HERIOT, FREDERICK GEORGE, army and militia officer, landowner, jp, office holder, and politician; b. 11 Jan. 1786, baptized at home on 14 January, and presented in the Anglican church in St Helier, Jersey, on 11 August, third son of Roger Heriot, an army surgeon, and Anne Susanne Nugent; d. unmarried 30 Dec. 1843 in Drummondville, Lower Canada, where he was buried on 1 Jan. 1844.
Frederick George Heriot was a descendant on his father’s side of an old and quite prominent Scottish family, the Heriots of Trabroun. On his mother’s side he was related to the ancient Irish aristocracy through the Nugents of Westmeath. He has often been confused with his cousin George Heriot, the deputy postmaster general of Lower Canada from 1800 to 1816.
In the summer of 1801 Heriot, then 15, went into the army as an ensign in the 49th Foot. The following year he arrived in Lower Canada under Lieutenant-Colonel Isaac Brock*’s command, and subsequently his advance was rapid; promoted captain in 1808, he was appointed brigade major, under Major-General Francis de Rottenburg*, in 1811. For some years he lived at Quebec, where garrison life was considered pleasant; in his spare time he turned to horse-racing, with some success.
After the United States declared war on 18 June 1812 Heriot was posted on 26 March 1813 to the Voltigeurs Canadiens as acting major under Lieutenant-Colonel Charles-Michel d’Irumberry* de Salaberry; he would become brevet major on 10 June. On 1 April he set off from the camp at Saint-Philippe-de-Laprairie for Upper Canada at the head of four companies of Voltigeurs and on 13 April he reached Kingston. With his men he shared in the changing fortunes of the British army. After the raid on Sackets Harbor, N.Y., on 28–29 May [see Sir James Lucas Yeo*], he was mentioned in dispatches. The risk of invasion increased, and on 26 Oct. 1813 the battle of Châteauguay against the advancing Americans immortalized Salaberry and his Voltigeurs. Heriot and three of his companies were then at Prescott, but they left around 6 November to pursue other American forces moving down the St Lawrence towards Montreal. The battle of Crysler’s Farm took place on 11 November [see Joseph Wanton Morrison*]. Heriot narrowly escaped capture by dint of his skill as a horseman; his conduct earned him another mention in dispatches and a gold medal. The corps of Voltigeurs was subsequently increased and reorganized in Lower Canada; Salaberry, who was thinking of relinquishing the command, offered Heriot the opportunity to purchase it. Heriot, with the backing of Sir George Prevost*, took over as commanding officer on 11 April 1814 and held the rank of militia lieutenant-colonel until the end of hostilities. Once the war was over, the Voltigeurs were disbanded, on 1 March 1815. Heriot himself was given the option of resuming his previous rank in the 49th Foot, with the prospect of a prompt return to England and a slim chance of promotion in peacetime. For this 29-year-old officer an unexpected career was to open up, however.
While the British government was developing a new colonization policy, the Lower Canadian House of Assembly recommended that lands not yet granted be given to disbanded soldiers. A semi-military settlement thus came into being in the valley of the Rivière Saint-François, and on 1 May 1815 Heriot was appointed to administer it, with the assistance of Pierre-Amable Boucher de Boucherville and several officers from various regiments. The post assured him an income of £300 and £100 for travelling expenses, exclusive of his half pay. He set to work immediately, inspected the area, and on 8 June asked for a grant of 1,200 acres in Grantham and Wickham townships on which to build a village. That summer saw the birth of Drummondville, and its beginnings seemed promising in the opinion of Administrator Sir Gordon Drummond*, who visited the settlement in the autumn. By 1816 houses, a hospital, school, and barracks were being laid out; a post office had already been built. Heriot had prepared a spacious home, Comfort Cottage, some distance away on a hillside, and was having his farm cleared and mills built. But there were serious set-backs: crop failure in 1815 and 1816; desertions; a reduction in military aid and a threat to shut down the operation in 1819; an epidemic in 1820; and in 1826 a fire that devastated the countryside and the village, with only Heriot’s house and the two chapels spared. Despite the many disasters, through untiring efforts Heriot managed to maintain the small community, which was totally dependent upon him. He served, in fact, at one and the same time as justice of the peace, trustee and visitor of schools, and commissioner for the building of roads; he was attentive to his fellow citizens’ needs and came to their aid. By donating lots he ensured that there would be a Catholic mission and a Church of England parish. He would have liked to dedicate both to St George, but even at the risk of offending him, the Catholic bishop, Joseph-Octave Plessis*, chose the name of Saint-Frédéric for the mission.
