Claude Dablon (February 1618 – May 3, 1697) was a Jesuit missionary, born in Dieppe, France.
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Claude Dablon (Jan. 21, 1619, or Feb. 1618 - May 3, or Sept. 20, 1697), Jesuit missionary from Dieppe, began his novitiate at Paris in 1639. From the beginning of his career he had a great desire to enter the foreign field. Sent to Canada in 1655, he was almost immediately designated for the Iroquois mission, the most difficult and dangerous in North America. Dablon was at this time in early middle life, with vigorous intellect and keen powers of observation, and withal physically fit and the possessor of unsurpassed endurance. He left Montreal in the autumn of 1655 together with Father Chaumonot and a party of Iroquois. His diary expresses his delight in the wilderness and in the beauties of nature. "I sleep," he wrote en route, "as well on the ground as I did on a mattress or as I would in a feather bed" (Jesuit Relations, XLI, 227). The winter was passed among the Onondaga at the present Liverpool, N. Y. In the spring, it being necessary to consult the authorities in Canada, Dablon went thither on foot, Mar. 2-30, a terrible journey over melting ice and softening snow-fields. At Quebec it was determined to accede to the request of the Iroquois for a French settlement in their midst, and Dablon became leader of a colony of fifty Frenchmen, who for months lived among these Indians in central New York. Then, having learned that the Indians meditated treachery and massacre, the entire group succeeded in escaping in March 1658, and reached Canada in safety.
Dablon remained three years thereafter at Quebec in civilized surroundings. He was, however, always eager for distant explorations and in May 1661, with Father Druillettes, undertook an excursion up the Saguenay and across to Lake St. John on a mission to the Cree tribe. In 1669 he was sent to the Northwest as superior of the Ottawa mission, where Allouez and Marquette were already laboring. He made headquarters at Sault Ste. Marie, and thence he sent Allouez late in the same year to explore the region around Green Bay and begin missions among the tribes there. The next autumn Dablon himself accompanied Allouez on a visit to central Wisconsin. His descriptions of his journey are full of enthusiasm; he likened the passage of the rapids of the lower Fox River to the steps up to Paradise. Into that river the missionaries threw a stone idol, worshipped by the neighboring Indians. Dablon also gave a detailed description of the Lake Superior copper mines, and of the pageant whereby France in June 1671 took possession of the region of the upper Great Lakes. Chosen Superior of all the Canadian missions while still in the Northwest, Dablon returned to Quebec to take office July 12, 1671. It was he who appointed Marquette to accompany Joliet on his voyage of discovery to the Mississippi and who reported that discovery to the authorities in France. Dablon never again left Quebec; his first term as Superior ended in 1680, but he served again in that office 1686-93. He was one of the most energetic, able and conscientious of the Canadian missionaries; his zeal and endurance were notable, and his judgment was excellent; his delight in nature and in the conquering of obstacles distinguished him; and his writings are a source of information about natural phenomena and the habits and customs of the natives. He was a contributor to the Relations of 1669-70, reviser of those of 1672-73, 1679, editor of the published Relations of 1670-71, 1671-72, and compiler of those from 1673 to 1678. He also edited Marquette's narratives, aided Chaumonot in arranging his autobiography and wrote several diaries of his travels and letters which have been preserved.
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At the age of twenty-one he entered the Society of Jesus, and after his course of studies and teaching in France, arrived inCanada in 1655. He was at once dispatched with Father Chaumonot to begin a central mission among the Iroquois at Onondaga. The diary he kept of this journey and of his return to Quebec in the year following gives a graphic account of the terrifying conditions under which these journeys were made.Many of his diary notes were published during his lifetime in Jesuit Relations.
In 1661 he accompanied Father Druillettes, the Apostle of Maine, on an expedition overland to Hudson Bay, the purpose of which was to establish missions among theNative Americans in that region and perhaps to discover an outlet through Hudson Bay toChina. The expedition was unsuccessful and is only chronicled as another abortive attempt to find the famous Northwest Passage. In 1668 Dablon was on Lake Superior withClaude-Jean Allouez and Jacques Marquette, forming with them what Bancroft calls the "illustrious triumvirate", and he was the first to inform the world of the rich copper mines of that region, which later became so valuable to the Canadian economy. It was Dablon who appointed Marquette to undertake the expedition which resulted in the discovery of the Upper Mississippi River; he also gave Marquette's letters and charts to the world. In connection with this discovery he called attention to the feasibility of passing fromLake Erie to Florida "by cutting a canal through only half a league of prairie to pass from the end of the Lake of the Illinois (Lake Michigan) to the River of St. Louis" (theIllinois River). This canal, projected by Dablon, was built in the 1840s as the Illinois and Michigan Canal.
After founding Sault Ste. Marie, Dablon became, in 1670, Superior General of all the Canadian Missions, retaining that office until 1680. He was reappointed in 1686 and remained superior until 1693. His contributions to the "Relations" are historically valuable with his descriptions of places and people and his narration of events.