John LeBoutillier, originally from the Isle of Jersey in the English Channel, became a very successful Gaspé merchant and political figure. He was originally employed by the Robin Company, important fish merchants, where he learned the skills of the cod fish trade. He later formed his own company (1839) and carried on very successfully, in this same trade. Gaspé was a very important centre for the fish industry, exporting its products to locations such as Italy, Portugal, Spain, the United States and the United Kingdom. So important was this trade that 11 countries, including Italy, established consulates in Gaspé.
Not only was LeBoutillier a skilled businessman, he was also involved in the political realm and became an important figure in his position as a member of the House of Commons for Lower Canada. Issues that he and his colleagues would grapple with included responsible government, the abolition of the seigneurial system as well as the choice of a national capital.
LeBoutillier, being a savvy businessman, used his position in Government to his advantage, but he was also a civic minded individual who promoted the development of Gaspé. To his credit, both as Justice of the Peace and as a member of parliament, he spent his energies promoting Gaspé in vital issues of the day. He was responsible for improving transportation, sponsoring education and improving the justice system, one such measure the creation of a prison in Percé.
LeBoutillier became a major land holder in Gaspé, choosing Gaspé Bay as the centre of operations (1846). LeBoutillier built a home (Fort Ramsay) for himself in an area of Gaspé known as Gaspé Harbour which still stands today converted into a restaurant.
It must be noted that LeBoutillier, as statesman and Politician, was very much involved in the planning of the creation of a new country separate from Great Britain. He must have been an important participant in these issues as he was host to these “Fathers of Confederation” as they met with him at his home in Gaspé as they journeyed to Charlottetown to discuss their proposals with the maritime colonies.
Later in his political life John LeBoutillier became a Senator and died in Gaspé on July 31, 1872. He must be considered a man who was not only an accomplished businessman, but also important to the development of Gaspé and his country.
Fabien Sinnett and Mario Mimeault, Gaspé through the Years.
Thomas Pye, Canadian Scenery: District of Gaspé. (James Caputo Collection)