BÉLANGER, AMABLE (baptized Jean-Baptiste-Amable), iron founder and manufacturer; b. 8 Sept. 1846 in Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-Sud, Lower Canada, son of Jean-Baptiste Bélanger, a farmer, and Marie-Théodora (Eléonore) Bernier; m. 29 Sept. 1874 Marie-Louise Catellier in Saint-Gervais, Que., and they had four children; d. 22 Sept. 1919 in Montmagny, Que.
Amable Bélanger served his apprenticeship in a large foundry in Lévis run by D. Laîné et Compagnie [see Charles William Carrier*]. In 1867 he returned to Saint-Pierre-de-la-Rivière-Sud to follow his trade as a master founder. In 1871, working alone in his little shop, he produced ploughs and cauldrons to the value of $1,000. That year, or early in 1872, he decided to expand his business and moved to Montmagny, where communications were better. His many purchases of land between 1872 and 1900 witness to the growth of his enterprise. In 1889 he put up an initial building of red brick, which the Montmagny newspaper La Sentinelle said was “one of the handsomest commercial establishments in the province.” In 1892–93 Bélanger’s foundry employed 20 men and was the second largest employer in the community, after the Compagnie Manufacturière de Montmagny. In 1905 each of these companies had 25 employees.
In 1907 Bélanger, now in his sixties, transferred the management of his foundry to his 30-year-old son, Joseph-Adrien-Amable, who had studied accounting and business at the University of Ottawa. He in turn gave the enterprise new impetus and by 1910 the plant’s production capacity had doubled. In 1913 he invited the employees to a meeting to tell them about his plan under which they would share in the company’s profits, but he died on 29 May at Quebec, apparently during an operation for appendicitis. At 66, Amable Bélanger was not in a position to manage the factory, which by then had a solid reputation, since it employed 50 men year round and marketed agricultural implements and stoves throughout the province and in the Maritimes. On 17 Feb. 1914 he sold his company to a group of businessmen from the Montmagny region and Quebec. It would be known thereafter as A. Bélanger Limitée.
In addition to his work as an iron founder and industrialist, Bélanger was involved in the development of his community. In 1900 he was president of the new Société de Construction du District de Montmagny, which owned some land to the west of Montmagny and had subdivided it into building lots. By some means Bélanger held 60 of the 93 subdivisions, and he let the company purchase them in April 1901. According to the Montmagny newspaper Le Peuple, Bélanger sold about 50 lots on its behalf in a single week in 1904. In 1906, after paying a special dividend of 40 per cent to its shareholders, the company sold the capital amount of the rentes constituées (secured annuities) due it, and the remainder of its land. The operation had been successful.
Bélanger’s activities in a number of industrial enterprises are less well known. From 1894 to 1901 he was a shareholder in the Compagnie Manufacturière et Électrique de Montmagny. From 1901 to 1906 he was vice-president of the Montmagny Light and Pulp Company and from 1902 to 1904 he was a shareholder and a director of the Compagnie Industrielle de Montmagny. However, when that company had to be liquidated in February 1904, Bélanger and his son Joseph-Adrien-Amable, who was its manager, were severely criticized by Maurice Rousseau, the mayor of Montmagny. Rousseau accused them of having appropriated its profits and of causing its collapse. After this unfortunate episode, Bélanger was less visible on the regional economic scene, but he kept the respect of his peers. For example, he became the first president of the Chambre de Commerce de Montmagny in 1912 and retained that office for a year.
The contacts Bélanger had made as an administrator of realty and industrial enterprises served his company well. He readily acknowledged that he had profited from the generosity of the municipal council in the form of tax exemptions, thanks to “friends” who sat on it. One of these was Joseph-Couillard Lislois, mayor from 1890 to 1905, with whom he had founded the Compagnie Manufacturière et Électrique de Montmagny in 1894. It was probably to strengthen his connections with the council that Bélanger ran as an alderman, albeit unsuccessfully, in 1907.
Amable Bélanger’s career clearly shows the important role played by business connections in the growth of an enterprise. Through the benefits he obtained from a municipal council on which some associates sat, he was able to reach his goals. He was then in a better position to participate also in developing Montmagny, which became the leading industrial centre in the Côte-du-Sud region at the turn of the century.
AC, Montmagny, Cour supérieure, livre des sociétés, 1909–29. ANQ-Q, CE2-6, 8 sept. 1846; CE2-7, 22 sept. 1919; CE2-17, 29 sept. 1874. Arch. de la Ville de Montmagny, Qué., Procès-verbaux, 1898, 1907, 4 nov. 1912, 31 août 1914. Bureau d’Enregistrement, Montmagny, Index aux immeubles. NA, RG 31, C1, 1871, Saint-Pierre de Montmagny, Qué., table 6 (mfm. at ANQ-Q). Qué., Ministère des Ressources Naturelles, Service du cadastre, Montmagny, 1876, lot no.1. Le Peuple (Montmagny), 1er août 1902; 3, 17 juin, 8 juill. 1904; 16 nov. 1906; 18 janv. 1907; 18 avril, 30 mai, 6 juin, 14 nov. 1913; 24 déc. 1915. La Presse, 6 août 1921 (photo of Amable Bélanger). La Sentinelle (Montmagny), 16 juill. 1891. F.-E.-J. Casault, Notes historiques sur la paroisse de Saint-Thomas de Montmagny (Québec, 1906; réimpr., Montmagny, 1979). Martine Côté, “Industrialisation et urbanisation à Montmagny, 1883–1930” (thèse de ma, univ. Laval, Québec, 1990). Albert Dionne, Topographie de Montmagny; histoire primitive de la paroisse de Saint-Thomas-de-Montmagny (Québec, 1935). Gazette officielle de Québec, 1904: 459; 1914: 405–6.