BARTHÉLEMY, MICHEL, priest, Sulpician, missionary; b. c. 1638 in the diocese of Paris; buried on 12 April 1706 at Montreal.
Barthélemy arrived in Montreal in 1665. In the autumn of 1668 M. Thubières* de Queylus sent him, along with Dollier de Casson, to spend the winter among the Algonquin to learn their language and become familiar with their way of life, but the experiment was cut short. Not long after, perhaps in 1672, he went off to serve as a missionary to the Iroquois (Haudenosaunee) who had recently settled on the north shore of Lake Ontario, on the Bay of Kenté (Quinte); he joined Claude Trouvé and François de Salignac* de La Mothe-Fénelon, who had been there since 1668. He remained not quite seven years, endeavouring with his fellow religious to learn the language, giving instruction to young children, and occasionally baptizing the dying, both children and adults. But by 1675, because of Iroquois hostility, serious thought was being given to abandoning the mission, and in 1680 this step reluctantly had to be taken.
In 1679 Barthélemy had returned to Montreal, where he became the school-master at the Iroquois mission of La Montagne, which M. Bailly* had been directing for three years. The following year we find him at Ville-Marie, where he was in charge of singing at the parish church and looked after the French primary schools in cooperation with M. Souart*. But ministering to indigenous people still attracted him. He learned the Algonquin language, not to go as a missionary to their country but to take care of those among them who, old or sick, came in rather large numbers to seek aid from the French at Ville-Marie.
In 1686 he was sent to found the parish of Rivière-des-Prairies, north of Montreal Island. He is thought to have built the first chapel there around 1690, but in 1692 he was obliged to return to the seminary at Montreal, where the Iroquois’ incessant incursions had depopulated his parish. In 1689 he himself had been besieged in the mill at Rivière-des-Prairies by a group of warriors.
On his return to Montreal he took up again his office of curate and resumed his ministry to the Algonquin. His concern for them was, in some respects, admirable. Not content with taking care of them himself, he requested every year throughout nearly three decades that they be furnished aid. He suggested that they be settled on the Rivière de l’Assomption, or joined with the Iroquois at the fort at La Montagne, or lodges be built for them near Ville-Marie. But, while his zeal was admired and there was no wish to discourage him, the reply was always that his projects appeared too costly or impracticable. He also urged that other missionaries study the Algonquin language, which he alone knew, and he offered his services to teach it to them in six months. In the end his insistence was rewarded. Thanks to it, the famous Algonquin mission of Île aux Tourtres, at the west end of Montreal Island, was founded in 1703 by M. de Breslay, parish priest of Sault-Saint-Louis.
Michel Barthélemy was buried at Montreal on 12 April 1706.
Further information on the Quinté mission will be found in the biographies of François de Salignac* de La Mothe-Fénelon [DCB, I, 599–601] and Claude Trouvé. ASSM, Correspondance des supérieurs généraux. Dollier de Casson, Histoire du Montréal. [Louis Tronson], Correspondance de M. de Tronson, troisième Supérieur de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice: Lettres choisies, [16 juillet 1676–15 janv. 1700], éd. A.-L. Bertrand (3v., Paris, 1904), II. Allaire, Dictionnaire. C.-P. Beaubien, Le Sault-au-Récollet: ses rapports avec les premiers temps de la colonie (Montréal, 1898). Faillon, Histoire de la colonie française. Henri Gauthier, Sulpitiana (Montréal, 1926). Pierre Rousseau, Saint-Sulpice et les missions catholiques (Montréal, 1930); “Une mission éphémère, Kenté,” Bulletin de l’Association des Anciens Élèves du Collège de Montréal, XX (1930), 1–50.
Bibliography for the revised version:
Bibliothèque et Arch. Nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de Montréal, CE601-S51, 12 avril 1706.