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  • 1867
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The Huron who embraced the Faith renounced thenceforth, as we have seen, the feasts, dances, and games in which was his delight, since all these savored of diabolism. And if, being in health, he could not enjoy himself, so also, being sick, he could not be cured; for his physician was a sorcerer, whose medicines were charms and incantations. If the convert was a chief, his case was far worse; since, writes Father Lalemant, “to be a chief and a Christian is to combine water and fire; for the business of the chiefs is mainly to do the Devil’s bidding, preside over ceremonies of hell, and excite the young Indians to dances, feasts, and shameless indecencies.”

[ Relation des Hurons, 1642, 89. The indecencies alluded to were chiefly naked dances, of a superstitious character, and the mystical cure called Andacwandet, before mentioned. ]

It is not surprising, then, that proselytes were difficult to make, or that, being made, they often relapsed. The Jesuits complain that they had no means of controlling their converts, and coercing backsliders to stand fast; and they add, that the Iroquois, by destroying the fur-trade, had broken the principal bond between the Hurons and the French, and greatly weakened the influence of the mission. [ Lettre du P. Hierosme Lalemant, appended to the Relation of 1645. ]

Among the slanders devised by the heathen party against the teachers of the obnoxious doctrine was one which found wide credence, even among the converts, and produced a great effect. They gave out that a baptized Huron girl, who had lately died, and was buried in the cemetery at Sainte Marie, had returned to life, and given a deplorable account of the heaven of the French. No sooner had she entered,–such was the story,–than they seized her, chained her to a stake, and tormented her all day with inconceivable cruelty. They did the same to all the other converted Hurons; for this was the recreation of the French, and especially of the Jesuits, in their celestial abode. They baptized Indians with no other object than that they might have them to torment in heaven; to which end they were willing to meet hardships and dangers in this life, just as a war-party invades the enemy’s country at great risk that it may bring home prisoners to burn. After her painful experience, an unknown friend secretly showed the girl a path down to the earth; and she hastened thither to warn her countrymen against the wiles of the missionaries. [ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1646, 65. ]

In the spring of 1648 the excitement of the heathen party reached a crisis. A young Frenchman, named Jacques Douart, in the service of the mission, going out at evening a short distance from the Jesuit house of Sainte Marie, was tomahawked by unknown Indians, [ 1 ] who proved to be two brothers, instigated by the heathen chiefs. A great commotion followed, and for a few days it seemed that the adverse parties would fall to blows, at a time when the common enemy threatened to destroy them both. But sager counsels prevailed. In view of the manifest strength of the Christians, the pagans lowered their tone; and it soon became apparent that it was the part of the Jesuits to insist boldly on satisfaction for the outrage. They made no demand that the murderers should be punished or surrendered, but, with their usual good sense in such matters, conformed to Indian usage, and required that the nation at large should make atonement for the crime by presents. [ 2 ] The number of these, their value, and the mode of delivering them were all fixed by ancient custom; and some of the converts, acting as counsel, advised the Fathers of every step it behooved them to take in a case of such importance. As this is the best illustration of Huron justice on record, it may be well to observe the method of procedure,–recollecting that the public, and not the criminal, was to pay the forfeit of the crime.

[ 1 Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 77. Compare Lettre du P. Jean de Brébeuf au T. R. P. Vincent Carafa, Général de la Compagnie de Jésus, Sainte Marie, 2 Juin, 1648, in Carayon. ]

[ 2 See Introduction. ]

First of all, the Huron chiefs summoned the Jesuits to meet them at a grand council of the nation, when an old orator, chosen by the rest, rose and addressed Ragueneau, as chief of the French, in the following harangue. Ragueneau, who reports it, declares that he has added nothing to it, and the translation is as literal as possible.

“My Brother,” began the speaker, “behold all the tribes of our league assembled!”–and he named them one by one. “We are but a handful; you are the prop and stay of this nation. A thunderbolt has fallen from the sky, and rent a chasm in the earth. We shall fall into it, if you do not support us. Take pity on us. We are here, not so much to speak as to weep over our loss and yours. Our country is but a skeleton, without flesh, veins, sinews, or arteries; and its bones hang together by a thread. This thread is broken by the blow that has fallen on the head of your nephew, [ 1 ] for whom we weep. It was a demon of Hell who placed the hatchet in the murderer’s hand. Was it you, Sun, whose beams shine on us, who led him to do this deed? Why did you not darken your light, that he might be stricken with horror at his crime? Were you his accomplice? No; for he walked in darkness, and did not see where he struck. He thought, this wretched murderer, that he aimed at the head of a young Frenchman; but the blow fell upon his country, and gave it a death-wound. The earth opens to receive the blood of the innocent victim, and we shall be swallowed up in the chasm; for we are all guilty. The Iroquois rejoice at his death, and celebrate it as a triumph; for they see that our weapons are turned against each other, and know well that our nation is near its end.

“Brother, take pity on this nation. You alone can restore it to life. It is for you to gather up all these scattered bones, and close this chasm that opens to ingulf us. Take pity on your country. I call it yours, for you are the master of it; and we came here like criminals to receive your sentence, if you will not show us mercy. Pity those who condemn themselves and come to ask forgiveness. It is you who have given strength to the nation by dwelling with it; and if you leave us, we shall be like a wisp of straw torn from the ground to be the sport of the wind. This country is an island drifting on the waves, for the first storm to overwhelm and sink. Make it fast again to its foundation, and posterity will never forget to praise you. When we first heard of this murder, we could do nothing but weep; and we are ready to receive your orders and comply with your demands. Speak, then, and ask what satisfaction you will, for our lives and our possessions are yours; and even if we rob our children to satisfy you, we will tell them that it is not of you that they have to complain, but of him whose crime has made us all guilty. Our anger is against him; but for you we feel nothing but love. He destroyed our lives; and you will restore them, if you will but speak and tell us what you will have us do.”

[ 1 The usual Indian figure in such cases, and not meant to express an actual relationship;–“Uncle” for a superior, “Brother” for an equal, “Nephew” for an inferior. ]

Ragueneau, who remarks that this harangue is a proof that eloquence is the gift of Nature rather than of Art, made a reply, which he has not recorded, and then gave the speaker a bundle of small sticks, indicating the number of presents which he required in satisfaction for the murder. These sticks were distributed among the various tribes in the council, in order that each might contribute its share towards the indemnity. The council dissolved, and the chiefs went home, each with his allotment of sticks, to collect in his village a corresponding number of presents. There was no constraint; those gave who chose to do so; but, as all were ambitious to show their public spirit, the contributions were ample. No one thought of molesting the murderers. Their punishment was their shame at the sacrifices which the public were making in their behalf.

The presents being ready, a day was set for the ceremony of their delivery; and crowds gathered from all parts to witness it. The assembly was convened in the open air, in a field beside the mission-house of Sainte Marie; and, in the midst, the chiefs held solemn council. Towards evening, they deputed four of their number, two Christians and two heathen, to carry their address to the Father Superior. They came, loaded with presents; but these were merely preliminary. One was to open the door, another for leave to enter; and as Sainte Marie was a large house, with several interior doors, at each one of which it behooved them to repeat this formality, their stock of gifts became seriously reduced before they reached the room where Father Ragueneau awaited them. On arriving, they made him a speech, every clause of which was confirmed by a present. The first was to wipe away his tears; the second, to restore his voice, which his grief was supposed to have impaired; the third, to calm the agitation of his mind; and the fourth, to allay the just anger of his heart. [ 1 ] These gifts consisted of wampum and the large shells of which it was made, together with other articles, worthless in any eyes but those of an Indian. Nine additional presents followed: four for the four posts of the sepulchre or scaffold of the murdered man; four for the cross-pieces which connected the posts; and one for a pillow to support his head. Then came eight more, corresponding to the eight largest bones of the victim’s body, and also to the eight clans of the Hurons. [ 2 ] Ragueneau, as required by established custom, now made them a present in his turn. It consisted of three thousand beads of wampum, and was designed to soften the earth, in order that they might not be hurt, when falling upon it, overpowered by his reproaches for the enormity of their crime. This closed the interview, and the deputation withdrew.

[ 1 Ragueneau himself describes the scene. Relation des Hurons, 1648, 80. ]

[ 2 Ragueneau says, “les huit nations”; but, as the Hurons consisted of only four, or at most five, nations, he probably means the clans. For the nature of these divisions, see Introduction. ]

The grand ceremony took place on the next day. A kind of arena had been prepared, and here were hung the fifty presents in which the atonement essentially consisted,–the rest, amounting to as many more, being only accessory. [ 1 ] The Jesuits had the right of examining them all, rejecting any that did not satisfy them, and demanding others in place of them. The naked crowd sat silent and attentive, while the orator in the midst delivered the fifty presents in a series of harangues, which the tired listener has not thought it necessary to preserve. Then came the minor gifts, each with its signification explained in turn by the speaker. First, as a sepulchre had been provided the day before for the dead man, it was now necessary to clothe and equip him for his journey to the next world; and to this end three presents were made. They represented a hat, a coat, a shirt, breeches, stockings, shoes, a gun, powder, and bullets; but they were in fact something quite different, as wampum, beaver-skins, and the like. Next came several gifts to close up the wounds of the slain. Then followed three more. The first closed the chasm in the earth, which had burst through horror of the crime. The next trod the ground firm, that it might not open again; and here the whole assembly rose and danced, as custom required. The last placed a large stone over the closed gulf; to make it doubly secure.

[ 1 The number was unusually large,–partly because the affair was thought very important, and partly because the murdered man belonged to another nation. See Introduction. ]

Now came another series of presents, seven in number,–to restore the voices of all the missionaries,–to invite the men in their service to forget the murder,–to appease the Governor when he should hear of it,–to light the fire at Sainte Marie,–to open the gate,–to launch the ferry boat in which the Huron visitors crossed the river,–and to give back the paddle to the boy who had charge of the boat. The Fathers, it seems, had the right of exacting two more presents, to rebuild their house and church,–supposed to have been shaken to the earth by the late calamity; but they forbore to urge the claim. Last of all were three gifts to confirm all the rest, and to entreat the Jesuits to cherish an undying love for the Hurons.

The priests on their part gave presents, as tokens of good-will; and with that the assembly dispersed. The mission had gained a triumph, and its influence was greatly strengthened. The future would have been full of hope, but for the portentous cloud of war that rose, black and wrathful, from where lay the dens of the Iroquois.


1648, 1649.



The River Wye enters the Bay of Glocester, an inlet of the Bay of Matchedash, itself an inlet of the vast Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. Retrace the track of two centuries and more, and ascend this little stream in the summer of the year 1648. Your vessel is a birch canoe, and your conductor a Huron Indian. On the right hand and on the left, gloomy and silent, rise the primeval woods; but you have advanced scarcely half a league when the scene is changed, and cultivated fields, planted chiefly with maize, extend far along the bank, and back to the distant verge of the forest. Before you opens the small lake from which the stream issues; and on your left, a stone’s throw from the shore, rises a range of palisades and bastioned walls, inclosing a number of buildings. Your canoe enters a canal or ditch immediately above them, and you land at the Mission, or Residence, or Fort of Sainte Marie.

