Denys, Nicolas

Nicolas Denys, trader, colonial promoter (b at Tours, France 1598; d 1688). A young La Rochelle merchant, Denys sailed for Acadia in 1632 with Isaac de RAZILLY, and spent the next 40 years trying to develop the colony. Many of his ventures were unsuccessful, and he suffered heavy losses from such commercial failures as his fishing establishments at Port Rossignol (Liverpool, Nova Scotia) in the 1630s and on Cape Breton Island in the 1650s. Other enterprises provoked conflicts with rival traders and he made a powerful enemy of colonial governor Charles de MENOU D'AULNAY.

In 1653 he acquired territory on the Gulf of St Lawrence from Canso to the Gaspé, including Cape Breton and the other gulf islands, with rights to land and government. Plans to bring settlers were never fulfilled, but he continued trading. About 1670, leaving his headquarters at Nepisiguit (BATHURST, NB) to his son Richard, Denys returned to France to publish his Description and Natural History of the Coasts of North America (1672; repr, ed W.F. Ganong, 1908). It is a vivid account of Acadia and a reminder that Denys, despite many reverses, promoted French colonial development there for 4 decades.