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|THE RECOLLET FRIARS||1|
For seven years the colony which Champlain founded at the rock of Quebec lived without priests. [Footnote: For the general history of the period covered by the first four chapters of the present narrative, see ’The Founder of New France’ in this Series.] Perhaps the lack was not seriously felt, for most of the twoscore inmates of the settlement were Huguenot traders. But out in the great land, in every direction from the rude dwellings that housed the pioneers of Canada, roamed savage tribes, living, said Champlain, ‘like brute beasts.’ It was Champlain’s ardent desire to reclaim these beings of the wilderness. The salvation of one soul was to him ’of more value than the conquest of an empire.’ Not far from his native town of Brouage there was a community of the Recollets, and, during one of his periodical sojourns in France, he invited them to send missionaries to Canada. The Recollets responded to his appeal, and it was arranged that several of their number should sail with him to the St Lawrence in the following spring. So, in May 1615, three Recollet friars—Denis Jamay, Jean d’Olbeau, Joseph Le Caron—and a lay brother named Pacificus du Plessis, landed at Tadoussac. To these four men is due the honour of founding the first permanent mission among the Indians of New France. An earlier undertaking of the Jesuits in Acadia (1611-13) had been broken up. The Canadian mission is usually associated with the Jesuits, and rightly so, for to them, as we shall see, belongs its most glorious history; but it was the Recollets who pioneered the way.
When the friars reached Quebec they arranged a division of labour in this manner: Jamay and Du Plessis were to remain at Quebec; D’Olbeau was to return to Tadoussac and essay the thorny task of converting the tribes round that fishing and trading station; while to Le Caron was assigned a more distant field, but one that promised a rich harvest. Six or seven hundred miles from Quebec, in the region of Lake Simcoe and the Georgian Bay, dwelt the Hurons, a sedentary people living in villages and practising a rude agriculture. In these respects they differed from the Algonquin tribes of the St Lawrence, who had no fixed abodes and depended on forest and stream for a living. The Hurons, too, were bound to the French by both war and trade. Champlain had assisted them and the Algonquins in battle against the common foe, the Iroquois or Five Nations, and a flotilla of canoes from the Huron country, bringing furs to one of the trading-posts on the St Lawrence, was an annual event. The Recollets, therefore, felt confident of a friendly reception among the Hurons; and it was with buoyant hopes that Le Caron girded himself for the journey to his distant mission-field.
On the 6th or 7th of July, in company with a party of Hurons, Le Caron set out from the island of Montreal. The Hurons had come down to trade, and to arrange with Champlain for another punitive expedition against the Iroquois, and were now returning to their own villages. It was a laborious and painful journey—up the Ottawa, across Lake Nipissing, and down the French River—but at length the friar stood on the shores of Lake Huron, the first of white men to see its waters. From the mouth of the French River the course lay southward for mere than a hundred miles along the east shore of Georgian Bay, until the party arrived at the peninsula which lies between Nottawasaga and Matchedash Bays. Three or four miles inland from the west shore of this peninsula stood the town of Carhagouha, a triple-palisaded stronghold of the Hurons. Here the Indians gave the priest an enthusiastic welcome and invited him to share their common lodges; but as he desired a retreat ’in which he could meditate in silence,’ they built him a commodious cabin apart from the village. A few days later Champlain himself appeared on the scene; and it was on the 12th of August that he and his followers attended in Le Caron’s cabin the first Mass celebrated in what is now the province of Ontario. Then, while Le Caron began his efforts for the conversion of the benighted Hurons, Champlain went off with the warriors on a very different mission—an invasion of the Iroquois country. The commencement of religious endeavour in Huronia is thus marked by an event that was to intensify the hatred of the ferocious Iroquois against both the Hurons and the French.
Le Caron spent the remainder of the year 1615 among the Hurons, studying the people, learning the language, and compiling a dictionary. Champlain, his expedition ended, returned to Huronia and remained there until the middle of January, when he and Le Caron set out on a visit to the Petun or Tobacco Nation, then dwelling on the southern shore of Nottawasaga Bay, a two-days’ journey south-west of Carhagouha. There had been as yet no direct communication between the French and the Petuns, and the visitors were not kindly received. The Petun sorcerers or medicine-men dreaded the influence of the grey-robed friar, regarded him as a rival, and caused his teachings to be derided. After an uncomfortable month Champlain and Le Caron returned to Carhagouha, where they remained until the 20th of May, and then set out for Quebec.
When Le Caron reached Quebec on the 11th of July (1616) he found that his comrades had not been idle. A chapel had been built, in what is now the Lower Town, close to the habitation, and here Father Jamay ministered to the spiritual needs of the colonists and laboured among the Indians camped in the vicinity of the trading-post. Father d’Olbeau had been busy among the Montagnais, a wandering Algonquin tribe between Tadoussac and Seven Islands, his reward being chiefly suffering. The filth and smoke of the Indian wigwams tortured him, the disgusting food of the natives filled him with loathing, and their vice and indifference to his teaching weighed on his spirit.
The greatest trial the Recollets had to bear was the opposition of the Company of St Malo and Rouen, which was composed largely of Huguenots, and had a monopoly of the trade of New France. Many of the traders were actively antagonistic to the spread of the Catholic religion and they all viewed the work of the Recollets with hostility. It was the aim of the missionaries to induce the Indians to settle near the trading-posts in order that they might the more easily be reached with the Gospel message. The traders had but one thought—the profits of the fur trade; and, desiring to keep the Indians nomadic hunters of furs, they opposed bringing them into fixed abodes and put every possible obstacle in the way of the friars. Trained interpreters in the employ of the company for both the Hurons and the various Algonquin tribes were ordered not to assist the missionaries in acquiring a knowledge of the native languages. The company was pledged to support six missionaries, but the support was given with an unwilling, niggardly hand.
At length, in 1621, as a result of the complaints of Champlain and the Recollets, before the authorities in France, the Company of St Malo and Rouen lost its charter, and the trading privileges were given to William and Emery de Caen, uncle and nephew. But these men also were Huguenots, and the unhappy condition of affairs continued in an intensified form. Champlain, though the nominal head of the colony, was unable to provide a remedy, for the real power was in the hands of the Caens, who had in their employment practically the entire population.
Yet, in spite of all the obstacles put in their way, the Recollets continued their self-sacrificing labours. By the beginning of 1621 they had a comfortable residence on the bank of the St Charles, on the spot where now stands the General Hospital. Here they had been granted two hundred acres of land, and they cultivated the soil, raising meagre crops of rye, barley, maize, and wheat, and tending a few pigs, cows, asses, and fowls. There were from time to time accessions to their ranks. Between the years 1616 and 1623 the fathers Guillaume Poullain, Georges le Baillif, Paul Huet, Jacques de la Foyer, Nicolas Viel, and several lay brothers, the most noted among whom was Gabriel Sagard-Theodat, laboured in New France. They made attempts to christianize the Micmacs of Acadia, the Abnaki of the upper St John, the Algonquin tribes of the lower St Lawrence, and the Nipissings of the upper Ottawa. But the work among these roving bands proved most disheartening, and once more the grey-robed friars turned to the Hurons.
The end of August 1623 saw Le Caron, Viel, and Sagard in Huronia. Until October they seem to have laboured in different settlements, Viel at Toanche, a short distance from Penetanguishene Bay, Sagard at Ossossane, near Dault’s Bay, an indentation of Nottawasaga Bay, and Le Caron at Carhagouha. It does not appear that they were able to make much of an impression on the savages, though they had the satisfaction of some baptisms. During the winter Sagard studied Indian habits and ideas, and with Le Caron’s assistance compiled a dictionary of the Huron language. [Footnote: Sagard’s observations were afterwards given to the world in his ’Histoire du Canada et Voyages des Peres Recollects en la Nouvelle-France.’] Then, an June 1624, Le Caron and Sagard accompanied the annual canoe-fleet to Quebec, and Viel was left alone in Huronia.
The Recollets were discouraged. They saw that the field was too large and that the difficulties were too great for them. And, after invoking ’the light of the Holy Spirit,’ they decided, according to Sagard, ’to send one of their members to France to lay the proposition before the Jesuit fathers, whom they deemed the most suitable for the work of establishing and extending the Faith in Canada.’ So Father Irenaeus Piat and Brother Gabriel Sagard were sent to entreat to the rescue of the Canadian mission the greatest of all the missionary orders—an order which ’had filled the whole world with memorials of great things done and suffered for the Faith’—the militant and powerful Society of Jesus.
THE JESUITS AT QUEBEC
The 15th of June 1625 was a significant day for the colony of New France. On that morning a blunt-prowed, high-pooped vessel cast anchor before the little trading village that clustered about the base of the great cliff at Quebec. It was a ship belonging to the Caens, and it came laden to the hatches with supplies for the colonists and goods for trade with the Indians. But, what was more important, it had as passengers the Jesuits who had been sent to the aid of the Recollets, the first of the followers of Loyola to enter the St Lawrence—Fathers Charles Lalemant, Ennemond Masse, Jean de Brebeuf, and two lay brothers of the Society. These black-robed priests were the forerunners of an army of men who, bearing the Cross instead of the sword and labouring at their arduous tasks in humility and obedience but with dauntless courage and unflagging zeal, were to make their influence felt from Hudson Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the sea-girt shores of Cape Breton to the wind-swept plains of the Great West. They were the vanguard of an army of true soldiers, of whom the words
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die,
might fittingly have been written. The Jesuit missionary in North America had no thought of worldly profit or renown, but, with his mind fixed on eternity, he performed his task ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory of God.
The Jesuits had sailed from Dieppe on the 26th of April in company with a Recollet friar, La Roche de Daillon, of whom we shall presently hear more. The voyage across the stormy Atlantic had been long and tedious. On a vessel belonging to Huguenots, the priests had been exposed to the sneers and gibes of crew and traders. It was the viceroy of New France, the Duc de Ventadour, a devout Catholic, who had compelled the Huguenot traders to give passage to these priests, or they would not have been permitted on board the ship. Much better could the Huguenots tolerate the humble, mendicant Recollets than the Jesuits, aggressive and powerful, uncompromising opponents of Calvinism.
As the anchor dropped, the Jesuits made preparations to land; but they were to meet with a temporary disappointment. Champlain was absent in France, and Emery de Caen said that he had received no instructions from the viceroy to admit them to the colony. Moreover, they were told that there was no room for them in the habitation or the fort. To make matters worse, a bitter, slanderous diatribe against their order had been distributed among the inhabitants, and the doors of Catholics and Huguenots alike were closed against them. Prisoners on the ship, at the very gate of the promised land, no course seemed open to them but to return on the same vessel to France. But they were suddenly lifted by kindly hands from the depths of despair. A boat rowed by men attached to the Recollets approached their vessel. Soon several friars dressed in coarse grey robes, with the knotted cord of the Recollet order about their waists, peaked hood hanging from their shoulders, and coarse wooden sandals on their feet, stood before them on the deck, giving them a wholehearted welcome and offering them a home, with the use of half the buildings and land on the St Charles. Right gladly the Jesuits accepted the offer and were rowed ashore in the boat of the generous friars. On touching the soil of New France they fell on their knees and kissed the ground, in spite of the scowling traders about them.
The disappointment of these aggressive pioneers of the Church must have been great as they viewed Quebec. It was now seventeen years since the colony had been founded; yet it had fewer than one hundred inhabitants. In the whole of Canada there were but seven French families and only six white children. Save by Louis Hebert, the first to cultivate the soil at Quebec, and the Recollets, no attempt had been made at agriculture, and the colony was almost wholly dependent on France for its subsistence. When not engaged in gathering furs or loading and unloading vessels, the men lounged in indolence about the trading-posts or wandered to the hunting grounds of the Indians, where they lived in squalor and vice. The avarice of the traders was bearing its natural fruit, and the untiring efforts of Champlain, a devoted, zealous patriot, had been unavailing to counteract it. The colony sorely
Scarcely had the Jesuits made themselves at home in the convent of the Recollets when they began planning for the mission. It was decided that Lalemant and Masse should remain at Quebec; but Brebeuf, believing, like the Recollets, that little of permanent value could be done among the ever-shifting Algonquins, desired to start at once for the populous towns of Huronia. In July, in company with the Recollet La Roche de Daillon, Brebeuf set out for Three Rivers. The Indians—Hurons, Algonquins, and Ottawas—had gathered at Cape Victory, a promontory in Lake St Peter near the point where the lake narrows again into the St Lawrence. There, too, stood French vessels laden with goods for barter; and thither went the two missionaries to make friends with the Indians and to lay in a store of goods for the voyage to Huronia and for use at the mission. The captains of the vessels appeared friendly and supplied the priests with coloured beads, knives, kettles, and other articles. All was going well for the journey, when, on the eve of departure, a runner arrived from Montreal bringing evil news.
For a year the Recollet Nicolas Viel had remained in Huronia. Early in 1624 he had written to Father Piat hoping that he might live and die in his Huron mission at Carhagouha. There is no record of his sojourn in Huronia during the winter 1624-25. Alone among the savages, with a scant knowledge of their language, his spirit must have been oppressed with a burden almost too great to be borne; he must have longed for the companionship of men of his own language and faith. At any rate, in the early summer of 1625 he had set out for Quebec with a party of trading Hurons for the purpose of spending some time in retreat at the residence on the banks of the St Charles. He was never to reach his destination. On arriving at the Riviere des Prairies, his Indian conductors, instead of portaging their canoes past the treacherous rapids in this river, had attempted to run them, and a disaster had followed. The canoe bearing Father Viel and a young Huron convert named Ahaustic (the Little Fish) had been overturned and both had been drowned.
[Footnote: This rapid has since been known as Sault au Recollet and a village near by bears the name of Ahuntsic, a corruption of the young convert’s name. Father A. E. Jones, S. J., in his ‘Old Huronia’ (Ontario Archives), points out that no such word as Ahuntsic could find a place in a Huron vocabulary.]
The story brought to Cape Victory was that the tragedy had been due to the treacherous conduct of three evil-hearted Hurons who coveted the goods the priest had with him. On the advice of the traders, who feared that the Hurons were in no spirit to receive the missionaries, Brebeuf and Daillon concluded not to attempt the ascent of the Ottawa for the present, and returned to Quebec. Ten years later, such a report would not have moved Brebeuf to turn back, but would have been an added incentive to press forward.
The Jesuits, with the exception of Brebeuf, spent the winter of 1625-26 at the convent of the Recollets, no doubt enduring privation, as at that time there was a scarcity of food in the colony. Brebeuf, eager to study the Indians in their homes, joined a party of Montagnais hunters and journeyed with them to their wintering grounds. He suffered much from hunger and cold, and from the insanitary conditions under which he was compelled to live in the filthy, smoky, vermin-infested abodes of the savages. But an iron constitution stood him in good stead, and he rejoined his fellow-missionaries none the worse for his experience. He had acquired, too, a fair knowledge of the Montagnais dialect, and had learned that boldness, courage, and fortitude in suffering went far towards winning the respect of the savages of North America.
