Search just our sites by using our customised site search engine

Click here to get a Printer Friendly PageSmiley

Click here to learn more about MyHeritage and get free genealogy resources

An Abridged History of Canada
Chapter V.—The Hundred Associates—To 1663

English Colonization—Jamestown Founded—1607. The New England Colonies—Montmagny, Governor of Canada—1637. Founding of Ville Marie (Montreal)-1642. Huron Missions—Their Destruction by the Iroquois—1648-49. The Abbe Laval, first Viear Apostolic—1659. Dulac des Ormeaux, the Leonidas of Canada—1660. Charter of the Hundred Associates Annulled—1663. Earthquakes.

In order to understand the prolonged conflict between France and Great Britain for the possession of the North American continent, it will be necessary to trace briefly the progress of English colonization. It was not till the year 1607, one hundred and ten years after the discovery of America by Cabot, that a permanent English settlement was made in the New World. It consisted of one hundred and five emigrants—of whom forty-eight were " gentlemen," and only twelve labourers and four carpenters—sent out by a company of London merchants, incorporated under royal charter. They entered the magnificent Chesapeake Bay, and began their settlement at Jamestown, on the James River. Indolence, strife, and jealousy plunged the colony into anarchy and despair. Before autumn half of its number had died, and the rest were enfeebled with hunger and disease. They were only saved from destruction by the energy and ability of Cap.tain John Smith, the romantic story of whose rescue from death by Pocahontas is one of the most pleasing legends of early colonization. Successive reinforcements, chiefly of broken-down gentlemen, bankrupt tradesmen, and idle and dissolute fugitives from justice, increased the number in three years to four hundred* and ninety persons, when John Smith, injured by an explosion of gunpowder, was compelled to return to England. In six months vice and famine had reduced the colony to sixty persons, who prepared to abandon the country. Lord Delaware opportunely arrived with supplies; but in twelve years, after the expenditure of $400,000, it numbered only six hundred persons. At length, reinforced by a superior class of immigrants, its population rapidly increased, till, in 1648, it numbered twenty thousand souls.

In 1632, Lord Baltimore, a Roman Catholic nobleman, received a grant of the territory which, in honour of Henrietta Maria, wife of Charles I., he called Maryland. This he held by feudal tenure, paying only a yearly rent of two Indian arrows, and a fifth of all the gold and silver found. Catholics and Protestants alike enjoyed religious toleration, and by 1660 its population had increased to ten thousand souls.

The New England colonies were the offspring of religious impulse. A company of English Puritans, sojourning in Holland for conscience' sake, embarked-in the Mayflower, of immortal memory, and on Christmas day, 1620, landed on Plymouth Rock. Before spring, half the number had died, and for several years sickness and famine menaced the very existence of the colony. Further settlements were made at Salem and Boston ; the new colonies of Rhode Island and Connecticut were planted; and after many years of privation, suffering, sickness, and Indian massacres, the population of New England, continually reinforced by fresh immigration, reached, in 1675, fifty-five thousand. 1637 return more minutely the varying fortunes of New France. M. de Montmagny, of the successor of Champlain, arrived in Canada in 1637. The Company of the Hundred Associates, from which so much had been expected, did little but send a few vessels annually to traffic with the natives. Instead of transporting four thousand colonists in fifteen years, in the thirty-five years of its existence it did not send out one thousand. At Champlain's death, there were only two hundred and fifty Europeans in the colony. In five years more, scarce a hundred were added. In 1648, the European population was only eight hundred, and in 1663, when the company's charter was annulled, it was less than two thousand, most of whom had come out without its aid. So slowly, as compared with that of Virginia and New England, did the population of New France increase.

