LARUE, AUGUSTE (baptized Auguste-Édouard), businessman and jp; b. 16 Oct. 1814 at Quebec, son of Olivier Larue, master stonemason, and Marie-Marguerite Robichaux; m. 24 Feb. 1840 Maria Jane McClaren in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada, and they had three sons and four daughters; d. 3 Nov. 1900 at Quebec and was buried in Trois-Rivières.
Auguste Larue entered the world of business in Trois-Rivières shortly before 1840, opening a shop that specialized in church supplies. The enterprise seems to have brought him debt rather than profit, however, for in 1850 he had to hand over his assets to his creditors. After the failure of this venture, he left commerce for industry and for two decades his name was associated with the development of ironworks in the Saint-Maurice region. In June 1853 he founded A. Larue et Compagnie with Joseph-Édouard Turcotte* and George Benson Hall*. Larue was manager of this firm, which built the complex known as the Radnor ironworks, near Trois-Rivières, investing over $100,000. From the start it specialized in manufacturing wheels for railway cars, which were sold to the Grand Trunk in Montreal. Jobs were provided for 120 workers, all lodged in a town of about 50 houses owned by the company. In addition, there were some 300 seasonal workers, mostly farmers from the surrounding area, who supplied iron ore and charcoal to the company. Given the size of the fixed capital and the number of jobs created, the Radnor ironworks was the most important of its kind in Lower Canada at the time.
In 1866, however, Larue was unable to repay debts incurred by the enterprise during previous years and was forced to declare bankruptcy. The ironworks was sold to Edward Burstall, Hall’s business agent. Five years later, Hall would take full possession of it. Now ruined, Larue none the less was planning to put up a blast-furnace at Saint-Tite. Construction began in 1869 and by the end of the following year the furnace was in operation. In 1872 Larue, who was plagued with lawsuits because of his debts, watched his establishment burn to the ground in a disastrous fire. Interested in the large wood and charcoal reserves that Larue had accumulated, Hall took over the Saint-Tite venture, paying off his debt.
Although Larue deserved his tarnished reputation as a business manager, he had shown himself a man of ambition and initiative, an able tactician who enjoyed the support and confidence of those around him. During the construction of the Radnor ironworks, he had managed to acquire several thousand arpents of land suitable for agriculture in the nearby seigneury of Cap-de-la-Madeleine. When Hall’s business went into receivership in 1856 – threatening the financial basis of the ironworks – Larue skilfully conducted negotiations with creditors and suppliers and saved the operation from being shut down. At the same time he was developing strategies for financing the ironworks through the participation of the Saint-Maurice business community. Having recruited the necessary support, he built a rolling-mill in 1861, and a foundry to make train wheels in Trois-Rivières four years later. At Saint-Tite, Larue had displayed considerable acumen in obtaining government lands and getting financial backing. He first obtained the consent of the farming community at Saint-Tite to exploit without charge any iron ore found on their lands. He managed in this way to secure rights on about 40,000 arpents and the community support needed to build the blast-furnace. He was then able to get the government to grant him more than 7,000 arpents in Saint-Tite – land rich in wood and iron ore – without provoking an angry outburst from the proponents of colonization. He also gave enough financial backing to attract other capital to the project.
After the failure of the Saint-Tite ironworks, Larue retired from business. He had shown great astuteness in launching industrial enterprises, although under his administration they all went bankrupt. Until 1866 he retained the commission of the peace that he had received in 1867, and like many other businessmen in the community he was an active member of the Société Saint-Jean-Baptiste in Trois-Rivières, serving several times as its president. With the progress of his career he had earned his fellow citizens’ respect as a pioneer of industrial development in the region.
ANQ-MBF, CE-48, 24 févr. 1840; CN1-49, 27 nov. 1866; CN1-52, 23 févr. 1840. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 17 oct. 1814; CN1-49, 14 févr. 1856; CN1-67, 24 oct., 27 déc. 1872; CN1-232, 25 juin 1853. Arch. du Centre de recherches en études québécoises (Trois-Rivières, Qué.), Dossier Auguste Larue. Arch. du monastère des ursulines (Trois-Rivières), Reg. des sépultures, 6 nov. 1900. NA, RG 31, C1, 1861, Saint-Maurice; 1871, Saint-Tite. L’Ère nouvelle (Trois-Rivières), 12 mai 1862. L’Événement, 10 nov. 1900. Le Journal des Trois-Rivières, ler déc. 1865. C.-A. Fortin et Benoît Gauthier, “Les entreprises sidérurgiques mauriciennes au XIXe siècle: approvisionnement en matières premières, biographies d’entrepreneurs, organisation et financement des entreprises” (rapport de recherche, univ. du Québec, Trois-Rivières, 1986). Benjamin Sulte, Mélanges historiques . . . , Gérard Malchelosse, édit. (21v., Montréal, 1918–34), 18: 84.