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HANNA, JAMES GODFREY, silversmith, businessman, militia officer, and seigneur; baptized 9 Nov. 1788 at Quebec, son of James G. Hanna* and Elizabeth Saul; m. 25 Oct. 1812 Margaret Roberts Eckart, and they had four daughters; d. 19 Dec. 1851 in the seigneury of Saint-Charles-de-la-Belle-Alliance, Lower Canada.

James Godfrey Hanna’s father arrived at Quebec from Dublin about 1763 and two years later had established himself as a clockmaker, watchmaker, silversmith, and merchant at “the sign of the Eagle and Watch,” 15 Rue de la Fabrique. There he trained James Godfrey to follow him as a craftsman and merchant, and in 1803 he took his son into partnership, gradually withdrawing from the business himself. After his death in 1807, James Godfrey continued the business along the lines established by his father. From England he imported jewellery, cutlery, plated ware, Britannia metal, clocks and watches, fishing tackle, pistols, money scales, and a wide variety of fashionable goods, as well as some general merchandise on consignment. In addition, he produced objects in gold and silver, repaired clocks and watches, and purchased gold, silver, and copper.

Hanna developed an active interest in community affairs. He was commissioned lieutenant in the Île d’Orléans battalion of militia and during the War of 1812 served as adjutant-major under Lieutenant-Colonel Jacques Voyer*. In April 1813 he was elected to the committee of the Quebec Fire Society and in the same month was a subscriber to the Loyal and Patriotic Society of the Province of Lower Canada.

By 1815 Hanna’s business was prosperous enough for him to advertise, although apparently without success, for two apprentices to the silversmith’s trade. The following year he operated a second shop at 16 Rue de la Montagne. He also entered into partnership with Quebec silversmith François Delagrave, perhaps in order to have someone who could assist him in managing two stores but also to enable him to devote more time to other business interests. Hanna owned property in Trois-Rivières, Rivière-du-Loup, and Kamouraska. In 1816–17 he began to buy and sell real estate at Quebec in the faubourg Saint-Roch and on Rue Saint-Jean, but he does not seem to have made substantial profits from the transactions. In addition, he owned a quarry on Rue Saint-Jean which he leased in 1817. Hanna also began to develop the seigneury of Saint-Charles-de-la-Belle-Alliance in the Beauce region, which his wife had inherited from her father. In 1817 he purchased 3,000 acres in the area, probably near his wife’s property, and in the same year he announced his intention of petitioning the House of Assembly for permission to build a toll-bridge over the Rivière Famine in the parish of Saint-François (at Beauceville).

Hanna’s partnership with Delagrave and other plans were abandoned early in 1818 when he went bankrupt. In February, Louis Gauvreau*, John Reinhart, and Anthony Anderson were elected trustees and they asked for payment of all debts owing to Hanna, whose bankruptcy seems to have been a personal one. Hanna’s stock was sold by the sheriff on 4 May. Later that month the Quebec Gazette announced the September sale by public auction of some of his properties, including a two-storey and a three-storey house on Rue de la Fabrique; two additional lots, both with houses; land in the Lower Town on Rue de la Montagne; and two plots of land in the faubourg Saint-Roch. All were to be sold at the suit of Samuel Dumas, a Montreal merchant from whom Hanna had borrowed £1,100 early in 1816. On 23 Dec. 1819 the sheriff advertised the imminent sale of two more properties owned by Hanna, in Kamouraska and in the seigneury of Rivière-du-Loup, this time to satisfy the claims of Kamouraska merchant Jean-Baptiste Chamberland. There were no further seizures and public sales of Hanna’s property, but his bankruptcy had brought to an end the family’s association of more than 50 years with the silversmith-merchant trade of Quebec. Among the few remaining pieces identified as being his work, either alone or in partnership with Delagrave, are a snuff-box, soup-spoons, serving spoons, and a skewer.

Hanna probably left Quebec soon after his bankruptcy. He settled on his wife’s property in the Beauce where he attempted to live the life of a seigneur. He is said to have brought numerous settlers from England or northern Ireland around 1820 to colonize the seigneury. The venture was an expensive one and hardly profitable since many of the settlers moved on to other areas. By 1825, however, approximately 25 families of northern Irish origin had settled in the region and were manufacturing cloth and sewing thread. In that year they sold 700 yards of high-quality linen on the Quebec market and expected to produce 1,500 yards the following year. Little else is known of the seigneury or of Hanna’s life at Saint-Charles-de-la-Belle-Alliance. He appears to have stayed there until his death in 1851.

John E. Langdon

ANQ-M, CN1-353, 28 juin 1849. ANQ-Q, CE1-61, 25 oct. 1812, 3 oct. 1813, 31 août 1817, 19 sept. 1819; CE1-66, 9 nov. 1788; CN1-49, 25 févr. 1814; 10, 21 juin, 8, 31 oct. 1817; CN1-230, 26 mai 1812; 10, 26 janv., 13 mai 1816; 16 janv., 10 févr. 1817; CN1-262, 28 janv., 3–4, 23, 25–26, 30 avril 1817. MAC-CD, Fonds Morisset, 2, H243/J27.5/2; H243.1/J27.5/2. Quebec Gazette, 5 July 1764; 19 Feb. 1807; 6 July 1809; 5, 29 April 1813; 27 Nov. 1817; 19 Feb., 30 April, 21 May 1818; 15 June, 23 Dec. 1819; 1 Aug. 1825; 31 Dec. 1851. Quebec Mercury, November 1815–August 1816. Quebec Telegraph, 21 May 1816. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, 5: 22–23. Philippe Angers, Les seigneurs et premiers censitaires de St-Georges-Beauce et la famine Pozer (Beauceville, Qué., 1927). J. E. Langdon, Canadian silversmiths, 1700–1900 (Toronto, 1966), 81. J.-E. Roy, Hist. de Lauzon, 5: 63–64. P.-G. Roy, Toutes petites choses du Regime anglais, 2: 92–93.

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Cite This Article

John E. Langdon, “HANNA, JAMES GODFREY,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 21, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hanna_james_godfrey_8E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/hanna_james_godfrey_8E.html
Author of Article: John E. Langdon
Title of Article: HANNA, JAMES GODFREY
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 8
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1985
Year of revision: 1985
Access Date: August 21, 2014