網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

eontinual warfare with the Mohawks, the French had been excluded from the navigation of Lake Ontario, and had never even launched a canoe on Lake Erie. Their avenue to the west was by way of the Ottawa and French River; so that the whole coast of Ohio and Southern Michigan remained unknown, except as seen by missionaries from their stations in Canada. In 1640, Brebeuf had been sent to the villages of the neutral nation which occupied the territory on the Niagara. Of these, some villages were extended, on the southern shore of Lake Erie, beyond Buffalo; but it is not certain that Brebeuf visited them, or that he was at any time on the soil of our republic. His mission perfected the knowledge of the great watercourse of the valley of the St. Lawrence.

- Could we but gain the mastery,” it was said, “ of the shore of Ontario on the side nearest the abode of the Iroquois, we could ascend by the St. Lawrence, without danger, and pass free beyond Niagara, with a great saving of time and pains.". Thus did Jesuits see the necessity of possessing ā.post in Western New York, seven years after the restoration of Quebec. At this time, no Englishman had reached the basin of the St. Lawrence. The country on the sea was held by the Dutch; that part of New York which is watered by streams that flow to the St. Lawrence, was first visited exclusively by the French.

But the fixed hostility and the power of the Five Nations left no hope of success in gaining safe intercourse by the St. Lawrence. To preserve the avenue to the west by the Ottawa, Pijart and Charles Raymbault, in 1640, on their pilgrimage to the Huron country, attempted the

conversion of the roving tribes that were masters of

the highways; and in the following year they roamed as missionaries with the Algonquins of Lake Nipissing:

Towards the close of summer, these wandering tribes prepared to celebrate their festival of the dead,”—to gather up the bones of their deceased friends, and give them jointly an honourable sepulchre. To this ceremony all the confederate nations were invited ; and, as they approach the shore on a deep bay in Lake Iroquois, their canoes advance in regular array, and the representatives of nations leap on shore, uttering exclamations and cries of joy, which the rocks echo. The long cabin for the dead had been prepared; their bones are nicely disposed in coffins of bark, and wrapped in such furs as the wealth

1641.

[ocr errors]

of Europe would have coveted; the mourning-song of the war-chiefs had been chanted, all night long, to the responsive wails of the women. The farewell to the dead, the dances, the councils, the presents, all were finished. But before the assembly dispersed, the Jesuits, by their presents and their festivals, had won new affection, and an invitation was given to visit the nation of Chippewas at Sault Ste. Marie.

For the leader of this first invasion of the soil of our republic in the west, Charles Raymbault was selected ; and, as Hurons were his attendants, Isaac Jogues was given him as a companion.

It was on the seventeenth day of September, 1641, that the birch-bark canoe, freighted with the first envoys

from Christendom, left the Bay of Penetangushene for the Falls of St. Mary. Passing to the north, they floated over a wonted track till beyond the French River; then they passed onward over the beautifully clear waters and between the thickly, clustering archipelagoes of Lake Huron, beyond the Manitoulins and other isles along the shore, to the straits that form the outlet of Lake Superior. There, at the falls, after a navigation of seventeen days, they found an assembly of two thousand souls. They made inquiries respecting many nations who had never known Europeans, and had never heard of the one God. Among other nations, they heard of the Nadowessies, the famed Sioux, who dwelt eighteen days' journey farther to the west, beyond the Great Lake, then still without a name-warlike tribes, with fixed abodes, cultivators of maize and tobacco, of an unknown race and language. Thus did the religious zeal of the French bear the cross to the banks of the St. Mary and the confines of Lake Superior, and look wistfully towards the homes of the Sioux in the valley of the Mississippi, five years before the New England Eliot had addressed the tribe of Indians that dwelt within six miles of Boston harbour.

The chieftains of the Chippewas invited the Jesuits to dwell among them, and hopes were inspired of a permanent mission. A council was held. - We will embrace you,” said they, as brothers; we will derive profit from your words.”

After finishing this excursion, Raymbault designed to rejoin the Algonquins of Nipissing, but the climate forbade ; and late in the season, he returned to the harbour of the

[ocr errors]

1642.

Huron missions, wasting away with consumption. In midsummer of the next year, he descended to Quebec. After

languishing till October, the self-denying man, who

had glowed with the hope of bearing the gospel across the continent, through all the American Barbary, even to the ocean that divides America from China, ceased to live; and the body of this first apostle of Christianity to the tribes of Michigan was buried in "the particular sepulchre,” which the justice of that age ħad “erected expressly, to honour the memory of the illustrious” Champlain.

