DARGENT, JOSEPH, Sulpician, parish priest; b. 4 July 1712 at Saint-Similien (dept. of Loire-Atlantique), France, son of François Dargent, a tanner and dealer in hides, and Renée Bernard; d. 22 Feb. 1747 at Pointe-aux-Trembles, Montreal Island.
Joseph Dargent joined the Society of Saint-Sulpice at the seminary in Nantes, France, on 31 Oct. 1731 and was ordained a priest in March 1737. Soon after, he sailed for New France, arriving at his destination, Montreal, on 13 August of that year. Thanks to his report entitled “Relation d’un voyage de Paris à Montréal en Canadas en 1737” we are fairly well informed of the circumstances surrounding his departure from France and his arrival in Canada. He left Paris on 5 May and went on board the Jason on 31 May, despite opposition from his family. Indeed, three of his brothers had caught up with him some days earlier at Rochefort and had tried to dissuade him from his plan; with the help of a canon in La Rochelle who had already lived at the seminary of Quebec, the Sulpician had resisted his brothers’ “assault.” The ship, which was carrying 437 passengers, among them the intendant, Hocquart*, was under command of M. Du Quesne, a person lacking in polish, a sort of “unlicked cub,” who received Dargent on board and treated him during the whole voyage as he did everyone, “that is to say very roughly.” Dargent was on the ship for ten days before it left France on 9 June, delayed by a fire which broke out and was quickly brought under control; the Jason was at that time in the roads two leagues from land.
On 2 August Joseph Dargent landed at Île aux Coudres, below Quebec, after a 54-day crossing which apparently was uneventful, since he says nothing of it in his account. His first remarks upon his arrival in New France are not devoid of interest, even if they are of unequal value. The capital made an excellent impression upon him; he considered it pleasing, and it impressed him with all its civil and religious institutions. Moreover he enjoyed the trip by boat from Quebec to Montreal, going up the river whose shores had houses at intervals of a league then of a quarter of a league, and even every 500 paces upon arriving at Montreal Island. Some of his remarks, however, are not original or accurate. Dargent had scarcely arrived when he was writing that the Canadian winter, with its seven long months, seemed endless to him, and he asserted unreflectingly that all the habitants, men and women, were vain, improvident, and spendthrifty.
We have little information about his ministry during his ten years in Canada. Upon his arrival in Montreal his superior, Louis Normant Du Faradon, appointed him curate to the parish of Notre-Dame. Dargent held this office until 1739, when M. Normant put him in charge of the parish of Pointe-aux-Trembles. He was apparently an excellent architect, but we know little about his works. In 1741 he enlarged his church, adding a choir and two side chapels. Joseph Dargent had been working for some weeks on the building of the retable for the main altar when he died on 22 Feb. 1747.
AD, Loire-Atlantique (Nantes), État civil, Saint-Similien, 5 juill. 1712. ASSM, Section des biographies. Joseph Dargent, “Relation d’un voyage de Paris à Montréal en Canadas en 1737,” APQ Rapport, 1947–48, 7–17. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Gauthier, Sulpitiana. A.-L. Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne ou histoire de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900), I. Olivier Maurault, “Trois Français du Canada au XVIIIe siècle,” Cahiers des Dix, XII (1947), 32–52. “Paroisse de l’Enfant-Jésus-de-la-Pointe-aux-Trembles (île de Montréal),” Annuaire de Ville-Marie (Montréal, 1867), 209–56.