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Leclère (Leclerc) Family Fonds (P731)

Excerpt from the anthropological chart of Pierre-Édouard Leclère (1822-1892) (detail), 1862. Gift of Mrs. Aude Nantais Picher Tremblay, Leclère Family Fonds P731, M2010.34.1.1.5.1 © McCord Museum

The character of Pierre-Édouard Leclère

"Constitutional tendencies to
Honesty,........................................6 Purity,............................................5
Diligence,.......................................6 Courage,........................................6
Discretion,......................................5 Command,......................................6
Education,......................................6 Public life,......................................6"


Very little is known about Pierre-Édouard Leclère, the son of the illustrious notary and police superintendent of the same name. However, this "anthropological chart" produced in 1862 by Dr. J. D. Haynes, a phrenologist and physiognomonist working in Montreal, claims to shed new light on the personality of the man from Saint-Hyacinthe. Among other things, the chart indicates that Leclère has a high propensity for benevolence, mirthfulness and combativeness; a temperament more bilious than phlegmatic; an innate talent for mathematics and politics; and an average predisposition to diseases like hepatitis and cirrhosis.

Although it now raises eyebrows, the "science" of phrenology, developed by physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828), was much in vogue in Europe and North America during the first half of the 19th century. It supposes that an individual's intellectual, affective and moral faculties can be inferred from the shape of the skull, which is itself influenced by the development of certain organs of the brain. Medical advances in the second half of the 19th century gradually disproved this "science of bumps" that held a special, albeit controversial, place in the history of neuroscience.


P731 Leclère (Leclerc) Family Fonds. - [1750-1949]. - 9 cm of textual records. - 282 photographs. - 2 objects.

Biographical Sketch

The fonds focusses on the Leclère family, some of whose members were public figures in Montreal, Lower Canada, the United Province of Canada and the Province of Quebec. Most of them lived in Montreal or the surrounding area, notably in Saint-Hyacinthe.

Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père, was born February 10, 1798, in Montreal, the son of Pierre Leclère, dit Lafrenaye, and Marie-Anne Bourg. In 1820, he married Marie Josephte (or Josette) Castonguay, with whom he had 17 children, including Pierre-Édouard, fils, Charles Ambroise and Georges Samuel.

He began training as a notary in 1813, working with three influential clerks at the Legislative Assembly of Lower Canada: maîtres Louis Chaboillez, Jean-Marie Mondelet and André Jobin. He was commissioned in 1825 and opened an office in Montreal, where he practised until 1840.

Named Montreal's police superintendent in 1830, Pierre-Édouard Leclère was tasked with reorganizing the force at a time of growing influence of the Patriote party, whose ideas he firmly opposed. In the years that followed, he created networks of informers to infiltrate the Patriote party and played an active role in repressing the movement, pursuing rebels (real and imagined) as far as the American border. He was then made a justice of the peace and took part in the commission that examined compensation for losses suffered during the Rebellions of 1837-1838.

Pierre-Édouard Leclère became the owner of the newspaper The Canadian Spectator in 1826, and owned L'Ami du people, de l'ordre et des lois from 1832 to 1836. The latter played a key role in disseminating loyalist ideas. Leclère also founded Le Journal du commerce in 1835.

In 1840, he moved from Montreal to Saint-Hyacinthe, where he worked as a notary until at least 1859. He also held the office of stipendiary magistrate until 1843, along with that of president of the Agricultural Society of Lower Canada, and became a shareholder in the Société de navigation de la rivière Richelieu in 1845. Pierre-Édouard Leclère died in Montreal, in 1866.

Pierre-Édouard Leclère, fils, (1822-1892) married Henriette Brewer (1835-1924) in 1857. The couple lived in Saint-Hyacinthe and had two children: Pierre Édouard and Alphonse Édouard.

Charles Ambroise Leclère (1825-1870?) studied at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe during the 1840s and married Élizabeth Archambault in 1859.

