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Pierre Gibault

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Missionary, b. at Montreal, Canada, 1737; d. at New Madrid, about 1804; son of Pierre Gibault and Marie Saint-Jean. He was educated at the seminary of Quebec, and ordained a priest 19 March, 1768. Shortly afterwards he was sent by Bishop Briand as missionary, with the title of Vicar-General, to Illinois. In July he arrived at Michilimackinac, where he spent a week attending to the religious wants of the Catholics, some of whom had not seen a priest for many years. By September he had fixed his residence at Kaskaskia. Later he resided successively at St. Genevieve , Vincennes, and Cahokia. In February, 1770, he visited Vincennes, where he found religion in a deplorable state. During his sojourn of two months at this place he converted a Presbyterian family, and revived religious practices among the Catholics. In this year also, he blessed the little wooden chapel that had been erected at Paincourt, the present site of St. Louis. In spite of many difficulties and in the face of grave dangers incident to long journeys, he succeeded in vastly improving religious conditions in the scattered missions of the surrounding country. His journeys led him to such distant points as Peoria, Ouiatenon, St. Joseph's, and Michilimackinac. In 1775 he wrote to the Bishop of Quebec: "This is the fourth voyage I have taken, the shortest of which was five hundred leagues." For a long time he was the only priest in Illinois and Indiana. When George Rogers Clark captured Kaskaskia, in 1778, it was largely owing to Father Gibault's influence that the inhabitants submitted without protest, and took the oath of allegiance to the Commonwealth of Virginia. Through his influence also the people of Cahokia took the same step. As a volunteer agent of Clark he then proceeded to Vincennes, and won the people of that post to the American cause. In consequence of these proceedings many of the Indian tribes now acknowledged the authority of the States. But the activity of "the patriot priest " did not cease here, for, a year later, when Clark marched upon Vincennes, which meanwhile had been taken by the English, there were among his forces two companies of the Catholic citizens of Illinois. Concerning the last years of Father Gibault's life, little is definitely known. In 1791 he left Illinois, then a part of the Diocese of Baltimore , and retired to the Spanish territory beyond the Mississippi.

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