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GAMELIN, PIERRE-JOSEPH (he signed Pierre), storekeeper, trader, militia captain, and justice of the peace; b. 16 April 1736 at Saint-François-du-Lac (Que.), son of Joseph Gamelin, a merchant, and Angélique Giasson; m. 29 Jan. 1759 at Lachine Marie-Louise de Lorimier and they had six daughters; m. secondly on 15 Sept. 1785 at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Laval) Marie-Anne Lemaitre-Lamorille and they had one son; d. 19 Oct. 1796 in Montreal.

Baptized provisionally the day he was born, Pierre-Joseph Gamelin received the full ceremonies of baptism from Canon Joseph-Thierry Hazeur* on 5 June 1736; his godmother was Jeanne-Charlotte de Fleury Deschambault, who later was to marry his godfather, Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil de Cavagnial, in 1736 governor of Trois-Rivières. Gamelin, who was a descendant of a famous Montreal merchant family, was initiated into the business world at an early age. At 22 he was the king’s storekeeper at Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ont.), and he then served at Fort La Présentation (or Oswegatchie; now Ogdensburg, N.Y.).

Since he had performed these duties during Bigot’s administration, Gamelin was accused of complicity in the affaire du Canada. On 29 March 1762 the Paris Châtelet ordered his arrest, and he was tried in absentia. The judgement rendered on 10 Dec. 1763 found Bigot and his accomplices guilty but deferred Gamelin’s case “for further inquiry before pronouncing [him] contumacious.” As he was anxious to protect his reputation and dispel doubts about his activities, Gamelin went to Paris to defend himself and in the end was acquitted. On 4 April 1767 he asked the Council of Marine for reimbursement of 69,000 livres in Canada paper, alleging that he was entitled to this favour because of the heavy expenses he had incurred in coming to clear himself in France.

Gamelin had been in business as a wholesale and retail merchant since at least 1762. His account books, kept from 1766 to 1778, show that Canadians constituted 70 per cent of his clientele; among his suppliers were the London merchants Davis and Sharp; John and Robert Barclay, who were to launch lawsuits against him in 1786; Aymare Mavit and Daniel Vialars; and Ogier Renaud and Company. He was an agent for the latter firm, which often served as his middleman with European suppliers, the firms of Paillet et Meynardie and Tourons et Frères in La Rochelle. Gamelin also went into partnership with Antoine Vitally and Jérôme Jugier, tobacco manufacturers in Canada, but the company went into bankruptcy in 1786. In addition he continued to have an interest in the pays den haut: in the spring of 1789 and 1794 he hired 22 voyageurs, most, of them for Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.). On 18 May 1795 he carried out his last commercial transaction, transferring merchandise to Grant, Campion and Company, including some cases of Jamaica rum that had been sent to Michilimackinac the previous year.

In 1762 some of the British in Montreal took the initiative in bringing together about 30 citizens, of whom ten were Canadians, with a view to founding a Masonic lodge. Wishing to form a connection with the upper-class British, Gamelin joined the group. On the other hand, on 27 Dec. 1770 he was named the third churchwarden of the parish of Notre-Dame in Montreal. A week later, on 3 Jan. 1771, having become master of the lodge, he appeared in public at a Masonic ceremony. The clergy, who pretended to be unaware of the freemasons’ activities, were dumbfounded, and they envisaged the possibility of dismissing him as churchwarden, but Gamelin’s importance and his family’s considerable role within the church and Montreal society since the end of the 17th century persuaded them to be prudent. Not wishing, moreover, to aggravate an affair that was already causing too much stir, the clergy decided to settle the disagreement amicably. After taking counsel together, the parish priest, Louis Jollivet, the vicar general Étienne Montgolfier, and Bishop Briand brought pressure to bear on Gamelin to give up one or other of his posts, which were considered incompatible. Gamelin probably gave in to the ecclesiastics’ wishes; in fact on 30 June 1771, when reconstruction of the church of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours began, in his capacity as churchwarden he laid one of the cornerstones. In addition, when four of his daughters married Britons, three of whom were Protestants, he did not attend the Protestant weddings because of “certain religious reasons.”

As a member of the business élite in the 18th century, the owner of property at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul, Prairie-de-la-Madeleine (La Prairie), Île Bouchard, and particularly at Verchères, where he farmed out 190 acres of land, Gamelin was entrusted with some important duties. A militia captain at the time of the American invasion, he was taken prisoner when the garrison of Saint-Jean was captured in November 1775. In 1784–85 he went to London with some of his compatriots [see Jean-Baptiste-Amable Adhémar] to defend the interests of the Canadians, and in particular to ask for priests, who were urgently needed in Canada. In 1792 Gamelin stood for the county of Effingham in the elections to the first House of Assembly but was defeated by Jacob Jordan, the seigneur of Terrebonne. That year he became a justice of the peace. In 1769 Gamelin had bought a two-storey stone house, built on the present site of the Bonsecours market. After his second marriage he lived at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul. In 1795 he was back in Montreal, where on 14 Sept. 1796, being ill, he made his will.

