LE ROUX (Leroux), THOMAS-FRANÇOIS, priest and missionary; b. 15 Jan. 1730, probably in the diocese of Tours, France; d. 5 Feb. 1794 at Memramcook, New Brunswick.
The generally accepted date of Thomas-François Le Roux’s ordination is 1756. There is some evidence to suggest that he may have been a member of the Congrégation du Saint-Esprit. Other than that, there is no information available concerning his upbringing or religious vocation in France. He arrived in Canada in late 1773 or the summer of 1774 in response to a call from Charles-François Bailly de Messein, who with the support of Bishop Jean-Olivier Briand of Quebec had written to the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris requesting the aid of French clergy with the Acadian missions.
Upon his arrival Le Roux was sent to minister to about 15 Acadian families at Havre-Aubert on the Îles de la Madeleine. His services were divided between this outpost and the Acadian settlements on Cape Breton and St John’s (Prince Edward) Island. After several years Bishop Briand decided to move him to a mainland mission at Memramcook. He arrived there in the fall of 1781 or the spring of 1782. Although he had been preceded in the region by Abbé Joseph-Mathurin Bourg, Le Roux is regarded as the first resident priest of Memramcook. The parish established there was given the name of his patron saint, Saint Thomas.
The climate may have been less rigorous than at Havre-Aubert, but the Memramcook mission was no less demanding. It comprised an area approximately 40 miles square, much of which Le Roux reached by canoe, and included the poor Acadian farming and fishing communities of Barachois, Cocagne, Grande-Digue, Shediac, Le Coude (Moncton), Saint-Anselme, Petitcodiac, and Minudie. His flock in 1785 numbered about 160 families or 960 persons. Despite a suggestion that he should replace Abbé Bourg at Tracadièche (Carleton, Que.) that year, Le Roux remained at Memramcook, largely because of his age but also because his parishioners were anxious to retain his services. He seems, however, to have been strict with his flock. In 1789 he informed Bishop Jean-François Hubert that he had abolished “all assemblies, dances, balls, social evenings, [and] catechized two and three times a day, during the winter, until Easter.” For some time after his arrival at Memramcook Le Roux continued to serve the village of Malpeque on St John’s Island, and in 1788 he came into conflict with Dr William Phelan, missionary at Arichat, Cape Breton, who claimed that the island fell within his jurisdiction. Le Roux may have continued to serve the island after 1788, but by 1791 his visits there had ceased.
As the years progressed Le Roux found it more and more difficult to travel to the communities within his extensive mission. In 1791 he was invited by Bishop Hubert to retire to the Hôpital Général of Quebec if his age and infirmities made it impossible for him to continue his work. Later his eyesight began to fail, and in 1793 he asked Hubert to send him new spectacles to enable him to read the mass. His last letter to his bishop, written in Abbé Bourg’s hand, was dated 16 July 1793, and in it he reiterated his request to be replaced. He was again invited to retire to Quebec, but his death intervened.
Le Roux was twice buried and disinterred before his body came to rest under the sanctuary of the church at Saint-Joseph on the west side of the Memramcook River. According to the Acadian historian Placide Gaudet*, he “had the reputation of a saint and it was said that he had performed several miracles.” He was succeeded at Memramcook by the bilingual Irish priest Thomas Power.
AAQ, 311 CN, III, 1–14 (copies at CÉA). CÉA, Fonds Philias Bourgeois, 13.1–1; Fonds Placide Gaudet, 1.28–13, 1.51–14, 1.54–15, 1.66–5, 1.69–7, 1.72–5, 1.74–18, 1.75–5. Allaire, Dictionnaire, I. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Hubert et de Mgr Bailly de Messein,” ANQ Rapport, 1930–31, 199–351; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Mariaucheau D’Esgly,” ANQ Rapport, 1930–31, 185–98. L.-C. Daigle, Les anciens missionnaires de l’Acadie ([Saint-Louis de Kent, N.-B., 1956]). Tanguay, Répertoire.
Arsenault, History of Acadians. [H.-R. Casgrain], Mémoire sur les missions de la Nouvelle-Écosse, du Cap Breton et de l’île du Prince-Édouard de 1760 à 1820 . . . réponse aux “Memoirs of Bishop Burke” par Mgr O’Brien . . . (Québec, 1895). Albert David, Les missionnaires du séminaire du Saint-Esprit à Québec et en Acadie au XVIIIe siècle (Mamers, France, 1926). Père Pacifique de Valigny [H.-J.-L. Buisson], Chroniques des plus anciennes églises de l’Acadie: Bathurst, Pabos et Ristigouche, Rivière Saint-Jean, Memramcook (Montréal, 1944).