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CHAUVREULX (Chauvieux, Chevenaux, Chauvreuil, Le Chauvreulx), CLAUDE-JEAN-BAPTISTE, priest, Sulpician, missionary; b. c. 1706 at Orléans, France; d. c. 1760 in the same city.

Claude-Jean-Baptiste Chauvreulx arrived in Canada in 1728 as a simple subdeacon, after six years of study at the Sulpician seminary in Paris. The bishop of Quebec, Dosquet*, conferred the priesthood upon him on 23 Sept. 1730 and attached him to the parish of Notre-Dame de Montréal. After two years the young priest returned to France. At the request of M. Jean Couturier, superior of Saint-Sulpice, he agreed, however, to return to America in order to help the missions in Acadia. Chauvreulx went to Acadia in the autumn of 1735 to serve the parish at Pisiquid (Windsor, N.S.), whose two sister churches were L’Assomption and Sainte-Famille. He thus became the first resident priest in the thickly populated region of Minas Basin.

We are ill informed about the missionary’s career, for the only documents concerning him that have survived deal with rather brief episodes of his mission in Acadia. The dramatic character of those episodes might suggest that his ministry was an eventful one. In May 1736 the first dispute set Chauvreulx and his confrère, Claude de La Vernède de Saint-Poncy, the parish priest of Annapolis Royal (formerly Port-Royal), against the governor, Lawrence Armstrong*. The governor was trying to force the two priests to go to the south of the peninsula to persuade a group of Micmacs to repair the damage done to the Baltimore, a brigantine shipwrecked near Cape Sable which they had pillaged. The two missionaries refused to do so. It is difficult to know what really transpired in the council at Annapolis Royal on 18 May 1736 between the protagonists: words must have run high on both sides. Chauvreulx is even said to have claimed that he was not under the governor’s jurisdiction. In June, Chauvreulx and Saint-Poncy were sent by Armstrong to Louisbourg, Île Royale (Cape Breton Island), but Chauvreulx succeeded in taking refuge at Pobomcoup (Pubnico region), with a group of Indians and French who were living on the seigneury of Entremont. The following year, upon being informed of these events by the governor of Île Royale, Saint-Ovide [Monbeton], the French minister of Marine, Maurepas, acknowledged that “these gentlemen have been lacking in politeness towards Armstrong and have laid themselves open to his vengeance.” After Governor Armstrong’s suicide on 6 Dec. 1739, Chauvreulx was able to return to his parish at Pisiquid.

In 1744, at the time of the War of the Austrian Succession, Chauvreulx was involved in a dispute between the Acadian missionaries and the French authorities. The missionaries were blamed collectively for having shown little enthusiasm at the arrival of the French troops which had come to lay siege to Annapolis Royal in the summer of 1744 [see François Du Pont* Duvivier]. Maurepas reproached Chauvreulx for having pronounced “excommunications against those parishioners who took up arms in aid of the French”; on the other hand the bishop of Quebec, Pontbriand [Dubreil], said in his favour: “I had nothing against M. Chauvreulx; on the contrary, I thought that he was a little too sharp against the English.” In short, Chauvreulx was a victim of the ambiguous situation in which the missionaries in Acadia found themselves in the 18th century. Although they were French subjects, they had to guide subjects of his Britannic majesty. However irreproachable their conduct, it was inevitably subject to criticism from one side or the other. In this connection Paul Mascarene, the administrator of Annapolis Royal, wrote to London in December 1744: “The missionaries also writt to me and made their conduct appear to have been farr better than could have been expected from them.” It is therefore legitimate to think that Chauvreulx had simply recommended neutrality to his flock throughout the war.

