Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres

Last updated

Des Barres WalletDesBarres2.jpg
Des Barres

Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres (22 November 1721 [1] 24 or 27 October 1824) was a cartographer who served in the Seven Years' War, as the aide-de-camp to General James Wolfe. [2] He later went on to serve as the Lieutenant-Governor of Cape Breton and later as Lieutenant-Governor of Prince Edward Island.


Des Barres also created the monumental four volume Atlantic Neptune , which was the most important collection of maps, charts and views of North America published in the eighteenth century. [3] Colonel Des Barres is buried with his wife in the crypt of St. George's (Round) Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Early life

Des Barres, who is seen as having lived through important changes in Nova Scotia's history, is thought to have been born in Basel, Switzerland, and was a member of a Huguenot family. His parents were Joseph-Leonard Vallet DesBarres and Anne-Catherine Cuvier and he was the eldest of their three children. Des Barres read mathematics and art at the University of Basel, studying under John and Daniel Bernoulli. Upon the completion of his studies he left for England. [4] :112 There he enrolled at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. It was there that Des Barres trained to become a military officer, and studied military surveying. His training would also benefit him later in life for surveying, map making, and coastal charting. In 1756 he was commissioned into the Royal Americans (the 62nd Foot later known as the 60th Foot). [2] [4] :112

Seven Years' War

Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres Monument, St. George's (Round) Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres Monument, St. George's Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia.jpg
Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres Monument, St. George's (Round) Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia

In 1756 Des Barres sailed to North America and was with Edward Boscawen's fleet when it attacked the Fortress of Louisbourg in 1758. He distinguished himself by capturing a French entrenchment at Kennington Cove. [4] :54 Soon he was put to work charting the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the approaches to Quebec, information that would be used the following year in Wolfe's assault on the City of Quebec. In 1760 he was at Halifax to prepare plans for the city's defences and naval yard.

Jonathan Binney and DesBarres met the Mi'kmaw chiefs at Arichat, Nova Scotia, in 1761, and concluded a lasting peace. [5]

By 1762 he was sent to Newfoundland to survey Harbour Grace and Carbonear and to draw up plans for new harbour defences to replace those destroyed by the French. James Cook was sent as his assistant. (Des Barres may have met Cook earlier at either Louisbourg or Halifax.) [4] :111

Castle Frederick

Des Barres established an 8,000-acre (3,200 ha) estate at Falmouth, Nova Scotia, known as Castle Frederick, which served as his base of operations from 1764 until he returned to England in 1773. The 1770 Nova Scotia census indicates Castle Frederick had a staff of 41 men, 13 women, 5 boys, and 33 girls. [6] One of the women, Mary Cannon, served as housekeeper and manager of Castle Frederick from 1764 to 1794. She also administered tenant farmers on Des Barres' land holdings of 20,000 acres (8,100 ha) in Tatamagouche, 40,000 acres (16,000 ha) in New Brunswick and approximately 15,000 acres (6,100 ha) in Maccan, Nappan, and Minudie. [7] His Tatamagouche holdings formed the western coastal boundary of the Philadelphia grant. [8]

Atlantic Neptune

Des Barres made many maps of the Atlantic, mapping the coast of North American from Newfoundland to New York. His survey of the coast of Nova Scotia took approximately ten years due its length and intricacy. Des Barres was exasperated with the work stating "There is scarcely any known shore so much intersected with Bays, Harbours, and Creeks as this is" "and the Offing of it is so full of Islands, Rocks, and Shoals as are almost innumerable." [4] :115 The survey work was carried out in the summer and in the winter he would retire to Castle Frederick to complete his charts and drawings. His most notable work is the Atlantic Neptune. In 1774 under direction for the British Admiralty, Des Barres compiled and edited his and many others' charts and maps of eastern North America. The completed work was published in 1777, having cost the Admiralty an estimated £100,000. [4] :187


Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres with Atlantic Neptune maps, Sydney, Nova Scotia Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres Statue, Sydney, Nova Scotia.jpg
Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres with Atlantic Neptune maps, Sydney, Nova Scotia

To accommodate the arrival of the United Empire Loyalists, Cape Breton was created as a separate colony from Nova Scotia (as was New Brunswick) and Des Barres served as the lieutenant governor of Cape Breton from 1784 to 1787. He laid out the original plan of the capital, Sydney. [9] He was later governor of Prince Edward Island from 1804 to 1812. Dalhousie University has a number of items of Colonel Des Barres in one of its archive collections.[ citation needed ]

