Warned that the Mohawk waited in the far forests with gun and scalping knife, Maisonneuve still pressed on to where the broad St. Lawrence meets the Ottawa. In the shadow of a cross he placed on Montreal mountain, his settlers braved death to found a great city

Thomas B. Costain April 15 1954


Warned that the Mohawk waited in the far forests with gun and scalping knife, Maisonneuve still pressed on to where the broad St. Lawrence meets the Ottawa. In the shadow of a cross he placed on Montreal mountain, his settlers braved death to found a great city

Thomas B. Costain April 15 1954


Thomas B. Costain

Warned that the Mohawk waited in the far forests with gun and scalping knife, Maisonneuve still pressed on to where the broad St. Lawrence meets the Ottawa. In the shadow of a cross he placed on Montreal mountain, his settlers braved death to found a great city

IT WAS NOT strange that Hochelaga exerted a deep influence on those who saw it. Here two mighty rivers meet. The St. Lawrence, carrying on its broad bosom the excess waters of the Great Lakes, flows in a

northeasterly direction on its majestic way to the sea. The Ottawa,

rising in the northern wilds and gathering volume from the tributaries which empty into it, comes down to mingle with the St. Lawrence.

It is not a peaceful union. The Ottawa is like the irruption of galloping bandits onto the sedate front street of an orderly town. As though angry that it must surrender its identity, it flings itself into the waters of the parent stream with tumult and violence. It plunges down so bitterly that it cuts the land into many channels, thus forming islands at the point of union. To increase the drama of its last phase, it tears out hills and broadens into lakes and it cuts gorges through the high ground, and in places it tumbles so excitedly over rocky bottoms that it forms rapids where the lashing white waters boil and foam and set up a continuous roaring.

The islands thus created are, by way of contrast, peaceful and lovely; and the most peaceful and the loveliest of them all is the Island of Montreal. It is the largest of the group, oval in shape and thirty miles long, with a hump in its centre like a great natural sentry post, which is called the Mountain. It was ordained from the first to be the site of a great city.

Montreal Island was known as Hochelaga when Jacques Cartier visited it and found so much to astonish him in the size of its Indian village. The beauty and fertility of this island on the sun-drenched slopes appealed equally to Champlain, although Hochelaga village had disappeared. The free traders who came up in their barques and bateaux, trolling their earthy songs and slavering for a share of the furs, were likewise impressed and awed. Here, they all agreed, was one of the natural crossroads of the earth; and here, if anywhere, the wealth of the new continent would collect so they could lay their avid hands on it. Here, in other words, was the

greatest natural trading post that the North American continent had to offer.

The story of the island which had been formed in the death throes of a powerful river had a magical effect in France as well. Men and women spoke of Hochelaga with reverence. They read the published letters from the priests who had gone out into the wilds and they pictured the meeting of the two rivers as a place which God had created for a much greater purpose than the stimulation of trade.

On August 7, 1640, the Island of Montreal passed into the hands of Monsieur Jerome de Royer, Sieur de la Dauversière and his good friend, the Baron de Fancamp. Although neither man had seen New France, both were devoted readers of the chronicles of the Jesuit missionaries; they had come to share a vision in which the far, exotic island shone like a cross in the wilderness, calling a pagan continent to the worship of the true God. To help finance the super-mission they envisaged, they formed a semi-secret organization called the Montreal Company.

The need was now faced for a man to act as governor of the proposed colony. It was realized that the right man would be hard to find, that in

addition to being a good soldier and administrator he must be animated by a religious zeal in keeping with the spiritual aims of the founders. Dauversière went to Father Lalemant for advice and found the latter ready with a candidate. “I know a gentleman of Champagne,” said the Jesuit procurator, “who may suit your purpose.” He then mentioned the name of Paul de Chomedey, Sieur de Maisonneuve, a soldier who had fought with distinction in the Dutch wars, a man moreover of high character and clean heart.

It happened that the Sieur de Maisonneuve was in Paris at the time and living at one of the larger and more reputable inns. In order to judge of his merits at first hand, Dauversière took lodgings there also and made a point of eating his meals in the common room. One day the company around the long Continued on page 56

Continued on page 56

The White and the Gold


table was joined by Maisonneuve. Dauversière watched the newcomer as he took his place at the other end of the hoard. It was clear that he was a gentleman, for his blue doublet was of excellent material and an immaculate frilled shirt showed at his neck; a soldier also, wearing his sword and carrying himself with muscular ease.

