List Of Contents | Contents of The Jesuit Missions, by Thomas Guthrie Marquis
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Lawrence, four miles above Quebec; and in 1637 the Sillery
establishment was erected there, consisting of a chapel,
a mission-house, and an infirmary, all within strong

About the same time two wealthy enthusiasts, the Duchesse
d'Aiguillon, a niece of Cardinal Richelieu, and Madame
de la Peltrie, were likewise inspired by the Relations
to undertake charitable work in New France. These ladies
founded, respectively, the Hotel-Dieu of Quebec and the
Ursuline Convent. In 1639 Madame de la Peltrie, who had
given herself as well as her purse to the work, arrived
in Quebec, accompanied by Mother Marie de I'Incarnation
and two other Ursulines and three Augustinian nuns. The
Ursulines at once began their labours as teachers with
six Indian pupils. But a plague of small-pox was raging
in the colony, and for the first year or two after their
arrival these heroic women had to aid the sisters of the
Hotel-Dieu in fighting the pest.

The Jesuits themselves were busy with the education of
the Indians and had already established a college and
seminary for the instruction of young converts. The
colony, however, was not growing. The Hundred Associates
had not carried out the terms of their charter. There
were less than four hundred settlers in the whole of New
France, and only some three hundred soldiers to guard
the settlements from attack. Canada as yet was little
more than a mission; and such it was to remain for another
twenty and more years.



We have observed that the Hurons were at war with the
Five Nations and that Iroquois scalping parties haunted
the river routes and the trails to waylay Huron canoemen
and cut off hunters and stragglers from their villages.
When or how the feud began, between the Iroquois on the
one side and the Hurons and Algonquins on the other, no
man can tell. It antedated Champlain; and, as we have
seen, he had involved the French in it. There were, no
doubt, many bloody encounters of which history furnishes
no record. At first the warriors had fought on equal
terms, the weapons of all being the bow and arrow, the
tomahawk, the knife, and the war-club. But now the Iroquois
had firearms, procured from the Dutch of the Hudson, and
were skilled in the use of the musket, which gave them
a great advantage over their Huron and Algonquin foes.

On the south-east frontier of Huronia, about four miles
from Orillia, stood a town of the clan of the Rock,
Contarea, a 'main bulwark of the country.' The inhabitants
were pagans who had resisted the missionaries, and refused
them permission to build a chapel, not even deigning to
listen to their appeals. In the early summer of 1642 the
people of Contarea were living in fancied security; and
when runners brought word that in the forests to the east
a large force of Iroquois were encamped, the Contarean
warriors felt confident that, from behind their strong
palisades, they could resist any attack. No Iroquois
appeared; and, believing the rumour false, many of the
warriors left the town for the accustomed hunting and
fishing grounds. Suddenly, early on a June morning, the
sleepy guards were roused by savage yells. The Iroquois
were upon them. The alarm rang out; the towers were
manned, and the palisades lined with defenders. But in
vain. Arrows and bullets swept towers and palisades, and
through breaches made in the walls in rushed a horde of
bloodthirsty demons. In a few minutes all was over; the
town became a shambles; young and old fell beneath the
tomahawks of the infuriated invaders. Then the torch!
And the Iroquois hied them back in triumph to their homes
by the Mohawk, exulting in this first effective blow at
the enemy in his own country.

When news arrived of the destruction of Contarea, there
was wild alarm in the mission towns. But it was no part
of the Iroquois plan to attack at once the other Huron
strongholds. Huronia could wait until the tribes of the
St Lawrence and the Ottawa, allies of the Hurons, should
be destroyed. Then the Five Nations could concentrate
their forces on the Hurons.

And so six years passed over the Jesuits in the
mission-fields. Scalping parties occasionally haunted
the outskirts of the villages where they were stationed.
The Iroquois frequently attacked the annual fleet of
canoes on its journey to Quebec, and on several occasions
captured and carried off priests and their assistants.
But during these years no large body of Iroquois invaded
Huronia. The insatiable warriors of the Five Nations were
busy devastating the St Lawrence and the Ottawa, pressing
the tribes back and ever back, until scarcely a wigwam
could be seen between Ville Marie and Lake Nipissing.
The Algonquins who had not fallen had left their villages
and had sought safety on the bleak shores and islands of
Georgian Bay, or among the Hurons.

