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Ten Thousand Miles Through Canada
Chapter VII

“Westward Ho”—Orangeville—Owen Sound—Through the Great Lakes—Associations of Lake Huron—Breboeuf’s mission to the Indians—Feast of the dead—The wigwam life—Indian superstitions—Folklore—Diabolical tortures— Honour—Indian creeds—Loyola and his followers—Heroism of the Jesuits—Painted devils—Joques—Massacre of Br£boeuf and Lalemant—Failure of Jesuit mission—The passing of the Iroquois—Lake Superior—Picturesque rapids—The largest lock in the world—Sault Ste. Marie—Lake trout—Fishing resorts— An inland sea—The Rideau River—Nipigon and its trout— Patrol stations—Traffic on Lake Superior—Thunder Bay—Port Arthur and Fort William—Change of the clock—En route for Winnipeg—The opening page of the book of the prairies.

EVERY tourist to the Dominion aspires to visit the Far West. It is the New Canada, magnificent alike in grandeur and potentialities.

The Canadian Pacific Railway offers alternate routes. One is by rail all the way, which takes about four and a half days ; the other by rail and lake, which extends the journey to two additional days. In the former case the route lies north of Georgian Bay, Lakes Huron and Superior. In the latter the line terminates at Owen Sound, and thence the journey is by steamer through the Great Lakes to Fort William, where the railway course is renewed. It was this route selected. Although it prolongs the journey, it affords a break in the long transcontinental trip, and the land-locked seas that are traversed are the most wonderful on the American continent.

Between Toronto and the port of embarkation there are many points of interest. At Orangeville there is evidence that the far-off West is not the only grain-growing area. Huge elevators show active farming interests. The wide valleys, sloping away from rising plateaux, yield heavy crops, and the timbered stretches in close proximity to natural waterways foster the lumbering trade. Orchards are skirted, laden with fruit, and well-established farmhouses, nestling among the trees, bespeak plenty and prosperity. A picturesque cataract makes a glittering streak amongst the green, and commodious sheds and barns show an advanced stage in farming. At Owen Sound a rugged headland runs out into Georgian Bay, terminating in Cape Hund on the western point and Cabot’s Head on the eastern. Here Sidenham River empties itself into the bay, and imposing cliffs skirt the coast, whilst the thick green foliage of the woodland contrasts with the nakedness of limestone quarries.

The steamer course lies between Cove and Fitz-William Islands, where the waters of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron commingle. Manatoulin is the chief island lying on the north side, after which come Cockburn and Drummond.


Huron Lake is rich in historic association. On its shores began one of the greatest human dramas that the world has known. The dramatis persona comprised the Jesuits of France and the North American Indians. Faith and superstition, civilization and savagery, were set in ever-varying scenes, amidst the wild grandeur of forest and lake until the curtain fell on the closing act at Lake Erie. It was by Huron lake that Breboeuf found himself in the seventeenth century, forsaken by his Indian guides. He, in company with two more Jesuits, had descended the French River, intent upon forming a mission to the Huron tribes. Breboeuf’s canoe was separated from his companions’ in the rapids, and he was compelled to make his way alone to the Indian headquarters. The conditions under which these tribes lived, the rites he witnessed, and the crude superstitions by which they were swayed, supplied little for a basis on which to erect a habitation of the Christian Faith which the Jesuits came to establish.

In the forest by that very lake the first missionary witnessed the Huron’s feast of the dead, and in it may have read the crude shapings of belief in immortality. The reverence paid to the crumbling bones of ancestors testified to the belief that a soul resided there. It is an interesting speculation to consider how Breboeuf was affected by the recital of the virtues and bravery of the dead to which he listened as these crude children of the forest made their pilgrimage to the great sepulchre. Would the virtues of the Christ equally touch them ? He watched the contests in which the youths so eagerly engaged, and may have discerned in them a spirit of emulation, worthy of a better cause. It was in honour of the dead that prizes for these competitions were awarded. The effect on Breboeuf of the closing scene in the spectacle when the camp fires blazed in the night and awakened weird shadows amongst the giant trees is on record. In the drear funeral chant that rose from hundreds of voices over the bones and weapons piled in the open grave, the Jesuit priest heard a wail as of despairing souls from the “abyss of perdition.”

