VILLES (Ville), JEAN-MARIE DE (also Louis according to Sommervogel, relying on De Backer, but this seems to lack archival support), priest, Jesuit, missionary in the Illinois country; b. 6 Sept. 1670 at Auxerre; d. 25 May 1720, at Natchez.
The day after his twenty-third birthday he entered the Society of Jesus at the Paris novitiate. Three years later (1696) he began to teach in the college at Rennes, and, according to a pattern of the day, led his boys through five successive grades. In 1701 he began his theological studies at La Flèche, and was ordained a priest in 1704; he moved to Paris for his fourth and final year of theology. After the year of tertianship made in Rouen, 1705–6, he set out for Canada, and in 1708 with his calm confidence headed for the Illinois mission where he was to spend the rest of his life. Before leaving Quebec he wrote out the solemn four-vow profession of the Jesuit in an open, even, forthright hand (2 Feb. 1708).
In 1711 he replaced the late Jacques Gravier among the Peorias, and in 1714 he was at Kaskaskia. After the death of Jean Mermet he was named superior of the Illinois missions. Gravely concerned over the anarchy of the coureurs de bois and the incursions of Carolina English agents, he travelled down the Mississippi to confer with Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne* de Bienville; he remained in Mobile more than six months. On his return trip he paused at Natchez; his scientific conversations with Le Page Du Pratz are recorded admiringly in the latter’s Histoire.
De Villes died, apparently of dysentery, at Natchez, 25 May 1720. (Some sources put his death in June or July.) His reports on the Illinois country were read with interest in Paris by the council of the Marine and such experts as Guillaume Delisle.
AN, Col., D2D carton 10; Marine, B1, 8, f.256v; 3JJ, 387, f.34. ARSI, Francia 17, 57; 24, ff.351, 356v 363v, 376v, 383v, 402, 423; 25/I, ff.4v, 14, 31v, 50, 54v, 57v, 62, 81, 97v, 119v, 173v, 223, 265; 25/II, ff.315v, 366, 399, 440v, 489v, 524v. François Élesban de Guilhermy, Ménologe de la Compagnie de Jésus . . . , assistance de France, comprenant les missions de l’Archipel, de la Syrie, . . . du Canada, de la Louisiane . . . , éd. [Jacques Terrien] (2 part., Paris, 1892), première partie, 742–44. Le Page Du Pratz, Histoire de la Louisiane (3v., Paris, 1758), I, 130–35. Lettres édifiantes et curieuses escrites des missions étrangères (nouv. éd., 14v., Lyon, 1819), IV, 218, 229. Delanglez, French Jesuits in Louisiana, 81–83. Giraud, Histoire de la Louisiane française, I, 314, 318–19, 329.