FOUCHER, MÉDÉRIC (baptized François-Médéric), merchant, politician, translator, farmer, manufacturer, and author; b. 14 Oct. 1838 in Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan, Lower Canada, son of François Foucher, a merchant, and Sara Dugas; m. there 26 Nov. 1860 Exerine Lesage, sister of Siméon Le Sage, and they had five children; d. there 29 April 1909.
Médéric Foucher studied at the Collège de L’Assomption from 1848 to 1853 and at Holy Cross College in Worcester, Mass., from 1857 to 1859. He then took a trip to Maryland, Kentucky, Virginia, and Louisiana where, it is thought, he became interested in tobacco cultivation methods. In 1860 he returned to Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan, married, and opened a general store.
An enterprising man, Foucher took advantage of his position as mayor between 1870 and 1872 to develop communications in the region: postal and telegraph services, roads, and railways. His concern for the community also led him to serve as chairman of the school board, county warden, president of the Montcalm county agricultural society, and lieutenant in the militia, and to petition for the establishment of an experimental farm at Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan.
In the early 1870s Foucher moved to St Boniface, Man., where his circle included Archbishop Alexandre-Antonin Taché*; Joseph Royal and Marc-Amable Girard*, lawyers and politicians; Alphonse-Alfred-Clément La Rivière*, who had also recently arrived; Louis Riel*, whose trust he enjoyed; Ambroise-Dydime Lépine*; and Abbé Georges Dugas*. By 1877 he was back in the province of Quebec and he decided to live in Montreal, where he worked as a translator for the newspaper La Vérité, founded by Jules-Paul Tardivel.
In 1881 Foucher returned to Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan and took up the cultivation of tobacco on a local farm. He planted 32 varieties of pipe and cigar tobacco on 28 arpents, bringing in $90.40 per arpent in the first year. Tobacco farming on a small scale had begun in the region a century earlier when deported Acadians planted seed brought in from Connecticut. Foucher’s goal was to supply the Canadian market with domestic production. He demonstrated that the crop could bring untold wealth to his own region and to all of Canada, but he came up against public prejudice, incredulous manufacturers, and governments initially so cool to his proposals that they refused to encourage him in any way. To deal with these obstacles, he published numerous circulars and newspaper articles. His articles appeared in L’Étoile du Nord and La Gazette de Joliette in Joliette, L’Étendard, Le Moniteur de commerce, Le Courtier de Montréal, La Minerve, La Patrie, La Presse, and Le Monde in Montreal, and the Rive Nord in Berthierville. Foucher also sent articles to publications outside Canada: the Western Tobacco Journal in Cincinnati, Ohio, and Le Tabac in Paris. Expositions were another medium he used. He supplied samples of his tobacco varieties to the provincial exhibitions in Quebec City and Toronto and to others in New Orleans (1885–86), London (1886), Chicago (1893), and Montreal (1897).
This distinguished and articulate man, the recipient of medals and diplomas, went on the lecture circuit on behalf of the Quebec government, to promote cultivation of the crop in Joliette, Terrebonne, and Deux-Montagnes counties. The area around Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan was covered each summer with various kinds of the plant, which became a significant source of income. However, tobacco farming also required a large number of tasks to be performed between April and the next winter: before the advent of modern agricultural machinery, each arpent needed some 300 hours of work.
With his brother-in-law Joseph-Odilon Dupuis, whose brother Nazaire* had founded the Dupuis firm in Montreal, Foucher established a manufacturing company in his home town, F.-A. Médéric Foucher et Compagnie, which employed some 20 workers. Its tobacco fields, maintained like flower gardens, attracted visitors and journalists. In 1883 he started the Compagnie de Tabac de Joliette et de Saint-Jacques in Joliette. This business proved a profitable one for the region, and nine tobacco-manufacturing operations would be started at Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan in the 1920s.
Described as an “active, intelligent man, devoted to all good causes,” Médéric Foucher died in Saint-Jacques on 29 April 1909. He has been justifiably hailed as the “pioneer of large-scale tobacco farming in Canada.”
ANQ-M, CE5-31, 17 oct. 1838, 26 nov. 1860. Le Devoir, juillet 1947. L’Étoile du Nord, 20, 27 mai 1909. Samuel Baillargeon, “Le pionnier de la grande culture du tabac au Canada,” Sainte Anne de Beaupré (Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Qué.), 111 (1983): 327–28. Guy Courteau et François Lanoue, Une nouvelle Acadie: Saint-Jacques-de-l’Achigan, 1772–1947 ([Montréal, 1949]), 317–20.