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PÉLISSIER, CHRISTOPHE (the name was sometimes written Pellissier), king’s scrivener and director of the Saint-Maurice ironworks; b. 29 April 1728 in the parish of Saint-Pierre et Saint-Saturnin, Lyons, France, son of François-Christophe Pélissier, a merchant, and Agathe Martaud La Rigaudière; d. some time before 1800.

Christophe Pélissier seems to have come to Quebec about 1752 to work as king’s scrivener there. His first contact with the Saint-Maurice ironworks probably occurred in June 1756, when as attorney for Quebec merchant Jacques Zorn he bought a house belonging to Barthélemy Sicard, dit Marseille, in Trois-Rivières, where they were located. Zorn left Canada before paying him, however, and Pélissier was back in Trois-Rivières in June 1758 and February 1759 because of a lawsuit over the resale of the house and the sums due him. Although on 2 April 1759 Jacques Zorn was ordered to pay him 6,242 livres 10 sols, Pélissier recovered only 2,500 livres.

In March 1767 Pélissier drew up an inventory of the properties and machinery of the Saint-Maurice ironworks, which he and others wanted to rent. From 1760 to 1764 the ironworks had been administered by the military government and had produced appreciable quantities of iron. They had come under civil jurisdiction in September 1764; Hector Theophilus Cramahé, Governor Murray’s representative, had closed the enterprise down in the spring of 1765, dismissed the director, François Poulin de Courval, and the workmen, and left only a few soldiers on the premises. On 9 June 1767 Christophe Pélissier, Alexandre Dumas*, Thomas Dunn*, Benjamin Price*, Colin Drummond, Jean Dumas Saint-Martin, George Allsopp*, James Johnston, and Brook Watson* acquired a 16-year lease, signed by Guy Carleton* in the king’s name, to a large tract of land on which the Saint-Maurice ironworks stood; it included the fief and seigneury of Saint-Maurice and other pieces of adjoining land. They were granted the right to cut wood, to put up any necessary building, and to exploit all mineral resources except gold and silver, in exchange for an annual payment of £25 in province of Quebec currency (£18 15s. in British currency). The partners undertook to repair the existing buildings, which had been abandoned two years before. On 4 April 1771 Pélissier bought the shares belonging to Dunn, Drummond, Allsopp, and Watson; he had already obtained those of Johnston, who had acquired them in the name of the partnership he had formed with John Purss*. In 1771 the company spent more than £4,500 to restore the ironworks which were in poor repair and had successfully produced iron of superior quality. That year Pierre Fabre*, dit Laterrière, was appointed the shareholders’ agent in Quebec, with responsibility for selling their products there. Four years later he went to live at the ironworks as inspector. In his Mémoires he describes the spot as “a most pleasant one.” According to him the ironworks were bringing in “10 to 15 thousand louis in every seven-month season; expenses took two thirds of [this amount]; consequently each year the parties involved had the remaining third to share.” He was probably exaggerating since, according to Francis Maseres*, “the profits . . . have not answered the expectations of the undertakers, and have hardly even paid them their expences.”

Laterrière’s arrival at the ironworks marked, in a sense, the beginning of Pélissier’s misfortunes. On 16 Oct. 1758 Pélissier had married Marthe, the daughter of surgeon Gervais Baudouin*; she died in 1763. Some years later Pélissier wanted to take as his second wife Marie-Catherine*, the daughter of his friend, silversmith Ignace-François Delezenne. The marriage took place at Bécancour on 8 March 1775, apparently despite the opposition of the girl, who was not yet 20 and was in love with Laterrière. When the Americans invaded Canada in 1775–76 Pélissier, whom Laterrière described as a “strong supporter of John Wilkes and his system of freedom, [and] hence influenced . . . in favour of the Anglo-American rebels,” collaborated with the Americans, supplying, amongst other things, ammunition, bombs, and cannon-balls for the siege of Quebec; he also wrote to the Continental Congress on 8 Jan. 1776 to point out the measures they should take for a successful siege. The luck of the American armies changed, and, learning of Carleton’s displeasure with him, Pélissier thought it better to flee. On 7 June 1776 he left Trois-Rivières, taking with him “all his gold and silver, and a bill for advances made to the Congressional army amounting to 2,000 louis.” He went to the United States, where he got his money back, and worked for a time at Ticonderoga, New York, as an engineer, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel. He then returned to Lyons, France. Meanwhile, Laterrière ran the ironworks and Marie-Catherine went to live with him. The lovers had a daughter, Dorothée, in January 1778.

