SABREVOIS DE BLEURY, CLÉMENT DE, seigneur and merchant; baptized 16 July 1702 at Boucherville (Que.), son of Jacques-Charles de Sabrevois* and Jeanne Boucher; d. 18 April 1781 at Montreal.
Although he came from a military family, Clément de Sabrevois de Bleury did not follow his brothers Charles de Sabrevois and Christophe de Sabrevois de Sermonville into the colonial regular troops. He turned instead to commerce. Early in 1726 he formed a five-year partnership with Claude de Ramezay*’s widow, Marie-Charlotte Denys de La Ronde, to exploit a sawmill erected by her husband in the seigneury of Chambly. Because of his connections with the Bouchers and the Hertels, Bleury moved easily among the leaders of Montreal society. The list of witnesses to his marriage contract with Charlotte Guichard, signed on 19 Aug. 1728 at Montreal, reads like a directory to the military, commercial, and seigneurial élite of the town. By 1731 Bleury had entered a partnership with Louis Lepage* de Sainte-Claire to supply shipyards in the colony with planking, and as encouragement Intendant Hocquart allowed them to cut 2,000 cubic feet of oak from seigneuries that did not belong to them. In 1732 Bleury exploited the timber in the seigneuries of Chambly and Longueuil. He also ventured into intercolonial trade when the same year he joined his father-in-law, Jean Guichard, in building a 76-ton brigantine at Chambly which they sent to Martinique with a cargo of foodstuffs. Bleury made no further moves in this direction, however. He appears cautious and preferred to keep his enterprises closer to home, where greater personal supervision could be maintained.
In April 1733 he and his brother Charles obtained concessions on the Richelieu River, but they were interested only in harvesting the timber and in 1741 the two seigneuries, Bleury and Sabrevois, were retroceded to the crown for their holders’ failure to encourage settlement. Bleury entered a long-term partnership in 1734 with his uncle Jean-Baptiste Boucher* de Niverville to erect and exploit a sawmill in the seigneury of Chambly. Bleury agreed to advance the required funds while his uncle supplied the land and timber. Four years later Bleury contracted with Pierre Lupien*, dit Baron, to supply timber to the government shipyards at Quebec. Bleury’s cautious approach to trade was again revealed as he began to diversify his interests despite the flourishing state of his timber enterprises.
During the 1740s he bought lands and annuities and he also began to furnish supplies and transportation services to the government. Between 1740 and 1748 he purchased at least five pieces of land in the seigneury of Chambly near Île Sainte-Thérèse. He also loaned money and cashed annuities and bonds. In 1743 he supplied transportation to the government worth 7,654 livres; four years later the value of these services had grown to 48,263 livres. In 1747 also he supplied the government with goods worth 83,104 livres, over half the total value of purchases by the crown at Montreal. In brief, Bleury had become an exceedingly prosperous merchant.
He had lived at Chambly since his marriage, but in 1746 he purchased a town lot in Montreal on Rue Saint-Gabriel and soon moved with his family into a new house there to be closer to the government offices. Four years later he and his brother Charles succeeded in regaining the seigneuries retroceded nine years before and, in order to prevent a repetition of their loss, the two men went to France where they obtained royal warrants ratifying the new grants. Bleury’s rise to social prominence culminated in 1754 when two of his children, Jean-Clément and Marguerite, were married in a magnificent double wedding ceremony at Montreal. The chief witnesses were Governor Duquesne and Intendant Bigot, and the other guests included members of most of the important families in Canada.
With the outbreak of the Seven Years’ War and the decision to fortify the Lake Champlain approaches to the colony, Bleury entered his element. He became chief of the intendant’s transportation services in the region. His enormous fleet of bateaux, each built to carry three tons of cargo, moved regularly between forts Saint-Jean and Carillon (Ticonderoga, N.Y.). In 1756 Bougainville* claimed that the “admiral on Lake Champlain” was receiving 18 sols on every pound of freight carried for the crown. Since between 22 Sept. and 25 Oct. 1756 Bleury sent 179 bateaux to Carillon, his potential gross revenues from freight alone were immense. In addition the bateaux carried goods and supplies to be sold for his own account. To what degree Bleury earned profits from these activities cannot yet be determined. Some time in 1757 he withdrew from them but recurring illness rather than commercial difficulties may have been the reason; in 1749 he had nearly died from an infection.
After the conquest Bleury further curtailed his activities. In 1764 he sold the seigneuries of Bleury and Sabrevois to Gabriel Christie and Moses Hazen*. His private income appears to have been substantial, since thereafter he lived in quiet retirement on Rue Saint-Gabriel. Bleury was a successful merchant, but not a risk-taking entrepreneur. His ventures were of a local nature, often in association with his relatives, and his greatest success probably resulted from his connections with government officials.
AN, Col., C11A, 60, ff.406–8; F2B, II. Bégon, “Correspondance” (Bonnault), ANQ Rapport, 1934–35, 1–277. Bougainville, “Journal” (A.-E. Gosselin), ANQ Rapport, 1923–24, 202–393. Coll. des manuscrits de Lévis (Casgrain), IX. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, IV; Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–60, VI. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, VII. J.-N. Fauteux, Essai sur l’industrie. Mathieu, La construction navale. Cameron Nish, Les bourgeois-gentilshommes de la Nouvelle-France, 1729–1748 (Montréal et Paris, 1968). É.-Z. Massicotte, “Les Sabrevois, Sabrevois de Sermonville et Sabrevois de Bleury,” BRH, XXXI (1925), 77–84.