These sepulchres, ten feet deep and thirty feet long, are still to be discovered in the Huron country. The customs of the tribes were not of the nature to inspire the Jesuit with hopes, any more than their ceremonies.

Their dwellings consisted of rows of strong saplings, roofed with bark, which afforded no privacy and fostered no separate family life. Members of the tribe could come and go when and how they pleased. Within the circle gossip, war councils, tortures, vices were practised in turn. The flickering light of the fire disclosed grizzled warriors, scarred youths, wizened squaws, gaily bedizened girls, volatile children, and snarling dogs. In summer the men were almost naked, in winter clothed with the skins


of buffalo, beaver, and otter, with rich trimmings of porcupine quills, eagle’s feathers, and wampum ornaments on State occasions. Marriage was a form without a bond. It was consummated and dissolved without tears or reproaches on either side.

But the Jesuits were not left long under misapprehension of the true nature of the Indian character. They soon became the horrified witnesses of their cruelties. Every prisoner of war was subjected to prolonged torture. The victim would be fed with the choicest food, regaled with a peace pipe, and exhorted by a chief, a past master in the art of mockery, to take courage, as he was amongst friends. Even the sweat of fear would be gently rubbed off his face by the arch mocker. Meanwhile a number of fires would be lit, through which the prisoner would have to run, whilst his tormentors, armed with blazing torches, goaded him to greater speed. Portions of his flesh would be cut off and eaten, and respite given only to restore failing consciousness. All this continued until death mercifully proclaimed a final release.

For skill in the art of torture the females were said to surpass the males, and wherever there was a case for special treatment the victim was consigned to women. The diabolical gift probably accounted for the prevalent conception of the most malignant spirit in the form of a woman. Her robe was supposed to be made from the hairs of her victims, and the forest fire was the type of her dwelling-place.

Despite this repulsive side of the Indian’s character, there were phases that belonged to another category. Their courage was boundless, and they ranked bravery above life itself. They suffered in absolute silence, and marched to their enemies’ fortified positions, knowing that it meant certain death.

Their sense of honour at times was so great that the perfidy of members of a tribe was regarded as a disgrace. On one occasion when inter-tribal terms were under discussion an old chief was known to commit suicide on discovering a serious breach of good faith on the part of one of his companions.

There was a native poetry in Huron life that might have seemed promising soil for the growth of “sweeter manners, nobler laws.” They believed that nature was peopled with spirits. Tales must not be told in summer-time, when the spirits were listening and might take offence. Such recitals must be reserved until nature was locked in ice and snow and their ears were deaf. The thunder was a bird which caused the lightings to flash in opening and closing its wings. The violence of the storms was nothing more than the clamour of the young brood in their nests, and its mutterings the stooping of the clouds towards the earth to gather up snakes. Their escha-tology made its appeal to the heroic temperament.

The way to Heaven was beset with difficulties which the Indians braced themselves to face. It was represented as a narrow path between moving rocks which each instant clashed together; or a swift river crossed by a shaking log, and guarded by a ferocious dog which sought to drive the aspirant into the abyss. Whilst these crude tenets appealed to courage and perseverance, there was nothing connected with them that stood for a higher ideal of faith and conduct. The Indians’ gods were no better than themselves. They were represented as animated by lust and cruelty; and obedience was stimulated by sentiments of hatred rather than trust. The worst passions, not the nobler qualities, characterized these divinities. In them vice was deified, not virtue. This was the material out of which the Jesuits sought to fashion a nobler manhood on the shores of Lake Huron. The conditions were as unpromising as those found by the missionaries of a later period in Terra del Fuego, the inhabitants of which Darwin pronounced incapable of either civilizing or christianizing. And what was the character of the men who undertook the mission to the North American Indians ? A brief glance at their history answers the question.

The founder of the Jesuit order was Ignatius Loyola, a man of singularly composite character. He embodied in his personality the mixed elements of soldier, courtier, and zealot. These qualities were reflected in his followers. Creed and dogma were not propositions that commanded intellectual assent, but docile obedience. The calm realm of thought was made impossible in the whirlwind of unthinking action. Dogma was not a thing to be argued, but enforced, and at any cost—life itself was an insignificant item in the programme. The shaping of creeds and framing of morals were not a matter for many minds, but for one superior mind, in the conclusions of which all others were required to acquiesce.

