QAHN Heritage Talks Online (No. 14):
Jean-Baptiste Girard and Sarah Moses, recent immigrants to Montreal from New England, owned a confectioner’s shop on Notre Dame Street where they sold ice cream and other delicacies and catered private events. Girard, formerly a Napoleonic soldier, was on business in St. Genevieve on October 27, 1819, when the shop burned to the ground, the sparks even causing damage to a bookshop across the street. Newspaper coverage criticized the disorganized response of the firemen, but did not mention the possibly shady involvement of Paul Kauntz (a rival confectioner) and John Burns (Girard’s troublesome brother-in-law) in the events surrounding the fire. This incident sheds intriguing light on early 19th century social relations and family strategies for survival in changing times.
Elena Cerrolaza teaches Art History and Humanities at Montreal’s Marianopolis College. Her interest in the history of fencing led to extensive research into the checkered career of Jean-Baptiste Girard – soldier, adventurer, fencing instructor, umbrella maker, circus performer, bailiff, and confectioner – and Sarah Moses, who escaped an abusive first marriage to become the matriarch of several important Quebec families.