Here was the centre and base of the Huron missions; and now, for once, one must wish that Jesuit pens had been more fluent. They have told us but little of Sainte Marie, and even this is to be gathered chiefly from incidental allusions. In the forest, which long since has resumed its reign over this memorable spot, the walls and ditches of the fortifications may still be plainly traced; and the deductions from these remains are in perfect accord with what we can gather from the Relations and letters of the priests. [ Before me is an elaborate plan of the remains, taken on the spot. ] The fortified work which inclosed the buildings was in the form of a parallelogram, about a hundred and seventy-five feet long, and from eighty to ninety wide. It lay parallel with the river, and somewhat more than a hundred feet distant from it. On two sides it was a continuous wall of masonry, [ 1 ] flanked with square bastions, adapted to musketry, and probably used as magazines, storehouses, or lodgings. The sides towards the river and the lake had no other defences than a ditch and palisade, flanked, like the others, by bastions, over each of which was displayed a large cross. [ 2 ] The buildings within were, no doubt, of wood; and they included a church, a kitchen, a refectory, places of retreat for religious instruction and meditation, [ 3 ] and lodgings for at least sixty persons. Near the church, but outside the fortification, was a cemetery. Beyond the ditch or canal which opened on the river was a large area, still traceable, in the form of an irregular triangle, surrounded by a ditch, and apparently by palisades. It seems to have been meant for the protection of the Indian visitors who came in throngs to Sainte Marie, and who were lodged in a large house of bark, after the Huron manner. [ 4 ] Here, perhaps, was also the hospital, which was placed without the walls, in order that Indian women, as well as men, might be admitted into it. [ 5 ]

[ 1 It seems probable that the walls, of which the remains may still be traced, were foundations supporting a wooden superstructure. Ragueneau, in a letter to the General of the Jesuits, dated March 13, 1650, alludes to the defences of Saint Marie as “une simple palissade.” ]

[ 2 “Quatre grandes Croix qui sont aux quatre coins de nostre enclos.”– Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 81. ]

[ 3 It seems that these places, besides those for the priests, were of two kinds,–“vne retraite pour les pelerins (Indians), enfin vn lieu plus separé, où les infideles, qui n’y sont admis que de iour au passage, y puissent tousiours receuoir quelque bon mot pour leur salut.”–Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1644, 74. ]

[ 4 At least it was so in 1642. “Nous leur auons dressé vn Hospice ou Cabane d’écorce.”–Ibid., 1642, 57. ]

[ 5 “Cet hospital est tellement separé de nostre demeure, que non seulement les hommes et enfans, mais les femmes y peuuent estre admises.”–Ibid., 1644, 74. ]

No doubt the buildings of Sainte Marie were of the roughest,–rude walls of boards, windows without glass, vast chimneys of unhewn stone. All its riches were centred in the church, which, as Lalemant tells us, was regarded by the Indians as one of the wonders of the world, but which, he adds, would have made but a beggarly show in France. Yet one wonders, at first thought, how so much labor could have been accomplished here. Of late years, however, the number of men at the command of the mission had been considerable. Soldiers had been sent up from time to time, to escort the Fathers on their way, and defend them on their arrival. Thus, in 1644, Montmagny ordered twenty men of a reinforcement just arrived from France to escort Brébeuf, Garreau, and Chabanel to the Hurons, and remain there during the winter. [ 1 ] These soldiers lodged with the Jesuits, and lived at their table. [ 2 ] It was not, however, on detachments of troops that they mainly relied for labor or defence. Any inhabitant of Canada who chose to undertake so hard and dangerous a service was allowed to do so, receiving only his maintenance from the mission, without pay. In return, he was allowed to trade with the Indians, and sell the furs thus obtained at the magazine of the Company, at a fixed price. [ Registres des Arrêts du Conseil, extract in Faillon, II, 94. ] Many availed themselves of this permission; and all whose services were accepted by the Jesuits seem to have been men to whom they had communicated no small portion of their own zeal, and who were enthusiastically attached to their Order and their cause. There is abundant evidence that a large proportion of them acted from motives wholly disinterested. They were, in fact, _donnés_ of the mission, [ 3 ] –given, heart and hand, to its service. There is probability in the conjecture, that the profits of their trade with the Indians were reaped, not for their own behoof, but for that of the mission. [ 4 ] It is difficult otherwise to explain the confidence with which the Father Superior, in a letter to the General of the Jesuits at Rome, speaks of its resources. He says, “Though our number is greatly increased, and though we still hope for more men, and especially for more priests of our Society, it is not necessary to increase the pecuniary aid given us.” [ 5 ]

[ 1 Vimont, Relation, 1644, 49. He adds, that some of these soldiers, though they had once been “assez mauvais garçons,” had shown great zeal and devotion in behalf of the mission. ]

[ 2 Journal des Supérieurs des Jésuites, MS. In 1648, a small cannon was sent to Sainte Marie in the Huron canoes.–Ibid. ]

[ 3 See ante, chapter 16 (page 214), “donnés”. Garnier calls them “séculiers d’habit, mais religieux de cœur.”–Lettres, MSS. ]

[ 4 The Jesuits, even at this early period, were often and loudly charged with sharing in the fur-trade. It is certain that this charge was not wholly without foundation. Le Jeune, in the Relation of 1657, speaking of the wampum, guns, powder, lead, hatchets, kettles, and other articles which the missionaries were obliged to give to the Indians, at councils and elsewhere, says that these must be bought from the traders with beaver-skins, which are the money of the country; and he adds, “Que si vn Iesuite en reçoit ou en recueille quelques-vns pour ayder aux frais immenses qu’il faut faire dans ces Missions si éloignées, et pour gagner ces peuples à Iesus-Christ et les porter à la paix, il seroit à souhaiter que ceux-là mesme qui deuroient faire ces despenses pour la conseruation du pays, ne fussent pas du moins les premiers à condamner le zele de ces Peres, et à les rendre par leurs discours plus noirs que leurs robes.”–Relation, 1657, 16.

In the same year, Chaumonot, addressing a council of the Iroquois during a period of truce, said, “Keep your beaver-skins, if you choose, for the Dutch. Even such of them as may fall into our possession will be employed for your service.”–Ibid., 17.

In 1636, La Jeune thought it necessary to write a long letter of defence against the charge; and in 1643, a declaration, appended to the Relation of that year, and certifying that the Jesuits took no part in the fur-trade, was drawn up and signed by twelve members of the company of New France. Its only meaning is, that the Jesuits were neither partners nor rivals of the Company’s monopoly. They certainly bought supplies from its magazines with furs which they obtained from the Indians.

Their object evidently was to make the mission partially self-supporting. To impute mercenary motives to Garnier, Jogues, and their co-laborers, is manifestly idle; but, even in the highest flights of his enthusiasm, the Jesuit never forgot his worldly wisdom. ]

[ 5 Lettre du P. Paul Ragueneau au T. R. P. Vincent Carafa, Général de la Compagnie de Jésus à Rome, Sainte Marie aux Hurons, 1 Mars, 1649 (Carayon). ]

Much of this prosperity was no doubt due to the excellent management of their resources, and a very successful agriculture. While the Indians around them were starving, they raised maize in such quantities, that, in the spring of 1649, the Father Superior thought that their stock of provisions might suffice for three years. “Hunting and fishing,” he says, “are better than heretofore”; and he adds, that they had fowls, swine, and even cattle. [ 1 ] How they could have brought these last to Sainte Marie it is difficult to conceive. The feat, under the circumstances, is truly astonishing. Everything indicates a fixed resolve on the part of the Fathers to build up a solid and permanent establishment.

[ 1 Lettre du P. Paul Ragueneau au T. R. P. Vincent Carafa, Général de la Compagnie de Jésus à Rome, Sainte Marie aux Hurons, 1 Mars, 1649 (Carayon). ]

It is by no means to be inferred that the household fared sumptuously. Their ordinary food was maize, pounded and boiled, and seasoned, in the absence of salt, which was regarded as a luxury, with morsels of smoked fish. [ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 48. ]

In March, 1649, there were in the Huron country and its neighborhood eighteen Jesuit priests, four lay brothers, twenty-three men serving without pay, seven hired men, four boys, and eight soldiers. [ 1 ] Of this number, fifteen priests were engaged in the various missions, while all the rest were retained permanently at Sainte Marie. All was method, discipline, and subordination. Some of the men were assigned to household work, and some to the hospital; while the rest labored at the fortifications, tilled the fields, and stood ready, in case of need, to fight the Iroquois. The Father Superior, with two other priests as assistants, controlled and guided all. The remaining Jesuits, undisturbed by temporal cares, were devoted exclusively to the charge of their respective missions. Two or three times in the year, they all, or nearly all, assembled at Sainte Marie, to take counsel together and determine their future action. Hither, also, they came at intervals for a period of meditation and prayer, to nerve themselves and gain new inspiration for their stern task.

[ 1 See the report of the Father Superior to the General, above cited. The number was greatly increased within the year. In April, 1648, Ragueneau reports but forty-two French in all, including priests. Before the end of the summer a large reinforcement came up in the Huron canoes. ]

Besides being the citadel and the magazine of the mission, Sainte Marie was the scene of a bountiful hospitality. On every alternate Saturday, as well as on feast-days, the converts came in crowds from the farthest villages. They were entertained during Saturday, Sunday, and a part of Monday; and the rites of the Church were celebrated before them with all possible solemnity and pomp. They were welcomed also at other times, and entertained, usually with three meals to each. In these latter years the prevailing famine drove them to Sainte Marie in swarms. In the course of 1647 three thousand were lodged and fed here; and in the following year the number was doubled. [ Compare Ragueneau in Relation des Hurons, 1648, 48, and in his report to the General in 1649. ] Heathen Indians were also received and supplied with food, but were not permitted to remain at night. There was provision for the soul as well as the body; and, Christian or heathen, few left Sainte Marie without a word of instruction or exhortation. Charity was an instrument of conversion.

Such, so far as we can reconstruct it from the scattered hints remaining, was this singular establishment, at once military, monastic, and patriarchal. The missions of which it was the basis were now eleven in number. To those among the Hurons already mentioned another had lately been added,–that of Sainte Madeleine; and two others, called St. Jean and St. Matthias, had been established in the neighboring Tobacco Nation. [ 1 ] The three remaining missions were all among tribes speaking the Algonquin languages. Every winter, bands of these savages, driven by famine and fear of the Iroquois, sought harborage in the Huron country, and the mission of Sainte Elisabeth was established for their benefit. The next Algonquin mission was that of Saint Esprit, embracing the Nipissings and other tribes east and north-east of Lake Huron; and, lastly, the mission of St. Pierre included the tribes at the outlet of Lake Superior, and throughout a vast extent of surrounding wilderness. [ 2 ]

[ 1 The mission of the Neutral Nation had been abandoned for the time, from the want of missionaries. The Jesuits had resolved on concentration, and on the thorough conversion of the Hurons, as a preliminary to more extended efforts. ]

[ 2 Besides these tribes, the Jesuits had become more or less acquainted with many others, also Algonquin on the west and south of Lake Huron; as well as with the Puans, or Winnebagoes, a Dacotah tribe between Lake Michigan and the Mississippi.

The Mission of Sault Sainte Marie, at the outlet of Lake Superior, was established at a later period. Modern writers have confounded it with Sainte Marie of the Hurons.

By the Relation of 1649 it appears that another mission had lately been begun at the Grand Manitoulin Island, which the Jesuits also christened Isle Sainte Marie. ]

These missions were more laborious, though not more perilous, than those among the Hurons. The Algonquin hordes were never long at rest; and, summer and winter, the priest must follow them by lake, forest, and stream: in summer plying the paddle all day, or toiling through pathless thickets, bending under the weight of a birch canoe or a load of baggage,–at night, his bed the rugged earth, or some bare rock, lashed by the restless waves of Lake Huron; while famine, the snow-storms, the cold, the treacherous ice of the Great Lakes, smoke, filth, and, not rarely, threats and persecution, were the lot of his winter wanderings. It seemed an earthly paradise, when, at long intervals, he found a respite from his toils among his brother Jesuits under the roof of Sainte Marie.

Hither, while the Fathers are gathered from their scattered stations at one of their periodical meetings,–a little before the season of Lent, 1649, [ 1 ]–let us, too, repair, and join them. We enter at the eastern gate of the fortification, midway in the wall between its northern and southern bastions, and pass to the hall, where, at a rude table, spread with ruder fare, all the household are assembled,–laborers, domestics, soldiers, and priests.