Dauversière began at once to speak to the company of his plans for the new mission. He talked in glowing terms, trying to make them see the things lie perceived so clearly; and as he went along he allowed his eyes to rest often on the face of the cjuiet man at the other end. It was a grave face and one of unusual quality; a strong nose and jaw, the slightly receding forehead so often found in soldiers, eyes well-spaced and thoughtful. Maisonneuve was eating little and listening intently.

Dauversière turned the discussion to the difficulty of finding the right leader. Out of the corner of an eye he considered the effect this was having on the silent Maisonneuve and it was with dismay that he saw the latter rise from his place and leave the room.

“I have failed,” he thought. ‘‘I have found the right man but I have not been able to interest him.”

But when Dauversière also rose from the table be found the grave-faced soldier waiting in the corridor, with an invitation that they go to bis apartment. Maisonneuve opened the conversation by saying that be would gladly participate in the expedition to Montreal and the work of the mission there. He told Dauversière of bis experience as a soldier and even went into the matter of bis finances. He had, it developed, a yearly income of two thousand livres, which made him independent and in a position to serve without compensation. As the only son of an old and wealthy family, lie would in time come into a substantial inheritance. He would be prepared, be said, to devote to the cause everything be possessed.

The right man bad been found. Dauversière bad no doubts now on that score, nor bad any of bis associates when they met Paul de Chomedey. He was shortly thereafter appointed governor with authority to collect the equipment and stores which would be needed and to aid in selecting volunteers.

Maisonneuve led three ships from La Rochelle; the one in which be himself sailed was the last to arrive at Quebec. It limped into sight on August 20, a much-battered vessel with tattered sails and a leaky bull. Maisonneuve saw at once that be bad stepped into a situation of mounting tensity.

A new governor had come to Quebec, Charles Huault de Montmagny. 'The Sieur de Montmagny was a gentleman of courage and high ideals but be was also a stickler for bis rights. He bad not been consulted about the Montreal venture, and be bad not expected certainly to find Maisonneuve entrusted with powers which amounted almost to complete autonomy. The newcomer held a warrant from the King to control the destinies of the Montreal colony, to train and command troops, to make bis own appointments. It was clear enough that be would look to France for bis instructions rather than to Quebec.

There was thunder in the air certainly when the two men met. Montmagny stated bis objections to the new

venture openly and emphatically ¡ lie seems to have skirted the issu* divided authority by basing his obj lions on what he termed the folly settling at Montreal under the Q ditions which existed.

“You know that war with the 1 quois has commenced,” be said, hise; cold and withdrawn. “You cane then, in any reason think of sett! in a place so far removed from Queb You must change your resolution, you wish it, you will be given tin* I si: of Orleans instead.”

And, indeed, the governor’s warn was no mere attempt to put obstat in the way of the Montreal settk The atmosphere of Quebec was troub and tense. The shadow of I roqt hostility bung over the colony liki black cloud. The warriors of the F Nations bad held a solemn powv at Lake St. Pierre and bad deck war on the French in belated rever for the defeats they bad suffered at: bands of Champlain. They swam along the rivers and in the forests» it was no longer safe for a white n to venture out. Fear was felt for safety of the little settlement at Sill and the few seigneuries which bad 1> established along the St. Lawrence.

A Colony at all Cost

Montmagny’s warning, however, k no effect on Maisonneuve. He answer in quiet but firm tones: “What JI

say. Excellency, would be good if It been sent to Canada to choose a s, able site. But the company whi sends me is determined that we sb go to Montreal. My honor is at st;. You must not take it ill if I prod with the plans as made.”

No amount of expostulation had, effect. Although be knew I liât crossroad lay a hundred and fifty ml to the westward and that tin* Iroqu infested the country thereabouts, M sonneuve could not be convinced ti the plan should be changed. “W all the trees on the Island of Montre» be declared, “to be changed into many Iroquois, it is a point of di and honor for me to go there s establish a colony.”

A soldier himself, the Sieur de Mo magny must have understood the p, tion taken by Maisonneuve. Peril: secretly be had come to approve it. opposition to the plan, at any rate,' abandoned.

