LEFEBVRE DE BELLEFEUILLE, LOUIS-CHARLES (also called Charles or Charles-Louis), Sulpician and missionary; b. 12 Jan. 1795 in Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada, younger son of Antoine Lefebvre de Bellefeuille, seigneur of Cournoyer, and Louise-Angélique Lambert Dumont, daughter of Eustache-Louis Lambert Dumont, seigneur of Mille-Îles; d. 25 Oct. 1838 in Montreal.
Louis-Charles Lefebvre de Bellefeuille was a descendant of two great Canadian families that had distinguished themselves during the French régime. From 1807 to 1815 he pursued the classical program of studies at the Petit Séminaire de Montréal, as did most of his brothers. His principal teachers were Antoine-Jacques Houdet* and Claude Rivière. Upon completion of the final two years (Philosophy), he began his theological education with Jacques-Guillaume Roque, the director of the Petit Séminaire. He was also a regent at that time.
As his studies progressed, Lefebvre de Bellefeuille took the various steps leading to the priesthood. He was ordained priest by Joseph-Octave Plessis* in Montreal on 5 June 1819. Although he had already spent a period of time at the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka) mission to learn the Algonkin language, he was named assistant priest in the Montreal parish of Notre-Dame that year. He was admitted as a member of the community of Saint-Sulpice in Montreal on 31 Jan. 1821. His duties included performing baptisms, attending burials, and drawing up the appropriate religious and civil records. As well, he visited the sick and the poor of the faubourgs Saint-Joseph, Saint-Antoine, and Sainte-Anne. From time to time he also taught the catechism in the chapel of Notre-Dame-de-Bonsecours and served as confessor to the sisters of the Congregation of Notre-Dame. He preached five or six times a year, at Sunday mass or during the solemn novena of St Francis Xavier, a devotion then performed by many.
Attracted to the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission by fellow Sulpician Anthelme Malard, Lefebvre de Bellefeuille stayed there once more from 1824 to 1826, and after further pastoral training at Montreal in 1826 and 1827, he was named superior in 1828. The mission had three sites and some 900 people: the village itself, which had a few whites but mostly Indian inhabitants, an Iroquois village, and an Algonkin village. The seminary had never, from the beginning of the mission in 1721, granted any land to the Indians. It received the usufruct of a reasonable part of the domain reserved for the Indians’ use. After the conquest this arrangement gave rise to complaints, originally from the Iroquois in particular, and later it created difficulties between the Sulpicians and all the groups in the mission. Lefebvre de Bellefeuille was confronted with a number of claims in July 1828. The Algonkins sent the secretary of the Indian Department, Duncan Campbell Napier*, a memorial laying out 11 grievances, ranging from the priest’s refusal to help the Indians with alms to accusations of ill treatment of a poor widow. On 1 August he refuted these allegations, and the Algonkin council apologized to him.
In October 1834 Lefebvre de Bellefeuille returned to Montreal and resumed his duties as assistant priest. During the summers of 1836, 1837, and 1838 Bishop Jean-Jacques Lartigue sent him to open missions to the Indians in the northwest of Lower Canada. He had been chosen because of his knowledge of Algonkin, and in 1836 with Jean-Baptiste Dupuy* he went by canoe to Fort Timiskaming (near Ville-Marie), where he spent 13 days. He returned after performing 142 baptisms and 4 marriages. The following year he left Montreal alone, spent two weeks with his converts of the previous year at Fort Timiskaming, and then travelled to Lake Abitibi for a first visit of 9 days. But he ran short of provisions and had to turn around. On his way back he stopped at several posts that he had visited the year before. In all, he performed 190 baptisms and 21 marriages. His biggest mission, however, was to take place in 1838. He covered 1,500 miles, visiting Fort Timiskaming and Lake Abitibi again before continuing on to Grand Lac Victoria. As he was suffering from great fatigue, he returned in haste to Montreal. It appears that he performed 550 baptisms in the course of these three trips. In so doing he opened up northwestern Lower Canada to the Roman Catholic faith.
Exhausted by his missionary activity, Lefebvre de Bellefeuille, whose health had always been delicate, died of typhoid fever on 25 Oct. 1838. Two days later Bishop Ignace Bourget* officiated at his burial, which took place in the crypt of Notre-Dame in Montreal. An Oblate missionary, Nicolas Laverlochère, later wrote of him: “The first missionary to these parts had to have a unique ability to win people’s hearts. Although it is now seven years since God recalled him, his name is still blessed by all who knew him, whatever their race or religion.”
Louis-Charles Lefebvre de Bellefeuille is the author of “Relation d’une mission faite à l’été de 1837, le long de la rivière de l’Outawa jusqu’au lac de Témiskaming, et au-dela jusqu’au lac d’Abbitibbi dans le district de Monseigneur de Juliopolis” and “Précis de la relation de la troisième mission de Mr Bellefeuille à Temiskaming, Abbitibbi et Grand Lac,” both published in Assoc. de la Propagation de la Foi, Rapport (Montréal), 2 (1840): 17–88.
AAQ, 12 A, H: ff.124, 227–28; 303 CD, II, no.61. ACAM, 901.137. ANQ-M, CE1-51, 27 oct. 1838; CE6-11, 12 janv. 1795; CN6-2, 16 mai 1818. Arch. du collège de Montréal, Cahiers de la congrégation, 1766–78; Livres de comptes de la congrégation; Palmarès, 1808, 1810, 1812–13; Reg. des élections; Reg. des réceptions, 5 févr. 1809. ASSM, 8, A; 24, F. J.-B Dupuy, “Journal d’un voyage fait à Témiskaming en 1836,” Assoc. de la Propagation de la Foi, Rapport, 1 (1839): 24–53. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Joseph Bouchette, A topographical dictionary of the province of Lower Canada (London, 1832). [J.-]H. Gauthier, Sulpitiana ([2e éd.], Montréal, 1926). Tanguay, Répertoire (1893). Louis Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne ou histoire littéraire de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900), 2: 118. [François Daniel], Histoire des grandes familles françaises du Canada ou aperçu sur le chevalier Benoist et quelques familles contemporaines (Montréal, 1867), 481. Alexis De Barbezieux, Histoire de la province ecclésiastique d’Ottawa et de la colonisation daps la vallée de l’Ottawa (4v., Ottawa, 1897), 1: 186–91. Donat Martineau, Le fort Temiskaming (2e éd., Rouyn, Qué., 1969), 62–65. Maurault, Le collège de Montréal (Dansereau; 1967). Sœur Paul-Émile [Louise Guay], La baie James, 300 ans d’histoire militaire, économique, missionnaire (Ottawa, 1952), 76–77. Yvon Charron, “Monsieur Charles de Bellefeuille, missionnaire de l’Outawais (1836–38),” RHAF, 5 (1951–52): 193–226. J.-A. Cuoq, “Anotc kekon,” RSC Trans., 1st ser., 11 (1893), sect.i: 137–79. J.-B. Harel, “Louis-Charles Lefebvre de Bellefeuille, prêtre de Saint-Sulpice, 1795–1838,” CCHA Sessions d’études, 49 (1982): 7–24. A. C. de L. Macdonald, “Notes sur la famille Lambert du Mont” and “La famille Le Febvre de Bellefeuille,” Rev. canadienne, 19 (1883): 633–40, 739–47; 20 (1884): 168–76, 235–47, 291–302. Olivier Maurault, “Les vicissitudes d’une mission sauvage,” Rev. trimestrielle canadienne, 16 (1930): 121–49. “Le premier évangélisateur de l’Abitibi,” Soc. de géographie de Québec, Bull. (Québec), 13 (1919): 309–10.