List Of Contents | Contents of The Jesuit Missions, by Thomas Guthrie Marquis
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Edited by George M. Wrong and H. H. Langton
In thirty-two volumes

Volume 4

A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness




For seven years the colony which Champlain founded at
the rock of Quebec lived without priests.  [Footnote:
For the general history of the period covered by the
first four chapters of the present narrative, see 'The
Founder of New France' in this Series.] Perhaps the lack
was not seriously felt, for most of the twoscore inmates
of the settlement were Huguenot traders. But out in the
great land, in every direction from the rude dwellings
that housed the pioneers of Canada, roamed savage tribes,
living, said Champlain, 'like brute beasts.' It was
Champlain's ardent desire to reclaim these beings of the
wilderness. The salvation of one soul was to him 'of more
value than the conquest of an empire.' Not far from his
native town of Brouage there was a community of the
Recollets, and, during one of his periodical sojourns in
France, he invited them to send missionaries to Canada.
The Recollets responded to his appeal, and it was arranged
that several of their number should sail with him to the
St Lawrence in the following spring. So, in May 1615,
three Recollet friars--Denis Jamay, Jean d'Olbeau, Joseph
Le Caron--and a lay brother named Pacificus du Plessis,
landed at Tadoussac. To these four men is due the honour
of founding the first permanent mission among the Indians
of New France. An earlier undertaking of the Jesuits in
Acadia (1611-13) had been broken up. The Canadian mission
is usually associated with the Jesuits, and rightly so,
for to them, as we shall see, belongs its most glorious
history; but it was the Recollets who pioneered the way.

When the friars reached Quebec they arranged a division
of labour in this manner: Jamay and Du Plessis were to
remain at Quebec; D'Olbeau was to return to Tadoussac
and essay the thorny task of converting the tribes round
that fishing and trading station; while to Le Caron was
assigned a more distant field, but one that promised a
rich harvest. Six or seven hundred miles from Quebec, in
the region of Lake Simcoe and the Georgian Bay, dwelt
the Hurons, a sedentary people living in villages and
practising a rude agriculture. In these respects they
differed from the Algonquin tribes of the St Lawrence,
who had no fixed abodes and depended on forest and stream
for a living. The Hurons, too, were bound to the French
by both war and trade. Champlain had assisted them and
the Algonquins in battle against the common foe, the
Iroquois or Five Nations, and a flotilla of canoes from
the Huron country, bringing furs to one of the trading-
posts on the St Lawrence, was an annual event. The
Recollets, therefore, felt confident of a friendly
reception among the Hurons; and it was with buoyant hopes
that Le Caron girded himself for the journey to his
distant mission-field.

On the 6th or 7th of July, in company with a party of
Hurons, Le Caron set out from the island of Montreal.
The Hurons had come down to trade, and to arrange with
Champlain for another punitive expedition against the
Iroquois, and were now returning to their own villages.
It was a laborious and painful journey--up the Ottawa,
across Lake Nipissing, and down the French River--but at
length the friar stood on the shores of Lake Huron, the
first of white men to see its waters. From the mouth of
the French River the course lay southward for mere than
a hundred miles along the east shore of Georgian Bay,
until the party arrived at the peninsula which lies
between Nottawasaga and Matchedash Bays. Three or four
miles inland from the west shore of this peninsula stood
the town of Carhagouha, a triple-palisaded stronghold of
the Hurons. Here the Indians gave the priest an enthusiastic
welcome and invited him to share their common lodges;
but as he desired a retreat 'in which he could meditate
in silence,' they built him a commodious cabin apart from
the village. A few days later Champlain himself appeared
on the scene; and it was on the 12th of August that he
and his followers attended in Le Caron's cabin the first
Mass celebrated in what is now the province of Ontario.
Then, while Le Caron began his efforts for the conversion
of the benighted Hurons, Champlain went off with the
warriors on a very different mission--an invasion of the
Iroquois country. The commencement of religious endeavour
in Huronia is thus marked by an event that was to intensify
the hatred of the ferocious Iroquois against both the
Hurons and the French.

Le Caron spent the remainder of the year 1615 among the
Hurons, studying the people, learning the language, and
compiling a dictionary. Champlain, his expedition ended,
returned to Huronia and remained there until the middle
of January, when he and Le Caron set out on a visit to
the Petun or Tobacco Nation, then dwelling on the southern
shore of Nottawasaga Bay, a two-days' journey south-west
of Carhagouha. There had been as yet no direct communication
between the French and the Petuns, and the visitors were
not kindly received. The Petun sorcerers or medicine-men
dreaded the influence of the grey-robed friar, regarded
him as a rival, and caused his teachings to be derided.
After an uncomfortable month Champlain and Le Caron
returned to Carhagouha, where they remained until the
20th of May, and then set out for Quebec.

