MOREAU, EDME, shoemaker; b. in the parish of Saint-Césaire, diocese of Troyes, France, son of Jacques Moreau, shoemaker in Chaource (dept. of Aube), France, and Marguerite Germain; fl. 1706–47.
The first reference to Edme Moreau is in his marriage contract of 24 Aug. 1706 with Françoise, daughter of the Montreal baker, Étienne Fortier (Forestier). Two tanners and two shoemakers, including Jean Ridday, dit Beauceron, “his friend and fellow worker,” were Moreau’s witnesses to the contract.
In the first quarter of the 18th century, the shoemakers were the most active craft group in Montreal, and Edme Moreau typified this energy. Moreau is known to have trained a son and nine apprentices. He was one of the few craft masters known to have had an Indian apprentice, the Pawnee servant of a tanner. Another apprentice was a foster-child placed in Moreau’s care by an ailing labourer overburdened with children.
About 1712–13 a friend taught Edme how to sign his name phonetically (he signed em moreau), and thus gave him a valuable skill for business transactions. Moreau possessed little property and he lived in various rented lodgings for most of his life. He spent a great deal of time in and out of court pursuing or being pursued for debts. He also did some speculating in town lots.
The vitality and solidarity of the Montreal shoemakers and cobblers were expressed in the 1720s by the formation of the Confrérie de Saint-Crépin et Saint-Crépinien, for which Moreau, Jean Ridday, and Jacques Viger acted as spokesmen. Each year, on the day of saints Simon and Jude (28 October), a high mass was celebrated in honour of the confraternity’s patron saints. At the end of the mass, blessed bread contributed by one of the shoemakers was distributed. In Montreal, the organization went beyond a religious confraternity. The shoemakers banded together to defend their material interests. On 19 Aug. 1729 a group of 21 shoemakers led by Moreau and Ridday appeared in the Montreal royal court and requested that, in accordance with the intendant’s ordinance of 20 July 1706, the tanner Joseph Guyon Després be ordered to close his shoemaking shop. Limited shoemaking by the employees of certain tanners was countenanced, but extension of the practice would be detrimental to the free marketing of leather and would create unfair competition for independent shoemakers.
The deputy to the king’s attorney, Michel Lepailleur* de Laferté, referred the case to the intendant, Hocquart*. There is no evidence that the latter received or judged the appeal. The costs of carrying the case to Quebec may have discouraged the shoemakers. In any case the administration of New France was hostile to unauthorized assemblies and independent group initiatives from the lower orders of society.
There is an air of tragedy about Moreau’s family life. Nine of his 13 children died in infancy. His oldest living son, François-Urbain Moreau, who was trained as his father’s successor and who rose to the position of court usher, died at 28. Another son, Georges, was accused of robbing the church at Lévis in 1731. The last reference we have to Edme Moreau is his signature in 1747 on his granddaughter’s marriage act.
ANQ, NF, Coll. de pièces jud. et not., 893. ANQ-M, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar, 21 sept. 1708, 23 févr., 10 oct. 1710; Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 14 sept. 1735; Greffe de Jacques David, 23 juill. 1724, 24 août 1726; Greffe de C.-R. Gaudron de Chevremont, 9 mars 1738; Greffe de N.-A. Guillet de Chaumont, 31 déc. 1728, 8 févr., 21 mars 1729; Greffe de Michel Lepailleur, 24 août 1706, 2 mars 1713, 15 nov. 1716, 8 sept. 1717, passim; Greffe de C.-J. Porlier, 19 févr., 18 mai 1735; Greffe de J.-C. Raimbault, 30 janv. 1729, 14 févr. 1730, 6 août 1733, 3 mai 1734, 4 sept., 4 déc. 1735, 1er juill. 1736, 22 juill. 1737; Greffe de François Simonnet, 22 mars 1743, 21 févr. 1744, 6 mai 1746; Documents divers, 17 août, 2 sept. 1729; Juridiction de Montréal, 9 avril 1710, 17 août, 2 sept. 1729 (feuillets séparés); Registre d’état civil, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 1747, ff.317, 456; Registres des audiences, VII, 501, 503f., 507v, 642, 772v–73. Édits ord., II, 265. L’île de Montréal en 1731 (A. Roy), 52, 132, 146. “Recensement de Montréal, 1741” (Massicotte). Les origines de Montréal (SHM Mémoires, XI, Montréal, 1917), 86, 97, 227, 238. P.-É. Renaud, Les origines économiques du Canada; l’œuvre de la France (Mamers, France, 1928), 390–91. É.-Z. Massicotte, “La communauté des cordonniers à Montréal,” BRH, XXIV, (1918), 126–27.