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

History of Toronto and County of York in Ontario
Part I: Chapter XII. The Government of Montmagny

FOR a year the new settlement of Ville Marie escaped the notice of the Iroquois. The settlers were therefore left unmolested till they had entrenched themselves with a strong palisade. A birch bark chapel was raised above their altar. At first the whole community lived ;n tents, but soon strongly-built wooden houses were erected, and the first feeble beginnings of what should be a great city in the future began to shape themselves. The whole community lived together i one large house, with the Jesuit Superior, Virnont, and his brother priest. The life of the settlement was a simple and happy one, regulated in all things by the religious enthusiasm which was the life of the colony. The great event of each month was a festival, a procession, a high mass, in honour of some saint's day. Then the soldiers were marshalled under arms by Maisonneuve. The altar was decked with a taste which showed culture as well as piety, by Mademoiselle Mance and Madame de la Peltrie. For this purpose they loved to resort to the neighbouring wood, and gather the May-flowers and the lilies among the fresh green grass. They were unmolested by human enemies, but with December came a rise of the St. Lawrence which well nigh swept away the entire village. In this their strait the pious Maisonneuve placed a large wooden cross on the margin of the rising tide, and at the same time he vowed a vow to the Mother of God that if it so might be that the advance of the waters were stayed, he would carry another cross, equally large, to the summit of the mountain. Our Lady of Gracious Help hearkened to his prayer, and the rising tide was stayed. Therefore, Maisonneuve, bearing a heavy cross which the good Fathers had consecrated, carried it to the topmost brow of the hill. With him followed the ladies, the soldiers, and the other colonists. Long did that cross stand there, a sign of hope to the beleaguered inhabitants of Ville Marie in many a bitter day.

Ville Marie received an important addition to its strength in the autumn of 1643, when Louis d'Ailleboust de Coulonges, a valiant and devout nobleman of Champagne, accompanied by his young and beautiful wife, arrived. She, too, was noble. When she was asked in marriage by d'Ailleboust, she refused him, having at the age of five made a vow of perpetual chastity. To this refusal her Jesuit confessor objected, since her proposed husband was about to proceed to Canada, to devote his sword and his life to the service of the church in that distant land. It was most important that she should go with him to help in the good work. But how could her conscience be relieved of the vow she had taken ? Her confessor suggested a means of escape. Let the marriage ceremony be performed, but let husband and wife live together as if unmarried. A year after its foundation the Iroquois discovered Ville Marie. Fortunately, very soon afterwards, d'Ailleboust, who was a skillful engineer, had surrounded the town with ramparts and bastions of earth, that proved a far more secure defence than mere palisades. One day ten Algonquins, flying from a band of Iroquois, sought shelter in Ville Marie. For the first time, the Iroquois beheld the new fortifications. They examined the place carefully, and carried the important news home to their nation. In the summer of 1643, a party of sixty Hurons descended the St. Lawrence, laden with furs for the Vliie Marie market. When they came to the rapids of Lachme they had to land and carry their canoes by the portage. Quite unexpectly, they came on a large war-party of Iroquois. The Hurons, panic-striken, sought to gain favour with their enemies by betraying all they knew of the defences of their French benefactors. The Iroquois sent a party of forty warriors, who surprised six Frenchmen within shot of the fort, and having killed three of them, carried off the others for torture and the stake. It is satisfactory to know that the Huron traitors were, most of them, put to death that night by the Iroquois. Of the French captives, one escaped to Ville Marie, the others were burned alive with the usual tortures. It now became unsafe to pass beyond the gates of the fort without a vigilant and well armed escort. From this time forth the Iroquois were in perpetual ambuscade, not only at Ville Marie, but near a fort lately built at the central point of Three Rivers, and at another fort which Montmagny had erected at the mouth of the Richelieu, to check the advance of the Mohawk Iroquois, who usually made their descents on the settlements by this river. At Ville Marie, especially, the Mohawk spies lay in wait; concealed in a wood, or coiled up, bear-like, in a hollow tree, a single warrior would watch for days, almost without food, for the opportunity of taking the scalp of whoever ventured unarmed outside the gate. But this danger was much lessened by the arrival from France

