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MONTMINY, THÉOPHILE, Roman Catholic priest and promoter of farm clubs and the dairy industry; b. 4 Feb. 1842 in Saint-Jean-Chrysostome, Lower Canada, son of Joseph Montminy, a tinsmith, and Marguerite Lambert; d. 17 Dec. 1899 at Quebec, and was buried on 20 December in his native parish.
After commercial studies at the Collège de Lévis from 1855 to 1858, and classical and theological studies at the Collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière from 1858 to 1870, Théophile Montminy was ordained priest on 18 Sept. 1870. As curate at Beauport from 1870 to 1877 he was responsible for Notre-Dame-de-Miséricorde chapel, a mission located below Montmorency Falls and frequented by workers from George Benson Hall*’s sawmill. In 1875–76 he travelled to Europe with the priest and colonizer Nicolas-Tolentin Hébert* and others. Appointed curé to the parish of Saint-Antonin near Fraserville (Rivière-du-Loup) in March 1877, he was named to that of Saint-Agapit in July 1879 and then to Saint-Georges in March 1890. Montminy was a fine musician and gave piano and harmonium lessons while he was a student. In the parishes where he served, he started or encouraged choirs and brass bands, which provided music to enliven liturgical ceremonies and the large public demonstrations he was adept at organizing.
Montminy’s interest in agricultural questions had been stimulated during his curacy at Beauport by the lectures of settlement agent Édouard-André Barnard. In 1880, concerned about the poverty of the farmers at Saint-Agapit and their constant temptation to emigrate to the United States, he founded the Club Saint-Isidore, a farmers’ organization which sought as one of its aims to improve farming methods. In 1882 he inaugurated a parish agricultural exhibition – an event still held regularly – and the following year he organized the first Arbor Day, when thousands of fruit-trees and other trees useful to farmers were planted.
Montminy’s parishioners soon attained success in their farming, as Narcisse-Eutrope Dionne mentioned in his 1881 pamphlet Les cercles agricoles dans la province de Québec. Through his lectures and public speeches Montminy became “the apostle of farm clubs” wherever he went. On 12 Nov. 1884 he gave a talk on this subject in Saint-Hyacinthe, at the third annual convention of the Industrial Dairy Society of the Province of Quebec, of which he became at that time a member and director. In the following years he also championed the development of the dairy industry by his research into conditions for optimal efficiency of farm facilities and his concern for the quality of dairy products, especially those to be exported. He was elected vice-president of the society in November 1890, president from 1892 to 1896, and then honorary president in 1897 and 1898.
As a leading member of this dynamic organization, Montminy participated in the major projects promoting agriculture in his time: the presentation of a report in April 1887 to the commission headed by Nazaire Bernatchez, which had been appointed to inquire into schools of agriculture; the founding of the Syndicat des Cultivateurs de la Province de Québec in January 1892, with Barnard, Jean-Charles Chapais, Philippe Landry, and Joseph-Alphonse Couture; the inauguration of the École de Laiterie de Saint-Hyacinthe in January 1893; and the first farmers’ convention, held at Quebec from 24 to 26 Jan. 1893 with Montminy as chairman. In addition he served on the Quebec Council of Agriculture from 17 Nov. 1892 until 1897. He was also one of the first priests of the archdiocese of Quebec to be appointed to the agricultural missionary program [see Édouard-André Barnard] by Cardinal Elzéar-Alexandre Taschereau when it was started in 1894 with Montminy’s help.
Because of failing health Montminy stayed from November 1897 to June 1898 in the West Indies, where he had previously spent 33 days in 1887 for the same reason. In September 1899, still in poor health, he left his post as parish priest of Saint-Georges and retired to the Hospice Saint-Louis-de-Gonzague in Quebec City, which was run by the Sisters of Charity of Quebec. There he died suddenly, during a musical performance, on 17 Dec. 1899.
Still preoccupied with agricultural progress, Théophile Montminy at the time of his death was taking a keen interest in the agricultural question of the day, the establishment of public slaughterhouses.
[Théophile Montminy is the author of a travel account, De Québec aux Antilles . . . (Québec, 1888), in which he displays a curious and critical eye for West Indian ways of life, a salesman’s concern to find new markets for the products of Canadian farms and industries, and even a promoter’s enthusiasm for the services of the Quebec Steamship Company, Bermuda and West Indies Lines. Summaries of or excerpts from a number of his lectures, speeches, and other public statements at the annual conferences of the Industrial Dairy Society of the Province of Quebec can be found in newspapers, principally in La Gazette des campagnes (La Pocatière, Qué.) and Le Journal d’agriculture illustré (Montreal). r.g.]
Noces d’argent de M. l’abbé T. Montminy, curé de Saint-Georges (Beauce), fêtées les 17 et 18 septembre 1895 (Québec, 1895). Catalogue des anciens élèves du collège de Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, 1827–1927, [François Têtu, compil.] (Québec, 1927). Album souvenir des noces d’or du couvent, 1931 (Saint-Georges, Qué., 1931). Bruno Jean, Les idéologies éducatives agricoles (1860–1890) et l’origine de l’agronomie québécoise (Québec, 1977). Firmin Létourneau, Histoire de l’agriculture (Canada français) (nouv. éd., Oka, Qué., 1968). Marcel Lortie, Beauport et son curé, 1858–1884 (Sainte-Anne-de-Beaupré, Qué., 1983). Nous avons cent ans: St-Agapit, 1867–1967 ([Saint-Agapit-de-Beaurivage, Qué., 1967]). M.-A. Perron, Un grand éducateur agricole: Édouard-A. Barnard, 1835–1898; essai historique sur l’agriculture de 1760 à 1900 ([Montréal], 1955). La question des abattoirs: son importance capitale pour les cultivateurs de la province de Québec, ce qu’elle signifie et ce qu’elle leur promet (s.l., ). Robert Vézina et Philippe Angers, Histoire de Saint-Georges de Beauce (Beauceville, Qué., 1935).