GOSSELIN, JEAN-BAPTISTE, priest of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères, parish priest, canon, plant collector; b. in France, probably in 1712; d. in September 1749 in the diocese of Amiens, France.
Jean-Baptiste Gosselin completed his studies in Amiens in 1728 and then entered the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris; the following year, when the seminary of Quebec requested an assistant for their bursar, the directors in Paris decided to send him to fill this office. He sailed from La Rochelle on 22 May 1729, on the same ship as the coadjutor of Quebec, Pierre-Herman Dosquet*, and the financial commissary, Gilles Hocquart*.
Upon his arrival in Quebec Gosselin worked under the direction of Abbé Charles Plante and became bursar by appointment on 23 August 1730. But it seems clear that he had little aptitude for his task, for in 1733 François de Montigny, who was at the time procurator of the seminary of Quebec in Paris, reproached him with being “little suited to keeping books and accounts.” On 15 Oct. 1732 he sailed for France, where he spent two years, attending to family matters after his father’s death and studying for one year at the seminary of Laon. The directors of the seminary in Paris were planning to send him as a missionary to Île Royale (Cape Breton Island) if he attained the priesthood. During his stay in Laon Gosselin received only the tonsure and minor orders. In August 1734 he was back in Quebec, where he received the subdiaconate, the diaconate, and the priesthood in succession on 8, 12, and 18 September. He is believed to have been appointed to the parish of Saint-Joseph-de-Lanoraie shortly afterwards; however, on 19 Oct. 1735, when Bishop Dosquet granted him an arrière fief in the seigneury of Bourgchemin, he was living in the seminary of Quebec. On 12 Oct. 1748 Gosselin gave this grant to François Lemaître.
In the autumn of 1736 he again left Canada for a two-year stay in France. The seminary of Quebec had refused to pay him an allowance in Paris, where he hoped to live as a pensioner. He seems to have resided in the diocese of Amiens, where he served as a curate. In May 1738 he was back in Canada. Before his departure he had wanted to be appointed to the seminary of Quebec, but in Paris he was considered unsuitable for teaching and the directors in Quebec were advised, in view of his quick and difficult disposition, not to accept him as a life member of the community. Consequently, in the summer of 1738 he was appointed as auxiliary to the parish priest of Notre-Dame de Québec, and in the autumn he exercised his ministry in the parish of Saint-Michel-de-Yamaska, at the same time serving the missions along the Rivière Chambly. In September 1740, when he had just been appointed irremovable parish priest of Yamaska, he resigned, claiming that this parish was not able to support him. He was then put in charge of the parishes of Saint-Louis (Saint-Joseph de Chambly) and Saint-Charles (Saint-Charles-sur-Richelieu); he was the first parish priest of Saint-Charles.
In the summer of 1740 Gosselin was at Quebec when the ship carrying Bishop Lauberivière [Pourroy*] arrived, laden with carriers of pestilence. Gosselin devoted himself body and soul to these people, and in recognition of his devotion Hocquart obtained a canonry for him. Gosselin assumed his charge officially on 31 Aug. 1741. He remained in Quebec, where in addition he fulfilled the functions of curate at Notre-Dame and chaplain at the intendant’s palace. In September 1742 he requested permission of the chapter to return to France for a period of two years in order to take care of his health. But since he could not justify his request with a doctor’s certificate, the chapter refused it. On 16 April the following year the members of the chapter elected him treasurer; he gave this office up on 13 Oct. 1744. In 1748 he repeated the request that he had made in 1742, this time accompanying it with a doctor’s certificate, and the chapter consented to his returning to France. During this same year Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil] had suggested to the minister, Maurepas, that Gosselin not be considered as a replacement for the dean of the chapter. Indeed, the bishop of Quebec little appreciated the canon’s independent and irresolute character. Gosselin left Canada in the autumn of 1748 and probably went to the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères in Paris, and then to the diocese of Amiens, since he died there in September of the following year.
At the period when Gosselin lived in Canada Intendant Hocquart was sending to France to the naturalist Buffon, director of the Jardin du Roi, plants, seeds, medicinal roots, and minerals in order to make known the natural products peculiar to Canada. On several occasions Gosselin supplied numerous specimens of plants for these shipments. As early as 1739 Gosselin, a parish priest at the time had sent to Rochefort through Intendant Hocquart’s agency “a small bundle containing a herbarium.” In 1742 he even made a voyage on the north shore of the St Lawrence River estuary to gather new specimens, and in 1744 the intendant accorded him 150 livres as encouragement. Although certain historians have called Gosselin “a renowned botanist of the period,” he deserves rather the title of plant collector.
AAQ, 12 A, Registres d’insinuations C, 54; 10 B, Registre des délibérations, 118, 142, 144, 147–47v, 150, 160–60v, 172v. ASQ, Lettres, M, 67, 79–80, 81, 82, 83, 85, 89, 90, 93, 99; P, 120; Livres de comptes, C 10, pp.1f.; Polygraphie, VII, 2; XLII, 11, 12; Séminaire, VIII, 9, 16, 18, 19, 35; LVII, 25; LXXVIII, 23. PAC Report, 1905, I, pt.vi, 6, 12, 20, 26, 29, 36, 59. Allaire, Dictionnaire. P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, IV, 114. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada jusqu’à la conquête, II, 42, 218, 266, 383, 384; III, 4, 24.