[ 1 The date of this meeting is a supposition merely. It is adopted with reference to events which preceded and followed. ]

It was a scene that might recall a remote half feudal, half patriarchal age, when, under the smoky rafters of his antique hail, some warlike thane sat, with kinsmen and dependants ranged down the long board, each in his degree. Here, doubtless, Ragueneau, the Father Superior, held the place of honor; and, for chieftains scarred with Danish battle-axes, was seen a band of thoughtful men, clad in a threadbare garb of black, their brows swarthy from exposure, yet marked with the lines of intellect and a fixed enthusiasm of purpose. Here was Bressani, scarred with firebrand and knife; Chabanel, once a professor of rhetoric in France, now a missionary, bound by a self-imposed vow to a life from which his nature recoiled; the fanatical Chaumonot, whose character savored of his peasant birth,–for the grossest fungus of superstition that ever grew under the shadow of Rome was not too much for his omnivorous credulity, and miracles and mysteries were his daily food; yet, such as his faith was, he was ready to die for it. Garnier, beardless like a woman, was of a far finer nature. His religion was of the affections and the sentiments; and his imagination, warmed with the ardor of his faith, shaped the ideal forms of his worship into visible realities. Brébeuf sat conspicuous among his brethren, portly and tall, his short moustache and beard grizzled with time,–for he was fifty-six years old. If he seemed impassive, it was because one overmastering principle had merged and absorbed all the impulses of his nature and all the faculties of his mind. The enthusiasm which with many is fitful and spasmodic was with him the current of his life,–solemn and deep as the tide of destiny. The Divine Trinity, the Virgin, the Saints, Heaven and Hell, Angels and Fiends,–to him, these alone were real, and all things else were nought. Gabriel Lalemant, nephew of Jerome Lalemant, Superior at Quebec, was Brébeuf’s colleague at the mission of St. Ignace. His slender frame and delicate features gave him an appearance of youth, though he had reached middle life; and, as in the case of Garnier, the fervor of his mind sustained him through exertions of which he seemed physically incapable. Of the rest of that company little has come down to us but the bare record of their missionary toils; and we may ask in vain what youthful enthusiasm, what broken hope or faded dream, turned the current of their lives, and sent them from the heart of civilization to this savage outpost of the world.

No element was wanting in them for the achievement of such a success as that to which they aspired,–neither a transcendent zeal, nor a matchless discipline, nor a practical sagacity very seldom surpassed in the pursuits where men strive for wealth and place; and if they were destined to disappointment, it was the result of external causes, against which no power of theirs could have insured them.

There was a gap in their number. The place of Antoine Daniel was empty, and never more to be filled by him,–never at least in the flesh, for Chaumonot averred, that not long since, when the Fathers were met in council, he had seen their dead companion seated in their midst, as of old, with a countenance radiant and majestic. [ 1 ] They believed his story,–no doubt he believed it himself; and they consoled one another with the thought, that, in losing their colleague on earth, they had gained him as a powerful intercessor in heaven. Daniel’s station had been at St. Joseph; but the mission and the missionary had alike ceased to exist.

[ 1 “Ce bon Pere s’apparut après sa mort à vn des nostres par deux diuerses fois. En l’vne il se fit voir en estat de gloire, portant le visage d’vn homme d’enuiron trente ans, quoy qu’il soit mort en l’âge de quarante-huict. . . . Vne autre fois il fut veu assister à vne assemblée que nous tenions,” etc.–Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1649, 5.

“Le P. Chaumonot vit au milieu de l’assemblée le P. Daniel qui aidait les Pères de ses conseils, et les remplissait d’une force surnaturelle; son visage était plein de majesté et d’éclat.”–Ibid., Lettre au Général de la Compagnie de Jésus (Carayon, 243).

“Le P. Chaumonot nous a quelque fois raconté, à la gloire de cet illustre confesseur de J. C. (Daniel) qu’il s’étoit fait voir à lui dans la gloire, à l’âge d’environ 30 ans, quoiqu’il en eut près de 50, et avec les autres circonstances qui se trouuent là (in the Historia Canadensis of Du Creux). Il ajoutait seulement qu’à la vue de ce bien-heureux tant de choses lui vinrent à l’esprit pour les lui demander, qu’il ne savoit pas où commencer son entretien avec ce cher défunt. Enfin, lui dit-il: “Apprenez moi, mon Père, ce que ie dois faire pour être bien agréable à Dieu.”–“Jamais,” répondit le martyr, “ne perdez le souvenir de vos péchés.”–Suite de la Vie de Chaumonot, 11. ]





In the summer of 1647 the Hurons dared not go down to the French settlements, but in the following year they took heart, and resolved at all risks to make the attempt; for the kettles, hatchets, and knives of the traders had become necessaries of life. Two hundred and fifty of their best warriors therefore embarked, under five valiant chiefs. They made the voyage in safety, approached Three Rivers on the seventeenth of July, and, running their canoes ashore among the bulrushes, began to grease their hair, paint their faces, and otherwise adorn themselves, that they might appear after a befitting fashion at the fort. While they were thus engaged, the alarm was sounded. Some of their warriors had discovered a large body of Iroquois, who for several days had been lurking in the forest, unknown to the French garrison, watching their opportunity to strike a blow. The Hurons snatched their arms, and, half-greased and painted, ran to meet them. The Iroquois received them with a volley. They fell flat to avoid the shot, then leaped up with a furious yell, and sent back a shower of arrows and bullets. The Iroquois, who were outnumbered, gave way and fled, excepting a few who for a time made fight with their knives. The Hurons pursued. Many prisoners were taken, and many dead left on the field. [ Lalemant, Relation, 1648, 11. The Jesuit Bressani had come down with the Hurons, and was with them in the fight. ] The rout of the enemy was complete; and when their trade was ended, the Hurons returned home in triumph, decorated with the laurels and the scalps of victory. As it proved, it would have been well, had they remained there to defend their families and firesides.

The oft-mentioned town of Teanaustayé, or St. Joseph, lay on the south-eastern frontier of the Huron country, near the foot of a range of forest-covered hills, and about fifteen miles from Sainte Marie. It had been the chief town of the nation, and its population, by the Indian standard, was still large; for it had four hundred families, and at least two thousand inhabitants. It was well fortified with palisades, after the Huron manner, and was esteemed the chief bulwark of the country. Here countless Iroquois had been burned and devoured. Its people had been truculent and intractable heathen, but many of them had surrendered to the Faith, and for four years past Father Daniel had preached among them with excellent results.

On the morning of the fourth of July, when the forest around basked lazily in the early sun, you might have mounted the rising ground on which the town stood, and passed unchallenged through the opening in the palisade. Within, you would have seen the crowded dwellings of bark, shaped like the arched coverings of huge baggage-wagons, and decorated with the _totems_ or armorial devices of their owners daubed on the outside with paint. Here some squalid wolfish dog lay sleeping in the sun, a group of Huron girls chatted together in the shade, old squaws pounded corn in large wooden mortars, idle youths gambled with cherry stones on a wooden platter, and naked infants crawled in the dust. Scarcely a warrior was to be seen. Some were absent in quest of game or of Iroquois scalps, and some had gone with the trading-party to the French settlements. You followed the foul passage-ways among the houses, and at length came to the church. It was full to the door. Daniel had just finished the mass, and his flock still knelt at their devotions. It was but the day before that he had returned to them, warmed with new fervor, from his meditations in retreat at Sainte Marie. Suddenly an uproar of voices, shrill with terror, burst upon the languid silence of the town. “The Iroquois! the Iroquois!” A crowd of hostile warriors had issued from the forest, and were rushing across the clearing, towards the opening in the palisade. Daniel ran out of the church, and hurried to the point of danger. Some snatched weapons; some rushed to and fro in the madness of a blind panic. The priest rallied the defenders; promised Heaven to those who died for their homes and their faith; then hastened from house to house, calling on unbelievers to repent and receive baptism, to snatch them from the Hell that yawned to ingulf them. They crowded around him, imploring to be saved; and, immersing his handkerchief in a bowl of water, he shook it over them, and baptized them by aspersion. They pursued him, as he ran again to the church, where he found a throng of women, children, and old men, gathered as in a sanctuary. Some cried for baptism, some held out their children to receive it, some begged for absolution, and some wailed in terror and despair. “Brothers,” he exclaimed again and again, as he shook the baptismal drops from his handkerchief,–“brothers, to-day we shall be in Heaven.”

The fierce yell of the war-whoop now rose close at hand. The palisade was forced, and the enemy was in the town. The air quivered with the infernal din. “Fly!” screamed the priest, driving his flock before him. “I will stay here. We shall meet again in Heaven.” Many of them escaped through an opening in the palisade opposite to that by which the Iroquois had entered; but Daniel would not follow, for there still might be souls to rescue from perdition. The hour had come for which he had long prepared himself. In a moment he saw the Iroquois, and came forth from the church to meet them. When they saw him in turn, radiant in the vestments of his office, confronting them with a look kindled with the inspiration of martyrdom, they stopped and stared in amazement; then recovering themselves, bent their bows, and showered him with a volley of arrows, that tore through his robes and his flesh. A gun shot followed; the ball pierced his heart, and he fell dead, gasping the name of Jesus. They rushed upon him with yells of triumph, stripped him naked, gashed and hacked his lifeless body, and, scooping his blood in their hands, bathed their faces in it to make them brave. The town was in a blaze; when the flames reached the church, they flung the priest into it, and both were consumed together.

[ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1649, 3-5; Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 247; Du Creux, Historia Canadensis, 524; Tanner, Societas Jesu Militans, 531; Marie de l’Incarnation, Lettre aux Ursulines de Tours, Quebec, 1649.

Daniel was born at Dieppe, and was forty-eight years old at the time of his death. He had been a Jesuit from the age of twenty. ]

Teanaustayé was a heap of ashes, and the victors took up their march with a train of nearly seven hundred prisoners, many of whom they killed on the way. Many more had been slain in the town and the neighboring forest, where the pursuers hunted them down, and where women, crouching for refuge among thickets, were betrayed by the cries and wailing of their infants.

The triumph of the Iroquois did not end here; for a neighboring fortified town, included within the circle of Daniel’s mission, shared the fate of Teanaustayé. Never had the Huron nation received such a blow.





More than eight months had passed since the catastrophe of St. Joseph. The winter was over, and that dreariest of seasons had come, the churlish forerunner of spring. Around Sainte Marie the forests were gray and bare, and, in the cornfields, the oozy, half-thawed soil, studded with the sodden stalks of the last autumn’s harvest, showed itself in patches through the melting snow.

At nine o’clock on the morning of the sixteenth of March, the priests saw a heavy smoke rising over the naked forest towards the south-east, about three miles distant. They looked at each other in dismay. “The Iroquois! They are burning St. Louis!” Flames mingled with the smoke; and, as they stood gazing, two Christian Hurons came, breathless and aghast, from the burning town. Their worst fear was realized. The Iroquois were there; but where were the priests of the mission, Brébeuf and Lalemant?

Late in the autumn, a thousand Iroquois, chiefly Senecas and Mohawks, had taken the war-path for the Hurons. They had been all winter in the forests, hunting for subsistence, and moving at their leisure towards their prey. The destruction of the two towns of the mission of St. Joseph had left a wide gap, and in the middle of March they entered the heart of the Huron country, undiscovered. Common vigilance and common sense would have averted the calamities that followed; but the Hurons were like a doomed people, stupefied, sunk in dejection, fearing everything, yet taking no measures for defence. They could easily have met the invaders with double their force, but the besotted warriors lay idle in their towns, or hunted at leisure in distant forests; nor could the Jesuits, by counsel or exhortation, rouse them to face the danger.

Before daylight of the sixteenth, the invaders approached St. Ignace, which, with St. Louis and three other towns, formed the mission of the same name. They reconnoitred the place in the darkness. It was defended on three sides by a deep ravine, and further strengthened by palisades fifteen or sixteen feet high, planted under the direction of the Jesuits. On the fourth side it was protected by palisades alone; and these were left, as usual, unguarded. This was not from a sense of security; for the greater part of the population had abandoned the town, thinking it too much exposed to the enemy, and there remained only about four hundred, chiefly women, children, and old men, whose infatuated defenders were absent hunting, or on futile scalping-parties against the Iroquois. It was just before dawn, when a yell, as of a legion of devils, startled the wretched inhabitants from their sleep; and the Iroquois, bursting in upon them, cut them down with knives and hatchets, killing many, and reserving the rest for a worse fate. They had entered by the weakest side; on the other sides there was no exit, and only three Hurons escaped. The whole was the work of a few minutes. The Iroquois left a guard to hold the town, and secure the retreat of the main body in case of a reverse; then, smearing their faces with blood, after their ghastly custom, they rushed, in the dim light of the early dawn, towards St. Louis, about a league distant.

The three fugitives had fled, half naked, through the forest, for the same point, which they reached about sunrise, yelling the alarm. The number of inhabitants here was less, at this time, than seven hundred; and, of these, all who had strength to escape, excepting about eighty warriors, made in wild terror for a place of safety. Many of the old, sick, and decrepit were left perforce in the lodges. The warriors, ignorant of the strength of the assailants, sang their war-songs, and resolved to hold the place to the last. It had not the natural strength of St. Ignace; but, like it, was surrounded by palisades.

