And so six years passed over the Jesuits in the mission-fields. Scalping parties occasionally haunted the outskirts of the villages where they were stationed. The Iroquois frequently attacked the annual fleet of canoes on its journey to Quebec, and on several occasions captured and carried off priests and their assistants. But during these years no large body of Iroquois invaded Huronia. The insatiable warriors of the Five Nations were busy devastating the St Lawrence and the Ottawa, pressing the tribes back and ever back, until scarcely a wigwam could be seen between Ville Marie and Lake Nipissing. The Algonquins who had not fallen had left their villages and had sought safety on the bleak shores and islands of Georgian Bay, or among the Hurons.
The mission was prospering under the guidance of Paul Ragueneau, who in 1645 succeeded Lalemant as superior, when the latter journeyed to Quebec to take over the office of superior-general of the Canada mission. Ste Marie, a wilderness Mecca of the faith, entertained yearly thousands of Indians, many of whom professed Christianity. On one occasion seven hundred Indians sought this sanctuary within a fortnight, and to each of these the fathers from their abundant stores gave two meals. About the walls fields of corn, beans, pumpkins, and wheat spread fair to the eye. Within the enclosure all was activity. Ambroise Brouet was busy in his kitchen; Louis Gauber was at his forge; Pierre Masson, when not occupied at his tailor’s bench, was hard at work in the garden, the pride of the mission; Christophe Regnaut and Jacques Levrier were mending or fashioning shoes and moccasins; Joseph Molere prepared potions for the sick and had charge of the laundry; and Charles Boivin, the master-builder, superintended the erection of new buildings or the strengthening and improving of those already built. The appearance of permanency about the place was enhanced by the fowls, pigs, and cattle. There were two cows and two bulls, which had been brought with incredible toil from Quebec.
The teaching and example of the fathers were winning a way to the hearts of the Indians. In 1648 eleven or twelve mission stations stood throughout Huronia, among the Algonquins, and among the Petuns, now settled in the Blue Hills south of Nottawasaga Bay. Seven of these stations had chapels and in six it had been found necessary to establish residences. In some of the villages, such as Ossossane, the Christians outnumbered the pagans. The Christian Hurons gave active help to the fathers in the work of the mission, some among their own people, and others among the Petuns and the Neutrals. The chapels had bells—on some discarded kettles served this purpose—to call the flocks to worship; and crosses studded the land. Huronia was in a fair way of being completely won; and the missionaries were already looking to the unexplored regions round and beyond Lake Superior, and even to the land of the Iroquois. Then, with the suddenness of a volcanic eruption, their flocks were scattered and their dearest hopes crushed.