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RENAUD, JEAN (John), merchant and chief road commissioner (grand voyer); b. c. 1734; d. 16 March 1794 at Quebec.

Nothing is known of Jean Renaud’s origins or early years. The first evidence of his presence at Quebec dates from 1768, when he married Martha Sheldon on 1 October in the presence of the Anglican priest David-François De Montmollin*. That year he purchased a property in the Lower Town on Rue Saint-Pierre, where he built a quay, shed, and stable; in 1789 he sold all of these for £900. In the intervening period, in February 1775, he had bought a farm and some buildings on the Rivière Saint-Charles, in the parish of Ancienne-Lorette, and had taken up residence there. Then in 1790 the Jesuits granted him 60 acres in the seigneury of Saint-Gabriel, near Quebec.

Renaud first attracted attention during the American siege of Quebec in the winter of 1775–76, when he was a member of the British militia. Until March his house served as a meeting-place for Lower Town militiamen. On 2 December he had been promoted ensign and he was on guard duty in Rue du Sault-au-Matelot when early on the morning of 31 December the Americans attacked the barricades in the Lower Town [see Richard Montgomery]. In recognition of his good conduct on that occasion Governor Haldimand appointed him to succeed Jean-Baptiste Magnan as chief road commissioner for the District of Quebec on 10 Dec. 1782.

This office was defined by the roads ordinance of 1777. With the assistance of the militia captains and their officers the commissioner had to see that the habitants maintained the roads crossing their lands in good repair. In the winter of 1782–83 Renaud began his work by undertaking a tour of his district, which extended down river from Grondines on the north shore of the St Lawrence and Deschaillons across from it on the south shore. He was also interested in the other aspect of his duties: the laying-out of new roads. In 1784 he recommended the building, by the parishioners who would benefit from it, of a road between Baie-Saint-Paul and Quebec. In July 1792 he marked out the king’s highway linking Pointe-au-Père and Trois-Pistoles.

Haldimand gave Renaud a further proof of his esteem when on 30 May 1783 he entrusted him with the task of opening up the Témiscouata portage trail from the St Lawrence to Lac Témiscouata in order to facilitate the safe dispatch of the royal mail to Fort Howe (Saint John, N.B.). The terrain was difficult, swampy, and intersected by numerous bogs. Renaud wanted to complete the work quickly and resorted to drastic measures. He obtained remuneration for the militiamen doing corvées and had extra rations drawn for them from the king’s stores, including a supplementary one of salt pork. A group of 185 militiamen began construction on 12 June. On 30 June it was replaced by another group of 183 men, to whom Renaud added 125 more on 4 July. The road, which was “twelve leagues and sixteen arpents [about 30 miles]” long and which only horses could use, was completed on 20 July. The speed with which the work was carried out did not prevent criticism, from Adam Mabane in particular, of the expenses incurred.

Renaud also sought means of improving the general state of the roads. In February 1785 and December 1786 he presented reports to the colonial authorities in which he identified problems and outlined solutions. He would have liked vehicles, which were an important cause of the deterioration of the roads, to be modified, and he wanted the ordinance of 1777 and the powers of the chief road commissioner to be clarified. He objected to the fact that those most directly affected, the habitants, were often opposed to the re-siting of bad roads. In December 1793 he pointed out to the chairman of the Assembly committee studying the highways that roads in Canada could be compared to those in England, with the exception of toll-roads. Renaud had not appreciated being called before this committee, which, instead of drawing upon his expertise, wanted to know why the roads were not better maintained. The “neglect” of which the committee complained could not be said to characterize Jean Renaud’s work as chief road commissioner. No one since Jean-Eustache Lanoullier* de Boisclerc had given so much attention to the roads. Renaud’s reports indicate that thought was beginning to be given to the whole question of the roads.

At his death Jean Renaud left more than £930 of which £500 was in net debts due him and nearly £280 in real estate. His only heir was his wife, since his son, John Lewis, who had been born in March 1781, had lived only four months. Martha Sheldon survived her husband by many years; she died in 1810.

Gratien Allaire

ANQ-Q, État civil. Anglicans, Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Québec), 1 Oct. 1768; Greffe de P.-L. Descheneaux, 21, 23 févr. 1789; Greffe d’Alexandre Dumas, 28 mars, 8, 26 avril, 18 mai 1794; NF 10, 7, 8. Journal of the principal occurences during the siege of Quebec by the American revolutionists under generals Montgomery and Arnold in 1775–76; ed. W. T. P. Short (London, 1824); this journal is reprinted in Blockade of Quebec in 1775–1776 by the American revolutionists (les Bastonnais), ed. F. C. Würtele, Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Hist. Docs., 8th ser. (1906; repr., London, 1970), 55–101. “Orderly book begun by Captain Anthony Vialar of the British militia . . . ,” ed. F. C. Würtele, Literary and Hist. Soc. of Quebec, Hist. Docs., 7th ser. (1905), 155–265. PAC Rapport, 1913, app. E, 77–80; 1914, app. C, 78–83. Quebec Gazette, 12 Dec. 1776, 19 Dec. 1782, 6 March, 19 June 1783, 8, 29 May 1794. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I, 230; V, 162; Inv. procès-verbaux des grands voyers, I, 196–261; IV, 76–79; V, 160. Ivanhoë Caron, La colonisation de la province de Québec (2v., Québec, 1923–27), I, 310, 315. G. P. de T. Glazebrook, A history of transportation in Canada (2v., Toronto, 1964), I, 107–9. Ivanhoë Caron, “Historique de la voirie dans la province de Québec; Régime anglais: les ordonnances de 1766 et de 1777,” BRH, XXXIX (1933), 278–300. Léon Gérin, “La seigneurie de Sillery,” RSC Trans., 2nd ser., VI (1900), sect.i, 73–115. Frère Marie Victorin [Conrad Kirouac], “Le portage du Témiscouata; notes critiques et documents pour servir à l’histoire d’une vieille route coloniale,” RSC Trans., 3rd ser., XII (1918), sect.i, 55–93. P.-G. Roy, “Le grand voyer Jean Renaud,” BRH, XLV (1939),319.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Gratien Allaire, “RENAUD, JEAN,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed October 2, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/renaud_jean_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/renaud_jean_4E.html
Author of Article: Gratien Allaire
Title of Article: RENAUD, JEAN
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: October 2, 2014