To suit this spiritual dictatorship, the ordinary rules of right and wrong were no longer binding. Black was white and white black if the Superior so willed it. Zeal being the dynamic of the Jesuit order, exercises were enjoined for the qualification of the novitiate. He must understand the penalty of being outside the true fold, and meditate on final things until the meaning of a lost soul was fully imaged to his mental vision. So strenuous were these exercises that the disciple imagined he could hear the howlings of the damned, witness their convulsive agonies, look into the infernal pit, and tremble at the fire that burned without consuming. The meditative part of the curriculum covered a course of two years. Next followed practical training, in which the disciple was required to undertake the most menial duties in the sick-room and the hospital. Humility was taught in begging his own bread from door to door; zeal, in watching his companions for any “tendencies” which were to be immediately reported, whilst he himself was watched in turn; diplomacy, in assuming disguises of soldiers, merchants, astrologers and mandarins for the purpose of making converts and enlarging the flock folded in the Church of Rome. Only in the light of such discipline is it possible to understand the sufferings and hardship endured by these first missionaries to the North American Indians. When prisoners fell into the hands of their captors, the belief that baptism was all that was needed to insure eternal bliss no doubt helped to reconcile the priests to the torture and unspeakable cruelties they witnessed. Indians who declined baptism when free, submitted to it under torture. The Jesuits regarded with equanimity any agony that directly led to so desirable a result. Cases are on record where the priests, themselves prisoners, had the forejoints of their fingers bitten off by their tormentors, and with their bleeding hands baptized their fellow-sufferers in their dying agonies. Under cover of giving drink to a prisoner burning at the stake, a portion of the water would be spilt on the victim, and the formula of baptism surreptitiously pronounced.

The eagerness to perform the ceremony took no account of the character of the subject. A dying Algonquin threw himself on an Iroquois prisoner and tore his ear off with his teeth, but the Algonquin was baptized by a priest immediately after the brutal act.

There was even some analogy between the Indian practises and the Jesuits’ creed. “You do good to your friends,” said Le Jeune to an Algonquin chief, “and you burn your enemies; God does the same.”

Hell was depicted to them as a place where, according to Jesuit theology, the hungry would get nothing to eat but frogs and snakes, and the thirsty nothing to drink but flames. The brutal temperament of the tribes was imitated in the interests of the Indians’ conversion. The decorations of their mission church on the shores of Lake Huron were criticized by a priest as not being sufficiently aweinspiring. “If three, four, or five devils were painted tormenting a soul with different punishments, one applying fire, another serpents, another tearing him with pincers, and another holding him fast with a chain, this would have a good effect, especially if everything was made distinct, and misery, rage and desperation appeared plainly in his face.”

Apart from the crudities and grotesqueness of the Jesuits, stand their splendid heroism and devotion. One must judge them in the dim light of two centuries ago. Their conception of truth was the ordinary medieval one in which they “saw men as trees walking.” Their endurance and self-sacrifice attest the divinity in man and remain an imperishable memorial. As the steamer plied along the shore of the great lake, one could see in imagination these missionaries of the Cross with their faces set in the hopeless task of reclaiming these children of the forest. Joques, with his mutilated hands extended in benediction over the heads of the men that tortured him. We know how he went back to Rome so battered and broken as to be unrecognizable, but the Indians’ needs haunted him, and he returned to his mission, to be tomahawked in the end. Breboeuf and Lalemant, they, too, appear on the scene, lacerated, tortured, the formula that they had so often used applied to themselves in cruel derision by their executors. “We baptize you,” they said, pouring boiling water on their heads, “that you may be happy in Heaven.” Breboeuf never flinched, although they cut strips of flesh from his limbs and devoured them before his eyes. “You told us that the more one suffered on earth, the happier he is in Heaven. We wish to make you happy because we love you, and you ought to thank us for it.”

Then they scalped him, and paid the last testimony to his bravery, as emphatic as their tortures, by drinking his blood that his patience and courage might be theirs.

