CHERRIER, FRANÇOIS, Roman Catholic priest and vicar general; b. 15 Jan. 1745 in Longueuil (Que.), son of François-Pierre Cherrier*, a notary and merchant, and Marie Dubuc; d. 18 Sept. 1809 in Saint-Denis, on the Rivière Richelieu, Lower Canada.
François Cherrier was the second of 12 children; he spent his youth at Longueuil, where his father had settled in 1736. In 1765 he resumed his studies at the Petit Séminaire de Québec, which had been closed since the city had come under siege in 1759. Subsequently he chose the priesthood, pursuing his theological education at the Grand Séminaire. Ordained priest by Bishop Briand* on 20 May 1769, he served briefly as curate in the parish of Saint-Antoine at Longueuil, and then in Sainte-Famille at Boucherville. In the latter post he benefited for five months from the judicious advice of the local parish priest, vicar general Étienne Marchand*, who was eager to have him as a regular companion.
In November 1769 Bishop Briand named Cherrier curate to act for the parish priest at Saint-Denis. The parishioners had for some time been criticizing the administration of both their parish priest, Jean-Baptiste Frichet, who was now ill and in the Hôpital Général of Quebec, and the officiating priest, Michel Gervaise, who was accused of being miserly and of being seldom present in the parish. In September and October 1769 the churchwardens had consequently petitioned the bishop of Quebec for a new parish priest. From his earliest days in Saint-Denis Cherrier won the esteem of his flock, according to Marchand, who in December 1769 noted: “Monsieur Cherrier is doing very well there. The habitants are very pleased.” The following year his family came to live at Saint-Denis, where his father practised his profession as a notary. Upon Frichet’s death in 1774 Cherrier became parish priest.
During the American invasion in 1775 many of his parishioners at Saint-Denis openly supported the rebels. This did not stop Cherrier, who remained loyal to the British crown, from giving shelter in his presbytery on 17 September to Jean Orillat* and a certain Léveillé, the bearers of a proclamation of amnesty granted by Governor Guy Carleton.
Cherrier displayed deep concern for the education of the young. In 1773 he had informed Bishop Briand of his plan to build a convent and asked him to exert pressure on the neighbouring parish priests, some of whom were reluctant, to get them interested and induce them to contribute to carrying out the project. Claude-Pierre Pécaudy* de Contrecœur, the seigneur of Saint-Denis, let Cherrier have a piece of land in 1774, specifying that the building of the convent could not be undertaken for six years. The house was begun in 1780 and completed in 1783, the year of the institution’s founding by Marie-Louise Compain, named Saint-Augustin, and Catherine d’Ailleboust de La Madeleine, named de la Visitation, nuns of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. In 1805 Cherrier also founded a boys’ school with boarding facilities, in which Pierre-Marie Mignault* taught. This school was closed after some years’ operation. In 1792 Cherrier had undertaken to have a new church built, and it was consecrated on 30 Oct. 1796.
The bishops of Quebec always had the highest regard for him, and Bishop Briand had not been sparing in his admiration. When Jean-François Hubert* was coadjutor, Cherrier accompanied him on a pastoral visit. After Hubert became bishop, Cherrier took up his defence when the Quebec Gazette of 29 April 1790 published an insulting letter by coadjutor Charles-François Bailly* de Messein. Bishop Hubert often relied on the wisdom of the parish priest of Saint-Denis. Thus in 1793, deploring young Canadians’ lack of inclination for the priesthood, Hubert consulted him on the advisability of bringing in French priests. Cherrier was not in favour of the idea. On 9 Dec. 1797 Bishop Denaut recognized Cherrier’s abilities by appointing him vicar general for the parishes south of Montreal. Bishop Plessis*, who succeeded Denaut in 1806, freely expressed the same confidence by renewing his letters as vicar general and consulting him on many occasions, notably on the delicate question of the course to be taken with regard to the British authorities.
On 18 Sept. 1809, worn down by the illness that had sapped his strength for 12 years, Cherrier died at the age of 64. Jean-Baptiste Kelly* succeeded him as parish priest at Saint-Denis. In his will Cherrier bequeathed his library of more than 400 books – an imposing one for the period – to Bishop Plessis for the use of the new Séminaire de Nicolet.
François Cherrier belonged to a family that, according to historian Francis-Joseph Audet*, became one of the most influential in the Montreal region at the end of the 18th century and remained so for more than 50 years. Two of Cherrier’s brothers, Benjamin-Hyacinthe-Martin and Séraphin, would attain prominence on the political stage of Lower Canada, and among his nephews were the first bishop of Montreal, Jean-Jacques Lartigue*, a noted lawyer, Côme-Séraphin Cherrier*, and two renowned politicians, Louis-Joseph Papineau* and Denis-Benjamin Viger*.
AAQ, 12 A, F: f.4r.; 210 A, I: f.139; II: ff.65, 118; 1 CB, VII: f.98; CD, Diocèse de Québec, II: f.63. Arch. de la chancellerie de l’archevêché de Montréal, 901.004, 769-5, -6, -9, -11. ANQ-M, CE1-12, 16 janv. 1745; CE2-12, 21 sept. 1809. Arch. de la chancellerie de l’évêché de Saint-Hyacinthe (Saint-Hyacinthe, Qué.), XVII, C-25. ASQ, C36: 3, 43, 48. Allaire, Dictionnaire, 1: 119. F.-J. Audet, Les députés de Montréal, 411. J.-J. Lefebvre, “Articles généalogiques: la famille Cherrier, 1743–1945,” SGCF Mémoires, 2 (1947): 148. P.-G. Roy, “Les notaires au Canada sous le Régime français,” ANQ Rapport, 1921–22: 47. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, 3: 52–53; Répertoire (1893), 138. J.-B.-A. Allaire, Histoire de la paroisse de Saint-Denissur-Richelieu (Canada) (Saint-Hyacinthe, 1905), 133–41, 172–87, 275–302. Lemire-Marsolais et Lambert, Hist. de la CND de Montréal, 5: 366–68. J.-B. Richard, Les églises de la paroisse de Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu ([Saint-Hyacinthe], 1939). J.-E. Roy, Hist. du notariat, 2: 11. Henri Morisseau, “La famille Cherrier de Saint-Denis-sur-Richelieu,” Rev. de l’univ. d’Ottawa, 16 (1946): 310–18. Gabriel Nadeau, “Jean Orillat,” BRH, 41 (1935): 653–56.