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  • Saint-Grégoire
    – A parish worth fighting for
Church of Saint-Grégoire-le-Grand
Church of Saint-Grégoire-le-Grand, a 1957 Heritage Monument of Canada (author Fralambert, without modification, CC BY-SA 3.0 license)

Saint-Grégoire is a westside district of the city of Bécancour on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River facing Trois-Rivières. At the heart of the neighbourhood, facing Port-Royal Boulevard, is the church of Saint-Grégoire-le-Grand, a masterpiece of religious architecture in Quebec…

Its construction took place from 1803 to 1806, after the parish was canonically born in 1802. Wedged between the two oldest parishes, Bécancour in the northeast and Nicolet in the southwest, the parish of Saint-Grégoire was a late foundation. It was a hard gain for the already numerous villagers, Acadian refugees of Catholic faith, seduced by the fertile and game-filled lands conceded by the local lords. This is the story of the founding of their village originally named Sainte-Marguerite…

A haven of prosperity without a church

In April 1759, when Governor Vaudreuil ordered the Acadian refugees’ move from Quebec to Trois-Rivières and Montreal, the region of Saint-Gregoire was still sparsely populated. The lord of Bécancour, Joseph-Michel Legardeur of Croisille and Montesson, invited the first Acadian families to take refuge on his seigneury. In the summer or fall of 1759, they settled at Lake Saint-Paul. At the same time, a second group of Acadian refugees, led by Michel Bergeron, settled on the site of the village of Sainte-Marguerite (now Saint-Grégoire) in the Godefroy seigneury, of which they were probably the first inhabitants. In the spring of the previous year, these Acadians had left their wood shack on the Saint-Jean River to undertake a long and challenging journey towards the St. Lawrence River. It was in September 1766, following the arrival of Acadians deported to Massachusetts, that many of them did settle in Sainte-Marguerite on the site of the present-day Acadian Boulevard. Other Acadian families kept arriving in the new colony, their Little Cadie, which promised to be a haven of prosperity. All conditions seemed to be right for that. All? No…

Pierre Denaut
Pierre Denaut (© Université de Montréal, Service de la gestion des documents et des archives *)

In the 1780s, the Acadians inhabiting the regions of Sainte-Marguerite and Lake Saint-Paul were already several hundred. But to practice their religion, they had to travel to Nicolet or Bécancour, often in difficult conditions. They were clamoring for a church and a priest of their own. Their collective request was satisfied only in 1802. Three years later, when the bishop of Quebec, Mgr Pierre Denaut, entrusted the parish of Saint-Gregoire to Father Desforges, he gave him this wise advice: “Spare the turbulent spirit of these peoples; deserve their trust; be firm and gentle. With them you will have peace as well as fervent Christians”

Here are some pioneering Acadian families of Saint-Grégoire (source: Bona Arsenault): Jean-Baptiste Béliveau from Port-Royal who was married to Marguerite Mélanson; Michel Bergeron from Port-Royal who was married to Marie-Jeanne Hébert; Pierre Cormier from Beaubassin who was married to Madeleine Prince; Félix Hébert from Beaubassin who was married to Esther Vigneau…

* Copy of a work published by the Government of Quebec, which has not been made in association with the Government of Quebec or its support.