Here were the two Jesuits, Brébeuf and Lalemant. Brébeuf’s converts entreated him to escape with them; but the Norman zealot, bold scion of a warlike stock, had no thought of flight. His post was in the teeth of danger, to cheer on those who fought, and open Heaven to those who fell. His colleague, slight of frame and frail of constitution, trembled despite himself; but deep enthusiasm mastered the weakness of Nature, and he, too, refused to fly.

Scarcely had the sun risen, and scarcely were the fugitives gone, when, like a troop of tigers, the Iroquois rushed to the assault. Yell echoed yell, and shot answered shot. The Hurons, brought to bay, fought with the utmost desperation, and with arrows, stones, and the few guns they had, killed thirty of their assailants, and wounded many more. Twice the Iroquois recoiled, and twice renewed the attack with unabated ferocity. They swarmed at the foot of the palisades, and hacked at them with their hatchets, till they had cut them through at several different points. For a time there was a deadly fight at these breaches. Here were the two priests, promising Heaven to those who died for their faith,–one giving baptism, and the other absolution. At length the Iroquois broke in, and captured all the surviving defenders, the Jesuits among the rest. They set the town on fire; and the helpless wretches who had remained, unable to fly, were consumed in their burning dwellings. Next they fell upon Brébeuf and Lalemant, stripped them, bound them fast, and led them with the other prisoners back to St. Ignace, where all turned out to wreak their fury on the two priests, beating them savagely with sticks and clubs as they drove them into the town. At present, there was no time for further torture, for there was work in hand.

The victors divided themselves into several bands, to burn the neighboring villages and hunt their flying inhabitants. In the flush of their triumph, they meditated a bolder enterprise; and, in the afternoon, their chiefs sent small parties to reconnoitre Sainte Marie, with a view to attacking it on the next day.

Meanwhile the fugitives of St. Louis, joined by other bands as terrified and as helpless as they, were struggling through the soft snow which clogged the forests towards Lake Huron, where the treacherous ice of spring was still unmelted. One fear expelled another. They ventured upon it, and pushed forward all that day and all the following night, shivering and famished, to find refuge in the towns of the Tobacco Nation. Here, when they arrived, they spread a universal panic.

Ragueneau, Bressani, and their companions waited in suspense at Sainte Marie. On the one hand, they trembled for Brébeuf and Lalemant; on the other, they looked hourly for an attack: and when at evening they saw the Iroquois scouts prowling along the edge of the bordering forest, their fears were confirmed. They had with them about forty Frenchmen, well armed; but their palisades and wooden buildings were not fire-proof, and they had learned from fugitives the number and ferocity of the invaders. They stood guard all night, praying to the Saints, and above all to their great patron, Saint Joseph, whose festival was close at hand.

In the morning they were somewhat relieved by the arrival of about three hundred Huron warriors, chiefly converts from La Conception and Sainte Madeleine, tolerably well armed, and full of fight. They were expecting others to join them; and meanwhile, dividing into several bands, they took post by the passes of the neighboring forest, hoping to waylay parties of the enemy. Their expectation was fulfilled; for, at this time, two hundred of the Iroquois were making their way from St. Ignace, in advance of the main body, to begin the attack on Sainte Marie. They fell in with a band of the Hurons, set upon them, killed many, drove the rest to headlong flight, and, as they plunged in terror through the snow, chased them within sight of Sainte Marie. The other Hurons, hearing the yells and firing, ran to the rescue, and attacked so fiercely, that the Iroquois in turn were routed, and ran for shelter to St. Louis, followed closely by the victors. The houses of the town had been burned, but the palisade around them was still standing, though breached and broken. The Iroquois rushed in; but the Hurons were at their heels. Many of the fugitives were captured, the rest killed or put to utter rout, and the triumphant Hurons remained masters of the place.

The Iroquois who escaped fled to St. Ignace. Here, or on the way thither, they found the main body of the invaders; and when they heard of the disaster, the whole swarm, beside themselves with rage, turned towards St. Louis to take their revenge. Now ensued one of the most furious Indian battles on record. The Hurons within the palisade did not much exceed a hundred and fifty; for many had been killed or disabled, and many, perhaps, had straggled away. Most of their enemies had guns, while they had but few. Their weapons were bows and arrows, war-clubs, hatchets, and knives; and of these they made good use, sallying repeatedly, fighting like devils, and driving back their assailants again and again. There are times when the Indian warrior forgets his cautious maxims, and throws himself into battle with a mad and reckless ferocity. The desperation of one party, and the fierce courage of both, kept up the fight after the day had closed; and the scout from Sainte Marie, as he bent listening under the gloom of the pines, heard, far into the night, the howl of battle rising from the darkened forest. The principal chief of the Iroquois was severely wounded, and nearly a hundred of their warriors were killed on the spot. When, at length, their numbers and persistent fury prevailed, their only prize was some twenty Huron warriors, spent with fatigue and faint with loss of blood. The rest lay dead around the shattered palisades which they had so valiantly defended. Fatuity, not cowardice, was the ruin of the Huron nation.

The lamps burned all night at Sainte Marie, and its defenders stood watching till daylight, musket in hand. The Jesuits prayed without ceasing, and Saint Joseph was besieged with invocations. “Those of us who were priests,” writes Ragueneau, “each made a vow to say a mass in his honor every month, for the space of a year; and all the rest bound themselves by vows to divers penances.” The expected onslaught did not take place. Not an Iroquois appeared. Their victory had been bought too dear, and they had no stomach for more fighting. All the next day, the eighteenth, a stillness, like the dead lull of a tempest, followed the turmoil of yesterday,–as if, says the Father Superior, “the country were waiting, palsied with fright, for some new disaster.”

On the following day,–the journalist fails not to mention that it was the festival of Saint Joseph,–Indians came in with tidings that a panic had seized the Iroquois camp, that the chiefs could not control it, and that the whole body of invaders was retreating in disorder, possessed with a vague terror that the Hurons were upon them in force. They had found time, however, for an act of atrocious cruelty. They planted stakes in the bark houses of St. Ignace, and bound to them those of their prisoners whom they meant to sacrifice, male and female, from old age to infancy, husbands, mothers, and children, side by side. Then, as they retreated, they set the town on fire, and laughed with savage glee at the shrieks of anguish that rose from the blazing dwellings.

[ The site of St. Ignace still bears evidence of the catastrophe, in the ashes and charcoal that indicate the position of the houses, and the fragments of broken pottery and half-consumed bone, together with trinkets of stone, metal, or glass, which have survived the lapse of two centuries and more. The place has been minutely examined by Dr. Taché. ]

They loaded the rest of their prisoners with their baggage and plunder, and drove them through the forest southward, braining with their hatchets any who gave out on the march. An old woman, who had escaped out of the midst of the flames of St. Ignace, made her way to St. Michel, a large town not far from the desolate site of St. Joseph. Here she found about seven hundred Huron warriors, hastily mustered. She set them on the track of the retreating Iroquois, and they took up the chase,–but evidently with no great eagerness to overtake their dangerous enemy, well armed as he was with Dutch guns, while they had little beside their bows and arrows. They found, as they advanced, the dead bodies of prisoners tomahawked on the march, and others bound fast to trees and half burned by the fagots piled hastily around them. The Iroquois pushed forward with such headlong speed, that the pursuers could not, or would not, overtake them; and, after two days, they gave over the attempt.





On the morning of the twentieth, the Jesuits at Sainte Marie received full confirmation of the reported retreat of the invaders; and one of them, with seven armed Frenchmen, set out for the scene of havoc. They passed St. Louis, where the bloody ground was strown thick with corpses, and, two or three miles farther on, reached St. Ignace. Here they saw a spectacle of horror; for among the ashes of the burnt town were scattered in profusion the half-consumed bodies of those who had perished in the flames. Apart from the rest, they saw a sight that banished all else from their thoughts; for they found what they had come to seek,–the scorched and mangled relics of Brébeuf and Lalemant.

[ “Ils y trouuerent vn spectacle d’horreur, les restes de la cruauté mesme, ou plus tost les restes de l’amour de Dieu, qui seul triomphe dans la mort des Martyrs.”–Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1649, 13. ]

They had learned their fate already from Huron prisoners, many of whom had made their escape in the panic and confusion of the Iroquois retreat. They described what they had seen, and the condition in which the bodies were found confirmed their story.

On the afternoon of the sixteenth,–the day when the two priests were captured,–Brébeuf was led apart, and bound to a stake. He seemed more concerned for his captive converts than for himself, and addressed them in a loud voice, exhorting them to suffer patiently, and promising Heaven as their reward. The Iroquois, incensed, scorched him from head to foot, to silence him; whereupon, in the tone of a master, he threatened them with everlasting flames, for persecuting the worshippers of God. As he continued to speak, with voice and countenance unchanged, they cut away his lower lip and thrust a red-hot iron down his throat. He still held his tall form erect and defiant, with no sign or sound of pain; and they tried another means to overcome him. They led out Lalemant, that Brébeuf might see him tortured. They had tied strips of bark, smeared with pitch, about his naked body. When he saw the condition of his Superior, he could not hide his agitation, and called out to him, with a broken voice, in the words of Saint Paul, “We are made a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men.” Then he threw himself at Brébeuf’s feet; upon which the Iroquois seized him, made him fast to a stake, and set fire to the bark that enveloped him. As the flame rose, he threw his arms upward, with a shriek of supplication to Heaven. Next they hung around Brébeuf’s neck a collar made of hatchets heated red hot; but the indomitable priest stood like a rock. A Huron in the crowd, who had been a convert of the mission, but was now an Iroquois by adoption, called out, with the malice of a renegade, to pour hot water on their heads, since they had poured so much cold water on those of others. The kettle was accordingly slung, and the water boiled and poured slowly on the heads of the two missionaries. “We baptize you,” they cried, “that you may be happy in Heaven; for nobody can be saved without a good baptism.” Brébeuf would not flinch; and, in a rage, they cut strips of flesh from his limbs, and devoured them before his eyes. Other renegade Hurons called out to him, “You told us, that, the more one suffers on earth, the happier he is in Heaven. We wish to make you happy; we torment you because we love you; and you ought to thank us for it.” After a succession of other revolting tortures, they scalped him; when, seeing him nearly dead, they laid open his breast, and came in a crowd to drink the blood of so valiant an enemy, thinking to imbibe with it some portion of his courage. A chief then tore out his heart, and devoured it.

Thus died Jean de Brébeuf, the founder of the Huron mission, its truest hero, and its greatest martyr. He came of a noble race,–the same, it is said, from which sprang the English Earls of Arundel; but never had the mailed barons of his line confronted a fate so appalling, with so prodigious a constancy. To the last he refused to flinch, and “his death was the astonishment of his murderers.” [ Charlevoix, I. 204. Alegambe uses a similar expression. ] In him an enthusiastic devotion was grafted on an heroic nature. His bodily endowments were as remarkable as the temper of his mind. His manly proportions, his strength, and his endurance, which incessant fasts and penances could not undermine, had always won for him the respect of the Indians, no less than a courage unconscious of fear, and yet redeemed from rashness by a cool and vigorous judgment; for, extravagant as were the chimeras which fed the fires of his zeal, they were consistent with the soberest good sense on matters of practical bearing.

Lalemant, physically weak from childhood, and slender almost to emaciation, was constitutionally unequal to a display of fortitude like that of his colleague. When Brébeuf died, he was led back to the house whence he had been taken, and tortured there all night, until, in the morning, one of the Iroquois, growing tired of the protracted entertainment, killed him with a hatchet. [ 1 ] It was said, that, at times, he seemed beside himself; then, rallying, with hands uplifted, he offered his sufferings to Heaven as a sacrifice. His robust companion had lived less than four hours under the torture, while he survived it for nearly seventeen. Perhaps the Titanic effort of will with which Brébeuf repressed all show of suffering conspired with the Iroquois knives and firebrands to exhaust his vitality; perhaps his tormentors, enraged at his fortitude, forgot their subtlety, and struck too near the life.

