PORTEOUS, ANDREW, merchant, militia officer, office holder, and jp; b. c. 1780, possibly in Montreal, son of John Porteous, merchant, and Josepha Carqueville; m. Anne Mompesson, and they had at least three children; d. 16 Dec. 1849 in Toronto.
Andrew Porteous was already in business in Montreal at age 17 and may have been in association with his brother William by 1807 when they were owed £1,500 by Dominique Rousseau*. Subsequently Porteous was a partner in the firms of Porteous and Hancox and Company of Montreal and Cringan, Porteous and Company of Quebec, both of which traded in dry goods, spirits, wine, gunpowder, wax, and glass. In June 1817 he was able to buy a large lot and stone house in the faubourg Sainte-Marie. The same year he purchased a pew in the gallery of the Scotch Presbyterian Church (later known as St Gabriel Street Church), and by 1820 he was a member of the church’s temporal committee. The following year he was made a captain in Montreal’s 1st Militia Battalion, which he had joined as an ensign in 1811.
Porteous’s prosperity had become more apparent than real, however, following a series of reverses. His partnerships had been dissolved in October 1817, his store on Rue Saint-Paul had been robbed of more than £200 in cash and merchandise in December, and in March 1819 his property in the faubourg Sainte-Marie was announced for sale at a sheriff’s auction. As well, by late 1826 he was burdened with the responsibility for seven orphaned children of two brothers. In January 1827, supported by a large number of prominent Montrealers, he petitioned Governor Lord Dalhousie [Ramsay] for assistance in the form of a government appointment. A year and a half later, on 1 July 1828, Porteous was made postmaster of Montreal.
The upheaval in Porteous’s career was soon followed by one in his religious life. Unable to continue financial support to its two ministers, Henry Esson* and Edward Black; the St Gabriel Street congregation divided violently over which one should remain [see William Caldwell*]; Porteous supported Black, a burly evangelical. When arbitrators decided in 1832 in favour of Esson, Porteous joined Black’s new congregation, which opened St Paul’s Church in 1834, and subsequently became a prominent member of it.
Although Porteous still experienced financial difficulties in the early 1830s, he was apparently out of debt by March 1835, and in November he was granted about 100 acres of land in Shefford Township. His improved circumstances owed much to an income from all sources in the Montreal post office of £754, of which £200 nevertheless went to pay his three assistants and to purchase stationery and supplies. He was not enchanted with conditions of work, however. In late 1834 he induced the merchants of Montreal to petition for an increase in his salary (which was £346), and in January 1835 he remonstrated with deputy postmaster general, Thomas Allen Stayner*, upon the “insufficiency and unsafe state of the present Post Office.” With a tailor’s shop and a dry-goods store below it, a printing-office on one side, and a boarding-house on the other, he feared “the danger to which the Post Office, with its valuable contents, is hourly exposed to from fire.” He also complained that to reach him the public had to climb an unlit flight of stairs and then make their way across a small lobby half-filled with firewood. Porteous’s complaints may have gone unnoticed, since the Post Office Department was considered by the British government rather as a source of revenue than as a service to the public; a similar complaint had been lodged by the town’s merchants more than 15 years earlier. In September 1840, “feeling the infirmities of age growing upon him and being convinced that he is unequal to . . . the heavy and constantly increasing duties of his Office,” Porteous resigned in favour of a nephew, James Porteous, who supported him from the salary of the position.
Porteous moved to Upper Canada, and in April 1846 he was given a commission of the peace for the Newcastle District. Toward the end of his life he lived with a daughter and son-in-law in Toronto. He died there in December 1849, aged 69, “by the bursting of one of the great arteries of the heart,” and was interred the following spring.
PAC, MG 17, A7-2-3, 13; MG 24, L3: 30618; MG 25, 321; MG 44, L, 4: 444; 9: 308 (copies); RG 1, L3L: 65065, 77970; RG 4, A1, 247: 63; RG 9, I, A5, 4: 74; RG 68, General index, 1841–67. L.C., House of Assembly, Journals, 1835–36, app.GG. Canadian Courant and Montreal Advertiser, 26 Aug., 22 Oct. 1814; 18 March, 2 Sept., 14 Oct. 1815. Globe, 20 Dec. 1849. Montreal Witness, Weekly Review and Family Newspaper, 31 Dec. 1849. Quebec Gazette, 13 Nov. 1817; 1 Jan. 1818; 18 March 1819; 24 May, 13 Sept. 1821; 25 July 1822; 9 Jan. 1823. Montreal directory, 1819. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). Campbell, Hist. of Scotch Presbyterian Church. F.-J. Audet, “Andrew Porteous,” BRH, 42 (1936): 712–13.