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CHANDLER, KENELM CONOR, army and militia officer, office holder, and seigneur; b. 22 Aug. 1773 at Quebec, natural son of Kenelm Chandler* and Elizabeth Conor; d. 29 Jan. 1850 in Nicolet, Lower Canada, and was buried there on 7 February.

Kenelm Conor Chandler’s father came from an old family of landed proprietors at Tewkesbury, England. Kenelm Chandler settled at Quebec in 1764 and pursued a career there as a soldier and office holder in the service of the Board of Ordnance. Like others from upper class British families, he became a defender of a social order based upon the privileges of his group and advocated the maintenance of the monarchy and the seigneurial system.

Nothing is known of Kenelm Conor Chandler’s childhood or youth. He entered the British army while still young, starting out in the Royal Americans (60th Foot), in which his father had served. In 1803, at 30 years of age, he was promoted captain in the regiment. His father died that year, and he, with Charlotte Dunière, his father’s wife, inherited a fortune estimated at £4,730. Coming into possession of this inheritance enabled Chandler to get married. On 18 Sept. 1804 at Quebec he took as his wife Jane, daughter of fur baron Charles Grant, a senior partner in the North West Company. Several representatives of the government of Lower Canada, professional soldiers, and members of the bourgeoisie attended the wedding. The bride brought a dowry of 6,000 livres and a number of family possessions. This marriage was, therefore, another indication of the Chandler family’s respectability. The couple would have one daughter.

In 1805 Chandler had to leave for India, where his regiment was to serve. His movements over the next five years are largely unknown, but he stayed for a time in the West Indies and there contracted an infectious disease that forced him to give up his military career. Upon Chandler’s return to Lower Canada late in 1810, Governor Sir James Henry Craig* appointed him barrack master at Quebec, a post his father had held until his death. As time went on, changes occurred in Chandler’s activities. He discharged his official duties satisfactorily, but also applied himself to increasing his wealth by buying land and lending money. In 1819 Thomas Trigge, his future son-in-law, replaced him as barrack master.

Chandler was on the verge of a new life. A gentleman, he was eager to move higher in the social scale, from office holder to seigneur. The ideal opportunity came in 1821, when the seigneury of Nicolet was put up for auction. No one was in a better position than he to buy it, since he was the principal creditor of its owner, Charles-François-Xavier Baby*. Consequently Chandler acquired it for the modest sum of £6,530, plus another £1,020 for the manor-house and the domanial farm. Shortly after the transaction he moved into the house, where he resided until his death.

From his arrival in Nicolet, Chandler asserted his rights as seigneur and insisted upon the honours that went with them: the seigneur’s pew and the privileges of the holy water and consecrated bread in the church. He accumulated honorary posts, and in 1822 he was appointed commissioner for the summary trial of small causes at Nicolet. Also that year Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay] appointed him lieutenant-colonel of the 2nd Battalion of Buckingham militia. Full of grand ideas, Chandler dreamed of settling his seigneury with people of British stock, and so in 1823 he had an Anglican church built near his manor-house.

Eager for profit, Chandler managed his seigneury strictly. It was undergoing development and the ratio between the land and the people on it was becoming critical, so that he realized he had to pay more attention to the use of his property. If he wanted to draw maximum profit, he had to control the administration more firmly. Consequently in 1823 he hired notary Luc-Michel Cressé, whose main task was to run the seigneury efficiently. Thanks to Cressé’s talents, management underwent a considerable change: the traditional ways were re-established, administrative structures were rationalized, and seigneurial demands were tightened. Under Chandler’s close supervision the seigneury became a productive and highly profitable enterprise in less than ten years.

Chandler was not content with having his books kept properly. The density of population forced him from 1830 to plan a better overall organization and adopt a set of rules ensuring greater control of this small rural community. He saw the roads, village, côtes (concessions fronting on the water) and censives (seigneurial areas), mills, and lands not yet granted to tenants as a complete environment, which was both natural and man-made and which needed both formal organization and better supervision. It was necessary to preserve or re-establish certain fundamental rights, demand new services and other forms of payment, take a census of lands not yet granted, and accord tenants new terms. These tasks required that he be as well informed as possible about his entire seigneury. In order to consolidate his hold on the property, a new land roll would have to be prepared. To this end he had plans for surveying done, including a detailed survey that would provide better information about the rapid transformations occurring in the seigneury. He thereby ensured that the land roll would be drawn up on even sounder bases.

