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McDONALD, ANGUS, paper manufacturer; b. c. 1807 at Roslin (Lothian), Scotland, son of Mrs Jean McDonald; d. 16 Nov. 1887 in the village of Portneuf, Que.

Angus McDonald was only seven years old when his father died. Soon afterwards his mother married John Smith, a paper manufacturer and son of the owner of Alex. Pirie and Sons of Aberdeen, a well-known firm that had been manufacturing paper since 1770. Young McDonald, who was to learn his stepfather’s trade, finished his apprenticeship in 1828. Determined to make his own way he set off for North America, probably that year, with William Miller, the son of another paper manufacturer, and Alexander and John Logan, brothers who were also trained apprentices. The four travelling companions became employees in a paper-mill near Philadelphia.

In 1833 one of them saw a notice in a newspaper that the paper-mill in Jacques-Cartier, a village in Portneuf County, was for sale. This mill had been developed for George Waters Allsopp* in 1817 by Artemas Jackson, who had set up the first paper-mill in Lower Canada at Saint-André-d’Argenteuil (Saint-André-Est) between 1804 and 1806. The Scotsmen came to Jacques-Cartier and rented the mill from the Allsopps from 7 May 1833 to 1 July 1841, operating under the name of Miller, McDonald and Logan. However, paper was made by hand there and the partners were soon looking for a place where they could build a machine-operated mill. While retaining the mill at Jacques-Cartier, the Logan brothers and McDonald established themselves at Portneuf at an excellent site some eight miles upstream on the Rivière Portneuf about 1837. In 1843, under the name of McDonald and Logans, they enlarged the second mill, equipping it with the first Fourdrinier machine in Canada. This machine, built in Glasgow by John Brown whose son Colin installed it at Portneuf, had cylinders 72 inches in diameter, run by hydraulic power, and produced sheets of paper 24 inches wide from the pulp poured onto a cloth conveyer belt travelling over a horizontal frame. This pulp was made of rags, the sole material from which paper was produced until the middle of the century.

In 1845 Angus McDonald acquired several sites on Rue Saint-Paul in Quebec City. He moved with his family to Quebec and from there managed McDonald and Logans. In 1851 his business was going so well that he bought the barony of Portneuf from the Ursulines of Quebec for more than £3,350. By then McDonald owned yet another paper-mill (under the firm name of McDonald and Smith), a flour-mill, a sawmill, a carding-mill, the largest nail factory in Canada East, a general store, and a farm, all at Portneuf. In the same period he also fitted out a fleet of schooners for transport between Newfoundland and Quebec City, as well as the steamer New Liverpool, which plied between Portneuf and Quebec City. According to the 1851 census, 51 people were employed at the two paper-mills in Portneuf, both of which were steam operated by then. One, owned by McDonald and Logans, made newsprint while the other, owned by McDonald’s stepbrother Peter Smith, produced packing paper. The working capital for the two was £1, 500 and the annual value of their products £4,500. McDonald and Logans bought Smith’s mill the following year. In 1856 the paper industry at Portneuf is said to have produced 600 tons of paper, valued at $100,000; a third of this was sold in Quebec City and the remainder in Montreal.

A member of the Quebec Board of Trade, Angus McDonald was also a director of the Quebec Provident and Savings Bank in 1847. He was a shareholder of the Quebec and Richmond Railway Company, and in addition had important interests in the planned North Shore Railway [see Joseph-Édouard Cauchon], serving as the company’s vice-president in 1854. It may indeed have been the latter venture which led to a bankruptcy in 1857. George Burns Symes*, the “prince of merchants” of Quebec, then undertook to purchase all of McDonald’s enterprises but retained him at the head of the paper-mills. In 1862 Symes sent him to England to study a new process of manufacturing paper from straw and four years later he went to the American Wood Paper works in Royersford, Penn., to investigate the method of using soda to make wood pulp.

About 1869 Alexander Logan, Angus’ brother-in-law and former partner, brought him to Windsor Mills in the Eastern Townships, where for ten years he managed the mill belonging to the firm of Angus, Logan and Company, which utilized the soda process. In 1881 McDonald went to help his nephews, William T. and Peter Miller, build a paper-mill at Glen Miller in Ontario. Subsequently, while enjoying a well-earned retirement, he took a trip to his native Scotland. On his return he stayed for a while in Portneuf County, where he died suddenly on 16 Nov. 1887. His body was interred in Thorold Township, Ont.

On 26 Oct. 1838 at Quebec McDonald had married Margaret Logan, the sister of Alexander and John, and they had one daughter. A seigneur and justice of the peace at Portneuf, an entrepreneur and businessman, McDonald had also involved himself – in the spirit of bourgeois oblige – in municipal politics. He served as an alderman in Quebec City for two terms, from 1851 to 1855, attending all the council meetings and sitting on committees dealing with finance, incorporations, markets, fires, and regulations. He also took an interest in charitable works, as a director of the Mount Hermon Cemetery at Sillery, a trustee of Chalmers Free Church (Chalmers-Wesley United Church) on Rue Sainte-Ursule, and a founding member of both the Temperance Hall Association and the Victoria Hospital at Quebec.

Angus McDonald is one of the finest examples of the Scottish artisans who arrived in Canada early in the 19th century with little capital and devoted their energies to trade and industry. For more than 70 years he engaged in the making of paper, mainly in Canada but also in Scotland and the United States. He was one of the pioneers of paper manufacturing, an industry acknowledged to be of vital importance to Quebec and Ontario.

Claude Galarneau

ANQ-Q, État civil, Presbytériens, St John’s Church (Quebec), 26 Oct. 1838, 5 Jan. 1843. ASQ, C 43: 27. AVQ, Procès-verbaux du conseil, 1850–55. BE, Québec, Reg. B, 13, nos.5271, 5282; 16, nos.6216, 6423. Can., Prov. du, Statuts, 1852–53, c.62; 1854–55, c.224. L’Abeille (Québec), 19 déc. 1850. Le Canadien, 20 juill. 1834, 24 juill. 1857. Le Journal de Québec, 31 juill. 1852. Morning Chronicle (Quebec), 17 Nov. 1887. Canada directory, 1851; 1857–58. Lovell’s Canadian dominion directory, 1871. Quebec directory, 1847–56. George Carruthers, Paper-making (Toronto, 1947). [Lucien Gauthier], Album souvenir: 1861–1961; centenaire de Portneuf, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12 juillet 1961 (s.l., s.d.). J. Hamelin et Roby, Hist. économique. François Hardy, “Etude d’une papeterie de type familial et de son impact économique local” (thèse de ma, univ. Laval, Québec, 1972). Ouellet, Hist. économique. Robert [Philippe] Sylvain, Clerc, garibaldien, prédicant des deux mondes: Alessandro Gavazzi (1809–1889) (2v., Québec, 1962), II: 344–83.

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Cite This Article

Claude Galarneau, “McDONALD, ANGUS (d. 1887),” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 23, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcdonald_angus_1887_11E.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:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mcdonald_angus_1887_11E.html
Author of Article:   Claude Galarneau
Title of Article:   McDONALD, ANGUS (d. 1887)
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1982
Year of revision:   1982
Access Date:   May 23, 2024