On the 5th of July the eyes of the colonists at Quebec were gladdened by the sight of a fleet of vessels coming up the river. These were the supply-ships of the company, and on the Catherine, a vessel of two hundred and fifty tons, was Champlain, on whom the Jesuits could depend as a friend and protector. In the previous autumn Lalemant had selected a fertile tract of land on the left side of the St Charles, between the river Beauport and the stream St Michel, as a suitable spot for a permanent home, and had sent a request to Champlain to secure this land for the Jesuits. Champlain had laid the request before the viceroy and he now brought with him the official documents granting the land. Nine days later a vessel of eighty tons arrived with supplies and reinforcements for the mission. On this vessel came Fathers Philibert Noyrot and Anne de Noue, with a lay brother and twenty labourers and carpenters.
The Jesuits chose a site for the buildings at a bend in the St Charles river a mile or so from the fort. Here, opposite Pointe-aux-Lievres (Hare Point), on a sloping meadow two hundred feet from the river, they cleared the ground and erected two buildings—one to serve as a storehouse, stable, workshop, and bakery; the other as the residence. The residence had four rooms—a chapel, a refectory with cells for the fathers, a kitchen, and a lodging-room for the workmen. It had, too, a commodious cellar, and a garret which served as a dormitory for the lay brothers. The buildings were of roughly hewn planks, the seams plastered with mud and the roofs thatched with grass from the meadow. Such was Notre-Dame-des-Anges. In this humble abode men were to be trained to carry the Cross in the Canadian wilderness, and from it they were to go forth for many years in an unbroken line, blazing the way for explorers and traders and settlers.
Almost simultaneously with the arrival of Noyrot and Noue a flotilla of canoes laden deep with furs came down from the Huron country. Brebeuf had made up his mind to go to far Huronia; Noue and the Recollet Daillon had the same ambition; and all three besought the Hurons to carry them on the return journey. The Indians expressed a readiness to give the Recollet Daillon a passage; they knew the ‘grey-robes’; but they did not know the Jesuits, the ‘black-robes,’ and they hesitated to take Brebeuf and Noue, urging as an excuse that so portly a man as Brebeuf would be in danger of upsetting their frail canoes. By a liberal distribution of presents, however, the Hurons were persuaded to accept Brebeuf and Noue as passengers.
Towards the end of July, just when preparations were being made to break ground for the residence of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, the three fathers and some French assistants set out with the Hurons on the long journey to the shores of Georgian Bay. Brebeuf was in a state of ecstasy. He longed for the populous towns of the Hurons. He had confidence in himself and believed that he would be able to make the dwellers in these towns followers of Christ and bulwarks of France in the New World. For twenty-three years he was to devote his life to this task; for twenty-three years, save for the brief interval when the English flag waved over Quebec, he was to dominate the Huron mission. He was a striking figure. Of noble ancestry, almost a giant in stature, and with a soldierly bearing that attracted all observers, he would have shone at the court of the king or at the head of the army. But he had sacrificed a worldly career for the Church. And no man of his ancestors, one of whom had battled under William the Conqueror at Hastings and others in the Crusades, ever bore himself more nobly than did Brebeuf in the forests of Canada, or covered himself with a greater glory.
The journey was beset with danger, for the Iroquois were on the war-path against the Hurons and the French, and had attacked settlers even in the vicinity of Quebec. The lot of the voyagers was incessant toil. They had to paddle against the current, to haul the canoes over stretches where the water was too swift for paddling, and to portage past turbulent rapids and falls. The missionaries were forced to bear their share of the work. Noue, no longer young, was frequently faint from toil. Brebeuf not only sustained him, but at many of the portages, of which there were thirty-five in all, carried a double load of baggage. The packs contained not only clothing and food, but priestly vestments, requisites for the altar, pictures, wine for the Mass, candles, books, and writing material. The course lay over the route which Le Caron had followed eleven years before, up the Ottawa, up the Mattawa, across the portage to Lake Nipissing, and then down the French River. Arrived in Penetanguishene Bay, they landed at a village called Otouacha. They then journeyed a mile and a half inland, through gloomy forests, past cultivated patches of maize, beans, pumpkins, squashes, and sunflowers, to Toanche, where they found Viel’s cabin still standing. For three years this was to be Brebeuf’s headquarters.
Huronia lay in what is now the county of Simcoe, Ontario, comprising the present townships of Tiny, Tay, Flos, Medonte, and Oro. On the east and north lay Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching, the Severn river, and Matchedash Bay; on the west, Nottawasaga Bay. Across the bay, or by land a journey of about two days, where now are Bruce and Grey counties, lived the Petuns, and about five days to the south-west, the Neutrals. The latter tribe occupied both the Niagara and Detroit peninsulas, overflowed into the states of Michigan and New York, and spread north as far as Goderich and Oakville in Ontario. All these nations, and the Andastes of the lower Susquehanna, were of the same linguistic stock as the Iroquois who dwelt south of Lake Ontario. Peoples speaking the Huron-Iroquois tongue thus occupied the central part of the eastern half of North America, while all around them, north, south, east, and west, roamed the tribes speaking dialects of the Algonquin.
Most of the Huron [Footnote: The name Huron is of uncertain origin. The word Huron was used in France as early as 1358 to describe the uncouth peasants who revolted against the nobility. But according to Father Charles Lalemant, a French sailor, on first beholding some Hurons at Tadoussac in 1600, was astonished at their fantastic way of dressing their hair—in stiff ridges with shaved furrows between—and exclaimed ’Quelles hures!’—what boar-heads! In their own language they were known as Ouendats (dwellers on a peninsula), a name still extant in the corrupted form Wyandots.] towns were encircled by log palisades. The houses were of various sizes and some of them were more than two hundred feet long. They were built in the crudest fashion. Two rows of sturdy saplings were stuck in the ground about twenty-five feet apart, then bent to meet so as to form an arch, and covered with bark. An open strip was left in the roof for the escape of smoke and for light. Each house sheltered from six to a dozen families, according to the number of fires. Two families shared each fire, and around the fire in winter clustered children, dogs, youths, gaily decorated maidens, jabbering squaws, and toothless, smoke-blinded old men. Privacy there was none. Along the sides of the cabin, about four feet from the ground, extended raised platforms, on or under which, according to the season or the inclination of the individual, the inmates slept.
The Huron nation was divided into four clans—the Bear, the Rock, the Cord, the Deer—with several small dependent groups. There was government of a sort, republican in form. They had their deliberative assemblies, both village and tribal. The village councils met almost daily, but the tribal assembly—a sort of states-general—was summoned only when some weighty measure demanded consideration. Decisions arrived at in the assemblies were proclaimed by the chiefs.
Of religion as it is understood by Christians the Hurons had none, nothing but superstitions, very like those of other barbarous peoples. To everything in nature they gave a god; trees, lakes, streams, the celestial bodies, the blue expanse, they deified with okies or spirits. Among the chief objects of Huron worship were the moon and the sun. The oki of the moon had the care of souls and the power to cut off life; the oki of the sun presided over the living and sustained all created things. The great vault of heaven with its myriad stars inspired them with awe; it was the abode of the spirit of spirits, the Master of Life. Aronhia was the name they gave this supreme oki. This would show that they had a vague conception of God. To Aronhia they offered sacrifices, to Aronhia they appealed in time of danger, and when misfortune befell them it was due to the anger of Aronhia. But all this had no influence on their conduct; even in their worship they were often astoundingly vicious.
To such dens of barbarism had come men fresh from the civilization of the Old World—men of learning, culture, and gentle birth, in whose veins flowed the proudest blood of France. To these savages, indolent, superstitious, and vicious, had come Brebeuf, Noue, and Daillon, with a message of peace, goodwill, and virtue.
Until the middle of October the three fathers lived together at Toanche, save that Daillon went on a brief visit to Ossossane, on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay. The Recollet, however, had instructions from his superior Le Caron to go to the country of the Neutrals, of which Champlain’s interpreter, Etienne Brule, had reported glowingly, but which was as yet untrodden by the feet of missionaries. And so on the 18th of October 1626 Daillon set out on the trail southward, with two French traders as interpreters, and an Indian guide. Arriving among the Neutrals, after a journey of five or six days, he was at first kindly received in each of the six towns which he visited. But this happy situation was not to last. The Neutral country, now the richest and most populous part of Ontario, boasting such cities as Hamilton and Brantford and London, was rich in fur-bearing animals and tobacco; and the Hurons were the middlemen in trade between the Neutrals and the French. The Hurons, fearing now that they were about to lose their business—for it was rumoured that Daillon was seeking to have the Neutrals trade directly with the French—sent messengers to the Neutrals denouncing the grey-robe as a sorcerer who had come to destroy them with disease and death. In this the Neutral medicine-men agreed, for they were jealous of the priest. The plot succeeded. The Indians turned from Daillon, closed their doors against him, stole his writing-desk, blanket, breviary, and trinkets, and even threatened him with death. But Brebeuf learned of his plight, probably from one of the Hurons who had raised the Neutrals against him, and sent a Frenchman and an Indian runner to escort him back to Toanche.
There was a break in the mission in 1627. Noue lacked the physical strength and the mental alertness essential to a missionary in these wilds. Finding himself totally unable to learn even the rudiments of the Huron language, he returned to Quebec, since he did not wish to be a burden to Brebeuf. For a year longer Brebeuf and the Recollet Daillon remained together at Toanche. But in the autumn of 1628 Daillon left Huronia. He was the last of the Recollets to minister to the Hurons.
Save for his French hired men, or engages, Brebeuf was now alone among the savage people. In this awful solitude he laboured with indomitable will, ministering to his flock, studying the Huron language, compiling a Huron dictionary and grammar, and translating the Catechism. The Indians soon saw in him a friend; and, when he passed through the village ringing his bell, old and young followed him to his cabin to hear him tell of God, of heaven the reward of the good, and of hell the eternal abode of the unrighteous. But he made few converts. The Indian idea of the future had nothing in common with the Christian idea. The Hurons, it is true, believed in a future state, but it was to be only a reflex of the present life, with the difference that it would give them complete freedom from work and suffering, abundant game, and an unfailing supply of tobacco.
Brebeuf’s one desire now was to live and die among this people. But the colony at Quebec was in a deplorable condition, as he knew, and he was not surprised when, early in the summer of 1629, he received a message requesting his presence there. Gathering his flock about him he told them that he must leave them. They had as a sign of affection given him the Huron name Echon. Now Christian and pagan alike cried out: ’You must not leave us, Echon!’ He told them that he had to obey the order of his superior, but that ’he would, with God’s grace, return and bring with him whatever was necessary to lead them to know God and serve Him.’ Then he bade them farewell; and, joining a flotilla of twelve canoes about to depart for Quebec, he and his engages set out. They arrived at Notre-Dame-des-Anges on the 17th of July, to find the Jesuits there in consternation at the rumoured report of the approach of a strong English fleet.
THE ADVENTURERS OF CANADA
Charles Lalemant, superior of the Jesuit mission, had no sooner landed on the shores of New France than he became convinced that the mission and the colony itself were doomed unless there should be a radical change in the government. The Caens were thoroughly selfish. While discouraging settlement and agriculture, they so inadequately provided for the support of the colony that the inhabitants often lacked food. But the gravest evil, in Lalemant’s mind, was the presence of so many Huguenots. The differences in belief were puzzling to the Indians, who naturally
The One Hundred Associates were granted in feudal tenure a wide domain—stretching, in intention at least, from Florida to the Arctic Circle and from Newfoundland to the sources of the St Lawrence, with a monopoly of the fur trade and other powers practically unlimited. For these vast privileges they covenanted to send to Canada from two to three hundred colonists in 1628 and four thousand within the next fifteen years; to lodge, feed, and support the colonists for three years; and then to give them cleared land and seed-grain. Most interesting, however, to the Jesuits and Recollets were the provisions in the charter of the new company to the effect that none but Catholics should be allowed to come to the colony, and that during fifteen years the company should defray the expenses of public worship and support three missionaries at each trading-post.
Now began the preparations on a great scale for the colonization of New France. By the spring of 1628 a fleet of eighteen or twenty ships belonging to the company assembled in the harbour of Dieppe, laden deep with food, building materials, implements, guns, and ammunition, including about one hundred and fifty pieces of ordnance for the forts at the trading-posts. Out into the English Channel one bright April day this fleet swept, under the command of Claude de Roquemont, one of the Associates. On the decks of the ships were men and women looking hopefully to the New World for fortune and happiness, and Recollets and Jesuits going to a field at this time deemed broad enough for the energies of both. Lalemant, who early in 1627 had followed Noyrot to France, was now returning to his mission with his hopes realized. A Catholic empire could be built up in the New World, the savages could be christianized, and the Iroquois, the greatest menace of the colony, if they would not listen to reason, could be subdued. The Dutch and the English on the Atlantic seaboard could be kept within bounds; possibly driven from the continent; then the whole of North America would be French and Catholic. Thus, perhaps, dreamed Lalemant and his companions, the Jesuit Paul Ragueneau and the Recollets Daniel Boursier and Francois Girard, as they paced the deck of the vessel that bore them westward.
But there was a lion in the path. The revolt of the Huguenots of La Rochelle had led to war between France and England, and this gave Sir William Alexander (Earl of Stirling) the chance he desired. In 1621 Alexander had received from James I a grant of Nova Scotia or Acadia, and this grant had been renewed later by Charles I. And it was Alexander’s ambition to drive the French not only from their posts in Acadia but from the whole of North America. To this end he formed a company under the name of the Adventurers of Canada. One of its leading members was Gervase Kirke, a wealthy London merchant, who had married a Huguenot maiden, Elizabeth Goudon or Gowding of Dieppe. Now when war broke out the Adventurers equipped three staunch privateers. Captain David Kirke, the eldest son of Gervase, commanded the flagship Abigail, and his brothers, Lewis and Thomas, the other two ships. The fleet, though small, was well suited for the work in hand. While making ready for sea the Adventurers learned of the much larger fleet of the One Hundred Associates; but they learned, too, that the vessels were chiefly transports, of little use in a sea-fight. David Kirke was, on the other hand, equipped to fight, and he bore letters of marque from the king of England authorizing him to capture and destroy any French vessels and ’utterly to drive away and root out the French settlements in Nova Scotia and Canada.’ The omens were evil for New France when, early in the spring of 1628, the Kirkes weighed anchor and shaped their course for her shores.
The English privateersmen arrived in the St Lawrence in July and took up their headquarters at Tadoussac. Already they had captured several Basque fishing or trading vessels. At Tadoussac they learned that at Cap Tourmente, thirty miles below Quebec, there was a small farm from which the garrison of Quebec drew supplies; and, as a first effort to ‘root out’ the French, David Kirke decided to loot and destroy this supply-post. A number of his crew went in a fishing-boat, took the place by surprise, captured its guard, plundered it, and killed the cattle. When his men returned from the raid, Kirke dispatched six of his Basque prisoners, with a woman and a little girl, to Quebec. By one of them he sent a letter to Champlain, demanding the surrender of the place in most polite terms. ‘By surrendering courteously,’ he wrote, ’you may be assured of all kind of contentment, both for your persons and your property, which, on the faith I have in Paradise, I will preserve as I would mine own, without the least portion in the world being diminished.’
