MOREAU, JEAN-BAPTISTE, missionary of the Church of England; b. Dijon, France, probably between 1707 and 1711; d. at Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, 25 Feb. 1770.
According to William Tutty, the Anglican missionary at Halifax, Nova Scotia, Jean-Baptiste Moreau was a French priest and prior of the abbey of Saint-Mathieu near Brest before he left the Catholic Church and emigrated to England. By 1749, when Moreau and his wife embarked for Nova Scotia with the settlers of Edward Cornwallis*, he had become an adherent of the Church of England. Moreau’s motive for settling in Nova Scotia, says Tutty, was to pursue “honest undertakings in a mercantile way,” and he was described in the list of settlers as a gentleman and schoolmaster. Soon after his arrival in Halifax, however, the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel adopted him as an Anglican missionary on Tutty’s recommendation.
From 1749 to 1753 Moreau resided in Halifax and served chiefly as missionary to the French-speaking Protestants amongst the new settlers, most of whom had come from Montbéliard and were among the group known as the “foreign Protestants.” Moreau visited New Jersey in the summer of 1752 with an eye to an alternative mission, but unlike so many settlers who left Nova Scotia for the American colonies in these years he returned to Halifax.
In June 1753 he accompanied a group of about 1,600 German- and French-speaking individuals to their new settlement at Lunenburg; about 30 per cent of the settlers spoke French. Moreau likely enjoyed more comfortable living conditions than most of the settlers; he at least had the advantage of his annual missionary stipend and a government allowance for his rent. He supervised the construction of St John’s Church, which was being used in good weather by the mid-1750s. Because of a shortage of funds, however, the building remained in an incomplete state until the early 1760s. It was cold and leaky, and winter services often had to be cancelled. Moreau found such conditions a severe strain on his health. About 1761 he reported “mine eyes have grown weak and my constitution entirely broke by the great cold.”
He does not seem to have been a particularly prominent or talented clergyman, though the fact that he persisted in the pioneering conditions of Lunenburg indicates his tenacity and probable success as a community leader. His claim to have reconciled the foreign settlers – mostly Lutherans – to the Church of England does not emerge as a significant achievement at a time when no services other than Anglican were available. His primary ambition was to proselytize amongst the Catholic and French-speaking Indians, and he frequently remarked on the “pains he [had] taken to bring over the Savages to embrace our holy Religion.” But he received little encouragement in this task from the government, the SPG, or his own flock. His major drawback as a clergyman at Lunenburg was his inability to speak fluent German. Though he claimed to have ministered to his multilingual congregation principally in English and French, even his facility in the English language was apparently deficient. His English reports to the SPG were in the hand of another, and by the mid-1760s he had resumed his earlier habit of writing his own correspondence in French.
Moreau was the only clergyman of any persuasion in Lunenburg until 1761. His sole assistance during that period came from Georges-Frédéric Bailly, a Montbéliard settler who was the SPG schoolmaster in Lunenburg. In 1761 Moreau’s burden appeared to be lightened when a second Anglican clergyman, Robert Vincent, who spoke only English, was appointed missionary to the German inhabitants. A personal antagonism developed between the two men, however, and it was not until 1767, when Paulus Bryzelius, a German-speaking replacement for Vincent, arrived, that a fruitful partnership was established.
Little is known of the last years of Moreau’s life. He was survived by at least two sons and one daughter.
PAC, MG 9, B9, 10 (will of Moreau). PANS, MG 1, 109–11; RG 1, 163. USPG, B, 25, no.28; Journals of SPG, 11, pp.187–88; 12, pp.102, 357; 15, pp.335, 387–88; 16, pp.326–27. An abstract of the charter, and of the proceedings of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel in Foreign Parts, from the 16th day of February 1770, to the 15th day of February 1771 (London, 1771). Bell, Foreign Protestants.