of a number of strong mastiffs which proved to be most efficient in instantly indicating the presence of the Iroquois, so that it was no longer possible for the savages to lurk in the woods undetected. Among these dogs the most remarkable was one named Pilot, which every morning, followed fey a strong detachment of her progeny, explored the outskirts of the fort. If any one of them was lazy, or returned unauthorized to the fort, she bit the delinquent severely. She could detect the presence of the Iroquois, even at a distance, by the scent, on which she would run back with loud barking to the fort. In 1644, a considerable detachment of Iroquois camped near Ville Marie, intending, if possible, to surprise the garrison. But Pilot have warning of their movements every day, and Maisonneuve—although no braver soldier ever drew sword beneath the flag of France—thought it his duty to observe extreme caution in exposing his men to a fight with an enemy of far superior force. But his soldiers grew discontented at this forced inaction. They even so far forgot themselves as to accuse Maisonneuve of want of courage. Hearing of this, Maisonneuve resolved on decisive action. One morning in March, while the snow still lay deep around Ville Marie, Pilot ran into the fort barking furiously. The soldiers begged the^r leader to allow them to confront the foe. "Yes," said Maisonneuve, "get ready at once, and take care that you are as brave as you profess to be. I will lead you myself." All was made ready, and with guns well loaded, a body of thirty French soldiers sallied forth, Maisonneuve at their head. They marched into the forest east of the fort, whence the barking of the dogs had first been heard. Suddenly from behind the trees started forth some eighty Iroquois warriors, who greeted them with a volley of bullets and arrows. Steadily the Frenchmen returned the tire, and several of the savages fell dead in the snow. The French had the advantage of being armed with the newly-invented flint-lock musket, while the Indians had only the match-lock arquebuse. Maisonneuve, with wise precaution, ordered his men to imitate the tactics of the foe by taking shelter behind trees. But, being outnumbered, the fight was an unequal one, and it was necessary to retreat to the fort. From time to time, the French turned round and tired on their pursuers; but as they got closer to the fort, the retreat became a panic, and Maisonneuve was left alone. The Iroquois pressed close upon him, and might have surrounded him, but that they wished to leave the honour of his capture to their chief. Maisonneuve shot luin dead with a pistol, and while the savages busied themselves with securing the body of their chief, the French leader made his w ay m safety to the fort.

In 1645, Montmagny endeavoured to secure a treaty of peace with the Iroquois. He had succeeded in saving from the stake several Iroquois who had been captured by the Algonquins. These he sent back to their own country unharmed. The result was an embassy from the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois. The Iroquois, it will be remembered, consisted at that time of live nations, of which the Senecas and other western tribes were engaged in exterminating the Hurons, while the Mohawks alone carried on the war against New France. The Mohawk ambassadors were received by Montmagny with much pomp at the fort at Three Rivers. Endless speeches were made, endless belts of wampum were presented; one belt to unite the French and the Mohawks as brothers; one belt to scatter the clouds; one belt to cover the blood of the slain Iroquois; one belt to break the kettle in which the Mohawks boiled their enemies ; and so on, through the endless maze of metaphors which constituted the oratory of these grown-up children. Peace was concluded, but Montmagny overlooked the fact that it was only ratified by two out of the three tribes of the Mohawk Nation. The clans of the Wolf and the Turtle seemed to have been sincere in their desire for peace; that of the Bear was unappeased. Father Jogues, a Jesuit missionary, was sent to the Mohawk country by Montmagny as a political emissary. The story of this man's life is a remarkable one. His portrait, as given by Charlevoix, presents a delicate, refined, almost feminine type of face ; not by any means one that would typify the stoical endurance of Brebceuf, or the placid courage of the martyred Daniel. But, as has been well said, when inspired with the same holy enthusiasm, the lamb has proved as brave as the lion. Several years before, when on the Huron mission, Jogues had been captured by the Iroquois, from whom he suffered incredible tortures, but one finger being left on his hands. By the kindness of a Dutch trader, he was able to escape to France, where he was received with the greatest enthusiasm. Numerous honours and preferments were offered him. Anne of Austria, the Queen of Louis the Thirteenth, kissed his mutilated hand. As Charlevoix says, he had all the more temptation to enjoy repose at home, because he must have felt that it was. deserved. But he would not be unfaithful to his vocation, and returned to Canada. His embassy to the Mohawks soon came to an end. The minority of the Bear tribe, being eager for war, desired to implicate the other Mohawks by taking the life of the French emissary. A sickness fell on the town in which he lived. The old cry was raised that the Jesuit was a sorcerer whose presence brought famine and the pest. Jogues was murdered, happily without torture, by a blow on the head. So the peace of a few months was broken, and the Iroquois terror once more haunted forest and stream.

