VIGER, BONAVENTURE, Patriote; b. 14 May 1804 at Boucherville, son of Bonaventure Viger and Louise Carmel-Levasseur, and cousin of Denis-Benjamin Viger*; d. 15 Dec. 1877 at Beloeil, Que.
Bonaventure Viger is known above all, for his share in the disturbances of 1837. Before that date, we have no knowledge of him. Viger, one of Louis-Joseph Papineau’s most loyal supporters, was “of a fiery and generous disposition.” Consequently, on 16 Nov. 1837, when he learned that Dr Joseph-François Davignon and the notary Pierre-Paul Desmaray were being taken to prison in Montreal as a result of their active participation in the Patriotes’ meetings, he had no hesitation in taking up arms to free the prisoners. Viger and a handful of men set up an ambush near Longueuil, awaiting a detachment, commanded by Lieutenant Ermatinger; they succeeded in setting Davignon and Desmaray free. This first act of hostility on the part of the Patriotes against the English soldiers marked the beginning of skirmishes. Subsequently, Viger took part in the battles at Saint-Denis and Saint-Charles. He was taken prisoner at Bedford, in the Eastern Townships, together with Louis-Isaac Larocque, a comrade in arms: the two of them, in an attempt to reach the American border after the defeat at Saint-Charles, had lost their way in the neighbouring woods.
Viger was incarcerated in Montreal prison on 7 Dec. 1837; he proved to be the most unruly of all the political prisoners, and numerous legends have circulated concerning him. In June 1838 he was one of eight prisoners sentenced to exile in the Bermudas. Set free in October of the same year, Viger settled in the United States, near the border, and had further brushes with the law. He rashly entered Canada, where he was again arrested. He was taken to Montreal prison on 8 June 1839, and he and two companions were charged with the murder of the loyalist Vosburgh. The affair came to an abrupt end in December 1840, when the jurors were unable to reach agreement.
After 1840 Viger lived a quiet life. On 11 Oct. 1841, at Boucherville, he married Eudoxie Trudel, by whom he had five children. In a short while his cheeses made him as famous as his other exploits. In 1867 he was a militia captain and the coroner at Saint-Bruno de Chambly. Viger was undoubtedly a popular and legendary hero, “one of the figures whose memory playwrights and novelists were to take pleasure in preserving.”
ANQ, Ludger Duvernay, nos.308, 317; QBC, Procureur général, Événements de 1837–1838, nos.50, 52, 54, 55, 59, 61, 62, 65, 68, 301, 355, 1485, 2871, 3082, 3100, 3180, 4103, 4145. PAC, MG 30, D62 (Audet papers), XXX. “J.-J. Girouard à sa femme,” RHAF, XIX (1965–66), 463–64. “Les Patriotes aux Bermudes en 1838, lettres d’exil,” Yvon Thériault, édit., RHAF, XVI (1962–63), 117–26, 439–40; XVII (1963–64), 428–30. C.-M. Boissonnault, Histoire politico-militaire des Canadiens français 1763–1945 (Trois-Rivières, Qué., 1967). J. D. Borthwick, History of the Montreal prison from A. D. 1784 to A. D. 1886 . . . (Montreal, 1886); Jubilé de diamant, rébellion de 1837–1838; précis complet de cette période, rôle d’honneur ou liste complète des Patriotes détenus dans les prisons de Montréal en 1837–1838–1839; date et lieux des arrestations et autres détails intéressants et inédits sur ce sujet (Montréal, 1898). David, Patriotes, 130–37. L.-P. Desrosiers, L’accalmie; lord Durham au Canada (Montréal, 1937). Duclos de Celles, Patriotes of 1837. Fauteux, Patriotes. Lionel Groulx, Histoire du Canada français depuis la découverte (4e éd., 2v., Montréal et Paris, 1960), II. S. B. Ryerson, Unequal union; confederation and the roots of conflict in the Canadas, 1815–1873 (Toronto, 1968). L.-O. David, “Les hommes de 1837–1838,” L’Opinion publique (Montréal), 15 févr. 1877. Léon Ledieu, “Entre nous,” Le Monde illustré (Montréal), 5 nov. 1887. R.-L. Séguin, “Biographie d’un patriote de ’37, le Dr Luc-Hyacinthe Masson (1811–1880),” RHAF, III (1949–50), 349–67.