Michel Messier dit Saint-Michel, lieutenant of militia, seigneur, fur-trader; born 1640 at Saint-Denis-le-Thiboult in the diocese of Rouen, son of David Messier and Marguerite Bar; buried November the 3rd 1725 at Saint-Anne de Varennes.
Messier seems to have come to New France with Chomedey de Maisonneuve’s contingent, which arrived at Ville-Marie in the middle of November 1653. (He was there before being the Godfather of an Indian in 1651.) His uncle, Jacques Messier, his aunt Martine Messier, wife of Antoine Primot, and his cousin Catherine Thierry, daughter of Guillaume and Élisabeth Messier from Saint-Denis-le-Thiboult and adoptive child of the Primot couple, were already there. Although his name does not appear on the muster-roll of indentured workers, he must have crossed the ocean with them, for on 10 December he signed as a witness to the promise of marriage between his cousin, Catherine Thierry, and Charles Le Moyne de Longueuil et de Châteauguay.
With the arrival of this contingent of 120 settlers, the fear of having to abandon Ville-Marie, which was exposed to frequent and violent Iroquois attacks, was removed. The settlers left the fort to go and live in their little houses, and they resumed work in the fields with renewed vigour. The Iroquois, however, continued to harass the settlers, killing and capturing them on occasion. Thus, in the autumn of 1654, young Michel Messier was captured; he was set free the following summer and taken to Ville-Marie by a Mohawk captain named “La Grande Armée,” at the time when some Iroquois captains, held in the fort, were exchanged for all the French prisoners.
Subsequently Messier became interested in land clearing, and on 4 Nov. 1657, when he was 17, he bought from Charles Le Moyne, for 900 livres, a 30-acre piece of land called “la provençale.” On 18 Feb. 1658, before the notary Bénigne Basset* and in the presence of the notables of the town, he signed his marriage contract with Anne Le Moyne, Charles’ sister. On 25 February the marriage was solemnized in the chapel of the Hôtel-Dieu. Eight daughters and four sons were born of this marriage.
In 1661, after a short respite due to Dollard* Des Ormeaux’s exploit at the Long-Sault, the Iroquois raids on Ville-Marie started up again. On 24 March Michel Messier was again captured with a few settlers. On 22 June some Iroquois who had come to Montreal stated that Messier had been burned by the Onondagas and that they did not know whether he was still alive. But at the end of 1663 he was back again with his family after having made his escape.
On 26 Nov. 1665 the Sulpicians made over to him a 30-acre piece of land above the one that he already owned. In the deed of grant he is called Michel Messier, dit le grand Saint-Michel. The 1667 census shows him as having 7 head of cattle and 30 acres under cultivation. On 14 May 1668 Messier and his brother-in-law Jacques Le Moyne de Sainte-Marie received conjointly the fief of Cap-de-la-Trinité, which they divided between them on 1 Aug. 1676; Le Moyne’s portion was called Notre-Dame or Cap-de-la-Trinité, and Messier’s, Cap-Saint-Michel. On 5 Aug. 1678 Messier, a lieutenant of militia at Ville-Marie, gave evidence in an inquiry launched by Buade* de Frontenac, the object of which was to ascertain what principle determined the allocation of the sites on which temporary booths, called “mobile shops,” were put up at the time of the fur-trading fair. On 4 October Messier bought the fief of La Guillaudière, which was 30 arpents long by a league in depth, and which adjoined his own.
In 1684 Messier took part in Le Febvre* de La Barre’s expedition against the Iroquois. On 14 August, at the time of the military review held at Fort Frontenac, he was listed as being the commander of the bark the Générale. On his return Messier received from the governor a fur-trading licence for the Ottawa country. He went there the following year, after making his will on 25 May. In 1692 Frontenac granted him another licence, and on 2 May, prior to his departure, Messier gave a power of attorney to his wife before the notary Bénigne Basset. During this trip Messier was exposed to grave dangers. He does not seem to have obtained further licences, hence it is possible that he settled subsequently on one of his fiefs, which in 1692, with the fiefs of Cap-de-la-Trinité, Varennes, and Île Sainte-Thérèse, made up the parish of Sainte-Anne de Varennes.
On 3 Nov. 1725, at the age of 85, Messier was buried in the parish of Sainte-Anne de Varennes, a few months after his wife. On 4 Jan. 1726 an inventory of his possessions was drawn up by the notary Marien TAILHANDIER, dit La Beaume. New France thus lost one of its pioneers who had taken an active part in the defence of the colony, the clearing of the land, and the fur trade.
AJM, Greffe de Bénigne Basset, 4 nov. 1657, 18 févr. 1658, 20 mars, 20 mai 1660, 17 sept. 1676, 2 mai 1692; Greffe de Hilaire Bourgine, 25 mai 1685; Greffe de Lambert Closse, 10 déc. 1653; Greffe de Claude Maugue, 4 oct. 1678; Greffe de Marien Tailhandier, 4 janv. 1726; Registres d’état civil de Boucherville, 31 janv. 1679; Registres d’état civil de Notre-Dame de Montréal, 1658, 1661. Archives judiciaires de Richelieu, Registre d’état civil de Sainte-Anne de Varennes. Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal, 80, 111, 155, 241. “Ordonnances de Mr Paul de Chomedey, sieur de Maisonneuve, premier gouverneur de Montréal,” in Mémoires et documents relatifs à l’histoire du Canada, [Société hist. de Montréal, Mémoires], III (1860), 142. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, II, 117f. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 427. R.-J. Auger, La grande recrue de 1653 (SGCF pub., I, Montréal, 1955), 29. Sulte, Hist. des Can. fr., IV. M.-A. Bernard, “Sainte-Anne de Varennes,” BRH, IV (1898), 129.