DESJARDINS, FRANÇOIS-XAVIER, merchant and Patriote; b. c. 1802, probably at Saint-Benoît, Lower Canada, son of Joseph Desjardins and Marie-Josephte Prévost; d. 14 Nov. 1867 at Saint-Michel-de-Vaudreuil (Vaudreuil), Que.
François-Xavier Desjardins’s activities remain little known until his participation in the disturbances of 1837–38. On 17 Dec. 1823 Desjardins, identified as “a merchant of upper Vaudreuil,” married Mary Delesderniers, daughter of John Mark Crank Delesderniers of Vaudreuil, in St Andrew’s Presbyterian Church (St Andrew and St Paul) in Montreal. Three girls and a boy were born of this union. Apparently Desjardins’s commercial activities were flourishing at the time of his marriage, since he owned five pieces of land at Pointe-à-Cavagnal (called Como by about 1860, and today Como-Est).
When the 1837–38 insurrection broke out Desjardins joined the ranks of the Patriotes of Vaudreuil and Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes. His participation in the patriotic movement even led to two confinements in prison (from 16 Dec. 1837 to 28 Feb. 1838 and from 4 Nov. to 17 Dec. 1838), as a result of denunciations made by John Augustus Mathison, leader of the local British loyalists, a justice of the peace, and a long-standing rival of Desjardins. According to these detailed denunciations, Desjardins and his brother Fabien were local Patriote leaders. He held meetings at his house and allegedly helped to recruit and arm about 150 habitants to defend the village of Saint-Benoît. The arms and ammunition may have been supplied to them by his cousin Alselme Desjardins, owner of a foundry at Rigaud who provided ammunition to Dr Jean-Olivier Chénier* of Saint-Eustache. In addition, Desjardins was accused of giving financial support to William Whitlock, an American sympathizer, who roused the local British to revolt by his numerous writings. Although he denied these accusations, Desjardins was probably one of the organizers of the insurrectional movement in its initial stages. He may have taken part in the armed conflict in December 1837, but no charge was preferred against him.
After this political unrest Desjardins resumed his commercial activity in partnership with his brother Fabien. On 20 Aug. 1845, nine months after the death of his first wife, Desjardins, who then styled himself a businessman, married Virginie Laviolette at Saint-Jérôme. In the same year he participated in the industrial revival on the seigneuries of Vaudreuil and Rigaud by promoting a glass works at Pointe-à-Cavagnal.
On 24 Sept. 1845 Desjardins went into partnership, for a period of eight years, with Marc-Damase Masson*, Jules-Édouard Bardy, and François Coste, all of Montreal, to set up and run a glass works. The establishment, with its furnaces and outbuildings, was to be constructed on a piece of land that Desjardins leased to the company; the agreement was to be in effect as long as the buildings were used for the manufacture of glass. As well as supplying £150, each shareholder of Masson et Compagnie was assigned a specific task. Desjardins was responsible for selling the manufactured products in the Vaudreuil area. Before the construction of the plant was completed, however, the new company experienced its first disappointments. On 16 December Desjardins withdrew from the partnership with his share of the investment and profits, which amounted to £305. In February 1846 he refused to transfer to the shaky firm another strip of land needed for its expansion, alleging that its request could not be justified. During the succeeding years the company changed hands several times, becoming in 1847 the Ottawa Glass Works, under the ownership of Stewart Derbishire and George-Paschal Desbarats, queen’s printers. From 1851 on the company, then known as the Canada Glass Works Company Limited, was to make headway; its progress slowed again around 1875. Desjardins received rent from the land at least until 1851.
After the more or less successful glass works venture, Desjardins’s only known occupations are those of justice of the peace, coroner, and militia captain. He probably continued to take an interest in business and his ownership of Île Cadieux in the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes perhaps indicates that he was fairly well off.
ANQ-M, État civil, Presbytériens, St Andrew’s (Montréal), 17 déc. 1823; Greffe de J.-O. Bastien, fils, 1er nov. 1844. ANQ-Q, QBC 25, Événements de 1837–1838, nos.116, 1064–65, 1067–69, 3888, 3890, 3894. Archives judiciaires, Terrebonne (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), Registre d’état civil, Saint-Jérôme, 20 août 1845. Archives paroissiales, Saint-Michel-de-Vaudreuil (Vaudreuil, Qué.), Registres des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures, 18 nov. 1867. Fauteux, Patriotes, 207. R.-L. Séguin, Étude monographique relative à la paroisse de Saint-Thomas d’Aquin d’Hudson, comté de Vaudreuil (Rigaud, Qué., 1947). G. F. Stevens, Early Canadian glass (Toronto, ). R.-L. Séguin, “La famille Delesderniers,” BRH, LVIII (1952), 131, 133; “La verrerie du haut de Vaudreuil,” BRH, LXI (1955), 119–28.