OSSAYE (Ossaie, Ossage), FRÉDÉRIC-M.-F., agronomist and agricultural journalist; fl. 1851–63.
Frédéric Ossaye had had a successful career in France where he had run a model farm for five years before he came to Canada in 1851. That August the Agricultural Society of Lower Canada, which had been set up in 1847 to coordinate and direct agricultural development in the province above the level of the district societies, gave him control of the first experimental farm in Canada East as teacher and supervisory director. The establishment of this model farm was one of the three major achievements of the society, which included the launching in 1848 of an official agricultural journal directed by William Evans* and an extensive inquiry in 1850 into the state of agriculture in Canada East. The rented farm was located at La Tortue (Saint-Mathieu), in the county of Laprairie, on the 500-acre estate of the society’s president, Alfred Pinsonnault. It was short-lived. Upkeep and payment of insurance and taxes rapidly swallowed up the $800 that the budget plan called for, and the special grant expected from the assembly never materialized. Hence the society returned the farm to its owner in the spring of 1852, in a transfer completed with some difficulty. Ossaye and several others opposed the conditions of the transfer because improvements had been made to the farm and because Pinsonnault refused to pay the society a sum equal to the recorded profits, and retained what remained of the sum paid when the contract was signed.
In 1852 Ossaye published Les veillées canadiennes; traité élémentaire d’agriculture, à l’usage des habitants franco-canadiens at Quebec. The eight “veillées” were conversations between a Scottish farmer who had settled in Canada around 1835 and one of his neighbours who had taken agricultural lessons from the immigrant and had decided to follow his example. This method of engaging two or three questioners in discussion to enliven the teaching of a rather dry subject was not new. However, Ossaye’s introduction of the Scottish farmer was an application of the current theory of agricultural journalists that agricultural knowledge should be obtained through practical example rather than books.
In 1853 Ossaye contributed to La Ruche littéraire illustrée, directed by Henri-Émile Chevalier*. In his articles on the agricultural education of women, Ossaye listed the duties of a farmer’s wife: working in the garden, beautifying the farm, and cultivating flowers and small fruit. That year he published at Montreal a book entitled Nouveau système de comptabilité agricole, ou méthode sûre et facile pour bien gérer les opérations d’une ferme. Like several of his confrères, Ossaye tried to combat the negligence of the many inefficient farmers.
In 1857 Ossaye became one of the principal contributors to Joseph-Xavier Perrault*’s Journal de l’agriculteur et travaux de la chambre d’Agriculture du Bas-Canada. After December 1857 he even replaced the editor for a few months and he wrote for the journal until at least November 1858. Among Ossaye’s demands in his articles was government intervention in agricultural affairs. In Canada as in England private societies and individuals were assuming responsibility for agricultural affairs; he thought this demonstrated a Protestant mentality.
After 1858 it is increasingly difficult to determine Ossaye’s activities. It is known that he continued to work for some years in the agricultural sphere. He was a member – at least from 1859 to 1862 – of the Board of Agriculture of Lower Canada, which had been formed in 1852 and placed under the direction of the Bureau of Agriculture of the province of Canada. Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe on 13 Sept. 1859 carried a notice that Ossaye, a friend of Félix Vogeli, had entered an agricultural machine he had made, a stump-remover, in a competition run by the Board of Agriculture. He received the gold medal for his invention. The competition is thought to have been held on a farm worked by Ossaye. Ossaye volunteered his services to Pierre-Joseph-Olivier Chauveau*, the superintendent of public instruction, for free agricultural lessons at the École Normale Jacques-Cartier at Montreal, and taught there in 1860. Finally, in 1863, he became involved, principally with Henri-Gustave Joly* de Lotbinière, in popularizing the cultivation of textile plants in the province. In a long article, published in the Gazette des campagnes on 15 July, he discussed the need to cultivate flax and hemp. These crops would supply clothes for local people, and open export markets “which would bring a considerable amount of capital” into the country. After this date all trace of him is lost.
Ossaye’s career is characteristic of those of numerous Europeans who came to Lower Canada in the mid 19th century and worked in specialized and relatively new areas such as agronomy, veterinary medicine, and agricultural journalism.
F.-M.-F. Ossaye, Les veillées canadiennes; traité élémentaire d’agriculture, à l’usage des habitants franco-canadiens (Québec, 1852); Nouveau système de comptabilité agricole, ou méthode sûre et facile pour bien gérer les opérations d’une ferme (Montréal, 1853).
Le Courrier de Saint-Hyacinthe, 26 juill., 13 sept. 1859. Gazette des campagnes (Sainte-Anne-de-la-Pocatière, [Qué.]), 15 juill. 1863. Journal d’agriculture et transactions de la Société d’agriculture du Bas-Canada (Montréal), juin–août 1852. Journal de l’agriculteur et travaux de la chambre d’Agriculture du Bas-Canada (Montréal), mai 1857–novembre 1858. La Ruche littéraire illustrée (Montréal), 1853. [L.-] A. Desrosiers, Les écoles normales primaires de la province de Québec et leurs œuvres complémentaires, 1857–1907 (Montréal, 1909), 107. M.-A. Perron, Un grand éducateur agricole: Édouard-A. Barnard, 1835–1898; essai historique sur l’agriculture de 1760 à 1900 ([Montréal], 1955).