DESROSIERS, AUGUSTIN (he also signed Auguste), industrialist, contractor, architect, and politician; b. 31 Jan. 1847 in Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville) Lower Canada, son of David Desrosiers, a tanner, and Marguerite Godin; m. first around 1872, in the United States, Agnès Méthot of Rivière-du-Loup, and they had one son and two daughters; m. secondly 23 Feb. 1881 Caroline Coulombe in Louiseville, and they had one son; d. there 13 May 1927.
Augustin Desrosiers started out as an apprentice joiner with Pierre Hamel, who owned the shop next door to that of Augustin’s father in the village of Rivière-du-Loup. At the beginning of the 1870s Desrosiers left his birthplace and joined Hamel in Syracuse, N.Y. Then he went with his elder brother David to Westfield, Mass., where he worked for an organ builder. Returning to his native village in 1873, he was able to make immediate use of the knowledge he had acquired in the United States when the fabrique hired him to renovate the organ in the parish church, enlarge the rood-loft, and construct another above it. In 1874 he was called on to construct the Rivière-du-Loup convent of the Sisters of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary [see Edwige Buisson*], for which he drew up the plans. In the same year, in preparation for carrying out this large contract, Desrosiers opened a door and window factory in Rivière-du-Loup with his brother David, under the name A. Desrosiers et Frère.
Desrosiers was commissioned in 1878 to do other projects: erecting a building for the Rivière-du-Loup market and a house for a doctor’s widow, and drawing up the plans for a hotel. He now decided to expand and diversity his activities. That year he and his brother had a sawmill built, with a door and window factory and a planing mill attached. A steam engine provided the power to run the various parts of this industrial complex, which was located on the river to the south of the village. It appeared certain that A. Desrosiers et Frère would be a profitable enterprise, since the Hunterstown Lumber Company’s sawmill, the largest production facility in the parish, had recently shut down as a result of the negative effects the current economic crisis was having on forestry-related activities. As entrepreneurs, the Desrosiers brothers hoped to capture the local market for wood products which the American firm had previously controlled.
A succession of events cast a shadow over Desrosiers’s plans, however. In 1878 his son and elder daughter died, as did his wife on 26 July 1879. Less than a month later, he was forced to declare bankruptcy, despite the financial support he had received from his father and his cousins Odilon and Agapit Desrosiers during the summer of 1879. Determined to carry on, Augustin and his brother reached an agreement with their creditors at the end of 1879. Once again David Desrosiers came to his sons’ assistance by acting as guarantor for the repayment of their debts. In the event, on 2 Jan. 1880 the receiver ceded their property back to them. But Augustin’s troubles were not over. Between 1880 and 1883 three people sued him for money owed. In July 1881 the Desrosiers brothers’ industrial complex was auctioned off at the church door as a result of legal action taken by Léon Thérien, a Louiseville farmer who had sold them the land on which it had been built. However, the two brothers kept the door and window factory they had erected in 1874.
A few years later Desrosiers embarked on other projects, not all of which materialized. In 1887 he took out two loans totalling $3,000 from the corporation of the town of Louiseville and borrowed $800 from his father in order to build a new door and window factory. It also made organs for churches in Quebec, Ontario, and the United States. This factory, which had six employees in 1891, would remain in operation until after the death of its founder. In 1892 Desrosiers and four other entrepreneurs set up the Montreal Match Company, a match factory in Louiseville. Friction within the management brought about the company’s liquidation even before it had begun production. Along with his industrial activities, Desrosiers continued to take on building contracts; from 1890 to 1896 he erected another match factory, a hotel, a school in Louiseville, an Anglican church in Sainte-Ursule, and two presbyteries, one in Louiseville and the other in Saint-Jérôme. Between 1900 and 1912 he entered into partnerships to open two insurance agencies in Louiseville. Desrosiers was well regarded by his fellow citizens, and served as mayor of Louiseville during the year 1902-3. While in office he continued his predecessors’ policy of promoting industry.
Augustin Desrosiers is an excellent example of the dynamism of French Canadian businessmen. Armed with the experience he had gained in a family environment that included a number of artisans, he set up some of the largest industrial units in Louiseville in the last quarter of the 19th century. But his enthusiasm and energy ran up against a difficult economic situation and problems of financing. Unable to get help from the banks, Desrosiers, like many other French-speaking industrialists in the province, had to obtain loans from individuals by mortgaging property. This method of financing greatly reduces an entrepreneur’s flexibility and makes long-term planning impossible. His career also shows the central role of the family within business. When setting up a company or looking for capital, Desrosiers turned first to his relatives.
ANQ-MBF, CE401-S15, 31 janv. 1847, 23 févr. 1881; CN401-S106, 11 mai 1878; TP11, S3, SS2, SSS1, dossiers 67 (1879), 10 (1880), 566 (1893); SS20, SSS48. Arch. paroissiales, Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue (Louiseville, Qué.), RBMS, 1927. LAC, RG 31, C1, 1851, 1861, 1871, Rivière-du-Loup (Louiseville). Le Courrier de Maskinongé (Louiseville), 1878-79. L’Écho de Louiseville (Louiseville), 1895-96. Le Journal des Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, Qué.), 1874. Germain Lesage, Histoire de Louiseville, 1665-1960 (Louiseville, 1961). Jocelyn Morneau, “Louiseville en Mauricie au XIXe siècle: la croissance d’une aire villageoise,” RHAF, 44 (1990-91): 223-41; Petits pays et grands ensembles; les articulations du monde rural au XIXe siècle: l’exemple du lac Saint-Pierre (Sainte-Foy, Qué., 2000). Que., Parl., Sessional papers, report of the secretary and registrar of the province of Quebec, 1892.