[ 1 “We saw no part of his body,” says Ragueneau, “from head to foot, which was not burned, even to his eyes, in the sockets of which these wretches had placed live coals.”–Relation des Hurons, 1649, 15.

Lalemant was a Parisian, and his family belonged to the class of _gens de robe_, or hereditary practitioners of the law. He was thirty-nine years of age. His physical weakness is spoken of by several of those who knew him. Marie de l’Incarnation says, “C’était l’homme le plus faible et le plus délicat qu’on eût pu voir.” Both Bressani and Ragueneau are equally emphatic on this point. ]

The bodies of the two missionaries were carried to Sainte Marie, and buried in the cemetery there; but the skull of Brébeuf was preserved as a relic. His family sent from France a silver bust of their martyred kinsman, in the base of which was a recess to contain the skull; and, to this day, the bust and the relic within are preserved with pious care by the nuns of the Hôtel-Dieu at Quebec.

[ Photographs of the bust are before me. Various relics of the two missionaries were preserved; and some of them may still be seen in Canadian monastic establishments. The following extract from a letter of Marie de l’Incarnation to her son, written from Quebec in October of this year, 1649, is curious.

“Madame our foundress (Madame de la Peltrie) sends you relics of our holy martyrs; but she does it secretly, since the reverend Fathers would not give us any, for fear that we should send them to France: but, as she is not bound by vows, and as the very persons who went for the bodies have given relics of them to her in secret, I begged her to send you some of them, which she has done very gladly, from the respect she has for you.” She adds, in the same letter, “Our Lord having revealed to him (Brébeuf) the time of his martyrdom three days before it happened, he went, full of joy, to find the other Fathers; who, seeing him in extraordinary spirits, caused him, by an inspiration of God, to be bled; after which time surgeon dried his blood, through a presentiment of what was to take place, lest he should be treated like Father Daniel, who, eight months before, had been so reduced to ashes that no remains of his body could be found.”

Brébeuf had once been ordered by the Father Superior to write down the visions, revelations, and inward experiences with which he was favored,– “at least,” says Ragueneau, “those which he could easily remember, for their multitude was too great for the whole to be recalled.”–“I find nothing,” he adds, “more frequent in this memoir than the expression of his desire to die for Jesus Christ: ‘Sentio me vehementer impelli ad moriendum pro Christo.’ . . . In fine, wishing to make himself a holocaust and a victim consecrated to death, and holily to anticipate the happiness of martyrdom which awaited him, he bound himself by a vow to Christ, which he conceived in these terms”; and Ragueneau gives the vow in the original Latin. It binds him never to refuse “the grace of martyrdom, if at any day, Thou shouldst, in Thy infinite pity, offer it to me, Thy unworthy servant;”. . . “and when I shall have received the stroke of death, I bind myself to accept it at Thy hand, with all the contentment and joy of my heart.”

Some of his innumerable visions have been already mentioned. (See ante, chapter 9 (page 108).) Tanner, Societas Militans, gives various others,– as, for example, that he once beheld a mountain covered thick with saints, but above all with virgins, while the Queen of Virgins sat at the top in a blaze of glory. In 1637, when the whole country was enraged against the Jesuits, and above all against Brébeuf, as sorcerers who had caused the pest, Ragueneau tells us that “a troop of demons appeared before him divers times,–sometimes like men in a fury, sometimes like frightful monsters, bears, lions, or wild horses, trying to rush upon him. These spectres excited in him neither horror nor fear. He said to them, ‘Do to me whatever God permits you; for without His will not one hair will fall from my head.’ And at these words all the demons vanished in a moment.”–Relation des Hurons, 1649, 20. Compare the long notice in Alegambe, Mortes Illustres, 644.

In Ragueneau’s notice of Brébeuf, as in all other notices of deceased missionaries in the Relations, the saintly qualities alone are brought forward, as obedience, humility, etc.; but wherever Brébeuf himself appears in the course of those voluminous records, he always brings with him an impression of power.

We are told that, punning on his own name, he used to say that he was an ox, fit only to bear burdens. This sort of humility may pass for what it is worth; but it must be remembered, that there is a kind of acting in which the actor firmly believes in the part he is playing. As for the obedience, it was as genuine as that of a well-disciplined soldier, and incomparably more profound. In the case of the Canadian Jesuits, posterity owes to this, their favorite virtue, the record of numerous visions, inward voices, and the like miracles, which the object of these favors set down on paper, at the command of his Superior; while, otherwise, humility would have concealed them forever. The truth is, that with some of these missionaries, one may throw off trash and nonsense by the cart-load, and find under it all a solid nucleus of saint and hero. ]


1649, 1650.



All was over with the Hurons. The death-knell of their nation had struck. Without a leader, without organization, without union, crazed with fright and paralyzed with misery, they yielded to their doom without a blow. Their only thought was flight. Within two weeks after the disasters of St. Ignace and St. Louis, fifteen Huron towns were abandoned, and the greater number burned, lest they should give shelter to the Iroquois. The last year’s harvest had been scanty; the fugitives had no food, and they left behind them the fields in which was their only hope of obtaining it. In bands, large or small, some roamed northward and eastward, through the half-thawed wilderness; some hid themselves on the rocks or islands of Lake Huron; some sought an asylum among the Tobacco Nation; a few joined the Neutrals on the north of Lake Erie. The Hurons, as a nation, ceased to exist.

[ Chaumonot, who was at Ossossané at the time of the Iroquois invasion, gives a vivid picture of the panic and lamentation which followed the news of the destruction of the Huron warriors at St. Louis, and of the flight of the inhabitants to the country of the Tobacco Nation.–Vie, 62. ]

Hitherto Sainte Marie had been covered by large fortified towns which lay between it and the Iroquois; but these were all destroyed, some by the enemy and some by their own people, and the Jesuits were left alone to bear the brunt of the next attack. There was, moreover, no reason for their remaining. Sainte Marie had been built as a basis for the missions; but its occupation was gone: the flock had fled from the shepherds, and its existence had no longer an object. If the priests stayed to be butchered, they would perish, not as martyrs, but as fools. The necessity was as clear as it was bitter. All their toil must come to nought. Sainte Marie must be abandoned. They confess the pang which the resolution cost them; but, pursues the Father Superior, “since the birth of Christianity, the Faith has nowhere been planted except in the midst of sufferings and crosses. Thus this desolation consoles us; and in the midst of persecution, in the extremity of the evils which assail us and the greater evils which threaten us, we are all filled with joy: for our hearts tell us that God has never had a more tender love for us than now.” [ Ragueneau. Relation des Hurons, 1649, 26. ]

Several of the priests set out to follow and console the scattered bands of fugitive Hurons. One embarked in a canoe, and coasted the dreary shores of Lake Huron northward, among the wild labyrinth of rocks and islets, whither his scared flock had fled for refuge; another betook himself to the forest with a band of half-famished proselytes, and shared their miserable rovings through the thickets and among the mountains. Those who remained took counsel together at Sainte Marie. Whither should they go, and where should be the new seat of the mission? They made choice of the Grand Manitoulin Island, called by them Isle Sainte Marie, and by the Hurons Ekaentoton. It lay near the northern shores of Lake Huron, and by its position would give a ready access to numberless Algonquin tribes along the borders of all these inland seas. Moreover, it would bring the priests and their flock nearer to the French settlements, by the route of the Ottawa, whenever the Iroquois should cease to infest that river. The fishing, too, was good; and some of the priests, who knew the island well, made a favorable report of the soil. Thither, therefore, they had resolved to transplant the mission, when twelve Huron chiefs arrived, and asked for an interview with the Father Superior and his fellow Jesuits. The conference lasted three hours. The deputies declared that many of the scattered Hurons had determined to reunite, and form a settlement on a neighboring island of the lake, called by the Jesuits Isle St. Joseph; that they needed the aid of the Fathers; that without them they were helpless, but with them they could hold their ground and repel the attacks of the Iroquois. They urged their plea in language which Ragueneau describes as pathetic and eloquent; and, to confirm their words, they gave him ten large collars of wampum, saying that these were the voices of their wives and children. They gained their point. The Jesuits abandoned their former plan, and promised to join the Hurons on Isle St. Joseph.

They had built a boat, or small vessel, and in this they embarked such of their stores as it would hold. The greater part were placed on a large raft made for the purpose, like one of the rafts of timber which every summer float down the St. Lawrence and the Ottawa. Here was their stock of corn,–in part the produce of their own fields, and in part bought from the Hurons in former years of plenty,–pictures, vestments, sacred vessels and images, weapons, ammunition, tools, goods for barter with the Indians, cattle, swine, and poultry. [ Some of these were killed for food after reaching the island. In March following, they had ten fowls, a pair of swine, two bulls and two cows, kept for breeding.–Lettre de Ragueneau au Général de la Compagnie de Jésus, St. Joseph, 13 Mars, 1650. ] Sainte Marie was stripped of everything that could be moved. Then, lest it should harbor the Iroquois, they set it on fire, and saw consumed in an hour the results of nine or ten years of toil. It was near sunset, on the fourteenth of June. [ 1 ] The houseless band descended to the mouth of the Wye, went on board their raft, pushed it from the shore, and, with sweeps and oars, urged it on its way all night. The lake was calm and the weather fair; but it crept so slowly over the water that several days elapsed before they reached their destination, about twenty miles distant.

[ 1 Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 3. In the Relation of the preceding year he gives the fifteenth of May as the date,–evidently an error.

“Nous sortismes de ces terres de Promission qui estoient nostre Paradis, et où la mort nous eust esté mille fois plus douce que ne sera la vie en quelque lieu que nous puissions estre. Mais il faut suiure Dieu, et il faut aimer ses conduites, quelque opposées qu’elles paroissent à nos desirs, à nos plus saintes esperances et aux plus tendres amours de nostre cœur.”–Lettre de Ragueneau au P. Provincial à Paris, in Relation des Hurons, 1650, 1.

“Mais il fallut, à tous tant que nous estions, quitter cette ancienne demeure de saincte Marie; ces edifices, qui quoy que pauures, paroissoient des chefs-d’œuure de l’art aux yeux de nos pauures Sauuages; ces terres cultiuées, qui nous promettoient vne riche moisson. Il nous fallut abandonner ce lieu, que ie puis appeller nostre seconde Patrie et nos delices innocentes, puis qu’il auoit esté le berceau de ce Christianisme, qu’il estoit le temple de Dieu et la maison des seruiteurs de Iesus-Christ; et crainte que nos ennemis trop impies, ne profanassent ce lieu de saincteté et n’en prissent leur auantage, nous y mismes le feu nous mesmes, et nous vismes brusler à nos yeux, en moins d’vne heure, nos trauaux de neuf et de dix ans.”–Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 2, 3. ]

Near the entrance of Matchedash Bay lie the three islands now known as Faith, Hope, and Charity. Of these, Charity or Christian Island, called Ahoendoé by the Hurons and St. Joseph by the Jesuits, is by far the largest. It is six or eight miles wide; and when the Hurons sought refuge here, it was densely covered with the primeval forest. The priests landed with their men, some forty soldiers, laborers, and others, and found about three hundred Huron families bivouacked in the woods. Here were wigwams and sheds of bark, and smoky kettles slung over fires, each on its tripod of poles, while around lay groups of famished wretches, with dark, haggard visages and uncombed hair, in every posture of despondency and woe. They had not been wholly idle; for they had made some rough clearings, and planted a little corn. The arrival of the Jesuits gave them new hope; and, weakened as they were with famine, they set themselves to the task of hewing and burning down the forest, making bark houses, and planting palisades. The priests, on their part, chose a favorable spot, and began to clear the ground and mark out the lines of a fort. Their men–the greater part serving without pay– labored with admirable spirit, and before winter had built a square, bastioned fort of solid masonry, with a deep ditch, and walls about twelve feet high. Within were a small chapel, houses for lodging, and a well, which, with the ruins of the walls, may still be seen on the south-eastern shore of the island, a hundred feet from the water. [ 1 ] Detached redoubts were also built near at hand, where French musketeers could aid in defending the adjacent Huron village. [ Compare Martin, Introduction to Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 38. ] Though the island was called St. Joseph, the fort, like that on the Wye, received the name of Sainte Marie. Jesuit devotion scattered these names broadcast over all the field of their labors.

