Lempfrit, Father Honoré-Timothée (1803-1862)

Honoré-Timothée Lempfrit was born in France in 1803 and ordained in 1827. He lived a monastic life for the next twenty years before he joined the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (O.M.I.) in 1847 with a desire to undertake missionary work overseas. He was appointed to the Oregon Missions in the Pacific Northwest under the direction of Father Pascal Richard, O.M.I. in 1848 and underwent training for 'service to the Indians' in Quebec. The following year he was assigned to Vancouver Island where he arrived, in the company of James Douglas and his family from Nisqually on board the Cadboro, on June 6, 1849. Though not noted in the journal, he began his ministry two days later when he baptized two aboriginal children he described as dangerously ill. On the first Sunday following his arrival, Lempfrit delivered a sermon to 'the Indians’ and by August he had performed numerous baptisms, conducted four weddings and two funerals; none of which are noted in the Journal. Throughout his first summer at Fort Victoria Lempfrit expressed dissatisfaction with his accommodation in the Fort "where night and day a din goes on that I can barely stand". Progress on construction of a house outside the Fort promised by James Douglas was intermittently noted in the journal; first in August and not again until November. Evidently Lempfrit grew impatient waiting and in September moved into a building outside the Fort, believed to be the 100' x 20' 'salmon store' built near the steamer wharf in 1845. It was here that he set up an altar and began his school. Though he seemed to have the support of Douglas, who described him as "a very zealous and energetic Roman Catholic Priest", Lempfrit's tenure at Fort Victoria was uneasy. He was sensitive to the fact that Robert Staines, the English speaking Anglican Reverend, was housed and paid a generous salary to perform the duties of Chaplain and Schoolmaster to the children of the officers in a newly built schoolhouse inside the Fort, while he was only provided with board and taught the children of servants of the company and 'the Indians' in French in a shack outside the Fort. Between 1850 and 1852 his work at the Fort was interspersed with visits to Cowichan where he introduced baptism and marriage to many hundreds of indigenous Cowichans. In May of 1852, however, James Douglas learned that the Cowichans had "been ill treating Father Lempfrit" and he "sent off a party” to return him to Fort Victoria. Shortly after his return, Lempfrit, without the knowledge or permission of church authorities, departed for California and a year later returned to France. Nevertheless, the nature of his alleged 'ill treatment' at Cowichan continued to be the subject of rumour and controversy for some time afterward. It was more than a year after his departure that the Bishop of Vancouver Island, Modeste Demers, set the rumours on paper when he wrote (in Latin) that Lempfrit had "sexual intercourse with single girls in different places but also with married women and in this way may be regarded as an habitué". The Bishop’s letter was heard at the general meeting of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate in September of 1853 and the council’s findings were summarized in a damning report which contained phrases such as “atrocious scandal”, “this miserable narrative”, “harrowing details”, “miserable priest”, “behaved in a most unworthy manner”, “given in to his criminal passions”, “abandoned himself to the lowest excess”, and finally the recommendation that “this unworthy subject receive on the spot the punishment he so richly deserves, that is, expulsion from the Congregation that he has so horribly compromised”. Lempfrit was expelled on September 20, 1853. He returned to the monastic life and subsequently became a pastor in Borville, France, where he died in 1862.


  • Baptisms Index (1836-1888). BCARS. http://search.bcarchives.gov.bc.ca/sn-3F867AF/gbsearch/Baptisms.
  • Beaudoin, Yvon and Gaston Carrière. “Lempfrit, Honoré-Timothée." Historical Dictionary of the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. http://www.omiworld.org/fr/dictionary/dictionnaire-historique_vol-2_l/1412/lempfrit-honor-timoth-e/
  • Bowsfield, Hartwell. Fort Victoria Letters (1846 – 1851). Winnipeg: Hudson's Bay Record Society, 1979.
  • Demers, Modeste to Archbishop of Oregon City, July 12, 1853. HPK 5005.B86C 25a Ex1. Archives Deschâtelets, Ottawa.
  • Down, Sister Mary Margaret. A Century of Service. Victoria: The Sisters of Saint Ann, 1966.
  • Fort Victoria Letters (1844-45). Finlayson, Roderick to McLoughlin, John, June 8, 1845. A/B/40/F49. BCARS .
  • "Lempfrit, Padre." Colonial Despatches. http://bcgenesis.uvic.ca/bios.htm.
  • Meyer, Patricia (ed.) Honoré-Timothée Lempfrit, O.M.I.: His Oregon Trail Journal and Letters from the Pacific Northwest, 1848-1853, Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, 1985.
Graham Brazier