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GERRARD, SAMUEL, fur trader, businessman, militia officer, justice of the peace, politician, and seigneur; b. 1767 in Ireland, possibly in County Kilkenny; m. 11 Nov. 1792, in Montreal, Ann Grant, daughter of John Grant and granddaughter of Richard Dobie*; they had three sons and two daughters; d. 24 March 1857 in Montreal.
Samuel Gerrard, son of a prosperous Anglo-Irish family, came to Montreal as a young man. As early as 1785 he was established there as a merchant, specializing in the fur trade of the Timiskaming region. In 1791 he became a partner with his future brother-in-law William Grant* and Étienne-Charles Campion* in Grant, Campion and Company, a leading firm in the fur trade southwest of Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.), around the Great Lakes, and in the Timiskaming region. Gerrard was the company’s accountant and received a quarter of the profits. By 1795 he appears to have owned a one-third interest in the partnership. The declining health of his two associates and the uncertain nature of the fur trade in what might soon become American territory led to the dissolution of the firm in November 1795. Probably anticipating this dissolution, Gerrard had signed a partnership agreement the previous month with William Parker and John Ogilvy* to establish the firm Parker, Gerrard, and Ogilvy for the fur trade south and west of Michilimackinac. When the new firm began to trade north and west of the Great Lakes as far as the Athabasca region in the late 1790s, it met with stiff competition from the North West Company [see Simon McTavish*].
Parker, Gerrard, and Ogilvy was also involved in relatively new staples trades, buying and selling wheat and flour and possibly timber and potash. The partnership continued to expand and by 1800 counted seven partners: Parker and John Gillespie in London; John Mure* in Quebec; Gerrard, George Gillespie*, and Thomas Yeoward in Montreal; and Ogilvy, the wintering partner. Sir Alexander Mackenzie* joined the firm, now Parker, Gerrard, Ogilvy and Company, in 1803. Mackenzie, Ogilvy, and Mure were also involved in the New North West Company (sometimes called the XY Company) on their own account, and Parker, Gerrard, Ogilvy and Company acted as suppliers for the XY Company. In 1805, a year after the absorption of the XY Company by the NWC, Gerrard’s firm held the fourth largest interest in the NWC; by 1814 it was worth £38,500. The firm was one of the fur-trade partnerships that established the Michilimackinac Company in 1806 [see John Ogilvy]; Gerrard himself still held shares in that company as late as 1832. Parker, Gerrard, Ogilvy and Company was dissolved in 1812 but the outbreak of war delayed the settlement of the firm’s affairs until 1814. Afterwards, Gerrard seems to have been less directly involved in the fur trade.
Gerrard had formed a partnership with Yeoward and Robert Gillespie* in 1812. Gerrard, Yeoward, Gillespie and Company continued to maintain links with Sir Alexander Mackenzie, Gillespie, Parker and Company, the English firm which had looked after the London affairs of Parker, Gerrard, Ogilvy and Company. In 1817 Gerrard entered into partnership with Robert Gillespie, Robert Strachan, Jasper Tough, George Moffatt*, William Finlay*, and William Stevens to export wheat and timber and import general merchandise for the wholesale or retail trade. This arrangement created three firms: Gillespie, Gerrard and Company in London; Gerrard, Finlay and Company at Quebec; and Gerrard, Gillespie, Moffatt and Company in Montreal. Thus, for the first time, Gerrard had a share in the profits of the European end of the business. The Montreal firm sent nearly 100 boatloads of general merchandise to Upper Canada in 1817. In December 1821 Gerrard sold his share in the three firms to his partners for £40,000.
Gerrard’s business activities were not limited to his partnerships. He was a major shareholder in a shipping company, and a shipowner in his own right. In addition, he speculated in real estate and acted as an estate executor. He was also a business and legal representative as well as a collector of debts for individuals or companies based in the Canadas, England, France, and the United States, activities which continued to occupy him until his death.
After 1821 Gerrard’s major interest shifted from trade to finance. Both privately and through his firms, he had been involved for some time in extending credit, making loans, discounting bills, and transferring funds. The shift in focus was therefore less abrupt than might at first appear. As early as June 1810 Gerrard attended a meeting of bank stockholders, probably of the Canada Banking Company, a project proposed by John Richardson* but never realized. Gerrard was in England from October 1816 to the spring of 1818 and thus, unlike his partner Moffatt, he was not a signatory of the Bank of Montreal’s articles of association in 1817, but he was involved with its affairs from the beginning and served as its president from 1820 to 1826. He was deposed in a coup led by Moffatt, despite the support of the older directors who had their origins in the fur trade, such as John Forsyth*, George Garden*, and Peter McGill. The basis of the dispute was the charge that Gerrard had exceeded his powers as president and had made loans on the basis of favouritism. As a result, the bank faced potential losses, particularly in the failure of McTavish, McGillivrays and Company and McGillivrays, Thain and Company. Gerrard, a personal creditor of Simon McGillivray*, was one of the trustees appointed to administer the liquidation of the firms. Despite Moffatt’s victory, Gerrard remained on the board of directors of the bank and continued to be active in its affairs. At an important shareholders’ meeting in June 1826 Moffatt lost a vote to have Gerrard reimburse the bank.
