List Of Contents | Contents of The Jesuit Missions, by Thomas Guthrie Marquis
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hired men who came with them had arquebuses that would
be valuable in case of attack in force by the Iroquois.
Objects which the missionaries possessed inspired awe in
the savages; a handmill for grinding corn, a clock, a
magnifying lens, and a picture of the Last Judgment were
supposed to be okies of the white man. For a time eager
audiences crowded the little cabin. Few converts were
made, however; for the present the savages were too firmly
wedded to their customs and superstitions to accept the
new okies. Unfortunately, in 1635, a drought smote the
land, and the medicine-men used this calamity to discredit
their rivals the black-robes. According to these fakirs,
it was the red cross on the Jesuit chapel which frightened
away the bird of thunder and caused the drought. Brebeuf,
to disarm suspicion, had the cross painted white; yet
the thunder-bird still held aloof, and the incantations
and drummings of the sorcerers availed not to bring rain.
Brebeuf then advised the Indians to try the effect of an
appeal to his God. In despair they consented. A procession
was formed and the priests said Masses and prayers. The
result was dramatic. Almost immediately a sudden refreshing
rain deluged the ground; the crops were saved and the
medicine-men humiliated. Still, no perceptible religious
progress was made. Though children came to the residence
to be instructed by the black-robes, they were attracted
more by the 'beads, raisins, and prunes' which they
received as inducements to come back than by the lessons
in Christian truth. For the most part the elders listened
attentively to the missionaries, but to the question of
laying aside their superstitions and accepting Christianity
they replied: 'It is good for the French; but we are
another people, with different customs.'

Winter was the season of greatest trial. The cabins,
crowded to suffocation, were made the scenes of savage
mirth and feasting. The Hurons were inveterate gamblers;
sometimes village would challenge village; and, as the
game progressed, night would be made hideous with the
beating of drums and the hilarious shouts of the spectators.
Feasts were frequent, since any occasion afforded an
excuse for one, and all feasts were accompanied by gluttony
and uproar. The Dream Feast was a maniacal performance.
It was agreed upon in a solemn council of the chiefs and
was made the occasion of great licence. The guests would
rush about the village feigning madness, scattering
fire-brands, shouting, leaping, smiting with impunity
any they encountered. Each one would seek some object
which he pretended to have learned about in a dream. Only
when this object was found would calmness follow; if it
was not found, there would be deepest despair. Feasts,
too, were prescribed by the medicine-men as cures for
sickness; the healthy, not the sick, would take the
medicine, and would take it till they were gorged. To
leave a scrap of food on their platters might mean the
death of the patient.

Only one of the social customs of the Hurons had any real
religious significance. Every ten or twelve years the
great Feast of the Dead took place. It was the custom of
the Hurons either to place the dead in the earth, covering
them with rude huts, or, more commonly, on elevated
platforms. The bodies rested till the allotted time for
final interment came round. Then at some central point
an immense pit would be dug as a common grave. In 1636
a Feast of the Dead was held at Ossossane. To this place,
from the various villages of the Bear clan, Indians came
trooping, wailing mournful funeral songs as they bore
the recently dead on litters, or the carefully prepared
bones of their departed relatives in parcels slung over
their shoulders. All converged on the village of Ossossane,
where a pit ten feet deep by thirty feet wide had been
dug. There on scaffolds about the pit they placed the
bodies and bones, carefully wrapped in furs and covered
with bark. The assembled mourners then gave themselves
up to feasting and games, as a prelude to the final act
of this drama of death. They lined the pit with costly
furs and in the centre placed kettles, household goods,
and weapons for the chase, all these, like the bodies
and bones, supposed to be indwelt by spirits. They laid
the dead bodies in rows on the floor of the pit, and
threw the bundles of bones to Indians stationed within,
who arranged the remains in their proper places.

