This Week in History



This story was initially published in 1998

On March 25, 1730, the Forges du Saint-Maurice were established by commission of King Louis XV of France. He granted a 20-year monopoly to François Poulin de Francheville, allowing him to work the iron ore deposits north of Trois-Rivières, Quebec. He founded the little industrial village where almost everyone worked around the iron foundry. This shaped the economic, social and political life of the region.

Visitors at the Forges du Saint-Maurice

Visitors at the Forges du Saint-Maurice
© Parks Canada / Bill Pratt

Ore was found on the Saint-Maurice River as early as 1667, but Canada's iron industry began only after the royal grant of 1730. The chosen site for the forges offered abundant ore, water power and wood for fuel. In early years, the Forges du Saint-Maurice produced iron for shipyards and royal arsenals, including unsuccessful experiments with steel-making and cannon-founding in 1747.

Workers at the Forges du Saint-Maurice

Workers at the Forges du Saint-Maurice
© LAC / C-4355A

Under Crown ownership and lease-holder management, the Saint-Maurice forges became Canada's largest producer of finished and semi-finished iron goods in the first half of the 19th century. In 1809, the workshops even produced parts of the engine for the Accommodation, the first successful steamboat built entirely in North America! Later, production switched to materials and tools for railway construction. The forges also produced many of the iron goods, such as pots, kettles, heating stoves and ploughshares, that were used in homes and farms throughout the province. The forges closed in 1883, obsolete at last after more than 150 years of operation.

Les Forges du Saint-Maurice were designated a national historic site in 1919, and Parks Canada acquired the site in 1973. Conserving the remains of two blast furnaces, two forges, canal works, service buildings and homes, this is one of the largest and most important archaeological sites of its period in Canada. The Accommodation is also recognized for its national historic importance.

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