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Michel Messier

The man he was

We can learn a little more on Michel by dozens of occasions when he went to the notary and the many times he is mentioned elsewhere. To do this, we must analyze all these documents. He knew how to write. Where did he learn? On December 10, 1653, he signed as a witness to the promise of marriage of Charles Lemoyne and Catherine Primot. This is the writing of a person who does not seem to pick up the pen for the first time. In addition to his signature to documents, I saw in the inventory of his property on January 4, 1726 this little note: "A small note writing by late St. Michel in which it appears that Joseph Hébert owes to Michel eleven pounds." Another note said: "A little book of accounts which seem few debts due to the said community."


In the minute of the notary Marien Tailhandier of November 12, 1722, proof beyond a reasonable doubt is obtained. In an act of concession to Joseph Hébert, it was included a note dated June 20 1719, written by the hand of Michel Messier. The paper mentions that his daughter Marguerite gave a concession was sold to Joseph Hebert. No paper was made to prove these transactions. Following work on this land, Michel feels morally obliged to confirm the transaction. See the ticket on the next page. An analysis of his writing would reveal a voluntary man, a man of decision which advances without preamble when he plans something. If, in 1653, Michel wanted to learn, to read and to write, it has taken steps to achieve it.


These notes are unequivocal certainty that he could read and write. But how has he learned? With illiterate parents, it is certainly not in France. Canada, with his uncles and aunt also illiterate, not on this side to look. It was not until 1658 that Marguerite Bourgeois opened the first school in Ville-Marie. I think we should look a little around him. In 1653, Catherine Primot is back in Montreal after a stay with the Ursulines. It is possible that it is not foreign to her future husband, Charles LeMoyne, the will of Michel to learn reading and writing. There is also the possibility that Jeanne Mance gave him and Catherine Primot, his first courses in French?


In 1673, in Montreal, we should levy a tax according to the riches of the people. This money will be used to defray the cost of housing soldiers stationed in Montreal. The list of contributors is made on December 5, 1673. Michel is one of those who have to pay more in contributing to five pounds. At thirty-three, Michel seems to be financially comfortable.


Michel was not alone to clear his land. The census tells us that in 1666, his uncle Jacques and his brother Jacques remain with him. In addition, it has two domestic Julien Talien, twenty-three years and Maurice Averty twenty-eight years. 1667 tells us that, in addition, he has seven cattle and thirty acres. At the 1681 census, it remains on his lordship. It does not seem to have a servant. However, we learn that four rifles, eight cattle and thirty acres under cultivation.
On October 2, 1694, at the request of Benign Basset, Michel made ​​a statement in favor of Maurice Averty. Michel expresses some of his frustrations. On the one hand, he says he has never felt completely free in this country. The freedom to go to France was very limited. There was also the obligations to perform work for the king. He also mentions that he had, on several occasions, to order the militia to fight the Iroquois. On the other hand, it is possible if he has had the opportunity, he would not have recrossed the Atlantic, family obligations holding him here. Does not have this freedom was bitter.


Another facet of him is his belief in God. The first fifteen years of his life in Ville-Marie were favorable to his spiritual development. Do we find in the writings of some tangible evidence of his beliefs? In 1672, the Sulpician Dollier de Casson decided to write an history about Montreal. To achieve this, he questions witnesses of its foundation. Michel is one of those. When, in 1654, he mentioned that St-Michel is back among his people is that Michel Messier was better known by the name of Mr. St-Michel. This nickname was given to him for his religious fervor. It is possible that most of the areas where he has lived and his two captivities among the Iroquois with the fear of death brought him closer to God.
We often found in wills from the time many clauses that require to say many Masses for the rest in space of souls and Michel is not an exception to this rule. In a sale of land in Montreal, made ​​on May 30, 1712 by Michel to the Recollects, a clause stipulates that they must say seventy-five Masses, at his death, for the repose of his soul and that of his wife. Moreover, he added that ten masses should be said for the repose of the souls in purgatory the most abandoned. This is certainly not the act of a selfish, a person who thinks only of himself.

