MAILLOU (Mailloux), BENJAMIN-NICOLAS, Roman Catholic priest; b. 29 Sept. 1753 at Quebec, son of Benjamin Maillou, a blacksmith, and his second wife, Angélique Marchand; d. 19 Jan. 1810 in Saint-Eustache, Lower Canada.
Benjamin-Nicolas Maillou entered the Petit Séminaire de Québec on 15 Nov. 1765. He began theological studies in 1773, serving at the same time as master of a class in the Petit Séminaire. Bishop Briand* ordained him to the priesthood on 21 Dec. 1776, and four days later appointed him parish priest of Immaculée-Conception at Trois-Rivières; this was an early appointment since Maillou was not yet 24. At Trois-Rivières he replaced a Recollet, Isidore (Charles-Antoine) Lemire Marsolet, to whom the parishioners were very much attached but who had resigned. The Recollets had been serving the parish for 84 years. Consequently the appointment of a secular priest was not well received; indeed it gave rise to partisan quarrels, as Bishop Briand emphasized in a letter to the vicar general of Trois-Rivières, Pierre Garreau*, dit Saint-Onge, early in 1777: “People are saying that everything is ablaze at Trois-Rivières, some holding for the priests, the others for the Recollets.” The appointment was, however, unavoidable, since the British government had forbidden the Recollets to recruit new members; in 1777 there were only nine Recollet priests, six running parishes and three staffing religious houses at Quebec and Montreal. The parishioners also complained of Maillou’s youth but, when Louis-Joseph Godefroy* de Tonnancour expressed his opinion on the matter to Briand, the bishop replied to him rather brusquely: “It is true that the Sieur Mailloux is a very young priest, but it is no less certain that the post I have given him is far from agreeable, far from sought after, [and] moreover hardly capable of providing the necessities of life . . . . This very young priest probably accepted only because he was very young and did not dare refuse, showing himself disobedient, two days after swearing to me that he would obey me. . . . If you find some Recollets, take one.” At that time the population of the parish of Immaculée-Conception was small (not more than 800), and indeed the difficulties occasioned by repairs to the steeple and the lack of a presbytery rendered the parish charge rather unattractive. Maillou was also given responsibility for the mission of Vieilles-Forges. Once he had taken up his duties, his first concern was to build a decent presbytery, a project to which Briand even offered to contribute from his own purse. Meanwhile the fabrique rented a house for 252 livres a year. The new presbytery was completed on 10 Aug. 1783.
Maillou, who had a rather phlegmatic temperament and was in ill health, seemed largely to neglect the preaching ministry, to the point that when he asked to be transferred to another parish Bishop Hubert* replied: “My dear Maillou, you yourself create an obstacle to this by not preaching at Trois-Rivières, especially after I warned you of your obligation in that respect. Acquire the habit, then, of instructing the people entrusted to you, and you may rest assured that I shall then share your views.”
On 20 Sept. 1790 Hubert appointed Maillou parish priest of Saint-Eustache and the neighbouring missions. Maillou was greatly disappointed on arriving in the parish. The presbytery, which had been built by Father Félix Berey Des Essarts in 1774, was now scarcely habitable. Consequently Maillou went to live in the house of the former parish priest, Charles-François Perrault, which was already up for sale and which he had to leave on 1 Oct. 1791. Maillou compared himself to “the bird on the bough,” and accepted the parishioners’ suggestion that he go to live in one of their houses “while waiting for a lodging that belongs to the parish.” Claiming that “part of the parish was biased” against him, Maillou, who was pessimistic and a bit neurasthenic, was casting his eye on the vacant charge of Saint-Joseph at Chambly, but this scheme did not meet with Hubert’s approval. In 1792 the parishioners decided to take steps to have the former presbytery repaired, and the bishop even went so far as to advise Maillou, albeit without success, to retire to either the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal or the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission (Oka) until “a comfortable, decent house accessible to the church” had been made ready for him. On 30 July 1793 the bishop of Quebec forbad Maillou to celebrate the feast of the parish’s patron saint after “the battles [and] orgies of previous years.”
The parishioners were satisfied with Benjamin-Nicolas Maillou’s ministry despite his poor health – he suffered from frequent attacks of gout and had become an invalid. Having wasted away to a noticeable degree, he died at the age of 56; he was buried in the sanctuary of the church.
[A portrait of Benjamin-Nicolas Maillou by Vital Desrochers, housed in the parish church of Saint-Eustache, appears to bear some likeness to the subject. a.m.]
AAQ, 210 A, I: ff.126, 144, 158, 199, 224, 245; II: ff.3, 73. ANQ-Q, CE1-1, 16 mai 1740, 1er sept. 1750, 29 sept. 1753. AP, Saint-Eustache, Cahiers des délibérations de la fabrique, 2 oct. 1791; Reg. des baptêmes, mariages, et sépultures, 22 janv. 1810. Arch. de l’évêché de Saint-Jérôme (Saint-Jérôme, Qué.), Cartable Saint-Eustache, corr, 22 mars, 18 sept. 1791; 29 août, 11, 23 sept., 20 oct. 1792. Allaire, Dictionnaire, vol.1. O.-M. Jouve, Les franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières (Paris, 1934), 263–64. J.-E. Bellemare, “Desserte religieuse des Vieilles Forges,” BRH, 24 (1918): 270.