Champlain replied to Kirke’s demand with equal courtesy, but bluntly refused to surrender. In his letter to the English captain he said that the fort was still provided with grain, maize, beans, and pease, which his soldiers loved as well as the finest corn in the world, and that by surrendering the fort in so good a condition, he should be unworthy to appear before his sovereign, and should deserve chastisement before God and men. As a matter of fact this was untrue, for the French at Quebec were starving and incapable of resistance. A single well-directed broadside would have brought Champlain’s ramshackle fort tumbling about his ears. His bold front, however, served its purpose for the time being; Kirke decided to postpone the attack on Quebec and to turn his attention to Roquemont’s fleet. He burned the captured vessels and plundered and destroyed the trading-post at Tadoussac, and then sailed seaward in search of the rich prize.
Kirke had three ships; the French had eighteen. Numerically Kirke was outclassed, but he knew that the enemy’s fleet was composed chiefly of small, weakly armed vessels. Learning that Roquemont was in the vicinity of Gaspe Bay, he steered thither under a favouring west wind. And as the Abigail rounded Gaspe Point the English captain saw the waters in the distance thickly dotted with sail. Dare he attack? Three to eighteen! It was hazarding much; and yet victory would bring its reward. Kirke was a cautious commander; and, desiring if possible to gain his end without loss, he summoned the French captain to surrender. In answer Roquemont boldly hoisted sail and beat out into the open. But despite this defiant attitude Roquemont must have feared the result of a battle. Many of his ships could give no assistance; even his largest were in no condition to fight. Most of the cannon were in the holds of the transports, and only a few of small calibre were mounted. His vessels, too,
Meanwhile Quebec was in grave peril. The colony faced starvation. There were no vessels on which Champlain with his garrison and the missionaries could leave New France even had he so desired, and there were slight means of resisting the savage Iroquois. Yet with dogged courage Champlain accepted the situation, hoping that relief would come before the ice formed in the St Lawrence.
But no relief was there to be this year for the anxious watchers at Quebec. On reaching England Lalemant had regained his liberty, and had hastened to France. He found that Father Noyrot had a vessel fitted out with supplies for the Canadian mission, and decided to return to Canada with Noyrot on this vessel. But nature as well as man seemed to be battling against the Jesuits. As they neared the Gulf of St Lawrence
Meanwhile the English Adventurers were full of enthusiasm over the achievement of the Kirkes. The work, however, was not yet finished. The French trading-posts in Acadia and on the St Lawrence must be utterly destroyed. By March 1629 a fleet much more powerful than the one of the previous year was ready for sea. It consisted of the Abigail, Admiral David Kirke, the William, Captain Lewis Kirke, the George, Captain Thomas Kirke, the Gervase, Captain Brewerton, two other ships, and three pinnaces. On the 25th of March it sailed from Gravesend, and on the 15th of June reached Gaspe Bay without mishap. All save two of the vessels were now sent to destroy the trading-posts on the shores of Acadia, while David Kirke, with the Abigail and a sister ship, sailed for Tadoussac, which was to be his headquarters during the summer. The raiders did their work and arrived at Tadoussac early in July. Kirke then detached the William and the George and sent them to Quebec under the pilotage of French traitors.
At Quebec during the winter the inhabitants had lived on pease, Indian corn, and eels which they obtained from the natives; and when spring came all who had sufficient strength had gone to the forest to gather acorns and nourishing roots. The gunpowder was almost exhausted, and the dilapidated fort could not be held by its sixteen half-starved defenders. Accordingly Champlain sent the Recollet Daillon, who had a knowledge of the English language, to negotiate with the Kirkes the terms of capitulation; and Quebec surrendered without a shot being fired. For the time being perished the hopes of the indomitable Champlain, who for twenty-one years had wrought and fought and prayed that Quebec might become the bulwark of French power in America. On the 22nd of July the fleur-de-lis was hauled down from Fort St Louis to give place to the cross of St George. The officers of the garrison were treated with consideration and allowed to keep their arms, clothing, and any peltry which they possessed. To the missionaries, however, the Calvinistic victors were not so generous. The priests were permitted to keep only their robes and books.
The terms of surrender were ratified by David Kirke at Tadoussac on the 19th of August, and on the following day a hundred and fifty English soldiers took possession of the town and fort. Such of the inhabitants as did not elect to remain in the colony and all the missionaries were marched on board the waiting vessels [Footnote: There were in all eighty-five persons in the colony, thirty of whom remained. The rest were taken prisoners to England; these included the Jesuit fathers Ennemond Masse, Anne de Noue, and Jean de Brebeuf; the Recollet fathers Joseph Le Caron and Joseph de la Roche de Daillon; and several lay brothers of both orders.] and taken to Tadoussac, where they remained for some weeks while the English were making ready for the home voyage.
There were many Huguenots serving under the Kirkes, and the Huguenots, as we have seen, were bitterly hostile to the Jesuits. On the voyage to England Brebeuf, Noue, and Masse had to bear insult and harsh treatment from men of their own race, but of another faith. And they bore it bravely, confident that God in His good time would restore them to their chosen field of labour.
The vessels reached Plymouth on the 20th of November, to learn that the capture of Quebec had taken place in time of peace. The Convention of Susa had ended the war between France and England on April 24, 1629; thus the achievement of the Adventurers was wasted. Three years later, by the Treaty of St Germain-en-Laye, the Adventurers were forced not only to restore the posts captured in North America, but to pay a sum to the French for the property seized at Quebec.
Towards the end of November the missionaries, both Recollets and Jesuits, left the English fleet at Dover roads, and proceeded to their various colleges in France, patiently to await the time when they should be permitted to return to Canada.
THE RETURN TO HURONIA
After the Treaty of St Germain-en-Laye, which restored to France all the posts in America won by the Adventurers of Canada, the French king took steps to repossess Quebec. But, by way of compensation to the Caens for their losses in the war, Emery de Caen was commissioned to take over the post from the Kirkes and hold it for one year, with trading rights. Accordingly, in April 1632, Caen sailed from Honfleur; and he carried a dispatch under the seal of Charles I, king of England, addressed to Lewis Kirke at Quebec, commanding him to surrender the captured fort.
On the 5th of July the few French inhabitants at Quebec broke out into wild cries of joy as they saw Caen’s ship approaching under full sail, at its peak the white flag sprinkled with golden lilies; and when they learned that the vessel brought two Jesuit fathers, their hearts swelled with inexpressible rapture. During the three years of English possession the Catholics had been without priests, and they hungered for their accustomed forms of worship. The priests now arriving were Paul Le Jeune, the new superior-general, and Anne de Noue, with a lay brother, Gilbert Burel. They hastened ashore; and were followed by the inhabitants to the home of the widow Hebert, the only substantial residence in the colony, where, in the ceremony of the Mass, they celebrated the renewal of the Canadian mission.
Quebec was in a sad condition. The English, knowing of the negotiations for its return to the French, had left the ground uncultivated and the buildings in ruins. The missionaries found the residence of Notre-Dame-des-Anges plundered and partly destroyed; but they went to work cheerfully to restore it, and before autumn it was quite habitable. Meanwhile Le Jeune had begun his labours tentatively as a teacher. His pupils were an Indian lad and a little negro, the latter a present from the English to Madame Hebert. The class grew larger; during the winter a score of children answered the call of Le Jeune’s bell, and sat at his feet learning the Credo, the Ave, and the Paternoster, which he had translated into Algonquin rhymes. In order to learn the Indian language Le Jeune was himself a pupil, his teacher a Montagnais named Pierre, a worthless wretch who had been in France and had learned some French. Le Jeune passed the winter of 1632-33 in teaching, studying, and ministering to the inhabitants at the trading-post. Save for a short period, he had the companionship of Noue, a devoted missionary, eager to play his part in the field, but, as we have seen, without the necessary vigour of mind or body. Though Noue had failed in Huronia, he thought he might succeed on the St Lawrence. And in the autumn, just as the first snows were beginning to whiten the ground, when a band of friendly Montagnais, encamped near the residence, invited him to their wintering grounds, he bade farewell to Le Jeune and vanished with the Indians into the northern forest. But the rigours of the wigwams were too much for him, and after three weeks he returned to Notre-Dame-des-Anges in an exhausted condition.
In the meantime the Hundred Associates were getting ready to enter into the enjoyment of their Canadian domain, but now without the hopeful ardour and exalted purpose which had characterized their first ill-fated expedition. The guiding hand in the revival of the colony, under the feudal suzerainty of Richelieu’s company, was Champlain. He was appointed on March 1, 1633, lieutenant-general in New France, ’with jurisdiction throughout all the extent of the St Lawrence and other rivers.’ Twenty-three days later he sailed from Dieppe with three armed ships, the St Pierre, the St Jean, and the Don de Dieu. These ships carried two hundred persons, among them the Jesuit fathers Jean de Brebeuf and Ennemond Masse. At Cape Breton they were joined by two more Jesuits, Antoine Daniel and Ambroise Davost, who had gone there the year before.
There were no Recollets in the company, for, greatly to their disappointment, the Recollets were now barred from the colony. For this the Jesuits have been unjustly blamed. It was, however, wholly due to the policy of the Hundred Associates. At one of their meetings Jean de Lauzon, the president, afterwards a governor of New France, formally protested against the return of the Recollets. The Associates desired to economize, and did not wish to support two religious orders in the colony; and so the mendicant Recollets were excluded.
The vessels appeared at Quebec on the 23rd of May, and landed their passengers amid shouts of welcome from the settlers, soldiers, and Indians. Presently Champlain’s lieutenant, Duplessis-Bochart, on behalf of the Hundred Associates, received the keys of the fort and habitation from Emery de Caen; and at that moment ended the regime of the Huguenot traders in Canada. Thenceforth, whether for good or for evil, New France was to be Catholic.
During the English occupation the Indians had almost ceased to visit Quebec. At first the fickle savages had welcomed the invaders, for they ever favoured a winner, and had thronged about the fort, expecting presents galore from the strong people who had ousted the French. But instead of presents the English gave them only kicks and curses; and so they held aloof. Now, however, on hearing that Champlain had returned, the Indian dwellers along the Ottawa river and in Huronia flocked to the post. Hardly more than two months after his arrival, a fleet of a hundred and forty canoes, with about seven hundred Indians, swept with the ebb tide to the base of the rock that frowned above the habitation and the dilapidated warehouses. Drawing their heavily laden craft ashore, the chiefs greeted Champlain and proceeded to set up their camp-huts on the strand. Among them were many warriors, now grown old, who had been with him in the attack on the Iroquois in 1615. There were some, too, who had listened to the teaching of Brebeuf. For the eager missionaries this was an opportunity not to be lost; and, resolved to go up with the Hurons, who willingly assented, Brebeuf, Daniel, and Davost got ready for the journey to Huronia. On the eve of departure the three missionaries brought their packs to the strand, and lodged for the night in the traders’ storehouse, hard by the Indian encampment. But they had an enemy abroad. All in this party were not Hurons; some were Ottawas from Allumette Island, under a one-eyed chief, Le Borgne. This wily redskin wished for trouble between the Hurons and the French, in order that his tribe might get a monopoly of the Ottawa route, and carry all the goods from the nations above down to the St Lawrence. At this time an Algonquin of La Petite Nation, a tribe living south of Allumette Island, was held at Quebec for murdering a Frenchman. His friends were seeking his release; but Champlain deemed his execution necessary as a lesson to the Indians. Le Borgne rose to the occasion. He went among the Hurons, urging them to refuse passage to the Jesuits, warning them that, since Champlain would not pardon the Algonquin, it would be dangerous to take the black-robes with them. The angry tribesmen of the murderer would surely lay in wait for the canoes, the black-robes would be slain or made prisoners, and there would be war on the Hurons too. The argument was effective; Champlain would not release the prisoner; and the Jesuits were forced to return to their abode, while the Indians embarked and disappeared.
There were now six fathers at Notre-Dame-des-Anges. They kept incessantly active, improving their residence, cultivating the soil, studying the Indian languages, and ministering to the settlers and to the red men who had pitched their wigwams along the St Charles and the St Lawrence in the vicinity of Quebec. In spite of Noue’s failure among the Montagnais, the courageous Le Jeune resolved personally to study the Indian problem at first hand; and in the autumn of 1633 he joined a company of redskins going to their hunting ground on the upper St John. During five months among these savages he suffered from ‘cold, heat, smoke, and dogs,’ and bore in silence the foul language of a medicine-man who made the missionary’s person and teachings subjects of mirth. At times, too, he was on the verge of death from hunger. Early in the spring he returned to Quebec, after having narrowly escaped drowning as he Crossed the ice-laden St Lawrence in a frail canoe. He had made no converts; but he had gained valuable experience. It was now more evident than ever that among the roving Algonquins the mission could make little progress.
In 1634 the Hurons visited the colony in small numbers, for Iroquois scalping parties haunted the trails, and a pestilence had played havoc in the Huron villages. Those who came to trade this year gathered at Three Rivers; and thither went Brebeuf, Daniel, and Davost to seek once more a passage to Huronia. The Indians at first stolidly refused to take them; but at length, after a liberal distribution of presents, the three priests and four engages were permitted to embark, each priest in a separate canoe. They had the usual rough experiences. Davost and Daniel, who had no acquaintance with the Huron language, fared worse than Brebeuf. Davost was abandoned among the Ottawas of Allumette Island, his baggage plundered and his books and papers thrown into the river. Daniel, too, was deserted by his savage conductors. Both, however, found means to continue the journey. When Brebeuf reached Otouacha, on the 5th of August, his Indian guides, in haste to get to their villages, suddenly vanished into the forest. But he knew the spot well; Toanche, his old mission, was but a short distance away. Thither he hurried, only to find the village in ruins. Nothing remained of the cabin in which he had spent three years but the charred poles of the framework. A well-worn path leading through the forest told him that a village could not be far distant, and he followed this trail till he came to a cluster of cabins. This was a new village, Teandeouiata, to which the inhabitants of his old Toanche had moved. It was twilight as the Indians caught sight of the stalwart, black-robed figure emerging from the forest, and the shout went up, ‘Echon has come again!’ Presently all the inhabitants were about him shouting and gesticulating for joy.
Daniel and Davost arrived during the month, emaciated and exhausted, but rejoicing. The missionaries found shelter in the spacious cabin of a hospitable Huron, Awandoay, where they remained until the 19th of September. Meanwhile they had selected the village of Ihonatiria, a short distance away near the northern extremity of the peninsula, as a centre for the mission. There a cabin was quickly erected, the men of the town of Oenrio vying with the men of Teandeouiata in the task. This residence, called by Brebeuf St Joseph, was thirty-five feet long and twenty wide and contained a storehouse, a living-room and school, and a chapel.