Thus in 1832 Chandler gave surveyor Jean-Baptiste Legendre, from Gentilly (Bécancour), the task of laying out survey lines, measuring every plot, and resolving certain difficulties in fixing the boundaries in the southwest corner of the seigneury. To preserve his territorial rights he then entered into a series of costly lawsuits and counter-suits that were still going on when he died. Yet he asserted himself as an all-powerful seigneur and more and more imposed respect for the boundaries of his seigneury upon his neighbours. In 1837, seasoned and meticulous, Chandler ordered his definitive land roll to be prepared. Cressé, who was entrusted with drawing it up, was not unaware of the magnitude of the task. In big registers he noted the tenants’ names and marked off each parcel of land, taking into account its size, location, occupancy, state of development, frequent changes of ownership, and tenancy charges in fees and services. In this way Chandler learned all about his property: lands granted en censive, seigneurial domain and lands not yet ceded, income, and dues. The preparation of the land roll gave rise to much discontent among the seigneury’s farmers, however. On the eve of the disturbances of 1837–38 there were even some signs of unrest and revolt in the countryside around Nicolet [see Jean-Baptiste Proulx*]. With the support of the curé of the parish of Saint-Jean-Baptiste, Jean Raimbault, Chandler none the less succeeded in containing the Patriote movement in his region without difficulty.

After this interruption of events Chandler concentrated most of his energies on managing his principal domain, an area of nearly 300 arpents. It comprised a spacious manor-house, two small houses for the servants, and a well-equipped domanial farm with two barns, three stables, two storage sheds, and three outbuildings. In 1840 he began to convert some of his land into pasturage, in order to encourage the breeding of livestock on a large scale. He even installed a dairy and an abattoir to increase milk production and the sale of meat on the local markets. Chandler ran his secondary domains just as efficiently. He retained several lots near the Rivière Nicolet for himself, setting up two flour-mills and six sawmills. Similarly he seized a number of pieces of uncleared land and incorporated them into his domain with the intention of cutting wood on them. Ownership of such domanial property certainly meant prestige to him. He spent what it brought in, along with other income, on things adding social distinction – clothes for the ladies, fashionable receptions for the senior dignitaries in the government, a host of servants of every kind

On the eve of his death in 1850 Chandler owned a large seigneury with a frontage of two leagues and a depth of five. His manor-house, a huge dwelling resembling a château, had its gold and silver plate and jewellery. His wardrobe and his wife’s were filled to overflowing with fine materials and clothing of all sorts. The household linen was also indicative of the seigneur’s wealth: several rooms were piled high with blankets, pillows, sheets, tablecloths, and linens. The inventory of the furniture was just as impressive: benches, chairs, buffets, wardrobes, beds. His library contained many devotional works and political writings on monarchy, as well as a number of books on the Coutume de Paris and seigneurial practices. All these appurtenances confirm that Chandler was indeed a worthy representative of the new British élite in Lower Canada in the first half of the 19th century which had adapted well to the old French institutions and had profited to the maximum from them.

Richard Chabot

ANQ-MBF, CE1-12, 7 févr. 1850; CN1-21, 8 mai 1844; 13–15 mai, 3 juin 1850. ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 22 août 1773, 18 sept. 1804; CN1-230, 15 sept. 1804; CN1-262, 13 nov. 1804; P-34. ASN, AO, Polygraphie, IX: 25; Seigneurie de Nicolet, Cahier de cens et rentes, 11–18; Terrier, 2–9. PAC, RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1828–29, app.R. Quebec almanac, 1803–5, 1810–19, 1822. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions. Bellemare, Hist. de Nicolet, 213–53. Richard Chabot, “Los terriers de Nicolet: une source importante pour l’histoire rurale du Québec au début du XIXe siècle,” Les Cahiers nicolétains (Nicolet, Qué.), 6 (1984): 115–26. Denis Fréchette, “La querelle du pain bénit dans la seigneurie de Nicolet,” Les Cahiers nicolétains, 1 (1979): 19–33. A. St-L. Trigge, “The two Kenelm Chandlers,” BRH, 49 (1943): 108–13.

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Cite This Article

Richard Chabot, “CHANDLER, KENELM CONOR,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 20, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chandler_kenelm_conor_7E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chandler_kenelm_conor_7E.html
Author of Article:   Richard Chabot
Title of Article:   CHANDLER, KENELM CONOR
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 7
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1988
Year of revision:   1988
Access Date:   April 20, 2024