When Le Caron reached Quebec on the 11th of July (1616)
he found that his comrades had not been idle. A chapel
had been built, in what is now the Lower Town, close to
the habitation, and here Father Jamay ministered to the
spiritual needs of the colonists and laboured among the
Indians camped in the vicinity of the trading-post. Father
d'Olbeau had been busy among the Montagnais, a wandering
Algonquin tribe between Tadoussac and Seven Islands, his
reward being chiefly suffering. The filth and smoke of
the Indian wigwams tortured him, the disgusting food of
the natives filled him with loathing, and their vice and
indifference to his teaching weighed on his spirit.

The greatest trial the Recollets had to bear was the
opposition of the Company of St Malo and Rouen, which
was composed largely of Huguenots, and had a monopoly of
the trade of New France. Many of the traders were actively
antagonistic to the spread of the Catholic religion and
they all viewed the work of the Recollets with hostility.
It was the aim of the missionaries to induce the Indians
to settle near the trading-posts in order that they might
the more easily be reached with the Gospel message. The
traders had but one thought--the profits of the fur trade;
and, desiring to keep the Indians nomadic hunters of
furs, they opposed bringing them into fixed abodes and
put every possible obstacle in the way of the friars.
Trained interpreters in the employ of the company for
both the Hurons and the various Algonquin tribes were
ordered not to assist the missionaries in acquiring a
knowledge of the native languages. The company was pledged
to support six missionaries, but the support was given
with an unwilling, niggardly hand.

At length, in 1621, as a result of the complaints of
Champlain and the Recollets, before the authorities in
France, the Company of St Malo and Rouen lost its charter,
and the trading privileges were given to William and
Emery de Caen, uncle and nephew. But these men also were
Huguenots, and the unhappy condition of affairs continued
in an intensified form. Champlain, though the nominal
head of the colony, was unable to provide a remedy, for
the real power was in the hands of the Caens, who had in
their employment practically the entire population.

Yet, in spite of all the obstacles put in their way, the
Recollets continued their self-sacrificing labours. By
the beginning of 1621 they had a comfortable residence
on the bank of the St Charles, on the spot where now
stands the General Hospital. Here they had been granted
two hundred acres of land, and they cultivated the soil,
raising meagre crops of rye, barley, maize, and wheat,
and tending a few pigs, cows, asses, and fowls. There
were from time to time accessions to their ranks. Between
the years 1616 and 1623 the fathers Guillaume Poullain,
Georges le Baillif, Paul Huet, Jacques de la Foyer,
Nicolas Viel, and several lay brothers, the most noted
among whom was Gabriel Sagard-Theodat, laboured in New
France. They made attempts to christianize the Micmacs
of Acadia, the Abnaki of the upper St John, the Algonquin
tribes of the lower St Lawrence, and the Nipissings of
the upper Ottawa. But the work among these roving bands
proved most disheartening, and once more the grey-robed
friars turned to the Hurons.

The end of August 1623 saw Le Caron, Viel, and Sagard in
Huronia. Until October they seem to have laboured in
different settlements, Viel at Toanche, a short distance
from Penetanguishene Bay, Sagard at Ossossane, near
Dault's Bay, an indentation of Nottawasaga Bay, and Le
Caron at Carhagouha. It does not appear that they were
able to make much of an impression on the savages, though
they had the satisfaction of some baptisms. During the
winter Sagard studied Indian habits and ideas, and with
Le Caron's assistance compiled a dictionary of the Huron
language.  [Footnote: Sagard's observations were afterwards
given to the world in his 'Histoire du Canada et Voyages
des Peres Recollects en la Nouvelle-France.'] Then, an
June 1624, Le Caron and Sagard accompanied the annual
canoe-fleet to Quebec, and Viel was left alone in Huronia.