The mission was prospering under the guidance of Paul
Ragueneau, who in 1645 succeeded Lalemant as superior,
when the latter journeyed to Quebec to take over the
office of superior-general of the Canada mission. Ste
Marie, a wilderness Mecca of the faith, entertained yearly
thousands of Indians, many of whom professed Christianity.
On one occasion seven hundred Indians sought this sanctuary
within a fortnight, and to each of these the fathers from
their abundant stores gave two meals. About the walls
fields of corn, beans, pumpkins, and wheat spread fair
to the eye. Within the enclosure all was activity. Ambroise
Brouet was busy in his kitchen; Louis Gauber was at his
forge; Pierre Masson, when not occupied at his tailor's
bench, was hard at work in the garden, the pride of the
mission; Christophe Regnaut and Jacques Levrier were
mending or fashioning shoes and moccasins; Joseph Molere
prepared potions for the sick and had charge of the
laundry; and Charles Boivin, the master-builder,
superintended the erection of new buildings or the
strengthening and improving of those already built. The
appearance of permanency about the place was enhanced by
the fowls, pigs, and cattle. There were two cows and two
bulls, which had been brought with incredible toil from

The teaching and example of the fathers were winning a
way to the hearts of the Indians. In 1648 eleven or twelve
mission stations stood throughout Huronia, among the
Algonquins, and among the Petuns, now settled in the Blue
Hills south of Nottawasaga Bay. Seven of these stations
had chapels and in six it had been found necessary to
establish residences. In some of the villages, such as
Ossossane, the Christians outnumbered the pagans. The
Christian Hurons gave active help to the fathers in the
work of the mission, some among their own people, and
others among the Petuns and the Neutrals. The chapels
had bells--on some discarded kettles served this purpose--to
call the flocks to worship; and crosses studded the land.
Huronia was in a fair way of being completely won; and
the missionaries were already looking to the unexplored
regions round and beyond Lake Superior, and even to the
land of the Iroquois. Then, with the suddenness of a
volcanic eruption, their flocks were scattered and their
dearest hopes crushed.

In 1647 there was no communication between Ste Marie and
Quebec. Owing to the danger from Iroquois along the route,
the annual canoe-fleet did not go down, although a small
party of Hurons, it seems, went as far as Ville Marie.
The necessities of the mission were, however, urgent,
and in the spring of the following year Father Bressani
set out with a strong contingent of two hundred and fifty
Huron warriors, fully half of whom were Christians. No
sooner had this expedition begun its descent of the Ottawa
than an Iroquois war-party, which had wintered near Lake
Nipissing, stole southward through the forests towards

Contarea had been destroyed. The dangerous position of
St Jean-Baptiste, situated near the site of Cahiague on
Lake Simcoe, whence Champlain had set out against the
Iroquois in 1615, had led the Jesuits to abandon it. St
Joseph or Teanaostaiae, with about two thousand inhabitants,
was therefore the frontier town on the south-east of
Huronia. Father Daniel, in charge of this station, had
just returned from his annual eight-day retreat at Ste
Marie. For four years he had laboured in this mission;
and, though his flock had been a stiff-necked one, his
work had brought its reward. On the 4th of July his little
chapel was crowded for the celebration of early Mass,
and as he gazed at the congregation of his converts his
spirit rejoiced within him. He had just finished the
service, when shrill through the morning air rang the
cry: 'The Iroquois! The Iroquois!' Rushing out he saw
the foe already hacking at the palisades and many of the
defenders falling beneath a storm of arrows and bullets.
His first thought for his flock, he hurried back into
the chapel, beseeching them to save themselves. They
pressed about him, praying for baptism and for absolution;
and, as they held to him appealing hands, he dipped his
handkerchief in the font and baptized the crowd by
aspersion. Then he boldly strode to the door of his chapel
and faced the enemy. For a moment the savage fiends
hesitated before the stern-eyed priest standing in his
vestments, protecting, as it seemed, the flock that
cowered behind him; but only for a moment. Yelling defiance
at the white medicine-man, they directed their weapons
against him; and this dauntless soldier of the Cross
received the crown of martyrdom which he had prayed might
be his. His slayers fell upon his body, stripped it of
clothing, mutilated it, and cast it into the now flaming
chapel, a fitting funeral pyre for the first martyr of
the Huron mission. The entire village was given to the
flames, and the smoke of the burning cabins and palisades
rolled over the forest. A small village not far away, on
the trail to Ossossane, shared the same fate. The slaughter
glutted the ferocity of the Iroquois for the time being;
and, with some seven hundred prisoners, they stole back
to their villages south of Lake Ontario.