In the spring of that year Pélissier sent to M. Perras in Quebec a power of attorney to sell his share in the ironworks and to arrange for his wife and the children of his first marriage to go to France. Marie-Catherine refused to leave Laterrière and her daughter. Having received permission to return to Canada, Pélissier arrived in July to go over his accounts and endeavour to secure his wife’s return with him. While he and Laterrière were busy liquidating his business at the ironworks, he had Marie-Catherine abducted and shut up illegally. She succeeded in escaping and hid on the Île de Bécancour, which belonged to Laterrière, until Pélissier left in October. Before he left, the jealous husband, who was determined to separate the lovers, succeeded in revenging himself on Laterrière by getting him arrested on a charge of having collaborated with the Americans [see Ignace-François Delezenne]. Alexandre Dumas then took over direction of the ironworks until 1783.

Pélissier was never to return to Canada. On 18 Dec. 1799, “in view of the absence of the aforementioned Sieur Christophe Pélissier for more than 20 years,” the Jesuits took back the land granted to him in the seigneury of Cap-de-la-Madeleine on 29 April 1767. Pélissier was evidently dead by then, since on 10 Oct. 1799 Pierre Fabre, dit Laterrière, and Marie-Catherine Delezenne had been married, Marie-Catherine “having produced adequate proof of the death of the aforementioned Sieur Pélissier, her first husband.”

Despite his misadventures Pélissier did not leave only bad memories in Canada. He had often been generous to his workmen when he was director of the Saint-Maurice ironworks. On occasion he stood surety for his clerks, for example when Louis Bomer purchased a boat for 1,200 shillings; he agreed to lend 900 shillings to a “headstrong lad” who had been hired in his establishment and wanted to buy a piece of land; he gave 720 shillings as a dowry to a girl who had worked in his home “in consideration of good and faithful service”; finally, he pleaded on behalf of one of his workmen when the church refused to marry him. It also seems that for a long period he enjoyed the confidence of the colonial authorities, and of the religious and military dignitaries, whom he used to entertain with sumptuous suppers at the ironworks.

M.-F. Fortier

ANQ-MBF, État civil, Catholiques, La Nativité de Notre-Dame (Bécancour), 8 mars 1775; Greffe de J.-B. Badeaux, 22, 23 avril, 16 oct. 1771, 16 juin, 11 nov. 1772, 2 mai, 6 juill. 1773, 11 nov. 1774, 24 sept. 1778; Greffe de C.-L. Maillet, 14 mars 1772, 20 févr. 1775, 11 nov. 1780; Greffe de Louis Pillard, 4 juin 1756, 16 juin 1758, 27 juill. 1767. ANQ-Q, Greffe de Claude Barolet, 13 oct. 1758; Greffe de J.-A. Saillant, 4 avril 1771; Greffe de Charles Voyer, 18 déc. 1799. Archives municipales, Lyon (dép. du Rhône, France), État civil, Saint-Pierre et Saint-Saturnin, 30 avril 1728. Coll. of several commissions (Maseres), 221–33. Fabre, dit Laterrière, Mémoires (A. Garneau). P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, VI, 89, 91. Jouve, Les franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivères. Sulte, Mélanges historiques (Malchelosse), VI. Tessier, Les forges Saint-Maurice. “Catholics and the American revolution,” American Catholic Hist. Researches (Parkesburg, Pa.), new ser., III (1907), 144–49, 193–96.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

M.-F. Fortier, “PÉLISSIER, CHRISTOPHE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pelissier_christophe_4E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/pelissier_christophe_4E.html
Author of Article:   M.-F. Fortier
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   April 23, 2024