CARRIER, MICHEL, Roman Catholic priest; b. 27 Aug. 1805 at Quebec, son of Michel Carrier and Catherine Bleau; d. 15 Jan. 1859 in Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville), Lower Canada.
The son of a tanner of the faubourg Saint-Roch at Quebec, Michel Carrier, having “fallen on hard times,” was taken under the wing of Joseph Signay*, then the parish priest of Quebec. After classical studies at the Petit Séminaire de Québec from 1814 to 1824, Carrier passed through the various stages leading to the priesthood. Ordained priest on 1 March 1828, he was immediately appointed curate of the parish of Notre-Dame at Quebec, and he served there for four years. In 1832 a cholera epidemic raged in the city, and Carrier was assigned to help the victims. To carry out his mission, he had to accept an irksome quarantine; he went out only to visit the sick and he even had to receive his food through a wicket. Although not stricken with the disease himself, he emerged from this ordeal almost bald, and worn down by an extreme weariness that left permanent after-effects: from then on the smallest inconveniences became major dramas.
To reward Carrier for his devotion, in the autumn of 1832 Bishop Bernard-Claude Panet* of Quebec entrusted him with the important parish of Saint-Édouard at Bécancour. From the time he arrived the new incumbent attracted attention by the great eloquence of his sermons. While remaining priest of Saint-Édouard, he accompanied Signay, now bishop of Quebec, as a preacher on his episcopal visit in 1835 and 1836.
This parish served as a stepping-stone for Carrier, for on 8 Oct. 1836 he was appointed priest of the parish of Saint-Antoine-de-Padoue at Baie-du-Febvre to replace Charles-Vincent Fournier*. Knowing his reputation for eloquence, the parishioners were delighted to have him come. But by March 1837 Carrier was confronted with his first difficulty. When the annual accounts were done it was discovered that money had been stolen from the safe of the fabrique. An extremely sensitive man, Carrier found himself in charge of a parish that had been robbed of 12,000 livres, at a time when the church and the presbytery required enlargement and repairs. Bishop Signay, who knew the priest’s timorous nature, offered him a steady stream of advice and encouragement.
From 1845 Carrier had to wrestle with problems arising from the financing of schools. Despite the fact that legislation in 1841 provided for schools to be financed directly from public funds [see Jean-Baptiste Meilleur*], some of the churchwardens put pressure on the fabrique to support the local schools. Carrier was opposed because the presbytery and attached buildings were in a dilapidated state and the work carried out on the church since 1839 had not yet been paid for. He was so upset by the situation that he became seriously ill, and in 1847 had to take a rest at the Hôtel-Dieu at Quebec. The vicar general, Thomas Cooke*, made his concern known to Bishop Signay in January, noting that Carrier “needs to be cheered up. Solitude is bad for him.”
In addition to his parish duties at Baie-du-Febvre, Carrier, who became archpriest in 1849, played a role in the settlement of the Bois-Francs region and the Eastern Townships. He was associated with the founding of the parishes of Saint-Louis in Saint-Louis-de-Blandford, Saint-Félix in Saint-Félix-de-Kingsey, Saint-Pierre in L’Avenir, Saint-Germain-de-Grantham and Saint-Bonaventure-d’Upton in Saint-Bonaventure, Saint-Jean in Wickham, and Saint-André in Acton-Vale. Cooke, who became bishop of Trois-Rivières in 1852, charged him with the most delicate tasks, even in matters concerning the appointment of parish priests, and instructed him to check the validity of requests for the creation of new parishes. Imbued with the spirit of social justice, Carrier discharged these duties most conscientiously, but he always needed support and encouragement from his bishop. Thus, when the question of dividing the parish of Saint-Guillaume-d’Upton in Saint-Guillaume arose in 1856, he asked Cooke for advice, since the division threatened to split fine properties; freed from the responsibility of making a decision, he wrote to Cooke, “Thank you for relieving me of the painful burden that weighed upon my shoulders.”
Despite his morbid propensity to worry, Carrier continued to be renowned for his eloquence. For more than ten years he was the official preacher on Signay’s episcopal visits. He excelled in the form of preaching popular at the time called the conférence, a theological discussion between two priests, one, usually Carrier, playing from the chancel the part of sinner or devil’s advocate, the other, from the pulpit, being God’s advocate. He put his eloquence to particular use during the rebellion of 1837–38 in order to restore calm amid the tension and excitement. He led an energetic preaching campaign against the Patriotes of the Nicolet region.
Michel Carrier’s last years were trying; the slightest setbacks took on the proportions of insoluble problems. A succession of anxious letters were sent to the bishop’s palace in Trois-Rivières. Overwhelmed, Carrier felt he no longer had the strength to run his parish. In December 1858 he told Cooke, “You do not know the state I am in; if you did, you would not abandon me . . . I am quite beside myself. I have reached the point where I can apply myself neither to the affairs of my ministry nor to my own affairs. I can hold out no longer.” He did not hold out for long, since he died on 15 Jan. 1859. He left part of his estate to his family, in particular to his father who lived with him, and made a donation of “a sum of five hundred livres, one-half to the diocese and the other half to the Séminaire de Nicolet.” He was buried on 19 January by the bishop of Trois-Rivières in the chancel of the church at Baie-du-Febvre. Many of his parishioners regarded him as a saint, and provided themselves with relics in commemoration of him. An energetic man even though his health had been undermined by his dedication during the cholera epidemic at Quebec, Carrier can rightly be considered one of the architects of Yamaska County.
AAQ, 12 A, C: f.58v; 1 CB, XII: 27. ANQ-M, CE3-2, 19 janv. 1859. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 27 août 1805. Arch. de l’évêché de Nicolet (Nicolet, Qué.), Cartable Baie-du-Febvre, 15 janv. 1849. Arch. de l’évêché de Trois-Rivières (Trois-Rivières, Qué.), Boîte Carrier–Cooke, corr., 5 janv., 19 oct. 1856. ASN, AO, Séminaire, IV, 26 févr. 1855; AP-G, L.-É. Bois, G, 8: 175. “Les dénombrements de Québec” (Plessis), ANQ Rapport, 1948–49: 194. Allaire, Dictionnaire, 1: 100. Caron, “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Panet,” ANQ Rapport, 1933–34: 268, 313, 357, 382; 1935–36: 266; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Plessis,” 1932–33: 219; “Inv. de la corr. de Mgr Signay,” 1936–37: 153, 162, 183, 294; 1937–38: 51, 128, 132; 1938–39: 216, 233, 240, 258, 279, 293, 301; “Inventaire des documents relatifs aux événements de 1837 et 1838, conservés aux Archives de la province de Québec,” 1925–26: 223. P.-G. Roy, Fils de Québec, 3: 120–22. Tanguay, Répertoire (1893), 199. J.-E. Bellemare, Histoire de la Baie-Saint-Antoine, dite Baie-du-Febvre, 1683–1911 (Montréal, 1911), 183, 197–275. Chabot, Le curé de campagne, 125. Douville, Hist. du collège-séminaire de Nicolet, 1: 451–52. L.[-H.] Fréchette, Originaux et détraqués: douze types québecquois (Montréal, 1943), 48–49. C.-É. Mailhot, Les Bois-Francs (4v., Arthabaska, Qué., 1914–25), 1: 182.