parcheminHaut Charron Ducharme

Amable Charron, master wood-carver and merchant; b. 9 July 1785 in Varennes, Que., son of Charles Charron and Amable Bénard, dit Carignan; d. 8 May 1844 in Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, Lower Canada.

Amable Charron lost his father when he was five and received only a little education. He possibly became the apprentice and certainly the partner of Louis Quévillon, a master wood-carver whose services were in wide demand. Quévillon entrusted to him the completion of some of his contracts. Thus in the period 180812 Charron carried out various works for the fabriques of Saint-Martin, on Île Jésus near Montreal, Saint-Michel, near Quebec, and Notre-Dame-de-Liesse at Rivière-Ouelle, although the agreement in the latter case may have been with Charron himself rather than with Quévillon.

The time Charron spent on the Côte-du-Sud (the area stretching from Lévis to Rivière-du-Loup) probably convinced him that he could find work there. In 1811 he had executed the retable (the structure housing the altar) and rood-screen for the church of Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies. There was little to keep him at Saint-Vincent-de-Paul (Laval) on Île Jésus after the death in 1812 of his wife Marguerite Hogue, daughter of master carpenter Simon Hogue; they had married in 1808 and their three children had died in infancy. Consequently he decided to move to the Côte-du-Sud, where from 1812 to 1816 he executed the most important part of his artistic work. At L’Islet he panelled the church nave and carved the cornice and eight statues. In the church at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (La Pocatière) he carved the retable, the rood-screen (identical to the one at Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies), and four statues representing the evangelists; he is also believed to have worked on the vaulting. At Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies he made the churchwardens’ pew, altered the pulpit, and signed various pieces of carving; in a later contract he undertook to execute paintings of the four evangelists. During the years 181216 he had Chrysostôme Perrault and Joseph Goupil as apprentices. On 7 June 1813 at Saint-Roch-des-Aulnaies he married Marie-Geneviève Audrie, daughter of the late Jean-Baptiste Audrie, a Saint-Jean-Port-Joli merchant, from whom she had an inheritance. They moved to Saint-Jean-Port-Joli, where Charron became a general merchant, the father of a family of three, and a leading figure in the village.

The death of Marie-Geneviève in 1817 came at a turning-point in Charron’s career. At that time he gave up architecture and wood-carving to concentrate on commerce. The sums he received periodically from the fabriques for which he had worked were unencumbered by debt, and these, with the profits from his business, enabled him to make loans to a number of people and to invest in real estate; he even tried to buy part of the seigneury of L’Islet. This affluence was accompanied by the establishment of a new family. On 18 Jan. 1819 Charron married for the third time. His bride was Marie-Anastasie Babin, daughter of merchant Jean-Marie Babin, and they were to have ten children, six of whom reached adulthood.

Charron’s prosperity came to an end in the mid 1830s, when an accounting became necessary. His second wife had died intestate, and the couple had no marriage contract. On reaching the age of majority their three children demanded their share of the inheritance. Charron had difficulty reaching a settlement with his eldest son, and then suffered the misfortune in October 1832 of being widowed a third time. By the end of the decade, when all the fabriques had finished paying what they owed him, he had begun to sell his property, and he probably liquidated his business early in the 1840s. He sold the house in the village in 1842 and retired to his land on the 3rd concession of Saint-Jean-Port-Joli. He died there, leaving his fourth wife, Marie Pélerin, whom he had married on 18 June 1834, almost destitute.

All recollection of Amable Charron and even his name have disappeared from the Côte-du-Sud. Of the churches he helped decorate, only the one at L’Islet is still standing. He does not seem to have possessed great artistic talent. At L’Islet he merely continued the work on the cornices begun by Jean and Pierre-Florent Baillairgé, and his statues have for the most part disappeared. In 1814 Joseph-Octave Plessis, the bishop of Quebec, ordered those he had carved for the church of Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière to be covered up. The caryatids on the rood-screen in the church at Rivière-Ouelle ended up as “decorations” in a fives-court at the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière. Charron’s friend Philippe-Joseph Aubert de Gaspé described him as an excellent hunter with “the strength of an athlete,” and some of his actions show that he had a generous spirit.

Gaston Deschênes

Source: Dictionary of Canadian Biography/Dictionnaire biographique du Canada (DCB/DBC)

parcheminBas Charron Ducharme