He died at the age of 102, and his date of death is variously given as 24 and 27 October. Colonel Des Barres is buried St. George's (Round) Church, Halifax, Nova Scotia. While he was buried beside his wife Martha, he was survived by his mistress Mary Cannon and their four children. [10] His funeral took place in St. George's Round Church in 1824.[ citation needed ]



The following roads are named after DesBarres:

See also

Related Research Articles

Cape Breton Island Island in Nova Scotia

Cape Breton Island is an island on the Atlantic coast of North America and part of the province of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sydney, Nova Scotia Community in Nova Scotia, Canada

Sydney is a former city and current community located in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Canada. Situated on Cape Breton Island's east coast, it belongs administratively to the Cape Breton Regional Municipality. Sydney was founded in 1785 by the British, was incorporated as a city in 1904, and dissolved on 1 August 1995, when it was amalgamated into the regional municipality.

Tatamagouche Village in Nova Scotia, Canada

Tatamagouche is a village in Colchester County, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Michael Francklin Canadian politician

Michael Francklin or Franklin served as Nova Scotia's Lieutenant Governor from 1766–1772. He is buried in the crypt of St. Paul's Church (Halifax).

Province House (Nova Scotia) Nova Scotia

Province House in Halifax is where the Nova Scotia legislative assembly, known officially as the Nova Scotia House of Assembly, has met every year since 1819, making it the longest serving legislative building in Canada. The building is Canada's oldest house of government. Standing three storeys tall, the structure is considered one of the finest examples of Palladian architecture in North America.

Edward Cornwallis 18th-century British Army general

Edward Cornwallis was a British career military officer and was a member of the aristocratic Cornwallis family, who reached the rank of Lieutenant General. After Cornwallis fought in Scotland, putting down the Jacobite rebellion of 1745, he was appointed Groom of the Chamber for King George II. He was then made Governor of Nova Scotia (1749–1752), one of the colonies in North America, and assigned to establish the new town of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Later Cornwallis returned to London, where he was elected as MP for Westminster and married the niece of Robert Walpole, Great Britain's first Prime Minister. Cornwallis was next appointed as Governor of Gibraltar.

St. Pauls Church (Halifax) Church in Nova Scotia, Canada

St. Paul's Church is an evangelical Anglican church in downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia, within the Diocese of Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island of the Anglican Church of Canada. It is located at the south end of the Grand Parade, an open square in downtown Halifax with Halifax City Hall at the northern end.

Old Burying Ground (Halifax, Nova Scotia) cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Old Burying Ground is a historic cemetery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. It is located at the intersection of Barrington Street and Spring Garden Road in Downtown Halifax.

Guysborough, Nova Scotia (community) Village in Nova Scotia, Canada

Guysborough is an unincorporated Canadian community in Guysborough County, Nova Scotia.

Siege of Louisbourg (1745) siege

The Siege of Louisbourg took place in 1745 when a New England colonial force aided by a British fleet captured Louisbourg, the capital of the French province of Île-Royale during the War of the Austrian Succession, known as King George's War in the British colonies.

Cole Harbour (Guysborough), Nova Scotia human settlement in Nova Scotia, Canada

Cole Harbour is a community in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, located in Guysborough County.

This is a bibliography of major works on Nova Scotia.

Scatarie Island island in Nova Scotia, Canada

Scatarie Island is an island in the Canadian province of Nova Scotia, located off the coast of Baleine, Cape Breton Island.

Military history of Nova Scotia Provincial military history

Nova Scotia is a Canadian province located in Canada's Maritimes. The region was initially occupied by Mi'kmaq. During the first 150 years of European settlement, the colony was primarily made up of Catholic Acadians, Maliseet and Mi'kmaq. During the latter seventy-five years of this time period, there were six colonial wars that took place in Nova Scotia. After agreeing to several peace treaties, this long period of warfare ended with the Burial of the Hatchet Ceremony between the British and the Mi'kmaq (1761) and two years later when the British defeated the French in North America (1763). During these wars, Acadians, Mi'kmaq and Maliseet from the region fought to protect the border of Acadia from New England. They fought the war on two fronts: the southern border of Acadia, which New France defined as the Kennebec River in southern Maine. The other front was in Nova Scotia and involved preventing New Englanders from taking the capital of Acadia, Port Royal, establishing themselves at Canso.

