A Blupete Biography Page

Joshua Maugher

Little is known of Joshua Maugher's earlier life, other than he was born on one of the Channel Islands, Jersey. When but a young man he was off to sea and ended up in Louisbourg. He had come there during the English occupation period, 1745-1749. He had, it seems, friends in high places back in London, and it was through these connections that he was to receive an appointment as a victualer to the Royal navy. With the hand over of Louisbourg, the British were obliged to move their establishment from Louisbourg to the Halifax. This occurred in July of 1749, and, a settler at Halifax was to observe that aboard the arriving ships were, "milch cows and other stock, besides military stores."1 Doubtlessly, amongst the crates of stock and stalls of animals was to be found twenty-four old Joshua Maugher; he had come to Halifax. Government money was flowing and he meant to get himself some. Maugher was soon to set up shops and was keen to meet the needs of any one who had something to trade, from influence to furs. For eleven years, if anyone in the Nova Scotia had something to sell, or something to buy: Joshua Maugher was the man to look up.2

In addition to his establishments on McNab's Island and in downtown Halifax, Maugher set up truckhouses at Piziquid, Minas, Grand Pre, Annapolis and on the St. John River. He used his own vessels and ran produce up to Louisbourg; and, down from there, he brought the utensils for which the Acadian householder and farmer so eagerly waited.3 It was believed that Maugher was an intermediary on the peninsula between the French and the Indians "through which French manufactured tomahawks and scalping knives reached the Micmacs for use against the British." Maugher was "clearly engaged in illicit and contraband trade ... a kingpin of the illicit trade between Halifax and Louisbourg."4 "Cornwallis denounced him to the Imperial Government as an audacious smuggler," if not worse, and wondered why "so dubious a person" should be permitted to act as Agent-Victualer for Nova Scotia.5

Joshua Maugher, due to his nefarious trading activities in the infant English colony of Nova Scotia, was to earn a fortune.6 In 1760, Maugher retired to England with his wife, Elizabeth, and their child, a daughter, Sarah (baptized at Halifax on the 8th April, 1754). He was to use his fortune to advance himself in the high societies of both England and France. He was elected to parliament in 1768 and continued to hold his seat, except for a short interruption, until 1780. For many years he acted as Agent-General for Nova Scotia. Maugher died in 1788, leaving his fortune behind.7


[1] Akins, History of Halifax City as was published by The Nova Scotia Historical Society (vol. #8, 1895), p. 12.

[2] See DCB; and see The Journal of John Salusbury, as edited by Ronald Rompkey (Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1973).

[3] See Arthur Eaton's History of the County of Kings, p. 40.

[4] NSHS, vol. 33 (1961), p. 78.

[5] Macdonald's The last Siege of Louisbourg, at pp. 42-3. It is from Macdonald we learn that Maugher's principle place of distribution was upon a large island just off the mouth of Halifax Harbour which we know these days as McNab's Island. A lot of his merchandise was bought through connections he had in France and which were shipped to Louisbourg. He would then smuggle the goods down from Louisbourg and land them on Maugher's Beach on McNab's where he had "vast repositories of French goods." Macdonald then proceeds to inform us that the goods were brought overland and distributed to the Acadians and Indians through his numerous truckhouses.

[6] From the DCB's account, we learn that Maugher's activities went beyond that of just being a merchant. He was involved in the ship building and lumbering at Lunenburg including the operation of sawmills. He also held title to numerous stretches of land throughout the province and various properties at Halifax. He owned, at one time, as many as 27 ships and with them ran fish and lumber to the West Indies and carried back up the coast sugar, molasses and rum; an activity, incidently, which many a ship owning Nova Scotian was to pursue well into the 19th century.

[7] Macdonald, op. cit., at p. 42, would have it that his daughter married a French nobleman who was to become the Duc de Bouillon, which would have made Sarah, the Duchesse de Bouillon. Macdonald then proceeds to write that the Duc and the Duchesse were to be caught up in the terrors of the French Revolution and lost their heads by the operation of the guillotine. I am not sure where Macdonald got his information, but it seems he was wrong. A person who was doing some research on the Duc de Bouillon thought it unlikely; and, more recently I have heard from one of the descendants of the Maugher family who is located in London. He wrote: "Joshua Maugher did indeed leave a fortune behind. Somewhere I think I have the figures. His main heir was in fact Philip Nicolle his sister's son. From our own family records, and my late fathers extensive research your article is wrong in claiming Joshua Maugher's daughter became the Duchesse de Bouillon. His daughter pre deceased him. She married General James D'Auvergne mentioned above who was much older than her. General James D'Auvergne (later Mayor of Southampton) was the uncle of Admiral Philip D'Auvergne who became the Duc de Bouillon. A book 'The tragedy of Philippe D'Auvergne' by G.R. Balleine although having many errors in detail deals with the tale of how Philip D'Auvergne came by the Dukedom and then lost it. Joshua Maugher was very supportive to Phillipe and paid the ransom for his release from imprisonment in France in 1779."


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Peter Landry
2012 (2020)