MARCHAND, GABRIEL, merchant, militia officer, politician, justice of the peace, and office holder; b. 21 Nov. 1780 at Quebec, son of Louis Marchand, a ship’s captain, and Françoise Roussel; d. 10 March 1852 in Saint-Jean (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Lower Canada.
Gabriel Marchand was a descendant of Jean Marchand, a native of Saint-Sauveur-le-Vicomte, near La Rochelle, France, who had taken up residence at Quebec under the French régime. During the siege of Quebec in 1759 his grandfather Nicolas Marchand served as a militia officer in the artillery and died after being struck by a cannon-ball. His father, who was well known at Quebec, was the captain of an ocean-going vessel and for many years sailed the high seas.
Following a year of study at the Petit Séminaire de Québec in 1790–91, Gabriel became a clerk in the large import firm of John Macnider*, on Rue de la Fabrique at Quebec. A man of initiative, he quickly rose to the position of manager. In 1803 he went into partnership with his employer and François-Xavier Durette to set up a business at St Johns (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu) under the name Gabriel Marchand et Cie. The same year he moved there and opened an office and warehouses for lumber which was shipped from Lake Champlain down the Rivière Richelieu to Quebec. Macnider, Durette, and Marchand decided to terminate their partnership in 1806, and Marchand continued to do business on his own account. He thus became one of the earliest merchants at Dorchester (as St Johns was now known) and a pioneer of the timber trade in the Richelieu region.
On 1 Jan. 1807, at Dorchester, Marchand married Amanda Bingham, the daughter of Abner Bingham, a loyalist from Hero Island (North Hero), near Plattsburgh, N.Y.; they had a daughter who died when she was just a month old. After his wife’s death in 1809, Marchand married Mary Macnider, the daughter of his former employer, on 6 Oct. 1810 in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity at Quebec; the couple were to have six children.
During the War of 1812 Marchand served as major and second in command in the 2nd Battalion of Belœil militia. In 1816, two years after hostilities had ended, his two brothers, François and Louis, came to join him at Dorchester. Gabriel’s business had expanded markedly and he had amassed a handsome fortune as a result of the heavy run on timber for shipbuilding, particularly during the years 1812–14. So he made over his business to François and retired to the countryside near Dorchester, to a fine farm on the banks of the Richelieu which he had bought and called Beauchamps. There he divided his leisure “between superintending his fields and a short walk he took every day to Saint-Jean” to keep an eye on the interests and progress of the village.
During the 1820s Marchand joined his brothers and other citizens of Dorchester in proposing that the parish of Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste be created. He made every effort to secure a priest and collect money to build the church. With this goal in mind, on 21 Dec. 1826 he had been elected a trustee for its construction. The church building was finally opened in 1828, and that year Rémi Gaulin was appointed the first parish priest. The parish began to take shape with the initial organizational step of electing its first three churchwardens on 16 Nov. 1828. Surprisingly, Gabriel Marchand was not on the first council of the fabrique. Perhaps he was too modest and declined the honour. In any case, he was elected churchwarden at the end of 1833 and the following year was appointed secretary-treasurer of the parish, retaining these offices until 1837.
At the time of the rebellion, Marchand came out in favour of the Patriote cause. On 5 Nov. 1837 he participated in the meeting at Saint-Athanase (Iberville), proposing 24 reform resolutions that were passed. However, when the Patriotes decided to take up arms he declined to join them. To make clear his opposition to government policy, Marchand decided to refuse the post of legislative councillor to which he had been appointed on 22 Aug. 1837, as well as Governor Sir John Colborne*’s invitation on 31 March 1838 to join the Special Council.
In 1840 the government of Lower Canada created district municipalities, and on 23 Aug. 1841 Marchand was named to represent the parish of Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste on the municipal council of the district of Saint-Jean. This body brought together representatives of some 20 localities in the Richelieu valley. Marchand carried out his duties as councillor with devotion and diligence until his term expired on 8 Jan. 1844.
Marchand was interested in the advancement of agriculture. In July 1845 he set up at Dorchester the Saint-Jean, Saint-Luc, and L’Acadie section of the Chambly County Agriculture Society, of which he was president until February 1847. He also took an interest in education, and was appointed chairman of the Saint-Jean-l’Évangéliste municipal school board, a post he retained until his death. In this capacity he helped found the Académie de Saint-Jean, which was incorporated in 1850.
According to his contemporaries, Marchand was a man whose “noble [yet] unassuming appearance inspired respect in all who saw him and conversed with him; and his manner and conversation had a remarkable urbanity that made his company extremely attractive.” His personality could not but win him the confidence of the authorities who had appointed him to numerous public offices: justice of the peace in the district of Montreal (1815 and 1830), commissioner for receiving the oaths of public accountants (1823), for improving the road between Dorchester and La Prairie and for building the Chambly canal (1829), for macadamizing the La Prairie road and for receiving the oaths of certain public servants (1830), and for administering the oath of allegiance (1837). A lieutenant-colonel of the 2nd Battalion of Belœil militia in 1827, Marchand was promoted colonel of the 3rd Battalion of Rouville militia three years later. On 1 July 1831 he resigned as colonel and as justice of the peace for the district of Montreal, because he was disgusted and insulted by the refusal of the governor, Lord Aylmer [Whitworth-Aylmer*], to appoint as magistrates the persons he had recommended in response to Aylmer’s express request.
Gabriel Marchand died suddenly from an attack of apoplexy on 10 March 1852 at Saint-Jean. His unexpected death created a great stir in the small town, according to the obituary in La Minerve: “All Saint-Jean is grief-stricken because it has just lost one of those worthy and esteemed citizens who invariably leave behind them a void difficult to fill; and the parish in gratitude also recalls that it owes the benefit of existing as a parish and possessing a church largely to the efforts, perseverance, and particular sacrifices of the one it mourns.” Marchand left his wife, who died three years later, and two sons, one of whom, Félix-Gabriel*, became premier of Quebec.
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