SHARPLES, JOHN, prosperous lumberman of Quebec, shipbuilder, official, mayor, and legislative councillor; b. 1814 in Lancashire, Eng.; d. 19 Dec. 1876 at Sillery, Que.
John Sharples came from a family whose forbears had remained faithful to Catholicism. While still young, he left Lancashire to come to America. He spent the year 1822 at St Andrews, New Brunswick, then returned to England the following year; he came back to Canada only in 1827, to take up residence there once and for all. He was welcomed at Quebec by several members of his family. Indeed, in 1816 his uncle William had started the Sharples timber company, the first to trade in square timber at Quebec. Around 1850 John went into partnership with Owen Jones and William’s two sons, Charles and Henry. While Henry and Owen Jones carried on business at Liverpool, England, as Sharples, Jones and Company (which became Henry Sharples and Company when Jones withdrew from the firm in 1866), Charles and John formed the company at Quebec known as C. and J. Sharples and Company. A partnership contract for a five-year period, dated 6 April 1854, specified that the capital of the company was £25,000, the sum of £5,000 being supplied by John and the rest by the three other partners in proportion to their shares in the company.
Charles and John Sharples bought their lumber east of Quebec, and brought it to the coves at Sillery and Bridgewater. The company exported principally square timber, made up of white pine, red pine, oak, elm, ash, and birch; timber for construction, essentially planks, and staves were also sold to the timber merchants in England and Scotland. In 1852 John and his cousin were among the “Grand Manitous” of the Anglo-Saxon race who controlled the timber trade and shipbuilding at Quebec [see John Gilmour]. From 1854 to 1871 Charles and John Sharples each built three ships. The firm became John’s sole property in 1870, and took the name of John Sharples Sons and Company.
In addition, John held certain public offices: on 19 Dec. 1843 he became superintendent of cullers, a post he left in 1855. On 10 Nov. 1859 he was appointed commissioner of the port of Quebec, then president; when he resigned in May 1864, a special committee was immediately formed to inquire into the reasons for this resignation. Two years earlier his sense of civic responsibility had attracted the attention of his fellow-citizens, who had elected him mayor of Sillery. No doubt with the object of consolidating his social relationships, while seeing to his personal gain, John Sharples joined the Quebec Board of Trade (1862–76), and in May 1873 was chosen to represent the timber merchants on the council of this board. John also became director and vice-president of the Union Bank of Lower Canada, as well as of the Stadacona Fire and Life Insurance Company in 1873.
John Sharples’ career reached its height on 27 Feb. 1874, when he was called upon to join the Legislative Council as representative for the division of Stadacona, in recognition of his services to society and his loyalty to the Conservative party. In the same year, while on a business trip in Europe, he learned of the death of his only daughter. The shock was so great that he does not seem to have recovered from it. He died on 19 Dec. 1876 at Sillery; the English-speaking Catholic community of Quebec mourned for one of its greatest benefactors. His sons John (1848–1913) and William (1841–86) carried on his business under the trade name of W. and J. Sharples.
ANQ, Port de Québec, 14; Quebec Board of Trade, Minute book, 6; Quebec Board of Trade, 37. PAC, MG 28, III, 11 (W. & J. Sharples Reg’d.). Canada, Province of, Legislative Assembly, Journals, 1864, 184, 343. L’Événement (Quebec), 20 déc. 1876. La Minerve (Montréal), 21 déc. 1876. Morning Chronicle (Québec), 20 Dec. 1876. The Canadian men and women of the time: a handbook of Canadian biography, ed. H. J. Morgan (2nd ed., Toronto, 1912), 1012. Turcotte, Conseil législatif de Québec, 285, 287. A. R. M. Lower, A history of Canada; colony to nation (4th ed., [Don Mills, Ont.], 1964), 209, 215. Ouellet, Histoire économique, 500. Narcisse Rosa, La construction des navires à Québec et ses environs; grèves et naufrages (Québec, 1897), 63–66, 70, 73, 97, 101, 105, 116–17, 142.