CHRISTIE, WILLIAM PLENDERLEATH (known until 1835 as William Plenderleath), seigneur and politician; b. 13 Dec. 1780 in England; d. 4 May 1845 in Blackwood (Republic of Ireland).
The third son of Gabriel Christie* and his mistress Rachel Plenderleath, William Plenderleath joined his father’s regiment, the 60th Foot, as an ensign on 20 April 1793 and was promoted captain on 29 May 1803. He was stationed in the West Indies during most of the Napoleonic Wars but also served in Italy and spent 18 months on Madeira as deputy assistant adjutant-general. He resigned his commission in 1810.
Perhaps as early as 1816 Plenderleath moved to Montreal, where he may have lived as a member of the Christie household. That year he filed suit against his half-brother Napier Christie Burton to collect the unpaid balance of the legacy of £1,500 sterling left to him by his father. Some time before 1820 he married Elizabeth McGinnis, the sister of Alexander McGinnis, a trader between Bristol and Dominica. After she died he remarried, taking as his wife Amelia Martha Bowman on 30 March 1835 in Montreal. Little is known of his early years in Montreal except that he acted as executor for the estates of several members of his first wife’s family and that those duties sent him to Bristol in 1820.
In Montreal Christie lived at Clifton Lodge, his home in the faubourg Quebec. He also owned a farm in Cornwall and 1,200 acres in Ascot Township; in 1842 he purchased Joseph Papineau’s house in Montreal. He held shares in the Bank of England, the Bank of Montreal, the City Bank, and the British American Land Company.
When Napier Christie Burton died in 1835, Plenderleath inherited his father’s entailed estate after taking the name and arms of Christie, probably on 27 June. He thereby acquired some town lots in Dorchester (Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu) and the seigneuries of Repentigny, Bleury, Sabrevois, Noyan, Léry, and Lacolle, swearing fealty and homage on 7 Nov. 1835.
To manage his estate Christie appointed William McGinnis of L’Acadie, a nephew by his first marriage, as his land agent. After a year on salary, McGinnis was paid a 15 per cent commission on his collections of seigneurial dues. His own interests were therefore closely linked to those of the seigneur. McGinnis also shared Christie’s strong tory leanings and assisted him in his attempts to promote Protestantism as well as in business matters. His services were valued: as Christie wrote to him, “I have no one who could or would perform such necessary services for me; & none other, except your Brother, in whom I could confide.”
Although Christie always acted through his agent, he closely supervised the administration of his seigneuries. He completed a survey of them, establishing a separate record for each in preparation for the division of the estate. He singled out absentees, especially those who had participated in the rebellions of 1837–38, as targets of suits for arrears in rent. A drainage project in Léry increased the area of arable land in that seigneury, the ungranted portion of which became the domain of Lakefield when Christie was unable to have it commuted into free and common socage. A similar drainage project was undertaken in Noyan, with less success. Two sawmills were constructed at Saint-Valentin, but otherwise entrepreneurial activity was left to others. The most important mill sites in the seigneuries were sold; less important ones were leased and later inherited by Christie’s heirs. Christie’s major achievement as a seigneur, therefore, was to put order in the management of his seigneuries so that they would produce a regular income, but he did so at the cost of using sheriff sales when necessary. Although his correspondence indicates a strong prejudice in favour of English “tenants,” he dealt fairly with his censitaires. His administrative policy was marked by the regular collection of rents, maintained at the rates which had been established by the previous administration.
Christie actively promoted schools and Protestant missionary activity in Lower Canada, taking a special interest in education for native people. He paid for the erection of Trinity Chapel in Montreal and chose its first minister, Mark Willoughby; he financed the construction of Trinity Church in Christieville (Iberville) and of a parish school there; and he donated land for a glebe and church at both Christieville and Napierville. In addition he presented land in Ascot Township to the Church Society, of which he was a founding member and vice-president. He gave his approval to the mission of Henriette Feller [Odin*] at Grande-Ligne and paid a colporteur to deliver Protestant religious tracts in Repentigny and in the seigneuries of the upper Richelieu valley. Nevertheless, he was careful to keep his involvement in these activities quiet. Although Christie, evidently a religious man, was kind in his personal relations, proselytism rather than philanthropy seems to have been the driving force behind much of his public charity.
During the rebellions of 1837–38 Christie had volunteered his services as military secretary for Lower Canada and part of Upper Canada, and he held that office for a time. From 2 April 1838 to 1 June 1838 and from 2 Nov. 1838 to 10 Feb. 1841 he served on the Special Council of Lower Canada. He then moved to the manor he had built in Christieville. In 1843 he and his wife left for Great Britain, where he hoped to find a cure for the paralysis which affected one arm. He died in Blackwood two years later.
No children were born of Christie’s marriages. His wife, his universal legatee, received £4,200 according to the terms of their marriage contract, the manor in Christieville, the seigneury of Bleury, and the domains in Léry and Lacolle. Relatives inherited the other seigneuries. Properties and moveables were left to members of the McGinnis and Bowman families. Personal friends, 32 in all, received £50 each, to be paid from the arrears in rent, and the balance, if any, was to go to several missionary societies.
Christie’s right to succeed to his father’s estate was questioned both before and after his death and was challenged in the courts after 1864; however, on 21 July 1874 the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council confirmed his right to inherit despite his “adulterine bastard” status, and his heirs remained undisturbed.
ANQ-M, CE1-63, 30 mars 1835; CN1-134, 24 mars 1835; CN1-175, 3 mars 1842. ANQ-Q, P-52, nos.498–511. McCord Museum, M20483. PAC, MG 8, F99, ser.1–2, 8–9; RG 1, L3L: 30175–77; RG 4, 1353, 3; RG 8, I (C ser.), 392: 49. King v. Tunstall (1874), 7 C. R. A. C., 126. Quebec Gazette, 3 Sept. 1840. Elinor Kyte Senior, British regulars in Montreal: an imperial garrison, 1832–1854 (Montreal, 1981). Françoise Noël, “Gabriel Christie’s seigneuries: settlement and seigneurial administration in the upper Richelieu valley, 1764–1854” (phd thesis, McGill Univ., Montreal, 1985). N. W. Wallace, A regimental chronicle and list of officers of the 60th, or King’s Royal Rifle Corps, formerly the 62nd, or the Royal American Regiment of Foot (London, 1879).