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CHICOISNEAU, JEAN-BAPTISTE-JACQUES, Roman Catholic priest, Sulpician, teacher, and director of the Collège Saint-Raphaël in Montreal (Que.); b. 17 March 1737 in Meung, France, son of Guillaume Chicoisneau and Hélène Gaulthier; d. 28 Feb. 1818 in Montreal, Lower Canada.

Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Chicoisneau, who had already been tonsured, entered the Séminaire d’Orléans in France on 1 Nov. 1756. He was ordained priest on 16 May 1761 and taught at the seminary until 1765, when he became superior of the community of philosophy students at the Séminaire Saint-Irénée in Lyons. He returned to the Orléans seminary to take up a similar post in 1782.

At the time of the French revolution the Sulpicians, who were secular priests without responsibility for parish ministry, were expelled from the seminaries. Chicoisneau, like many others, emigrated. In 1792 he joined the second group of Sulpicians that went to Baltimore, Md, where the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Paris had founded an establishment the previous year. He arrived on 29 March and was appointed bursar by the superior of the seminary in Baltimore, François-Charles Nagot. Probably because of his inability to learn English, Chicoisneau left Baltimore for Lower Canada in May 1796, bearing two letters, one from Bishop John Carroll of Baltimore recommending him warmly and the other from the Duke of Portland, the British Home secretary. Governor Lord Dorchester [Guy Carleton] gave him permission to enter Lower Canada.

On 1 July 1796 Chicoisneau was admitted to the community of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal as a member. In view of his teaching experience he was appointed that year to succeed Jean-Baptiste Marchand* as director of the Collège Saint-Raphaël (usually known as the Collège de Montréal), where at the same time he held the offices of bursar and physics teacher. At that period the college, located in the Château de Vaudreuil, was a secondary institution which went right up to the Philosophy course and which had at the primary level one English class and one French. It provided instruction to some 100 pupils, half of whom were boarders. The latter were governed by the rules enforced in the petits séminaires (classical colleges). They got up at 5:30 a.m., devoted four and a half hours to study, four to classes, and three and a half to recreation. They were summoned to mass or prayers four times a day and on Sundays and feast days went to the parish church in Place d’Armes. In winter pupils had half a day off each week and in summer a day off. The boarders had to pay 360 livres a year, the day-boarders half that amount, and the day pupils 48 livres.

In teaching physics, Chicoisneau repeated the classical experiments in electrostatics and did studies of air, using the terms of the time. For example he ended his short treatise on air by citing the French chemist Antoine-Laurent de Lavoisier’s theory (in dispute, he noted) according to which water was an element composed of dephlogisticated air and inflammable gas. As bursar, Chicoisneau managed the college budget and was able to show surpluses thanks to generous contributions from the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal. On 3 June 1803 a fire in the east end of Montreal spread to the college, causing considerable damage. College classes had to be moved to the seminary until the new petit séminaire was opened in 1806.

In October 1806 Chicoisneau was replaced as director by Jacques-Guillaume Roque*; he then became assistant to Claude Poncin, a fellow Sulpician, who was chaplain to the Hôpital Général of Montreal and whom he would succeed in 1811. For 12 years Chicoisneau devoted himself to serving the nuns and the underprivileged. The Grey Nuns’ annals even credit him with the sudden cure in 1817 of a person possessed by the devil. In addition to this pastoral activity Chicoisneau was in charge of the Congrégation des Hommes de Ville-Marie, a brotherhood dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Jean-Baptiste-Jacques Chicoisneau died suddenly on 28 Feb. 1818, at the age of 80, while engaged in prayer with the community. He was buried under the chancel of the church of Notre-Dame in Montreal on 2 March. Jean-Henri-Augustin Roux*, superior of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice, asserted in homage, “He constantly gave proof of his complete and unvarying attention to duty and of his charity towards his brothers.”

J.-Bruno Harel

AD, Loiret (Orléans), État civil, Meung, 17 mars 1731. ANQ-M, CE1-51, 2 mars 1818. Arch. du collège de Montréal, Cahiers de l’administration; Cahiers manuscrits de préparation de cours de J.-B.-J. Chicoisneau. ASSM, 11, 47–49; 24, Dossier 6; 25, Dossier 1; 49. Olivier Maurault, “Galerie de portraits des supérieurs du collège de Montréal,” Cahiers des Dix, 25 (1960): 191–217. N.-E. Dionne, Les ecclésiastiques et les royalistes français réfugiés au Canada à l’époque de la révolution, 1791–1802 (Québec, 1905). [É.-M. Faillon], Vie de Mme d’Youville, fondatrice des Sœurs de la charité de Villemarie dans l’île de Montréal, en Canada (Villemarie [Montréal], 1852). J. W. Ruane, The beginnings of the Society of StSulpice in the United States (1791–1829) (Baltimore, Md., 1935).

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J.-Bruno Harel, “CHICOISNEAU, JEAN-BAPTISTE-JACQUES,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed May 18, 2024, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chicoisneau_jean_baptiste_jacques_5E.html.

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Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/chicoisneau_jean_baptiste_jacques_5E.html
Author of Article:   J.-Bruno Harel
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 5
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1983
Year of revision:   1983
Access Date:   May 18, 2024