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 René Menard 1605-1661 

Comments, reviews and corrections

This page is provided for the posting of readers' comments, reviews and corrections, which may be addressed to the editor.


Comments by Annie A. Nunns, Asst. Supt., Wisconsin Historical Society Library (??), Madison, Wisconsin

[This information in this letter is incorporated in Chapter V, section on Menard in Wisconsin. This letter was glued into the author's personal copy of René Menard -- editor]

Rev. Alexander M. Stewart
30 Audubon Street
Rochester, New York

Dear Sir:

Miss Kellogg of our research department who has made a study of Father Menard's life and work, makes the following report to reply to your query concerning his route:

The earlier studies of Father Menard's route were based on the assumption that he started from Keweenaw Bay; after more careful reading of the sources it is now admitted by most historians that the start was from Chequamegon Bay. That much alters the conclusions about the route, making it down the Chippewa, not the Wisconsin, and up a tributary of that river towards the headwaters of Black River. See article by me in Wisconsin Magazine of History, IV, 417 (June, 1921), also embodied in my French Régime in Wisconsin and the Northwest, pp. 146-152.

This route has been accepted by most careful students, only a few clinging to the older interpretation based on a misreading of the sources.

Yours very truly,

Annie A. Nunns, Asst. Supt.

Comments by M. Ledowchowski, Superior General of the Society of Jesus, as reported in the Catholic Courier newspaper, Rochester, N. Y. [ca. 1934, exact date unknown, p. 12. The clipping was glued into the author's personal copy of the book -- editor]:

Superior General Jesuits Approves René Menard book

Commendation of the "Life of René Menard," which appeared serially in the CATHOLIC COURIER, and is now out in book form has been received by the author, the Rev. Mr. Alexander McGinn Stewart, of 30 Audubon St., Rochester, from the Superior General of the Society of Jesus in Rome.

The letter says:

"I was highly pleased to receive the complimentary copy of your life of René Menard, and to read the words of dedication in which you explain so touchingly your interest in this and other Jesuit missionaries of New France and western New York. I am confident that your delicate understanding of the lofty motives of these men, and your successful endeavor to give credit where credit is due, will contribute substantially to a better knowledge of those strenuous times, and to a truer estimate of those heroic pioneer priests.

"Let me thank you therefore most cordially not only for your elegant volume about René Menard and its courteous inscription, but also for the good work you have done and are doing in a cause in which both history and religion are vitally interested. Upon this work and upon yourself I am invoking abundant blessings from above.

"I am

Respectfully and sincerely yours,


Superior General of the Society of Jesus.

Comments by Lee Sultzman, Curator of First Nations Histories web site:

Hi John,

Downloaded and read this the other night. I am Catholic so the tone of "For the Greater Glory of God" is pretty typical for the period and wouldn't offend me so much as it may others. Offhand, I'd say it's "no big deal" and people offended by this kind of zeal are just being too sensitive or have their own problems with Catholics.

Not surprisingly, the author has an excellent knowledge of Jesuit missionary work and every bit of this is accurate. Learned quite a few things myself and was plowing through my own histories to see if there were any mistakes.

His knowledge of the terrain and geography is also excellent and it seem to me he must have lived in New York and spent a lot of time canoeing through southern Ontario. Really enjoyed this.

From a Native American standpoint, he has a good working knowledge of the Iroquois and Huron although almost all of the Neutral villages were on the Canadian side of the Niagara River and from his description you get the impression most of them were in western New York.

The major weakness is his lack of understanding of the Algonquin-speaking tribes. With the exception of the Nipissing, he does not recognize the different groups very well. Here's what I found:


"multitudinous lakes made hiding places for the Algonquins who had been driven out of the territory south of Lake Ontario more than 300 years before by the powerful and terrible Iroquois warriors."

Iroquois occupation of upstate New York began at least in 1100 A.D., but the Iroquois were dominated by the Algonquins until the formation of the Iroquois League sometime around 1550 (my own opinion - there is no consensus on this date).


"Champlain, however, found the St. Lawrence valley occupied by an Algonquin people, called Outawaks"

In 1603 the upper St. Lawrence was not occupied by anyone really, it was a war zone. The Algonquin tribes were Algonkin and Montagnais (Kébec), not Ottawa who lived well to the west on Lake Huron and who Champlain did not meet until 1615.


"Since these poor Algonquins could be allies in case of attack by the Iroquois, the rich Hurons allowed them to camp near their principal villages."