Like his brother, Georges Samuel Leclère (1827-pre-1907) studied at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe during the 1840s. After marrying Corinne Turgeon (1832-1907) in 1855, he had a number of children with her, including Marie, Charles, Gustave-Louis, Georges Ovide, Eugène and Hélène. A resident of Saint-Hyacinthe, Georges Samuel Leclère was named secretary of the Agricultural Council of Quebec in August 1869.

Georges Ovide Leclère (1865-1900) was the son of Georges Samuel Leclère and Corinne Turgeon. Although he was enrolled in the Université Laval Faculty of Medicine (Montreal section) in the early 1880s, he instead pursued a career in the field of finance and commerce. In 1892, he was working at a bank when he married Yvonne Mathieu (about 1873-after 1921), the daughter of Adolphe Mathieu (about 1849-?), a lawyer, and Marie Louise Desjardins. The couple had five children. Georges Ovide Leclère also partnered with his brother Eugène in Leclère Bros., a wholesaler specializing in boots and shoes. He died prematurely in 1900s.

Scope and Content

This fonds focusses on the Leclère family and several related families, including the Mathieus and the Desjardins. It chronicles the personal lives, family lives and professional activities of members of the French-speaking upper class in the 19th century.

The professional life of Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père, is illustrated in correspondence, most of it exchanged with Édouard E. Rodier, and two speeches made in his honour in 1842 when he was appointed Montreal police magistrate. Baptismal and death certificates chronicle major events that marked his private life.
The fonds contains several texts written by Georges Samuel Leclère in 1843 to 1845, when he studied the classical curriculum at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe. These compositions were created chiefly for his classes in Humanities and Rhetoric. The correspondence between Georges Samuel Leclère and his wife Corinne Turgeon deals mainly with family topics, while several legal documents provide information about Georges Samuel's professional activities and the couple's finances and assets (especially real estate).

The archives of Pierre-Édouard Leclère, fils, include an anthropological chart created by Dr. J. D. Haynes in 1862, which describes certain personality traits and pathologies revealed by the shape of his skull and his physiognomy.

There is also a voluminous correspondence between Georges Ovide Leclère and his wife Yvonne Mathieu. The couple's personal and family lives are the focus of these letters, which chronicle their relationship, Georges Ovide's relations with his father and his brother Gustave, and Yvonne Mathieu's relations with her parents and brother-in-law. An agreement produced in August 1900 describes the terms of the partnership between Georges Ovide and Eugène Leclère in Leclère Bros., boot and shoe merchants.

The fonds includes 282 photographs that primarily depict members of later generations of the Leclère family, along with a number of unidentified individuals. There are also portraits of politicians and friends of the family. A medal bearing a photograph of Honoré Mercier and a leather frame used for cabinet cards complete the collection.

Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the fonds.

Physical condition: Several documents are fragile and cracked.

Immediate source of acquisition: The fonds was donated to the McCord Museum by Aude Nantais Picher Tremblay in 2010.

Language: The documents are in French and English.

General note: The McCord Museum's Dress, Fashion and Textiles collection includes a set of jewellery (M2010.34.21.1-4) and a brooch (M2010.34.22) from the Leclère family.


The fonds is divided into the following series:

  • P731/A Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père. - 1820-[after 1935]. - 1 cm of textual records
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series chronicles the personal life and professional activities of Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père.

    It contains several notarized documents illustrating major events in his family life, including the baptismal certificates of two of his daughters, Marie Célanire, born October 4, 1820, and Julie Célanire, born November 20, 1823. Both were baptized the day after their birth in the parish of Saint-Nom-de-Marie in the city of Montreal. A death certificate dated May 17, 1822, reveals that little Marie Célanire died when she was only 19 months old. In these three documents, Pierre-Édouard Leclère (Leclerc) is identified, in turn, as a merchant (1820), law student (1823) and notary's clerk (1822). The series also contains the death certificate of Marie Josephte Saint-Germain, deceased on December 12, 1843, at the age of 81. She was the widow of Jean-Baptiste Castonguay and the mother of Pierre-Édouard Leclère's wife, Marie Josephte.

