Quebec: who was Pierre Boucher, the “savior” of New France?

Pierre Boucher, the son of a carpenter, became the governor of Trois-Riviere. His bronze statue adorns the façade of the Quebec Parliament. Pierre Boucher, born in 1622 in Mortagne-au-Perche, is that the foremost illustrious of the Percherons of the Belle Province. At only 13 years old, this carpenter’s son left his country alongside his parents Gaspard and Nicole, who left to undertake their luck on the shores of St. Lawrence.

Arriving in Quebec in 1635, the young Pierre had the Canadian immensity as a horizon. He quickly began to explore it, accompanying the Jesuits for four years on the lands of the Hurons, allies of the French. Over the years, Boucher learned the language of the Amerindians and became a “traducement” (interpreter). This was a key function in this colony that relied heavily on exchanges with the natives. From the 1640s on, the colonists had to contend with Iroquois warriors, who were themselves supported by the Dutch and English, who were established further south. Boucher took part in the confrontations. He was noticed and appointed clerk at the fur trading post of Trois-Rivières, between Quebec and Montreal, then a captain in charge of its defense. In 1653, the commander held the place against an Iroquois attack – “45 men against 600,” he says in his memoirs. This feat of arms earned him the title of governor of Trois-Rivières.

Pierre Boucher pleads the cause of the endangered colony to Louis XIV

His real hour of glory, however, came in 1662. As hostilities with the Iroquois threatened the existence of New France, Pierre Boucher accepted a mission: he left for Versailles to plead the cause of the endangered colony to Louis XIV and Colbert. On his way back, he passed through the Perche region of France, taking with him about fifteen more colonists.

Back in Quebec, Boucher wrote a booklet to praise the advantages of this distant land in the metropolis: L’Histoire véritable et naturelle des moeurs et productions du Pays de la Nouvelle-France, vulgairement dite le Canada, published in 1664. All of this aroused the interest of the king, who until then had been rather indifferent to the fate of the colony. In 1665, Louis XIV appointed an intendant to Quebec, placing the region under his direct authority. He dispatched a regiment of 1,200 men.

Pierre Boucher, the founder of Boucherville

Finally, he sent a thousand “Filles du Roy” to the colony, which at the time consisted almost entirely of men. These actions were decisive in maintaining the colony. And Pierre Boucher became the “savior of New France”. At the same time, the forty-year-old, now ennobled, left Trois-Rivières for his seigneury of the Perceived Islands, near Montreal. He quit his position as governor and then found a Boucherville, which he envisioned as an ideal place to be devoted to family, God and work. In 1717, when he died at the age of 95, his seigneury had about 500 inhabitants. The patriarch himself contributed to the settlement effort: he was the father of fifteen children. Today, Boucherville is a wealthy city of 40,000 inhabitants in the suburbs of Montreal. In 2022, for the 400th anniversary of his birth, a statue of Boucher, a reproduction of the one within the Quebec Parliament, is going to be erected in Mortagne, in his native Perche.