GALLANT, JOSEPH, farmer and businessman, b. 19 March 1839 in Rustico, P.E.I., son of Isidore Gallant, dit Bronne, and Sophie Pineau; m. there 18 Nov. 1862 Frances Elizabeth Coffin, and they had five daughters, one of whom died in infancy, and two sons, one adoptive; d. there 23 Sept. 1923.
Joseph Gallant’s father was one of the most prosperous Acadian farmers in Rustico. Evidently Joseph attended the local elementary school and worked on the family farm before going to Charlottetown, where he found employment with Carvell Brothers, the largest exporter of merchandise on the Island [see Jedediah Slason Carvell*]. By also serving as a stable boy for a well-to-do family who gave him room and board, he was able to save enough money to buy a 50-acre farm when he returned to Rustico.
When he moved onto his farm, Gallant also ventured into the world of business. He opened a small store in his home, where around 1871 he took on the job of postmaster as well. In 1880 he had an impressive house built in Second Empire style in which he kept a store. That year he invested in maritime commerce, having a 77-ton schooner, the Four Sisters, built. He bought another one in 1884, the Acadian, of 84 tons burden. Gallant was able to export the produce of land and sea, principally to Massachusetts, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, and New Brunswick, for some 40 years. The ships brought back mainly coal and building lumber. In 1880 Le Moniteur acadien sang his praises as a businessman. “Thanks to his skilful management, Mr Gallant sees his business grow and prosper, and success attends him in all his undertakings.”
At the end of the 19th century, Gallant was at the height of his career. He owned three stores, two schooners, a farm, and warehouses. Most of his transactions were carried out from his store in Rusticoville, where he had even had a wharf built. He was undeniably the most important businessman in his region and, with Gilbert DesRoches*, one of the most prosperous in the province’s Acadian community.
Father George-Antoine Bellecourt*, the dynamic founder in 1861 of the Farmers’ Bank of Rustico, had officiated at Gallant’s wedding, and the two men were neighbours until 1869. Although Gallant had not been a founding director of the bank, he became its second president in 1878. The bank had experienced quite serious administrative difficulties for several years, and Gallant, along with the cashier (general manager), Adrien Doiron, was responsible for getting it back on a sound footing. He approached the federal government many times in order to get its charter renewed in 1883 and 1891, but it finally expired in 1894. As president, Gallant had to deal with the liquidation of this people’s bank, which was a forerunner of the caisse populaire [see Alphonse Desjardins*] and credit union movements in North America.
When Joseph Gallant, who was nicknamed Dandy Joe, died in 1923, he was quite heavily in debt. It is believed that the man to whom he had entrusted the management of his business in his old age and illness was responsible for this situation. After the death of this pioneer among Acadian businessmen in Prince Edward Island, his lovely home in Rustico, his farm, and his business were sold. Fortunately the residence has been preserved and restored. Known as Barachois Inn, it stands opposite St Augustine’s Church and the parish hall that housed the Farmers’ Bank of Rustico, now a national historic site.
Centre de Recherches Acadiennes de l’Île-du-Prince-Édouard (Miscouche, Î.-P.-É.), Fichier généal. LAC, RG 31, C1, 1881, 1891, 1901, Queens County, P.E.I. (mfm. at PARO). PARO, Parish of Saint-Augustin de Rustico, 1890 census. Private arch., Georges Arsenault (Charlottetown), Interview with Théophile Blanchard, 25 April 1986. Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island, Estates div. (Charlottetown), liber 23: f.93; inventory and affidavit, 3 Oct. 1923; order passing the accounts etc., 9 Feb. 1925. Examiner (Charlottetown), 15 Feb. 1878; 18 Sept. 1885; 4 May, 6 Nov. 1888; 24 Dec. 1890; 20 Jan. 1892. L’Impartial (Tignish, Î.-P.-É.), 26 juill., 11 oct., 29 nov. 1894; 28 févr. 1895; 26 oct. 1899; 26 avril, 25 oct. 1900; 20 nov. 1902; 19 nov. 1903; 31 août 1905; 8 févr. 1910. Le Moniteur acadien (Shédiac, N.-B.), 12 août 1880, 24 déc. 1885, 7 déc. 1886, 17 juin 1887, 17 août 1888. Gabriel Bertrand, Paroisse acadienne de Rustico (Î.-P.-É.) et la Banque des fermiers: recueil de citations épistolaires du père Georges-Antoine Belcourt (Moncton, N.-B., 1995). Chappelle’s Prince Edward Island almanac and guide book . . . (Charlottetown), 1885. J. T. Croteau, “The Farmers’ Bank of Rustico: an early people’s bank,” Dalhousie Rev. (Halifax), 36 (1956-57): 144-55. Directories, Can., 1871; P.E.I., 1889/90. Antoinette Gallant, “Les Bronne: une courte histoire de ma famille,” La Petite Souvenance (Wellington, Î.-P.-É.), 1 (1979): 9-13. R. J. Graham et al., The currency and medals of Prince Edward Island (Willowdale, Ont., 1988). Harvie’s Prince Edward Island almanack . . . (Charlottetown), 1872. Ships and seafarers of Atlantic Canada: the Atlantic Canada Shipping Project (CD-ROM, St John’s, 1998).