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FORGUES, MICHEL, priest and teacher; b. 13 Feb. 1811 at Saint-Michel, Lower Canada, son of Michel Forgues and Marie-Anne Denis; d. 28 Nov. 1882 at Saint-Laurent, Île d’Orléans, Que.

Michel Forgues entered the Petit Séminaire de Québec as a boarder in 1826 and completed classical studies in 1834 with a brilliant record. As seminarist he taught literature classes from 1834 to 1840; during this period he was ordained priest on 23 Sept. 1837. Leaving the seminary in 1840, he served in the parish of Sainte-Marguerite-de-Dorchester for five years and then in Sainte-Marie-de-la-Nouvelle-Beauce (Sainte-Marie) from 1845 to 1847. Abbé Forgues supervised the incorporation of the latter parish in 1846 and began the construction of a new presbytery. In the summer of 1847 he and several other priests devoted themselves to helping those stricken with typhus at the quarantine station on Grosse Île [see George Mellis Douglas*], and he was obliged to spend time recuperating in the Hôpital Général of Quebec. He returned to the seminary as assistant bursar in 1847 but continued to serve as a parish priest on occasion. Perhaps in an attempt to ensure his attachment to the seminary, he was made a member of the house and brought into the council as titular bursar, a position he held from 1849 to 1859. However, in 1859 he accepted the parish ministry at Saint-Germain-de-Rimouski (Rimouski). After two years there he rested for four years at his family’s home at Saint-Michel, and in 1865 ended his wandering career at Saint-Laurent on the Île d’Orléans. There he built the present church and a convent. He also compiled a genealogy of families on the Île d’Orléans which was published in the report of the Public Archives of Canada for 1905.

As bursar of the seminary, Forgues had immediately effected a double reform in the accounting system: to conform with the Canadian economy, he substituted British currency for the livres, deniers, and sols the seminary was still using in its accounts; to the primitive systems of the “Brouillard” (day-book) and the “Journal du séminaire” (seminary account book), he added a more rational, indexed “Grand Livre” (ledger), in which details could be verified quickly. His most significant contribution, however, was to make a striking improvement in the institution’s finances by getting rid of the annual deficit of a number of farms and mills, by making timely sales of land, and by collecting debts and outstanding seigneurial dues; in all these transactions he conducted business with strict fairness and firmness. Thanks to his skilful stewardship, the seminary, with a cash surplus of £6,600 and an enviable credit rating, was able in 1852 to assume responsibility for founding the Université Laval, as well as for the costs of its first three buildings [see Louis-Jacques Casault*]. Forgues was one of the nine directors of the seminary to sign the petition to Queen Victoria for a university charter. The years of construction, from 1854 to 1857, took about £50,000 from the seminary’s coffers and obliged it to borrow funds. But in 1857 it was possible to begin to repay the debt by utilizing a small financial surplus. The abolition of seigneurial tenure in 1854 was fought by the seminary along with many other seigneurs; Forgues himself drafted a report on the subject. Nevertheless the change meant substantial payments in compensation after a few years, and enabled the seminary to make sizeable loans in its turn.

After his departure in 1859 Forgues remained on good terms with the seminary; he transacted business with it (including selling potatoes which he received as a tithe in his parish) and he supported as patron certain pupils at the seminary who were his parishioners. At the time of his death the “Journal du séminaire” wrote: “to its former bursar the seminary owed the good order now established in the bursar’s office. He was also a benefactor of the seminary, to which he bequeathed $8,000 for the board of pupils” – they came from Saint-Laurent, his last parish.

Honorius Provost

Michel Forgues compiled a “Genealogy of the families of the island of Orleans,” published in the PAC Report, 1905, II, pt. ii.

AAQ, 210 A, XXI: 603; 61 CD, Sainte-Marie-de-la-Nouvelle-Beauce. ASQ, mss, 12: f.88; 13, 27 nov. 1874; 34, I, 5 juill. 1849; Séminaire, 34, nos.11–14. Le Courrier du Canada, 2 déc. 1882. Annuaire de luniversité Laval pour lannée académique 1883–84 (Québec, 1883), 92–93. Dominion annual register, 1882: 342. Wallace, Macmillan dict. David Gosselin, Figures dhier et daujourdhui à travers Saint-Laurent, I.O. (3v., Québec, 1919), I: 25–36. J.-E. Roy, Souvenirs dune classe au séminaire de Quebec, 1867–1877 (2v., Lévis, Qué., 1905–7).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Honorius Provost, “FORGUES, MICHEL,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed December 18, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/forgues_michel_11E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/forgues_michel_11E.html
Author of Article: Honorius Provost
Title of Article: FORGUES, MICHEL
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 11
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1982
Year of revision: 1982
Access Date: December 18, 2014