CHAIGNEAU (Du Chaigneau), LÉONARD, priest, Sulpician, bursar, director of schools, missionary; b. 1663 in the diocese of Limoges (France); d. 1711 at Montreal.
He entered the Society of Saint-Sulpice in 1687 and arrived in Canada on 15 August of the following year. From 1690 to 1693 he was entrusted with the bursarship of the seminary of Montreal. At that period this office was an extensive one. It comprised practically all the temporal administration of the seigneuries: the collection of the tithes and seigneurial dues, the management of the seigneurs’ domain, the construction of mills, roads, parish buildings, the maintenance of the priests of Saint-Sulpice in Canada. Each year the bursar had to give a report on his administration to the ecclesiastics of the seminary in Paris, who were the seigneurs of Montreal Island. In Canada, he was answerable to some degree to the procurator [see Chèze]. In all matters, particularly those involving expenditure of money, the procurator superior and the bursar were supposed to take action only if they were in agreement. In case of disagreement, the question had to be referred to the council, which decided by a majority vote. Such were the principal terms of the administration of the seminary of Montreal at the time when M. Chaigneau became bursar.
According to M. Louis Tronson, the superior general, Chaigneau always executed his work carefully, and never received anything but favourable comments in Canada. It was because of his administrative abilities that on two occasions after 1693, for a few months in 1696–97 and in 1704–3, he was called in to help rectify a financial situation that was getting out of hand.
In 1696, by an act dated 15 December, Dollier de Casson placed him officially in charge of the parish schools of Montreal. He had already been taking care of them for three years: in May 1694 he had addressed a report to Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix] on the equipment of the schools at Ville-Marie, and the following year he had fitted out a fairly large house for the children, at a cost of 2,500 livres.
In 1699 his career as a parish priest began. He inaugurated his ministry on Montreal Island by serving two already established parishes: Pointe-aux-Trembles from 1699 to 1702, and Rivière-des-Prairies from 1702 to 1703. In 1704 he became the priest and missionary for the centres of settlement that were beginning to develop along the banks of the St Lawrence between Repentigny and Trois-Rivières. He applied himself to his new functions conscientiously and devotedly. He was not afraid to lay aside the ecclesiastical habit occasionally to work as a labourer, build and daub walls, quarry rocks, cut and burn wood. He had, besides, a talent for discovering resources, for accomplishing many things with little help, for making do in situations where there was nothing. People were constantly surprised at the good order which he knew how to maintain in handling the revenues of the parishes where he served, and which he left free of debts. On 14 July 1707 he was appointed priest of the parish of Notre-Dame-de-l’Assomption-de-Repentigny, one of the oldest parishes in the region. After one year he was recalled to the seminary of Ville-Marie, where he died on 23 Dec. 1711. Several acts signed by him in 1710 and 1711 allow us to suppose that after his return to Montreal he may have occupied the position of bursar and assistant procurator, which became vacant on M. Cailhe’s death in July 1708.
ASSM, Correspondance des supérieurs généraux; Section des requêtes et ordonnances. Caron, “Inventaire de documents,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 317; 1940–41, 402. [Louis Tronson], Correspondance de M. de Tronson, troisième supérieur de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice: Lettres choisies, [16 juillet 1676–15 janv. 1700], éd. A.-L. Bertrand (3v., Paris, 1904), II. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Hormidas Magnan, Dictionnaire historique et géographique des paroisses, missions et municipalités de la province de Québec (Arthabaska, Qué., 1925). Azarie Couillard Després, Histoire de Sorel, de ses origines à nos jours (Montréal, 1926). Gauthier, Sulpitiana (Montréal, 1926). Histoire des paroisses du diocèse de Montréal (Annuaire de Montréal, II, Montréal, 1867–82). É.-Z. Massicotte, “Fondation d’une communauté de frères instituteurs à Montréal en 1686,” BRH, XXVIII (1922), 40.