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In and out of the gates of Fort de La Présentation


Much is known of the individual priests and some key Indigenous people associated with Fort de La Présentation during the mission’s dramatic decade as a French possession.

Because the mission required continuous priestly commitment to the nearly 3,000 Iroquois and their allies, a succession of priests served with Abbé François Picquet and in his absence.

From 1753 to 1754 while Picquet journeyed to and from France, Élie Depéret had charge of the mission. Depéret, then in his early sixties, left La Présentation to return to his final duties as a parish priest. At Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’Île he died in April 1757.

Overlapping his tenure was that of Leger-Jean-Baptist-Noël Veyssière who served 14 months ending in 1755. Post war, Veyssière had a checkered career. He converted to Protestantism only to be shunned by Protestants, Catholics and the colonial government.

Pierre-Paul-François de Lagarde had the last and longest association with Picquet and La Présentation beginning in March 1754 when he voyaged from France to Quebec with the abbé.

Shortly after his ordination in Quebec in May 1755 he reconnected with Picquet at La Présentation, where he remained five years. In this role Lagarde mastered the challenges of native languages.

While Picquet was often away, Lagarde was not always alone. From 1758 until 1760, François-Auguste Magon de Terlaye and Jean-Claude Mathevet aided Lagarde’s ministrations to Indian and French worshippers. From time to time, they served alongside Picquet.

In March 1756 Magon de Terlaye presented the mission paintings portraying the Last Supper, the Descent from the Cross, and the Virgin and Child with John the Baptist.

He was appointed to the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission in May 1758. When he died at the mission in May 1777, his manuscripts included an Iroquois grammar and an Onondaga- and Cayuga-French dictionary.

Mathevet and Picquet accompanied the La Présentation warriors throughout Montcalm’s July 1757 campaign against Fort William Henry.

By 1761 Mathevet had returned to the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission and eventually became the superior. His specialty was the Algonquin language, in which he wrote a grammar and sermons.

He who was called Ouakoui – the sky – by the Algonquins was unaccountably paralyzed in March 1778 and retired to the Sulpician Seminary in Montreal. There he died in August 1781 and was laid to rest beneath the chancel of Notre-Dame.

Lagarde’s last entry in La Présentation records was July 23, 1760. As General Jeffrey Amherst’s Anglo-American army descended the St. Lawrence, he joined Pierre Pouchot’s small force at Fort Lévis.

Lagarde survived the short, brutal siege and stood among the few to surrender Aug. 24. Following a short captivity, he served the balance of his life at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission.

When Magon de Terlaye died in 1777, Lagarde was appointed bursar, and when Mathevet left in 1778 he became the superior. Lagarde became ill in 1782 and retired to Montreal in February 1784, where he died in April. Lagarde was also interred beneath the chancel of Notre-Dame.

The Iroquois and their Indian allies residing around La Présentation sought a peaceful settlement with their tribal cousins aligned with the Anglo-Americans.

In April 1760 General Amherst assured them of their traditional rights in return for their support.

To be continued next week.

Michael Whittaker resides in Bishop’s Mills, Ontario, and is a former member of the Fort La Presentation Association Board of Directors. He currently serves on the association’s marketing committee. His views do not necessarily reflect the views of the association.

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