BUISSON DE SAINT-COSME, JEAN-FRANÇOIS, priest, canon, bursar of the seminary of Quebec; baptized 26 Nov. 1660 at Quebec; d. 15 March 1712 at Quebec.
Father Buisson was the son of Gervais Buisson, “Bisson” according to his signature, and of Marie Lereau. The family came from Saint-Cosme-de-Vair, in the bishopric of Le Mans, which explains the surname given him. But as there was another family of Buissons who came from the same place, and particularly since there was another Jean-François Buisson de Saint-Cosme (1667–1706) in that family, who in turn became a priest of the seminary, an unofficial distinction had to be decided upon. In point of fact the older man, the one in whom we are interested, was never called and never signed himself anything else than “Buisson, priest,” whereas the second one, the missionary, was ordinarily called “St-Cosme.” The latter also had a younger brother, Michel, who was in turn a missionary and a parish priest and who signed himself, to be different: “Buisson de St-Cosme.”
Abbé Buisson entered the Petit Séminaire of Quebec on 4 Sept. 1674. He must have finished his classical studies before 27 Sept. 1682, since Bishop Laval gave him the tonsure on that date. He received all the orders in the course of 1683, including the priesthood on 30 November. When the chapter of Quebec was set up the following year, he was appointed a canon. In addition he fulfilled temporarily the functions of chaplain of the Hôtel-Dieu of Quebec (1684–85), and later (1707–12) he was spiritual director of the Ursulines. In 1687 consideration was given to sending him as a missionary to Acadia. But the bishop could no longer assign him to a distant ministry, as he was needed too much at the seminary.
In 1684, when he was 24, he became bursar of the house and was to retain that office until 1710, although from 1707 on he had a deputy, Jean-Baptiste Gaultier de Varennes. This long period of administration was perhaps not the most critical, but it was the most active and eventful one in the history of the seminary under the French régime. The large-scale building programme, which had been started in 1675, was continued. The seminary went through the alarm and the damages caused by Phips*’s attack in 1690, and even destruction by fire on two occasions, in 1701 and 1705. Despite the warnings of the superiors of the seminary in Paris, the religious in Quebec wanted to rebuild on a larger and sounder basis; one can appreciate the bursar’s situation in this unfavourable conjuncture. After the second fire, the worry about the reconstruction which had to be supervised and the debts which had to be contracted may have contributed to sapping his health, thus requiring the appointment of an assistant bursar. Nevertheless, someone wrote of him: “M. Buisson is very anxious that our refectory be pleasant and also that the boys be well fed.”
Despite these vicissitudes, the work of the seminary did not suffer too serious an interruption. The result was that the procurator of the seminary in Paris, Abbé Henri-Jean Tremblay*, worn with toil and confident in the abilities of his colleague in Quebec, proposed on 5 June 1712 that Buisson come to take his place. Even if it had proved acceptable, this proposition arrived too late. Buisson was in fact dead, having succumbed to measles on 15 March. He had been buried on the same day in the cathedral.
AJQ, Greffe de Pierre Duquet, 24 mai 1671. ASQ, Annales du Petit Séminaire; Chapitre, 40; Lettres, N, 86, 125; O, 53; Paroisse de Québec, 23. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” 173. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. Casgrain, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu de Québec, 574. Gosselin, Vie de Mgr de Laval, II, 692. Les Ursulines de Québec (1866–78), II, 37. Amédée Gosselin, “Les Buisson de Saint-Cosme, prêtres,” BRH, XXX (1924), 195–98.