The Jesuits were witnesses of this weird ceremony. They
saw the naked Indians going about their task in the pit
in the glare of torches, like veritable imps of hell. It
was a discouraging scene. But a greater trial than the
Feast of the Dead was in store for them. By a pestilence,
a severe form of dysentery, Ihonatiria was almost denuded
of its population. In consequence the priests, who had
now been reinforced by the arrival of Fathers Francois
Le Mercier, Pierre Pijart, Pierre Chastelain, Isaac
Jogues, and Charles Garnier, had to seek a more populous
centre as headquarters for their mission in Huronia. The
chiefs of Oenrio invited the Jesuits to their village.
But Brebeuf's demands were heavy. They should believe in
God; keep His commandments; abjure their faith in dreams;
take one wife and be true to her; renounce their assemblies
of debauchery; eat no human flesh; never give feasts to
demons; and make a vow that if God would deliver them
from the pest they would build a chapel to offer Him
thanksgiving and praise. They were ready to make the vow
regarding the chapel, but the other conditions were too
severe--the pest was preferable. And so the Jesuits turned
to Ossossane, where the people agreed to accept these

Formerly Ossossane had been situated on an elevated piece
of ground on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay; but the village
had been moved inland and, under the direction of the
French, a rectangular wall of posts ten or twelve feet
high had been built around it. At opposite angles of the
wall two towers guarded the sides. A platform extended
round the entire wall, from which the defenders could
hurl stones on the heads of an attacking party, or could
pour water to extinguish the blaze if an enemy succeeded
in setting fire to the palisades.

Here the Jesuits were to live for two years.  Outside
the walls of the town a commodious cabin seventy feet
long was built for them; and on June 5, 1637, in the part
of the cabin consecrated as a chapel, Father Pijart
celebrated Mass. The residence was named La Conception
de Notre Dame. For a wilderness church it was a marvel.
At the entrance were green boughs adorned with tinsel;
pictures hung on the walls; crucifixes, vessels, and
ornaments of shining metal ornamented the chapel. From
far and near Indians flocked to see this wondrous edifice.
Best of all, a leading chief offered himself for baptism.
The future looked promising; the Indians showed the
fathers 'much affection' and a rich harvest of souls
seemed about to be garnered.

But all this was to be changed. A hunch-backed, ogre-like
medicine-man who claimed to be of miraculous birth came
to Ossossane. The pest was still raging, and he laid the
blame for it at the door of the missionaries. According
to him their prayers and litanies were charms and
incantations; their pictures were evil okies. It was, he
declared, by the influence of these and other agencies
that they had spread the pestilence among the Hurons.
Some of the older and most influential Hurons joined with
the sorcerer in his denunciation of the priests, and soon
the inhabitants of the whole village turned against them.
Squaws shut the doors of the cabins at their approach,
young braves threatened them with death, children followed
them about hooting and pelting them with sticks and
stones. At last the priests were summoned to a public
council and openly accused of being the cause of the
misfortunes that had recently visited the Huron people.
Brebeuf replied to the accusations with unflinching
courage, denying the charges, and showing their absurdity.
He then boldly addressed his audience on the truths of
Christianity, held before them the awful future that
awaited those who refused to obey the words of Christ,
and declared that the pest was a punishment for their
evil lives. The council was deeply impressed by his
courage and evident sincerity, and for the time being
the lives of the missionaries were in no danger. But they
knew that at any moment the blow might fall, and none
ever went abroad without the feeling that a tomahawk
might descend on his unguarded head.

On October 28, 1637, Brebeuf prepared, as he thought, a
farewell letter to his friends at Quebec. He and the four
other missionaries at Ossossane signed it and sent it to
the superior-general Le Jeune. It opens with the words:
'We are perhaps on the point of shedding our blood and
sacrificing our lives in the service of our Lord and
Saviour, Jesus Christ.' There is no note of fear in this
letter. 'If,' it runs, 'you should hear that God has
crowned our labours, or rather our desires, with martyrdom,
return thanks to Him, for it is for Him we wish to live
and die.' Such was the spirit of these bearers of the
Cross. Their humility, courage, and disinterestedness
kept them for the present from 'the crown of martyrdom.'
But the hunch-backed sorcerer continued his agitation
and the storm once more broke over their heads. To show
the Indians that he knew their hearts, and that he could
meet death with the stoical courage of one of their own
chiefs, Brebeuf summoned them to a festin d'adieua farewell
feast--and while his guests, in ominous silence, ate the
portions set before them he addressed them in burning
words. He was about to die, but before he departed this
life he would warn them of the life to come. Their
resistance to Christ's message, their abuse and persecution
of Christ's messengers, would have to be atoned for in
eternity. His actions and words took effect.

Though the sorcerer still schemed, the Jesuits went about
their labours unscathed, preaching to the unregenerate,
visiting and caring for the sick, and baptizing the dying.

