CARTIER, CLAUDE, tailor, soldier, innkeeper, militia officer, and lighthouse-keeper; b. c. 1787 in the parish of Saint-Michel-d’Yamaska in Yamaska, Que.; he and his wife Anne had 11 children (one drowned in 1847); d. 9 July 1855 in Chatham, Upper Canada.
Claude Cartier’s initial occupation was tailoring, a trade which he learned as a youth at Quebec and pursued until his mid forties. In 1810, however, he enlisted in the Canadian Fencibles, an infantry regiment raised in Lower Canada for service in North America. During the War of 1812 he was present at the capture of Ogdensburg, N.Y. (receiving a severe leg wound which later affected his health), at the Lacolle mill affair in Lower Canada, and at the battle of Crysler’s Farm in Upper Canada [see Joseph Wanton Morrison*]. When his regiment was disbanded in 1816, Cartier, who had attained the rank of sergeant, received his discharge. He subsequently spent a few months in Ohio, where he resumed his labours as a tailor.
Moving to Upper Canada in 1817, he plied his trade for a while at York (Toronto); on 17 Aug. 1819 he took the oath of allegiance to the crown. He later settled in Simcoe, married, and about 1830 moved farther west to the small undeveloped village of Chatham. The next year Cartier purchased a parcel of land alongside the Thames River from Peter Paul Lacroix. Cartier may have been attracted to the region by the large number of French-speaking settlers already there, notably in the area of Paincourt and in the township of Tilbury West.
One of Chatham’s pioneer citizens, Cartier soon became a highly successful innkeeper. His log tavern, originally known as the Chatham Hotel, opened about 1831 and played a prominent part in the early life of the village. Located on busy shipping and stage-coach lines, this popular inn was famous for its three-cent drinks of corn whiskey, its inexpensive meals, and the “splendid balls” held there on New Year’s Eve. Following the 1835–36 celebration, one guest reported that “the gaiety of the numerous attendants, the management and arrangement of the room, the music, and unremitting attention of Mr. Cartier, would do credit to any place of ten times the age of Chatham.” To serve an increasingly larger clientele, Cartier expanded the inn, which by 1834 had been renamed the Steamboat Hotel. Township meetings were held there and occasionally it served as a meeting-place for local groups and organizations such as the Chatham Vigilant Society for the Suppression of Felony.
Upon opening his inn, Cartier had become active in local affairs. In 1831 he was named a member of Chatham’s first board of common school trustees, and between 1831 and 1837 he served terms as a constable for the village and for Chatham and Harwich townships. In January 1838 he was chosen ensign of a company of Kent County volunteers dispatched to Sandwich (Windsor) to prepare for an anticipated invasion by the Patriot army which had gathered on American soil. The Kent volunteers do not appear, however, to have taken part in the resulting capture of the schooner Anne or in the skirmishing at Bois Blanc Island [see Thomas Jefferson Sutherland; Edward Alexander Theller].
Cartier’s leg injury made it increasingly difficult for him to continue the active life of an innkeeper, and he sought a less strenuous occupation. In 1837 he had petitioned the provincial government for appointment as keeper of the lighthouse then under construction on Lake St Clair at the mouth of the Thames. The following year he became keeper, charged with maintaining and operating the light, and in 1840 he took up permanent residence at the lighthouse, which soon became a landmark of the region. Cartier retained the post until 1855 and successive generations of his family kept the light until the death of William C. Cartier in 1950.
AO, RG 22, ser.103, 1–2. Kent Land Registry Office (Chatham, Ont.), Deeds, Reg. book E: ff.14, 381. PAC, RG 1, L3, 102: C12/170; 113: C18/105; 300: L5/56; RG 5, A1: 66157–60, 81766–71, 81961–68, 82002–4, 82805–6; C1, 6, file 655; RG 31, A1, 1851, Tilbury West Township (mfm. at AO). Chatham Gleaner, 10 Aug. 1847. Western Semi-Weekly Planet (Chatham), 12 July 1855. Chatham directory, 1885–86. W. L. Baby, Souvenirs of the past, with illustrations: an instructive and amusing work, giving a correct account of the customs and habits of the pioneers of Canada . . . (Windsor, Ont., 1896). F. C. Hamil, The valley of the lower Thames, 1640 to 1850 (Toronto, 1951; repr. Toronto and Buffalo, N.Y., 1973), 166, 181, 207, 217, 345. C. E. Beeston, “The old log school house,” Kent Hist. Soc., Papers and addresses (Chatham), 1 (1914): 30–39. Chatham Daily News (Chatham), 14 May 1928, 24 Nov. 1950. “His lamp is out: the late Thos. Cartier, light-keeper of the Thames,” Chatham Weekly Planet (Chatham), 28 Oct. 1880: 1.
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