    In addition, the series contains a typewritten copy of a document recounting an incident between Pierre-Édouard Leclère and Édouard E. Rodier, a lawyer and member of the Patriote party. Rodier complained that Leclère, at that time the owner of the newspaper L'Ami du people, de l'ordre et des lois, had permitted the publication of a slanderous article about him. Rodier refers to an anonymous piece published on April 2, 1834, which alleged that he had harangued some inhabitants of Saint-Philippe. Offended by this declaration, Rodier demanded a public retraction and the name of the author. Leclère asked his friend A. Rambau to act as an intermediary. Rambau tried to calm things down, but Leclère's negative response to Rodier's requests escalated the situation, which degenerated into a duel. Happily, the altercation was resolved with no loss of life. The two parties eventually came to an amicable agreement on how to preserve Rodier's honour. The matter is recounted by A. Rambau himself, who says that his intention is to correct the version of events published in the journal La Minerve. His account includes transcriptions of letters exchanged between the various parties.

    The series is completed by two tributes to Pierre-Édouard Leclère written in 1842 when he was appointed police magistrate of Montreal. These testimonials were delivered by the inhabitants of Sainte-Rosalie and Saint-Hyacinthe, respectively, who were sad to see him leave, praising his skills, impartiality, and commitment to the public good and the preservation of public safety. Finally, there is a copy of the January 15, 1841, edition of the Morning Courier, with a piece about "summary process" that has been highlighted, and a press clipping from another newspaper with an anecdote about Leclère. This story recounts that Leclère, known for his fierce opposition to the Patriot movement, had Dr. Pierre-Claude Boucher de la Bruère arrested in 1838 on suspicion of having taken part in the Rebellion. Then, several years later, Leclère's daughter married de la Bruère's son, Pierre-René-Joseph-Hippolyte de la Bruère.

    Source of title proper: Based on the creator of the documents.

    Language: The documents are all in French, with the exception of one in English.

  • P731/B Georges Samuel Leclère and Corinne Turgeon. - 1843-1897. - 1 cm of textual records.
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series focusses on Georges Samuel Leclère and his wife Corinne Turgeon. It chronicles the couple's personal life and assets, along with Georges Samuel Leclère's professional activities.

    The series contains several texts written by Georges Samuel Leclère between 1843 and 1845, when he was studying the classical curriculum at the Séminaire de Saint-Hyacinthe. These exercises and compositions, dotted with deletions, corrections and, in some cases, short comments, doubtless from his teachers, are remnants of his Rhetoric classes and generally involve classic themes and works. Among the titles are "Le dauphin d'Hippone" (Pliny the Younger's description of the boy and the dolphin), "Discours de Persée contre Demetrius" (when Perseus spoke against Demetrius) "Les catacombes de Rome" (the catacombs of Rome) and "Speech of Junius Brutus over the dead body of Lucretia." Sometimes, the students are given themes that are more open-ended. "Discours d'un écolier sur les malheurs de sa condition" (a student writes about the hardships of his condition) for example, inspired Leclère to write multiple pages.

    In addition, the series contains correspondence between various members of the Leclère and Turgeon families. Seven letters covering the period 1843 to 1894 primarily address family topics. One letter dated 1845 from James Morrison, a close friend who chosen an ecclesiastical career, is addressed to both Georges and Charles (likely Georges Samuel's brother, Charles Ambroise Leclère). The other letters chronicle the adult lives of Georges Samuel Leclère and his wife Corinne. In two letters dated respectively June 19 and December 26, 1855, sent to a correspondent whom the young man calls "my dear Félix," Georges shares news on the professional activities of his brother Charles, the travels of his father, and the health of his mother and his "little Georges." He mentions his wife's visit to Terrebonne to see her family and a short illness that she had. Two letters dated October 15, 1863, and May 5, 1864, from members of the Turgeon family document Georges' relations with his in-laws. The correspondence also includes a letter dated March 26, 1890, addressed to "my dear Hélène" (perhaps his daughter) and a last letter signed "Corine," dated July 15, 1894, in all likelihood written by Corinne Turgeon.