Many persons devoted to religion, both priests and nuns, eager to engage in missionary toil among the savages, came to Canada. One of the most remarkable of these was Madame de la Peltrie, a lady of wealth and noble birth, who, left a widow at the age of twenty-two, became the foundress of the Ursuline Convent at Quebec for the instruction of French and Indian girls. With her came Marie Guyart, better known by her conventual name of Marie de l'lncarnation, who had also been left a widow at the age of twenty. They arrived at Quebec in 1639. As they landed from their floating prisons they kissed the soil that was to be the scene of their labours, and were received with enthusiasm by the, inhabitants, and with firing of cannon, and the best military parade of the little garrison. For over thirty years these devoted women laboured for the instruction of the Indian neophytes.

In the year 1640, the Company of the Hundred Associates ceded the Island of Montreal to a new company, which selected M. de Maisonneuve, a young and gallant military officer, as its representative. In the spring of 1642, the little fleet, bearing the founders of the new town and about forty soldiers and settlers, glided up the river. As they landed, a hymn of thanksgiving was sung, an altar was erected, and in that magnificent amphitheatre of nature, P&re Yimont celebrated mass, and invoked the blessing of Heaven on the new colonists. Thus were laid the foundations of the Ville Marie de Montreal, the future commercial metropolis of Canada.

That remarkable religious order, which in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries belted the globe with its missions, gained some of its most striking triumphs and exhibited its most heroic spirit in the wilderness of Canada. The Jesuit missionaries were the pioneers of civilization in the New World. As early as 1626, Jean de Brebeuf, the apostle of the Hurons, visited the savage tribes, and planted the cross and chanted the mass at Sault Ste. Marie, on the shores of the Mer Douce. Soon other missionaries followed, and toiled among the Hurons, in the country between Lake Simcoe and the Georgian Bay. Footsore and weary, gnawed by hunger, and chilled by piercing cold, they traversed the wintry woods from plague-smitten town to town, to minister their healing simples to the victims of the loathsome smallpox, to baptize, if possible, a dying child, and to tell the painted savages in their reeking wigwams of the love of Mary and her Divine Son.

At length, over a score of mission stations were established, the chief of which was at Ste. Marie, near the present town of Penetanguishene. Here was erected a stone fort, whose ruins may still be traced, with a church and mission house. In 1648, a storm of heathen rage burst upon the Christian missions. A war party of the blood-thirsty Iroquois fell upon the village of St. Joseph, near the present town of Barrie, on the morning of July 4th. Pere Daniel had just finished the celebration of mass when the dread warwhoop was heard. "Fly, my brethren," he cried, "I will die here and he fell like a hero at his post, with the name of Jesus on his lips.

Early next spring, a thousand Iroquois warriors attacked the Huron villages. At St. Louis, not far from Orillia, P&res Brebeuf and Lalemant were seized, and, after cruel tortures, borne with martyr patience, they were burned at the stake, f The mission was wrecked. The missionary Fathers set fire to Ste. Marie, and saw consumed in an hour the labours of years. On an island not far from the mainland, they built a new mission fortress, the remains of which may still be seen. Here, by winter, were assembled six or eight thousand wretched Hurons, dependent on the charity of the mission. Before spring, harassed by attacks of the Iroquois, wasted by pestilence, and famished on the scanty allowance of acorns (boiled with ashes to take away their bitter taste), which was their only food, half of the number had died.

There was nothing but despair on every side. More than ten thousand Hurons had already perished.

The missionaries, "after forty consecutive hours of prayer to God," resolved, not without many tears, to abandon the country endeared by their toils and consecrated with the blood of their brethren. They were accompanied in their retreat, by way of Lake Nipissing and the Ottawa, by three hundred. Christian Hurons—sad relics of a nation once so numerous. The little band of fugitives sought refuge on the Island of Orleans, near Quebec, and afterward on the mainland. But even here they were pursued by the undying hate of the Iroquois, who again and again attacked the mission beneath the very guns of the fort. The remaining Hurons were dispersed in scattered bands over the bleak northern wastes from the Saguenay to the Mississippi, and soon disappeared as a distinct tribe. No trace now remains of the Jesuit missions save the blackened embers of the Christian villages, buried beneath the forest growth of over two centuries, which are sometimes upturned by the settler's plough; and a few families, the remnant of the once powerful Huron nation, still lingering at Lorette, near Quebec.