[ 1 The measurement between the angles of the two southern bastions is 123 feet, and that of the curtain wall connecting these bastions is 78 feet. Some curious relics have been found in the fort,–among others, a steel mill for making wafers for the Host. It was found in 1848, in a remarkable state of preservation, and is now in an English museum, having been bought on the spot by an amateur. As at Sainte Marie on the Wye, the remains are in perfect conformity with the narratives and letters of the priests. ]

The island, thanks to the vigilance of the French, escaped attack throughout the summer; but Iroquois scalping-parties ranged the neighboring shores, killing stragglers and keeping the Hurons in perpetual alarm. As winter drew near, great numbers, who, trembling and by stealth, had gathered a miserable subsistence among the northern forests and islands, rejoined their countrymen at St. Joseph, until six or eight thousand expatriated wretches were gathered here under the protection of the French fort. They were housed in a hundred or more bark dwellings, each containing eight or ten families. [ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 3, 4. He reckons eight persons to a family. ] Here were widows without children, and children without parents; for famine and the Iroquois had proved more deadly enemies than the pestilence which a few years before had wasted their towns. [ 1 ] Of this multitude but few had strength enough to labor, scarcely any had made provision for the winter, and numbers were already perishing from want, dragging themselves from house to house, like living skeletons. The priests had spared no effort to meet the demands upon their charity. They sent men during the autumn to buy smoked fish from the Northern Algonquins, and employed Indians to gather acorns in the woods. Of this miserable food they succeeded in collecting five or six hundred bushels. To diminish its bitterness, the Indians boiled it with ashes, or the priests served it out to them pounded, and mixed with corn. [ Eight hundred sacks of this mixture were given to the Hurons during the winter.–Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 283. ]

[ 1 “Ie voudrois pouuoir representer à toutes les personnes affectionnées à nos Hurons, l’état pitoyable auquel ils sont reduits; . . . comment seroit-il possible que ces imitateurs de Iésus Christ ne fussent émeus à pitié à la veuë des centaines et centaines de veuues dont non seulement les enfans, mais quasi les parens ont esté outrageusement ou tuez, ou emmenez captifs, et puis inhumainement bruslez, cuits, déchirez et deuorez des ennemis.”–Lettre de Chaumonot à Lalemant, Supérieur à Quebec, Isle de St. Joseph, 1 Juin, 1649.

“Vne mère s’est veuë, n’ayant que ses deux mamelles, mais sans suc et sans laict, qui toutefois estoit l’vnique chose qu’elle eust peu presenter à trois ou quatre enfans qui pleuroient y estans attachez. Elle les voyoit mourir entre ses bras, les vns apres les autres, et n’auoit pas mesme les forces de les pousser dans le tombeau. Elle mouroit sous cette charge, et en mourant elle disoit: Ouy, Mon Dieu, vous estes le maistre de nos vies; nous mourrons puisque vous le voulez; voila qui est bien que nous mourrions Chrestiens. I’estois damnée, et mes enfans auec moy, si nous ne fussions morts miserables; ils ont receu le sainct Baptesme, et ie croy fermement que mourans tous de compagnie, nous ressusciterons tous ensemble.”–Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 5. ]

As winter advanced, the Huron houses became a frightful spectacle. Their inmates were dying by scores daily. The priests and their men buried the bodies, and the Indians dug them from the earth or the snow and fed on them, sometimes in secret and sometimes openly; although, notwithstanding their superstitious feasts on the bodies of their enemies, their repugnance and horror were extreme at the thought of devouring those of relatives and friends. [ 1 ] An epidemic presently appeared, to aid the work of famine. Before spring, about half of their number were dead.

[ 1 “Ce fut alors que nous fusmes contraints de voir des squeletes mourantes, qui soustenoient vne vie miserable, mangeant iusqu’aux ordures et les rebuts de la nature. Le gland estoit à la pluspart, ce que seroient en France les mets les plus exquis. Les charognes mesme deterrées, les restes des Renards et des Chiens ne faisoient point horreur, et se mangeoient, quoy qu’en cachete: car quoy que les Hurons, auant que la foy leur eust donné plus de lumiere qu’ils n’en auoient dans l’infidelité, ne creussent pas commettre aucun peché de manger leurs ennemis, aussi peu qu’il y en a de les tuer, toutefois ie puis dire auec verité, qu’ils n’ont pas moins d’horreur de manger de leurs compatriotes, qu’on peut auoir en France de manger de la chair humaine. Mais la necessité n’a plus de loy, et des dents fameliques ne discernent plus ce qu’elles mangent. Les mères se sont repeuës de leurs enfans, des freres de leurs freres, et des enfans ne reconnoissoient plus en vn cadaure mort, celuy lequel lors qu’il viuoit, ils appelloient leur Pere.”–Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 4. Compare Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 283. ]

Meanwhile, though the cold was intense and the snow several feet deep, yet not an hour was free from the danger of the Iroquois; and, from sunset to daybreak, under the cold moon or in the driving snow-storm, the French sentries walked their rounds along the ramparts.

The priests rose before dawn, and spent the time till sunrise in their private devotions. Then the bell of their chapel rang, and the Indians came in crowds at the call; for misery had softened their hearts, and nearly all on the island were now Christian. There was a mass, followed by a prayer and a few words of exhortation; then the hearers dispersed to make room for others. Thus the little chapel was filled ten or twelve times, until all had had their turn. Meanwhile other priests were hearing confessions and giving advice and encouragement in private, according to the needs of each applicant. This lasted till nine o’clock, when all the Indians returned to their village, and the priests presently followed, to give what assistance they could. Their cassocks were worn out, and they were dressed chiefly in skins. [ Lettre de Ragueneau au Général de la Compagnie de Jésus, Isle St. Joseph, 13 Mars, 1650. ] They visited the Indian houses, and gave to those whose necessities were most urgent small scraps of hide, severally stamped with a particular mark, and entitling the recipients, on presenting them at the fort, to a few acorns, a small quantity of boiled maize, or a fragment of smoked fish, according to the stamp on the leather ticket of each. Two hours before sunset the bell of the chapel again rang, and the religious exercises of the morning were repeated. [ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 6, 7. ]

Thus this miserable winter wore away, till the opening spring brought new fears and new necessities.

[ Concerning the retreat of the Hurons to Isle St. Joseph, the principal authorities are the Relations of 1649 and 1650, which are ample in detail, and written with an excellent simplicity and modesty; the Relation Abrégée of Bressani; the reports of the Father Superior to the General of the Jesuits at Rome; the manuscript of 1652, entitled Mémoires touchant la Mort et les Vertus des Pères, etc.; the unpublished letters of Garnier; and a letter of Chaumonot, written on the spot, and preserved in the Relations. ]





Late in the preceding autumn the Iroquois had taken the war-path in force. At the end of November, two escaped prisoners came to Isle St. Joseph with the news that a band of three hundred warriors was hovering in the Huron forests, doubtful whether to invade the island or to attack the towns of the Tobacco Nation in the valleys of the Blue Mountains. The Father Superior, Ragueneau, sent a runner thither in all haste, to warn the inhabitants of their danger.

There were at this time two missions in the Tobacco Nation, St. Jean and St. Matthias, [ 1 ]–the latter under the charge of the Jesuits Garreau and Grelon, and the former under that of Garnier and Chabanel. St. Jean, the principal seat of the mission of the same name, was a town of five or six hundred families. Its population was, moreover, greatly augmented by the bands of fugitive Hurons who had taken refuge there. When the warriors were warned by Ragueneau’s messenger of a probable attack from the Iroquois, they were far from being daunted, but, confiding in their numbers, awaited the enemy in one of those fits of valor which characterize the unstable courage of the savage. At St. Jean all was paint, feathers, and uproar,–singing, dancing, howling, and stamping. Quivers were filled, knives whetted, and tomahawks sharpened; but when, after two days of eager expectancy, the enemy did not appear, the warriors lost patience. Thinking, and probably with reason, that the Iroquois were afraid of them, they resolved to sally forth, and take the offensive. With yelps and whoops they defiled into the forest, where the branches were gray and bare, and the ground thickly covered with snow. They pushed on rapidly till the following day, but could not discover their wary enemy, who had made a wide circuit, and was approaching the town from another quarter. By ill luck, the Iroquois captured a Tobacco Indian and his squaw, straggling in the forest not far from St. Jean; and the two prisoners, to propitiate them, told them the defenceless condition of the place, where none remained but women, children, and old men. The delighted Iroquois no longer hesitated, but silently and swiftly pushed on towards the town.

[ 1 The Indian name of St. Jean was Etarita; and that of St. Matthias, Ekarenniondi. ]

It was two o’clock in the afternoon of the seventh of December. [ Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 264. ] Chabanel had left the place a day or two before, in obedience to a message from Ragueneau, and Garnier was here alone. He was making his rounds among the houses, visiting the sick and instructing his converts, when the horrible din of the war-whoop rose from the borders of the clearing, and, on the instant, the town was mad with terror. Children and girls rushed to and fro, blind with fright; women snatched their infants, and fled they knew not whither. Garnier ran to his chapel, where a few of his converts had sought asylum. He gave them his benediction, exhorted them to hold fast to the Faith, and bade them fly while there was yet time. For himself, he hastened back to the houses, running from one to another, and giving absolution or baptism to all whom he found. An Iroquois met him, shot him with three balls through the body and thigh, tore off his cassock, and rushed on in pursuit of the fugitives. Garnier lay for a moment on the ground, as if stunned; then, recovering his senses, he was seen to rise into a kneeling posture. At a little distance from him lay a Huron, mortally wounded, but still showing signs of life. With the Heaven that awaited him glowing before his fading vision, the priest dragged himself towards the dying Indian, to give him absolution; but his strength failed, and he fell again to the earth. He rose once more, and again crept forward, when a party of Iroquois rushed upon him, split his head with two blows of a hatchet, stripped him, and left his body on the ground. [ 1 ] At this time the whole town was on fire. The invaders, fearing that the absent warriors might return and take their revenge, hastened to finish their work, scattered firebrands every where, and threw children alive into the burning houses. They killed many of the fugitives, captured many more, and then made a hasty retreat through the forest with their prisoners, butchering such of them as lagged on the way. St. Jean lay a waste of smoking ruins thickly strewn with blackened corpses of the slain.

[ The above particulars of Garnier’s death rest on the evidence of a Christian Huron woman, named Marthe, who saw him shot down, and also saw his attempt to reach the dying Indian. She was herself struck down immediately after with a war-club, but remained alive, and escaped in the confusion. She died three months later, at Isle St. Joseph, from the effects of the injuries she had received, after reaffirming the truth of her story to Ragueneau, who was with her, and who questioned her on the subject. (Mémoires touchant la Mort et les Vertus des Pères Garnier, etc., MS.). Ragueneau also speaks of her in Relation des Hurons, 1650, 9. –The priests Grelon and Garreau found the body stripped naked, with three gunshot wounds in the abdomen and thigh, and two deep hatchet wounds in the head. ]

Towards evening, parties of fugitives reached St. Matthias, with tidings of the catastrophe. The town was wild with alarm, and all stood on the watch, in expectation of an attack; but when, in the morning, scouts came in and reported the retreat of the Iroquois, Garreau and Grelon set out with a party of converts to visit the scene of havoc. For a long time they looked in vain for the body of Garnier; but at length they found him lying where he had fallen,–so scorched and disfigured, that he was recognized with difficulty. The two priests wrapped his body in a part of their own clothing; the Indian converts dug a grave on the spot where his church had stood; and here they buried him. Thus, at the age of forty-four, died Charles Garnier, the favorite child of wealthy and noble parents, nursed in Parisian luxury and ease, then living and dying, a more than willing exile, amid the hardships and horrors of the Huron wilderness. His life and his death are his best eulogy. Brébeuf was the lion of the Huron mission, and Garnier was the lamb; but the lamb was as fearless as the lion.