    Finally, legal documents complete the series. One such document formalizes Georges Samuel Leclère's appointment as secretary of the Agricultural Council of Quebec on August 23, 1869. The others provide information about the couple's real estate holdings, namely properties located in Sainte-Thérèse de Blainville that Corinne Turgeon inherited from her father. In addition to these notarized documents are lists recording the rents to collect from a number of individuals, primarily in the Terrebonne area (e.g., Sainte-Thérèse, Saint-Henri-de-Mascouche, Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines and Saint-Janvier).

    Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the documents.

    Physical condition: The documents are fragile.

    Language: The documents are in English and French, but primarily in French.

  • P731/C Pierre-Édouard Leclère, fils. - 1822-1865. - 0.3 cm of textual records.
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series focusses on the personal life of Pierre-Édouard Leclère, fils. It is composed of a notarial act documenting his birth and baptism on March 11, 1822, in the parish of Saint-Nom-de-Marie in the city of Montreal. His father, Pierre-Édouard Leclerc, père, is identified as a law student. The document names Jean-Baptiste Castonguay as his godfather and Marie Charlotte Hogue as his godmother.

    In addition, the series contains an "anthropological chart." Produced in 1862 by Dr. J. D. Haynes, a phrenologist and physiognomonist working in Montreal, this chart claims to shed light on the patient's "talents and character," by identifying certain personality traits and diseases revealed in the shape of his skull and physiognomy. It presents itself as a tool, capable of no less than describing "every person's character, business capacity, and hereditary diseases, and direct[ing] them in their matters of love, marriage relations, education, etc." The document is a printed form listing dozens of faculties, which have been given handwritten marks from 1 to 7. An introductory text presents the principles underlying Dr. Haynes' approach and his definition of "anthropology," which embraces physiology, phrenology and physiognomy. This is followed by the list of faculties, grouped into categories, ranging from the individual's health to his talents in areas such as music or making friends. Among other things, Pierre-Édouard Leclère's anthropological chart indicates that he has a high propensity for benevolence, mirthfulness, patriotism and combativeness; a warm and agreeable temperament, more bilious than phlegmatic; a native talent for mathematics and politics; and an average predisposition to diseases of the liver like hepatitis and cirrhosis.

    Finally, the series contains a handwritten note dated March 6, 1865, signed P. E. Leclere, stating that he is honoured to present C. Laberge and Rachel Turgeon with two rosaries that were blessed by the pope on March 20, 1853, during a trip to Rome.

    Source of title proper: Based on the creator of the documents.

    Physical condition: The documents are fragile.

    Language: The documents are in French and English.

  • P731/D Charles Ambroise Leclère. - 1845. - 1 cm of textual records.
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series focusses on Charles Ambroise Leclère (Leclerc). It is composed primarily of a short story written between February 12 and April 24, 1845, by Charles Ambroise when he was a student at Collège de Saint-Hyacinthe. This composition, probably produced for his Rhetoric class, is entitled "Un héros canadien" ("A Canadian Hero"). The handwritten document contains 14 folios (28 pages) held together with ribbon. It is neatly printed and contains few deletions and corrections. He begins his text by expressing his admiration for the courage of soldiers, who are ready at all times to sacrifice their lives for an "often dark, unknown" mission, and the different type of courage of priests, who choose a life of austerity, full of hardship and self-sacrifice. This long passage, some of which later appeared in a text entitled "Le curé de campagne" ("The Country Priest") published in 1868 in volume five of the Revue canadienne, was used to introduce the primary theme of his story, which revolves around the tragic death of young Étienne Micelette, injured during the 1837-1838 Rebellion when he was only 18 years old. It is perhaps a personal account. Written in the first person, the story takes the form of a dialogue with a character named Charles, the nephew of a priest that the narrator spends time with while on holiday, far from the noise of the city. The elegant prose, vivid descriptions and learned references are evidence of the writer's literary skill and classical education. Through the words of Charles, the author offers a romantic account of the events of 1837, as experienced by his protagonists.

