MAUGENEST (Maugenest, dit Saint-Auron, Saint-Horan, Saint-Jorand, or Saint-Terone), GERMAIN, independent fur-trader and HBC master; b. in France, son of François Maugenest and Marie-Anne Saint-Horan (Saint-Jorand); m. 5 March 1764 Rosalie Barrère in Montreal; m. there secondly on 12 Jan. 1767 Louise Descary; d. 10 Nov. 1792 in London, England.
Germain Maugenest arrived in Montreal some time before 1763. He traded to the Mississippi valley until about 1770, when he began to operate in the country between Lake Nipigon (Ont.) and Lake of the Wood:,. He fell heavily in debt to Ezekiel Solomons, the Montreal fur trade entrepreneur, and decided to escape by joining the Hudson’s Bay Company. On 22 July 1779 he, his assistant John Coates, and seven Canadians, guided by three Indians, arrived at Albany Fort (Ont.) from Sturgeon Lake (east of Sioux Lookout, Ont.), where they had been trading. The event placed Chief Factor Thomas Hutchins in a quandary; his standing orders required him to order such pedlars to leave immediately, but he realized that Maugenest’s expertise might be invaluable to the company, which only recently had decided to push into the interior instead of waiting by the bayside for trade [see Ferdinand Jacobs]. He therefore suggested that Maugenest go to England and deal with the company’s London committee. Meanwhile Coates and the voyageurs, accompanied by George Sutherland, an HBC employee, would return to winter at Sturgeon Lake, rendezvous with Maugenest at Gloucester House (Washi Lake, Ont.) in the autumn of 1780, and proceed inland once again.
Strongly recommended by Hutchins, Maugenest sailed for England and on 24 Nov. 1779 he appeared before the London committee. It approved his proposal to expand the company’s inland trade and gave him a contract of £100 per annum as well as the promise of a commission on the furs he delivered to the bayside posts. He returned to Albany in September 1780 but did not proceed to Gloucester because Sutherland and Coates had nearly starved during the winter.
In May 1781, however, Maugenest set off up the Albany with a commission to act as HBC factor “Inland beyond the distance of 200 miles above Gloucester.” The bateau carrying most of the gunpowder was lost in a rapid, however, and the expedition did not proceed beyond that post. The next spring Maugenest refused to go inland because the water was too low and the HBC men not skilful enough at handling canoes. His reluctance may in fact have been due to reports that Ezekiel Solomons was in the vicinity. When his request to be given charge of Gloucester was refused, Maugenest threatened to return to Canada. Probably as a result, he was transferred in 1783 to Moose Factory (Ont.), away from the Indians with whom he had influence. The London committee instructed him to accompany Philip Turnor on an inland expedition and noted “Your Salary was Established in Consideration of your Inland Exertions, in Execution of which the Company have been wholly Disappointed.” Tumor wrote “I promise my self very little assistance from Mr. Maugenest.” The remark epitomizes the hostility towards Maugenest in the company, particularly among the employees, who did not relish taking orders from a Frenchman who, according to John Thomas, chief factor at Moose, “can scarcely talk English enough to be understood.”
Maugenest spent the rest of his career working at Moose or one of its subordinate posts. He had command at Brunswick House (near the junction of the Opasatika and Missinaibi rivers, Ont.) from 1785 to 1789 and was subsequently at New Brunswick House (on Brunswick Lake). For a long time the London committee expected great things of him, although by 1789 it was threatening to dismiss him because his work was not producing a significant increase in trade. He did not get on well with Thomas, who felt that he gave too many presents to the Indians and permitted employees to spend too much of their wages on luxuries. In 1792, having complained of ill health for several years, Maugenest received permission to go to England; he died there on 10 November, shortly after his arrival. He left no will, and the HBC secretary in London, Alexander Lean, wrote to Todd, McGill and Company in Montreal for assistance in tracing Maugenest’s heirs there. A male heir was discovered and the estate turned over to him in 1793.
Maugenest’s chief contribution to the HBC was in the improvement of the logistics of the fur trade, especially at Albany where the chiefs had great difficulty in supplying their outposts at Henley (at the junction of the Albany and Kenogami rivers, Ont.) and Gloucester. He convinced Hutchins that goods should be packed in casks, chests, and bales to make bundles of roughly 90 pounds each, and covered with light, waterproofed canvas. Meat should be packed without bone in small casks, rather than in hogsheads which were impossible to portage. Although boats were already being used on the Albany. Hutchins was pleased with Maugenest’s design of a bateau for inland transport, and it may have been a prototype of the future York boat. Maugenest also suggested the use of light, lidded, copper kettles as trade goods, and it was apparently on his advice that point blankets were introduced (points were short parallel lines on one edge of a blanket denoting its value in beaver). Both items became staples of the HBC trade.
ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 5 mars 1764; Saints-Anges (Lachine), 12 janv. 1767. HBC Arch. A.1/47, ff.2, 22, 24; A.5/2, ff.94f., 114, 158, 195, 226, 259, 302; A.5/3, ff.105d, 106; A.6/12, ff.305–11; A.6/13, ff.2–126; A.6/14, ff.9–127; A.6/15, ff.19, 56; A.11/44, ff.158–87; A.11/45, ff.21–170; B.3/a/75–80; B.3/b/16–19; B.23/a/8–14; B.135/a/68–78; B.135/b/16–22. Moose Fort journals, 1783–85, ed. E. E. Rich and A. M. Johnson, intro. G. P. de T. Glazebrook (London, 1954), 354–65. A. M. Johnson, “Mons. Maugenest suggests. . . ,” Beaver, outfit 287 (summer 1956), 49–53.