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Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres: Wikis


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Colonel Joseph Frederick Wallet DesBarres (November 22, 1721 – October 27, 1824 (or October 24, 1824 ) was a Swiss-born cartographer and Canadian statesman, who served as aide-de-camp to General James Wolfe in Quebec.


Early life

DesBarres, 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. The eldest of three children, DesBarres left for England following the completion of his studies.


Seven Years War

He enrolled at the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. It was there that DesBarres trained to become a military officer, and would learn how to build fortifications, and how to destroy them. His training would also benefit him later in life for surveying and map making. In 1756 he was commissioned into the 62nd Foot (later the 60th Foot).


DesBarres made many maps of the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans and also mapped much of the Canadian Territory, most notably Nova Scotia and its capital Halifax.

Desbarres served as the lieutenant governor of Cape Breton Island from 1784 to 1787, and laid out the original plan of the capital, Sydney. He was later governor of Prince Edward Island from 1804 to 1812. Dalhousie University has a number of items of Colonel DesBarres in one of its archive collections.

He died at the age of 102, and his date of death is variously given as October 24 and October 27. Colonel DesBarres is buried in Halifax.


  • Atlantic Neptune (atlas of Eastern North America)

Further reading

  • Evans, G.N.D, Uncommon Obdurate: The several public careers of J. F. W. DesBarres, Boston/Toronto: Peabody Museum/University of Toronto Press, 1969
  • Bird, Will, an Earl Must Have a Wife, Toronto: Clarke Irwin, 1969
  • The Nova Scotia Historical Quarterly, Volume 5, Number 2, 1985, contains several articles about DesBarres:
  • Robert J, Morgan, "DesBarres the Founder"
  • Stephen B. MacPhee, "DesBarres and His Contemporary Mapmakers"
  • Douglas B. Foster, "DesBarres the Town Planner"
  • Lois K. Kernaghan, "'A Most Excentric Genius': The Private Life of J. F. W. DesBarres"
  • Mary Ellen Wright, "'You come late Monsieur le'Governor. Why you not come before?'"

External links


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