VACHON, PAUL, priest, chaplain of the chapter of Quebec, parish priest of Sainte-Madeleine-du-Cap; b. at Beauport and baptized 9 Nov. 1656 at Quebec, son of Paul Vachon, notary and clerk of court, and of Marguerite Langlois; d. 7 March 1729 at Cap-de-la-Madeleine.
Paul Vachon entered the Petit Séminaire of Quebec on 9 Nov. 1668, when he was 12 years old. He was one of the original eight Canadian pupils of this institution, which had been founded that same year by Bishop Laval. He intended to enter the priesthood; he received the tonsure and minor orders 12 Dec. 1677, was admitted to the subdiaconate on 18 December and to the diaconate 17 Sept. 1678. He was ordained in the cathedral of Quebec 21 Dec. 1680. On 17 Dec. 1677 his father had signed a clerical deed assigning him an annual income of 75 livres.
During the period of his theological studies Abbé Vachon had carried out various small tasks, taking care of the linen-room (1678–79), the refectory, and the cupboards (1679). He was assigned to the parochial missions. He carried out his ministry on the south shore, below Quebec, and particularly at Cap Saint-Ignace (1683–85), just as he had first done on the north shore, above Quebec, at Dombourg (Pointe-aux-Trembles), Batiscan, Sainte-Anne, and Grondines. On 9 Nov. 1684 this humble priest was appointed by Bishop Laval chaplain of the chapter of Quebec. Being absent at the time, he did not take up his duties in the chapel of the Holy Family, in the cathedral church, until 26 June 1685. He resigned from this office 8 Oct. 1694, less than a month after his appointment as resident priest for the parish of Sainte-Madeleine-du-Cap, in the seigneury of Cap-de-la-Madeleine. It was there, in fact, that Abbé Vachon was to pursue to the end his fruitful career. From 1685 on he was simply a priest in charge of his chapel; on 18 Sept. 1694 he received his letters of appointment from Bishop Saint-Vallier [La Croix]. From 1685 to 1716 he also extended his ministry to the seigneury of Bécancour, on the south shore. (According to tradition he was drowned while returning from this mission in 1729; but he had ceased serving it long before that.)
This Canadian priest was the originator of the devotion to the rosary that has made Cap-de-la-Madeleine one of the great centres of pilgrimage in Canada. At his request he received from Rome, 11 May 1694, an official diploma establishing a confraternity of the Holy Rosary which he set up officially, with Bishop Saint-Vallier’s consent, on 4 Oct. 1697.
Though destined to a brilliant future, Abbé Vachon’s parish was nonetheless poverty-stricken. The priest had barely enough to live on. On 15 Oct. 1701, for example, the seminary had been obliged to give him 250 livres. He appears, therefore, as moreover do all the parish priests of his time, greatly preoccupied with the question of the tithe, which was the subject of much discussion at that moment. On 27 April 1706, acting in his own name and as the “deputy” of the parish priests of his region, he signed a collective memorandum by the Canadian clergy on the tithe, a memorandum that was sent to the court. The situation was aggravated for Abbé Vachon by the fact that he had to build a new stone church as the result of a decree issued on 13 May 1714 by Bishop Saint-Vallier. The construction work was undertaken by the carpenters of the parish but little was done and in 1719, with “the consent of the majority of the parishioners,” Abbé Vachon entrusted the responsibility for it to François Dufaux of Trois-Rivières, who soon completed it.
This church, which is still standing, was the source of much expense. Consequently in 1716 Abbé Vachon resorted to having the intendant force certain settlers of Bécancour and the neighbouring fief of Dutort to pay him the tithe. But soon after, on 10 May 1716, Bishop Saint-Vallier separated this mission from the parish of Cap-de-la-Madeleine, promising Father Vachon 100 silver écus a year as compensation. The financial situation of the parish priests was so precarious that in 1719 we find Father Vachon attacking his colleague, Pierre Hazeur* de L’Orme, parish priest of Champlain, before the provost court of Trois-Rivières. Both of them laid claim to the tithes paid by the inhabitants of Arbre-à-la-Croix and the Prairies Marsolet. The court of Trois-Rivières decided on 22 Dec. 1719 (confirmed on 22 Jan. 1720 on appeal to the Conseil Souverain), that these settlers would pay the tithe to Father Hazeur. Abbé Vachon had good reason to be uneasy: in February 1721 he had in his parish only 16 heads of families, of whom only 11 paid the tithe!
In his will Paul Vachon left his few belongings to his parish. He was buried under the sanctuary of the church. In 1895 his skeleton was found in a perfect state of preservation.
AAQ, Copies de documents, Série A: Église du Canada, III, 117; Registres d’insinuations A, 103–5, 578; Registres d’insinuations B, 100, 136. AJTR, Greffe de Pierre Petit, 22 mars 1729. AQ, NF, Registres du Cons. sup., 1719–20, 63v. ASQ, mss, 17, 477; Paroisses diverses, 41; Polygraphie, XII, 20, 22, p.5; Séminaire, I, 15; S.M.E., 6 déc. 1678, 5 sept. 1679, 25 août 1680. Édits ord., III, 174. “Procès-verbaux du procureur général Collet” (Caron), 281. Provost, Le Séminaire de Québec: documents et biographies, 427. Caron, “Prêtres séculiers et religieux,” 257. Tanguay, Répertoire du clergé, 60. Gosselin, L’Église du Canada, III, 158f. Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada: aux Trois-Rivières. Raymond Douville, “Quelques notes inédites sur Nicolas Perrot et sa famille,” Cahiers des Dix, XXVIII (1963), 55f. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Notes diverses sur le Cap-de-la-Madeleine,” BRH, XXXV (1929), 393f.