Canadian Genealogy | Chronicles of Canada


Canadian Research


British Columbia


New Brunswick


Northern Territories

Nova Scotia



Prince Edward Island




Canadian Indian Tribes

Chronicles of Canada


Free Genealogy Forms
Family Tree Chart
Research Calendar
Research Extract
Free Census Forms
Correspondence Record
Family Group Chart
Source Summary


New Genealogy Data
Family Tree Search

Genealogy Books For Sale

Indian Mythology

US Genealogy


Other Websites
British Isles Genealogy
Australian Genealogy


FREE Web Site Hosting at
Canadian Genealogy




In Huronia

The Jesuits, with the exception of Brebeuf, spent the winter of 1625-26 at the convent of the Recollets, no doubt enduring privation, as at that time there was a scarcity of food in the colony. Brebeuf, eager to study the Indians in their homes, joined a party of Montagnais hunters and journeyed with them to their wintering grounds. He suffered much from hunger and cold, and from the insanitary conditions under which he was compelled to live in the filthy, smoky, vermin-infested abodes of the savages. But an iron constitution stood him in good stead, and he rejoined his fellow-missionaries none the worse for his experience. He had acquired, too, a fair knowledge of the Montagnais dialect, and had learned that boldness, courage, and fortitude in suffering went far towards winning the respect of the savages of North America.

On the 5th of July the eyes of the colonists at Quebec were gladdened by the sight of a fleet of vessels coming up the river. These were the supply-ships of the company, and on the Catherine, a vessel of two hundred and fifty tons, was Champlain, on whom the Jesuits could depend as a friend and protector. In the previous autumn Lalemant had selected a fertile tract of land on the left side of the St Charles, between the river Beauport and the stream St Michel, as a suitable spot for a permanent home, and had sent a request to Champlain to secure this land for the Jesuits. Champlain had laid the request before the viceroy and he now brought with him the official documents granting the land. Nine days later a vessel of eighty tons arrived with supplies and reinforcements for the mission. On this vessel came Fathers Philibert Noyrot and Anne de Noue, with a lay brother and twenty laborers and carpenters.

The Jesuits chose a site for the buildings at a bend in the St Charles river a mile or so from the fort. Here, opposite Pointe-aux-Lievres (Hare Point), on a sloping meadow two hundred feet from the river, they cleared the ground and erected two buildings--one to serve as a storehouse, stable, workshop, and bakery; the other as the residence. The residence had four rooms--a chapel, a refectory with cells for the fathers, a kitchen, and a lodging-room for the workmen. It had, too, a commodious cellar, and a garret which served as a dormitory for the lay brothers. The buildings were of roughly hewn planks, the seams plastered with mud and the roofs thatched with grass from the meadow. Such was Notre-Dame-des-Anges. In this humble abode men were to be trained to carry the Cross in the Canadian wilderness, and from it they were to go forth for many years in an unbroken line, blazing the way for explorers and traders and settlers.

Almost simultaneously with the arrival of Noyrot and Noue a flotilla of canoes laden deep with furs came down from the Huron country. Brebeuf had made up his mind to go to far Huronia; Noue and the Recollet Daillon had the same ambition; and all three besought the Huron to carry them on the return journey. The Indians expressed a readiness to give the Recollet Daillon a passage; they knew the 'grey-robes'; but they did not know the Jesuits, the 'black-robes,' and they hesitated to take Brebeuf and Noue, urging as an excuse that so portly a man as Brebeuf would be in danger of upsetting their frail canoes. By a liberal distribution of presents, however, the Huron were persuaded to accept Brebeuf and Noue as passengers.

Towards the end of July, just when preparations were being made to break ground for the residence of Notre-Dame-des-Anges, the three fathers and some French assistants set out with the Huron on the long journey to the shores of Georgian Bay. Brebeuf was in a state of ecstasy. He longed for the populous towns of the Huron. He had confidence in himself and believed that he would be able to make the dwellers in these towns followers of Christ and bulwarks of France in the New World. For twenty-three years he was to devote his life to this task; for twenty-three years, save for the brief interval when the English flag waved over Quebec, he was to dominate the Huron mission. He was a striking figure. Of noble ancestry, almost a giant in stature, and with a soldierly bearing that attracted all observers, he would have shone at the court of the king or at the head of the army. But he had sacrificed a worldly career for the Church. And no man of his ancestors, one of whom had battled under William the Conqueror at Hastings and others in the Crusades, ever bore himself more nobly than did Brebeuf in the forests of Canada, or covered himself with a greater glory.