For three years this humble abode was to be the headquarters of the missionaries in Huronia. During the first year of the mission all went smoothly. To the Indians the fathers were medicine-men of extraordinary powers; moreover, the hired men who came with them had arquebuses that would be valuable in case of attack in force by the Iroquois. Objects which the missionaries possessed inspired awe in the savages; a handmill for grinding corn, a clock, a magnifying lens, and a picture of the Last Judgment were supposed to be okies of the white man. For a time eager audiences crowded the little cabin. Few converts were made, however; for the present the savages were too firmly wedded to their customs and superstitions to accept the new okies. Unfortunately, in 1635, a drought smote the land, and the medicine-men used this calamity to discredit their rivals the black-robes. According to these fakirs, it was the red cross on the Jesuit chapel which frightened away the bird of thunder and caused the drought. Brebeuf, to disarm suspicion, had the cross painted white; yet the thunder-bird still held aloof, and the incantations and drummings of the sorcerers availed not to bring rain. Brebeuf then advised the Indians to try the effect of an appeal to his God. In despair they consented. A procession was formed and the priests said Masses and prayers. The result was dramatic. Almost immediately a sudden refreshing rain deluged the ground; the crops were saved and the medicine-men humiliated. Still, no perceptible religious progress was made. Though children came to the residence to be instructed by the black-robes, they were attracted more by the ‘beads, raisins, and prunes’ which they received as inducements to come back than by the lessons in Christian truth. For the most part the elders listened attentively to the missionaries, but to the question of laying aside their superstitions and accepting Christianity they replied: ’It is good for the French; but we are another people, with different customs.’
Winter was the season of greatest trial. The cabins, crowded to suffocation, were made the scenes of savage mirth and feasting. The Hurons were inveterate gamblers; sometimes village would challenge village; and, as the game progressed, night would be made hideous with the beating of drums and the hilarious shouts of the spectators. Feasts were frequent, since any occasion afforded an excuse for one, and all feasts were accompanied by gluttony and uproar. The Dream Feast was a maniacal performance. It was agreed upon in a solemn council of the chiefs and was made the occasion of great licence. The guests would rush about the village feigning madness, scattering fire-brands, shouting, leaping, smiting with impunity any they encountered. Each one would seek some object which he pretended to have learned about in a dream. Only when this object was found would calmness follow; if it was not found, there would be deepest despair. Feasts, too, were prescribed by the medicine-men as cures for sickness; the healthy, not the sick, would take the medicine, and would take it till they were gorged. To leave a scrap of food on their platters might mean the death of the patient.
Only one of the social customs of the Hurons had any real religious significance. Every ten or twelve years the great Feast of the Dead took place. It was the custom of the Hurons either to place the dead in the earth, covering them with rude huts, or, more commonly, on elevated platforms. The bodies rested till the allotted time for final interment came round. Then at some central point an immense pit would be dug as a common grave. In 1636 a Feast of the Dead was held at Ossossane. To this place, from the various villages of the Bear clan, Indians came trooping, wailing mournful funeral songs as they bore the recently dead on litters, or the carefully prepared bones of their departed relatives in parcels slung over their shoulders. All converged on the village of Ossossane, where a pit ten feet deep by thirty feet wide had been dug. There on scaffolds about the pit they placed the bodies and bones, carefully wrapped in furs and covered with bark. The assembled mourners then gave themselves up to feasting and games, as a prelude to the final act of this drama of death. They lined the pit with costly furs and in the centre placed kettles, household goods, and weapons for the chase, all these, like the bodies and bones, supposed to be indwelt by spirits. They laid the dead bodies in rows on the floor of the pit, and threw the bundles of bones to Indians stationed within, who arranged the remains in their proper places.
The Jesuits were witnesses of this weird ceremony. They saw the naked Indians going about their task in the pit in the glare of torches, like veritable imps of hell. It was a discouraging scene. But a greater trial than the Feast of the Dead was in store for them. By a pestilence, a severe form of dysentery, Ihonatiria was almost denuded of its population. In consequence the priests, who had now been reinforced by the arrival of Fathers Francois Le Mercier, Pierre Pijart, Pierre Chastelain, Isaac Jogues, and Charles Garnier, had to seek a more populous centre as headquarters for their mission in Huronia. The chiefs of Oenrio invited the Jesuits to their village. But Brebeuf’s demands were heavy. They should believe in God; keep His commandments; abjure their faith in dreams; take one wife and be true to her; renounce their assemblies of debauchery; eat no human flesh; never give feasts to demons; and make a vow that if God would deliver them from the pest they would build a chapel to offer Him thanksgiving and praise. They were ready to make the vow regarding the chapel, but the other conditions were too severe—the pest was preferable. And so the Jesuits turned to Ossossane, where the people agreed to accept these conditions.
Formerly Ossossane had been situated on an elevated piece of ground on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay; but the village had been moved inland and, under the direction of the French, a rectangular wall of posts ten or twelve feet high had been built around it. At opposite angles of the wall two towers guarded the sides. A platform extended round the entire wall, from which the defenders could hurl stones on the heads of an attacking party, or could pour water to extinguish the blaze if an enemy succeeded in setting fire to the palisades.
Here the Jesuits were to live for two years. Outside the walls of the town a commodious cabin seventy feet long was built for them; and on June 5, 1637, in the part of the cabin consecrated as a chapel, Father Pijart celebrated Mass. The residence was named La Conception de Notre Dame. For a wilderness church it was a marvel. At the entrance were green boughs adorned with tinsel; pictures hung on the walls; crucifixes, vessels, and ornaments of shining metal ornamented the chapel. From far and near Indians flocked to see this wondrous edifice. Best of all, a leading chief offered himself for baptism. The future looked promising; the Indians showed the fathers ‘much affection’ and a rich harvest of souls seemed about to be garnered.
But all this was to be changed. A hunch-backed, ogre-like medicine-man who claimed to be of miraculous birth came to Ossossane. The pest was still raging, and he laid the blame for it at the door of the missionaries. According to him their prayers and litanies were charms and incantations; their pictures were evil okies. It was, he declared, by the influence of these and other agencies that they had spread the pestilence
On October 28, 1637, Brebeuf prepared, as he thought, a farewell letter to his friends at Quebec. He and the four other missionaries at Ossossane signed it and sent it to the superior-general Le Jeune. It opens with the words: ’We are perhaps on the point of shedding our blood and sacrificing our lives in the service of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.’ There is no note of fear in this letter. ‘If,’ it runs, ’you should hear that God has crowned our labours, or rather our desires, with martyrdom, return thanks to Him, for it is for Him we wish to live and die.’ Such was the spirit of these bearers of the Cross. Their humility, courage, and disinterestedness kept them for the present from ‘the crown of martyrdom.’ But the hunch-backed sorcerer continued his agitation and the storm once more broke over their heads. To show the Indians that he knew their hearts, and that he could meet death with the stoical courage of one of their own chiefs, Brebeuf summoned them to a festin d’adieua farewell feast—and while his guests, in ominous silence, ate the portions set before them he addressed them in burning words. He was about to die, but before he departed this life he would warn them of the life to come. Their resistance to Christ’s message, their abuse and persecution of Christ’s messengers, would have to be atoned for in eternity. His actions and words took effect.
Though the sorcerer still schemed, the Jesuits went about their labours unscathed, preaching to the unregenerate, visiting and caring for the sick, and baptizing the dying.
For a year after the establishing of the mission of La Conception at Ossossane three fathers—Pierre Chastelain, Pierre Pijart, and Isaac Jogues—ministered to the remnant of the Hurons at Ihonatiria. But the pest was still raging, and by the spring of 1638 Ihonatiria was little more than a village of empty wigwams. It was useless to remain longer at this spot, and the missionaries looked about for another field for their energies. The town of Teanaostaiae, the largest town of the clan of the Cord, about fifteen miles north of the present town of Barrie, seemed suitable for a central mission. Brebeuf visited the place, talked with the inhabitants, met the council of the nation, and won its consent to establish a residence. In June the mission of St Joseph was moved to Teanaostaiae. Before the end of the summer Jerome Lalemant, who for the next eight years was to be the superior of the Huron mission, Simon Le Moyne, and Francois du Peron arrived in Huronia. There was now a new distribution of the mission forces, five priests under Lalemant’s immediate leadership taking up their abode at Ossossane, while three in charge of Brebeuf settled at Teanaostaiae.
So far Brebeuf had been the recognized leader in Huronia. He had been nobly supported by his brother priests and his hired men. The residences at both Ihonatiria and Ossossane had been kept well supplied with food, even better than many of the Indian households. Game was scarce in Huronia, but the fathers had among their engages an expert hunter, Francois Petit-Pre, ever roaming the forest and the shores in search of game to give variety to their table. Robert Le Coq, a devoted engage, later a donne, [Footnote: An unpaid, voluntary assistant whose only remuneration was food and clothing, care during illness, and support in old age.] was their ‘negotiator’ or business man. It was Le Coq who made the yearly trips to Quebec for supplies, and who with infinite labour brought many heavy burdens over the difficult trails. Brebeuf had proved himself essentially an enthusiast for souls, a mystic, a spirit craving the crown of martyrdom, yet withal a man of great tact, and a powerful exemplar to his fellow-priests. Lalemant, while lacking Brebeuf’s dominating enthusiasm, was a more practical man, with great organizing ability. After viewing the wide and dangerous field to be administered, the new superior decided to concentrate the separate missions into one stronghold of the faith. The site he chose was remote from any of the centres of Indian population. It was on the eastern bank of the river Wye between Mud Lake and Matchedash Bay. Here the missionaries built a strong rectangular fort with walls of stone surmounted by palisades and with bastions at each corner. The interior buildings—a chapel, a hospital, and dwellings for the missionaries and the engages—although of wood, were supported on foundations of stone and cement.
The new mission-house they named Ste Marie; and from this central station the missionaries went forth in pairs to the farthest parts of Huronia and beyond. The missions to the Petuns and the Neutrals, however, ended in failure. The Petuns hailed Garnier and Jogues as the Famine and the Pest and the priests barely escaped with their lives. In the following year (1640), when Brebeuf and Chaumonot went among the Neutrals, they found Huron emissaries there inciting the Neutrals to kill the priests. These Hurons, while themselves fearing to murder the powerful okies of the French, as they regarded the black-robes, desired that the Neutrals should put them to death. But no such tragedy found place as yet. After visiting nineteen towns, meeting everywhere maledictions and threats, Brebeuf and Chaumonot returned to Ste Marie.
The good work went on, notwithstanding trials and reverses. The story of the Cross was being carried even to the Algonquins and Nipissings of the upper Ottawa and Georgian Bay. At Ste Marie neophytes gathered in numbers, and here there were no medicine-men, ‘satellites of Satan,’ to seduce them from their vows. But, just at the time when the harvest seemed richest in promise, a cloud appeared on the horizon—a forerunner of darker clouds, heavy with calamity, and of the storm which was to bring destruction to the Huron people.
Meanwhile, how fared the mission at Quebec? Champlain had died on Christmas Day 1635, and the Jesuits had lost a staunch friend and never-failing protector. His successor, however, was Charles Huault de Montmagny, a knight of Malta, a man of devout character, thoroughly in sympathy with the missions. Under Montmagny’s rule New France became as austere as Puritan New England.
The Relations of the Jesuits, sent yearly to France and published and widely read, had roused intense enthusiasm among wealthy and pious men and women. Thus Noel Brulart, Chevalier de Sillery, was moved to take an interest in the Canadian mission and to endow a home for Christian Indians. Le Jeune chose a site on the bank of the St Lawrence, four miles above Quebec; and in 1637 the Sillery establishment was erected there, consisting of a chapel, a mission-house, and an infirmary, all within strong palisades.
About the same time two wealthy enthusiasts, the Duchesse d’Aiguillon, a niece of Cardinal Richelieu, and Madame de la Peltrie, were likewise inspired by the Relations to undertake charitable work in New France. These ladies founded, respectively, the Hotel-Dieu of Quebec and the Ursuline Convent. In 1639 Madame de la Peltrie, who had given herself as well as her purse to the work, arrived in Quebec, accompanied by Mother Marie de I’Incarnation and two other Ursulines and three Augustinian nuns. The Ursulines at once began their labours as teachers with six Indian pupils. But a plague of small-pox was raging in the colony, and for the first year or two after their arrival these heroic women had to aid the sisters of the Hotel-Dieu in fighting the pest.
The Jesuits themselves were busy with the education of the Indians and had already established a college and seminary for the instruction of young converts. The colony, however, was not growing. The Hundred Associates had not carried out the terms of their charter. There were less than four hundred settlers in the whole of New France, and only some three hundred soldiers to guard the settlements from attack. Canada as yet was little more than a mission; and such it was to remain for another twenty and more years.
We have observed that the Hurons were at war with the Five Nations and that Iroquois scalping parties haunted the river routes and the trails to waylay Huron canoemen and cut off hunters and stragglers from their villages. When or how the feud began, between the Iroquois on the one side and the Hurons and Algonquins on the other, no man can tell. It antedated Champlain; and, as we have seen, he had involved the French in it. There were, no doubt, many bloody encounters of which history furnishes no record. At first the warriors had fought on equal terms, the weapons of all being the bow and arrow, the tomahawk, the knife, and the war-club. But now the Iroquois had firearms, procured from the Dutch of the Hudson, and were skilled in the use of the musket, which gave them a great advantage over their Huron and Algonquin foes.
On the south-east frontier of Huronia, about four miles from Orillia, stood a town of the clan of the Rock, Contarea, a ‘main bulwark of the country.’ The inhabitants were pagans who had resisted the missionaries, and refused them permission to build a chapel, not even deigning to listen to their appeals. In the early summer of 1642 the people of Contarea were living in fancied security; and when runners brought word that in the forests to the east a large force of Iroquois were encamped, the Contarean warriors felt confident that, from behind their strong palisades, they could resist any attack. No Iroquois appeared; and, believing the rumour false, many of the warriors left the town for the accustomed hunting and fishing grounds. Suddenly, early on a June morning, the sleepy guards were roused by savage yells. The Iroquois were upon them. The alarm rang out; the towers were manned, and the palisades lined with defenders. But in vain. Arrows and bullets swept towers and palisades, and through breaches made in the walls in rushed a horde of bloodthirsty demons. In a few minutes all was over; the town became a shambles; young and old fell beneath the tomahawks of the infuriated invaders. Then the torch! And the Iroquois hied them back in triumph to their homes by the Mohawk, exulting in this first effective blow at the enemy in his own country.
When news arrived of the destruction of Contarea, there was wild alarm in the mission towns. But it was no part of the Iroquois plan to attack at once the other Huron strongholds. Huronia could wait until the tribes of the St Lawrence and the Ottawa, allies of the Hurons, should be destroyed. Then the Five Nations could concentrate their forces on the Hurons.
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.
In 1647 there was no communication between Ste Marie and Quebec. Owing to the danger from Iroquois along the route, the annual canoe-fleet did not go down, although a small party of Hurons, it seems, went as far as Ville Marie. The necessities of the mission were, however, urgent, and in the spring of the following year Father Bressani set out with a strong contingent of two hundred and fifty Huron warriors, fully half of whom were Christians. No sooner had this expedition begun its descent of the Ottawa than an Iroquois war-party, which had wintered near Lake Nipissing, stole southward through the forests towards Huronia.
