PERÉ, JEAN, merchant from La Rochelle, explorer, prospector, coureur de bois, interpreter, guide; d. some time after November 1699.
The first mention of Jean Peré in the archives of New France seems to have been made in a very vague way by the Jesuit Journal, which notes the arrival from France, 17 June 1660, of “Peré and other small merchants.”
In 1669 Intendant Talon gave 1,000 livres to Peré and 400 to Adrien Jolliet, and both set off “to go and reconnoitre to see whether the copper mine situated to the north of Lake Ontario . . . is rich and of easy extraction.” Peré however was apparently interested chiefly in the furs which he collected from among the Ottawa Indians and at Sault Ste. Marie. Talon complained that he was slow in fulfilling his mission and presenting a report on it. Finally it was learned that the explorer had discovered mines in the region around Lake Superior.
In 1677 Peré was at Cataracoui. In November 1679 Intendant Duchesneau accused him of being a coureur de bois: he informed the minister, Seignelay, that Peré, having been at Orange to sell his furs to the English, had been taken prisoner by the local governor and sent to Major Andros at Manate (Manhattan, N.Y.). The latter, added Duchesneau, had treated Peré very well, since he wanted to make use of him with a view to establishing trade relations with the Ottawas.
In 1684 Peré pushed on as far as Hudson Bay, where he was captured by the English. Two years later, during the attack on Fort Quichicouanne (Albany), the Chevalier de Troyes demanded that Peré be handed Over. But he was informed that the captive had been dispatched to France by way of England.
Peré, however, was not long in returning to Canada, where he won the favour of Governor de Brisay* de Denonville. He was a member of the latter’s expedition against the Iroquois and brought back a number of prisoners to him, among them the famous Indian chief Ourehouare. In 1690 he was thought of as a useful man for the foray planned against Manate; but that year he was at La Rochelle, in France, where he and his brother Arnaud were engaged in selling furs.
We find Jean Peré back at Quebec in 1692 and 1693, pleading a case before the Conseil Souverain. He seems to have returned to France subsequently, since at the time of a lawsuit opened in 1698 before the same tribunal he had a court Officer represent him and signed a power of attorney on 12 June 1699 at La Rochelle. These legal differences were debated at Quebec until March 1700. As Peré was still absent at this period, it is not known whether he was still alive.
He had given his name to a river that rises in Lake Nipigon and empties into the southwest end of James Bay. On a map Franquelin* noted: “R. du Perray which is the name of the first European to navigate this river as far as Hudson Bay.”
Coll. de manuscrits relatifs à la Nouv.-France, I, 409, 553, 558, 560; II, 5. Correspondance de Talon, APQ Rapport, 1930–1, 136f. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), I, 81, 88, 296; VI, 19; passim JR (Thwaites), XLV, XLVII, LV, passim. JJ (Laver-dière et Casgrain), passim. Jug. et délib. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), IX. Chapais, Talon, 406f. J. H. Coyne, “The pathfinders of the Great Lakes,” in Canada and its provinces (Shortt and Doughty), I, 83f. Delanglez, Jolliet. Nute, Caesars of the wilderness. P.-G Roy, “Jean Peré et Pierre Moreau dit la Taupine,” BRH, X (1904), 213–18.