MARTEL, RAYMOND, merchant of Quebec, partner of Augustin Le Gardeur de Courtemanche in the development of Labrador; b. 1663, son of Pierre Martel de Berhouague and Jeanne de Hargon of Bastide-Clérance in Navarre (diocese of Bayonne); d. 1 Nov. 1708 at Saint-François, Île-Jésus.
There is no record of when Martel came to New France. He first appears in July 1697 as a witness to the marriage contract between Courtemanche and Marie-Charlotte Charest, widow of his elder brother, Pierre-Gratien Martel de Brouague. This document marks the beginning of an association which, although it resulted in complicated legal and financial difficulties, ultimately was concluded to the satisfaction of both men.
It appears that before her second marriage, Marie Charet possessed considerable financial assets, probably inherited from her first husband. On 14 Aug. 1697 she signed an agreement with Courtemanche whereby he and Raymond Martel were authorized to use her money for business purposes. On 23 October the two men entered into a commercial partnership with François Provost for the export of furs to France. By 1700, after a large outlay of capital, the enterprise had failed.
In 1702 the creditors of Martel and Courtemanche descended upon them in full force. Martel, who apparently had handled most of the business arrangements, was ordered by the Conseil Souverain to produce letters of exchange and notes for money owed to various merchants of La Rochelle. This he was unable to do, so both debtors and creditors sought arbitration before the Conseil Souverain.
The legal proceedings dragged on intermittently for nearly three years. In the meantime the two men were not inactive. In 1701 they had jointly purchased the Lachenaie seigneury from Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye and, that same year, resolved to establish a fishing and trading post on the Labrador coast. There is no way of knowing whose idea the latter project was but, as before, it was Martel who worked out the practical details. On 31 Oct. 1701 he asked Callière for permission to send ships and canoes to Labrador “to win over the Eskimos who are very unapproachable . . . and to see whether one could not establish trade with them.” The following year he borrowed 12,178 livres, asked the minister of Marine for a ship to be put at his disposal, and obtained from the king cannon, powder, and balls for the Labrador fort.
As fast as Courtemanche, and particularly Martel, spent money, claims were filed against them. In 1703 both their wives, probably at their instigation, sued to the Conseil Souverain for the division of their husbands’ estates, claiming that neither had had the right to risk the wife’s portion if it jeopardized the livelihood of their families. The two women won their point, and Madame Courtemanche was able to get her agreement with her husband declared null and void on the grounds that when she signed it she was still a minor.
On 3 Dec. 1702 Martel ceded to Courtemanche his share in the Labrador post and all claims to the fishing and trading concession. Although for some time afterwards he continued to act as Courtemanche’s agent in Quebec, this effectively ended his active participation in the development of Labrador. In return, it seems that Courtemanche surrendered his share of the Lachenaie seigneury, for Martel was in sole possession of it by 1707.
As a seigneur Martel again demonstrated his business acumen. On 17 Jan. 1708 he requested that the lieutenant-general of Montreal force his tenants to limit themselves to the land allotted to them. From that time until his death he systematically reviewed their contracts, drawing up new ones whenever he deemed it necessary.
On 1 Nov. 1708 Martel died, leaving his wife, Marie-Anne Trottier, whom he had married in 1697, and three children, Nicolas, Louise-Catherine, and Pierre. He left his family deeply in debt, for seven years after his death the Lachenaie property was seized and awarded to Pierre Legardeur de Repentigny.
Martel’s place in the history of New France is small but significant. His brief career illustrates the resourceful, and sometimes unscrupulous, business dealing that frequently took place behind the scenes in the exploration and development of French North America. The achievements of men like Courtemanche owed much to the daring and enterprise of merchants like Martel.
AJQ, Greffe de François Genaple, 14 août 1697. AN, Col., B, 23, ff.50–52; C11A, 19, ff.23–25; 20, f.63v. Documents relating to Canadian currency during the French period (Shortt), I, 117–21. G.B., Privy Council, Judicial Committee, In the matter of the boundary between the Dominion of Canada and the colony of Newfoundland in the Labrador peninsula . . . (12v., London, 1926–27), VII, 3680–82. Jug. et délib., IV, 913–14, 922, 925, 951, 966, 990–93, 998, 1020; V, 5, 7, 10–21, 53, 90–93, 116, 145, 274–76, 283–84. A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., XVII, 23, 25, 26; XVIII, 348, 350; XIX, 25, 66, 178. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I, 264–65, 268; V, 173. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 414; V, 528–29.