LESTAGE, PIERRE DE (in the early years of the 18th century he referred to himself as Pierre de Lestage Desperoux or Despeiroux), merchant, seigneur, militia officer; b. 8 Feb. 1682 in Notre-Dame de Bayonne, son of Jean de Lestage, merchant, and Saubade de Noliboise; m. on 5 Jan. 1712 at Montreal Esther Sayward (Sayer); none of their children lived to adulthood; buried 22 Dec. 1743 in Montreal.
When Pierre de Lestage and his brother Jean immigrated to Canada, Jean established himself as a merchant at Quebec and Pierre proceeded to Montreal, where he became chiefly concerned with the outfitting of fur-traders. Both men signed the agreement of October 1700 founding the Compagnie de la Colonie, which for six years controlled the Canadian fur trade. A Monsieur de Lestage served as secretary to the company, but this was almost certainly Jean, who had subscribed a capital of 1,200 livres, and not Pierre, subscribed for a modest 560 livres and listed in a cryptic reference of 1708 as having “abandoned the country.”
Whatever his whereabouts in that year, his participation in the Montreal fur trade from 1709 to 1743 is proven by the compilations of fur trade indentures and licences (congés). These records, however, cite Lestage’s name for only 25 of the more than 40 years that he participated in the trade. The lacunae probably, but not certainly, result more from the loss of notarial documents and from the use of promissory notes under private signature than from a discontinuous pattern of investment.
A substantial number of the documents calendared under the heading of “Engagements” (indentures) are not the contracts of voyageurs, but obligations of record by which traders whom Lestage had financed pledge to him as security the product of their year’s trade. These reveal the size of Lestage’s investment for certain years, and it is frequently considerable: for example, 25,066 livres in 1718 and 33,247 livres in 1726.
After the collapse of the Compagnie de la Colonie, two of Lestage’s acquaintances in the Montreal merchant community, Antoine* and Marguerite Pascaud, transferred the seat of their business to France, at La Rochelle; as metropolitan exporters they were now at the most powerful position in the structure of colonial trade. In order to assure themselves of good trade connections with Canada, on 29 June 1710 the Pascauds formed a partnership with Lestage and Jean-François Martin* de Lino. By such trans-Atlantic arrangements the complementary flows of furs and trade goods were most efficiently maintained. In 1713 Martin de Lino left the company. But it was not until 1739, long after the death of Antoine Pascaud, that Lestage and Marguerite Pascaud dissolved their partnership, Lestage agreeing to pay 15,000 livres for their Canadian assets.
Lestage did not confine himself to legitimate channels of trade. His furs passed up the Richelieu as well as down the St Lawrence, and there is extant a receipt to him for 443 pounds of beaver, dated 22 Sept. 1717 and signed by Stephen DeLancey of New York.
The fur trade did not account for all of Lestage’s business. He was a purveyor of general merchandise; there is record of his buying up large quantities of flour locally, probably for resale in the colony; and on one occasion he lent money for the building and outfitting of a ship. For an unspecified number of years after 1710 Lestage also acted as agent for the treasurer of the Marine, having the care of the treasurer’s money in Montreal and paying the troops stationed there. This arrangement was in some way related to his partnership with the Pascauds, who posted bond for him; it would seem that the arrangement was profitable to their company. They may have enjoyed interest-free use of the Marine fund.
The security and prestige of landed wealth exercised no less attraction on Pierre de Lestage than on any other aspiring bourgeois of the 18th century Atlantic world. On 26 April 1718 he purchased from Nicolas Blaise* Des Bergères de Rigauville the seigneury of Berthier-en-Haut for 6,000 livres. He intended this to be a profitable investment. In 1721 he explained that, “having already spent much to provide his habitants with needed sawmills and grist mills,” the addition of a church would suffice to attract a full complement of settlers to his lands. Whatever meaning may be imputed to this typical diversion of commercial capital to land, it did not represent any dampening of the acquisitive instinct or abandonment of business principles. In this regard it is significant that until his death in 1743 Lestage remained active in the fur trade and continued to live in Montreal. There he owned two stone houses, two urban lots, and two small farms.
Mme de Lestage was New England born, but when only seven had been captured by Abenakis with her mother and her sister Mary Sayward* and ransomed in Canada. Three years after her husband’s death, she formed a business partnership with her nephew, Pierre-Noel Courthiau, but this was dissolved in 1750. At a later date she became a boarder at the Congregation of Notre-Dame, where she had been raised as a child. She died there in 1770 at the age of 86. Courthiau left Montreal after the conquest, settling at Bayonne in France, the home of Pierre de Lestage’s sister and only heir, Marie. It was from this town that Pierre and Jean had set out in search of fortune in the last years of the 17th century.
[AN, Col., C11A, 125, pp.365–70 (PAC transcripts). ANQ, Greffe de Nicolas Boisseau, 22 oct. 1741; Greffe de Louis Chambalon, 9 nov. 1708, 24 oct. 1710, 14, 18 nov. 1713; Greffe de J.-É. Dubreuil, 24 oct. 1729; Greffe de C.-H. Du Laurent, 13 nov. 1742, 10 juill. 1747; Greffe de Jean de Latour, 28 oct. 1739; AP, Pierre de Lestage, 1717. Bibliothèque municipale de Bayonne, France, État civil, Notre-Dame de Bayonne, 8 févr. 1682. PAC, MG 24, L3, pp.19740–62.
“Correspondance de Mme Bégon” (Bonnault), APQ Rapport, 1934-35, 37, 42. Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), I, 452. (Shortt incorrectly identifies Lestage as a notary on the grounds that he frequently represented persons before the courts. In this he confuses Pierre with his brother Jean de Lestage, who in his capacity as Quebec businessman, and not as a notary, frequently represented Montreal businessmen in suits. The ordinance signed “Lestage” and published by Shortt, was probably signed by Jean in his capacity of king’s writer. See also: Philéas Gagnon, “Noms propres au Canada-français,” BRH, XV (1909), 47, and P.-V. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” BRH, XX (1914), 180.)
Edits ord., I, 280–84; II, 581–83. L’île de Montréal en 1731 (A. Roy). Jug. et délib. Bonnault, “Le Canada militaire,” APQ Rapport, 1949-51. “Marguilliers de la paroisse de Notre-Dame de Ville-Marie de 1657 à 1913,” BRH, XIX (1913), 278. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Congés et permis déposés ou enregistrés à Montréal sous le régime français,” APQ Rapport, 1921-22, 189–225; “Inventaire des documents concernant les frères Charon,” APQ Rapport, 1923-24, 164–92; “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” APQ Rapport, 1929-30, 191–466. P.-G. Roy, “Congés de traite conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec,” APQ Rapport, 1922-23, 192–265; Inv. concessions; Inv jug. et délib., 1717–1760; Inv,. ord. int.; “Les ordonnances et lettres de change du gouvernement de Montréal en 1759,” APQ Rapport, 1924–25, 229–359. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 174; III, 314; V, 373. (Tanguay attributes to the Lestages one son who lived to adulthood, identifies him with a Pierre de Lestage of La Prairie who married Marie-Madeleine Rivet in 1737, and gives this latter Lestage the title of seigneur de Berthier. In all three instances he is in error. Lestage of La Prairie was probably a simple cultivator and appears frequently as an engagé in the lists of indentures and fur-trading licences drawn up by Massicotte and P.-G. Roy.) Frégault, Le XVIIIe siècle canadien. Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Histoire de la Congrégation de Notre-Dame, III, 274–77; V, 73–75. d.m.]