The last years Chauvreulx spent in Acadia were greatly affected by the Anglo-French struggle there. From 1749 on, after the departure of Charles de La Goudalie and Jean-Pierre de Miniac*, he was the only missionary in Minas Basin. He settled in the parish of Saint-Charles de Grand-Pré, which was more central and where he had the cure of more than 3,000 communicants. His situation became more awkward after the founding of Halifax, for the governor, Edward Cornwallis*, asked for a new oath of allegiance from the Acadian population and undertook to exercise tighter control over the missionaries. Chauvreulx was called to Halifax on 1 Aug. 1749 to have his powers regularized. Nevertheless his relations with the British authorities were good. In agreement with his confrère Jean-Baptiste de Gay Desenclaves, he advised his parishioners to take the oath to the king of England. Chauvreulx agreed moreover to swear the required oath himself. This gesture did not please Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general in Paris. While acknowledging the excellent qualities of the two priests, the vicar general suggested that they were not “sufficiently well informed.” Along with the minister and Jean-Louis Le Loutre*, the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general in Acadia, Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu even thought that it would be wise to cut off any reinforcements to the two missionaries in English Acadia, in order to incite the Acadian population to emigrate in large numbers to the Chignecto isthmus and Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island). It is noteworthy that from the parishes of these two priests emigrants had been fewest. In 1753, however, upon a complaint from Pontbriand, Abbé Henri Daudin was sent to help the two Sulpicians. In the autumn of that same year Chauvreulx had to lodge in his house Abbé Lemaire, a missionary on Île Saint-Jean, whose mind had become deranged and whose conduct was embarrassing his confrères.

On 4 Aug. 1755, a month before the deportation of the Acadians from Minas Basin began, Chauvreulx was arrested by Charles Lawrence’s troops, imprisoned in Fort Edward (Windsor, N.S.) for a few days, and taken to Halifax along with Lemaire and Daudin in the middle of the month. Upon their arrival the missionaries were exposed in the market-place, then detained separately on ships of Boscawen’s fleet. At the beginning of December 1755 they arrived in Portsmouth, England, where they were allowed to charter a ship to take them to France. They reached Saint-Malo on 8 Dec. 1755. From there Chauvreulx went to Orléans, where he was lodged with his family. It was there that he ended his days, ill, infirm, and incapable of resuming his apostolic tasks. A report by Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, written soon after the capitulation of Montreal, tells us that he had died some time before. Despite the tragic character of the events that are known of Chauvreulx’s stay in Acadia, we may believe that his long mission had for the most part been peaceful. Like the Acadians, this missionary was a victim of political conjuncture rather than a person openly involved in the Anglo-French conflict in Acadia.

Micheline D. Johnson

AAQ, 12 A, Registres d’insinuations, C, 216; 22 A, Copie de lettres expédiées, II, 519. AN, Col., B, 57, f.744; 58, ff.435, 616; 62, ff.16v, 38v; 65, ff.449, 452, 487; 72, f.16; 78, f.6; 81, f.64; 91, f.62; 104, f.44v; C11A, 78, f.407; 82, f.326; 86, f.140; C11B, 12, f.254; 13, f.103; 18, ff.20, 38, 73–78; 20, ff.35, 85; 21, f.21; 22, ff.116, 117; 33, ff.341, 343. ASQ, Fonds Casgrain, Acadie; Lettres, M, 113; S, 7i, 103; T, 59; Missions, I, 6; Polygraphie, VII, 114, 122; IX, 29. Coll. doc. inédits Canada et Amérique, I, 12–16, 41–46; II, 10–75; III, 60–80, 181–91. “Lettres et mémoires de l’abbé de L’Isle-Dieu,” APQ Rapport, 1935–36, 301, 317, 321, 332, 383, 390; 1936–37, 404, 416, 421, 422, 424; 1937–38, 168, 169. N.S. Archives, I, 103–5, 146–50, 170, 188–92, 229f., 282–3; II, 99–111. PAC Report, 1894, 88–91, 94, 96, 139; 1905, II, pt.iii, 346–56. Casgrain, Un pèlerinage au pays d’Évangéline, 53–144. Murdoch, History of Nova-Scotia, I, chap.lvii. Parkman, Half-century of conflict, II, chap.ix. Richard, Acadie (D’Arles), I, 274–96, 313, 342; II, 348–75.

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Micheline D. Johnson, “CHAUVREULX, CLAUDE-JEAN-BAPTISTE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 25, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chauvreulx_claude_jean_baptiste_3E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chauvreulx_claude_jean_baptiste_3E.html
Author of Article:   Micheline D. Johnson
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1974
Year of revision:   1974
Access Date:   May 25, 2024