A Blupete Biography Page

Abbé Antoine Simon Maillard

Maillard is known to us from history as the apostle of the Micmacs. The Micmacs affectionately referred to him, in their tongue as "Mosi Meial" (pronounced, Moozee Mayal).1

Maillard was baptized in the great cathedral of Chartres; he studied at the Seminaire du Saint-Espirt, Paris, were he remained 8 years before "being placed at the disposition of the Seminaire Missions Etrangeres." He was ordained probably around the end of 1734 and arrived at Louisbourg in August of 1735. He went, it seems, immediately to his mission which was to live among the Indians moving from one encampment to another.2

With the fall of Louisbourg, in 1745, Maillard was shipped out of the province along with about 2,000 other French inhabitants. He was sent to Boston as a prisoner and from there to France finally reaching Paris on the 17th of March, 1746. His object was to get back to Acadia as soon as he could. He made his way to Brest and in May left aboard one of the number of vessels which formed the ill-fated fleet of d'Anville.

Maillard, it would seem, restricted his activities to the Indians of Ile Royale; first at Malagawatch, and then, in 1750, at which time Malagawatch was abandoned, he led his native flock to Chapel Island. It was there that he settled his Indians, likely long before that time a seasonable encampment. He built a church (circa 1754) and worked out, early on, in 1738, a system of Micmac hieroglyphics which he had written up in a manual and which was an aid to memory for a series of prayers and religious instructions. He was a linguist and could converse fully with the Micmac.

Maillard just happened to at Louisbourg with a band of his Indians, in June of 1758, when, the English effected a landing at Gabarous Bay when close on to 15,000 English troops waded ashore to lay siege to Louisbourg. Maillard and his followers were to soon size up the situation and departed, tout a l'heure. Johnston writes:

"In 1758, when the English landed at Gabarus to begin the final siege of the fortress, Father Maillard was at Louisbourg with a band of sixty Indians. He departed with them on the same day and thus incurred the wrath of Governor Drucour, who, in a bitter entry in his diary of the siege, charged him with cowardice for not having prevented the Indians from later carrying off French supplies which had been deposited at the Mira River. In the same entry Drucour sarcastically, but correctly, says, 'Presumably, he left Louisbourg in the firm belief that it would fall into the power of the English.' History proved that the missionary had greater foresight than the governor, and the Indians can scarcely be blamed for appropriating supplies which would otherwise have been taken by the English."3
With the full and complete takeover, in 1758, of Acadia, Maillard was to do what he thought best for both the Micmac and for those Acadians which had managed to avoid the British transports.4 He had retreated to Merigomish (Pictou County) where he could be found in his "oratory." The English determined to make use of Maillard's connections; so, in November of 1759, an English army major was sent up from Halifax to treat with Maillard. Peace conditions were worked out which Maillard described as "good and reasonable."5 When the Quebec authorities were to hear of this they reacted most violently. But Maillard did what was best for his people, as, it seems, he always did. No one could claim that he was disloyal to the French6; he just recognized an end to things, when he saw it; and, was to make the best of it -- not for himself but for those who depended upon him.

Maillard moved himself to Halifax and became a paid Indian agent for the British; a wise move for all concerned. He was to have free movement in Halifax; and, a number of both Indians and displaced Acadians were to settle in and around Halifax. Maillard, though in a Protestant stronghold, was left alone to conduct mass for his followers. Indeed, it is recounted, that the first mass, 1759 or 1760, was held at a place (Donahue House) which can now be located at the corner of Tobin and Barrington Streets.

Maillard died at Halifax on August 12th, 1762. All who knew him, both high and low, were taken aback with his death. He was given a state funeral and among the pall-bearers were to be found the highest of government officials. He was buried at St. Paul's cemetery.7 It was written of Maillard, within two years of his death, by an Englishman, that: "He was a very sensible, polite, well-bred man, an excellent scholar, and a good sociable companion, and was much respected by the better sort of people here as it appeared. He was the means of preventing many Englishman from being butchered."8


[1] Johnston, A History of the Catholic Church in Eastern Nova Scotia, Vol. I, p. 65.

[2] The Micmac changed their abodes summer and winter. They moved inland for winter hunts and camped at the seashore for the summer. Maillard would have traveled with his flock, but he sought for years for funds to build a permanent structure, a church in some acceptable location. He was, indeed, to construct, at some point after 1754, a church on Ile de la Sainte-Famille (Chapel Island, as the community is known today). (DCB, vol iii, p. 416.)

[3] Ibid., p. 70. That Drucour was on the outs with Maillard is no surprise. It was the Recollects that were in charge at Louisbourg, and Maillard "lost no opportunity to criticize them." The Recollects, of course, were in thick with the ruling class at Louisbourg. (DCB.)

[4] I read in the DCB's account of Maillard's life that: "After the fall of the fortress the missionary took refuge with the Micmacs at Miramichi Bay where a large number of Acadians who had escaped deportation in 1755 were gathered. 'Here I see only the greatest distress and poverty. ... All the families who have come over to us are starving.'"

[5] DCB, vol iii, pp. 417-8.

[6] Maillard had fought the good battle, for many years. He and his Indians were present with the French during the siege of Annapolis Royal in 1744; he conducted mass for the Indo-Canadian troop just before they carried out "The Massacre at Grand Pre" (1747); and, he supported the Micmac when they declared war on the English at Halifax, 1749-52. Maillard was loyal; and, he was also wise.

[7] Though a Protestant cemetery, St. Paul's was, at the time, the only cemetery at Halifax. The exact location of Maillard's grave is not known today. As a side note, I should say, that with Maillard's death there was to be no Roman Catholic priest in Nova Scotia for six years, when, in 1768, a Father Bailly was to take up residence at Halifax. (Johnston, op. cit., p. 92.)

[8] See Johnston, op. cit., p. 73.


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Peter Landry