BRASSARD DESCHENAUX, CHARLES-JOSEPH, Roman Catholic priest, vicar general, and seigneur; b. 3 Nov. 1752 at Quebec, eldest son of Joseph Brassard* Deschenaux, secretary to Intendant François Bigot*, and Madeleine Vallée; d. 9 July 1832 in L’Ancienne-Lorette, Lower Canada.
Charles-Joseph Brassard Deschenaux entered the Petit Séminaire de Quebec in 1765, the year it reopened. The scarcity of clergy probably accounts for the fact that Brassard Deschenaux began studies leading to the priesthood in 1769, received the tonsure in 1771, and finished his classical program the following year. While pursuing his theological studies at the Grand Séminaire de Québec, he served as a regent at the Petit Séminaire in the second, third, and fourth forms. Having been ordained priest by Bishop Jean-Olivier Briand* on 21 Dec. 1776, along with Pierre Conefroy*, Charles-François Perrault, and Benjamin-Nicolas Maillou*, he subsequently undertook ministry in the parish of Saint-Pierre on Île d’Orléans and at the same time looked after the mission at Saint-Laurent. In 1778 he became parish priest of Saint-Étienne at Beaumont, which he left in 1782 for Notre-Dame-de-Foy at Sainte-Foy. Four years later he went to serve the parish of Notre-Damede-l’Annonciation at L’Ancienne-Lorette.
During his early years in L’Ancienne-Lorette Brassard Deschenaux had some difficulties with the churchwardens over the fabrique’s account-books, which one of his predecessors, Ignace Tinon-Desroches, had neglected in his old age. Then he had trouble persuading some parishioners to have a chimney built at the back of the church. As well, in the summer of 1792 the habitants on one of the concessions complained to the governor and the bishop that Brassard Deschenaux, alleging that it would be superstitious, refused to celebrate a mass to ward off the grasshoppers ruining their crops.
At his father’s death on 16 Sept. 1793 Brassard Deschenaux, with his brothers and sisters, inherited the seigneuries of Neuville, Saint-Michel, and Livaudière, and part of Bélair and Beaumont. Managing this small fortune prevented him, as he told the bishop in a letter, from accepting the office of vicar general of Trois-Rivières. In 1809, however, he accepted this office for Quebec, being well aware that under Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis “a vicar general has practically nothing to do.”
Thus Brassard Deschenaux possessed landed property, farms, houses, and mills, a good parish charge, and his bishop’s confidence. A just and kindly man, the parish priest gave all the income from his ecclesiastical offices away in alms. Every morning at 11:30 a hand-bell called the poor to a meal at the presbytery. As seigneur and vicar general he also knew how to maintain appearances. He had fine carriages and horses to take him to Sainte-Foy and Quebec, where he owned part of the house that had belonged to his father at 5 Rue des Pauvres (Côte du Palais). Every Thursday he received priests, members of the government, and other important people from Quebec and the surrounding region, as well as foreign visitors who were passing through.
Like Bishop Charles-François Bailly* de Messein, Brassard Deschenaux had built up a fine library for the period, comprising more than 800 titles and about 2,200 volumes. The sections devoted to belles-lettres, history, and geography were the best stocked. Diderot’s Encyclopédie and the works of Buffon, Mably, Rousseau, and Voltaire were side by side with those of Bonald and Burke. Religion had its proper place, as did the sciences and arts. It was the library of a gentleman of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, who had numbered Félix Berey Des Essarts, Bailly de Messein, and Philippe-Jean-Louis Desjardins among his friends. With his death disappeared one of the last priests from the great families of the end of the French régime.
AAQ, 1 CB, V: 57; 61 CD, L’Ancienne-Lorette, 1: 4, 7–8, 10, 17a, 18, 22–23b, 31, 31c, 31f–g, 33e, 33h–i, 34–35; 60 CN, III: 148. ANQ-Q, CE 1-1, 4 nov. 1752; CE 1-2, 11 juill. 1832; P-232. AP, Notre-Dame-de-l’Annonciation (L’Ancienne-Lorette), Catalogue de la bibliothèque de C.-J. Brassard Deschenaux, 1817. ASQ, C 35: 246, 252, 292; Fichier des anciens; Lettres, M, 433; P, 103. Allaire, Dictionnaire, 1: 161. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, 2: 102–3; Inv. concessions. Lionel Allard, L’Ancienne-Lorette (Ottawa, 1979). Lambert, “Joseph-Octave Plessis.” Charles Trudelle, Le frère Louis (Lévis, Qué., 1898). P.-G. Roy, “Un curé bibliophile: l’abbé Deschenaux,” BRH, 44 (1938): 193–98.