SOUART, GABRIEL, priest, Sulpician, first parish priest of Montreal and superior of the Sulpician seminary, doctor, and schoolmaster; b. c. 1611 in the diocese of Paris; d. 8 March 1691 in France. He was the nephew of the Recollet Joseph Le Caron.
Souart’s calling was a late one; he entered the Sulpician order only in 1646, becoming a priest in 1650. He had studied medicine, which he practised, with his superiors’ permission, while on missions; he also held the title of bachelor of canon law.
M. Souart was one of the first four Sulpicians chosen by M. Olier in 1657 to go and found the Séminaire de Montréal. Together with MM. de Queylus [see Thubières], Galinier, and d’Allet, he arrived at Ville-Marie in the summer of 1657. The Jesuits, who had ministered to Ville-Marie (Montreal) since 1642, made way for him, and without more ado he started to organize the parish on a regular basis. Having been appointed officially as parish priest by M. de Queylus, on 21 Nov. 1657, he got the people to elect the first group of churchwardens. He always showed great zeal for the decorum and beauty of divine worship and for the sanctification of his flock. With Mme de Boullongne d’Ailleboust and Father Chaumonot, he instituted the pious Confrérie de la Sainte-Famille, which soon spread throughout the whole of New France.
He often replaced his superior, Abbé Queylus, during the latter’s numerous absences and was himself superior of the seminary, 1661–68 and 1674–76. He was also chaplain of the Congrégation Notre-Dame, 1659–76, and of the Hôtel-Dieu, which he saved from ruin by his generosity, 1661–84. He became a schoolmaster from 1668 on, and was very proud of this title.
He was priest of the parish of Ville-Marie during the settlement’s most terrible years (1657–66): the time of the exploit of Dollard Des Ormeaux in 1660, of the massacre of the Sulpicians Le Maiste and Vignal in 1661, and of the earthquake in 1663.
On 26 Dec. 1665, in his capacity as seigneur of Montreal Island, he created the arriere-fief of Hautmesny, between the St. Lawrence River and the Rivière des Prairies, and sent M. Dollier* de Casson as army chaplain to Lake Champlain in 1666. Later, in 1674, he tried to exercise a calming influence in the conflict that sprang up between Governor Buade de Frontenac and Abbé Fénelon [see Salignac].
Abbé Souart was apparently very wealthy: he made generous donations to the various institutions as well as to individuals in the colony; the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu numbered him among their benefactors.
M. Souart probably made his first journey to France in 1667. He left Canada for good shortly after 1686 – perhaps in 1688 – and died on 8 March 1691.
AJM, Greffe de Bénigne Basset, 1657–86, passim. ASQ, Séminaire, I, 20 (acte d’union spirituelle entre les séminaires de Saint-Sulpice et de Québec, 28 févr. 1688). Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal. JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain). P.-G. Roy, Inv. concessions, I, 191f. Faillon, Histoire de la colonie française, II; III; passim. “Marguilliers de la paroisse de Notre-Dame de Ville-Marie de 1657 à 1913,” BRH, XIX (1913), 276–84. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Fondation d’une communauté de frères instituteurs à Montréal en 1686,” BRH, XXVIII (1922), 37–42; “Louis Artus de Sailly, premier juge royal de Montréal,” BRH, XXI (1915), 206; “M. Philippe de Hautmesny,” BRH, XXII (1916), 40. “Le premier prêtre ordonné au Canada,” BRH, XII (1906), 57.