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Québec to Cayuga Lake
Setting out from Trois
Rivières | Up the St. Lawrence |
Lake Ontario | Arrival among the Senecas | Mission work |
Intertribal wars | Hasty retreat to Montréal
Menard's canoe voyages
|On the 17th of May, 1656, Fr. René Menard
embarked at Québec with members of a colony who were setting out to make the first white
settlement in New York State, west of the lower Mohawk Valley. In the party were Fathers
Claude Dablon, James Frémin (Page 95, vol. 2, Centennial
History of Rochester) and Francis Le Mercier, the Father Superior, and Brothers
Ambrose Broas and Joseph Boursier, ten soldiers and thirty to forty French colonists,
under the command of M. DuPuys. Huron, Onondaga and Seneca canoemen completed the party.
No band of colonists who entered a country on horseback or in covered wagons ever had so
strenuous a journey.
[Marginal note in author's handwriting: See detailed story in Jesuit Relations XLIII p. 127 (124?) and 133 ff. Library, U.(?) of R. Divinity School]
[Printed version of following sentence reads "While no detailed story..." Correction is in the author's hand.] A detailed story of this trip up the St. Lawrence River is at hand, so it is possible to give a fair idea of what the trip involved. Picture, then, pioneer Québec in 1656. On top of Cape Diamond, three hundred feet above the river, is the military lookout. On a path curving down to the river were civil, military and religious buildings. A few of these since René Menard first saw Québec, had received endowments from France and were built of stone. But log buildings were in evidence and exuded the odor of a sawmill town. Log cottages, some grouped so that they enclosed walled squares, useful in protecting cattle from wolves at night and in giving a place of defense from Indian attack, were the dwellings of the humbler people. Barnyard odors aroused home longings for the farm lands of far-off Brittany. Down on the waterfront the sheds of the fur traders smelled of fur and fish. In some of the sheds articles of trade brought from France gave the appearance of a medieval country store, with the stocks depleted until the annual trade ships should again come across the sea. Indians and a few half Indian children, white voyageurs, sturdy French peasants, soldiers, members of religious orders and princes of state and church, lived in this narrow town, isolated from the world by a continent of unexplored forests. In front of the town the broad River St. Lawrence was the only state highway. Headstrap packs and evidences of far forest travel were everywhere. There were shalops and canoes at the waterfront, canoes on the beams overhead in every shed, new canoes being finished, rolls of birchbark for making canoes were brought in by the Indians for trade, and the birchbark of very old canoes was being burned for meal-time fires, giving off that black smoke and that alluring odor which makes the old camper hungry for the wilderness.
On this 17th of May, 1656, an onlooker would say that there was a funeral on the waterfront and that the cortege was going to proceed upriver in canoes and shalops. The ceremony, however, is farewell to the Onondaga Party. But this farewell is for unknown years, for a Huron Indian has whispered that the whole thing is a plot to massacre the French, but it is too late to turn back. The bishop has given his blessing to the forlorn hope that fifty brave men responding to the demands of the Iroquois for a French village in the middle of their confederacy, would save New France. The words "I will meet you in Heaven" are frequently exchanged. Eleven members of the order to which Fr. Menard belonged had already been martyred by the Iroquois, so that there was real meaning in this tragic farewell. (A. Melançon, S J., Liste des Missionaires Jésuites, p. 83).
[Marginal note in author's handwriting in family copy: The canoe route detoured the Lachine rapids by going back of Montréal Island on the Rivière des Prairies -- Chief Jacobs.]
Note in author's personal copy, citing Chief Jacobs of Caughnawaga: "We usually came upriver back of Montréal island where the small river gives gentle traveling." The shallops -- sloops too big to be portaged.
Sixty miles upriver from Québec was the forty-year-old town of Trois-Rivières, which with fair winds and tides would be a long two days' paddle. One night would be spent at some well used camping spot. Trout, venison, and corn pounded between stones with an occasional piece of grit in it, would be the supper. Balsam boughs would make fragrant and comfortable beds. Mink would come out from the nearby woods to steal fishbones from the waste heaps, and when it was time for tired bodies to stretch out on beds of forest boughs and feel the weariness going out of them, the loons on the broad reaches of the river and the wolves hunting deer in some swamp back in the forest would disturb the prayers of Fr. Menard. Oh! the wail of the wolves! Death is not so terrifying, Oh, the wolves! Fr. Menard and his brothers were going on this journey to breathe human souls into the wolves who had torn and eaten other members of his order. Some wakeful companions saw Fr. Menard praying and the wild voices of the night went far away. A little breeze made the pine trees whisper their soothing age-old secret and brought the sleepy rumble of a distant waterfall as it tumbled down into the great river. When at last Fr. Menard lay down, he could see the top of a spruce tree playing peek-a-boo with the pole star. A chill wind sprang up, and with his robes around him he went to sleep.