The winter was spent in preparad for the move in the spring. Mais neuve directed the building of the ri boats which would be used in the asc of the St. Lawrence. Sentries v loaded guns on their shoulders kept eye on the water and scouts roan the woods to pick up any hint approaching war parties.

Standing on the half-deck of one the shallops at the head of the f. cession Maisonneuve and Montmal first saw the island of an early event They had started from Quebec j May 8 and it was now May 17, 10 The expedition had come all the * up the St. Lawrence without seeinf much as the shaved head of a Mote brave or hearing the excited gabmuch like the clucking of angry tun cocks, in which the dreaded wan? were prone to indulge. Was till happy augury? Would the fourni of Montreal he carried out with I hazard than had been predicted?

The records, usually silent on * welcome details, indicate that naf excelled herself in extending a welct to the newcomers. The early moil sun touched the flat top of the tain and lighted up the thick fore ft was a warm sun for so early ini season, and a grateful one to | company who felt a cheerful lift

spirits after the gusts and raw wine of spring which they liad suffered in their cramped quarters on the boats.

It was not a large company which

came ashore: the two governors and

their staff officers, alert and anxious with so much responsibility on their shoulders: a number of Jesuit priests, a few visitors from Quebec; all of the twenty-one settlers who made up the rank and file, conspicuous among them the sturdy figure of Nicholas Godé, the joiner, with his household of six.

As the feet of Maisonneuve touched the soil of the island, he fell to his knees and his example was followed by all of the company. A prayer was said and then their voices were raised in a hymn of thanksgiving.

They had landed on a fiat piece of land, damp from the inundations of the spring floods. It was a low-lying stretch formed by the waters of the St. Lawrence and a small stream which they named later the St. Pierre. This tiny tributary dried up long ago and the exact spot of the landing is vaguely identified under the tall buildings of the modern city. The name of “the Common,” which they applied to the meadow where their feet first touched, soon passed out of use although an echo of it remains in the Common Street of today. But of this we tnav he sure, the memory of that first scene never faded in the minds of the participants. The officers had donned their finest garb and the priests had assumed their vestments for the first mass. On the altar, which the women of the party had raised, were the sacred vessels. The soldiers, some few of whom were to remain, stood on guard at the edge of things, their muskets ready for use.

They Build Their Homes

After Mass had been said Father Vimont, one of the Jesuits assigned to the new colony, raised his voice. “That which you see,” he said, “is only a grain of mustard seed. But it is cast hv hands so pious and so animated by faith and religion that it must htthat God has great designs for it. He makes use of such instruments for His work.

I doubt not that this little grain may j produce a great tree, that it will make wonderful progress some day, that it will multiply itself and stretch out on every side.”

The rest of the day, which remained fair, was spent in preparing the first crude living quarters, tents of birchbark were pitched and the work was started of cutting down trees for the palisade, behind which the small settlement would nestle. It is recorded that, having neither candles nor oil for the lamps, the women caught fireflies and placed them in glass phials to provide some illumination.

Work began in real earnest the next morning. A ditch had to he dug. behind which the wooden palisade would he raised, and the Sieur de j Montmagny was the first to take spade in hand. This much accomplished, and the island having been formally handed over to Maisonneuve as f lu* representative of the Company of Montreal, the governor hoarded one of the ships. He must have been glad to be returning, for the purpose of the new company had meant misunderstandings from the first, and much hard feeling. There must have been in bis mind, however, a sense of reluctance, of pity for the resolute group. It was such a small j company which remained. They stood, it seemed, on the rim of the world; danger and the black face of catastrophe hovered above them.

A few facts must suffice in telling the story of the first days in the rudelittle settlement which the devout hand

ailed \ die Marie de Montreal: how

reinforcements arrived on September IS, consisting of fifteen men and including G'lbert Barbier, a carpenter, who was to prove one of the most useful members, how the boats continued to ply up and down the river, bringing on the supplies which had been left at Quebec; how a chapel and a habitation capable of holding sixty people were erected inside the now formidable palisade; and how on January 6, the feast of the Epiphany, Maisonneuve had a path cleared through the snow to the top of the mountain, and placed there a great wooden cross which would stand for many years, a symbol of the faith which had brought these fine people across the ocean and set them down in their crowded sanctuary on the bottom lands.