[ Garnier’s devotion to the mission was absolute. He took little or no interest in the news from France, which, at intervals of from one to three years, found its way to the Huron towns. His companion Bressani says, that he would walk thirty or forty miles in the hottest summer day, to baptize some dying Indian, when the country was infested by the enemy. On similar errands, he would sometimes pass the night alone in the forest in the depth of winter. He was anxious to fall into the hands of the Iroquois, that he might preach the Faith to them even out of the midst of the fire. In one of his unpublished letters he writes, “Praised be our Lord, who punishes me for my sins by depriving me of this crown” (the crown of martyrdom). After the death of Brébeuf and Lalemant, he writes to his brother–

“Hélas! Mon cher frère, si ma conscience ne me convainquait et ne me confondait de mon infidélité au service de notre bon maître, je pourrais espérer quelque faveur approchante de celles qu’il a faites aux bien-heureux martyrs avec qui j’avais le bien de converser souvent, étant dans les mêmes occasions et dangers qu’ils étaient, mais sa justice me fait craindre que je ne demeure toujours indigne d’une telle couronne.”

He contented himself with the most wretched fare during the last years of famine, living in good measure on roots and acorns; “although,” says Ragueneau, “he had been the cherished son of a rich and noble house, on whom all the affection of his father had centred, and who had been nourished on food very different from that of swine.”–Relation des Hurons, 1650, 12.

For his character, see Ragueneau, Bressani, Tanner, and Alegambe, who devotes many pages to the description of his religious traits; but the complexion of his mind is best reflected in his private letters. ]

When, on the following morning, the warriors of St. Jean returned from their rash and bootless sally, and saw the ashes of their desolated homes and the ghastly relics of their murdered families, they seated themselves amid the ruin, silent and motionless as statues of bronze, with heads bowed down and eyes fixed on the ground. Thus they remained through half the day. Tears and wailing were for women; this was the mourning of warriors.

Garnier’s colleague, Chabanel, had been recalled from St. Jean by an order from the Father Superior, who thought it needless to expose the life of more than one priest in a position of so much danger. He stopped on his way at St. Matthias, and on the morning of the seventh of December, the day of the attack, left that town with seven or eight Christian Hurons. The journey was rough and difficult. They proceeded through the forest about eighteen miles, and then encamped in the snow. The Indians fell asleep; but Chabanel, from an apprehension of danger, or some other cause, remained awake. About midnight he heard a strange sound in the distance,–a confusion of fierce voices, mingled with songs and outcries. It was the Iroquois on their retreat with their prisoners, some of whom were defiantly singing their war-songs, after the Indian custom. Chabanel waked his companions, who instantly took flight. He tried to follow, but could not keep pace with the light-footed savages, who returned to St. Matthias, and told what had occurred. They said, however, that Chabanel had left them and taken an opposite direction, in order to reach Isle St. Joseph. His brother priests were for some time ignorant of what had befallen him. At length a Huron Indian, who had been converted, but afterward apostatized, gave out that he had met him in the forest, and aided him with his canoe to cross a river which lay in his path. Some supposed that he had lost his way, and died of cold and hunger; but others were of a different opinion. Their suspicion was confirmed some time afterwards by the renegade Huron, who confessed that he had killed Chabanel and thrown his body into the river, after robbing him of his clothes, his hat, the blanket or mantle which was strapped to his shoulders, and the bag in which he carried his books and papers. He declared that his motive was hatred of the Faith, which had caused the ruin of the Hurons. [ Mémoires touchant la Mort et les Vertus des Pères, etc., MS. ] The priest had prepared himself for a worse fate. Before leaving Sainte Marie on the Wye, to go to his post in the Tobacco Nation, he had written to his brother to regard him as a victim destined to the fires of the Iroquois. [ Abrégé de la Vie du P. Noël Chabanel, MS. ] He added, that, though he was naturally timid, he was now wholly indifferent to danger; and he expressed the belief that only a superhuman power could have wrought such a change in him.

[ “Ie suis fort apprehensif de mon naturel; toutefois, maintenant que ie vay au plus grand danger et qu’il me semble que la mort n’est pas esloignée, ie ne sens plus de crainte. Cette disposition ne vient pas de moy.”–Relation des Hurons, 1650, 18.

The following is the vow made by Chabanel, at a time when his disgust at the Indian mode of life beset him with temptations to ask to be recalled from the mission. It is translated from the Latin original:–

“My Lord Jesus Christ, who, in the admirable disposition of thy paternal providence, hast willed that I, although most unworthy, should be a co-laborer with the holy Apostles in this vineyard of the Hurons,–I, Noël Chabanel, impelled by the desire of fulfilling thy holy will in advancing the conversion of the savages of this land to thy faith, do vow, in the presence of the most holy sacrament of thy precious body and blood, which is God’s tabernacle among men, to remain perpetually attached to this mission of the Hurons, understanding all things according to the interpretation and disposal of the Superiors of the Society of Jesus. Therefore I entreat thee to receive me as the perpetual servant of this mission, and to render me worthy of so sublime a ministry. Amen. This twentieth day of June, 1647.” ]

Garreau and Grelon, in their mission of St. Matthias, were exposed to other dangers than those of the Iroquois. A report was spread, not only that they were magicians, but that they had a secret understanding with the enemy. A nocturnal council was called, and their death was decreed. In the morning, a furious crowd gathered before a lodge which they were about to enter, screeching and yelling after the manner of Indians when they compel a prisoner to run the gantlet. The two priests, giving no sign of fear, passed through the crowd and entered the lodge unharmed. Hatchets were brandished over them, but no one would be the first to strike. Their converts were amazed at their escape, and they themselves ascribed it to the interposition of a protecting Providence. The Huron missionaries were doubly in danger,–not more from the Iroquois than from the blind rage of those who should have been their friends.

[ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 20.

One of these two missionaries, Garreau, was afterwards killed by the Iroquois, who shot him through the spine, in 1656, near Montreal.– De Quen, Relation, 1656, 41. ]





As spring approached, the starving multitude on Isle St. Joseph grew reckless with hunger. Along the main shore, in spots where the sun lay warm, the spring fisheries had already begun, and the melting snow was uncovering the acorns in the woods. There was danger everywhere, for bands of Iroquois were again on the track of their prey. [ 1 ] The miserable Hurons, gnawed with inexorable famine, stood in the dilemma of a deadly peril and an assured death. They chose the former; and, early in March, began to leave their island and cross to the main-land, to gather what sustenance they could. The ice was still thick, but the advancing season had softened it; and, as a body of them were crossing, it broke under their feet. Some were drowned; while others dragged themselves out, drenched and pierced with cold, to die miserably on the frozen lake, before they could reach a shelter. Other parties, more fortunate, gained the shore safely, and began their fishing, divided into companies of from eight or ten to a hundred persons. But the Iroquois were in wait for them. A large band of warriors had already made their way, through ice and snow, from their towns in Central New York. They surprised the Huron fishermen, surrounded them, and cut them in pieces without resistance,–tracking out the various parties of their victims, and hunting down fugitives with such persistency and skill, that, of all who had gone over to the main, the Jesuits knew of but one who escaped. [ 2 ]

[ 1 “Mais le Printemps estant venu, les Iroquois nous furent encore plus cruels; et ce sont eux qui vrayement ont ruiné toutes nos esperances, et qui ont fait vn lieu d’horreur, vne terre de sang et de carnage, vn theatre de cruauté et vn sepulchre de carcasses décharnées par les langueurs d’vne longue famine, d’vn païs de benediction, d’vne terre de Sainteté et d’vn lieu qui n’auoit plus rien de barbare, depuis que le sang respandu pour son amour auoit rendu tout son peuple Chrestien.”– Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 23. ]

[ 2 “Le iour de l’Annonciation, vingt-cinquiesme de Mars, vne armée d’Iroquois ayans marché prez de deux cents lieuës de païs, à trauers les glaces et les neiges, trauersans les montagnes et les forests pleines d’horreur, surprirent au commencement de la nuit le camp de nos Chrestiens, et en firent vne cruelle boucherie. Il sembloit que le Ciel conduisit toutes leurs demarches et qu’ils eurent vn Ange pour guide: car ils diuiserent leurs troupes auec tant de bon-heur, qu’ils trouuerent en moins de deux iours, toutes les bandes de nos Chrestiens qui estoient dispersées ça et là, esloignées les vnes des autres de six, sept et huit lieuës, cent personnes en vn lieu, en vn autre cinquante; et mesme il y auoit quelques familles solitaires, qui s’estoient escartées en des lieux moins connus et hors de tout chemin. Chose estrange! de tout ce monde dissipé, vn seul homme s’eschappa, qui vint nous en apporter les nouuelles.”–Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 23, 24. ]

“My pen,” writes Ragueneau, “has no ink black enough to describe the fury of the Iroquois.” Still the goadings of famine were relentless and irresistible. “It is said,” adds the Father Superior, “that hunger will drive wolves from the forest. So, too, our starving Hurons were driven out of a town which had become an abode of horror. It was the end of Lent. Alas, if these poor Christians could have had but acorns and water to keep their fast upon! On Easter Day we caused them to make a general confession. On the following morning they went away, leaving us all their little possessions; and most of them declared publicly that they made us their heirs, knowing well that they were near their end. And, in fact, only a few days passed before we heard of the disaster which we had foreseen. These poor people fell into ambuscades of our Iroquois enemies. Some were killed on the spot; some were dragged into captivity; women and children were burned. A few made their escape, and spread dismay and panic everywhere. A week after, another band was overtaken by the same fate. Go where they would, they met with slaughter on all sides. Famine pursued them, or they encountered an enemy more cruel than cruelty itself; and, to crown their misery, they heard that two great armies of Iroquois were on the way to exterminate them. . . . Despair was universal.” [ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 24. ]

The Jesuits at St. Joseph knew not what course to take. The doom of their flock seemed inevitable. When dismay and despondency were at their height, two of the principal Huron chiefs came to the fort, and asked an interview with Ragueneau and his companions. They told them that the Indians had held a council the night before, and resolved to abandon the island. Some would disperse in the most remote and inaccessible forests; others would take refuge in a distant spot, apparently the Grand Manitoulin Island; others would try to reach the Andastes; and others would seek safety in adoption and incorporation with the Iroquois themselves.

“Take courage, brother,” continued one of the chiefs, addressing Ragueneau. “You can save us, if you will but resolve on a bold step. Choose a place where you can gather us together, and prevent this dispersion of our people. Turn your eyes towards Quebec, and transport thither what is left of this ruined country. Do not wait till war and famine have destroyed us to the last man. We are in your hands. Death has taken from you more than ten thousand of us. If you wait longer, not one will remain alive; and then you will be sorry that you did not save those whom you might have snatched from danger, and who showed you the means of doing so. If you do as we wish, we will form a church under the protection of the fort at Quebec. Our faith will not be extinguished. The examples of the French and the Algonquins will encourage us in our duty, and their charity will relieve some of our misery. At least, we shall sometimes find a morsel of bread for our children, who so long have had nothing but bitter roots and acorns to keep them alive.”

[ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 25. It appears from the MS. Journal des Supérieurs des Jésuites, that a plan of bringing the remnant of the Hurons to Quebec was discussed and approved by Lalemant and his associates, in a council held by them at that place in April. ]

The Jesuits were deeply moved. They consulted together again and again, and prayed in turn during forty hours without ceasing, that their minds might be enlightened. At length they resolved to grant the petition of the two chiefs, and save the poor remnant of the Hurons, by leading them to an asylum where there was at least a hope of safety. Their resolution once taken, they pushed their preparations with all speed, lest the Iroquois might learn their purpose, and lie in wait to cut them off. Canoes were made ready, and on the tenth of June they began the voyage, with all their French followers and about three hundred Hurons. The Huron mission was abandoned.

