A Blupete Biography Page


"Baptiste"
(1663-1714+).

Baptiste is the nickname of Pierre Maisonnat, a Frenchman born in Bergerac, France. I do not know why, or when, Baptiste came to North America, but his name first appears in the historical record of 1692: he was listed as coming to the sanctuary of Port Royal with a prize in tow. In addition to sailing out of Port Royal, Baptiste frequented the French ports of St John and Beaubassin. (St John, today, is a bustling Canadian City in New Brunswick; Beaubassin, was a name for the busy Acadian community which I believe was situated along the mouths of the Herbert and Maccon rivers of present day Nova Scotia; where it was, there exists now, but an unoccupied meadow. Beaubassin is no more, but its occupants of the 17th and 18th centuries have left their marks: earthen dikes run along the shores of the Cumberland Basin, and along the lower reaches of both the Herbert and Maccon rivers.)

In the season of 1692, during a six month period, Baptiste captured nine English vessels, some within the sight of the citizens of Boston. Frontenac, the Governor of New France, was so impressed with Baptiste that he sent him to Paris so that he might tell of his adventures to the Minister of Marine. The minister must have been equally impressed, for, in 1694, Baptiste showed up, in all his glory, in charge of the corvette, La Bonne, adorned with French flags and bristling with French cannon. Soon he was off to his mission; and soon again, he brought back to Acadia five prizes captured off the coast of New England. To the British Royal navy, Baptiste then became a marked man.

In 1695, two English war ships bottled the La Bonne up in Musquash (a harbour just southwest of the present day St John); Baptiste and his crew holed and deserter her, then took to the woods. With the Treaty of Ryswick, Baptiste had to quit actively preying on British shipping. He was, however, hired by the French authorities to enforce the provision in the treaty which forbade the New Englanders from fishing within sight of Acadian lands.1 In this regard, Baptiste brought in one New England fishing vessel after another, until he came up against a force stronger then he could muster; he was brought in irons to Boston and was a prisoner there, as was noted, in the year 1702. The people of Boston were for hanging him but a "new" war broke out between England and France, a turn of events, which turned him from a pirate into a prisoner of war. He was kept under supervision until 1706 when he was freed in an exchange for a prominent New Englander which the Indians had captured. In those days prisoners were valuable trading commodities. Baptiste was traded for the Reverend John Williams who had been taken by the Abenaki and their French leaders in their murderous on raid Deerfield, Massachusetts, in 1704.2

Upon his release from Boston, Baptiste was named as port captain at Beaubassin which kept him at home; which, likely suited him, as had a new wife and a young family.3 During the following years Baptiste continued to be involved with the outfitting of privateers and with sailing his vessel on the Port Royal\Placentia run. When, in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht obliged the French to vacant their settlements in Newfoundland, Baptiste lent a hand in the transfer of the occupants of those settlements; and, indeed, was instrumental in the choosing of the site on which Louisbourg was to be built. (See Founding of Louisbourg.) In the census of Beaubassin taken August 29th, 1714, Baptiste, "M. Maisonat" and his wife Maguerite were counted; its the last reference to Baptiste in the record that this writer could find.

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FOOTNOTES:

[1] Parkman, A Half Century of Conflict, vol. 1, p. 7.

[2] For a further reference on the Deerfield raid, see short biography on Jean-Baptiste Hertel.

[3] According to Arsenault Baptiste married twice: first in France, around 1685, to Judith Soubirou; and then again to a widow, Marguerite Bourgeois at Beaubassin, on 12th January 1707. There were five children born to the first union, 1686 to 1699, two of them boys: Pierre (1698) and Jean (1699). Judith died at Port Royal in 1703, during a time when Baptiste was a prisoner at Boston. Some have thought that Baptiste was a bigamist, having, in addition to his Acadian wife, wives in Quebec, France and in Holland.

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Peter Landry
(1997-2001)