The first land grants Heriot had himself received amounted to little more than 600 acres. He considered that his devotion to duty and his service record entitled him to something more and let it be known through numerous petitions. Some of his requests were granted, and he increased his holdings through numerous purchases, with the result that the investigators appointed by Lord Durham [Lambton] affirmed in 1838 that he owned 12,000 acres and classified him among the land-grabbers. However, they failed to point out that he was one of six major landowners who lived on their lands, that he was actively engaged in agricultural improvement and stock raising, and that he claimed to have helped develop 40,000 acres.
When Buckingham riding was split in 1829, Heriot was easily elected to the House of Assembly for the new riding of Drummond on 7 November, his opponent having himself voted for him. He was re-elected by acclamation in 1830 and on 31 Jan. 1833 resigned his seat. Assiduous in carrying out his duties, he had taken a particular interest in the means of communication within the colony. In April 1840 he was called to serve on the Special Council but took part in only one session.
Meanwhile Heriot’s record of service had earned him a cb in 1822 and the title of aide-de-camp to the governor in 1826. He reached the rank of colonel on 22 July 1830 and was promoted major-general on 23 Nov. 1841. During the 1837 rebellion he had been entrusted with the military organization of the Eastern Townships, and in December of that year he had gone around the Saint-François region to recruit and organize volunteers.
During a trip to England and Scotland in 1840 Heriot re-established links with his family; two of his cousins were in the entourage of the Duke of Wellington, who was his host. In Lower Canada another cousin, Robert Nugent Watts, who was elected to the Legislative Assembly for Drummond on 15 March 1841, had taken up residence in his house; Heriot made over a large part of his belongings to him in 1842. Heriot by then was seriously ill and he died on 30 Dec. 1843, just before his 58th birthday. The local people, both Catholic and Protestant, gave him a moving funeral on 1 Jan. 1844, with the bells of both churches tolling together.
Frederick George Heriot was much regretted by those who had known him; he was praised for his courtesy, tolerance, charitable spirit, devotion to duty, and generous hospitality. He was an unassuming man who liked to see himself as an ordinary farmer, although in fortune and style of living he resembled the English gentry which was considered a desirable source of settlers for the Canadas. A warm-hearted man with a sense of duty, he had lived up to his family’s motto: Fortem posce animum (Be of brave heart).
[Although Frederick George Heriot always signed Heriot, his name appears with other spellings, and in Drummondville (Que.) it is written with an accent (Hériot). Joseph-Charles Saint-Amant supposedly had access to original materials but he used Herriot in his L’Avenir, townships de Durham et de Wickham, notes historiques et traditionnelles . . . (Arthabaska, Qué., 1896), an error he corrected in Un coin des Cantons de l’Est; histoire de l’envahissement pacifique mais irrésistible d’une race (Drummondville, 1932). Almost all references to Heriot contain errors, such as confusing him with his cousin, stating that he was born in 1766, or maintaining that he arrived in Drummondville in 1816 instead of 1815 (as in Wallace, Macmillan dict., and Michelle Guitard, Histoire sociale des miliciens de la bataille de la Châteauguay (Ottawa, 1983)).
Heriot left no instructions in his will about his papers and they have disappeared. It is therefore hard to come to any conclusions about his education (it was very good judging from his correspondence), his personal relationships, or his political opinions. Only an article written by a relative, J. C. A. Heriot, “Major General, the Hon. Frederick George Heriot, CB,” Canadian Antiquarian and Numismatic Journal, 3rd ser., 8 (1911): 49–75, provides information about Heriot’s family and about the man himself. J.-A. Saint-Germain, dit frère Côme, Regards sur les commencements de Drummondville (Drummondville, 1978), a revised version of a manuscript prepared in 1965, was the first to use modern methods in assessing archival records, and his is the best study available. Michelle Guitard and Christian Rioux, both formerly with Parks Canada, provided the author with useful information on military history.
A portrait of Heriot by Samuel Hawksett is held at the Château Ramezay in Montreal, and the McCord Museum has another, by an unknown artist, formerly attributed to his cousin George Heriot, which appears to be a better likeness. A copy of an unsigned portrait is included in C. P. de Volpi and P. H. Scowen, The Eastern Townships, a pictorial record; historical prints and illustrations of the Eastern Townships of the province of Quebec, Canada (Montreal, 1962), and as frontispiece to the article by J. C. A. Heriot. m.-p.r.l.]
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