VILLAIN, JEAN-BAPTISTE, gold- and silversmith; fl. 1666–70.
The first census list of New France, drawn up in 1666, bears the name of Jean-Baptiste Villain, 19 years old, “gold- and silversmith working on the Île d’Orléans.” He was probably working on the land, and not at his trade. This very young craftsman has been mistaken for Jean Villain, who qualified as a master craftsman in Paris in 1670, was suspended in 1676 for complicity in a matter of false countermarks, and was debarred from the mastership in 1694. There is no proof that he came to Canada.
We next meet Jean-Baptiste Villain at Montreal. On 18 Oct. 1670 he was present as cousin of the fiancée at the signing of the private marriage contract concluded between Mathurin Bernier, a native of Bessay (near Luçon), and Jeanne Villain, “daughter of Jean Villain and of the late Jeanne Barbé, her father and mother, of the parish of Saint-Jacques-la-Boucherie in Paris.” Ten days later the parish priest of Notre-Dame in Montreal drew up the marriage certificate of the Berniers; in it Jeanne Villain is called “daughter of Jean Villain, master gold- and silversmith in Paris, and of Jeanne Barbé.” Jean-Baptiste Villain was present at the wedding as a cousin of Jeanne; his friend, the gunsmith-silversmith René Fézeret*, signed as a friend of the married couple.
Jean-Baptiste Villain declared in these two documents that he did not know how to write his name; moreover, his profession is not given. We have therefore only his declaration to the census taker in 1666 to support his claim to being a gold- and silversmith. That is not enough, for at his age when he arrived in New France he could scarcely claim to be anything other than an apprentice.
AJM, Actes sous seing privé, 1134; Régistre des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 28 oct. 1670. Recensement de 1666. Catalogue de l’orefèvrerie du XVIIe, du XVIIIe et du XIXe siècles (Paris, 1958), 14.