However, it is on February 22, 1718 that he shows more generosity. To fulfill a promise he made, there many years ago, it gives the sum of one thousand pounds to the church of Varennes for one of the two chapels in construction bears the name of his patron saint St Michael the Archangel. In addition, he stipulates that his wife and himself be buried iunder the church. This free action taken without any constraint reveals a little the soul of this man. The burial of his wife actually took place under the church. However, if you believe his act of burial, Michel seems have been burried in the parish cemetery.


This church was replaced. Today, we can see in Varennes the fourth church whose construction was decided in 1882. It was elevated to basilica in 1993. Inside, you can admire a huge painting of St. Michael the Archangel who is probably a gift that Michel has given to the parish in 1718.


Having been a fairly active man, it is almost normal to see him go to the court to settle some differents occurred with people he touched. In 1673, they used its services. He must take an inventory of the property of Sieur Brucy who has trouble with the law. Later, before the fear that these goods are deteriorating, the Sovereign Council inquiry to our ancestor and René Cuillerier, to transport them in Lachine and Montreal to sell. They also have the custody and authority to dismiss anyone who tried to appropriate.


Several reasons find themselves in court. Sometimes, it is Michael who will use and other times, he will defend himself. Étienne Campot pleads on December 13, 1667 to resolve a dispute with Michel about the cancellation of a contract made ​​between them. A case will go before the Sovereign Council and drag long before being settled. René Fezeret prosecutes Michel at law. The dispute began with a note written on June 17, 1682 on a promise of concession. After an adverse decision of the Lieutenant General of Trois-Rivières on June 12, 1691, Michel carries the case to the Supreme Council. It finds herself postponed for several reasons. At some point, Michel is a prisoner. On another occasion, the judge asked to see the ticket and uses an expert to know the authenticity of the signature of Michael. On April 26, 1694, as the husband of Anne Lemoyne is absent from deliberations of the Sovereign Council, he loses by default and he is sentenced to give a concession as stipulated in the ticket.


From 1672, Michel was a lieutenant of militia in Montreal. It was after moving to Varennes, he became captain of the militia because he was named a Lord. Finally, the last judgment we can make about Michel is the appreciation that had the people of Ville-Marie with him. On March 2, 1664, following an order of M. de Maisonneuve dated February 15, they have to appoint five judges of police. They proceed by voting for appointments. 30 people hold the attention of the 226 citizens who have made ​​their choice. Three get more then 20 votes, 6 between 10 and 20 votes. Michel is ranked fifteenth with four votes in his favor.


Michel died on November 2, 1725 after a long illness. He follows his wife died a few months earlier. He also leaves four of his twelve children. His burial took place the next day. The inventory of his property is don on January 4, 1726. The next day, they will be sold and reveal some interesting details. It appears that smoking has begun by him at Messier family. A small bag of tobacco was sold to Jean Gauthier for 15 sols. It also has an article worthy of mention. Three cups of silver shaped gondola putting one into the other, valued at 10 pounds each. With the price of an cow estimated at 28 pounds, we can better judge the value of the cups. It is highlighted by the assessment made in a book by two French historians, Sophie and Didier Decault.


"In the house of the petty-bourgeois, there is an incredible refinement, a gondola, which is a long and narrow small drinking vessel , without handle or foot."

Note written by Michel Messier to Joseph Hébert
Cap St-Michel in Varennes
On June 20, 1719

Having the knowledge that my daughter
Marguerite LeSueur would have given a concession
of thirty acres to Desroche, four
acres wide to take on the
edge of the great St. Laurent river

on thirty deep
and he would have sold to Joseph Hébert
without the appearance of any title for
the concession then the annuity having
always enjoyed peacefully and made

much work to be done on the said land
he felt compelled to give him
insurance of the said land
for himself and his family through
the following four capons of rent a year

for every acre to be given on
St-Martin dayand all other

annual and partial manorial
rights and non-redeemable, further
I gave him another eight acres of

land that may remain in the second row
but considers untitled after
its thirty acres under at the same conditions
duy (today) any such acre payable on the
St-Martin. day

(Michel Messier Sieur de St-Michel)


This note has been inserted with the concession contract of Michel Messier to Joseph Hebert on November 12, 1722.

Text comes from the volume of Gilles Messier:  Les Messier et leurs ancêtres, 700 ans d'histoire.

Last update : 

September 10, 2014

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