LE GUERNE, FRANÇOIS (sometimes written Guerne or De Guerne), Spiritan, priest, and missionary; b. 5 Jan. 1725 at Kergrist-Moëlou (dept of Côtes-du-Nord), France, son of Yves Le Guerne; d. 6 Dec. 1789 at Saint-François-de-Sales, Île d’Orléans, Quebec.
On 1 July 1749, after a few years at the Séminaire du Saint-Esprit in Paris, François Le Guerne entered the Séminaire des Missions Étrangères, where Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu, the bishop of Quebec’s vicar general in Paris, paid his board. Early in the summer of 1750 he left for Quebec, sailing on the frigate Diane from Rochefort; at that time he was only a tonsured cleric. He spent more than a year in Quebec, completed his theological studies, and was then ordained priest by Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil*] on 18 Sept. 1751.
Le Guerne went to Acadia, probably in 1752, to minister to the settlers around Fort Beauséjour (near Sackville, N.B.). At first he served some 80 families at Tintemarre (Tantramar), but after the departure of Abbé Le Guet (Du Guay) early in 1754 he had at least 200 families scattered over nearly 40 leagues along the Shepody, Petitcodiac, and Memramcook rivers. Obliged to travel from one post to another for two months of every year, he asked the bishop of Quebec for another missionary to assist him with his heavy burden. He worked in cooperation with Jean-Louis Le Loutre, who ministered to the Indians in the region.
In June 1755 Fort Beauséjour was captured by British troops under Robert Monckton. Le Guerne refused to compel the Acadians to resist the British because Louis Du Pont Duchambon, the commandant of the fort, and Abbé Le Loutre “had said on leaving that it was in the habitants’ interest to be quite submissive.” So strongly were the Acadians attached to their lands that Le Guerne doubted many would heed a counsel of disobedience, and he was reluctant to be held responsible for the misfortunes of those who did. On seeing the sad fate that befell them anyway – those who presented themselves at the fort were imprisoned with a view to deportation – Le Guerne changed his mind; accompanied by a large number of his parishioners he took to the woods north of the Shepody, Petitcodiac, and Memramcook rivers. With Charles Deschamps de Boishébert he attempted to facilitate the escape of families still at liberty and to organize the resistance of those Acadians who wished to continue harassing the enemy. He had repeatedly to go into hiding because Monckton sought to have him arrested. Nearly 200 families shared his lot, living in extreme poverty, without flour, salt pork, cooking fat, molasses, or adequate rations of meat. By March 1756 Le Guerne had managed to get some 500 Acadians across to Île Saint-Jean (Prince Edward Island) [see Gabriel Rousseau de Villejouin]. Many of his former flock, however, were too attached to their lands and paid no heed to his appeals, hoping that Acadia would again become French.
In order to escape the British Le Guerne left Acadia for good in August 1757. On his arrival in Quebec he immediately wrote to Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud] to request aid for the Acadians; however the situation was critical in the St Lawrence valley and the governor refused his request. Abbé de L’Isle-Dieu wanted to send Le Guerne to the mission to the Tamaroas (Cahokia, now East St Louis, Ill.), but Bishop Pontbriand kept him in Quebec hoping that he would be able to return to Acadia once peace had been restored. Since the war did not end, the bishop entrusted him in 1758 with the parish of Saint-François-de-Sales on Île d’Orléans.
Le Guerne spent the remainder of his career in that parish, absenting himself for a year (1768–69) to give a course in rhetoric at the Petit Séminaire in Quebec. In October 1789 about 50 of his parishioners, citing Le Guerne’s “state of languor and infirmity,” asked Bishop Hubert to recall him, and the bishop advised him to retire. They complained that they had been harshly treated by their pastor and reproached him for denying his services to a large number of his flock and for seeking to enrich himself by every means. He died two months later. Among other legacies in his will Le Guerne left 360 livres to the Séminaire de Québec, 3,600 livres to the Séminaire du Saint-Esprit in Paris, and 3,600 livres to his relatives in Brittany.
AD, Côtes-du-Nord (Saint-Brieuc), État civil, Kergrist-Moëlou, 6 janv. 1725. AN, Col., B, 92, ff.54, 86, 137v; C11A, 87, f.388; 96, ff.221, 245; 100, f.241. ASQ, C 35; Lettres, P, 83; R, 14; S, 6bis, C; mss-m, 225, f.6; Polygraphie, XXV, 21; Séminaire, 14/6, no.14. La Rue, “Lettres et mémoires,” ANQ Rapport, 1935–36, 294–306; 1936–37, 354–61, 395–408; 1937–38, 197–98, 202–3, 235–36, 246–48. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. René Baudry, “Un témoin de la dispersion acadienne: l’abbé LeGuerne,” RHAF, VII (1953–54), 32–44.