CASSIET (Cassiette), PIERRE, Roman Catholic priest and missionary; b. 29 Jan. 1727 in Montaut (dept of Landes), France, son of Pierre Cassiet and Jeanne Dangoumau (Dengomau); d. there 24 March 1809.
There never was any question that Pierre Cassiet, the son of a pious teacher in Montaut, would seek his vocation in the church. After religious and classical studies at the Petit Séminaire in Agen, Cassiet went to Paris to continue his training at the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères. Following his ordination, about 1751, he was chosen for missionary work in Cochin China (Vietnam); however, shortly before his departure he was asked to replace a priest who was prevented by illness from taking up a post in Acadia.
In March 1752 the Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general in France, had written to Rouillé, the minister of Marine, stressing the need for more missionaries in French Acadia to assist Jean-Louis Le Loutre*. Two priests were sent out that summer. Late in December Le Loutre himself came to France, and he returned the following year with two companions: Henri Daudin* from the Séminaire du Saint-Esprit and Pierre Cassiet from the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères. Daudin was destined to serve the Acadians living under British rule in Nova Scotia, while Cassiet was supposed to join Abbé Pierre Maillard* on Île Royale (Cape Breton Island). But once again plans were changed. A priest intended for Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) having been unable through ill health to make the trip, Cassiet was sent to serve Malpeque, a largely Micmac mission established earlier on the island by Maillard. His time there was short: by the end of 1753 he had moved to Saint-Louis-du-Nord-Est (Scotchfort), where he served both Acadians and Indians. According to tradition, he encouraged the Indians to plant beans, peas, and flax and to raise domestic animals.
At the time of the deportation of the Acadians from Nova Scotia in 1755 [see Charles Lawrence*] any desperate refugees escaped to Île Saint-Jean. But the fate of the inhabitants there was to prove no better. The fall of the fortress of Louisbourg, Île Royale, to British forces under Edward Boscawen* and Jeffery Amherst* in July 1758 brought with it the capitulation of Île Saint-Jean. Colonel Lord Rollo* was sent there to accept its surrender and remove the inhabitants. The threat of deportation facing their parishioners, Cassiet and Abbé Jean Biscaret obtained Rollo’s permission to go to Louisbourg and plead with its captors that the Acadians be allowed to remain on their lands. Their efforts were to no avail; the deportation began almost immediately. Cassiet was placed on a ship that three months later reached Plymouth, England. Eventually he was able to make his way to Morlaix, France, where he remained for a time recovering from an illness contracted on board.
His health restored, Cassiet spent some time at the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris while seeking a pension. In February 1759 the French government awarded him 200 livres for his losses at the hands of the British, and the following year he received a further 400 livres for his services in Acadia. Some years later, in 1772, he refused a benefice worth 6,000 livres per annum but accepted one yielding 160 livres.
After a visit to Rome, where in recognition of his bravery in Acadia Pope Clement XIII presented him with a relic of the true cross (still in the possession of the parish of Montaut), Cassiet served as parish priest of Audignon, France, from 1763 to 1766. In 1767 he ministered at Castelnau-Tursan, and the following year he became a canon of the collegiate church of Saint-Girons at Hagetmau. In 1772 he decided to join the Prêtres du Calvaire at Bétharram. There he was instrumental in reviving the annual pilgrimage to the sanctuary chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bétharram. Chosen superior in 1783, he encouraged the cultivation of grapes and market garden products and greatly increased the revenues of the order.
Once again, however, Cassiet was to experience exile. In 1792, during the French revolution, he fled to Spain. When permission was granted, he returned to France in 1801 but, since only two of the Bétharram fathers remained, he chose to spend his last years in Montaut, where he died in 1809.
AD, Landes (Mont-de-Marsan), État civil, Montaut, 30 janv. 1727, 25 mars 1809. AN, Col., C11B, 38: 269 (transcript at PAC); F1A, 45: f.57; 192: 46, 139 (copies at PAC). Arch. communales, Montaut (dép. des Landes), Reg. de déliberation de la commune de Montaut de 1790 à l’an XII, Pierre Cassiet, Serment de fidélité; Reg. des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures. CÉA, Fonds Placide Gaudet, 1.51-12, 1.54-23, 1.55-3. [Pierre de La Rue], “Lettres et mémoires de l’abbé de L’Isle-Dieu,” ANQ Rapport, 1935–36: 378, 381, 383. “Tableau sommaire des missionnaires séculiers . . . ,”ANQ Rapport, 1937–38: 184. Allaire, Dictionnaire, l: 103. L.-C. Daigle, Les anciens missionnaires de l’Acadie ([Saint-Louis-de-Kent, N.-B., 1956]), 16. J.-H. Blanchard, The Acadians of Prince Edward Island, 1720–1964 (Charlottetown, 1964), 22–30. H.-R. Casgrain, Une seconde Acadie: l’île Saint-Jean-île du Prince-Édouard sous le Régime français (Québec, 1894), 279–84, 394–98. D. C. Harvey, The French régime in Prince Edward Island (New Haven, Conn., and London, 1926), 180–93. Henri Lassalle, Notre Dame de Bétharram, un sanctuaire béarnais (Pau, France, 1941), 240–41. Émile Lauvrière, La tragédie d’un peuple: histoire du peuple acadien de ses origines à nos jours (2v., Paris, 1922), 2: 62–64. Robert Rumilly, Histoire des Acadiens (2v., Montréal, 1955), 1: 397–407, 417, 434, 527; 2: 574–75. Abbé Sébie, Étude biographique sur M. l’abbé Cassiet, supérieur des missionnaires de Bétharram dans le XVIIIe siècle (Auch, France, 1863).