Contarea had been destroyed. The dangerous position of St Jean-Baptiste, situated near the site of Cahiague on Lake Simcoe, whence Champlain had set out against the Iroquois in 1615, had led the Jesuits to abandon it. St Joseph or Teanaostaiae, with about two thousand inhabitants, was therefore the frontier town on the south-east of Huronia. Father Daniel, in charge of this station, had just returned from his annual eight-day retreat at Ste Marie. For four years he had laboured in this mission; and, though his flock had been a stiff-necked one, his work had brought its reward. On the 4th of July his little chapel was crowded for the celebration of early Mass, and as he gazed at the congregation of his converts his spirit rejoiced within him. He had just finished the service, when shrill through the morning air rang the cry: ‘The Iroquois! The Iroquois!’ Rushing out he saw the foe already hacking at the palisades and many of the defenders falling beneath a storm of arrows and bullets. His first thought for his flock, he hurried back into the chapel, beseeching them to save themselves. They pressed about him, praying for baptism and for absolution; and, as they held to him appealing hands, he dipped his handkerchief in the font and baptized the crowd by aspersion. Then he boldly strode to the door of his chapel and faced the enemy. For a moment the savage fiends hesitated before the stern-eyed priest standing in his vestments, protecting, as it seemed, the flock that cowered behind him; but only for a moment. Yelling defiance at the white medicine-man, they directed their weapons against him; and this dauntless soldier of the Cross received the crown of martyrdom which he had prayed might be his. His slayers fell upon his body, stripped it of clothing, mutilated it, and cast it into the now flaming chapel, a fitting funeral pyre for the first martyr of the Huron mission. The entire village was given to the flames, and the smoke of the burning cabins and palisades rolled over the forest. A small village not far away, on the trail to Ossossane, shared the same fate. The slaughter glutted the ferocity of the Iroquois for the time being; and, with some seven hundred prisoners, they stole back to their villages south of Lake Ontario.
After this calamity the pall of a great fear hung over the Hurons. Paralysed and inert, the warriors took no steps to defend the country against the Iroquois peril. In spite of the exhortations of the Jesuits, they lay idle in their wigwams or hunted in the forest, dejectedly awaiting their doom.
An Iroquois war-party twelve hundred strong spent the winter of 1648-49 on the upper Ottawa; and as the snows began to melt under the thaws of spring these insatiable slayers of men directed their steps towards Huronia. The frontier village on the east was now St Ignace, on the west of the Sturgeon river, about seven miles from Ste Marie. It was strongly fortified and formed a part of a mission of the same name, under the care of Brebeuf and Father Gabriel Lalemant, a nephew of Jerome Lalemant. About a league distant, midway to Ste Marie, stood St Louis, another town of the mission, where the two fathers lived. On the 16th of March the inhabitants of St Ignace had no thought of impending disaster. The Iroquois might be on the war-path, but they would not come while yet ice held the rivers and snow lay in the forests. But that morning, just as the horizon began to glow with the first colours of the dawn, the sleeping Hurons woke to the sound of the dreaded war-whoop. The Iroquois devils had breached the walls. Three Hurons escaped, dashed along the forest trail to St Louis, roused the village, and then fled for Ste Marie, followed by the women and children and those too feeble to fight. There were in St Louis only about eighty warriors, but, not knowing the strength of the invaders, they determined to fight. The Hurons begged Brebeuf and Lalemant to fly to Ste Marie; but they refused to stir. In the hour of danger and death they must remain with their flock, to sustain the warriors in the battle and to give the last rites of the Church to the wounded and dying.
Having made short work of St Ignace, the Iroquois came battering at the walls of St Louis before sunrise. The Hurons resisted stubbornly; but the assailants outnumbered them ten to one, and soon hacked a way through the palisades and captured all the defenders remaining alive, among them Brebeuf and Lalemant.
The Iroquois bound Brebeuf and Lalemant and led them back to St Ignace, beating them as they went. There they stripped the two priests and tied them to stakes. Brebeuf knew that his hour had come. Him the savages made the special object of their diabolical cruelty. And, standing at the stake amid his yelling tormentors, he bequeathed to the world an example of fortitude sublime, unsurpassed, and unsurpassable. Neither by look nor cry nor movement did he give sign of the agony he was suffering. To the reviling and abuse of the fiends he replied with words warning them of the judgment to come. They poured boiling water on his head in derision of baptism; they hung red-hot axes about his naked shoulders; they made a belt of pitch and resin and placed it about his body and set it on fire. By every conceivable means the red devils strove to force him to cry for mercy. But not a sound of pain could they wring from him. At last, after four hours of this torture, a chief cut out his heart, and the noble servant of God quitted the scene of his earthly labours.
Lalemant, a man of gentle, refined character, as delicate as Brebeuf was robust, also endured the torture. But the savages administered it to him with a refinement of cruelty, and kept him alive for fourteen hours. Then at last he, too, entered into his rest.
Ten years before Brebeuf had made a vow to Christ: ’Never to shrink from martyrdom if, in Your mercy, You deem me worthy of so great a privilege. Henceforth, I will never avoid any opportunity that presents itself of dying for You, but will accept martyrdom with delight, provided that, by so doing, I can add to Your glory. From this day, my Lord Jesus Christ, I cheerfully yield unto You my life, with the hope that You will grant me the grace to die for You, since You have deigned to die for me. Grant me, O Lord, so to live, that You may deem me worthy to die a martyr’s death Thus my Lord, I take Your chalice, and call upon Your name. Jesu! Jesu! Jesu!’ How nobly this vow was kept.
THE DISPERSION OF THE HURONS
Meanwhile at Ste Marie Ragueneau and his companions learned from Huron fugitives of the fate of their comrades; and waited, hourly expecting to be attacked. The priests were attended by about twoscore armed Frenchmen. All day and all night the anxious fathers prayed and stood on guard. In the morning three hundred Huron warriors came to their relief, bringing the welcome news that the Hurons were assembling in force to give battle to the invaders. These Hurons were just in time to fall in with a party of Iroquois, already on the way to Ste Marie. An encounter in the woods followed. At first some of the Hurons were driven back; but straight-away others of their band rushed to the rescue; and the Iroquois in turn ran for shelter behind the shattered palisades of St Louis. The Hurons followed, and finally put the enemy to rout and remained in possession of the place.
Now followed an Indian battle of almost unparalleled ferocity. Never did Huron warriors fight better than in this conflict at the death-hour of their nation. Against the Hurons within the palisades came the Iroquois in force from St Ignace. All day long, in and about the walls of St Louis, the battle raged; and when night fell only twenty wounded and helpless Hurons remained to continue the resistance. In the gathering darkness the Iroquois rushed in and with tomahawk and knife dispatched the remnant of the band.
But the Iroquois had no mind for further fighting, and did not attack Ste Marie. They mustered their Huron captives—old men, women, and children—tied them to stakes in the cabins of St Ignace, and set fire to the village. And, after being entertained to their satisfaction by the cries of agony which arose from their victims in the blazing cabins, they made their way southward through the forests of Huronia and disappeared.
Panic reigned throughout Huronia. After burning fifteen villages, lest they should serve as a shelter for the Iroquois, the Hurons scattered far and wide. Some fled to Ste Marie, some toiled through the snows of spring to the villages of the Petuns, some fled to the Neutrals and Eries, some to the Algonquin tribes of the north and west, and some even sought adoption among the Iroquois. Ste Marie stood alone, like a shepherd without sheep: mission villages, chapels, residences, flocks—all were gone. The work of over twenty years was destroyed. Sick at heart, Ragueneau looked about him for a new situation, a spot that might serve as a centre for his band of devoted missionaries as they toiled among the wanderers by lake and river and in the depths of the northern forest.
He first thought of Isle Ste Marie (Manitoulin Island) as the safest place for the headquarters of a new mission, but finally decided to go to Isle St Joseph (Christian Island), just off Huronia to the north. There, on the bay that indents the south-east corner of the island, he directed that land should be cleared for the building. The work of evacuating Ste Marie began early in May, and on the 15th of the month the buildings were set on fire. The valuables of the mission were placed in a large boat and on rafts; and, with heavy hearts, the fathers and their helpers went aboard for the journey to their new home twenty miles away.
The new Ste Marie which the Jesuits built on Isle St Joseph was in the nature of a strong fort. Its walls were of stone and cement, fourteen feet high and loopholed. At each corner there was a protecting bastion, and the entire structure was surrounded by a deep moat. It was practically impregnable against Indian attack, for it could not be undermined, set on fire, or taken by assault. A handful of men could hold it against a host of Iroquois.
About the sheltering walls of Ste Marie the Indians gathered, to the number of seven or eight thousand by the autumn of 1649. Here the missionaries continued the good work. The only outposts now were among the Algonquins along the shore of Georgian Bay, and the Petun missions of St Mathias, St Matthieu, and St Jean. But the Petuns were presently to share the fate of the Hurons; and Garnier and Chabanel, who were stationed at St Jean, were to perish as had Daniel, Brebeuf, and Lalemant.
During the autumn Ragueneau learned that a large body of Iroquois were working their way westward towards St Jean. He sent runners to the threatened town, and ordered Chabanel to return to Ste Marie and warned Garnier to be on his guard. On the 5th of December Chabanel set out for Ste Marie with some Petun Hurons, and Garnier was left alone at St Jean. Two days later, while the warriors were out searching for their elusive foes, a band of Senecas and Mohawks swept upon the town, broke through the defences, and proceeded to butcher the inhabitants. Garnier fell with
In a sense Chabanel was less fortunate than Garnier. On the day following the massacre of St Jean he was hastening along the well-beaten trail towards Ste Marie, when the sound of Iroquois war-cries in the distance alarmed his guides, and all deserted him save one. This one did worse, for he slew the priest and cast his body into the Nottawasaga river. This murderer, an apostate Huron, afterwards confessed the crime, declaring that he had committed it because nothing but misfortune had befallen him ever since he and his family had embraced Christianity.
For some months after the death of Garnier and Chabanel the Jesuits maintained the mission of St Mathias among the Petuns in the Blue Hills. Here Father Adrien Greslon laboured until January 1650, and Father Leonard Garreau until the following spring. Garreau was then recalled, leaving not a missionary on the mainland in the Huron or the Petun country.
The French and Indians on Isle St Joseph, though safe from attack, were really prisoners on the island. Mohawks and Senecas remained in the forests near by, ready to pounce on any who ventured to the mainland. When winter bridged with ice the channel between the island and the main shore, it was necessary for the soldiers of the mission to stand incessantly on guard. And now another enemy than the Iroquois stalked among the fugitives. The fathers had abundant food for themselves and their assistants; but the Hurons, in their hurried flight, had made no provision for the winter. The famishing hordes subsisted on acorns and roots, and even greedily devoured the dead bodies of dogs and foxes. Disease joined forces with famine, and by spring fully half the Hurons at Ste Marie had perished. Some fishing and hunting parties left the island in search of food, but few returned.
It soon appeared that for the Hurons to remain on the island meant extinction. Two of the leading chiefs waited on Father Ragueneau and begged him to move the remnant of their people to Quebec, where under the sheltering walls of the fortress they might keep together as a people. It was a bitter draught for the Jesuits; but there was no other course. They made ready for the migration; and on the 10th of June (1650) the thirteen priests and four lay brothers of the mission, with their donnes, hired men, and soldiers, in all sixty French, and about three hundred Hurons, entered canoes and headed for the French River. On their way down the Ottawa they met Father Bressani, who had gone to Quebec in the previous autumn for supplies, and who now joined the retreating party. And on the 28th of July, after a journey of fifty days, all arrived safely at the capital of New France.
[Footnote: For a time the Hurons encamped in the vicinity of the Hotel-Dieu. In the spring of 1651 they moved to the island of Orleans. Five years later their settlement was raided by Mohawks and seventy-one were killed or taken prisoner. The island was abandoned and shelter sought in Quebec under the guns of Fort St Louis, and here they remained until 1668, when they removed to Beauport. In the following year they were placed at Notre-Dame-de-Foy, about four miles from Quebec. In 1673 a site affording more land was given them on the St Charles river about nine miles from the fortress. Here at Old Lorette a chapel was built for them and here they remained for twenty-four years. In 1697 they moved to New Lorette—Jeune Lorette—in the seigneury of St Michel, and at this place, by the rapids of the St Charles, four or five hundred of this once numerous tribe may still be found.]
The war-lust of the Five Nations remained still unsatiated. They continued to harass the Petuns, who finally fled in terror, most of them to Mackinaw Island. Still in dread of the Iroquois, they moved thence to the western end of Lake Superior; but here they came into conflict with the Sioux, and had to migrate once more. A band of them finally moved to Detroit and Sandusky, where, under the name of Wyandots, we find them figuring in history at a later period. The Iroquois then found occasion for quarrels with the Neutrals, the Eries, and the Andastes; and soon practically all the Indian tribes from the shores of Maine to the Mississippi and as far south as the Carolinas were under tribute to the Five Nations. Only the Algonquin tribes of Michigan and Wisconsin and the tribes of the far north had not suffered from these bloodthirsty conquerors.
The Huron mission was ended. For a quarter of a century the Jesuits had struggled to build up a spiritual empire among the heathen of North America, but, to all appearances, they had struggled in vain. In all twenty-five fathers had toiled in Huronia. Of these, as we have seen, four had been murdered by the Iroquois and one by an apostate Huron. Nor was this the whole story of martyrdom. Six years after the dispersion Leonard Garreau was to die by an Iroquois bullet while journeying up the Lake of Two Mountains on his way to the Algonquin missions of the west. Another of the fathers, Rene Menard, while following a party of Algonquins to the wilds of Wisconsin, lost his way in the forest and perished from exposure or starvation; and Anne de Noue, Brebeuf’s earliest comrade in Huronia, in an effort to bring assistance to a party of French soldiers storm-bound on Lake St Peter, was frozen to death. But misfortune did not cool the zeal of the Jesuits. Into the depths of the forest they went with their wandering flocks, and raised the Cross by lake and stream as far west as the Mississippi and as far north as Hudson Bay. Already they had found their way into the Long Houses of the Iroquois.
THE IROQUOIS MISSION
While labouring among the Hurons the Jesuits had their minds on the Iroquois. It was, they thought, within their sphere of duty even to tame these human tigers. They well knew that such an attempt would involve dangers vastly greater than those encountered in Huronia; but the greater the danger and suffering the greater the glory. And yet for a time it seemed impossible to make a beginning of missionary work among the Iroquois. As we have seen, Champlain had made them the uncompromising enemies of the French, and since then all Frenchmen stood in constant peril of their lives from marauding bands in ambush near every settlement and along the highways of travel. Thus nearly twenty years passed after the arrival of the Jesuits in Canada before an opening came for winning a way to the hearts of these ruthless destroyers.