As the French King had decreed that the term of office for colonial governors should not exceed three years, Montmagny resigned in 1648. T1 e government of this nobleman was made illustrious by the foundation of Montreal and of the Ursuline Convent at Quebec, and by his wise erection of the Richelieu fort. He was succeeded in the same year by M d'Ailleboust, who had taken a leading part in the settlement at Ville Marie, and had afterwards been commandant at the important fort at Three Rivers. During the two years of Lis term of government took place the extirpation of the Hurons, a small remnant of whom sought 'shelter in Quebec. At Lorette, a few miles from thence, their descendants are still to be found, though with ever-dwindling numbers. In 1648 an envoy arrived at Quebec from the British colonies in New England. This was the first direct communication between the colonies of France and England. The New England envoy proposed a treaty for reciprocity of commerce, and an alliance between the colonies. The proposal was very acceptable to the government of New France. They sent to Boston, as their representative, a Jesuit priest named Druillettes. Only three years before, a law had been passed by the New England Legislature that any Jesuit entering New England should be put to death. It has been truly said that the men of Boston hated a Jesuit next to the devil or a Church of England minister. However, owing to his character of envoy, Druillettes reached the Puritan mother city in safety, and was hospitably entertained. He visited Boston again in 1651, in order to press on the New England government d'Aillebous:'s wish for an alliance between New France and New England against the Iroquois. But then, as now, the New Englander was disinclined to tight for any interests but his own. And as to the plea which Druillettes urged, that it was the duty of the English colonists to protect his Huron converts against their heathen fellow-countrymen, the Puritans probably thought that there was little to choose between the heathenism of the Iroquois and the idolatries of the popery to which the Hurons had been converted. So the negotiation came to nothing.

In the year 1650, that of the final destruction of the Hurons, M. d'Ailleboust resigned office, but settled in the colony where he died. He was succeeded by M. de Lauzon, who had been one of the leading men in Richelieu's company. The prospers of new France were dark when he entered on its government. The Iroquois, flushed with their success over the Hurons, directed all their energies against the unhappy colonists, and their yet more unhappy Indian allies. None, without being armed, dared to plough a field or bind up a sheaf of gram. The dwellers on outlying farms had either to entrench themselves with strong defences, or to abandon their dwellings. As an illustration of the straits to which the colony was reduced, the following from the Relations for 1653 may be quoted: "The war of the Iroquois has dried up all the sources of prosperity. The. beavers are allowed to build their dams in peace, none being able or willing to molest them. Crowds of Hurons no longer descend from their country with furs for trading. The Algonquin country is dispeopled; and the nations beyond are retiring further away still, fearing the musketry of the Iroquois. The keeper of the company's store here in Montreal has not bought a single-beaver skin for a year past. At Three Rivers, the small means at hand have been used in fortifying the place from fear of an inroad upon it. In the Quebec store-house, all 's emptiness. And thus everybody has reason to be malcontent, and there is not wherewithal in the treasury to meet the claims made upon it, or to supply public wants." An Iroquois band attacked Three Rivers, and killed the commandant, with several men, in a sortie from the fort. So critical was the condition of Ville Marie in the year 1651 that Maisonneuve went to France to represent the state of the colony. He obtained, chief!} from Maine and Brittany, a body of a hundred and five colonists, all well trained both in war and agriculture, whose arrival checked the Iroquois advance, and greatly served to build up the fortunes of Ville Marie. By this time the fickle Iroquois seemed inclined for peace, which was accordingly concluded in 1655, and though the war broke out again in a few months, even this short interval of tranquillity was of great use to the colony. A number of Jesuit missionaries took advantage of the peace, precarious as it was, to venture their lives in preaching the gospel among the Iroquois. The Onondaga Nation had requested of M. de Lauzon that a settlement might be formed hi their country, in consequence of which Captain Dupuis, a French officer of noble birth, was sent into the Iroquois country with fifty soldiers and four missionaries. When they left Quebec their friends bade them a last solemn farewell, not expecting to see them return alive from the land of those ruthless savages. The French force began to form a settlement in the Onondaga country, but the sleepless jealousy of the savage tribe was soon aroused against them. Jealousy soon became hatred. A dying Indian who had been converted warned one of the priests that the Iroquois had resolved on surprising and slaughtering their French guests. Dupuis resolved on a stratagem, pardonable under the circumstances: he invited the Iroquois to a feast, gave them plenty of brandy, and when every man, woman and child, was perfectly drunk, he and his soldiers embarked in canons which had been secretly prepared, and made their escape.

