DABLON, CLAUDE, priest, Jesuit, missionary, superior-general of the Jesuit missions in New France, geographer; b. 21 June 1619 (al. February 1618) at Dieppe (Normandy); d. 1697 at Quebec.
Father Dablon lived in New France from 1655 until his death. As his apostolate took him from Lake Nekouba (Nikabau) to Lake Ontario and Lake Superior, his zeal for the conversion of the Indians was heightened by a special interest in the geography of America, the interior regions of which were still unknown to European scholars. But Father Dablon’s importance lies above all in the fact that he was the superior-general of the Jesuit missions in New France.
When Father Dablon reached Quebec, late in the summer of 1655, Father François Le Mercer, the superior, sent him immediately with Father Chaumonot to the south of Lake Ontario, to work among the Onondaga nation of the Iroquois; the Onondagas had been requesting missionaries for two years, and had been promised them by Father Simon Le Moyne. Father Dablon’s account of his journey contains a fairly precise description of the St. Lawrence River, from Montreal to Lake Ontario. A second trip in 1656, the object of which was to found Sainte-Marie-de-Ganentaa, allowed him to add certain details about the natural resources of the country and the customs of the inhabitants. After the failure of this mission, Father Dablon returned to Quebec, where for ten years he was to hold various offices: minister, bursar, class prefect, director of the Grande Congrégation, teacher of humanities and rhetoric.
In 1661, with Father Gabriel Druillettes and five Frenchmen, he proceeded up the Saguenay as far as Chicoutimi, went to Lac Saint-Jean, and undertook an exploratory expedition with the object of determining whether the northern sea was linked in some manner to the western sea and the southern one. Having got to Nekouba the group had reached the level of the watershed, and dread of the Iroquois struck terror into the Montagnais who were acting as guides for the French.
In 1669 Father Dablon was named superior of the western missions; their centre was Sault Ste. Marie. A journey around Lake Superior with Father Allouez supplied information for a map which for the period was admirable in its exactness, and which American geographers have called Carte des Jésuites. It depicts Lake Superior and the beginning of lakes Huron and Michigan.
His appointment as superior of the Jesuit missions in New France brought Father Dablon back to Quebec in l671. He served in this capacity for two terms: 1671–80 and l686–93. Being interested in the exploration of the country, he recorded in the Relations the accounts of the journeys of Fathers Marquette and Albanel to the Mississippi and to Lac Saint-Jean.
Father Dablon was obliged to take a stand on certain contentious matters: the trade in spirits and the acculturation of the Indians. He managed to do so tactfully according to all contemporary testimony, including that of M. Louis Tronson, the superior-general of the Sulpicians in Paris.
From 1655 to 1672 Father Dablon wrote several chapters of the Relations; the account of the journey to the northern sea (Hudson Bay) was published in 1662. The Relation of 1672, the last to be published in the 17th century, and the annual reports from 1673 to 1679, which remained unpublished for nearly two centuries, are also his work.
ACSM, MSS 402, Notice biographique du P. Claude Dablon (1868), par Félix Martin. ASQ, MSS, 43, “Étude sur les Relations des Jésuites,” par Félix Martin. JR (Thwaites). JJ (Laverdière et Casgrain). Delanglez, Jolliet. Marie de Saint-Jean-d’Ars, “A la recherche de la mer du Nord, 1661,” RHAF, VIII (1954–55), 220–35. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la Nouvelle-France au XVIIe siècle, II, 143–49, 361–75, et passim; III, 4, et passim.