Thus the climate made one martyr ;-the companion of Raymbault was destined to encounter a far more dreaded foe. The war-parties of the Five Nations, hereditary enemies of the Hurons, and the deadly opponents of the French, controlled the passes between Upper Canada and Quebec; and each missionary on his pilgrimage was in danger of captivity. Such was the fate of Isaac Jogues, who, having been one of the first to carry the cross into Michigan, was now the first to bear it through the villages of the Mohawks. From the Falls of St. Mary he had repaired to the Huron missions, and thence, with the escort of Ahasistari and other Huron braves, he descended by the Ottáwa and St. Lawrence to Quebec. On his return with a larger fleet of canoes, a band of Mohawks, whose war-parties, fearlessly strolling through the illimitable forest, were ever ready to burst suddenly upon their foes, lay in wait for the pilgrims, as they ascended the St. Lawrence. “There can be but three canoes of them," said Ahasistari, as, at daybreak, he examined their trail on the shore: “there is nothing to fear,” added this bravest of the braves. Unhappy confidence! The Mohawks, from their ambush, attacked the canoes as they neared the land; the thin bark is perforated; Huronsand Frenchmen alike make for the shore, to find security in the thick forests. Jogues might have escaped also ; but there were with him converts who had not yet been baptized and when did a Jesuit missionary seek to save his own life, at what he believed the risk of a soul? Ahasistari had gained a hiding-place; observing Jogues to be a captive, he returned to him, saying, “ My brother, I made oath to thee that I would share thy fortune, whether death or life; here am I to keep my vow.

The horrible inflictions of savage cruelty ensued, and

66

[ocr errors]

a

[ocr errors]

9)

were continued all the way from the St. Lawrence to the Mohawk. There they arrived the evening before the festival of the Assumption of the Virgin ; and, as he ran the gauntlet, Jogues comforted himself with a vision of the glory of the queen of heaven. In a second and a third village, the same sufferings were encountered; for days and nights, he was abandoned to hunger, and every torment which petulant youth could devise. But yet there was consolation: an ear of Indian corn on the stalk was thrown to the good father; and see! to the broad blade there clung little drops of dew or of water, enough to baptize two captive neophytes.

Three Hurons were condemned to the flames. The brave Ahasistari, having received absolution, met his end with the enthusiasm of a convert and the pride of the most gallant war-chief of his tribe. Sad was the fate of the captive novice, René Goupil

. He had been seen to make the sign of the cross on an in. fant's brow. • He will destroy the village by his charms,” said his master; and, summoned while reciting, alternately with Jogues, the rosary of the Virgin, a blow with the tomahawk laid him lifeless.

Father Jogues had expected the same fate; but his life was spared, and his liberty enlarged. On a hill apart, he carved a long cross on a tree, and there, in the solitude, meditated the imitation of Christ, and soothed his griefs by reflecting that he alone, in that vast region, adored the true God of earth and heaven. Roaming through the stately forests of the Mohawk valley, he wrote the name of Jesus on the bark of trees, graved the cross, and entered into possession of these countries in the name of God,-often lifting up his voice in a solitary chant. Thus did France bring its banner and its faith to the confines of Albany. The missionary himself was humanely ransomed from captivity by the Dutch, and, sailing for France, soon returned to Canada.

Similar was the fate of Father Bressani. Taken prisoner while on his way to the Hurons ; beaten, mangled,

mutilated; driven barefoot over rough paths, through

briers and thickets; scourged by a whole village ; burned, tortured, wounded, and scarred,—he was eyewitness to the fate of one of his companions, who was boiled and eaten. Yet some mysterious awe protected his

a

1644.

1645.

life, and he, too, was at last humanely rescued by the Dutch.

Meantime, to make good the possession of the country, a treaty of peace is sought by the French with the Five

Nations, and at Three Rivers a great meeting is held.

There are the French officers in their magnificence ; there the five Iroquois deputies, couched upon mats, bearing strings of wampum." It was agreed to smooth the forest-path, to calm the river, to hide the tomahawk. “Let the clouds be dispersed," said the Iroquois ; "let the sun shine on all the land between us."

The Algonquins joined in the peace. “ Here is a skin of a moose, said Negabamat, chief of the Montagnez; “make mocassins for the Mohawk deputies, lest they wound their feet on their

way
home."--"

!"_" We have thrown the hatchet,” said the Mohawks, “so high into the air, and beyond the skies, that no arm on earth can reach to bring it down. The French shall sleep on our softest blankets, by the warm fire, that shall be kept blazing all the night long. The shades of our braves that have fallen in war, have gone so deep into the earth that they never can be heard calling for revenge."-"I place a stone on their graves,' said Pieskaret, " that no one may move their bones.”

With greater sincerity, the Abenakis of Maine, touched by the charities of Silleri, had solicited missionaries. Con. version to Catholic Christianity would establish their warlike tribes as a wakeful barrier against New England :

and, in August, 1646, Father Gabriel Dreuillettes,

first of Europeans, made the long and painful journey from the St. Lawrence to the sources of the Kennebec, and, descending that stream to its mouth, in a bark canoe, continued his roamings on the open sea along the coast. The cross was already planted there,-raised by the disciples of St. Francis of Assisi over their humble lodge near the mouth of the Penobscot. After a short welcome, the earnest apostle returned to the wilderness; and, a few miles above the mouth of the Kennebec, the Indians, in large numbers, gathered about him, building a rude chapel. In the winter, he was their companion in their long excursions in quest of game. Who can tell all the hazards that were encountered? The sharp rocks in the channel of the river were full of perils for the frail canoe; winter turned the solitudes into a wilderness of snow; the rover,

66

1646.

a

a

« 上一頁繼續 »