So ended the life of Jean de Breboeuf. France gives him a first place amongst her saints and martyrs. The roots of his race extend to British soil, for in his veins flowed the blue blood of the Earls of Arundel.

Great as was the zeal of the Jesuits, their mission was a failure. Its weak point lay in the fact that they were more concerned in converting the Indians to the Roman Catholic faith than in subduing their warlike temper and quelling tribal strife. Their connexion with the Hurons made the Iroquois— the enemies of the former—their enemies also. The latter were the most powerful and warlike of all the North American Indians. Perpetual feuds were waged between the tribes. The ravages of the tomahawk and the gun left no room for the cultivation of agricultural pursuits. The Indians moved from place to place, too restless to take root, paying no heed to the great natural resources which invited their labour. With the exception of trapping, all industries were neglected. Wampum was the only currency they knew, a few beads the highest reward they coveted. The very principles that the Jesuits sought to inculcate, forgiveness of injuries, suffering without murmuring, were to the Indians poor weapons with which to fight their enemies—openly ridiculed by them, and rejected with contempt. Even when a truce was called between the tribes, and peace speeches were made, it was only marking time for a fresh outburst of hostilities.

The final struggle at Lake Erie practically exterminated the nation that dwelt on its shores. But the victory was bought at a high price. The battle broke the power of the conquerors themselves,


whose very name was a terror to all other tribes. The dead of the victors were as numerous as those of the vanquished, and the Iroquois never recovered ; as they had lived by the sword, so they perished by the sword. Their last war-whoop had been uttered, and their next rally cry evoked no response along the wild lake-shore.

Lake Superior joins Huron by picturesque rapids. The narrow confine through which the water of the great lake endeavours to discharge itself is a seething torrent, white with anger and beautiful in its wrath.

It is one of the places where the Indians still display their skill with the canoe whilst catching trout. To the uninitiated it would seem impossible for a craft to live in such a current, but the natives negotiate it with impunity.

For the purposes of navigation a lock has been constructed between Huron and Superior. It is a triumph of engineering, and is the largest in the world, 900 feet long and 60 feet wide. It has cost £800,000. Sault Ste. Marie marks the growth of important industries along the shores. Rolling mills, steel plant, car factories, and other trades have sprung up there within the last few years. The St. Mary River flows into the lake at that point on the borders of the United States, sweeping round St. Joseph Island.

There is good angling in this neighbourhood, and the trout run to a large size. One served at the saloon table d’hote, from sectional evidence, must have been 12 lbs. to 14 lbs. weight. One has a prejudice against large trout, except as a diversion with a fishing-rod, but the quality of Lake Superior fish as a comestible is beyond reproach. I have never tasted anything finer. It is necessary to go inland a few miles to get the best fishing. I had introductions to local anglers, and reliable information on the subject, but pressure of time prevented me from breaking the journey. Off the mouth of the rivers trolling can be had for the big fish, and a few miles up the streams good fly-fishing can be had.

Sault Ste. Marie is the connecting point for the Soo Pacific Line which links Canada with the United States, taking in Minneapolis and the Dacotas. It joins the Canadian Pacific main line again at Moose Jaw. Superior is the largest of the American lakes. Its dimensions may be gathered by comparison with England and Wales, which it could swallow and leave a considerable margin all round. From the centre, land is out of sight, and it becomes a veritable sea bounded by the horizon. It is the ocean prairie of America, and gives the same sense of vastness as its twin sister of the great plains. The steamer course lies south of Caribou Island, with Montreal and Leach Islands lying north. The international water-line which divides Canada from the States proceeds from South Caribou to


Pigeon Bay via Gull Island, off Isle Royal. The Rideau River touches the lake at Otter Cove, and the Nipigon on the same coast further on. The latter is the finest trout river in Ontario. Three pounds are charged for a licence to fish it, which is about three times the usual charge. Nipigon runs from the lake of the same name, and consists of a series of swift rapids that lend themselves to the highest form of the angling craft. The fish are a large size, and rise to the fly freely. It is advisable to push up the river a couple of miles before commencing to fish. Competent Indian guides can be hired, who know all the pools, and are skilful in the management of the canoe in the dangerous rapids. Jackfish is another centre on the coast where angling is procurable. To get the best sport, a camping excursion is necessary, which can be competently organized by guides who live at Jackfish, a station on the Canadian Pacific Railway. On the north shore of Superior, Missan-abie offers all the sporting advantages of Nipigon, with excellent rapids where, donning waders, two-pounders can be taking with the fly.

