MATHEVET, JEAN-CLAUDE, Sulpician, priest, missionary, and superior; b. 20 March 1717 at Saint-Martin-de-Valamas (dept of Ardèche), France, son of Claude Mathevet and Blanche Ranc; d. 2 Aug. 1781 in Montreal (Que.).
Jean-Claude Mathevet entered the Grand Séminaire de Viviers on 31 Oct. 1736. Having received the tonsure on 15 June 1737 and minor orders the following 21 December, he was ordained deacon on 23 May 1739. He left for Canada on the Rubis on 10 June 1740, accompanied by two other Sulpicians, Antoine Faucon and Jacques-Joseph Masson de Montbrac. The new bishop of Quebec, François-Louis de Pourroy* de Lauberivière, sailed on the same ship. The crossing proved calamitous, a quarter of the passengers succumbing to an unknown illness. The youthful Masson de Montbrac was among the victims, as was Bishop Lauberivière, who died a few days after reaching Quebec.
Mathevet taught Latin at the school conducted by the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in its Montreal house, and he assisted in the parish church of Notre-Dame. On 5 March 1747 he was ordained priest by Bishop Pontbriand [Dubreil*] in the Ursuline chapel at Quebec. He had begun ministering to the Indians of the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission (Oka) on 12 Sept. 1746, when he was still a deacon. He was to devote the rest of his life to serving the Algonkins and later the Iroquois.
In July 1757, during the Seven Years’ War, Mathevet and François Picquet served as military chaplains to the Indians who accompanied Montcalm*’s expedition against Fort George (also called Fort William Henry, now Lake George, N.Y.). After a year as parish priest of Sainte-Anne-du-Bout-de-l’Île (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue), he transferred to the mission of La Présentation (Oswegatchie, now Ogdensburg, N.Y.) in 1758 and for two years he and Pierre-Paul-François de Lagarde supported or replaced Picquet in ministering to the Indians at this defence outpost of New France.
After his return to the Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes mission, Mathevet became its fourth superior and from 1761 to 1778 carried on a rewarding ministry there. With the assistance of François-Auguste Magon de Terlaye he energetically combatted the drunkenness that was causing havoc among the Indians to whom whites were illegally providing liquor. But Mathevet was above all a great specialist in the Algonkin language, in which he wrote a grammar (dated 1761), sermons, a sacred history, and a life of Christ. The last two works were printed in two editions in the 19th century. He had a good knowledge of Iroquois and 11 note-books of his sermons in Iroquois are extant. He also compiled a glossary of “Loup” words. Although the manuscript survives (it is in the archives of the Séminaire de Saint-Sulpice in Montreal), the identity of the language has not been positively established. It may be that of the Pocumtucks, an Algonkian speaking group originally from southern New England.
Mathevet was stricken with paralysis in March 1778 and had to retire to the seminary, where he died on 2 Aug. 1781. He was buried beneath the chancel of Notre-Dame. Called Ouakoui – the sky – by the Algonkins, Mathevet was held in the highest esteem by the Indians.
[Two manuscripts in Algonquin by Jean-Claude Mathevet were published in the 19th century: a life of Jesus and an Old Testament history. They appeared in a single volume entitled Ka titc tebeniminang Jezos, ondaje aking. Oom masinaigan ki ojitogoban ka ojitogobanen Aiamie tipadjimoȣin masinaigan ¢ak¢i ena¢indibanen (Montreal, 1861). The manuscripts were republished separately in Montreal, the Old Testament history appearing in 1890 under the title Aiamie-tipadjimowin masinaigan ka ojitogobanen kaiat nainawisi mekatewikonaiewigobanen/L’histoire sainte en algonquin and the life of Jesus in 1892 as Ka titc Jezos tebeniminang ondaje aking enansinaikatek masinaigan ki ojitogoban kaiat pejik kanactageng daje mekatewikonaietc/Vie de Notre-Seigneur Jésus-Christ. In 1975 G. M. Day published The “Mots loups” of Father Mathevet (Ottawa). j.b.h.]
Archives de l’évêché de Viviers (dép. de l’Ardèche, France), Registre des ordinations. ASSM, 8, A; 24, Dossier 2, Dossier 5. Allaire, Dictionnaire. Gauthier, Sulpitiana. Louis Bertrand, Bibliothèque sulpicienne, ou histoire littéraire de la Compagnie de Saint-Sulpice (3v., Paris, 1900). André Chagny, Un défenseur de la “Nouvelle-France,” François Picquet, “le Canadien” (1708–1781) (Montréal et Paris, 1913). Pierre Rousseau, Saint-Sulpice et les missions catholiques (Montréal, 1930). M. Trudel, L’Église canadienne. J.-A. Cuoq, “Anotc kekon,” RSC Trans., 1st ser., XI (1893), sect.i, 137–79. Olivier Maurault, “Quand Saint-Sulpice allait en guerre . . . ,” Cahiers des Dix, 5 (1940), 11–30.