MARCHILDON, THOMAS, farmer, shipbuilder, and politician; b. 27 Feb. 1805 in Batiscan, Lower Canada, son of Louis Marchildon, a farmer, and Victoire Alexandre; m. there 17 Jan. 1837 Marie-Philie Lefaivre, dit Despins; d. there 17 May 1858.
After a brief period in school Thomas Marchildon began farming at Batiscan, taking up what became a lifelong occupation. In partnership with one of his brothers he also ran a shipbuilding yard, which apparently proved profitable. It was his political career, however, that made him known across the province.
Marchildon first stood for election in 1851, on a liberal platform, and defeated his two opponents, Louis Guillet* and Jean-Baptiste-Eric Dorion*. He represented the riding of Champlain in the Legislative Assembly until 23 June 1854. He was re-elected that summer this time as a Rouge, and he retained his seat until 28 Nov. 1857. In the elections of 1857–58 he was ousted by his first cousin Joseph-Édouard Turcotte*, the former representative for Saint-Maurice and Maskinongé, who won by 890 votes.
Like many other Rouges, Marchildon was strongly opposed to the building of railways and in particular to the construction of the North Shore Railway. In April 1853 L’Ère nouvelle reported some of the statements he made in the house. According to Marchildon, “railways are a punishment imposed by God” which “will be the ruin of dairying” and which “serve only to send the cattle stampeding through the fields, [when] there are no fences proof against oxen.”
It seems that Marchildon became an object of derision because of the tenor of his words. In fact, his critics, whose ranks included journalists with L’Ère nouvelle [see Aimé Désilets], spoke of his lack of stability, disordered mind, fanciful notions, and stupid pronouncements. His speeches were dismissed as gibberish. He was accused of using memorized statements and of imitating others. It was even claimed that Joseph-Hilarion Jobin, the member for Joliette, “drafts the resolutions and bills that M. Marchildon prints under his name.” The voters of the constituency of Champlain were reproached for bringing shame upon themselves, and French Canadians were implored to stop electing individuals such as Marchildon and Noël Darche, the member for Chambly, if they wanted “to earn the respect of people of different origins.” Others, however, credited Marchildon with doing his best to keep his electoral promises and having bridges and roads built.
On 17 May 1858 Marchildon was found drowned in his well. Rumours of suicide circulated widely but the coroner, Valère Guillet, returned a verdict of accidental death. The obituaries in some contemporary newspapers mention that Marchildon was believed to have suffered an attack of apoplexy while watering his livestock and so to have fallen into the well. He was mourned by his wife and nine children.
ANQ-MBF, CE1-2, 28 févr. 1805, 17 janv. 1837, 19 mai 1858. ASTR, 0368, dossier Thomas Marchildon. PAC, MG 30, D1, 20: 320–34. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1852–55. Le Courrier du Canada, 19, 21 mai 1858. L’Écho du Saint-Maurice (Trois-Rivières, Qué.), 21 mai 1858. L’Ère nouvelle (Trois-Rivières), 17, 20 mai 1858. Le Journal de Québec, 16 déc. 1851; 13, 25, 29 juill., 5 août 1854; 10, 17, 26 déc. 1857; 5, 9, 12 janv., 20, 22 mai 1858. Morning Chronicle, 22 May 1858. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de la région des Trois-Rivières (1841–1867) (Trois-Rivières, 1934). [Prosper Cloutier], Histoire de la paroisse de Champlain (2v., Trois-Rivières, 1915–17), 2: 453–54. Cornell, Alignment of political groups. Labarrère-Paulé, Les instituteurs laïques, 190–93.