ANTROBUS, JOHN, merchant and office holder; b. c. 1756, probably in England; d. 8 May 1820 in Trois-Rivières, Lower Canada.
In 1779 John Antrobus was in business at Quebec, where he owned a general store in Lower Town. As a merchant he was in agreement with the political demands of the English-speaking bourgeois community: consequently in 1784 and 1788 he signed petitions in favour of a house of assembly and in 1785 was amongst those who supported Lieutenant Governor Henry Hamilton* in his efforts to meet the merchants’ needs. Antrobus also participated in advancing certain claims in economic and social matters: in 1789 he signed a memorial asking for the settlement of problems affecting trade in flour and biscuit [see George Allsopp], and in 1791 another about the collection of lods et ventes; in 1790 he was among the signatories to a petition requesting the creation of a university in Lower Canada [see Jean-François Hubert*]. Also in that year he was a member of the Quebec Fire Society.
On 29 March 1787, at Trois-Rivières, Antrobus had married Catherine Betsey Isabella Cuthbert, daughter of James Cuthbert* and Catherine Cairns. The following year the couple, who were then living on Rue de la Montagne in Quebec, received from Cuthbert one piece of land in the seigneury of Berthier, and two others in that of Sorel. Some months later, in exchange for one of his Sorel properties, the government granted Antrobus the ruins of the king’s ironworks in Lower Town Quebec on seigneurial tenure. In September 1788 he acquired a lot with a house and stable at Près-de-Ville, at the foot of Cap Diamant, for a yearly payment of 100 livres on the 2,000 livres borrowed for its purchase.
In 1792 Antrobus and his wife went to live on their property at Berthier. The following year he was appointed overseer of highways for the district of Trois-Rivières. In this capacity he attended particularly to coordinating the development of a system of roads throughout the district. As Trois-Rivières already had an adequate set of major roads, Antrobus proceeded at the inhabitants’ instance to create a network of secondary roads to link the inland areas with the Chemin du Roy, adapting the layout to needs and circumstances. Work on a sizeable scale was undertaken in the region of Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville). It is difficult to estimate Antrobus’s income as overseer of highways because the emoluments from this office came not only from public funds but also from fees paid by the inhabitants for the drafting of surveyor’s reports.
In 1797 Antrobus took his family to live at Trois-Rivières, on a property purchased for £1,200. That year he was appointed a justice of the peace and a member of the grand jury for the Court of King’s Bench. His land holdings grew steadily. He had already obtained a grant in the seigneury of Sorel from Lord Dorchester [Guy Carleton] in 1795. Three years later Joseph Boucher de Niverville granted him 46 acres bordering on the common lands of Trois-Rivières. In 1803 Antrobus rented out a farm at Berthier on the métayage system. According to the agreement the métayer, Jean-Baptiste Amiot, was to give him half of the grain harvested in the first year; for the next six years Antrobus was to receive £46 annually for the house, milk house, and bakehouse. In 1804 Antrobus bought two properties in the seigneury of Sainte-Marie adjoining that of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade. To increase his holdings Antrobus sought to obtain about 30,000 acres in Brandon Township, but lacking financial resources he was unsuccessful in getting letters patent and going ahead with the survey.
After his wife’s death in January 1806, Antrobus, who owed £1,000, began to divest himself of his holdings. That year for £100 he sold to the Reverend James Sutherland Rudd, rector of Christ Church at William Henry (Sorel), properties he owned there. In 1809 he received £400 from the sale of three pieces of land at the foot of Cap Diamant. Three years later he sold a property at Trois-Rivières to the merchant Étienne Leblanc* for £150. For £1,020 in 1816 he sold by auction to George Pyke* a waterfront lot on Rue Champlain, Quebec, which his children had received by letters patent from the government on 9 Aug. 1806. During the period 1810–19 his creditors, Lewis Tucker, John Doty*, Ezekiel Hart*, John Blackwood, and Christopher Carter, demanded that the properties he still owned be put up for sheriff’s sale.
In January 1820 John Antrobus resigned from his post as overseer of highways and was replaced by his son, Edmund William Romer*. He died some months later; only two of his six children survived him and his daughter died just a few weeks later. His sole heir, Edmund William Romer, had an inventory made of his father’s assets. Antrobus had left only a modest estate: some pieces of land at Trois-Rivières and some properties at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pérade and Sainte-Marie; moreover, the sale at auction of his personal estate brought in only £51 12s.
ANQ-MBF, CE1-50, 10 June 1820; CN1-4, 1er déc. 1795, 15 févr. 1797, 2 mai 1798; CN1-6, 11 sept. 1803, 7 mai 1806, 23 sept. 1809, 30 oct. 1815, 17 oct. 1818, 21 juin 1820; CN1-32, 20 mars 1812; CN1-91, 15 sept. 1804. ANQ-Q, CN1-16, 1er avril, 20 sept., 14 nov. 1809; CN1-83, 9 avril 1784; 4 juill., 24 sept. 1788; CN1-145, 28 Dec. 1804. Quebec Gazette, 11 Nov. 1779; 16 June, 3 Nov. 1785; 11 Dec. 1788; 17 Dec. 1789; 28 Jan., 4 Nov. 1790; 28 April 1791; 30 March, 27 April 1797; 30 Jan. 1806; 9 Aug. 1810; 21 Feb., 27 June 1811; 4 March 1813; 21 May, 2 July 1818; 8 July 1819. Lucie Beauvillier et Carmen Grondin, Répertoire des baptêmes-mariages-sépultures, Trois-Rivières protestant, 1767–1875 (s.l., 1979). P.-G. Roy, Inventaires des procès-verbaux des grands voyers conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec (6v., Beauceville, Qué., 1923–32), 3: 158–92. Sulte, Mélanges hist. (Malchelosse), 21: 47–51. Édouard Fabre Surveyer, “James Cuthbert, père, et ses biographes,” RHAF, 4 (1950–51): 81. P.-G. Roy, “John Antrobus,” BRH, 10 (1904): 283–84.