BLONDEAU, MAURICE-RÉGIS, fur trader, militia officer, and office holder; b. 23 June 1734 in Montreal (Que.), son of Jean-Baptiste Blondeau, a merchant, and Geneviève Angers; d. there 13 July 1809 and was buried two days later.
Maurice-Régis Blondeau’s family came from Saumur, France. François arrived in New France some time before 1650. One of his three sons, Maurice, went into the fur trade and rose to prominence in the Montreal bourgeoisie. Maurice’s nephews at Quebec, Thomas, Joseph, and Jean-Baptiste, who were orphaned as children, entered the fur trade in the 1720s. Jean-Baptiste settled in Montreal and specialized in trading among the Indians of the Illinois country.
On 10 May 1757 Maurice-Régis was hired by Joseph-Michel Cadet*, purveyor general to the French forces in Canada, to work for a year, with a salary of 900 livres, mainly at Fort Saint-Frédéric (near Crown Point, N.Y.). Subsequently he probably lived in the west; after Pontiac*’s uprising subsided he is believed to have gone to Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.) from Fort Dauphin (Winnipegosis, Man.) and Fort La Reine (Portage la Prairie, Man.). In the spring of 1767, on his behalf, his father looked after the hiring of voyageurs to go to Michilimackinac and Grand Portage (near Grand Portage, Minn.).
Blondeau returned to Montreal and on 26 Oct. 1767 married Marie-Josephe Le Pellé Lahaye, the 31-year-old widow of Pierre-Louis Deslandes. At their marriage, Blondeau agreed to community of property; he retained 10,000 livres for himself and gave his wife a dower of 3,000 livres and a preference legacy of 1,500 livres in addition to jewellery, linen, and “a bedroom suite.”
Early in May 1768, “his departure for the posts in the pays d’en haut being imminent,” Blondeau gave his wife power of attorney to manage all his affairs during his absence. In 1769 he sent 3 canoes and 19 men, with a cargo worth £1,350, to Michilimackinac and on to La Mer de l’Ouest (a term still used at this time to mean Manitoba and the territory beyond). The following year he sent 4 canoes, 20 men, and £1,506 in goods to La Mer de l’Ouest. Blondeau carried on trade particularly south of Lake Winnipeg and in the Fort La Reine vicinity. Later he moved farther west. He sent 3 canoes, 28 men, and a cargo worth £1,642 up the Red Deer River in 1772, and 3 canoes and 22 men up the Saskatchewan River the next year.
The expansion of the fur trade increased costs and forced the merchants to form partnerships. In 1774 Blondeau, with Jean-Baptiste-Amable Adhémar* as partner, sent 4 canoes, 29 men, and goods valued at £1,300 to Lake Superior. The following year he joined with James McGill, Isaac Todd, and Benjamin* and Joseph Frobisher to fit out 12 canoes and send 103 men to Grand Portage, where a coalition was formed to exploit the resources of the northwest. The year 1779 marked the beginning of a major shift to concentration that would give rise to the North West Company. From 1779 to 1785 Blondeau traded in the Lake Superior region in partnership with Gabriel Cotté*, who became his brother-in-law in 1783, and John Grant. In the 1780s Blondeau stood surety for the trading voyages of Jean-Baptiste Cadot and Cotté to Sault Ste Marie (Mich.) and Michilimackinac. In 1785 he was one of the founding members of the Beaver Club in Montreal.
Blondeau had acquired various properties in Montreal. He had paid 8,000 livres in 1770 for a two-storey stone house with an adjoining storage vault on Rue Saint-Paul. In 1775 he purchased another house on the street for 1,800 shillings. The following year he bought two more houses, one on Rue de l’Hôpital for 3,000 shillings and the other on Rue Saint-François for 4,000 shillings. In 1778 he hired a man-servant and a maid, thus displaying his quite ample means. That same year he sold for 18,000 livres the house on Rue Saint-Paul bought in 1770, in addition to a property 720 feet square on the same street. In 1783 Blondeau hired another man-servant.
Blondeau was active in 1785 on the Canadian committee of the reform movement in Montreal, which was championing a new constitution. Two years later he testified before the commission that Chief Justice William Smith* had empowered to investigate accusations concerning the courts of justice. In 1791 he was a captain in Montreal’s 1st Militia Battalion and from 1794 to 1802 a major. He became a militant member of the association founded to support the British government in 1794, of which McGill was president. In addition, from 1795 to 1799 Blondeau served as justice of the peace in Montreal.
For a score of years Blondeau was involved in the administration of the Jesuit estates. On 26 May 1792 Jean-Joseph Casot* appointed him procurator of the community to oversee the management of the seigneury of Prairie-de-la-Madeleine. His primary concern was the sale of lots. Then on 22 June 1801 George Pyke*, the secretary of the commission for the Jesuit estates, appointed him the agent for the property in the District of Montreal. He put up a bond of £750 as security, and two guarantors committed themselves for the same amount. His remuneration was equal to ten per cent of the moneys received.
Maurice-Régis Blondeau died on 13 July 1809 in Montreal, “after two years of unbelievable sufferings.” His wife survived him only briefly, dying on 31 August of the same year.
ANQ-M, CE1-51, 23 juin 1734, 26 oct. 1767, 15 juill. 1809; CN1-120, 4 mars, 27 juin 1778; 2 août 1783; CN1-200, 22 May 1802; CN1-290, 9, 13 nov. 1776; 3 juill. 1778; 9 avril 1784; CN1-308, 10 mai 1757; 19, 27 avril, 21 mai, 24 oct. 1767; 4 mai 1768; 1er déc. 1769; 3, 21 mars 1770; 15 mai 1775; CN1-313, 26 mai 1792. “L’Association loyale de Montréal,” ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 257–73. Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace), 451. Quebec Gazette, 20 July 1809. Archange Godbout, “Nos ancêtres au xiie siècle,” ANQ Rapport, 1957–59: 401–5. “Papiers d’État,” PAC Rapport, 1890: 207–8. “Papiers d’ État – Bas-Canada,” PAC Rapport, 1892: 162. Innis, Fur trade in Canada (1956), 191–94. Rumilly, La Compagnie du Nord-Ouest, 1: 60–61.