CASGRAIN, PIERRE, businessman, jp, seigneur, and militia officer; b. 16 June 1771 at Quebec, son of Jean Casgrain and Marguerite Cazeau; d. 17 Nov. 1828 at Quebec and was buried four days later under the seigneur’s pew in the church at Rivière-Ouelle, Lower Canada.
Pierre Casgrain left his father’s house when he was about 12 or 13 to work for a fur trader who was operating in the northwest. Then, after spending some years as a pedlar, he settled down at Rivière-Ouelle, where on 27 July 1790 he married Marie-Marguerite Bonnenfant, the 14-year-old daughter of a local merchant. He opened a general store there but nothing is known of the conditions and the means that permitted him to set up his business.
In 1797 Casgrain established a general store at Kamouraska, entrusting it to François Perrault. For a ten per cent commission Perrault undertook to sell the goods that Casgrain would supply. On 12 Feb. 1798 Casgrain paid Quebec merchant James McCallum £200 for a huge house near the church in Rivière-Ouelle. Two days later he signed a partnership agreement with James and John McCallum. Casgrain, who held two-fifths of the shares in the enterprise, agreed to open a store in his new house and build two barns, one at Rivière-Ouelle, the other at Kamouraska, each to store at least 10,000 to 15,000 minots of wheat. Casgrain was also interested in fisheries and in 1802 he bought one such operation in the seigneury of Saint-Denis-De La Bouteillerie. A decade later he went into partnership with Amable Dionne*, a merchant at Kamouraska. The firm of Casgrain et Dionne, which dealt in dry and wet goods, was dissolved by mutual accord in 1818.
Casgrain’s commercial activity led him to give credit to some of his customers, who were mostly farmers from Rivière-Ouelle. The amounts owing on recognizance normally varied from £10 to £85, were payable on a set date, and bore the legal interest rate of six per cent. Casgrain converted part of his liquid assets into landed property. In 1812 and 1813 he bought in succession the three parts of the seigneury of Rivière-Ouelle from the brothers Pierre, Olivier, and Michel Perrault for £12,000 altogether. Income from seigneurial dues, as well as rent from the saw- and flour-mills, the salmon and porpoise fisheries, the ferry across the Ouelle, and the lands on the domain, ensured him a comfortable living. Indeed, Casgrain apparently lived in fine style. When relatives or friends visited him, they were treated to sumptuous banquets. He had a number of servants devoted to the culinary arts: a pastry cook, assistant cook, head cook, and butler. In 1815 he received at his table the administrator, Sir Gordon Drummond*, and the coadjutor bishop, Bernard-Claude Panet.
Casgrain in February 1817 obtained from the House of Assembly the exclusive right to operate a toll lift-bridge over the Ouelle for a 50-year period. Contractor Jean-Baptiste Bédard* had been given the job of building the bridge, which was completed in October 1816. Casgrain’s monopoly, however, aroused discontent among the habitants who had to pay the toll. In 1823 some of them decided to put up a makeshift bridge over the river, but the plan fell through after Casgrain threatened to sue them for £1,000.
In 1821 Casgrain formed a partnership with his son Pierre-Thomas to go into business. He invested £1,500 in the company, and profits were to be shared equally. The company, known as Pierre et Pierre-Thomas Casgrain, ceased to exist on 14 Sept. 1826.
In the absence of documents little is known about Casgrain’s social life. He signed a declaration of loyalty to the British crown in 1794. Five years later he received a commission as justice of the peace for the District of Quebec which was renewed at regular intervals. He enlisted as an adjutant in the Rivière-Ouelle battalion of militia in 1812. From 1819 he participated in the meetings of the Agriculture Society of the Quebec district. That year he was one of the shareholders in the Bank of Quebec.
Pierre Casgrain and his wife had 13 children, 6 of whom reached adulthood. Being well provided for with a dowry of £1,000, each of the daughters made a good marriage: Marie-Sophie married notary François Letellier de Saint-Just, Luce lawyer Philippe Panet*, and Marie-Justine doctor Charles Butler Maguire. When his wife died in 1825, Casgrain liquidated his personal possessions. The sale brought in more than £675, which was divided equally among the children. Casgrain died three years later at Marie-Sophie’s home. He bequeathed to each of his daughters £1,500 and the shares he held in the porpoise fisheries. His eldest son, Pierre-Thomas, inherited the seigneury of Rivière-Ouelle, a few properties, and the store. Olivier-Eugène received the part of the seigneury of L’Islet bought by his father in 1815, and Charles-Eusèbe*’s inheritance comprised some pieces of land, annuity payments, and a property at Quebec.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 16 juin 1771; CE3-1, 27 juill. 1790, 21 nov. 1828; CN1-262, 12, 14 févr. 1798; CN3-17, 10 juin 1797; CN3-30, 5 déc. 1812; 2 mai, 7 nov., 2, 8 déc. 1813; 10 sept., 18, 28 déc. 1815; 2 mai 1819; 18 juill. 1820; 9 janv., 25 avril 1821; 6 mai 1823; 7 août 1825; 14 sept. 1826; 8 mars, 6 sept. 1827; CN3-55, 25 mai 1812. PAC, RG 68, General index, 1651–1841: 335, 338, 345, 347, 359. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1814–17. Quebec Gazette, 24 July 1794; 8 April, 2, 9, 16 Aug., 18 Oct. 1819; 9 Aug. 1821. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, 2: 155–56. P.-B. Casgrain, Mémorial des familles Casgrain, Baby et Perrault du Canada (Québec, 1898). P.-H. Hudon, Rivière-Ouelle de la Bouteillerie; 3 siècles de vie (Ottawa, 1972).