CHARDON, JEAN-BAPTISTE, priest, Jesuit, missionary; b. 27 April 1671 in Bordeaux, France; d. 11 April 1743 in Quebec.
Jean-Baptiste Chardon was admitted into the Jesuit noviciate in Bordeaux on 7 Sept. 1687. He studied at Pau in 1689–90, taught the three classes, grammar, classics, and rhetoric, at the Jesuit college in La Rochelle from 1690 to 1695, and completed his studies at Poitiers in the period 1695–99. Subsequently he sailed for New France, arriving at Quebec in the summer of 1699. Chardon then undertook the study of Indian languages, for which he displayed “a rare talent,” according to Pierre-Gabriel Marest*; he was to learn those of nearly all the tribes in the region of the Great Lakes and even mastered that of the Illinois, whom he was to encounter only occasionally.
In the spring of 1700 the new missionary was sent to the Saguenay country, and by the beginning of July he had been as far as Lac des Mistassins (Lac Mistassini), at that time almost unknown. Chardon perhaps returned to the Saguenay country before the winter; he was certainly there at the end of July 1701, for he officiated at a baptism on 24 July. Shortly afterwards, named a missionary to the Ottawas, he went to stay among them, at the time when peace with the Iroquois was being signed in Montreal [see Louis-Hector de Callière*]. Around 25 Sept. 1701 Chardon went to Michilimackinac on his way to the Baie-des-Puants (Green Bay, Wis.) region, where he was to help Father Henri Nouvel*, who was nearly 80. The closing of the Michilimackinac mission was already foreseen then. Missionary labours in these regions were considered to be sterile, as Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil] noted, not because of lack of zeal on the part of the missionaries, struggling against the Indian customs, but because of the demoralization of the neophytes by the coureurs de bois, soldiers, and fur-trading commandants, who supplied spirits to the Indians and let discipline become slack in the posts [see Joseph-Jacques Marest*; Koutaoiliboe*].
Chardon remained 32 years in the region, living as a rule at Baie-des-Puants until 1728. In turn he visited the Foxes, Menominees, Mascoutens, Kickapoos, Ottawas, Potawatomis, and Miamis. In 1711 he stopped at the post on the St Joseph River, temporarily replacing Father Claude Aveneau*, who was worn out through illness. In 1721 Father Charlevoix encountered him at Baie-des-Puants.
In 1722 Chardon replaced Father Joseph-Jacques Marest as superior of the Ottawa mission. At this time New France had for some years been seeking in the west what it had lost by the treaty of Utrecht in the east and north [see Philippe de Rigaud* de Vaudreuil]. The French wanted to found a post in the Sioux country, counting upon the missionaries’ support to obtain the right to pass through the territory of the Foxes, who opposed the plan; “the trade,” they said, “which the French would carry on there would reduce considerably” what they themselves carried on with the Sioux. They had already killed several Frenchmen. Father Chardon was chosen to direct the founding of this mission, and from 1725 to 1727 he worked at making peace between the Indian tribes [see Charles de Beauharnois]; he even suggested a plan of action and in August 1727 accompanied for a time the first convoy led by René Boucher de La Perrière.
In 1728 Chardon was no longer living permanently at the post at Baie-des-Puants, which was burned by Constant Le Marchand* de Lignery on his return from his expedition against the Foxes, and little is known about the missionary’s activities until 1733. As the registers of the Society of Jesus mention, he was “among the Indians, in various places.” During 1734 and 1735 Chardon lived in Montreal, and after that he retired to Quebec.
In 1740, when he was 69, Chardon went to the Saguenay country to initiate Father Jean-Baptiste Maurice into the life of a missionary. He spent the summer at Tadoussac, and from there he went to La Malbaie; he finally left his companion on 7 September to return to Quebec. He died there on 11 April 1743.
ASJCF, 567; 579bis; 784; Fonds Rochemonteix, 4016; 4018; 4020. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), VI, 543, 554–55. JR (Thwaites). Antonio Dragon, Trente robes noires au Saguenay, texte revu et corrigé par Adrien Pouliot (Publication de la SHS, 24, Chicoutimi, Qué., 1971). J. G. Shea, History of the Catholic Church in the United States (4v., New York, 1886–92), I, 622, 625, 627, 629.