MARTEL DE BELLEVILLE, JEAN-URBAIN, clerk, merchant, director of the Saint-Maurice ironworks; b. 8 Jan. 1708 in Quebec, son of Jean Martel* de Magos and Marie-Anne Robinau; m. 3 Aug. 1747 at Quebec to Élisabeth Gatin, who died the next year shortly after the birth of their only child; d. in Saint-Domingue (Hispaniola) in or before 1764.
Jean-Urbain Martel de Belleville began his career as a civil servant – which, in one way or another, he would remain throughout his life – under the tutelage of the intendant of New France, Gilles Hocquart*. The date of his entry into this career is uncertain, for he had brothers who were in the civil service too and there is no positive indication that the post granted to a “Sieur Martel” in 1739 was necessarily his. More certain is the fact that, while employed by the government, he also engaged in commercial activities on his own account, and, as well, acted as a procurator for the Rouen merchant, Pierre Le Vieux, in several cases, especially those in appeal before the Conseil Supérieur. In 1741, the year he began his association with the troubled affairs of the Saint-Maurice ironworks near Trois-Rivières, he was still designated as a “merchant trader at Quebec.”
Martel appears in a report on the activities of the ironworks for the period 1 Oct. 1741 to 1 Aug. 1742 as a clerk. His salary dated from 1 July 1742 and from that time most of his career in New France would be intimately linked to the ironworks. There has been some confusion about his official position. In 1741 he is a clerk, and the ironworks are under the direction of Guillaume Estèbe*. In 1742 Claude Poulin de Courval Cressé is designated as forge master, and Hocquart, writing on 26 Oct. 1742 to the minister of Marine, Maurepas, gives to Martel de Belleville, as of August of that year, the title of “director of the enterprise.” In effect, Martel was the senior administrative officer or civil servant, a function quite separate from that of forge master. Since the industry was run by the state from the fall of 1741 until the conquest, this division is not at all surprising. It has been claimed that Martel continued to hold his position after 1750, but there is evidence that he was replaced as director in that year by René-Ovide Hertel* de Rouville. Martel’s signature does not appear on documents concerning the ironworks after 1750.
During his, and the state’s, administration, a relatively small profit was realized in most years. Losses were due to breakdowns of equipment, inability to replace production equipment, or unexpectedly cold weather. Notable during Martel’s administration was the diversification of the production of the ironworks: stoves, armaments, ammunition, as well as the more usual bar and plate.
We know little of Martel personally. He appears to have been well thought of by Hocquart; yet François Bigot* replaced him almost as soon as he reached the colony as intendant. The action may, however, have resulted from Bigot’s desire to make sweeping changes rather than from a lack of ability on the part of Martel de Belleville.
It was only after the conquest, it seems, that Martel went to France where he obtained the post of clerk of the Conseil Supérieur of Saint Domingue. However he cannot have held this position long since according to a notarial act he was dead by 1764. His appointment at Saint Domingue indicates a degree of status, although after his death his daughter, living in France, was refused a pension from the French government because her father’s contribution had not been such that it deserved greater award.
AN, Col., B, 66, 68, 74, 81; C11A, 80, 88, 96, 111, 112. Dictionnaire national des Canadiens français (1608–1760) (2v., Montréal, 1958), II. P.-G. Roy, Inv. jug. et délib., 1717–1760, III, IV. Tanguay, Dictionnaire [Tanguay is mistaken in giving the date of the marriage of Jean-Urbain Martel de Belleville and Élisabeth Gatin as 7 Aug. 1747. c.n.]. “La famille Martel de Magesse,” BRH, XL (1934), 711–13.