THIBODEAU (Thibaudeau), SIMON, potter; b. c. 1739 in Pisiquid (Windsor, N.S.), son of Alexis Thibodeau and Marie-Anne Blanchard; d. 24 Oct. 1819 in Saint-Denis, on the Richelieu, Lower Canada.
The Thibodeaus, like many Acadian families, were deported in 1755 [see Charles Lawrence*] and ended up in Philadelphia, Pa. They went to live in Boston, Mass., around 1763, and then in 1770 settled at Quebec. Simon Thibodeau probably accompanied his family in all its moves and did his apprenticeship in the Thirteen Colonies with Pierre Vincent, a relative who was also in exile.
In 1774 Thibodeau, who was a master potter by then, was living in the faubourg Saint-Roch; there he bought a frame-house that was “falling into ruins,” likely with the intent of setting up shop. On 12 June 1775, at Quebec, he married Marie-Anne Drolet, daughter of a master blacksmith. In the autumn of that year he enlisted in the Canadian militia of Quebec, and in December he joined his fellow citizens in repulsing the attack by the American forces under Richard Montgomery*.
In 1776 Thibodeau displayed his business sense when he decided to leave Quebec, where there were already several potters, and to buy a lot at Saint-Denis for a workshop. He was in this way recognizing the possibilities of the region for a potter: it was a prosperous rural area within easy reach of the Montreal market via the St Lawrence and of the United States via the Richelieu; it also had abundant greyish-blue clay along the banks of the river as well as in the open fields just a foot below the surface.
At Saint-Denis Thibodeau, who was well informed about both domestic demand and the requirements of the American market, put his capabilities as a businessman and a meticulous craftsman to use in his enterprise. In 1785 he sold his first site at Saint-Denis to Louis Robichaud, who was also a master potter, and moved to the riverside, where the clay was of better quality and easier to extract.
The potter’s craft included the tasks of extracting the clay, fashioning the pieces, drying, glazing, and firing. Although shaping the articles and preparing the solution for glazing remained the prerogatives of the master, the other tasks could be carried out by apprentices. With this in mind Thibodeau in 1779 took on Joseph Leprince for 6 years, and then in 1788 engaged Nicolas Prévot for 12 years. Thibodeau’s workshop made terrines, bowls, pitchers, and jars for household use, to meet the needs of the habitants, who used earthenware for preparing, cooking, and preserving food.
Thibodeau’s business was highly prosperous, and he invested his money in real estate. In 1783 he obtained a site in the faubourg Saint-Roch at Quebec from the Jesuits and the following year had it surveyed with a view to putting up a house. In 1788 he rented this house, to which he added a stable, to his brother-in-law François Coupeaux, and in 1815 sold it for £240. Thibodeau also rented his other house in the faubourg Saint-Roch to a master cooper. In addition he purchased a farm, a woodlot to supply his kilns with fuel, and pieces of land in the Saint-Denis region.
In his private as in his professional life Thibodeau associated mainly with members of his family and other craftsmen. In particular he continued to maintain relations with Pierre Vincent, who became to some degree his agent at Quebec, assuming responsibility for collecting his rentals. At Saint-Denis he struck up a friendship with Louis Bourdages*, a notary and member of the assembly, who was the son of Acadians; in 1810 Bourdages wrote and promoted the sale of a “seditious” pamphlet entitled Le sincère ami, to which Thibodeau subscribed.
Thibodeau’s wife, Marie-Anne, died on 6 June 1816. She had borne six children, four of whom died in infancy. Thibodeau then had an inventory drawn up of his assets. He possessed more than 15,000 livres in Spanish piastres. In addition he held several loans and four pieces of land in the Richelieu valley. His house was very large, comparable in size to the homes of the prominent villagers; his furniture was well made, and his possessions gave proof of his wealth and easy circumstances. A year after his wife’s death Thibodeau, who had given up his workshop, made a gift of everything he owned to his son Joseph, a merchant in Saint-Denis. In return he asked Joseph to provide him with board and lodging and to supply him with a horse every year. He also enjoined his son to take care of him and to secure for him the comforts of religion.
Simon Thibodeau died on 24 Oct. 1819 and was buried the next day at Saint-Denis. No one in his family had taken over the workshop to carry on his line of production; but Saint-Denis had, under Thibodeau, become a place favoured by potters and it would continue to be so long after his death.
[The author is grateful to Simon Courcy and Daniel Villeneuve for kindly lending documentation relating to their work “Simon Thibaudeau, marchand-potier à Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu (1776–1819),” a dissertation on ethnography presented at Université Laval in 1973. j.r.]
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