In 1658, Viscount d'Argenson became governor. He ascended the river Richelieu with two hundred men, and drove back the Iroquois for a considerable distance. In 1659 the celebrated De Laval came to Quebec as Vicar Apostolic, a step by which the Pope made Canada independent of the French episcopate. He was afterwards bishop, and by his arbitrary assumptions of authority was engaged in constant bickering with the civil government. In 1660 it became known to the colonists of Ville Marie and Quebec that a united effort for the destruction of those towns and of Three Rivers, and the consequent extermination of the entire French race, was meditated by the Iroquois. The danger was averted by an act of heroic self-sacrifice not unworthy to be compared with the achievements of a Decius or a Leonidas. A young French nobleman, named Daulac des Orineaux, with sixteen companions, resolved to strike a blow which, at the sacrifice of their own lives, might check the savage enemy's advance, at least for the present. They confessed their sins, received absolution, and, armed to the teeth, took up their position in an old palisade fort situated where, then as now, the roar of the Long Sault Rapids on the Ottawa blend with the sigh of the wind through the forest. With them were some fifty Huron allies, who, however, basely deserted them in the hour of danger. While they were engaged in strengthening their fortifications the Iroquois fell upon them. For ten days, and through incessant attacks, this handful of Europeans held at bay the five hundred painted savages who swarmed, screeching their war-whoops and brandishing their tomahawks, up to the very loop-holes of the fort, but only to be driven back by the resolute fire of its defenders. The savages left their chief among the heaps of slain. Repulsed again and again, the Iroquois put off their main attack till the arrival of reinforcements, the chief body of their forces which was moving on Ville Marie. To the last, Daulac des Ormeaux and his handful of gallant followers held their own against the swarming hordes. The base Hurons deserted, and, it is satisfactory to know, were nearly all put to death by the Iroquois. At length Daulac and his men, exhausted by their almost super human efforts, as well as by hunger, thirst, and sleeplessness, fell, lighting to the last. Four only survived, of whom three, being mortally wounded, were burned at once. The fourth was reserved for torture. The Iroquois had paid very dearly for their victory over a handful of men, whose valour so daunted the spirit of the savages that they gave up their designs on the French colony. There was great joy in Quebec at this deliverance, and a solemn Te Denm was sung in the churches.

In 1861 the Baron d'Avaugour was appointed governor. He was a skilful soldier, and had seen service in the wars m Hungary. His term of office was embarrassed, like that of his predecessor, by constant disputes with Laval, chiefly on the subject of selling liquor to the Indians, to which Laval, take all the rest of the clergy, was, on principle, opposed. D'Avaugour at this time induced the French king to give up a project which many of the French court advocated—the abandonment of Canada. He also obtained for the garrison of New France a reinforcement of four hundred men.

In February, 1663, a terrible earthquake affected the whole of Canada, the shocks being felt two or three times a day over a period of half a year. No damage, however, was done to life, and very little to property. The Indians believed that the earthquake was caused by the souls of their ancestors, who wished to return to the world. D'Avaugour induced King Louis XIV. to abolish the Richelieu company,, and to take the government of Canada into his own hands. Under the King, Canada was to be governed by a Sovereign Council, consisting of the Governor, the Bishop, the Superitendant, or Minister of Justice and Finance, and five leading colonists. Acadia, where the English, or rather the Huguenot Kirk under English colours, had destroyed every vestige of the French settlements, had been ceded again to France at the request of Cardinal Richelieu. It was divided into three provinces, under three governors, one of whom, a Huguenot adventurer named La Tour, intrigued and finally rebelled against the governor in chief, Charnissey, in 1647. With the usual Huguenot tactics, La Tour asked for and obtained aid from the English colony at Boston against his own countrymen, although England and France were then at peace. Charnissey remonstrated with the English, who proposed an alliance between his government of Acadia and New England. Having learned that La Tour was absent from fort St. John, Charnissey attempted to take it by surprise. It was gallantly defended by Madame de La Tour, a French lady of noble birth and of great beauty and accomplishments. Charnissey was forced to withdraw, after a loss of thirty-three of his men. He perceived during the siege that English soldiers from Boston, contrary to the treaty, were among the garrison. Enraged at this breach of faith, Charnissey seized and destroyed a ship belonging to New England. Alarmed at the danger to their commerce, the practical-minded Bostonian merchants sent no more aid to their unfortunate co-religionists. Again, and with a stronger force, Charnissey besieged fort St. John. Again, the Lady of the Castle, with a few faithful followers, beat back his thrice-repeated attack. The treason of one of the gartison enabled him to make his way, at an unguarded entrance, into the main body of the fort. But Madame de La Tour and her soldiers stood at bay in an outlying part of the castle, and Charnissey agreed to terms of surrender which he. basely violated. He had the unspeakable wickedness to hang every one of these faithful soldiers, and to force the noble lady whom they had served so wrell to witness the execution with a halter round her neck. The shock affected her reason, and she died soon after. Her husband had better fortune. When Puritanism, under Cromwell, became the arbiter of Europe, La Tour was appointed one of the three governors of Acadia. By the treaty of Breda, Acadia was once more transferred to France. Its history at this time contains little worthy of record. With a meagre soil and a seaboard ever exposed to invasion t was held of little consequence, either by England or France.

Return to 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