William Joseph Fortier, of Franklin village, a retired hat manufacturer, was born December 8, 1824, in Gentilly, Quebec County, Canada. His father, Dr. Thomas Fortier, who was a very prominent physician of Quebec, and later of Gentilly, was a member of Parliament for fourteen years. Dr. Thomas was twice married, first to Eliza Hannah, November 15, 1819, when he was twenty-four years of age. By this union there were seven children, born as follows: Thomas E., September 27, 1820; Mary Ann Emily, May 29, 1823; William Joseph, the subject of this sketch; Edward F., September 30, 1825; Mary L., January 4, 1827; Francis, January 7, 1828; and George Edward, March 7, 1831. Mary L. Francis was drowned in 1840. The Doctor’s second marriage was made with Leocadie Gronden, of Gentilly, who bore him five children-Adeline, Georgiana, Sarah, Artanse, and Thomas. Having taken an active part in the troubles of 1837, Dr. Fortier was reduced to poverty. He remained in Gentilly for the remainder of his life, and died there at the age of eighty-four years.
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William Joseph Fortier, in common with his brothers and sisters, was educated in the select schools of Canada. At the age of fourteen, his father having lost his property, he started out in life for himself. He walked to Irasburg, Vt.; and there he lived with Dr. George Pierce, employed by the latter, but also attending school for a time. He then served an apprenticeship of three years with Deacon Seth Cole, a hatter of Coventry Falls, Vt., and continued in Deacon Cole’s employment as a journeyman for three years longer. About 1842 he came to Franklin and located at his present home. After working for wages a little longer in Franklin, he started the manufacture of hats, and continued in that business until the beginning of the late war. In August, 1862, he enlisted in the United States Cavalry at Providence, R.I., and was in Company I for three years. He was in many hard battles and skirmishes, receiving a very bad injury in his right knee by being thrown from his horse while participating in a charge at Middlebury, Vt. On that occasion he was taken prisoner, and was subsequently confined in Libby Prison for forty days, after which he was taken to Bell Island, and thence to Richmond, where he was released. He next went to Cedar Point and then to Annapolis, Md., where he was pronounced unfit for duty and detailed for service in the post-office. Here he remained until he was discharged from service, in May, 1865. He returned to Franklin, and for about three years after he sold dry goods on the road. At the end of that period he resumed the manufacture of hats, caps, etc., which he sold in the New England States, at times employing from fifteen to twenty hands in his factory. He continued in this business until 1889, when he retired on account of failing health.
On June 2, 1850, Mr. Fortier was married to Martha Hancock, of Northfield, N.H. Born January 1, 1839, she died December 7, 1889. Her children were: Emily Ann, born March 12, 1851; Mary Ella, born April 11, 1854; and Georgie Anna, born September 9, 1856. Emily is now the proprietor of a successful furnishing and fancy goods store at Franklin. Georgie is living at home with her father. Mary died April 9, 1884. Mr. Fortier is a member of G. F. Swett Post, No. 38, G. A. R., at Franklin Falls; also of Meridian Lodge, No. 60. He attends the Christian church. A hard-working and industrious man, he has been quite successful in life, and is highly respected by his townsmen.