It came at last, fraught with tragedy. From 1636 to 1642 Father Isaac Jogues had been engaged in missionary work in Huronia. He was a man of saintly character, delicate, refined, scholarly; yet he had borne hardships among the Petuns enough to break the spirit of any man. He had toiled, too, among the Algonquin tribes, and at one time had preached to a gathering of two thousand at Sault Ste Marie. In 1642 he was chosen to bring much-needed supplies to Huronia—a dangerous task, as in that year large bodies of Iroquois were on the war-path. And in August he was ascending Lake St Peter with thirty-six Hurons and three Frenchmen in twelve canoes. His French companions were a labourer and two donnes—Rene Goupil, who, having had some hospital experience, was going to Ste Marie as a surgeon, and Guillaume Couture, a man of devotion, energy, and courage. The canoes bearing the party were threading the clustered islands at the western end of Lake St Peter, and had reached a spot where the thickly wooded shores were almost hidden from view by tall reeds that swayed in the summer wind, when suddenly out of the reeds darted a number of Iroquois warriors in canoes. The surprise was complete; three of the Hurons were killed on the spot, and Jogues, Goupil, and Couture, and twenty-two Hurons were taken prisoner. The raiders then plundered the canoes and set out southward, up the Richelieu, with their prisoners. At every stopping-place on the way Jogues and the donnes were brutally tortured; finally, in the Mohawk country they were dragged through the three chief towns of the nation, held up to ridicule, beaten with clubs, their fingers broken or lopped off, and their bodies burned with red-hot coals. Couture had slain a Mohawk warrior during the attack on Lake St Peter; but his courageous bearing so impressed the savages that one of them adopted him in place of a dead relative, and he thus escaped death. Goupil, after several months among the Mohawks, was brutally murdered. But Jogues’s life was providentially preserved, and during nearly a year, a year of intense suffering, he went among his persecutors glorying in the opportunity of preaching the Gospel under these hard conditions.
At length a fishing and trading party of Mohawks took him to the Dutch settlement at Fort Orange (Albany). Already the Dutch authorities had tried in vain to gain his release. They now took advantage of his presence among them, generously braving the wrath of his tyrant masters, and aided him to escape. He found shelter on a Dutch vessel and finally succeeded in reaching France. The story of his capture had arrived before him, and his brothers in France welcomed him as a saint and martyr, as one miraculously snatched from the jaws of death. But he had no thought of remaining to enjoy the cloistered quiet and peace of a college in France; back to the hardships and dangers of North America his unconquerable spirit demanded that he should go. According to the rules of the Church he could not administer the sacraments with his mutilated hands; but, having obtained a special dispensation from the Pope, he once more fearlessly crossed the ocean, in search of the crown of martyrdom.
The next missionary to reach the Iroquois country was Father Joseph Bressani, an Italian priest who had been attracted to the Canadian mission-field through reading the Relations of the missionaries to Huronia. On April 27, 1644, with six Hurons and a French boy twelve years old, he set out from Three Rivers. It was thought that the Iroquois would not yet have reached the St Lawrence at this early time of the year; but this was an error, as the sequel proved. A party of twenty-seven warriors in ambush surprised Bressani and his fellow-travellers, slew several of the Hurons, and carried the rest with Bressani and the French boy to the Mohawk towns. Bressani they put to torture even more severe than that which Jogues had endured; not sparing the young lad, who manfully faced his tormentors till death freed him. Bressani escaped death only because an old squaw adopted him; but so mangled were his hands, so burned and broken was his body, that she deemed her slave of little value and sent him with her son to Fort Orange to be sold. The Dutch acted generously; paid a liberal ransom; and gave Bressani passage on a Dutch vessel, which landed him at La Rochelle on November 15, 1644. But, like Jogues, his one thought was to return to New France; and in the following year we find him in Huronia, his mutilated hands, torn and broken by the enemies of the Hurons, mute but efficacious witnesses of his courage.
For a time the hopes of the Jesuits for a mission among the Iroquois were damped by the experiences of Jogues and Bressani. But in 1645 an incident took place that opened the way for an attempt to carry the Gospel to this savage people. A band of Algonquins captured several Mohawks and brought them to Sillery. The captives fully expected to be tortured and burned; but the Jesuits at Quebec and the governor, Montmagny, were desirous of winning the goodwill of the Iroquois. They persuaded the Algonquins to free the prisoners, then treated them kindly, and sent one of them home
Isaac Jogues, having returned to Canada after his brief rest in France, was now stationed at Ville Marie. His knowledge of the Mohawk language and character made him the most fitting person to send as envoy to the Mohawks, in the twofold capacity of diplomat and missionary. At first, as his sufferings rose before his mind, he shrank from the task, but only for a moment. He would go fearlessly to these people, though they lived in his memory only by the tortures they had inflicted on him. He set out; and on arriving at the Mohawk towns he found the savages friendly. Everywhere the Mohawks bade him welcome. They listened attentively to the message from the governor, and accepted the wampum belts and gifts which he bore. Apparently the Mohawks were eager for the amity of the French. To both Jogues and Couture it seemed that at last the time was ripe for an Iroquois mission—the Mission of the Martyrs. Before saying farewell to the Mohawks Jogues left with his hosts, as a pledge that he would return, a locked box; and by the end of June he was back in Quebec to report the success of his journey. He then prepared to redeem his pledge to the Mohawks. He left Quebec towards the end of August, with a lay brother named Lalande and some Hurons. He had forebodings of death, for on the eve of the journey he wrote to a friend in France: Ibo et non redibo, I shall go and shall not return. Arrived at the Richelieu, he was told by some friendly Indians that the attitude of the Mohawks had changed. They were in arms, and were once more breathing vengeance against the French and their allies. At this Jogues’s Huron companions deserted him, but he and Lalande pressed on to their destination. The alarm was only too well founded. The Mohawks at once crowded round them, scowling and threatening. They stripped Jogues and his comrade of their clothing, beat them, and repeated the tortures which Jogues had suffered four years before.
The innocent cause of this outbreak of Mohawk fury was the box which Jogues had left behind him. From this box, as the ignorant savages thought, had come the drought and a plague of grasshoppers, which had destroyed the crops, and also the pest which was now raging in the Mohawk towns. Some Huron captives among the Mohawks, no doubt to win favour with their masters, had maligned Jogues, proclaiming him a sorcerer who had previously brought disaster to the Hurons, and had now come to destroy the Mohawks. Undoubtedly,
Ten years were to pass before missionary work was renewed among the Iroquois—ten years of disaster to the Jesuits and to the colony. In these years, as we have already seen, the Hurons, Petuns, and Neutrals were destroyed or scattered, and the French and Indian settlements along the St Lawrence were continually in danger. There was no safety outside the fortified posts, and agriculture and trade were at a standstill. The year 1653 was particularly disastrous; a horde of Mohawks were abroad, hammering at the palisades of every settlement and spreading terror even in the strongly guarded towns of Ville Marie, Three Rivers, and Quebec. But light broke when all seemed darkest. The western Iroquois—the Oneidas, Onondagas, and Senecas—were at war with the Eries. While thus engaged it seemed to them good policy to make peace with the French, and they dispatched an embassy to Ville Marie to open negotiations. The Mohawks, too, fearing that their western kinsmen might gain some advantage over them, sent messengers to New France. A grand council was held at Quebec. But even while making peace the Iroquois were intent on war. They desired nothing short of the utter extermination of the Huron nation, and viewed with jealousy the Huron settlement under the wing of the French on the island of Orleans. Both Onondagas and Mohawks plotted to destroy this community. The proposed peace was merely a ruse to open a way to attack the Hurons in order to kill them or to adopt them into the Five Nations, which, on account of losses in war, needed recruits. The Mohawks requested that the Hurons be removed to the Mohawk villages; the Onondagas stipulated for a French colony in their country, in the hope that the Hurons would be attracted to such a settlement, and that then both French and Hurons would be in their power. The governor of New France, now Jean de Lauzon, a weak old man who thought more of the profits of the fur trade and of land-grants for himself and his family than of the welfare of the colony, knew not how to act. A negative answer he dared not give; and he equally feared the effect of a definite promise. On the one hand was the certainty that war would break out again in all its fury; on the other the equal certainty that the fate which had befallen the Hurons in Huronia would almost inevitably overtake the poor remnant of Christian Hurons whom it was his duty to protect.
The Jesuits, however, were anxious to labour among the Iroquois, and at their request the governor adopted a temporizing policy. Before giving a final reply it was deemed wise to send an ambassador to the Five Nations to spy out the land and confirm the peace. This dangerous task was assigned to the veteran missionary Father Simon Le Moyne. In the spring of 1654 Le Moyne visited the Onondagas. His diplomacy and eloquence succeeded with them, but the Mohawks still continued their raids on the settlements. Nevertheless in 1655 the Mohawks again sent messengers to Quebec professing friendship. Le Moyne once more took up the task of diplomat and journeyed to the Mohawk country in the hope of making a binding treaty with the fiercest and most inveterate foes of New France. In this same year a large deputation of Onondagas arrived at Quebec. They wished the French to take immediate action and establish a mission and colony in their midst. Once more their sincerity seemed doubtful; and Fathers Chaumonot and Dablon were dispatched to Onondaga to ascertain the temper and disposition of the Indians there. After spending the winter of 1655-56 in the country, where they had conferences in the great council-house of the Five Nations with representatives of all the tribes, the two fathers believed that the time was ripe for a mission. A colony, too, in their judgment, would be advisable; it would serve at once as a centre of civilization for the Iroquois and a barrier against the Dutch and English of New York, who hitherto had monopolized the trade of the Iroquois. In the spring of 1656 Dablon returned to Quebec to advise the governor to accept the terms of the Onondagas, while Chaumonot remained at Onondaga to watch over his new flock both as missionary and as political agent.
An expedition, the entire expense of which fell on the Jesuits, was at once fitted out. The town major of Quebec, Zachary du Puys, took military command of the party, which consisted of ten soldiers, thirty or forty white labourers, four Jesuit fathers—Menard, Le Mercier, Dablon, and Fremin—two lay brothers, and a number of Hurons, Senecas, and Onondagas. On the 17th of May the colonists left Quebec in two large boats and twelve canoes. They began their journey with forebodings as to their fate, for the Mohawks were once more haunting the St Lawrence. Scarcely had Du Puys and his men passed out of sight of Quebec when they were attacked. The Mohawks, however, pretended that they had supposed the party to be Hurons, expressed regret for the attack, and allowed the expedition to proceed. At Montreal the boats were discarded in favour of canoes for the difficult navigation of the upper St Lawrence. Save for Le Moyne, Chaumonot, and Dablon, these colonists were the first whites to ascend the St Lawrence between Montreal and Lake Ontario; the first to toil up against the current of those swift waters and to portage past the turbulent rapids; the first to view the varied
The Jesuits announced that they had come not as traders but as ‘messengers of God,’ seeking no profit; and they began work under most favourable conditions. Owing to Chaumonot’s exertions the Onondagas seemed genuinely friendly. The fathers, too, found in every village many adopted Hurons, from their old missions in Huronia, who still professed Christianity. Indeed, one whole village was composed largely of Hurons and Petuns. The mission was not confined to the Onondagas; the Cayugas, Senecas, and Oneidas were included; and the new field seemed rich in promise.
But it soon became evident that the fickle Iroquois were not to be trusted. The Mohawks continued their raids on the Hurons at Quebec and carried off captives from under the very walls of Fort St Louis. Learning of this, the Onondagas sent an expedition to Quebec to demand that some Hurons should be given to them also, and the weak administrator of the colony, Charles de Lauzon-Charny, being too cowardly to resist, complied with this demand. On the way back to Onondaga the Indians slew some of the captives. On arriving at home they tortured and burned others, among them women and helpless children. The colonists at Onondaga frequently witnessed such scenes, but they were powerless to interfere. Presently they learned that it was with evil intentions that they had been invited to Onondaga. A statement made to one of the missionaries by a dying convert served only to confirm the rumour already current, namely, that the death of the colonists had been decreed from the first, and that the Jesuits were to meet the fate which had befallen Jogues and their brothers in Huronia.
Prompt action was necessary. Orders were sent to the missionaries in the outlying points to return to headquarters, and towards the end of March the colonists, fifty-three in all, were behind the palisades of their houses on Lake Onondaga. But they had slight chance of escape, for they had not canoes enough to carry more than half the party. Moreover, they were closely watched: Onondaga warriors had pitched their wigwams about the palisades and several had stationed themselves immediately in front of the gate. The greatest need of the French, however, being adequate means of transportation, they addressed themselves to this problem. In the principal dwelling was a large garret, and here they built two strong boats, each capable of bearing fifteen men. But the difficulty still remained of getting these boats to the lake without the knowledge of the savages.
Among the colonists was a young man, Pierre Esprit Radisson, who three years before had been a prisoner among the Iroquois and who was afterwards to figure prominently in the history of the Canadian wilderness. He was unscrupulous but resourceful; and on this occasion his talents came into good use. He knew the Indians well and he knew that they could not resist a feast, especially a feast of a semi-religious character. He persuaded a young man of the mission to feign illness and to invite the Onondagas to aid in his cure by attending a festin a manger tout—a feast where everything must be eaten. To sanction this no doubt went much against the grain of the Jesuits, who had been upbraiding the Indians for their superstition and gluttony; but in this case the end seemed assuredly to justify the means. The Onondagas attended the banquet. In huge iron pots slung over fires outside the gate of the palisades the French boiled an immense quantity of venison, game, fish, and corn. They had brought with them to the colony a number of hogs, and these they slew to add to the feast. The Indians squatted about the kettles, from which the soldiers, employees, and fathers ladled the food; as fast as a warrior’s dish was emptied it was refilled; and when a reveller signified that he had eaten enough, the pretended invalid cried out: ‘Would you have me die?’ and once more the gorged Onondaga fell to. To add to the entertainment, some of the Frenchmen, who had brought violins to the wilderness, fiddled with might and main. At length the gluttony began to take the desired effect: one after another the Onondagas dropped to sleep to the soothing music of the violins. Then, when brute slumber had sealed the eyes of all, the colonists roused themselves for flight. Some one, probably Radisson, suggested that they were fifty-three wide-awake Frenchmen to one hundred sleeping savages, and that it would be easy to brain their enemies as they slept; but the Jesuits would not sanction such a course. The Frenchmen threw open the gate, and carried the boats from the garret to the lakeside. They put up effigies of soldiers at conspicuous points within the enclosure, barred and locked the gate, and launched the vessels. They had swept across the lake and were well down the Oswego before day had dawned and the Indians had awakened from their heavy slumber.
When the Onondagas recovered consciousness they were surprised at the deathlike stillness. They peered through the palisades; and, seeing the effigies of the soldiers, believed that their intended victims were within. But no sounds except the clucking and crowing of some fowls fell on their ears. They became suspicious and hammered at the gate; and, when there was no answer, broke it down in fury, only to find the place deserted. An examination of the shore showed that heavy boats had been launched a few hours before. Believing that the powerful God of the white man was in league with the colonists, and had supplied them with these boats, the savages made no attempt to follow the fugitives, who, after sustaining the loss of three men in the rapids of the St Lawrence, reached Quebec on the 23rd of April.
