AGRAIN, JEAN-ANTOINE D’, Comte d’AGRAIN, officer in the colonial regular troops, knight of the order of Saint-Louis; b. probably at Le Puy-en-Velay; murdered on the Labadeck River, Île Royale (Baddeck River, Cape Breton Island), 23 Jan. 1722.
On the recommendation of his uncle, the Marquis d’Urfé, Agrain was appointed adjutant at Île Royale on 29 June 1715, and was to take his post at Port-Toulouse (St Peters); however, he did not reach the colony until August 1716, and by 1719 had obtained leave to return to France after threatening to resign his commission. Early in 1720 he was in France, recruiting workers for the fortifications at Île Royale and the Windward Islands. On 27 March he concluded an agreement with his uncle Hugues d’Agrain Du Mazel for a joint investment in goods to be purchased at Lyons and Le Puy-en-Velay and sold by Agrain at Île Royale.
Before returning briefly to Louisbourg that summer, Agrain had been promoted captain and had obtained official approval for a project to ship timber from Île Royale to the Rochefort shipyards. By December 1720 Agrain was back in France with wood samples, and the following March a specific contract concerning the type and quantity of wood to be supplied was drawn up. Returning to Île Royale later in 1721, Agrain immediately encountered problems – wood cut by his men during the previous winter was unacceptable and there was a pressing shortage of funds. He wintered at the lumbering site on the Labadeck River, and on 23 December was awarded the order of Saint-Louis. One month later two of his workmen murdered him in revenge for maltreatment and alleged starvation. His estate, encumbered with debts, was involved in legal wrangles until 1732. Although Saint-Ovide [Monbeton*] described Agrain in 1718 as “a very good officer,” he emerges as a rather reckless man whose ambitious schemes lacked the forethought necessary to bring them to a successful conclusion.
AN, Col., B, 37, f.124; 40–41; 42, f.466; 44, 45, 47–50, 54, 55; C11B, 1–4, 5, ff.136–47; 6, ff.261–82; 7–9; C11C, 15, pièces 160, 194, 196, 232, 234; D2C, 222 (Alphabet Laffilard); E, 1, ff.2–28 (printed in NF, V (1930), 404–10 [50–56], 110–17); Marine, B1, 8, 51, 52, 55, ff.105–13. NF, V (1930), 118–20. McLennan, Louisbourg, 66. [McLennan erroneously states that Agrain was murdered by “two Indians in his employment”; the record of the murder trial, in AN, Col., C11B, 6, proves the accused were Frenchmen engaged by Agrain to work on his project for the exploitation of Île Royale timber. j.h.]