Algonquin territory extended far down the Ottawa River almost to the St. Lawrence and Menard had been traveling through it to reach the Huron villages. The Algonquin were a major source of the furs the Huron traded to the French and they came to trade, not because they were poor.

"In the summer of 1641 Frs. Jogues and Raymbault went 350 miles from Huronia in canoes to reach the Ottawas who, attracted by the Lake Superior whitefish, had their summer fishing camp around the falls of St. Mary (Sault Ste. Marie)"

The date of the trip and Jesuit names are perfect, but the people they visited were the Saulteur, and these were Ojibwa, not Ottawa. Major goof! As an aside, the Chippewa and Ojibwa were not only the same tribe, but actually the same word. Put an "o" is front of Chippewa (o'chippewa) and say it
slowly. Just posted an Ojibwa history explaining this and am still getting questions about when will there be a history available on the Chippewa :)

"Hurons began to move westward, some of them scattering into various tribes, ultimately becoming amalgamated with Indians as far west as Kansas."

No mention here of the Huron who escaped to Lorette near Québec or of the Huron and Tobacco Huron (Tionontati or Petun) who escaped to Wisconsin (but see comments on Chapter 5). Wyandot was the Huron's actual name ...Huron was their French name and means ruffian. There were no Huron in Kansas until they were removed from Ohio by the U.S. government during the 1840s. Unless you muck around quite a bit in Native American history, it's pretty easy to get confused about Huron, Wyandot, Tobacco Huron, Tionontati, and Petun, just as with the Chippewa and Ojibwa.


Got the impression from this and other things - failure to acknowledge the Huron at Lorette (the only pure strain of Huron which survived) and his mention of Huron joining tribes as far west as Kansas (apparently confused by the Wyandot) - that the author was not aware of what happened to some of the Huron after they were overrun by the Iroquois in 1649. However, he demonstrated a excellent understanding that large numbers of Huron had been adopted into the Seneca, Onondaga, and Cayuga, and this was what opened the door for Jesuit missions among the Iroquois in the 1650s.

In fact, this was one of the story's strongest points for me ...found a lot of good detail here, although don't necessarily agree the Iroquois were being quite as villainous as his account would indicate. But that's a matter of interpretation, and his opinion about what the Iroquois were thinking at this time is as good as mine, except, of course, my opinion is almost always correct : )


Re: the Tobacco Huron (English name) ...these would have been the Tionontati (their own name) or Petun (French name). No problem there, since the people Menard would have met in Wisconsin were indeed Tionontati, but about one-third of them would have Huron. However, Menard and the French would still have called this merged group Huron, not Tobacco Hurons or Petun. These are the people who eventually ended up in Ohio where they were called Wyandot by the English and Americans, and were removed to Kansas during the 1840s.

Overall this is a very useful and worthwhile work. A few errors, but I'd hate to have someone rake me over the coals this way. Enjoyed reading it and want to thank you for making it available. Have added it to my bibliography and am keeping the file as a reference.


Comments by Elizabeth Stewart, niece (by marriage) of author A. M. Stewart:

3 October 1996

Dave and I were moved by your affectionate memories of your grandfather and your perceptive comments on his book....we have a few comments...

I thought I'd look into our abridged edition of the diaries that Mary McG. Stewart, your great-grandmother, kept in her later years...[they]...mentioned Alex attending the U. of R., Harvard, and Rochester Theological Seminary and, in 1905, being ordained by a church in Breckenridge, Minnesota. From 1905 to 1911, he was pastor, successively, of two churches in Minnesota, one in Illinois, and one in Pennsylvania, as well as preaching in churches in the Rochester area in between times. He apparently left the ministry and turned to farming in 1911, shortly before his marriage -- perhaps, as you suggest, in response to his fiancée's urging.

You can add to your list of careers that he tried. While living on the farm he sold insurance and he briefly ran a boys' summer camp at the farm. A brief comment that might interest you: during World War II, when factories were eager for workers, Uncle Alex worked for the Huther Saw Co. on University Avenue near Audubon Street...Dave's father told me that his brother was a valued worker because he was an excellent saw sharpener, a difficult skill learned many years earlier.

I was particularly interested in your comments about your grandfather's "making room in his life" for the Baptist Church, Roman Catholicism, Judaism (and perhaps also the Longhouse religion of the Six Nations?). I have a 9th century ancestress who was brought up in the pre-Christian Norse religion, adopted Christianity though it was in a minority position, and exercised her chiefly duties (she was chief in her own right) which involved pagan rites. I wish I knew more about how she managed it all, practically and psychologically. No wonder her by-name was "the Deep-Minded."

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Last revised 22 August 1999