For another decade no further effort was to be made to civilize and christianize the Iroquois. During this period, however, a radical and much-needed change took place in the government of New France. Hitherto chartered companies had been in control, and their aim had been trade, not colonization. Until 1663 Canada remained a trading station and a mission rather than a true colony. But in this year the king, Louis XIV, cancelled the charter of the Hundred Associates, proclaimed the colony under royal government, and sent out strong men from the motherland to govern the country.
It was not long before the Iroquois began to feel the resistance of new forces in the settlements along the St Lawrence; and in 1665, when a strong regiment of veterans, the Carignan-Salieres, under the Marquis de Tracy, landed in New France, the Iroquois who had been smiting the settlements slunk away to their fortified towns. In January 1666 Courcelle, the governor, invaded the Mohawk country; and though his expedition was a failure, it served as a warning to the Five Nations. In May Senecas and Mohawks came to Quebec to treat for peace. They assumed their ancient haughty air; but Tracy was in no mood for this. He sentenced to death a Mohawk who had the boldness to boast of having tomahawked a Frenchman, and dismissed the ambassadors with angry words. The Indians, discomfited, returned to their strongholds. At their heels followed Tracy and Courcelle with thirteen hundred men. At the approach of this army the Mohawks deserted their villages and escaped death. But the French set fire to the villages and desolated the Mohawk country.
In the spring of 1667 the Mohawks came to Quebec humbly begging that missionaries, blacksmiths, and surgeons should be sent to live among them. The other tribes of the Five Nations followed their example. Once more the Jesuits went to the Iroquois and established missions among the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagas, and Senecas. For twenty years the devoted fathers laboured in this hard field. During the administrations of the governors Courcelle and Frontenac the Iroquois remained peaceable, but they became restless after the removal of Frontenac in 1682. The succeeding governors, La Barre and Denonville, proved weak rulers, and the Mohawks began once more to send war-parties against the settlements. At length, in 1687, open war broke out. The missionaries, however, had been withdrawn from the Iroquois country, just in time to escape the fury of the savages.
Not in vain did the Jesuits labour among the Five Nations. They made numerous converts, and persuaded many of them to move to Canada. Communities of Christian Iroquois and Hurons who had been adopted by the Five Nations settled near the Bay of Quinte, at La Montagne on the island of Montreal, and at Caughnawaga by the rapids of Lachine. The large settlements of ‘praying Indians’ still living at Caughnawaga and at St Regis, near Cornwall, are descendants of these Indians.
THE MISSION OF VILLE MARIE
While the Jesuits carried the Cross to the Hurons, the Algonquins, and the Iroquois, other crusaders, equally noble and courageous, planted it on the spot where now stands the foremost city of the Dominion. The settlement of the large and fertile island at the confluence of the Ottawa and the St Lawrence had a motive all its own. Quebec was founded primarily for trade; and so with practically all other settlements which have grown into great centres of population. But Montreal was originally intended solely for a mission station. Its founders had no thought of trade; indeed, they were prohibited from dealing in furs, then the chief marketable product of the colony.
We have seen that the men and women who founded the Sillery mission, and the Hotel-Dieu and the Ursuline convent at Quebec, received their inspiration from the Relations of the Jesuits. So likewise did the founders of the settlement on the island of Montreal. Jerome le Royer de la Dauversiere of La Fleche in Anjou, a receiver of taxes, and Abbe Jean Jacques Olier of Paris, were the prime movers in the undertaking. Each independently of the other had conceived the idea of establishing on the island of Hochelaga a mission for the conversion of the heathen in Canada. Meeting by accident at the Chateau of Meudon near Paris, they planned their enterprise, and decided to found a colony of devotees, composed of an order of priests, an order of sisters to care for the sick and infirm, and an order of nuns for the teaching of young Indians and the children of settlers at the mission. These two enthusiasts went to work in a quite practical way to realize their ambition. They succeeded in interesting the Baron de Fancamp and three other wealthy gentlemen, and soon had a sum—about $75,000— ample for the establishment of the colony. While they were busy at this work, Mademoiselle Jeanne Mance, a courageous and devout woman, was moved by one of Father Le Jeune’s Relations to devote her life to the care of the wounded and suffering in the wilds of New France; and the projected colony on the island of Montreal offered an opportunity for the fulfilment of her desire. Madame de Bullion, a rich and very charitable woman, had agreed to aid Olier and Dauversiere by endowing a hospital in the colony, and Jeanne Mance offered her services as nurse and housekeeper. A leader was needed, a man of soldierly training and pious
The Jesuits had played an important part in this undertaking. It was their Relations that had given the impulse, and the promoters of the colony had the able assistance of Father Charles Lalemant, whom we have already met as the first superior of the Jesuit order in New France. It was he who persuaded Jean de Lauzon to consent to surrender his grant, and it was to him that Maisonneuve first came to seek advice as to how he could best consecrate his sword to the Church in Canada. And it was largely on Lalemant’s recommendation that Maisonneuve received his appointment as leader of the colonists and governor of the colony. To Lalemant, too, came Jeanne Mance when she first heard the clear call to the new mission.
The promoters of the ‘Society of Our Lady of Montreal’ now set to work to collect recruits for the mission, provide supplies, and prepare vessels to transport the colonists to New France. All was ready about the middle of June 1641, and, while Dauversiere, Olier, and Fancamp remained in France to look after the interests of the colony there, Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance, with three other women and about fifty men, set sail and arrived in Quebec before the end of August. Here they did not find the enthusiastic welcome which they expected. Maisonneuve had come with a special commission as governor of Montreal, and was coldly received by Montmagny, who was jealous of him, and who moreover believed, no doubt rightly, that a divided authority would not be in the best interests of struggling New France. The Jesuits at Quebec tried to persuade Maisonneuve to abandon his enterprise. There were, they said, no inhabitants on the island of Montreal, it was in the direct route of the Mohawks, who annually haunted the Ottawa and St Lawrence, and swift destruction would surely be the fate of the colony. But Maisonneuve could not be moved from his fixed purpose; he would go to Montreal even ’if every tree on that island were to be changed to an Iroquois.’
Accompanied by Father Vimont, the superior of the Jesuits, and Governor Montmagny, Maisonneuve went up the river, and took formal possession of the island on the 15th of October in the name of the ’Society of Our Lady of Montreal.’ The colonists spent the winter at St Michel, near Sillery, for there was no room for the Montrealers in the buildings at Quebec. On May 8, 1642, Maisonneuve led his company—in a pinnace, a barge, and two row-boats —to the site of the new colony. Here, too, were Father Vimont and Madame de la Peltrie, who for the nonce had deserted her Ursulines to accompany Jeanne Mance to a field that offered greater excitement and danger. On the 18th of May, at a spot where tall warehouses now abound and where the varied roar of the traffic of a great city never ceases, they set up an altar, and Father Vimont consecrated the island mission. In the course of his sermon he uttered the prophetic words: ’You are a grain of mustard seed that shall rise and grow till its branches overshadow the earth. You are few, but your work is the work of God. His smile is upon you and your children shall fill the land.’ The city of Montreal, the throbbing heart of the business life of Canada, with its half-million and more inhabitants and its magnificent charitable, religious, and educational institutions, is the fulfilment of his words.
But the beginnings were feeble and disheartening. A few houses, flanked by a windmill and fort, and connected by a footpath where now runs St Paul Street, represented the beginnings of Montreal—or Ville Marie, as the settlement had been christened by the Society in Paris.
The Iroquois soon learned of Ville Marie. Within a few months a scalping party of Mohawks paid it a visit, and killed several workmen and wounded others. The wounded became the care of Jeanne Mance, who never henceforth lacked patients. Between the labourers injured by accident in the forest and the wounded from Iroquois fights, the gentle-handed nurse and her assistants were kept always busy. Many of her patients were friendly Indians who had suffered in the raids; sometimes even a sorely smitten Iroquois would be borne to the rude hospital.
But the mission did not grow. The Algonquins and Hurons viewed the island of Montreal as too exposed for a permanent encampment, for the Iroquois ever hovered about it. At no season of the year was Ville Marie immune from attack; night and day the inhabitants had to be on the alert; and often the cry ‘The Iroquois!’ sent the entire population to the shelter of the fort. For fifteen years there was little change in the population, and year after year the same dangers and hardships faced the people. But Maisonneuve and Jeanne Mance hoped on, confident that Ville Marie was destined to have a glorious future. In 1653 Marguerite Bourgeoys, a woman of great force of character, arrived in the colony to open a school. Finding no white pupils, she gathered about her a few red children, and made
Meanwhile, in 1642, Abbe Olier had founded the Seminary of St Sulpice in Paris; and during the intervening years had been assiduously training missionaries to take over the spiritual control of Ville Marie. Since its founding the Jesuits Poncet, Du Peron, Le Moyne, and Pijart, who had been trained in the difficult school of the Huron mission, and Le Jeune and Druillettes, had ministered to the inhabitants. But in August 1657 the Sulpician priests Gabriel de Queylus, Gabriel Souart, and Dominic Galinier arrived at Ville Marie, and the Jesuits immediately surrendered the parish to them. Henceforth Ville Marie was to be the peculiar care of the Sulpicians, giving them for many years enough of both difficulty and danger. The Iroquois peril did not abate. Never a month passed but the alarm-bell rang out to warn the settlers that the savages were at hand. Even the priests went about their duties with sword at side; and two of them, Vignal and Le Maitre, fell beneath the tomahawk. Only the courage, watchfulness, and foresight of Maisonneuve and of such men as Sergeant-Major Lambert Closse, who gave his life for the colony, saved Ville Marie from utter destruction. And as years went on the Iroquois grew bolder. Having scattered the Hurons and the Algonquins, they now threatened every trading-post and mission station in Canada.
In 1660 the climax came. Early in the spring of that year the harassed mission at Ville Marie learned that several hundred Iroquois, who had wintered on the upper Ottawa, were coming down, and that another horde, approaching by way of the Richelieu, would join forces with them. It was the purpose of the savages to destroy Ville Marie and Three Rivers and Quebec, and to wipe out the French on the St Lawrence for good and all.
There was at this time in Ville Marie a young soldier named Adam Daulac, or Dollard, Sieur des Ormeaux, twenty-five years old. He believed that the best defence was attack, and boldly proposed to ascend the Ottawa, with a band of sixteen volunteers, and waylay the Iroquois coming from the north-west. And so the gallant young men bade farewell to their friends and set out. In two large canoes they paddled up the Ottawa, past the swift waters at Ste Anne, through the smooth stretch of the Lake of the Two Mountains, up the fierce current at Carillon, and then on to the rapids of the Long Sault. Here they paused; this was a fitting place for battle. The Iroquois would never expect to find a handful of Frenchmen here, and they could be surprised as
[Footnote: The story of the fight was brought to Montreal by some Hurons who deserted Daulac’s party and escaped.]
The Iroquois had won, but they had no stomach for raiding the settlements. If seventeen Frenchmen, assisted by a few Indians, could keep their hosts at bay for a week, it would be useless to attack strongly fortified posts. And so Daulac and his men at this ‘Canadian Thermopylae’ had really turned aside the tide of war from New France. The settlements were saved, and for a time traders and missionaries journeyed along the St Lawrence and the Ottawa unmolested.
In 1663, when Louis XIV took New France under his wing, the surviving members of the original Society of Our Lady of Montreal made over the island to the Sulpicians, who assumed the liabilities of the Society, and took up the task of looking after the education of the inhabitants and the care of the sick. Four years later the Seminary of St Sulpice was given judicial rights in the mission of Ville Marie. In 1668 five more Sulpicians came to the colony, among them Rene de Galinee and Dollier de Casson, who were to win distinction as missionaries and explorers. Many Sulpician missions pushed out from Ville Marie, along the upper St Lawrence and the north shore of Lake Ontario.
At the beginning of the eighteenth century the complexion of Ville Marie, then generally called Montreal, had somewhat changed. The Jesuits, the Recollets, who had returned to New France in 1670, and the Sulpicians all laboured there. Moreover, from a mere mission station it had become an important trading centre; and as such it was to continue. In position it was well adapted for the fur trade, and after the British took possession in 1760 it became the emporium of a great traffic in the fur-fields of the north and west. But its glorious days are those of its infancy, the days of Maisonneuve and Daulac, of Jeanne Mance and Marguerite Bourgeoys, of Rene de Galinee and Dollier de Casson.
THE MISSIONARY EXPLORERS
The establishment of royal government in 1663 gave new life to the missions of Canada, and the missionaries pressed forward with unflagging zeal. They penetrated to the remotest known tribes and blazed fresh trails for traders and settlers in the western and northern wildernesses. We have not space here to tell the story of these pathfinders, but a few examples may be given. In 1665 Father Claude Allouez went to Lake Superior to begin a sojourn of twenty-five years among the Indians in the region which now forms part of the states of Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. In 1666 Father Gabriel Druillettes, ‘the patriarch’ of the Abnaki mission, who had already borne the Cross to the Crees of the north, began his labours among the Algonquins of Georgian Bay and Lake Superior. In 1669 and 1670 the Sulpicians Dollier de Casson and Rene de Galinee explored and charted Lake Erie and the waters between it and Lake Huron. In 1670 Father Claude Dablon, superior of the western missions, joined Father Allouez at the mission of St Francois-Xavier on Green Bay; and, among the Winnebagoes of this region and the Mascoutens and Miamis between the rivers Fox and Wisconsin, he learned of ’the famous river called the Mississippi.’ In 1672 Father Charles Albanel toiled from the Saguenay to Hudson Bay, partly as missionary, but chiefly to lay claim to the country for New France, and to watch the operations of the newly founded Hudson’s Bay Company.
It was the 25th of May 1670 when Galinee and Casson arrived at Sault Ste Marie, after an arduous canoe journey from their wintering camp on Lake Erie, near the site of the present town of Port Dover. At the Sault they found a thriving mission. It had a capacious chapel and a comfortable dwelling-house; it was surrounded by a palisade of cedars, and about it were cultivated bits of ground planted with wheat, Indian corn, peas, and pumpkins. Near by were clusters of bark wigwams, the homes of Ojibwas and other Indians, who came here each year to catch the whitefish that teemed in the waters of the rapids fronting the settlement.
One of the priests in charge of this mission, when the Sulpicians halted at it on their circuitous journey back to Montreal, was the young Jesuit Jacques Marquette, a man of delicate mould, indomitable will, keen intellect, and ardent faith. He was not to remain long at Sault Ste Marie; for he had heard ‘the call of the west’; and in the summer of this year he set out for the mission of St Esprit, at La Pointe, on the south-west shore of Lake Superior. Here there was a motley collection of Indians, among them many Hurons and Petuns, who had fled to this remote post to be out of reach of the Iroquois. These exiles from Huronia still remembered the Jesuits and retained ‘a little Christianity.’ St Esprit was not only a mission; it was a centre of the fur trade, and to it came Illinois Indians from the Mississippi and Sioux from the western prairies. From these Marquette learned of the great river, and from their description of it he was convinced that it flowed into the Gulf of California. He had a burning desire to visit the savage hordes that dwelt along this river, and a longing to explore it to its mouth. But while he meditated the journey war broke out between the Sioux—the Iroquois of the west—and the Hurons and Ottawas of St Esprit. The Sioux won, and the vanquished Hurons and Ottawas took to flight, the Hurons going to Michilimackinac and the Ottawas to Great Manitoulin Island. Marquette followed the Hurons, and set up a mission at Point St Ignace, on the north shore of the strait of Michilimackinac.
