AULDJO, GEORGE, businessman, militia officer, jp, and office holder; b. 2 April 1790 in Aberdeen, Scotland, son of George Auldjo, merchant, and Susan Beauvais; d. 11 April 1846 in Montreal.
George Auldjo was educated, at least in part, at the Aberdeen Grammar School before he immigrated to Montreal to join his uncle Alexander Auldjo*, a partner with William Maitland in the firm Auldjo, Maitland and Company. By 1815 it had become Maitland, Garden, and Auldjo; Maitland, and possibly Alexander Auldjo, represented it in London, while George Auldjo and George Garden* were left as the Montreal principals. Auldjo had become an agent of the Phoenix Assurance Company of London by 1816. Six years later he and Garden were apparently partners in a Quebec firm called Garden, Auldjo and Company.
Maitland, Garden, and Auldjo, meanwhile, had become a leading import-export house in Montreal, having extensive dealings in Upper Canada with merchants at Kingston and Niagara (Niagara-on-the-Lake). By 1825 it was importing large quantities of wine, port, brandy, haberdashery, indigo, gunpowder, glassware, and oil as well as cordage and other shipbuilding materials. It brought rum from Demerara (Guyana), linen from Greenock, Scotland, beer from Aberdeen, charcoal from Liverpool, England, and a wide variety of copper and iron goods from London and Dundee, Scotland; it received as well consignments of molasses, coffee, leather, and sugar from Halifax. The firm itself consigned timber pieces, staves and headings, and casks of hams, salmon, cod, and essence of spruce to these and other ports.
Auldjo often bought and sold some of these goods on his own account. He also acted as a hiring agent for Upper Canadian businessmen, including James*, Mathew, and William Crooks, who employed Canadians and immigrants in their stores and mills. On three occasions in the early 1820s Auldjo joined Horatio Gates*, among others, in planning improvements around Montreal: the construction of a new market, the building of a turnpike road to Longue-Pointe, and the extension of Rue Saint-Pierre to the St Lawrence River. He served as a director of the Bank of Montreal in 1822 at least and possibly until 1825.
The importance of his firm gave Auldjo prominence in the Montreal business community. His position was further strengthened by his marriage on 5 Oct. 1816 to 17-year-old Helen Richardson, daughter of one of the most influential businessmen-politicians of the period, John Richardson*; they would have two sons and three daughters. Like his father-in-law, Auldjo took a leading role in promoting business interests. He joined in protests against the effect of Britain’s corn law on wheat exports to the mother country, and in 1822, with Richardson, Gates, and others, he organized the Committee of Trade, since “the ruinous consequences now apprehended from the growing embarrassment of Canadian commerce can no longer be averted or even delayed by the solitary exertions of individuals.” He served as its president from 1825 to 1833 and in 1835–36. He had done military service during the War of 1812 as an ensign in Montreal’s 1st Militia Battalion; in 1821 he reached the rank of captain in the 2nd Militia Battalion, and he was still active in the militia in 1831. In 1824 he was made an examiner of candidates for inspector of pot and pearl ashes in the district of Montreal, was appointed a commissioner to report on the state of the Montreal harbour, and received a commission of the peace. He was a prominent member of the Scotch Presbyterian Church, later known as St Gabriel Street Church. In private life he was a man of generosity and fidelity. When his cousin Thomas Thain* returned to England on the brink of a nervous breakdown in 1825, Auldjo accompanied him. “It is impossible to do justice . . . to young Auldjo,” Edward Ellice* related to John Forsyth. “He has not left Thain’s bed-side, either night or day – & his attention has been both most affectionate & unremitting.”
In the 1820s, borrowing in Britain, Auldjo invested heavily in shipping on behalf of Maitland, Garden, and Auldjo. In 1823 he joined a syndicate to commission construction of a steamboat engine at John Dod Ward’s Eagle Foundry in Montreal. Maitland, Garden, and Auldjo also became a leading financier of sailing ships built in Montreal, William Henry (Sorel), and Quebec for export to Britain. From 1824 to 1827 its investments produced an estimated 29.4 per cent (valued at £40,000) of wind-powered tonnage constructed in Montreal yards. As the British money market tightened and demand for ships declined after 1824, this huge commitment brought ruin to the firm, and it went into receivership in 1826. Of its £242,624 in assets, about £70,800 were recovered ten years later.
The failure of his firm did not affect Auldjo’s standing in the community. He retained his commissions, became a life governor of the Montreal General Hospital in 1829, and was appointed a warden of Trinity House at Montreal in 1832, a commissioner for the improvement of inland navigation the following year, a commissioner for the Lachine Canal in 1835, and by 1838 an inspector of ashes for export. His personal financial condition was partially revived in 1833 when his wife bought up some of his debts, and on her death in 1837 he inherited her valuable real estate holdings in the heart of Montreal’s business district and possibly her extensive lands in Upper Canada as well.
Auldjo’s fortunes in business were curiously reflected in voyages he made on its behalf. He was among the survivors when the Lady Sherbrooke hit rocks in the Gulf of St Lawrence in July 1831, and seven years later he was a passenger on the steamboat Sir Robert Peel when it was attacked and burned at Wells (Wellesley) Island, N.Y., by Upper Canadian Patriots under William Johnston*. On the latter occasion he was relieved of all his belongings and £600 which he was carrying for a colleague. Not discouraged by such episodes, in July 1843 he was among passengers on the steamer North America, which made an excursion to Kamouraska and Rivière-du-Loup, Lower Canada, and then up the Rivière Saguenay. This voyage was pleasantly uneventful. Auldjo’s journey through life did not end blissfully, however. His business fortunes again declined, and in his last years he was reduced to living in a déclassé hotel on Rue Saint-Paul.
[The author wishes to thank George A. Mackenzie for assistance in researching this biography. g.j.j.t.]
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