MAURAULT, JOSEPH-PIERRE-ANSELME, priest, missionary, and historian; b. 27 Dec. 1819 at Saint-Louis-de-Kamouraska (Kamouraska, Que.), son of Cyriac Maurault, militia captain and merchant, and Émilie Sirois, dit Duplessis; d. 4 July 1870 at Saint-Thomas-de-Pierreville (Pierreville, Que.).
Joseph-Pierre-Anselme Maurault was descended from a Poitou family which had arrived at Quebec in 1656. He studied at the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière (1831–36) and the Petit Séminaire de Québec (1836–37). After teaching natural sciences at Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière for two years, he served from 1839 to 1841 as the secretary of Bishop Pierre-Flavien Turgeon, coadjutor to the archbishop of Quebec. Ordained by Bishop Joseph Signay* on 10 Feb. 1842, Maurault served as curate at Saint-François-du-Lac, and visited the Têtes-de-Boules, Indians of the upper Saint-Maurice, in 1844, 1845, and 1846.
In 1848 Maurault was appointed parish priest of Saint-François-du-Lac. The following year he opened a new church there which was more central than the old one on the Île du Fort, downriver on the Saint-François. The inhabitants of Île du Fort had so strongly opposed the construction of the new church, decided upon in 1832, that the affair had gone to the courts. To satisfy the islanders, Maurault undertook to divide his parish. In 1852 he bought a piece of land on the east bank of the Saint-François; there, at his own expense, he built a church, which he proposed to make the centre for a new parish. Thomas Cooke, the bishop of Trois-Rivières, was at first displeased with this irregular procedure, without precedent in the history of French Canada. Eventually, however, he came round to Maurault’s view, and entrusted to him the new parish, which was named Saint-Thomas-de-Pierreville. Thanks to the initiative of the priest and of his two brothers, Thomas and Jean-Élie, whom he had brought from Kamouraska, a village grew up around the new church. Favourably located for shipping, this village rapidly attained great prosperity.
From 1841, Maurault had been responsible for the Abenaki mission of Saint-François-de-Sales (Odanak) near Saint-Thomas-de-Pierreville. He quickly mastered the Abenaki language, and tried, without complete success, to counteract the efforts of Osunkhirhine* (also known as Pierre-Paul Masta) to bring Protestantism to the Indians. Maurault also wrote two reports, in 1856 and 1865, that are an important source of information on the Abenakis’ way of life and character. In 1856 he presented a report to the special commissioners appointed to inquire into Indian affairs [see Richard Theodore Pennefather]. In it he proposed that the Abenakis be set free from government tutelage, that they be accorded full citizens’ rights, and that each receive a grant of good land in freehold for cultivation. But this report went unheeded.
The prosperity of Saint-Thomas-de-Pierreville roused the envy of the Abenakis. The Indians began to doubt the legality of all their land sales to the new arrivals. On 2 Feb. 1865 Maurault submitted a long report to the government, together with a petition from the owners concerned. He sought to have the tenure of the Abenakis’ lands changed, so that the rights of the two parties would be protected.
At the suggestion of Abbé Henri-Raymond Casgrain*, Maurault decided to write Histoire des Abénakis, depuis 1605 jusqu’à nos jours, which appeared in 1866. With few records available and no access to government documents, he was forced to rely, for much of his history, on American and Canadian works about the colonial wars in which the Abenakis had fought beside the French. Hence the preponderance given to these wars in his book. The critics of the time were charitable towards this ambitious work, devoted to a tribe in danger of extinction.
Joseph-Pierre-Anselme Maurault died of pneumonia on 4 July 1870. The large number of priests who attended his funeral is evidence of the esteem in which he was held by the clergy of his time.
J.-P.-A. Maurault, “Du lac St-Jean au Saint-Maurice,” Le Foyer canadien; receuil littéraire et historique (Québec), IV (1866), 344–52; Histoire des Abénakis, depuis 1605 jusqu’à nos jours ([Sorel, Qué.], 1866). Archives de l’évêché de Nicolet (Nicolet, Qué.), Cartable Odanak; Cartable Saint-François-du-Lac; Cartable Saint-Thomas-de-Pierreville. PAC, RG 4, C1, 572; RG 10, vols. 592–95. Can., prov. du, Assemblée législative, Journaux, 1858, VI, app.21. JIP, juillet–août 1870, 105. Rapport sur les missions du diocèse de Québec . . . , 6 (juillet 1845), 131–45. Le Journal des Trois-Rivières, 7 juill. 1870. La Minerve, 15 juill. 1867. Arthur Bergeron, Pierreville, 1853–1953; un siècle de vie paroissiale et l’aurore du suivant ([Trois-Rivières], 1960), 11–18. T.-M. Charland, Histoire des Abénakis d’Odanak (1675–1937) (Montréal, 1964); Histoire de Saint-François-du-Lac (Ottawa, 1942). N.-H.-É. Faucher de Saint-Maurice, Choses et autres; études et conférences (Montréal, 1874), 60–65. Lareau, Hist. de la littérature canadienne, 207–9.