Gerrard was a founder of the Montreal Savings Bank, established in 1819 and closely allied with the Bank of Montreal, sharing the same quarters and often the same officers. In 1822 he authorized loans for the bank, in 1826 he was a director, and in 1856, as its president, he suggested that it be absorbed by the Bank of Montreal and become the latter’s savings department. The absorption took place that year. He was also a substantial shareholder in the Bank of Canada, which was taken over by the Bank of Montreal in 1831. In addition to his banking interests, Gerrard supervised the Canadian affairs of the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company of London from 1831 until well into the 1840s. In 1841, as administrator of the bankrupt estate of Jean-Baptiste-Toussaint Pothier*, Gerrard purchased the seigneuries of Lanaudière and Carufel in order to facilitate their resale to a third party. When two attempts to resell the seigneuries failed, he held on to the properties, eventually bequeathing them to his heirs.
Gerrard took an active interest in political questions, particularly when they impinged on his economic activities. He was appointed by Lord Durham [Lambton*] to the Special Council, holding office from 2 April to 1 June 1838 and from 2 Nov. 1838 to 10 Feb. 1841 and playing a prominent role in the council’s deliberations. In 1831 he had succeeded Richardson as Edward Ellice*’s agent in North America and in that capacity offered and received political advice. Gerrard was a confirmed monarchist, an anti-democrat, and a defender of imperial ties. He was a virulent critic of Louis-Joseph Papineau* and the Patriotes for their opposition to banks, land companies, and immigration. In July 1838 Ellice felt it necessary to remind him that “an English Ministry . . . can never propose the permanent establishment of arbitrary government.” For his part Gerrard described the French Canadians as “all rebels at heart,” advised against conciliatory measures after the uprising of 1837–38, and lamented the failure to hang a dozen of its leaders. The union of Upper and Lower Canada in 1841 safeguarded Gerrard’s economic investments and his involvement in politics declined.
Gerrard was active in a variety of organizations consistent with his political and business interests. He was a major in the militia; justice of the peace in 1821; director of the Montreal Library; member of the Committee of Trade; treasurer, life governor, vice president from 1835 to 1837, and president from 1837 to 1857 of the Montreal General Hospital; treasurer of the Provincial Grand Lodge; warden of the Montreal Protestant House of Industry and Refuge; and president of both the British and Canadian School Society of Montreal and the Montreal Auxiliary Bible Society.
Gerrard and his wife had two daughters, who married British army officers and left Lower Canada, and two sons who became officers in the British army and also left Montreal. A third son, Richard, became the Canadian agent for the Alliance British and Foreign Life and Fire Assurance Company in 1843 with his father’s recommendation and guarantee. Gerrard’s wife died in Montreal on 18 Oct. 1854.
Samuel Gerrard was a prominent Montreal businessman during the early period of the city’s transformation from fur-trade centre to commercial metropolis. Like many of his contemporaries, Gerrard lived a life dominated by his business interests, as was illustrated in the Christmas wish he offered to his former partner Parker in 1814, “that pepper, cheese, tobacco and every other delicacy of your choice speculations may rise in value and yield tenfold increase.”
ANQ-M, CE1-63, 11 nov. 1792. Antiquarian and Numismatic Soc. of Montreal, Samuel Gerrard papers, 1805–51 (mfm. at PAC). AUM, P 58, A3/85; A5; C2; G1; G2; U. PAC, MG 24, A2; B2; RG 68, General index, 1651–1841. Can., Prov. of, Legislative Assembly, App. to the journals, 1854–55, app.ZZZ. Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace). Quebec Gazette, 19 Jan. 1818. Denison, Canada’s first bank, vol.1. E. A. Mitchell, Fort Timiskaming and the fur trade (Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1977). Charles Drisard, “L’Honorable Samuel Gerrard,” BRH, 34 (1928): 63–64. R. H. Fleming, “The origin of ‘Sir Alexander Mackenzie and Company,’” CHR, 9 (1928): 137–55. Thomas O’Leary, “Ramble through St. Paul Street in the year 1819,” Montreal Daily Star, 24 May 1920: 18.
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Cite This Article
Peter Deslauriers, “GERRARD, SAMUEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed March 21, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gerrard_samuel_8E.html.
The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:
|Author of Article:||Peter Deslauriers|
|Title of Article:||GERRARD, SAMUEL|
|Publication Name:||Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8|
|Publisher:||University of Toronto/Université Laval|
|Year of publication:||1985|
|Year of revision:||1985|
|Access Date:||March 21, 2023|