As an important trader under the British régime Pierre-Joseph Gamelin had to come to terms with the conquerors. At his death his assets were valued at £4,172 and his debts at £4,455, while his accounts receivable amounted to £88,104. Pierre-Joseph was, it seems, the last of the merchants of the Gamelin dynasty, of whom there had been no fewer than ten in the 18th century, including Ignace* the elder, Ignace the younger, and Pierre Gamelin* Maugras.

Raymond Dumais

ANQ-M, Chambre des milices, 13 juill. 1762, 14 janv., 7 sept. 1763, 24 juill. 1764; Doc. jud., Cour des plaidoyers communs, Registres, 1765–96; État civil, Anglicans, Christ Church (Montréal), 30 Jan. 1784, 17 Sept. 1793; Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 20 oct. 1766, 7 janv. 1783; Saint-François-du-Lac, 5 juin 1736; Saints-Anges (Lachine), 29 janv. 1759, 20 févr. 1784; Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Laval), 15 sept. 1785, 31 mai 1789; Greffe de J. G. Beek, 30 janv. 1784, 17 sept. 1793; Greffe de Louis Chaboillez, 8, 11, 15, 22, 29 mai 1789, 5, 10, 13, 14 juin 1794, 7 déc. 1796, 5 juill. 1797, 27 mars 1798; Greffe de Jean Delisle, 29 mars 1780; Greffe de J.-G. Delisle, 13 nov. 1791; Greffe de J.-C. Duvernay, 8 août 1762, 13 juin 1766, 9 oct. 1767, 21 sept. 1771, 9 oct. 1772, 28 juill., 5 août, 5 oct. 1773; Greffe d’Antoine Foucher, 9 avril 1782, 10 juill. 1786, 23 mars, 1er mai 1787; Greffe de François Leguay, 4 janv. 1783, 16 juin 1785; Greffe de P.-F. Mézière, 18 janv. 1779; Greffe de Pierre Panet, 27 janv., 27 févr. 1759, 12 août 1766, 3 déc. 1767, 30 juin 1769, 13 juill. 1770, 12 déc. 1772, 4 janv., 21 févr., 29 mars 1774, 23 févr. 1775; Greffe de Joseph Papineau, 20 févr. 1784, 14 nov. 1792, 18 mai 1795, 6 févr., 4 sept. 1796; Greffe de François Simonnet, 22 juill. 1768, 2 juin, 30 août 1769; Greffe de L.-J. Soupras, 20 juin 1783; Greffe d’André Souste, 2 juill. 1764; Tutelles et curatelles, 15 juin 1785, 19 mars 1795, 1er déc. 1796. Archives paroissiales, Notre-Dame (Montréal), Registre des délibérations d’assemblées générales des marguilliers, I, ff.342, 346–47, 354–55, 359; II, ff.18, 93, 94, 95, 96. ASQ, Fonds Viger-Verreau, Carton 9, no.1; 17, no.51. AUM, P 58, Corr. générale, Pierre Gamelin à Mlle Despinassy, 21 oct. 1772. PAC, MG 24, D3, 1. Jugement rendu souverainement et en dernier ressort, dans lAffaire du Canada, par messieurs les lieutenant général de police, lieutenant particulier et conseillers au Châtelet, et siège présidial de Paris, commissaires du roi en cette partie, du 10 décembre 1763 (Paris, 1763), 6, 45–47, 77. “MM. Adhémar et Delisle,” BRH, XII (1906), 325, 353. “Première réunion de la grande loge de Montréal,” PAC Rapport, 1944, xxxii. Quebec Gazette, 12 Oct. 1780, 17 Nov. 1785, 7 Aug., 13 Nov. 1788, 15 July 1790. F.-J. Audet et Édouard Fabre Surveyer, Les députés au premier parlement du Bas-Canada (1792–1796) . . . (Montréal, 1946), 282. Thomas Chapais, Cours dhistoire du Canada (8v., Québec et Montréal, 1919–34), I, 235–37. A.-H. Gosselin, LÉglise du Canada après la Conquête, I, 380–84. Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Hist. de la CND de Montréal, IV, 192–94, 432; V, 232–33. P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande, 191–93. Ægidius Fauteux, “Marguillier et franc-maçon,” BRH, XXVI (1920), 240. “La première loge maçonnique,” BRH, LI (1945), 179. Louis Richard, “La famille Lœdel,” BRH, LVI (1950), 78–89.

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Raymond Dumais, “GAMELIN, PIERRE-JOSEPH,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed April 24, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gamelin_pierre_joseph_4E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gamelin_pierre_joseph_4E.html
Author of Article:   Raymond Dumais
Title of Article:   GAMELIN, PIERRE-JOSEPH
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   April 24, 2024