Les Forges St. Maurice

Established in 1738, under the French Regime, Les Forges Saint-Maurice was Canada’s first heavy industry.

The St Maurice iron ore deposits near Three Rivers were originally exploited by an earlier company that had failed. Les Forges St. Maurice, endowed with a monopoly grant (25 Mar 1730) and state subsidies, began iron production in 1738 and continued more or less uninterruptedly until 1883.

For a hundred years it remained the most technically advanced ironworks in North America, producing forged iron and molded products such as pots, pans, and stoves. 

Experiments with steelmaking and cannon-founding in 1747 were not fruitful.

The plant employed over 100 specialized craftsmen and 300-400 labourers, The work force, originally from the iron-producing regions of Burgundy, France, developed as a distinctive community, living in Canada’s first “company town”. 

Bankruptcy of the company’s director, F.E. Cugnet, led to state takeover in 1742. In accordance with the Treaty of Paris, ownership of the business passed to the British Crown. The ironworks were then run by lessees, the most notable being Matthew Bell 1800-45.

The Forges had long been obsolete when it was shut down in 1883. 

Canada Parks established a tourist site there which is well worth a visit.