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MONTIGNY, FRANÇOIS DE (sometimes called François Jolliet de Montigny, though incorrectly), parish priest, vicar general, missionary, director of the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères, procurator of the seminary of Quebec in Paris, France; b. 1669 in Paris; d. there 19 Dec. 1742.

François de Montigny came to Canada at the invitation of Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix*]. Montigny had entered the Sulpician seminary in Paris on 15 July 1687, and although not a Sulpician himself he was apparently still living there in 1692 when the bishop of Quebec asked him to join him. The young abbé, who had simply received the tonsure, landed at Quebec on 15 August. He received the subdiaconate on 19 December, the diaconate on 1 Feb. 1693, and the priesthood on 8 March. In October of that year Abbé Montigny was appointed parish priest of L’Ange-Gardien, where he served for a year. In 1694 Bishop Saint-Vallier, about to sail for France, recalled him to Quebec to entrust the administration of the diocese to him in conjunction with François Dollier* de Casson, vicar general at Montreal. On his return in 1697, the bishop, satisfied with his protégé’s conduct, bestowed upon him letters in due form, appointing him vicar general for the whole colony.

The year 1698 was to bring a radical change in François de Montigny’s career. The directors of the seminary of Quebec had asked for permission to set up missions among the tribes living on the banks of the Mississippi, and Bishop Saint-Vallier deferred to their wishes, granting them letters patent to this effect on 30 April. But the prelate wanted as head of the undertaking and superior of the future establishments none other than his vicar general. The latter received his appointment on 12 May and immediately started making elaborate preparations for the hazardous journey.

On 12 July François de Montigny and the two priests whom the seminary of Quebec had chosen, Jean-François Buisson* de Saint-Cosme (1667–1706) and Albert Davion*, left Quebec for Montreal. The group set out from Lachine on 24 July; besides the three missionaries it included 12 men, voyageurs and servants, divided among four birch-bark canoes. The travellers followed the traditional route up the Ottawa and reached Michilimackinac on 8 September. There they had the good luck to meet René-Robert Cavelier* de La Salle’s former lieutenant, Henri Tonty*, who agreed to take them as far as the Arkansas River. Under this intrepid explorer’s guidance Abbé Montigny and his group went up the west shore of Lake Michigan as far as the portage at Chicago (Ill.), then descended the Des Plaines and Illinois rivers and finally the Mississippi. The expedition reached the Arkansas Indian country without mishap on 27 Dec. 1698. After pushing farther south and leaving Davion among the Tunica Indians at the beginning of 1699, Abbé Montigny returned to the portage at Chicago to get provisions he had left there. He took advantage of the trip to lay the foundations for the mission to the Tamaroas, where Abbé Buisson de Saint-Cosme settled in April.

Having found out, probably at Fort Saint-Louis-des-Illinois (near present-day La Salle, Ill.), that Pierre Le Moyne* d’Iberville was at the mouth of the Mississippi, the indefatigable Montigny decided to go to ask the famous sailor about the court’s plans concerning the founding of a colony in the region. The missionary and his escort, along with Davion whom they had picked up on the way, reached Fort Maurepas (Ocean Springs, Miss.) on Biloxi Bay on 2 July 1699. When he was again on the banks of the Mississippi after his exhausting trip, François de Montigny settled among the Taensas and their neighbours the Natchez. But his stay did not last a year: the immeasurable distances to cover, the cruelty of the Indians, and their incessant roaming deprived him after a few months of all hope of accomplishing any fruitful work. On 28 May 1700 he sailed on Iberville’s ship, never to return.

François de Montigny had nevertheless not given up the missionary apostolate. At his proposal the superiors of the Missions Étrangères agreed to send him to China. He set off in February 1701. Montigny spent six years in China and left the country only after an order for his expulsion had been issued by the emperor K’ang-Hsi.

Abbé Montigny returned to the seminary in Paris at the end of 1709 or the beginning of the following year; on 10 July 1711 he was elected director, and in 1712 he became assistant to Henri-Jean Tremblay. In 1714 he was appointed procurator general of the Société des Missions Étrangères in Rome. He held this office until 1726, when he was replaced by Pierre-Herman Dosquet*, the future bishop of Quebec. In 1728 Montigny succeeded the procurator of the seminary of Quebec in Paris, Henri-Jean Tremblay, who had become almost blind. From then on he was “the support of all Canada,” but particularly of the seminary of Quebec, whose interests he served, with as much intelligence as devotion, until his death on 19 Dec. 1742 at the seminary of Paris. The memorialist of the Société des Missions Étrangères recorded his last words: “I die as I always thought it fitted a priest to die: without debts and without possessions.”

Noël Baillargeon

AAQ, 12 A, Registres d’insinuations A. ANQ-M, Greffe d’Antoine Adhémar, 30 mai, 22 juill. 1698. ASQ, Lettres, M, 22, 23, 41, 44, 52, 68, 95; Lettres, N, 115; Lettres, O, 12, 27, 31, 34, 50; Lettres, R, 26–30, 143; Missions, 41, 61, 82, 107; Polygraphie, IX, 3, 4, 10, 17, 24; Séminaire, VIII, 15. “Les missions du séminaire de Québec dans la vallée du Mississipi, 1698–1699,” Noël Baillargeon, édit., AQ Rapport, 1965, 13–70; [Louis Tronson], Correspondance de M. Louis Tronson, troisième supérieur de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice: lettres choisies [16 juillet 1676–15 janvier 1700], A.-L. Bertrand, édit. (3v., Paris, 1904), II, 354, 377. Adrien Launay, Mémorial de la Société des Missions étrangères (2v., Paris, 1912–16), II, 457. Noël Baillargeon, “The seminary of Quebec: resources for the history of the French in the Mississippi valley,” in The French in the Mississippi valley, ed. J. F. McDermott (Urbana, Ill., 1965), 197–207. Amédée Gosselin, “M. de Montigny,” BRH, XXXI (1925), 171–76.

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

Noël Baillargeon, “MONTIGNY, FRANÇOIS DE,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed July 25, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/montigny_francois_de_3E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/montigny_francois_de_3E.html
Author of Article: Noël Baillargeon
Title of Article: MONTIGNY, FRANÇOIS DE
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 3
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1974
Year of revision: 1974
Access Date: July 25, 2014