    The series also contains a photocopy of a handwritten document that seems to be a list of bequests. Among the beneficiaries are Jos Leclère, Germaine Leclère, Gabrielle Leclère, Georges Leclère, Marguerite Nantais, Isaïe Nantais, Rachel Roy, and various members of the Lepoutre, Vallerand and Royal families. Charles Ambroise Leclère's nephew, Charles Leclère "of New York," is the first name on the list. This information is most likely part of a family member's will because whoever wrote the document refers to "a set of blue china from our grandfather Leclère" and portraits of the Castonguay and Leclère family (Charles Ambroise is one of the 17 children born to Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père, and Marie Josephte (or Josette) Castonguay).

    Source of title proper: Based on the creator of the documents.

    Physical description: Some documents are photocopies.

    Physical condition: The documents are fragile.

    Language: The documents are in French.

  • P731/E Georges Ovide Leclère and Yvonne Mathieu. - 1888-1921. - 1 cm of textual records.
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series is composed primarily of correspondence between Georges Ovide Leclère, his wife Yvonne Mathieu, and members of their respective families. The couple's personal and family lives are the focus of these letters, which chronicle their relationship, Georges Ovide's relations with his father and his brother Gustave, and Yvonne Mathieu's relations with her in-laws.

    Spanning several decades, the correspondence documents the events that marked the couple's life as a family over the years. The earliest letters written by Georges Ovide date from the years preceding his marriage. They portray a young man on the cusp of adulthood, preparing to make his mark and begin his career in finance. A letter dated June 29, 1891, reveals that, with the help of a friend of his brother's, he has found a job as a paymaster in a Montreal financial institution. For some time, he travels back and forth between Quebec City and Montreal, working for the Jacques-Cartier Bank. Then, with two weeks to go before his wedding to Yvonne, in a touching yet somewhat reserved cordial missive, Georges Ovide expresses his happiness and reiterates his love to his young fiancée, who is on a retreat at the Convent of the Sacred Heart in Sault-au-Récollet. The rest of the correspondence reveals their subsequent life together: the birth of children and the family's move to 530 St. André Street. This life was cut short by Georges Ovide's premature death from typhoid fever in 1900, poignantly described in a letter from Yvonne to her brother-in-law Gustave. In it, she expresses her sorrow and describes the last days of Georges Ovide in detail. Several letters between the young woman and her brother-in-law reveal their close family relationship.

    The correspondence in this series illustrates the social and daily life of an upper-class family in the late 19th century, a life made up visits, strolls and numerous trips abroad. Several letters describe the highlights of a long holiday taken by Georges Ovide's parents. They begin their journey in France, to visit their son Gustave, and then go on to Switzerland and Italy, where they spend the winter. Georges Ovide and Gustave's father enjoys the bustling, cosmopolitan atmosphere on the grand boulevards of Paris, and the wonderful cafés frequented by those living the 'high life,' that is, "artists, writers and distinguished foreigners, like us!"

    Several missives chronicle Yvonne's relationships with relatives from the Desjardins family, such as an uncle and cousin living in Memphis. Finally, the series contains a death notice, a press clipping announcing the marriage of Gabrielle Leclerc to Marcel Lefebvre, and an agreement from August 1900 describing the terms of the partnership between Georges Ovide and Eugène Leclère in Leclère Bros., boot and shoe merchants.

    Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the documents.

    Language: The documents are in French and English.

  • P731/F Other Leclère Family Members. - 1907-1938. - 0.7 cm of textual records
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series focusses on members of the Turgeon and Leclère families, who were related by marriage following the 1855 wedding of Georges Samuel Leclère and Corinne Turgeon. It is composed of three letters and two press clippings.

    Two of the three letters were written by Oscar Turgeon, who was probably Corinne Turgeon's brother. The first, written in Montreal on May 9, 1907, was sent to his niece Gabrielle Leclère on the occasion of her first communion. Oscar Turgeon, who appears to be a very pious man, uses his letter to impress upon her the importance of the step she is about to take. His good wishes are accompanied by several moral guidelines: "[...] always be very respectful to your grandmother, always obey your mother, and always set a good example for your siblings, especially your little brother." His second letter, dated March 22, 1910, is a more succinct message to his nephew Georges Adolphe Leclère on the occasion of his first communion.