“It was not without tears,” writes the Father Superior, “that we left the country of our hopes and our hearts, where our brethren had gloriously shed their blood.” [ Compare Bressani, Relation Abrégée, 288. ] The fleet of canoes held its melancholy way along the shores where two years before had been the seat of one of the chief savage communities of the continent, and where now all was a waste of death and desolation. Then they steered northward, along the eastern coast of the Georgian Bay, with its countless rocky islets; and everywhere they saw the traces of the Iroquois. When they reached Lake Nipissing, they found it deserted,– nothing remaining of the Algonquins who dwelt on its shore, except the ashes of their burnt wigwams. A little farther on, there was a fort built of trees, where the Iroquois who made this desolation had spent the winter; and a league or two below, there was another similar fort. The River Ottawa was a solitude. The Algonquins of Allumette Island and the shores adjacent had all been killed or driven away, never again to return. “When I came up this great river, only thirteen years ago,” writes Ragueneau, “I found it bordered with Algonquin tribes, who knew no God, and, in their infidelity, thought themselves gods on earth; for they had all that they desired, abundance of fish and game, and a prosperous trade with allied nations: besides, they were the terror of their enemies. But since they have embraced the Faith and adored the cross of Christ, He has given them a heavy share in this cross, and made them a prey to misery, torture, and a cruel death. In a word, they are a people swept from the face of the earth. Our only consolation is, that, as they died Christians, they have a part in the inheritance of the true children of God, who scourgeth every one whom He receiveth.” [ Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1650, 27. These Algonquins of the Ottawa, though broken and dispersed, were not destroyed, as Ragueneau supposes. ]

As the voyagers descended the river, they had a serious alarm. Their scouts came in, and reported that they had found fresh footprints of men in the forest. These proved, however, to be the tracks, not of enemies, but of friends. In the preceding autumn Bressani had gone down to the French settlements with about twenty Hurons, and was now returning with them, and twice their number of armed Frenchmen, for the defence of the mission. His scouts had also been alarmed by discovering the footprints of Ragueneau’s Indians; and for some time the two parties stood on their guard, each taking the other for an enemy. When at length they discovered their mistake, they met with embraces and rejoicing. Bressani and his Frenchmen had come too late. All was over with the Hurons and the Huron mission; and, as it was useless to go farther, they joined Ragueneau’s party, and retraced their course for the settlements.

A day or two before, they had had a sharp taste of the mettle of the enemy. Ten Iroquois warriors had spent the winter in a little fort of felled trees on the borders of the Ottawa, hunting for subsistence, and waiting to waylay some passing canoe of Hurons, Algonquins, or Frenchmen. Bressani’s party outnumbered them six to one; but they resolved that it should not pass without a token of their presence. Late on a dark night, the French and Hurons lay encamped in the forest, sleeping about their fires. They had set guards: but these, it seems, were drowsy or negligent; for the ten Iroquois, watching their time, approached with the stealth of lynxes, and glided like shadows into the midst of the camp, where, by the dull glow of the smouldering fires, they could distinguish the recumbent figures of their victims. Suddenly they screeched the war-whoop, and struck like lightning with their hatchets among the sleepers. Seven were killed before the rest could spring to their weapons. Bressani leaped up, and received on the instant three arrow-wounds in the head. The Iroquois were surrounded, and a desperate fight ensued in the dark. Six of them were killed on the spot, and two made prisoners; while the remaining two, breaking through the crowd, bounded out of the camp and escaped in the forest.

The united parties soon after reached Montreal; but the Hurons refused to remain in a spot so exposed to the Iroquois. Accordingly, they all descended the St. Lawrence, and at length, on the twenty-eighth of July, reached Quebec. Here the Ursulines, the hospital nuns, and the inhabitants taxed their resources to the utmost to provide food and shelter for the exiled Hurons. Their good will exceeded their power; for food was scarce at Quebec, and the Jesuits themselves had to bear the chief burden of keeping the sufferers alive. [ Compare Juchereau, Histoire de l’Hôtel-Dieu, 79, 80. ]

But, if famine was an evil, the Iroquois were a far greater one; for, while the western nations of their confederacy were engrossed with the destruction of the Hurons, the Mohawks kept up incessant attacks on the Algonquins and the French. A party of Christian Indians, chiefly from Sillery, planned a stroke of retaliation, and set out for the Mohawk country, marching cautiously and sending forward scouts to scour the forest. One of these, a Huron, suddenly fell in with a large Iroquois war party, and, seeing that he could not escape, formed on the instant a villanous plan to save himself. He ran towards the enemy, crying out, that he had long been looking for them and was delighted to see them; that his nation, the Hurons, had come to an end; and that henceforth his country was the country of the Iroquois, where so many of his kinsmen and friends had been adopted. He had come, he declared, with no other thought than that of joining them, and turning Iroquois, as they had done. The Iroquois demanded if he had come alone. He answered, “No,” and said, that, in order to accomplish his purpose, he had joined an Algonquin war-party who were in the woods not far off. The Iroquois, in great delight, demanded to be shown where they were. This Judas, as the Jesuits call him, at once complied; and the Algonquins were surprised by a sudden onset, and routed with severe loss. The treacherous Huron was well treated by the Iroquois, who adopted him into their nation. Not long after, he came to Canada, and, with a view, as it was thought, to some further treachery, rejoined the French. A sharp cross-questioning put him to confusion, and he presently confessed his guilt. He was sentenced to death; and the sentence was executed by one of his own countrymen, who split his head with a hatchet. [ Ragueneau, Relation, 1650, 30. ]

In the course of the summer, the French at Three Rivers became aware that a band of Iroquois was prowling in the neighborhood, and sixty men went out to meet them. Far from retreating, the Iroquois, who were about twenty-five in number, got out of their canoes, and took post, waist-deep in mud and water, among the tall rushes at the margin of the river. Here they fought stubbornly, and kept all the Frenchmen at bay. At length, finding themselves hard pressed, they entered their canoes again, and paddled off. The French rowed after them, and soon became separated in the chase; whereupon the Iroquois turned, and made desperate fight with the foremost, retreating again as soon as the others came up. This they repeated several times, and then made their escape, after killing a number of the best French soldiers. Their leader in this affair was a famous half-breed, known as the Flemish Bastard, who is styled by Ragueneau “an abomination of sin, and a monster produced between a heretic Dutch father and a pagan mother.”

In the forests far north of Three Rivers dwelt the tribe called the Atticamegues, or Nation of the White Fish. From their remote position, and the difficult nature of the intervening country, they thought themselves safe; but a band of Iroquois, marching on snow-shoes a distance of twenty days’ journey northward from the St. Lawrence, fell upon one of their camps in the winter, and made a general butchery of the inmates. The tribe, however, still held its ground for a time, and, being all good Catholics, gave their missionary, Father Buteux, an urgent invitation to visit them in their own country. Buteux, who had long been stationed at Three Rivers, was in ill health, and for years had rarely been free from some form of bodily suffering. Nevertheless, he acceded to their request, and, before the opening of spring, made a remarkable journey on snow-shoes into the depths of this frozen wilderness. [ Iournal du Pere Iacques Buteux du Voyage qu’il a fait pour la Mission des Attikamegues. See Relation, 1651, 15. ] In the year following, he repeated the undertaking. With him were a large party of Atticamegues, and several Frenchmen. Game was exceedingly scarce, and they were forced by hunger to separate, a Huron convert and a Frenchman named Fontarabie remaining with the missionary. The snows had melted, and all the streams were swollen. The three travellers, in a small birch canoe, pushed their way up a turbulent river, where falls and rapids were so numerous, that many times daily they were forced to carry their bark vessel and their baggage through forests and thickets and over rocks and precipices. On the tenth of May, they made two such portages, and soon after, reaching a third fall, again lifted their canoe from the water. They toiled through the naked forest, among the wet, black trees, over tangled roots, green, spongy mosses, mouldering leaves, and rotten, prostrate trunks, while the cataract foamed amidst the rocks hard by. The Indian led the way with the canoe on his head, while Buteux and the other Frenchman followed with the baggage. Suddenly they were set upon by a troop of Iroquois, who had crouched behind thickets, rocks, and fallen trees, to waylay them. The Huron was captured before he had time to fly. Buteux and the Frenchman tried to escape, but were instantly shot down, the Jesuit receiving two balls in the breast. The Iroquois rushed upon them, mangled their bodies with tomahawks and swords, stripped them, and then flung them into the torrent. [ Ragueneau, Relation, 1652, 2, 3. ]





Iroquois bullets and tomahawks had killed the Hurons by hundreds, but famine and disease had killed incomparably more. The miseries of the starving crowd on Isle St. Joseph had been shared in an equal degree by smaller bands, who had wintered in remote and secret retreats of the wilderness. Of those who survived that season of death, many were so weakened that they could not endure the hardships of a wandering life, which was new to them. The Hurons lived by agriculture; their fields and crops were destroyed, and they were so hunted from place to place that they could rarely till the soil. Game was very scarce; and, without agriculture, the country could support only a scanty and scattered population like that which maintained a struggling existence in the wilderness of the lower St. Lawrence. The mortality among the exiles was prodigious.

It is a matter of some interest to trace the fortunes of the shattered fragments of a nation once prosperous, and, in its own eyes and those of its neighbors, powerful and great. None were left alive within their ancient domain. Some had sought refuge among the Neutrals and the Eries, and shared the disasters which soon overwhelmed those tribes; others succeeded in reaching the Andastes; while the inhabitants of two towns, St. Michel and St. Jean Baptiste, had recourse to an expedient which seems equally strange and desperate, but which was in accordance with Indian practices. They contrived to open a communication with the Seneca Nation of the Iroquois, and promised to change their nationality and turn Senecas as the price of their lives. The victors accepted the proposal; and the inhabitants of these two towns, joined by a few other Hurons, migrated in a body to the Seneca country. They were not distributed among different villages, but were allowed to form a town by themselves, where they were afterwards joined by some prisoners of the Neutral Nation. They identified themselves with the Iroquois in all but religion,–holding so fast to their faith, that, eighteen years after, a Jesuit missionary found that many of them were still good Catholics.

[ Compare Relation, 1651, 4; 1660, 14, 28; and 1670, 69. The Huron town among the Senecas was called Gandougaraé. Father Fremin was here in 1668, and gives an account of his visit in the Relation of 1670. ]

The division of the Hurons called the Tobacco Nation, favored by their isolated position among mountains, had held their ground longer than the rest; but at length they, too, were compelled to fly, together with such other Hurons as had taken refuge with them. They made their way northward, and settled on the Island of Michilimackinac, where they were joined by the Ottawas, who, with other Algonquins, had been driven by fear of the Iroquois from the western shores of Lake Huron and the banks of the River Ottawa. At Michilimackinac the Hurons and their allies were again attacked by the Iroquois, and, after remaining several years, they made another remove, and took possession of the islands at the mouth of the Green Bay of Lake Michigan. Even here their old enemy did not leave them in peace; whereupon they fortified themselves on the main-land, and afterwards migrated southward and westward. This brought them in contact with the Illinois, an Algonquin people, at that time very numerous, but who, like many other tribes at this epoch, were doomed to a rapid diminution from wars with other savage nations. Continuing their migration westward, the Hurons and Ottawas reached the Mississippi, where they fell in with the Sioux. They soon quarrelled with those fierce children of the prairie, who drove them from their country. They retreated to the south-western extremity of Lake Superior, and settled on Point Saint Esprit, or Shagwamigon Point, near the Islands of the Twelve Apostles. As the Sioux continued to harass them, they left this place about the year 1671, and returned to Michilimackinac, where they settled, not on the island, but on the neighboring Point St. Ignace, now Graham’s Point, on the north side of the strait. The greater part of them afterwards removed thence to Detroit and Sandusky, where they lived under the name of Wyandots until within the present century, maintaining a marked influence over the surrounding Algonquins. They bore an active part, on the side of the French, in the war which ended in the reduction of Canada; and they were the most formidable enemies of the English in the Indian war under Pontiac. [ See “History of the Conspiracy of Pontiac.” ] The government of the United States at length removed them to reserves on the western frontier, where a remnant of them may still be found. Thus it appears that the Wyandots, whose name is so conspicuous in the history of our border wars, are descendants of the ancient Hurons, and chiefly of that portion of them called the Tobacco Nation.

[ The migrations of this band of the Hurons may be traced by detached passages and incidental remarks in the Relations of 1654, 1660, 1667, 1670, 1671, and 1672. Nicolas Perrot, in his chapter, Deffaitte et Füitte des Hurons chassés de leur Pays, and in the chapter following, gives a long and rather confused account of their movements and adventures. See also La Poterie, Histoire de l’Amérique Septentrionale, II. 51-56. According to the Relation of 1670, the Hurons, when living at Shagwamigon Point, numbered about fifteen hundred souls. ]

When Ragueneau and his party left Isle St. Joseph for Quebec, the greater number of the Hurons chose to remain. They took possession of the stone fort which the French had abandoned, and where, with reasonable vigilance, they could maintain themselves against attack. In the succeeding autumn a small Iroquois war-party had the audacity to cross over to the island,