The Recollets were discouraged. They saw that the field
was too large and that the difficulties were too great
for them. And, after invoking 'the light of the Holy
Spirit,' they decided, according to Sagard, 'to send one
of their members to France to lay the proposition before
the Jesuit fathers, whom they deemed the most suitable
for the work of establishing and extending the Faith in
Canada.' So Father Irenaeus Piat and Brother Gabriel
Sagard were sent to entreat to the rescue of the Canadian
mission the greatest of all the missionary orders--an
order which 'had filled the whole world with memorials
of great things done and suffered for the Faith'--the
militant and powerful Society of Jesus.



The 15th of June 1625 was a significant day for the colony
of New France. On that morning a blunt-prowed, high-pooped
vessel cast anchor before the little trading village that
clustered about the base of the great cliff at Quebec.
It was a ship belonging to the Caens, and it came laden
to the hatches with supplies for the colonists and goods
for trade with the Indians. But, what was more important,
it had as passengers the Jesuits who had been sent to
the aid of the Recollets, the first of the followers of
Loyola to enter the St Lawrence--Fathers Charles Lalemant,
Ennemond Masse, Jean de Brebeuf, and two lay brothers of
the Society. These black-robed priests were the forerunners
of an army of men who, bearing the Cross instead of the
sword and labouring at their arduous tasks in humility
and obedience but with dauntless courage and unflagging
zeal, were to make their influence felt from Hudson Bay
to the Gulf of Mexico, and from the sea-girt shores of
Cape Breton to the wind-swept plains of the Great West.
They were the vanguard of an army of true soldiers, of
whom the words

   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die,

might fittingly have been written. The Jesuit missionary
in North America had no thought of worldly profit or
renown, but, with his mind fixed on eternity, he performed
his task ad majorem Dei gloriam, for the greater glory
of God.

The Jesuits had sailed from Dieppe on the 26th of April
in company with a Recollet friar, La Roche de Daillon,
of whom we shall presently hear more. The voyage across
the stormy Atlantic had been long and tedious. On a vessel
belonging to Huguenots, the priests had been exposed to
the sneers and gibes of crew and traders. It was the
viceroy of New France, the Duc de Ventadour, a devout
Catholic, who had compelled the Huguenot traders to give
passage to these priests, or they would not have been
permitted on board the ship. Much better could the
Huguenots tolerate the humble, mendicant Recollets than
the Jesuits, aggressive and powerful, uncompromising
opponents of Calvinism.

As the anchor dropped, the Jesuits made preparations to
land; but they were to meet with a temporary disappointment.
Champlain was absent in France, and Emery de Caen said
that he had received no instructions from the viceroy to
admit them to the colony. Moreover, they were told that
there was no room for them in the habitation or the fort.
To make matters worse, a bitter, slanderous diatribe
against their order had been distributed among the
inhabitants, and the doors of Catholics and Huguenots
alike were closed against them. Prisoners on the ship,
at the very gate of the promised land, no course seemed
open to them but to return on the same vessel to France.
But they were suddenly lifted by kindly hands from the
depths of despair. A boat rowed by men attached to the
Recollets approached their vessel. Soon several friars
dressed in coarse grey robes, with the knotted cord of
the Recollet order about their waists, peaked hood hanging
from their shoulders, and coarse wooden sandals on their
feet, stood before them on the deck, giving them a
wholehearted welcome and offering them a home, with the
use of half the buildings and land on the St Charles.
Right gladly the Jesuits accepted the offer and were
rowed ashore in the boat of the generous friars. On
touching the soil of New France they fell on their knees
and kissed the ground, in spite of the scowling traders
about them.

The disappointment of these aggressive pioneers of the
Church must have been great as they viewed Quebec. It
was now seventeen years since the colony had been founded;
yet it had fewer than one hundred inhabitants. In the
whole of Canada there were but seven French families and
only six white children. Save by Louis Hebert, the first
to cultivate the soil at Quebec, and the Recollets, no
attempt had been made at agriculture, and the colony was
almost wholly dependent on France for its subsistence.
When not engaged in gathering furs or loading and unloading
vessels, the men lounged in indolence about the
trading-posts or wandered to the hunting grounds of the
Indians, where they lived in squalor and vice. The avarice
of the traders was bearing its natural fruit, and the
untiring efforts of Champlain, a devoted, zealous patriot,
had been unavailing to counteract it. The colony sorely
needed the self-sacrificing Jesuits, but for whom it
would soon undoubtedly have been cast off by the mother
country as a worthless burden. To them Canada, indeed,
owed its life; for when the king grew weary of spending
treasure on this unprofitable colony, the stirring appeals
of the Relations [Footnote: It was a rule of the Society
of Jesus that each of its missionaries should write a

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