MÉSAIGER, CHARLES-MICHEL, priest, Jesuit missionary, hydrography teacher, procurator of the Jesuit missions in New France; b. 7 March 1689 (or 1690) in Paris, France; d. 7 Aug. 1766 in Rouen, France.
Charles-Michel Mésaiger entered the noviciate of the Jesuits of the province of France in Paris on 9 (or 19) Sept. 1706. From 1710 to 1715 he taught grammar and humanities classes at the Collège Louis-le-Grand; then he studied theology there until 1720. After teaching rhetoric at the Jesuit college in Eu (dept. of Seine-Maritime) for a year, he sailed in 1722 for Canada, arriving in the summer. The following year he was sent to the mission to the Ottawas, which was centred at Michilimackinac. He took charge of the Saint-Joseph mission (probably Niles, Mich.), where he made great efforts to reconcile the Foxes with the Illinois and other western tribes. He took his final vows at Michilimackinac on 25 July 1723.
As chaplain to the French and missionary to the Mandans, Mésaiger accompanied Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye in 1731 on his voyage of exploration towards the west. At the end of August the men mutinied at Grand Portage (near the western end of Lake Superior) and forced La Vérendrye to return to Kaministiquia (Thunder Bay, Ont.) for the winter. The Jesuit used his influence to persuade some men to go as scouts to Rainy Lake and build Fort Saint-Pierre there. These men returned to Kaministiquia shortly before the end of May 1732, and the entire expedition set off again on 8 June; that year it reached Lake of the Woods, where La Vérendrye built Fort Saint-Charles. Mésaiger’s health had not stood up to the hardships of the voyage, and he had to set off for Montreal in 1733 with Christophe Dufrost* de La Jemerais. On 9 August, during a halt at Michilimackinac, the Jesuit drew up, in the absence of a notary, a new agreement between La Jemerais, La Vérendrye’s representative, and the latter’s partners. Then he continued on his way.
In 1735 we encounter him again, ill, at the Jesuit college in Quebec. The following year he was teaching hydrography [see Joseph Des Landes], and in 1740 he fulfilled in addition the functions of minister (bursar). In 1741 he became procurator of the college in Quebec and of the Canadian mission, and he held this office until 1749. At that time he went to France to succeed Charlevoix as procurator in Paris of the Jesuit missions in Canada. At the same time he looked after the interests of the Ursulines of Quebec, and in this capacity he left a few business letters in which he reveals himself to be a man endowed with good sense, a clear mind, and a cheerful disposition. Towards 1754 his health failed again; Father Alain de Launay succeeded him as procurator in 1755. We have no information concerning Father Mésaiger’s final years other than that he ended his days at Rouen after the suppression of the Society of Jesus in France in 1762. He died on 7 Aug. 1766.
AMUQ, Fonds des pères jésuites, Lettres du père Charles-Michel Mésaiger. ASJCF, 580; 581; 635; 855; Cahier des voeux, 33v; Fonds Rochemonteix, 4018, 67, 74, 159, 489. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), VI, 586–87. Champagne, Les La Vérendrye, 119–35, passim; Nouvelles études sur les La Vérendrye, 113–17. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIe siècle, I, 205, 211.