CARON, ÉDOUARD, farmer, merchant, office holder, politician, and militia officer; b. 22 April 1830 in Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville), Lower Canada, second son of François Caron, a farmer, and Marie-Henriette Coulombe; m. there 11 Jan. 1860 Marie-Louise Lemaître-Augé, and they had four sons; d. 25 Feb. 1900 in Louiseville.
After studying at the Séminaire de Nicolet from 1845 to 1847, Édouard Caron began farming on land owned by his father, whose holdings were among the largest in the parish of Rivière-du-Loup. When Édouard was 26, François made over to him two properties amounting to 79 acres, as well as 5 acres from some “meadowland in coarse hay.” In 1859 Édouard paid farmer François Belliveau $4,800 for 84.5 acres in two sections. He already held a mortgage on one of them by virtue of a $400 loan he had made the previous year.
Caron soon made his mark as a farmer of some importance. In the 1861 census he declared that he owned 211 acres and produced 214 bushels of oats and 6,000 bundles of hay. His livestock consisted of 2 horses, 2 colts, 5 sheep, and 2 pigs, and he owned agricultural implements and machinery worth $200. His land was valued at about $12,500. To facilitate the sale of his produce, Caron in 1863 became a partner in the Société de Navigation des Trois-Rivières à Montréal Côté Nord du Fleuve. Formed that year, the new company included merchants, seamen, and farmers from Rivière-du-Loup, Trois-Rivières, Saint-Léon, and Yamachiche.
In time Caron’s farming enterprise was seen as a model. It won first prize in 1871 at the “inspection of the best-kept lands in Maskinongé County.” In the census that year he had 241 acres, 118 of them in hay, and substantial crops of oats (644 bushels), buckwheat (161), and potatoes (644), as well as 30,000 bundles of hay. He had become by far the largest producer of hay at Rivière-du-Loup and had a good deal of livestock, including 3 horses, 50 head of cattle, 112 sheep, and 12 pigs. He also owned five storehouses, eight barns and stables, ten carts and wagons, and various agricultural machines.
Caron traded in hay and grain with farmers in his parish and the surrounding area; for this purpose he and his nephew Ferdinand Caron had a 400-ton barge built in 1874. In the early 1880s he engaged in an impressive amount of trade. In 1880, for example, he bought 80,000 bundles of hay at Saint-Paulin. He turned to New York to sell much of his goods. That year he did business there with Frazee and Company, and the following year with Theo. Chase and Company. For a commission of $1 “per ton of 2,000 pounds” the latter firm assumed responsibility for sales on the New York market. In 1881 Caron shipped 1,145,558 pounds of hay (approximately 71,500 bundles) to that city, earning about $6,000 over transportation and commission costs. Four years later he went into partnership with Ignace Leclerc under the name of Caron et Leclerc. The partners dealt not only in hay and grain but also in lumber and coal.
Caron, who had invested quite heavily in storage facilities for large quantities of hay, seems to have run into financial difficulties in the second half of the decade. Between 1883 and 1889 he took out various loans amounting to $32,500. In 1889 his business was in a precarious state: Caron et Leclerc failed, and Caron was forced to declare personal bankruptcy. At the time the assets were surrendered, Caron et Leclerc owned 54 lots in Caxton Township, a 50 per cent share in a flour-mill at Yamachiche, several barns, three hay balers, and some movables. The property seized in Caron’s personal bankruptcy consisted of four pieces of land valued at about $22,000, and some $2,000 worth of agricultural implements, livestock, and movables.
Apart from his agricultural activities Caron had undertaken other projects, all short-lived. In 1881 he and Auguste-Frédéric Dame, a Louiseville doctor, considered digging an artesian well on the land of a Rivière-du-Loup farmer in order to exploit gas and oil. That year he headed a venture seeking subscriptions to a capital fund of $40,000 for the construction of a railway from Louiseville to Hunterstown. In 1882, along with three merchants and a manufacturer from Louiseville, he founded a company with assets of $25,000 to set up a shoe factory in the town.
Over the years Caron took on various community responsibilities. He served as school trustee, county warden, militia captain, and mayor of the municipality of Rivière-du-Loup in 1874. He was the elected secretary-treasurer of the Maskinongé County agricultural society in 1864, 1869, and 1872, and a member of the Société de Fabrication de Beurre et de Fromage de Louiseville in 1884. In addition, he was a director of the Compagnie du Pont de la Rivière-du-Loup in 1859 and a member of the Société de Construction Victoria in 1874.
Édouard Caron, like his grandfather François Caron and the latter’s brother Charles*, entered politics. In the provincial elections of 1867 he stood as a Conservative in Maskinongé but was defeated. He carried the riding in 1878, under the same banner, and was re-elected in 1881. In 1886 he retained his seat by only 65 votes. One of his opponents, Rivière-du-Loup farmer Joseph-Hormidas Legris, sought to have the election declared invalid. Legris alleged that Caron had engaged in dishonest tricks, intimidation, and threats during the election. Legris won his case: the Superior Court in 1887 ruled the election of 14 Oct. 1886 null and void. In the by-election on 28 April 1888 Legris defeated Caron by a mere 48 votes. The disputes between the two continued. On 1 August Legris sued Caron in the Superior Court for $10,000 in damages. He declared that before the by-election, when the two men met on Sundays outside the various churches in the riding, Caron constantly slandered him. The suit ended in 1890 by mutual agreement.
Édouard Caron well illustrates the enterprising farmer who, despite many disappointments, made great efforts to reach beyond his own region. He was also highly respected for the part he had taken in the life of his community.
AC, Trois-Rivières, État civil, Catholiques, Saint-Antoine-de-la-Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville), 27 févr. 1900. ANQ-MBF, CE1-15, 22 avril 1830, 11 janv. 1860; T-11/1, no.36 (1883); no.9 (1886); no.7 (1887); no.116 (1888); nos.252–53 (1889); T11-401. NA, RG 31, C1, 1852, Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville); 1861, Rivière-du-Loup; 1871, Rivière-du-Loup. Le Constitutionnel (Trois-Rivières, Qué.), 1869–72, 1882. Le Courrier de Maskinongé (Louiseville), 1879–81. RPQ. J.-A.-I. Douville, Histoire du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 1803–1903, avec les listes complètes des directeurs, professeurs et élèves de l’institution (2v., Montréal, 1903), 2. Germain Lesage, Histoire de Louiseville, 1665–1960 (Louiseville, 1961). Charles Drisard, “Édouard Caron,” L’Écho de Saint-Justin (Saint-Justin, Qué.), 1er oct. 1927: 1.