During these first months nothing was heard of the Iroquois, although Maisonneuve and his followers expected an attack every day and they counted each hour of delay a respite granted them by a beneficent God.

Burned at the Stake

On August J, 164J, the respite came to a sudden and brutal end. A party of Huron converts, more than a score, were making their way up the river. With them was Father Jogues and two young Frenchmen; Isaac Jogues, scholar and saintly figure, delicate of body and gentle of spirit, one of the best beloved of the Jesuits. Hugging the shore for safety they neared Lake St. Pierre and here they found themselves in a nest of small islands, a reedy and overhung part of the river. Here came to reality the picture Maisonneuve had conceived for Montreal. Each tree trunk rising out of the water became a Mohawk brave, each bulrush a hostile tomahawk. Forty naked figures sprang at the startled occupants of the canoes. In a brief conflict many of the Hurons were killed and the savages carried off as prisoners the three Frenchmen and a score of their terrified allies.

The captives were taken to the village of the victorious Mohawks. Goupil, one of the young companions of Jogues, was killed and the other, Couture, was drafted ultimately into the tribe. The Hurons were burned at the stake, two or three at a time. Father Jogues was tortured continuously and with fiendish zest, becoming no more than a mutilated shell. With the assistance of Dutch traders, nevertheless, he managed to escape and was smuggled down the Hudson to the fur post at Albany.

Governor Montmagny had planned to establish a fort where the Richelieu River empties into the St. Lawrence, this being the route the Iroquois war parties most often took. He arrived at the spot with a party of nearly one hundred men, including forty welltrained soldiers who had been sent out by Cardinal Richelieu the previous year.

The warriors of the Long House attacked the new fort before the palisades were completed. Two hundred strong, screeching their war cries and armed with their newly acquired guns, they charged right up to the walls and fired through the sentry holes at the surprised garrison. It was touch and go for some time but after a furious struggle the white soldiers finally prevailed and drove the redskins off. The Iroquois, fuming in defeat, retreated to a fort of logs they had built three miles up the river.

The new fort did not accomplish its purpose of keeping the St. Lawrence clear. The Iroquois cut overland and the terror on the river continued to mount. With a gun in his hands, the

Iroquois warrior was irresistible agaj the Huron with nothing better tl an iron tomahawk. The allies of French deserted the territory along river, retreating far back into the wo or huddling abjectly in the proxin of the forts. The St. Lawrence \ so unsafe that the mail boats u intercepted three times.

Later in the summer six men ft the Montreal colony were surpri while cutting wood at the point the river where Chambly now stai Three were killed and the others w carried off. Two of them died at stake and the last one made his esa bringing back to the settlement grim story of the fate of his comrai

It was with a feeling of relief, thi fore, that the little colony heard special measures which the King ■ putting into effect for their assistai He presented to the Montreal C; pany a ship of two hundred ; fifty tons, named the Notre IT de Montreal, and it was dispatch« once with more settlers and supp] The reinforcements arrived at Mont under the command of Louis d’A boust, the Sieur de Coulanges, and colony took fresh courage at once. ' newcoming officer was a trained n tary engineer and one of his first fi was to strengthen the defenses of camp. He deepened the moat raised the palisades. Two new 1 tions were built which commanded approaches to the walls.

far away from all chance of imm ate succor in the event of an attack equipped and vulnerable, the foum of Montreal waited serenely for wl ever might befall. It was fanatic in a high degree. But also it magnificent ; and if was to lead in end to great things.

I he story leads at once to a pr example of the lack of reality in control of the colony. A contribuí of forty-two thousand livres for building of the Hôtel-Dieu had b received from an unknown benefact in France. There was no room ini the palisades for a new building of size. It would be necessary to bí the hospital outside the walls wl it would be vulnerable to attack. Tl was urgent need to strengthen : further the defenses of the fort i little enough time in which to do There was no immediate need fo hospital because the Indian allies v giving the island a wide berth i there were no patients. Here fanaticism of the 1 if f le group shi itself conspicuously. It was decid in spite of all the reasons to the c trary, to proceed at once with the t building.

