ARMS, WILLIAM, blacksmith, businessman, and office holder; b. 28 May 1794 in Deerfield, Mass., son of William Arms and Mercy —; m. 29 Oct. 1818 Miranda Haven, daughter of a minister at Croydon, N.H., and they had numerous children, of whom four girls and one boy reached adulthood; d. 4 Feb. 1853 in Sherbrooke, Lower Canada.
William Arms immigrated to Lower Canada at an unknown date and settled at Stanstead, an important point of contact between Lower Canada and the United States. There is evidence that he was there by 1816, when the Congregational church was being organized. In addition to working as a blacksmith, Arms made axes, ploughs, and other equipment. This business expanded as the region developed and in 1832 he formed a partnership with Alba Brown. The firm Arms and Brown concentrated on forging ploughs from American models. In May of that year Arms was a member of a company financing construction of an aqueduct at Stanstead-Plain; the contract included a stipulation that water was to be brought to the Arms and Brown factory.
Arms was a prominent figure in his village. He became an elder of the Congregational church in 1822, and four years later was elected secretary of the Bible Society’s local branch. Like several influential people in his circle, he belonged to the famous Golden Rule Lodge; founded in 1814, it was one of the oldest non-military masonic lodges in Lower Canada. In 1821 he had been made an officer of the regional Royal Arch Chapter.
Arms moved his business in 1836 to the village of Sherbrooke, which had been humming with activity since the arrival of the British American Land Company [see Sir Alexander Tilloch Galt*]. This company, which planned to develop its vast holdings in the region, owned almost all the commercial and industrial sites in Sherbrooke, so Arms and Brown entered into an agreement with it. In 1839 the firm, which had changed its name to the Sherbrooke Foundry, announced a new model for a kitchen stove invented by Arms, and in 1851 the manufacture of sugar kettles and “any tools needed for Rail road contracts.”
Well thought of by his fellow-citizens, Arms often stood surety when contracts were signed, and he was appointed a magistrate in 1841. Aware that means of communication were of vital importance, that year he joined the promoters organizing the Company of Proprietors of the Eastern Townships Rail-road, to link Sherbrooke and Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu). He remained engaged in business until 1851, when he announced his retirement for reasons of health, and sold some of the industrial plant. However, the Sherbrooke Foundry continued to prosper under the management of his son-in-law Samuel Tuck, and profited from the boom in railway construction.
William Arms illustrates well how such pioneers of American origin helped transform their adopted country. Enterprising and resourceful people, they sought to improve their personal circumstances while manifesting civic and community spirit.
ANQ-E, CM1, 11 févr. 1853. N.H., Secretary of State Office (Concord), Division of Records Management and Arch., Records of Croydon, selectmen’s records (1796–1821). PAC, MG 24, I54, 1: 137; RG 1, L3L: 33952. Docs. relating to constitutional hist., 1819–28 (Doughty and Story). L.C., Special Council, Ordinances, 1840–41, c.10. British Colonist and St. Francis Gazette (Stanstead, Que.), 1 Dec. 1823, 4 Nov. 1825, 9 Feb. 1826. Farmer’s Advocate and Townships Gazette (Sherbrooke, Que.), 6 Oct. 1834. Sherbrooke Gazette and Eastern Townships Advertiser, 6 Oct. 1834, 31 Aug. 1839, 8 March 1851. Joseph Bouchette, A topographical description of the province of Lower Canada with remarks upon Upper Canada, and on the relative connexion of both provinces with the United States of America (London, 1815; repr. [Saint-Lambert, Que., 1973]). C. P. De Volpi and P. H. Scowen, The Eastern Townships: a pictorial record; historical prints and illustrations of the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec, Canada (Montreal, 1962). Vital records of Deerfield, Massachusetts, to the year 1850, comp. T. W. Baldwin (Boston, 1920), 20. H. I. Cowan, British emigration to British North America; the first hundred years (rev. ed., Toronto, 1961). L.-P. Demers, Sherbrooke, découvertes, légendes, documents, nos rues et leurs symboles ([Sherbrooke, 1969]), 88–89, 141–42. B. F. Hubbard, Forest and clearings; the history of Stanstead County, province of Quebec, with sketches of more than five hundred families, ed. John Lawrence (Montreal, 1874; repr. 1963).