Nov. 1798 in Trois-Rivières.
Like his father and two brothers, Charles-Antoine Godefroy de Tonnancour took part in the defence of the province of Quebec during the American invasion in 1775. He seems subsequently to have undergone a period of inactivity, and on 13 May 1781 he begged Governor Haldimand to keep him in mind if an opportunity arose to employ a young officer who for a long time had “been languishing in a kind of idleness . . . quite contrary to his nature.”
For some years before his marriage in 1785 the Chevalier de Tonnancour probably divided his time between Trois-Rivières and Quebec; he may even have acted as an agent in Quebec for his father who had various business interests including the fur trade. When his father died in 1784 Tonnancour acquired the family estate which he had to share with his eight brothers and sisters. This inheritance consisted mainly of landed property located between Trois-Rivières and the seigneury of Maskinongé, primarily the fiefs of Vieuxpont, Labadie, Pointe-du-Lac, and Yamaska.
Tonnancour finally took up residence in Trois-Rivières in 1785 and began to sell off his lands little by little. He was by no means the only one thus to dissipate his paternal inheritance; his co-heirs often joined him in disposing of the properties. The proceeds of the sales were never sufficient, however, to maintain his luxurious way of life; he had to resort to loans that he could not always repay on the due date. Thus in 1788 Pierre-Édouard Desbarats *, a Trois-Rivières merchant with whom he had a current account, demanded payment of a bill for 200 livres; later a merchant-trader in Quebec, Jacques Curchot, brought a protest against him for his delay in paying £100, for which Curchot demanded interest.
When a new district of Trois-Rivières was created in July 1790, Tonnancour was one of 17 people chosen by Lord Dorchester [Carleton*] to oversee “keeping the peace in the aforementioned new District.” Four years later he and George Dame were jointly appointed commissioners for granting lands in this district. In March 1797 he was appointed head of the grand juries for the Court of King’s Bench. The following year he died at Trois-Rivières.
Although the inventory compiled, after Tonnancour’s death shows that he owned a handsome and well-furnished house, personal belongings worth 2,902 livres, and five pieces of land in Trois-Rivières and its suburbs, it also reveals that his financial situation was desperate. His debts amounted to 48,949 livres, whereas there were only 9,597 livres in outstanding accounts to be recovered by his estate. Nearly all the landed property went to pay debts owed to William Grant*, a Trois-Rivières merchant, and his partner James McKenzie. In view of this situation the Chevalier’s widow, who was to live until 1858, had no choice but to exercise her right to renounce the community of property with her husband, “without being held responsible for its debts.”
Charles-Antoine Godefroy de Tonnancour’s life illustrates well the precarious financial position in which many Canadian seigneurs found themselves at the end of the 18th century, a. plight which became inevitable with the rise of the lower middle class.
ANQ-MBF, Greffe d’A.–1. Badeaux, 13 sept. 1797, 21 déc. 1798; Greffe de J.-B. Badeaux, 29 oct. 1784, 13 sept. 1785, 15 mars, 4 déc. 1787, 15 mars, 18 juin, 18 août 1788, 5 mars 1789. BL, Add. mss 21830, pp.213–14. Quebec Gazette, 24 Nov. 1785, 8 July 1790, 16 Oct. 1794, 16 Oct. 1797, 3 Jan., 30 Oct. 1800. P.-G. Roy, La famille Godefroy de Tonnancour (Lévis, Que., 1904), 57, 61; “Les ancêtres du général Frémont,” BRH, IV (1898), 277–78.