The new structure was strongly bt It was sixty feet long and twenty-f wide and contained four rooms. ( (a very small one) was intended Jeanne Mance, the magnificent won who was to direct the hospital, one her assistants, and the others were the patients. There was a cha attached to the main building, f nished with gifts which had been » out from France. There was a liai some chalice of silver. A ciborium v suspended at the altar, the type communion cup which resembles shape the Egyptian water lily. Tin were costly candlesticks of silver a gold and lamps like those which swu from the ceilings of the Tabernae three sets of vestments, a piece bergamot tapestry and two carpe In the tiny chapel, thus beautiful equipped, the knees of the devoti would rest on the stone floor f countless anxious hours, praying th nothing be allowed to interrupt tl work.

In the rooms for the patients we furnishings which had been careful

and lovingly made, including a beautifully carved long table for the keeping of drugs, bandages and supplies, and the crude surgical instruments which were in use at the time. The wards were airy and light and filled with the clean smell of new wood. The walls were weathertight, the window frames well fitted, the hearths of ample size.

When the slender woman looked about her with her dark and rather tragic eves, she saw in this small frame building the realization of a dream. Here the bodily ills of the savages would be tended and the seeds of service planted which would raise a great harvest of conversion. Did it matter that adverse conditions were curtailing the number of patients and that certain material needs had seemed to demand attention first? Not to Jeanne Mance; and not, it is only fair to add, to any of that devoted band. The men and women of Montreal looked over their inadequate walls at this institution of mercy standing so boldly alone on the high ground outside the fort and did not begrudge the effort which had gone into it.

The hospital, of course, had been provided with as much protection as possible. A high palisade had been raised around its four acres of land in which already two oxen, four cows and twenty sheep had been turned out to graze. A strong bastion had been erected over the entrance.

The second winter arrived. The colonists saw in the change of season a further protection; for surely now the hostile bands would cease to lurk in the woods and betake themselves to the shelter of their own log houses. It was to prove a severe winter. The snow fell incessantly and covered the earth with great drifts. Then the bitter winds from the Ottawa country began to batter the sides, of the mountain and to assault with unabated fury the settlement huddling on each side of the St. Pierre. To the sentries who paced the platforms behind the wooden barricades and breathed through beards white with frost, it seemed impossible that the scantily clad enemy were still on the prowl.

This was underestimating the determination and the powers of endurance of the Iroquois. They had not given up the offensive. In spite of the intense cold they still swarmed in the woods, waiting a chance to pick off anyone who ventured out. Sometimes they were so close to the cockleshell defense of the walls that their voices could be heard, the high-pitched gabble which Iwenchmon were learning to dread.

At this critical stage in the life of the infant settlement the garrison was indebted to a four-footed friend for much of the immunity enjoyed. A faithful female dog named Pilot had Sßt herself the task of patrolling the

woods. She had a nose which unfailingly scented the presence of the Iroquois. After giving birth to a large litter, she taught her sons and daughters to follow her example. At all hours of the day and night the ubiquitous Pilot and her growing family maintained their ceaseless watch. Whenever their keen noses caught the acrid scent of hostile Indians, they would come to a halt like bird dogs on point and send up such a clamor of warning that the garrison would rush at once to the gun posts.

There was no danger of a surprise attack as long as Pilot and her eager pups continued this unremitting patrol but the advantage thus provided was almost thrown away through the impetuosity of the garrison. Irked by the close confinement, and confident they could drive the Indians out of the woods if given the chance, the men kept begging to be allowed to sally out. Much against his better judgment, Maisonneuve finally gave in to them.

They Wanted to Fight

On March 13 the sun was hidden behind heavy clouds and the cold was so intense that any step on the hard surface of the snow sounded clearly for some distance. Pilot and her noisy brood were on their rounds. They drifted in and out of the woods, sometimes venturing so far back into the cover that the occasional excited yipping of the young ones came faintly to the listening ears behind the barricades. Suddenly the deep baying of the mother could be heard. This could mean one thing only, that the pack had caught the scent of painted warriors hiding in the woods.

The garrison collected about the governor and pleaded to be allowed the chance to give battle. They were certain they could teach the redskins a lesson.

“Get ready then!” said Maisonneuve. “I shall lead you myself.”