The journey was beset with danger, for the Iroquois were on the war-path against the Huron and the French, and had attacked settlers even in the vicinity of Quebec. The lot of the voyagers was incessant toil. They had to paddle against the current, to haul the canoes over stretches where the water was too swift for paddling, and to portage past turbulent rapids and falls. The missionaries were forced to bear their share of the work. Noue, no longer young, was frequently faint from toil. Brebeuf not only sustained him, but at many of the portages, of which there were thirty-five in all, carried a double load of baggage. The packs contained not only clothing and food, but priestly vestments, requisites for the altar, pictures, wine for the Mass, candles, books, and writing material. The course lay over the route which Le Caron had followed eleven years before, up the Ottawa, up the Mattawa, across the portage to Lake Nipissing, and then down the French River. Arrived in Penetanguishene Bay, they landed at a village called Otouacha. They then journeyed a mile and a half inland, through gloomy forests, past cultivated patches of maize, beans, pumpkins, squashes, and sunflowers, to Toanche, where they found Viel's cabin still standing. For three years this was to be Brebeuf's headquarters.

Huronia lay in what is now the county of Simcoe, Ontario, comprising the present townships of Tiny, Tay, Flos, Medonte, and Oro. On the east and north lay Lakes Simcoe and Couchiching, the Severn river, and Matchedash Bay; on the west, Nottawasaga Bay. Across the bay, or by land a journey of about two days, where now are Bruce and Grey counties, lived the Petuns, and about five days to the south-west, the Neutrals. The latter tribe occupied both the Niagara and Detroit peninsulas, overflowed into the states of Michigan and New York, and spread north as far as Goderich and Oakville in Ontario. All these nations, and the Andastes of the lower Susquehanna, were of the same linguistic stock as the Iroquois who dwelt south of Lake Ontario. Peoples speaking the Huron-Iroquois tongue thus occupied the central part of the eastern half of North America, while all around them, north, south, east, and west, roamed the tribes speaking dialects of the Algonquin.

Most of the Huron [Footnote: The name Huron is of uncertain origin. The word HURON was used in France as early as 1358 to describe the uncouth peasants who revolted against the nobility. But according to Father Charles Lalemant, a French sailor, on first beholding some Huron at Tadoussac in 1600, was astonished at their fantastic way of dressing their hair--in stiff ridges with shaved furrows between--and exclaimed 'Quelles hures!'--what boar-heads! In their own language they were known as Ouendats (dwellers on a peninsula), a name still extant in the corrupted form Wyandot.] towns were encircled by log palisades. The houses were of various sizes and some of them were more than two hundred feet long. They were built in the crudest fashion. Two rows of sturdy saplings were stuck in the ground about twenty-five feet apart, then bent to meet so as to form an arch, and covered with bark. An open strip was left in the roof for the escape of smoke and for light. Each house sheltered from six to a dozen families, according to the number of fires. Two families shared each fire, and around the fire in winter clustered children, dogs, youths, gaily decorated maidens, jabbering squaws, and toothless, smoke-blinded old men. Privacy there was none. Along the sides of the cabin, about four feet from the ground, extended raised platforms, on or under which, according to the season or the inclination of the individual, the inmates slept.

The Huron nation was divided into four clans--the Bear, the Rock, the Cord, the Deer--with several small dependent groups. There was government of a sort, republican in form. They had their deliberative assemblies, both village and tribal. The village councils met almost daily, but the tribal assembly--a sort of states-general--was summoned only when some weighty measure demanded consideration. Decisions arrived at in the assemblies were proclaimed by the chiefs.

Of religion as it is understood by Christians the Huron had none, nothing but superstitions, very like those of other barbarous peoples. To everything in nature they gave a god; trees, lakes, streams, the celestial bodies, the blue expanse, they deified with okies or spirits. Among the chief objects of Huron worship were the moon and the sun. The oki of the moon had the care of souls and the power to cut off life; the oki of the sun presided over the living and sustained all created things. The great vault of heaven with its myriad stars inspired them with awe; it was the abode of the spirit of spirits, the Master of Life. Aronhia was the name they gave this supreme oki. This would show that they had a vague conception of God. To Aronhia they offered sacrifices, to Aronhia they appealed in time of danger, and when misfortune befell them it was due to the anger of Aronhia. But all this had no influence on their conduct; even in their worship they were often astoundingly vicious.

