AVENEAU, CLAUDE, Jesuit, missionary; b. 25 Dec. 1650 at Laval (department of Mayenne); d. 14 Sept. 1711 at Quebec.
Claude Aveneau entered the noviciate in Paris in 1669. Two years later he was appointed to the Jesuit college in Arras, where he taught for seven years. He then studied philosophy for a year at the Collège Louis-le-Grand in Paris and did four years of theology at Bourges, where he was ordained a priest in 1683. After the third year of his noviciate at Rouen, he left for Canada in 1685.
He was first sent to the mission at Sillery. The following year he was assigned to the mission to the Ottawa of the Great Lakes. The Jesuits had also just opened a mission for the Miami, who had taken refuge at the mission of Saint-Joseph (in Michigan). It was there that from 1689 on Father Aveneau spent the better part of his life. In 1702 he incurred the displeasure of Cadillac [Laumet], the commandant at Detroit. Cadillac had had his superiors approve his project to found at Detroit a post, intended to be larger than that at Montreal, where whites and the region’s various indigenous groups would live in perfect harmony. It was first necessary to attract them to the post. And it was at this point that Cadillac’s fine plan proved unrealistic. For the most part, indigenous people did not feel drawn towards Detroit. Moreover, taught by experience, the missionaries considered Cadillac’s proposal – Frenchified indigenous people living together with whites and exposed to the brandy trade – certain to be disastrous for their apostolate. Cadillac accused the Jesuits of having prevented his plan from being realized. The only documents that we have concerning the matter are by Cadillac, and it is known that he was not always trustworthy. We know that Cadillac, feeling the Miami from the St Joseph river were too slow in coming to Detroit, blamed Aveneau. The commandant removed him from his post, and replaced him with a Recollet who did not speak the language and did not have the confidence of the faithful. The result was disturbances and opposition by the Miami to the French. In 1708 Governor Vaudreuil [Rigaud] and Intendant Raudot reported Cadillac’s misuse of authority to the minister. Father Aveneau returned to the Miami, and order was restored.
In 1711 it was decided to send Father Aveneau, who was very ill, to Quebec, where he could recover his health. To force a 300-mile trip by canoe upon a man who was already exhausted was a deplorable necessity. He died at Quebec on 14 Sept. 1711. Father Joseph Germain, who wrote the account of his life, praised his patience, his fortitude, and his charity towards all, friend and foe alike.
ASJCF, 492. “Correspondance de Vaudreuil,” APQ Rapport, 1939–40, 451. Découvertes et établissements des Français (Margry), V, 239. JR (Thwaites), LXIII, 302. George Paré, The Catholic Church in Detroit, 1701–1888 (Detroit, 1951), 78–140. Rochemonteix, Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIe siècle, III, 477, 512ff.; Les Jésuites et la N.-F. au XVIIIe siècle, I, 65ff.