A party of thirty men, armed with muskets and hunting knives, issued out from the enclosure behind the commander. They were brimful of confidence. Not even the difficulty of wading through the deeply drifted snow (only a few had donned snowshoes) dulled the edge of their desire to come finally to grips with the red men.

No sooner had they entered the woods, however, than it became evident they had walked into a trap. The Iroquois were out in full force. The war whoop of the enemy sounded all about the little party. Arrows whistled through the woods and the sharp rattle of musketry warned the startled Frenchmen that the enemy had plenty of guns.

Maisonneuve shouted an order: they must take cover behind the trees and

fight the Indians with their own methods. This did little good, however, for it was soon demonstrated that the white men were outnumbered. The Indians were spreading out and outflanking the French on both wings. Making a hurried calculation, Maisonneuve decided there must be close to a hundred Iroquois in the party. He shouted another order, this time to retreat.

In the construction of the hospital a track had been made into the woods for the hauling out of logs and, in their scramble for shelter, the French found

this of great assistance. The Indians now burst from the woods in complete disregard of the guns of the retreating white men and their spine-chilling cries of “Cassee koucc!" filled the air triumphantly. Musket balls and arrows whistled by the panic-stricken whites and kicked up snow like spume on each side. Three Frenchmen were killed and a number wounded. It was certain now that the governor’s estimate of the numbers of the foe had not been far wrong. They seemed to he everywhere, leaping over the drifts, brandishing their weapons in derision and shout-

ing in wild and complete abandon.

To the frightened watchers in the fort it seemed impossible that the plodding soldiers could reach safety before the screeching Iroquois closed about them. D’Ailleboust ordered the men who had remained behind with him to fire at the Indians over the retreating whites but at the distance this did not prove effective. Perhaps the whine of the bullets had the effect, nevertheless, of slowing up the pursuit. The Iroquois did not succeed in their efforts to encircle the French. The doors of the Hôtel-Dieu received the

racing whites with the smallest possible margin of safety. Maisonneuve was the last man in, having risked capture to cover the retreat of his men. The heavy portals swung to behind him.

The episode had one result: it provided Jeanne Mance with her first patients.

The Indians remained in the woods throughout the whole course of the winter. Sometimes at night the baying of the faithful Pilot would be heard and the members of the watch would hurry to their posts. Here they would remain, straining their eyes for any sign of a rush of fleet copper figures across the white of the snow. The women would dress and sit in the darkness in anxious prayer.

The menace of the Iroquois was t« remain with Montreal for many years, But in size, in prosperity, in importance as a fur-trading centre, the settlement grew almost beyond recognition of the first inhabitants during the initial two decades of its existence.

The spirit of Montreal had changed in that period too. The deeply religious feeling of the early days had not been lost but it was not as generally shared. There were few to maintain tlie chivalrous attitude of the Sieur de Maisonneuve and his first little band Perhaps it was not with complete regre! that the gallant governor received a letter from Quebec (the Marquis de Tracy was by now the governor ol New France) advising him to pay a visit to France “to look after his interests there.”

lie Was Gone Forever

Maisonneuve had undoubtedly expected something of the kind to happen. The tension between Quebec and Montreal had grown rather than diminished with the years, and the Montreal governor had stood firm for the autonomous position of Montreal.

I Another source of dissension had been Maisonneuve’s position on the brandy traffic—a cause of dissension which was to beset the leaders of the colony throughout its century and a half of existence. No consideration of expediency had been allowed to temper Maisonneuve’s actions. Selling brandy to the Indians was devil’s work, and he sought to suppress the traffic with every hit of his power. This made things difficult for the administrators in Quebec, who had been inclined from the start to take an elastic policy, on flic grounds that brandy facilitated the fur trade, on which the colony depended fcrr its revenue.

Maisonneuve sailed for France at once and never came back. The people who crowded the shore to see him leave and who wept openly as the river barge pulled away from the wharf knew quite well they would never see their brave and gentle governor again. The gravity of his expression was a clear enough indication of his own feelings. His life’s work, performed in the shadow of the great cross he had raised on the crest of the mountain, was finished; no more would he hear the roar of the rapids, no longer observe the climaxes which ushered in the changes of season, no more carry the responsibility for defense against the red menace in the south. He knew that this was a last farewell. ★


The Exalted Deaths Of the Midland Martyrs