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FORTIER, NARCISSE-CHARLES, Roman Catholic priest; b. 1 Dec. 1800 at Quebec, son of François Fortier, a trader, and Marie Poulin; d. 3 Feb. 1859 in Saint-Michel, Lower Canada.
Narcisse-Charles Fortier received his classical education at the Séminaire de Nicolet from 1811 to 1818. On 4 Oct. 1818 Bishop Joseph-Octave Plessis* tonsured him in Notre-Dame cathedral at Quebec. Fortier then taught at the college just founded by Plessis in Saint-Roch parish and at the same time served as the bishop’s secretary. In the latter capacity he was principally responsible for carrying out decisions concerning the temporal administration of the diocese: erecting new parishes and dividing old ones, appointing priests to new posts, building churches, and replying to the various requests of parishioners. He received the minor orders on 16 June 1821 and the diaconate on 15 March 1823, and was finally ordained priest on 12 June of the following year.
After the death of Plessis in 1825, Fortier continued his duties as secretary to the new archbishop of Quebec, Bernard-Claude Panet*. Four years later he became parish priest at Saint-Michel on the south bank of the St Lawrence, where he took over from Antoine Gosselin. Charles-Félix Cazeau* replaced him as Panet’s secretary.
At Saint-Michel, Fortier had some difficult moments, especially from 1836. That year, with the support of the churchwardens, he decided to rent or sell the church pews to the highest bidders. The decision, far from being unanimously accepted by the parishioners, gave rise to heated discussion that dragged on for years. Indeed, the conflict was not resolved until 1849, when Archbishop Joseph Signay* informed the parishioners by letter that the pews in the nave would be sold as they became vacant and those in the rood-loft would be rented.
During the disturbances of 1837–38 Fortier, like his colleagues in Rivière-Ouelle and L’Islet, Louis-Marie Cadieux* and François-Xavier Delage, had disapproved of armed revolt and given a warm welcome to a military detachment en route from New Brunswick to Montreal.
In 1853 Fortier founded the industrial college of Saint-Michel, placing it under the direction of François-Xavier Toussaint*. It was one of some 15 such colleges which were set up between 1846 and 1856 in Lower Canada. The curriculum, which was quite flexible and depended on the skills of the faculty, focused on commercial courses. At Saint-Michel in 1854, three teachers gave courses in both English and French to about 130 students.
Narcisse-Charles Fortier died at Saint-Michel on 3 Feb. 1859 and was buried five days later in the sanctuary of the parish church. In his will he had bequeathed to the church the organ, which belonged to him, and to the school commissioners the land on which the college had been built.
ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 1er déc. 1800; CE2-5, 8 févr. 1859. ASQ, Lettres, T, 128, 133. Allaire, Dictionnaire, vol.1. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Briand,” ANQ Rapport, 1929–30: 76; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Panet,” 1933–34: 263–64, 275, 285, 295, 304, 306, 331, 355, 371–72, 384–86, 391, 403, 408, 414, 418; 1935–36: 174, 188; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Plessis,” 1928–29: 155, 203; 1932–33: 139, 175, 188, 197, 205, 215, 219; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Signay,” 1936–37: 161, 353, 355, 362, 369, 433; 1938–39: 346. L.-P. Audet, Histoire de l’enseignement au Québec (2v., Montréal et Toronto, 1971), 2: 136–37. Chabot, Le curé de campagne. Douville, Hist. du collège-séminaire de Nicolet. Henri Gingras, Saint-Michel de Bellechasse (Saint-Romuald, Qué., 1977). Lambert, “Joseph-Octave Plessis.” Père Marie-Antoine, St-Michel de la Durantaye (notes et souvenirs), 1678–1929 (Québec, 1929).