CHRONICLES OF CANADA Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton In thirty-two volumes
THE JESUIT MISSIONS A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness
By THOMAS GUTHRIE MARQUIS TORONTO, 1916
THE RECOLLET FRIARS
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 needed the self-sacrificing Jesuits, but for whom it would soon undoubtedly have been cast off by the mother country as a worthless burden. To them Canada, indeed, owed its life; for when the king grew weary of spending treasure on this unprofitable colony, the stirring appeals of the Relations [Footnote: It was a rule of the Society of Jesus that each of its missionaries should write a report of his work. These reports, known as Relations, were generally printed and sold by the booksellers of Paris. About forty volumes of the Relations from the missions of Canada were published between 1632 and 1672 and widely read in France.] moved both king and people to sustain it until the time arrived when New France was valued as a barrier against New England.
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 supposed that different sets of white men had different gods. True, the Calvinist traders troubled little with religion. To them the red man was a mere trapper, a gatherer of furs; and whether he shaped his course for the happy hunting ground of his fathers or to the paradise of the Christian mattered nothing. But they were wont to plague the Jesuits and Recollets at every opportunity; as when the crews of the ships at Quebec would lift up their voices in psalms purposely to annoy the priests at their devotions. Lalemant, an alert-minded ecclesiastic, came to a swift decision. The trading monopoly of the Huguenots must be ended and a new company must be created, with power to exclude Calvinists from New France. To this end Lalemant sent Father Noyrot to France in 1626, to lay the whole matter before the viceroy of New France. But from the Duc de Ventadour Noyrot got no satisfaction; the viceroy could not interfere. And Louis XIII was too busy with other matters to listen to the Jesuit's prayer. The king's chief adviser, however, Cardinal Richelieu, then at the height of his power, lent a sympathetic ear. The Huguenots were then in open rebellion in France; Richelieu was having trouble enough with them at home; and it was not hard to convince him that they should be suppressed in New France. He decided to annul the charter of the Caens and to establish instead a strong company composed entirely of Catholics. To this task he promptly set himself, and soon had enlisted in the enterprise over a hundred influential and wealthy men of the realm. The Company of New France, or, as it is better known, the Company of One Hundred Associates, thus came into being on April 29, 1627, with the great Richelieu at its head.
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, overloaded with supplies, would be difficult to manoeuvre in the light summer wind of which his foe now had the advantage. The three English privateers bore on towards the French merchantmen, and when within range opened fire. Far several hours this long-range firing continued. When it proved ineffective, David Kirke decided to close in on the enemy. The Abigail crept up to within pistol-shot of Roquemont's ship, swept round her stern, and poured in a raking broadside. While the French sailors were still in a state of confusion from the iron storm that had beaten on their deck, the English vessel rounded to and threw out grappling-irons. Over the side of the French ship leaped Kirke's pikemen and musketeers. There was a short fight on the crowded deck; but after Roquemont had been struck down with a wound in his foot and some of his sailors had been killed, he surrendered to avert further bloodshed. Meanwhile, Lewis and Thomas Kirke had been equally successful in capturing the only two other vessels capable of offering any serious resistance. The clumsy French merchantmen, though armed, were no match for the staunchly built, well-manned English privateers, and after a few sweeping broadsides they, too, struck their flags. The remaining craft, incapable of fight or flight, surrendered. In this, the first naval engagement in the waters of North America, eighteen sail fell into the hands of the Kirkes, with a goodly store of supplies, ammunition, and guns, Alas for the high hopes of Father Lalemant and his fellow-missionaries!—all were now prisoners and at the mercy of the English and the Huguenots. Having more vessels than he could man, Kirke unloaded ten of the smallest and burned them. He then sailed homeward with his prizes, calling on his way at St Pierre Island, where he left a number of his prisoners, among them the Recollet fathers, and at Newfoundland, where he watered and refitted. When the convoy reached England about the end of September, great was the rejoicing among the Adventurers of Canada. For had they not crippled the Romish Company of the One Hundred Associates? And had they not gained, at the same time, a tenfold return of their money?
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 a fierce gale arose, and the ship was driven out of its course and dashed to pieces on the rocky shores of Acadia near the island of Canseau. Fourteen of the passengers, including Noyrot and a lay brother, Louis Malot, were drowned. Lalemant escaped with his life, and took passage on a trading vessel for France. This ship, too, was wrecked, near San Sebastian in the Bay of Biscay, and again Lalemant narrowly escaped death.
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 among the Hurons. Some of the older and most influential Hurons joined with the sorcerer in his denunciation of the priests, and soon the inhabitants of the whole village turned against them. Squaws shut the doors of the cabins at their approach, young braves threatened them with death, children followed them about hooting and pelting them with sticks and stones. At last the priests were summoned to a public council and openly accused of being the cause of the misfortunes that had recently visited the Huron people. Brebeuf replied to the accusations with unflinching courage, denying the charges, and showing their absurdity. He then boldly addressed his audience on the truths of Christianity, held before them the awful future that awaited those who refused to obey the words of Christ, and declared that the pest was a punishment for their evil lives. The council was deeply impressed by his courage and evident sincerity, and for the time being the lives of the missionaries were in no danger. But they knew that at any moment the blow might fall, and none ever went abroad without the feeling that a tomahawk might descend on his unguarded head.
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.