To such dens of barbarism had come men fresh from the civilization of the Old World--men of learning, culture, and gentle birth, in whose veins flowed the proudest blood of France. To these savages, indolent, superstitious, and vicious, had come Brebeuf, Noue, and Daillon, with a message of peace, goodwill, and virtue.

Until the middle of October the three fathers lived together at Toanche, save that Daillon went on a brief visit to Ossossane, on the shore of Nottawasaga Bay. The Recollet, however, had instructions from his superior Le Caron to go to the country of the Neutrals, of which Champlain's interpreter, Etienne Brule, had reported glowingly, but which was as yet untrodden by the feet of missionaries. And so on the 18th of October 1626 Daillon set out on the trail southward, with two French traders as interpreters, and an Indian guide. Arriving among the Neutrals, after a journey of five or six days, he was at first kindly received in each of the six towns which he visited. But this happy situation was not to last. The Neutral country, now the richest and most populous part of Ontario, boasting such cities as Hamilton and Brantford and London, was rich in fur-bearing animals and tobacco; and the Huron were the middlemen in trade between the Neutrals and the French. The Huron, fearing now that they were about to lose their business--for it was rumored that Daillon was seeking to have the Neutrals trade directly with the French--sent messengers to the Neutrals denouncing the grey-robe as a sorcerer who had come to destroy them with disease and death. In this the Neutral medicine-men agreed, for they were jealous of the priest. The plot succeeded. The Indians turned from Daillon, closed their doors against him, stole his writing-desk, blanket, breviary, and trinkets, and even threatened him with death. But Brebeuf learned of his plight, probably from one of the Huron who had raised the Neutrals against him, and sent a Frenchman and an Indian runner to escort him back to Toanche.

There was a break in the mission in 1627. Noue lacked the physical strength and the mental alertness essential to a missionary in these wilds. Finding himself totally unable to learn even the rudiments of the Huron language, he returned to Quebec, since he did not wish to be a burden to Brebeuf. For a year longer Brebeuf and the Recollet Daillon remained together at Toanche. But in the autumn of 1628 Daillon left Huronia. He was the last of the Recollets to minister to the Huron.

Save for his French hired men, or engages, Brebeuf was now alone among the savage people. In this awful solitude he labored with indomitable will, ministering to his flock, studying the Huron language, compiling a Huron dictionary and grammar, and translating the Catechism. The Indians soon saw in him a friend; and, when he passed through the village ringing his bell, old and young followed him to his cabin to hear him tell of God, of heaven the reward of the good, and of hell the eternal abode of the unrighteous. But he made few converts. The Indian idea of the future had nothing in common with the Christian idea. The Huron, it is true, believed in a future state, but it was to be only a reflex of the present life, with the difference that it would give them complete freedom from work and suffering, abundant game, and an unfailing supply of tobacco.

Brebeuf's one desire now was to live and die among this people. But the colony at Quebec was in a deplorable condition, as he knew, and he was not surprised when, early in the summer of 1629, he received a message requesting his presence there. Gathering his flock about him he told them that he must leave them. They had as a sign of affection given him the Huron name Echon. Now Christian and pagan alike cried out: 'You must not leave us, Echon!' He told them that he had to obey the order of his superior, but that 'he would, with God's grace, return and bring with him whatever was necessary to lead them to know God and serve Him.' Then he bade them farewell; and, joining a flotilla of twelve canoes about to depart for Quebec, he and his engages set out. They arrived at Notre-Dame-des-Anges on the 17th of July, to find the Jesuits there in consternation at the rumored report of the approach of a strong English fleet.

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

Chronicles of Canada, The Jesuit Missions, A Chronicle of the Cross in the Wilderness, 1915


Chronicles of Canada

Add/Correct a Link

Comments/Submit Data

Copyright 2002-2024 by Canadian Genealogy
The WebPages may be linked to but shall not be reproduced on another site without written permission.