A number of bights off the coast on the north side of the lake form good harbourage for the trading boats. Of these, Nipigon Bay, Black Bay, and Thunder Bay are the chief. It is a storm-bound coast, and at times waves rise and swell in angry tumult that rival those of the far distant Pacific, breaking against its islands, and reverberating along the rocky shore. Lake Superior takes a heavy toll of life, and the bodies of its victims have been so rarely recovered that it has gained for itself the name of “the lake that never gives up its dead.” The water is intensely cold on the hottest summer day.

The centre is said to be unfathomable, and even along the coast there are enormous depths. Last summer an engine was struck with a huge rock from the cliffs, and was swept into the lake. In a depth of 65 feet, a diver reached it, and recovered the body of the driver. Next day, he went down again, but the engine had disappeared, leaving the ledge of rock on which it rested, scarred. The man went down to a depth of 180 feet, but the body of the missing stoker was never found.

Lighthouses are placed along the coast, which flash out their warning signals. There are also patrol stations on cthe look-out for ships in distress. On the State side, there are regular beats, the eastward and the westward patrols meeting at stated points, and so establishing a complete surveillance of the coast.

Soon the steamer drew away from all landmarks. The water was so smooth that it remained unruffled except where the prow of the boat broke it into rolling ripples, or a great lumber or grain vessel left a long white streak behind.

The number of steamers that ply on the lake

point to the extensive traffic which this highway from the Far West affords. We were never long out of sight of the black smoke line, which stood out in sharp contrast against the clear blue sky. As evening advanced, the great islands behind us became mere specks on a far-off water waste, and the chill of departing day was felt. The sun dipped low on the horizon, and masses of piled*up clouds glowed as with hidden fire; patches of blue sky were marked with a tracery of gold and grey. Half buried in the sea the red disk sank, until the last lingering ray disappeared, and it was night.

The early morning brought us within sight of Thunder Bay and Sleeping Giant Mountain. Port Arthur and Fort William at the head of the lake are rapidly rising towns, anticipating by their enormous grain elevators the corn produce of the Golden West. These twin ports developing side by side and presenting the interesting problem to speculative minds as to which would gain pre-eminence, are the best examples of what railway enterprise can achieve in connexion with a growing country. Everywhere there are palpable signs of industry; large trading steamers, extensive wharves, and coal docks; facilities for loading and unloading, and transporting the products of forest and field by land and inland sea. It could scarcely be surmised that Port Arthur only a few years ago was practically stagnant until it received the initial impulse from the construction of the Canadian Northern Railway, the youngest of the great transit systems which marked the beginning of a new era of commerical prosperity along the shores of the great waterway.

The largest grain elevator so far constructed is a conspicuous object on the shore. It holds 7 million bushels of grain. The two ports, between them, have a capacity for storing 29 millions. Amongst prospective enterprise are included the construction of a large dry dock and ship-building yards at Port Arthur. Fort William is the disembarking point of the great lake trips, and a train stood in readiness to take passengers to the main line station on the Canadian Pacific. Time changes here from Eastern to Western methods of chronology, which puts the clock back an hour. The distinction between a.m. and p.m. is abolished, and the dial of the clock makes a consecutive rotation from 12 to 24. As a concession to inbred conservatism and the belief that mortals are slow to learn, the old and the new modes of reckoning are inscribed on the railway clocks. For this, one is profoundly grateful. One scarcely knows where he is when, on asking the time of day, he is told that it is twenty-three fifteen!

The railway journey to Winnipeg epitomizes all that lies behind and before—a rocky region intersected with rivers and lakes; forests stretching away out of sight; mining industries locked in the great mountains; falls that rival Niagara in magnificence, and all the branches of industry, from the Government experimental farm at Dryden to the great water-works at Keewatin. There the Lake of the Woods, 3000 square miles, furnishes the greatest water dynamic in the world. As the train nears Winnipeg, the introductory chapter in the encyclopaedic volume of the prairies begins, and many days will have to be spent in looking through its pages.

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