Meanwhile ‘the great intendant,’ Talon, was pushing out in all directions for new territory to add to the French dominions in America. And just before the end of his brilliant administration he commissioned the explorer Louis Jolliet to find and explore the Mississippi, of which so much had been heard from missionaries, traders, and Indians. Like Marquette, Talon believed that this river flowed into the Western Sea—the Pacific ocean—and that it would open a route to China and the Indies; and it was directed that Marquette should accompany Jolliet on the journey.
Jolliet left Montreal in the autumn of 1672 and reached Michilimackinac, where he was to spend the winter with Marquette, just as the ice was forming on lake and river. When he drew up his canoe in front of the palisaded mission at Point St Ignace, Marquette felt that his ambitions were about to be realized. He was disappointed in his flock of Algonquins and the feeble remnant of Hurons, and he hoped to gather about him on the Great Plains—of whose vegetation and game he had heard marvellous accounts—a multitude of Indians who would welcome his Gospel message. Dablon and Allouez had already touched the outskirts of this country, and their success was an earnest of great things in store.
The winter passed slowly for Marquette; but at length, on May 17, 1673, the explorer and the missionary with five assistants—a feeble band to risk a plunge into the unknown—launched their canoes and headed westward.
The explorers first shaped their course along the northern shore of Lake Michigan, then steered south-west until they reached the mouth of the Menominee river, flowing into Green Bay. Here they rested for a brief period among friendly Menominees, who tried to persuade them to give up their venture. According to the Menominees, the banks of the Mississippi were infested by savage tribes who tortured and slew all intruders into their domains. As this did not seem sufficient to discourage Jolliet and Marquette, they added that demons haunted the land bordering the river and monsters the river itself, and that, even if they escaped savages, demons, and monsters, they would perish from the excessive heat of the country Both Jolliet and Marquette had heard such stories from Indians before. Pressing on to the south end of Green Bay, they entered the Fox river and ascended it until they reached Lake Winnebago. After crossing this lake they continued westward up the extension of the Fox. They were now in the land of the Mascoutens and Miamis. The country teemed with life; birds filled the air with whirr of wing and with song; as the voyagers paddled ever westward deer and elk came from their forest lairs to gaze with wondering eyes at these unfamiliar intruders on their haunts. The Mascoutens were friendly, and supplied the travellers with bison flesh and venison, and with guides to direct them over the watershed to the Wisconsin. They carried the canoes over a forest trail, and launched them on this river; and then with exulting hearts swept forward on the last stage of their journey to the Mississippi. At length, on the 17th of June, they reached the great river and landed at the place where now stands Prairie du Chien. They had the feeling of conquerors, but of conquerors whose greatest battle has yet to be fought. Out of the far north came this mysterious river; but whither did it go? Did these waters sweep onward till they lost themselves in the Pacific, or did they pour into some southern bay of the Atlantic? Such were the questions
After a brief rest the party launched their canoes and for over a week drifted downward with the current, anchoring their canoes in mid-stream at night for fear of an attack by hostile Indians. But during this time they saw no human beings; the only living things that caught their eyes as they sped past forest and plain were the deer browsing along the banks, the birds circling overhead, and immense herds of buffalo moving like huge armies over the grassy slopes. At length they reached a village of friendly Illinois, and here they were feasted on fish, dog, and buffalo meat, and spent the balmy midsummer night in the open, sleeping on buffalo robes. While at this village, Marquette, who had a rare gift of tongues, addressed the Illinois in Algonquin, and thus preached the Gospel for the first time to the Indians of the Mississippi. Here their hosts warned them of the dangers they were going to—death from savages or demons awaited them in the south—and presented them with a calumet as a passport to protect them against the tribes below.
After leaving this village the explorers came upon a ‘hideous monster,’ a huge fish, the appearance of which almost made them credit the stories of the Indians. According to Marquette: ’His head was like that of a tiger, his nose was sharp, and somewhat resembled a wildcat; his beard was long, his ears stood upright, the colour of his head was grey, and his neck black.’ Onward swept the explorers past the mouth of the Illinois. A few miles above the present city of Alton they paused to gaze on some high rocks on which fabulous creatures were pictured. ‘They are,’ wrote Marquette in his narrative, ’as large as a calf, with head and horns like a goat; their eyes red; beard like a tiger’s, and a face like a man’s. Their tails are so long that they pass over their heads and between their forelegs, under the belly, and ending like a fish’s tail. They are painted red, green, and black.’ The Indians of the Mississippi were certainly not without imagination and possessed some artistic skill. No doubt it was these pictured rocks that had originated among the Menominees and Illinois the stories of the demons with which they had regaled Marquette and Jolliet.
While the voyagers were still discussing the pictured rocks, their canoes began to toss and heave on rushing waters, and they found themselves in the midst of plunging logs and tumbling trees. They were at the mouth of the Missouri. As they threaded their way past this dangerous point, Marquette resolved that he would one day ascend this river that he might ’preach the Gospel to all the peoples of this New World who have so long grovelled in the darkness of infidelity.’
Onward still into the unknown! At the mouth of the Ohio—then called by the Indians the Ouabouskigon [Footnote: This word, as well as the word Ohio, or O-he-ho, means ’The Beautiful.’]—they drew up their canoes to rest and then advanced a little farther south to an Illinois village. The inhabitants of this village wore European clothing and had beads, knives, and hatchets, obtained no doubt from the Spaniards. The Indians told the explorers that the mouth of the river was distant only a ten-days’ journey, whereas it was in reality a thousand miles away. But with increased hope the Frenchmen once more launched their canoes and went on until they came to the mouth of the Arkansas. Here they met with the first hostile demonstration. Indians, with bows bent and war-clubs raised, threatened destruction to these unknown whites; but Marquette, calm, courageous, and confident, stood up in the bow of his canoe and held aloft the calumet the Illinois had given him. The passport was respected and the elders of the village, which was close at hand, invited the voyagers ashore and feasted them with sagamite and fish. Leaving this village, they pressed southward twenty odd miles to another Arkansas village. The attitude of the Indians here alarmed them, and this, with the apprehension that the mouth of the Mississippi was much farther away than they had been led to believe, decided them to return.
Jolliet and Marquette were now satisfied with what they had achieved. The southward trend of the river proved conclusively that it could not fall into the Gulf of California, and, as they were in latitude 33 degrees 41 minutes, the river could not empty into the Atlantic in Virginia. It must therefore join the sea either on the coast of Florida or in the Gulf of Mexico. Moreover, to proceed farther would but add weary miles to the difficult return journey. But the chief reason for turning back is best given in Marquette’s own words:
We considered that the advantage of our travels would be altogether lost to our nation if we fell into the hands of the Spaniards, from whom we could expect no other treatment but death or slavery; besides, we saw that we were not prepared to resist the Indians, the allies of the Europeans, who continually infested the lower part of the river.
On the 17th of July, just one month after they first sighted the waters of the Mississippi, the explorers turned their canoes northward. A little south of the Illinois river some friendly Indians told them of a shorter way to Lake Michigan than by the Wisconsin and Fox river route. These Indians were anxious to have Marquette remain with them and establish a mission. He was unable to comply with their request, for in the miasmal region of the lower Mississippi he had contracted a severe malarial fever; but he promised to return to them as soon as his health permitted. The explorers were now joined by a chief and a band of Indians as guides to Lake Michigan, and with these
By the autumn of 1674 Marquette thought that he had completely recovered his health, and, having received permission from his superior, he set out for the Illinois country on the 25th of October to establish the mission of the Immaculate Conception. He was accompanied on this journey by two assistants—two true heroes—known to history only as Pierre and Jacques, and a band of Potawatomis and Illinois. In ten canoes the party paddled southward from Green Bay, for nearly a month buffeting the tempestuous autumn seas of Lake Michigan. They ascended the Chicago river for six miles and encamped. Marquette could go no farther; he was once more prostrated with illness, and a severe hemorrhage threatened to carry him off. But his valiant spirit conquered, and during the winter he was able to minister to some Illinois, who were encamped a short distance away and who paid him occasional visits. By the spring he had so far recovered that he decided to undertake the journey to the Mississippi, his heart set on founding a mission among the tribes there. On the 13th of March he and his two helpers broke camp and portaged their canoe to the Des Plaines. Near the junction of this river with the Illinois was the Indian town of Old Kaskaskia. The Indians of this town gave him a welcome worthy of a conqueror, such as indeed he really was. He went among them teaching and preaching; but brain and body were burning with fever; he felt that he had not long to live, and if he would die among his own people he must hasten home. He summoned the Indians to a grand council. And, in one of God’s first temples—a meadow decked with spring flowers and roofed by the blue vault of heaven—he preached to a congregation of over three thousand—chiefs, warriors, women, and children. His sermon finished, he blessed his hearers, and, leaving his words to sink into their hearts, bade them farewell.
Pierre and Jacques now made ready the canoe, and the journey to Michilimackinac began. When they reached Lake Michigan Marquette was only half conscious. While he lay on the robes piled in the bottom of the canoe, his faithful henchmen paddled furiously to reach their destination. But their efforts were in vain; Marquette saw that his end was approaching and bade them turn the canoe to land. And on May 19, 1675, on the bleak shore of Lake Michigan, this hero of the Cross, the greatest of the missionary explorers, entered into his rest. He was only thirty-eight; he had not finished his work; he had not realized his ambitions; but his memory lives, a force for good, as that of one who dared and endured and passionately followed the path of the setting sun.
THE LAST PHASE
The priests laboured on in their mission-fields from Cape Breton to the Mississippi and north towards Hudson Bay, wherever there were Indians. In the Iroquois country alone did they fail to establish themselves securely. The nearest neighbours of the Iroquois, the English of New York and New England, stirred by French and Indian raids on their borders and regarding all Frenchmen as enemies, did what they could to destroy the influence of the French priests and keep them out of the country. Lord Bellomont, governor of New York, even threatened to hang any priest found in his colony. Yet the Jesuits made another attempt in 1702; but it did not succeed, and a few years later the Iroquois mission was abandoned.
Among the Algonquin tribes the old dread of the priests had vanished and they were everywhere hailed as friends. They were no longer in danger of assassination, and, apart from the hardships inevitable to wilderness life, their lot was not an unpleasant one. Perhaps their worst enemy was the brandy traffic carried on by the coureurs de bois, which brought in its wake drunkenness, disease, licentiousness, and crime. The missionaries fought this evil, with the wholehearted support of Laval, the great bishop of Quebec, and of his successors. But for their opposition it is probable that the Indians in contact with the French would have been utterly swept away; as it was, brandy thinned their numbers quite as much as war. Some of the coureurs de bois, who displayed their wares and traded for furs at the mission stations, were almost as obnoxious to the priests as the brandy which they offered. Among them were many worthy men, like the great Du Lhut; but the majority were ‘white savages,’ whose conduct went far to nullify the teaching and example of the missionaries.
Thus the missions went on until the British came. For more than fifty years the conflict between the two nations for mastery continued intermittently; and finally in 1760 the French struck their flag and departed. The victors viewed the religious orders with distrust; they regarded the priests as political agents; and they passed an edict that such Jesuits and Recollets as were in Canada might remain and ’die where they are, but they must not add to their number.’ Of the Jesuits only twelve remained, and the last of these, Father Casot, died in 1800.
In looking back over the work of the missionaries in New France, it would seem that their visible harvest was a scant one, since the Indian races for whom they toiled have disappeared from history and are apparently doomed to extinction. This, of course, is due to natural causes over which the priests had no control and which they would thankfully have had otherwise. It cannot be questioned that their work operated for the benefit of the natives. But the priceless contribution of the missionaries lies in the example which they gave to the world. During the greater part of two centuries in the wilds they bore themselves manfully and fought a good fight. In all that time not one of all the men in that long procession of missionaries is known to have disgraced himself or to have played the coward in the face of danger or disaster.
The influence of the priests, however, was not confined to the Indians. It permeated the whole colony and lives to the present day. In no country in the world is there a more peaceable and kindly or moral and devout people than in the province of Quebec, largely because they have kept in their primitive simplicity the lessons taught by the clergy of New France. When the Revolution swept away religion and morals in Old France, it left untouched the French of Canada; and the descendants of the peasants of Anjou, Picardy, and Poitou kept alive in the New World the beliefs and customs, the simple faith and reverence for authority, of their ancestors in the Old World. Throughout the length and breadth of New France the priests and nuns were the teachers of the people. And the seminaries, schools, and colleges which they founded continue to shape the morals and character of the French Canadians of to-day.
It may be doubted whether the British government acted wisely after winning Canada in suppressing the religious orders. At any rate, after the unhappy rebellions of 1837 the government adopted a more generous policy; and the Jesuits and the Oblates came to Canada in ever-increasing numbers to take up missionary work anew. Like the priests of old they went into the wilderness, no difficulty too great to be overcome, no peril too hazardous to be risked. In the Mackenzie valley, in the far Yukon, and among the tumbled hills of British Columbia they planted the Cross, establishing missions and schools.
But the great age of the Church in Canada was the heroic age of Lalemant and Brebeuf, of Jogues and Bressani, of Allouez and Marquette. Their memories are living lights illuminating the paths of all workers among those who sit in spiritual darkness. The resolution of these first missionaries, not to be overcome by hardship, torture, or threat of death itself, has served in time of trial and danger to brace missionaries of all churches. Brebeuf still lives and labours in the wilderness regions of Canada; Marquette still toils on into the unknown.
‘The Relations’ of the Jesuits are, of course, the prime sources of information. Consult the edition edited by R. G. Thwaites, ‘The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents’, seventy-three volumes (1896-1901). This gives the original French text with an English translation. See also Rochemonteix, ‘Les Jesuites et la Nouvelle France’; Parkman, ‘Pioneers of France’, ‘The Old Regime in Canada’, ‘The Jesuits in North America’, ’La Salle and the Discovery of the Great West’, ‘Frontenac and New France’; Harris, ‘Pioneers of the Cross in Canada’; Jones, ‘Old Huronia’, the fifth report of the Bureau of Archives for the Province of Ontario; Marshall, ‘Christian Missions’; Campbell, ‘Pioneer Priests of North America’.
The following general histories contain many illuminating pages on the missions: Faillon, ’Histoire de la Colonie Francaise’; Charlevoix, ‘Histoire de la Nouvelle-France’; Boucher, ‘Canada in the Seventeenth Century’; Sagard, ‘Histoire du Canada’; Kingsford, ‘History of Canada’; Shortt and Doughty, ‘Canada and its Provinces’ (especially the chapter in the second volume by the distinguished priest, Rev. Lewis Drummond, S.J.); Winsor, ’Narrative and Critical History of America.
Reference works with valuable articles on the missions and the Indians are: ‘The Catholic Encyclopaedia’; Hodge, ‘Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico’; White, ‘Handbook of Indians of Canada’, adapted from Hodge.