    The third letter, dated March 3, 1938, was sent to Mrs. Rodolphe Roy at 338 Grande Allée, Quebec City, by her cousin Isaïe, who also enclosed a newspaper clipping entitled "The Patriots of Terrebonne," published under the heading "Causes célèbres." The article discusses the role of Charles-Guillaume Bouc during the November 1838 uprising in Terrebonne and a peace treaty that brought an amicable end to this insurrection. However, this agreement was not respected and ultimately led to the rebel's exile. The article mentions that among those opposed to Bouc and his brothers in arms were Joseph-Octave-Alfred Turgeon, a major in the militia and, incidentally, a first cousin of the insurgent, as well as "police chief Leclère, from Montreal" (very likely Pierre-Édouard Leclère, père), which could explain why Isaïe wanted to share the article with his cousin.

    The second press clipping announces the death in France of Abbot Louis-Gustave Leclère de La Frenaye, the son of Georges Samuel Leclère and Corinne Turgeon. It notes that the Abbot spent the greater part of his ecclesiastical career with the Archdiocese of Paris, after ministering in Canada for a number of years in the towns of Oka and St. Patrice. Among the family members mentioned in the obituary are his brothers, Charles, a New York City architect, Joseph, Georges and Eugène; his sisters, Mrs. Philippe Vallerand of Quebec City and Mrs. Dr. Paul Royal of Lorette, Manitoba; and nine nephews and nieces, including Mrs. Lepoutre.

    Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the documents.

    Language: The documents are in French.

  • P731/G Other Related Individuals. - 1755-1949. - 2 cm of textual records
  • Digitized documents

  • Scope and Content: This series focusses on members of the Desjardins and Mathieu families. In particular, it chronicles the personal lives of Marie Louise Desjardins and Adolphe Mathieu and their relationship with their daughter Yvonne, who married Georges Ovide Leclère in 1892.

    The series is composed largely of letters sent by Yvonne Mathieu to her parents in 1893 and 1894. The young woman recounts her social activities, the progress of her pregnancy, and her preparations for the upcoming birth. While she openly shares her happiness at becoming a wife, she also notes her day-to-day worries about the couple's move to Quebec City and her husband's heavy professional responsibilities as a branch manager of La Banque Jacques-Cartier. The young wife's letters are tinged with her constant anxiety about the couple's finances. Even though both young people were born into wealthy families and were members of Quebec City high society, they often felt compelled to limit their social outings. The missives also convey Yvonne's sadness at having to live far from her parents, regularly expressing her concerns about their health.

    In addition, the series contains several letters sent between Marie Louise Desjardins and Adolphe Mathieu, notably when the latter visited the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. After sending a first missive recounting his exhausting, uncomfortable journey to Chicago in a Pullman car, several days later he is enchanted by what he has seen at the fair and excitedly writes to urge his wife to join him. A letter from his daughter's father-in-law, Georges Samuel Leclère, illustrates the friendship uniting Georges Ovide Leclère and Yvonne Mathieu's respective families. Several communications provide information about other Desjardins family members, including Marie Louise's brother, Rodolphe Desjardins, who lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and her cousin Berthe, who writes to her from Hull. In 1902, young Marguerite (probably the daughter of Georges Ovide Leclère and Yvonne Mathieu) sends a letter to her Mathieu grandparents.

    Besides correspondence, there are several other documents associated with Marie Louise Desjardins, including a recipe for dandelion wine, a photocopy of a letter published in La Presse about her father, the Patriot F. X. Desjardins, a memorial card, and the invoice for her husband Adolphe Mathieu's gravestone. There is also the genealogy of Joseph Desjardins and several notarial documents associated with the widow of Antoine Desjardins. A grant dated January 4, 1755, between the Pauvres de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec and Pierre Moisan, along with an excerpt of the baptismal certificate of Micheles (Michel) Moisan, the son of Pierre Moisan and Magdeleine Mathieux born August 20, 1750, complete the series.

    Source of title proper: Based on the creators of the documents.

    Physical description: Some documents are photocopies and one document contains fabric samples.

    Physical condition: Some documents are fragile

    Language: The documents are in French and English, but primarily in French.

  • P731/H Photographs

 

Last update: March 29, 2019