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  • Saint-Jacques
    – A priest so dedicated and caring
Present-day Saint-Jacques church
Present-day Saint-Jacques church, built in 1916-1918 (author Geai bleu, without modification, CC-BY 3.0 license)

Located 50 kilometers north of Montreal, Saint-Jacques is the oldest town in the Montcalm Regional County Municipality. Moreover, it is considered to be the Acadian cradle of the Lanaudière region, a haven of well-being for the Acadians…

The parish of Saint-Jacques was founded in 1772 by families of Acadian refugees on a territory that was part of the Saint-Sulpice seigneury belonging to the company of the Sulpician priests of Montreal. Considering their tragic history, these Acadians were probably among the best-off in Quebec. They were especially fortunate to benefit from the good care of a very devoted and attentive Sulpician, Father Jacques Degeay, who was the priest of the parish of Saint-Pierre-du-Portage, also named L’Assomption in the Saint Sulpice seigneury. This parish owes its name to a meander of the L’Assomption River, a tributary of the St. Lawrence River, where a portage trail was used by aboriginal people and wood runners. But in the northern part of the seigneury, a vast territory remained to be cleared of trees and colonize…

The best-off Acadians

Around 1760, the first Acadian families fleeing the “Great Upheaval” arrived at L’Assomption. In 1766, twelve Acadian families or 80 individuals, coming back from exile, were also welcomed at L’Assomption. They were quickly joined in May 1767 by roughly 40 other families all from Massachusetts or Connecticut. Quite naturally the Sulpician priests of Montreal granted land to the Acadians in the northern part of the seigneury, at Ruisseaux Saint-Georges and Vacher. No doubt they already had sympathies for these devout Catholics bruised by years of exile. Jacques Degeay then deployed all his energy to ensure the Acadians, by this time numerous, receive the most attentive and generous welcome in his parish. He endeavored to validate at L’Assomption all marriages and baptisms which could not have been proceeded officially in the original American colonies, for the want of priests. This Sulpicien priest was undoubtedly the providence of the Acadians…

Site of the old Saint-Sulpice seminary
Heritage site of the old Saint-Sulpice seminary (Montreal). Facade viewpoint of the seminary (Cloé Zawadzki-Turcotte 2016, © Ministère de la Culture et des Communications *)

The first lands of Saint-Jacques were cleared of trees in 1767. And, the first houses were built in 1768. It is in Acadian Charles Forest’s house that Father Degeay celebrated the first mass in June 1772. Two years later, the new parish’s registers were open. The Acadian parishioners named it Saint-Jacques of New Acadia, in honor of their priest benefactor and their homeland from previous years. Father Degeay, who had been ill since 1771, died on August 6, 1774, leaving behind his beloved Acadians and a seigneury almost entirely colonized.

Here are some pioneering Acadian families of Saint-Jacques (source: Bona Arsenault): Claude Bourgeois from Port-Royal who was married to Marie LeBlanc; Jean-Baptiste Dupuis from Grand-Pré who was married to Marie-Josèphe Granger; Charles Forest from Port-Royal who was married to Marie-Josèphe Robichaud; Pierre Lanoue from Port-Royal who was married to Anne Béliveau…

* 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.