LEBLANC, AUGUSTIN, cabinet-maker, wood-carver, gilder, and building contractor; b. 11 March 1799 at Yamachiche, Lower Canada, son of Étienne Leblanc, a farmer, and Marie Tessier; m. 9 Feb. 1830 Julie Hébert at Saint-Grégoire (now part of Bécancour), Lower Canada; d. 26 Feb. 1882 at Saint-Hugues, Que.
Nothing is known about Augustin Leblanc’s childhood and training. Presumably, however, he apprenticed as a cabinet-maker and wood-carver with a craftsman who was either established at Yamachiche or in the region for a time. Leblanc could have learned his trade in the workshop of Joseph Milette, a wood-carver, or been an apprentice to Joseph’s son, Alexis, who was six years his senior. His apprenticeship may have been served on the building site of the church of Sainte-Anne, where construction went on sporadically from 1815 to 1858.
During his training Leblanc apparently gave particular attention to the gilding of wood. At any rate, it was in this field that he began his career, when on his own in 1831, and in association with Damase Saint-Arnaud the following year, he undertook to gild the interior of the church at Bécancour. In 1832, he embarked on the same task in the church at Saint-Grégoire, the village where he seems to have settled. His career assumed some importance in 1833 when he signed a contract with the parish council of Saint-Pierre, at William Henry (Sorel), as a master woodcarver, “to see that the interior of the church is completed and decorated.”
His growing reputation brought him some large-scale projects. In 1835 he installed a carved vault at Deschaillons, and beginning in 1841 he also decorated the interior of the church at Grondines (Saint-Charles-des-Grondines). But Leblanc always followed an architect’s plans. Thus in 1839 he and Alexis Milette started to work on the interior of the church at Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville), using designs by Thomas Baillairgé*. Four years later Baillairgé supplied him with plans for his work on the church at Saint-Zéphirin. Leblanc completed the vault of the church at Saint-Denis on the Richelieu River in 1844 from designs attributed to the priest of the parish. In 1850 Victor Bourgeau prepared the plans he used to enlarge the church at Saint-Grégoire.
On a few occasions, Leblanc acted as a contractor for buildings of minor importance. In 1835 he worked on the construction of both a stone presbytery at Saint-Denis on the Richelieu and the first chapel at Saint-Aimé (Massueville). He was given the task of erecting the seigneurial manor-house in Saint-Aimé the following year, and he was provided with the plans. After he helped to enlarge the church at Saint-Grégoire, where construction work began in 1850 and dragged on for some time, Leblanc became less active. From 1872 until at least 1880 he was at Saint-Hugues, where he was engaged in decorating the interior of the church (following Bourgeau’s plans) and worked on the vault and presbytery. By 1875 Augustin Leblanc Jr seems to have begun to take over from his father, but his career apparently did not last long, since there is no trace of him after his father’s death.
By the nature of his work, Augustin Leblanc established himself as head of a wood-carving enterprise. Although he always followed the plans of the prominent architects of his time, first Thomas Baillairgé and then Victor Bourgeau, he did not become an outstanding craftsman. Moreover, his personal contribution to the large projects executed with several apprentices or associates cannot be clearly identified. Nevertheless, through his work, Leblanc (like André Paquet*, dit Lavallée, Alexis Milette, and the brothers Joseph and Georges Héroux) enabled the architect to free himself from the building site. It was this generation of craftsmen-builders who put an end to the prevailing confusion between foreman and architect, performer and creator. The change was clearly a sign of the industrial age, when new technology and the fashions of the day would make obsolete the small family enterprise which sought to create works of art.
AC, Saint-Hyacinthe, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Hugues, 1er mars 1882. ANQ-MBF, État civil, Catholiques, Sainte-Anne (Yamachiche), 11 mars 1799. AP, Saint-Grégoire (Nicolet), Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 9 févr. 1830. IBC, Centre de documentation, Fonds Morisset, 1, 15868/884; 2, L445.2/A923.8/1–4. J.-E. Bellemare, Histoire de la Baie-Saint-Antoine, dite Baie-du-Febvre, 1683–1911 (Montréal, 1911), 213–18, 603–5. Napoléon Caron, Histoire de la paroisse d’Yamachiche (précis historique) (Trois-Rivières, 1892). Azarie Couillard-Després, Histoire de Sorel de ses origines à nos jours (Montréal, 1926), 188. O.-M.-H. Lapalice, Histoire de la seigneurie Massue et de la paroisse de Saint-Aimé (s.l., 1930), 154–56, 425–28.