The incursions of the Iroquois on the St. Lawrence settlements now increased in frequency and audacity. From 1650 to 1660 a perfect reign of terror prevailed. Not a year, and scarce a month, passed without an attack. The Iroquois swarmed in the forests and on the rivers. They lay in wait, at times for weeks, near the forts, thirsting for French or Huron blood. They entered the settlements, and killed and scalped the inhabitants on their own thresholds. Every man carried his life in his hand. The peasants could not work in the fields unless strongly armed and in a numerous body. Ville Marie lost in one month by these incursions over a hundred men, two-thirds of whom were French, the rest Algonquins.

In 1660, the Iroquois menaced with a fatal blow the very existence of the colony. Twelve hundred plumed and painted warriors were on the way to attack successively the three military posts of Montreal, Three Rivers, and Quebec. Behind their loopholed palisades the trembling inhabitants gathered, their hearts failing them for fear. The colony was saved from extermination by an act of valour and devotion as heroic as any recorded on the page of history, Dulac des Ormeaux, a youth of twenty-five, with sixteen others, youthful like himself—all of Montreal—resolved to save their country, though they perished in the act. They made their wills, confessed, received the sacrament, and bade a solemn farewell to their friends, like men about to march to death. And so they were. Not one returned alive. They took their stand at the Long Sault, near Carillon, on the Ottawa. Soon the savage host appeared. For five long days and nights they swarmed around the frail redoubt erected by the French, repulsed again and again, by its brave defenders, who, though worn by hunger, thirst, and want of sleep, fought, and prayed, and watched in turns. Iroquois reinforcements arrived; and for three days longer seven hundred ferocious savages beleaguered the crumbling redoubt, and only with the death of the last Frenchman was the dear-bought victory won. But the colony was saved. The pass of the Long Sault was the Thermopylae of Canada.

We return to trace briefly the political administration of New France during this period. In 1647, Montmagny was recalled, and M. D'Ailleboust was appointed his successor. In 1651, D'Ailleboust was succeeded by M. de Lauson, a leading member of the Hundred Associates. In 1658, De Lauson quitted his post in disgust, and was succeeded in office by the Viscount D'Argenson.

In 1659, the Abb6 Laval, a member of the princely house of Montmorency, who afterwards (in 1670) became the first bishop of the colony, arrived in Canada as Vicar Apostolic. He was a man of intense zeal and devotion to the interests of his order. For thirty years he swayed the religious destiny of the colony. His memory is greatly revered by his countrymen, and the noble collegiate pile which crowns the heights of Quebec perpetuates his name. Acrimonious disputes soon arose between the Bishop and successive Governors on matters of precedence and other expressions of ecclesiastical dignity.

In 1661, D'Argenson was succeeded by the Baron D'Avaugour, a brave soldier, who had served with distinction in Hungary. Resolved on energetic measures of colonial defence, he asked for three thousand regular troops. The King tardily sent out four hundred, and meanwhile the country was laid waste, and the military posts were practically in a state of siege.

In 1663, the whole country was shaken by a terrible earthquake. Dense darkness tilled the air, the thick-ribbed ice on the rivers was broken, springs were dried up, the church bells pealed with the rocking motion, buildings tottered, the forest trembled, and portentous noises were heard. Shocks were repeated at intervals from February to August. The utmost consternation prevailed, but happily no loss of life is recorded.

This, date closes the administration of the Hundred Associates, which had been characterized by greed, weakness, and inefficiency on the part of the company, and by the unparalleled sufferings of the colonists.

Return to our Book Index Page

This comment system requires you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator has approved your comment.

comments powered by Disqus