After this calamity the pall of a great fear hung over
the Hurons. Paralysed and inert, the warriors took no
steps to defend the country against the Iroquois peril.
In spite of the exhortations of the Jesuits, they lay
idle in their wigwams or hunted in the forest, dejectedly
awaiting their doom.

An Iroquois war-party twelve hundred strong spent the
winter of 1648-49 on the upper Ottawa; and as the snows
began to melt under the thaws of spring these insatiable
slayers of men directed their steps towards Huronia. The
frontier village on the east was now St Ignace, on the
west of the Sturgeon river, about seven miles from Ste
Marie. It was strongly fortified and formed a part of a
mission of the same name, under the care of Brebeuf and
Father Gabriel Lalemant, a nephew of Jerome Lalemant.
About a league distant, midway to Ste Marie, stood St
Louis, another town of the mission, where the two fathers
lived. On the 16th of March the inhabitants of St Ignace
had no thought of impending disaster. The Iroquois might
be on the war-path, but they would not come while yet
ice held the rivers and snow lay in the forests. But that
morning, just as the horizon began to glow with the first
colours of the dawn, the sleeping Hurons woke to the
sound of the dreaded war-whoop. The Iroquois devils had
breached the walls. Three Hurons escaped, dashed along
the forest trail to St Louis, roused the village, and
then fled for Ste Marie, followed by the women and children
and those too feeble to fight. There were in St Louis
only about eighty warriors, but, not knowing the strength
of the invaders, they determined to fight. The Hurons
begged Brebeuf and Lalemant to fly to Ste Marie; but they
refused to stir. In the hour of danger and death they
must remain with their flock, to sustain the warriors in
the battle and to give the last rites of the Church to
the wounded and dying.

Having made short work of St Ignace, the Iroquois came
battering at the walls of St Louis before sunrise. The
Hurons resisted stubbornly; but the assailants outnumbered
them ten to one, and soon hacked a way through the
palisades and captured all the defenders remaining alive,
among them Brebeuf and Lalemant.

The Iroquois bound Brebeuf and Lalemant and led them back
to St Ignace, beating them as they went. There they
stripped the two priests and tied them to stakes. Brebeuf
knew that his hour had come. Him the savages made the
special object of their diabolical cruelty. And, standing
at the stake amid his yelling tormentors, he bequeathed
to the world an example of fortitude sublime, unsurpassed,
and unsurpassable. Neither by look nor cry nor movement
did he give sign of the agony he was suffering. To the
reviling and abuse of the fiends he replied with words
warning them of the judgment to come. They poured boiling
water on his head in derision of baptism; they hung
red-hot axes about his naked shoulders; they made a belt
of pitch and resin and placed it about his body and set
it on fire. By every conceivable means the red devils
strove to force him to cry for mercy. But not a sound of
pain could they wring from him. At last, after four hours
of this torture, a chief cut out his heart, and the noble
servant of God quitted the scene of his earthly labours.

Lalemant, a man of gentle, refined character, as delicate
as Brebeuf was robust, also endured the torture. But the
savages administered it to him with a refinement of
cruelty, and kept him alive for fourteen hours. Then at
last he, too, entered into his rest.

Ten years before Brebeuf had made a vow to Christ: 'Never
to shrink from martyrdom if, in Your mercy, You deem me
worthy of so great a privilege. Henceforth, I will never
avoid any opportunity that presents itself of dying for
You, but will accept martyrdom with delight, provided
that, by so doing, I can add to Your glory. From this
day, my Lord Jesus Christ, I cheerfully yield unto You
my life, with the hope that You will grant me the grace
to die for You, since You have deigned to die for me.
Grant me, O Lord, so to live, that You may deem me worthy
to die a martyr's death Thus my Lord, I take Your chalice,
and call upon Your name. Jesu! Jesu! Jesu!' How nobly
this vow was kept.



Meanwhile at Ste Marie Ragueneau and his companions
learned from Huron fugitives of the fate of their comrades;
and waited, hourly expecting to be attacked. The priests
were attended by about twoscore armed Frenchmen. All day
and all night the anxious fathers prayed and stood on
guard. In the morning three hundred Huron warriors came
to their relief, bringing the welcome news that the Hurons
were assembling in force to give battle to the invaders.
These Hurons were just in time to fall in with a party
of Iroquois, already on the way to Ste Marie. An encounter
in the woods followed. At first some of the Hurons were
driven back; but straight-away others of their band rushed
to the rescue; and the Iroquois in turn ran for shelter
behind the shattered palisades of St Louis. The Hurons

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