Atlantic Neptune atlas of North America, published in the eighteenth century

The Atlantic Neptune is a monumental four volume atlas which was the most important collection of maps, charts and views of North America published in the eighteenth century. It was created by Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet Des Barres.

Outline of Nova Scotia Overview of and topical guide to Nova Scotia

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Nova Scotia:

Mary Vingoe is a Canadian playwright, actor, and theatre director. Vingoe was one of the co-founders of Canadian feminist theatre company Nightwood Theatre and later co-founded Ship's Company Theatre in Parrsboro and Eastern Front Theatre in Halifax. From 2002 to 2007, Vingoe was artistic director of the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. Vingoe is an Officer of the Order of Canada and received the Portia White Prize. Her play Refuge was a shortlisted nominee for the Governor General's Award for English-language drama at the 2016 Governor General's Awards.

Richard Gibbons was a British jurist and politician who served as the chief justice of the Colony of Cape Breton, from 1785 until 1788 and again from 1791 until his 1794 death in Nantes, France. Gibbons was a significant figure in the founding of the Colony of Cape Breton and was an ally of its first lieutenant-governor, Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres. He was later removed from office by DesBarres' successor William Macarmick, only to be restored after three years and selling of all of his property to advocate on his own behalf. Gibbons never returned to Cape Breton following his restoration, as he and his family were captured and put in a French prison during their return. Gibbons died in the French prison, while his family survived and returned to Cape Breton after their release.

The Raid on Charlottetown took place on 17-18 November 1775 as part of the Washington's first naval expedition during the American Revolutionary War. The raid involved two American privateers of the Marblehead Regiment attacking and pillaging Charlottetown. As a result of the expedition, the Governor of Nova Scotia Francis Legge declared martial law throughout the colony. The raid resulted in a diplomatic crisis for George Washington when the privateers overstepped their orders and took prisoner the Acting Governor, the Naval Commander and the Surveyor General of the colony.

Philadelphia grant

The Philadelphia grant describes 200,000 acres (81,000 ha) of land along the south shore of the Northumberland Strait between Tatamagouche and Pictou, Nova Scotia. Following expulsion of the Acadians, the British government distributed Acadian land to various landlords under the condition those landlords oversee repopulation of those lands with colonists loyal to King George III of the United Kingdom.


  1. French, Josephine, ed. (1999). Tooley's Dictionary of Mapmakers. Tring, England: Map Collector Publications Limited. p. 360. ISBN   0906430143.
  2. 1 2 Morgan, R. J. (1987). "DesBarres, Joseph Frederick Wallet". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography . VI (1821–1835) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  3. The Atlantic Neptune Lloyd A. Brown The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography Vol. 67, No. 4 (Oct., 1943), pp. 377-381 Published by: The Historical Society of Pennsylvania
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Jerry Lockett. Captain James Cook in Atlantic Canada. The adventurer & Map Maker's Formative Years. Formac Publishing Company Limited, Halifax, NS. 2011.
  5. Obituary
  6. 1770 census of Falmouth, Nova Scotia
  7. Kernaghan, Lois. "A Man and his Mistress: J.F.W. DesBarres and Mary Cannon" . Retrieved 1 May 2017.
  8. Patterson, George (1877). A History of the County of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Montreal: Dawson Brothers. p. 53.
  9. Douglas B. Foster, "Des Barres the Town Planner" The Nova Scotia Historical Quarterly, Volume 5, Number 2, 1985
  10. Kernaghan, Lois (1987). "Cannon, Mary". In Halpenny, Francess G (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography . VI (1821–1835) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.

Further reading

  • Robert J, Morgan, "Des Barres the Founder"
  • Stephen B. MacPhee, "Des Barres and His Contemporary Mapmakers"
  • Douglas B. Foster, "Des Barres the Town Planner"
  • Lois K. Kernaghan, "'A Most Excentric Genius': The Private Life of J. F. W. Des Barres"
  • Mary Ellen Wright, "'You come late Monsieur le'Governor. Why you not come before?'"