For a year after the establishing of the mission of La
Conception at Ossossane three fathers--Pierre Chastelain,
Pierre Pijart, and Isaac Jogues--ministered to the remnant
of the Hurons at Ihonatiria. But the pest was still
raging, and by the spring of 1638 Ihonatiria was little
more than a village of empty wigwams. It was useless to
remain longer at this spot, and the missionaries looked
about for another field for their energies. The town of
Teanaostaiae, the largest town of the clan of the Cord,
about fifteen miles north of the present town of Barrie,
seemed suitable for a central mission. Brebeuf visited
the place, talked with the inhabitants, met the council
of the nation, and won its consent to establish a residence.
In June the mission of St Joseph was moved to Teanaostaiae.
Before the end of the summer Jerome Lalemant, who for
the next eight years was to be the superior of the Huron
mission, Simon Le Moyne, and Francois du Peron arrived
in Huronia. There was now a new distribution of the
mission forces, five priests under Lalemant's immediate
leadership taking up their abode at Ossossane, while
three in charge of Brebeuf settled at Teanaostaiae.

So far Brebeuf had been the recognized leader in Huronia.
He had been nobly supported by his brother priests and
his hired men. The residences at both Ihonatiria and
Ossossane had been kept well supplied with food, even
better than many of the Indian households. Game was scarce
in Huronia, but the fathers had among their engages an
expert hunter, Francois Petit-Pre, ever roaming the forest
and the shores in search of game to give variety to their
table. Robert Le Coq, a devoted engage, later a donne,
[Footnote: An unpaid, voluntary assistant whose only
remuneration was food and clothing, care during illness,
and support in old age.] was their 'negotiator' or business
man. It was Le Coq who made the yearly trips to Quebec
for supplies, and who with infinite labour brought many
heavy burdens over the difficult trails. Brebeuf had
proved himself essentially an enthusiast for souls, a
mystic, a spirit craving the crown of martyrdom, yet
withal a man of great tact, and a powerful exemplar to
his fellow-priests. Lalemant, while lacking Brebeuf's
dominating enthusiasm, was a more practical man, with
great organizing ability.  After viewing the wide and
dangerous field to be administered, the new superior
decided to concentrate the separate missions into one
stronghold of the faith. The site he chose was remote
from any of the centres of Indian population. It was on
the eastern bank of the river Wye between Mud Lake and
Matchedash Bay. Here the missionaries built a strong
rectangular fort with walls of stone surmounted by
palisades and with bastions at each corner. The interior
buildings--a chapel, a hospital, and dwellings for the
missionaries and the engages--although of wood, were
supported on foundations of stone and cement.

The new mission-house they named Ste Marie; and from this
central station the missionaries went forth in pairs to
the farthest parts of Huronia and beyond. The missions
to the Petuns and the Neutrals, however, ended in failure.
The Petuns hailed Garnier and Jogues as the Famine and
the Pest and the priests barely escaped with their lives.
In the following year (1640), when Brebeuf and Chaumonot
went among the Neutrals, they found Huron emissaries
there inciting the Neutrals to kill the priests. These
Hurons, while themselves fearing to murder the powerful
okies of the French, as they regarded the black-robes,
desired that the Neutrals should put them to death. But
no such tragedy found place as yet. After visiting nineteen
towns, meeting everywhere maledictions and threats,
Brebeuf and Chaumonot returned to Ste Marie.

The good work went on, notwithstanding trials and reverses.
The story of the Cross was being carried even to the
Algonquins and Nipissings of the upper Ottawa and Georgian
Bay. At Ste Marie neophytes gathered in numbers, and here
there were no medicine-men, 'satellites of Satan,' to
seduce them from their vows. But, just at the time when
the harvest seemed richest in promise, a cloud appeared
on the horizon--a forerunner of darker clouds, heavy with
calamity, and of the storm which was to bring destruction
to the Huron people.

Meanwhile, how fared the mission at Quebec? Champlain
had died on Christmas Day 1635, and the Jesuits had lost
a staunch friend and never-failing protector. His successor,
however, was Charles Huault de Montmagny, a knight of
Malta, a man of devout character, thoroughly in sympathy
with the missions. Under Montmagny's rule New France
became as austere as Puritan New England.

The Relations of the Jesuits, sent yearly to France and
published and widely read, had roused intense enthusiasm
among wealthy and pious men and women. Thus Noel Brulart,
Chevalier de Sillery, was moved to take an interest in
the Canadian mission and to endow a home for Christian
Indians. Le Jeune chose a site on the bank of the St

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