In the morning would come the work of cooking breakfast and putting the bedding in pack rolls and loading the canoes. The night at Trois-Rivières could be spent by Fr. Menard and his company brothers in the residence of their order enjoying the comfort of civilized beds and at meal times enjoying the fellowship of men who were giving their lives to an adventure which involved every possibility for the human soul on earth and in Heaven. At Trois-Rivières the tide ends. Ninety miles more of paddling beyond salt water on the broad lake-like stretches of the St. Lawrence would bring them to Ville Marie (Montréal), a 14 year old hamlet of religious enthusiasts guarding the wild far-west of New France. Possibly the shalops turned back at Montréal. Fr. Menard and his fellow-pioneers did not have them at Cayuga or Onondaga. Proceeding from here the easy riding of the canoes and the rhythmic all-day-long paddling began to be broken. The river comes down stairs 245 feet in 114 miles from Chimney Point to Montréal, from the head of the Galops to the foot of the Lachine rapids. In this part of the river, long, swift, silent stretches, are separated by deep tumultuous rapids. Before reaching Montréal the Onondaga flotilla of canoes had passed the mouth of the Richelieu River, outlet of Lake Champlain, near which in 1642 Mohawks had captured Fr. Isaac Jogues and his party. While his life was spared, others were killed -- all were brutally treated and a brigade of supplies for the French in the land of the Hurons, had been taken entire as booty for the Mohawks.
As Fr. Menard, experienced traveler as he was, looked up at the Lachine rapids from a small canoe, he felt grandeur touched with fear, for the sensation is that of seeing the whole ocean come sloping down in riot out of the sky. There were no portage paths around the rapids at that early day, with a possible exception on the western end of Montréal Island. Shortcuts through the forest were not safe on account of fear of capture by the Mohawks, so when paddles could not he swung faster than the current, the canoes were brought to the north side of the river and each man found what walking he could. Long straps of deerhide were used for towing lines and some men jumping from stone to stone, pulled on them; others, knee-deep or neck-deep in the water, holding on to the gunwales, heaved and lifted canoes and cargoes up the hill of stones in the bed of the river. Strong men, boastful of their power, almost wrecked themselves. Thirty-one years later Fr. Beschefer, with the Denonville expedition, wrote of this trip, -- "with fatigues which cannot be imagined." Above the Lachine rapids the tea-brown waters of the Ottawa River enter the Lake St. Louis portion of the blue St. Lawrence and for a long way refuse to mingle. The Ottawa River had been the much traveled canoe route to the Nipissing and Huron country over which Fr. Menard had gone in former years. For a large party of Frenchmen to go toward Lake Ontario beyond this point was the beginning of that adventure which ultimately brought the French to the control of Fort Niagara and to a partial dominance over the Iroquois. Above Lake St. Louis the Soulanges rapids are a river hill of 83 feet in 15 miles. At night on this hard part of the river, the Indians after eating corn crushed between stones and dried fish or meat, lay down to sleep like tired dogs. Canoes turned up on edge on the ground formed a shelter for some, but no one had strength enough left to cut trees and gather balsam boughs. Even to Fr. Menard putting on the extreme luxury of dry footgear, after a day of wet feet, seemed to require almost too much effort. Then followed a day or two of relief in the broad Lake St. Francis part of the river, 26 miles long. Far to the south on the sawtooth horizon appeared the Adirondacks, beyond which ten years before Fr. Isaac Jogues had gone to the Mohawks on his third and last trip, never to return.
If Fr. Menard ever felt that the only worthy result of his life would be a martyr's death, surely he would be thrilled if today he could see the place on the river which then was only a spot in the wilderness but now is the place where the international boundary crosses and which is the location of the village of St. Régis. "The evil that men do lives after them," "but the good is buried with their bones." But not so with Fr. Menard, for in this village of St. Régis, after the passing of centuries, are many Indians of Iroquois descent who in unbroken line to this day, continue steadfast in the form of faith and worship which Fr. Menard and his colleagues brought their ancestors. Even the Iroquois language is preserved in the church to an unusual degree. But onward upriver with the first colony to enter northern and central New York. All the hard work which had brought this colony past the present site of St. Régis left 92 feet of uphill river in 48 miles yet to be overcome. Then 67 miles of gentle current with over 1500 islands in its upper end. To this now famous summer resort of the "Thousand Islands" Fr. Menard and his companions gave one of its earliest chapters of historic interest. Since the chief study of Indians was to know their way through the lakes and forests, the islands were passed in very observant silence. Headwinds and current made it necessary for all members of the expedition to paddle without stopping. Knees already calloused in religious devotions became tough like the sole of the feet, from kneeling in the canoes.
Bays and islands in eastern Lake Ontario, where now the expedition had come after its great toil, furnish harbors for canoes, separated by safe paddling distances. The great lake, open and inviting to the west wind for more than 160 [author's correction: print says 200] miles beyond the furthest horizon -- lent itself to quiet, like the meditation of the Great Spirit, and then it began to show tall, sharp waves mounted by the white teeth of a tiger. Hurrying before the storm, René Menard and the other Onondaga pioneers took safety at the mouth of the Salmon River.
(See Hawley, Early Chapters of Cayuga History, page 17-18, location of Salmon River described by J. S. Clark).
The storm they had sought to avoid for a few hours held them in prison for six days. Friday came and there was neither meat nor fish; the fish had gone to the deep places in the stormy lake, and the deer had gone far inland out of the heavy wind. Berries and water only for six days brought on gaunt hunger and dreams of food. Men talked and dreamed of eating a whole roast moose, one for each man. Sun and wind had burned up the fat of their bodies and they hungered for grease. Then the teasing demon which possessed the lake cast up mountain waves on the rocks and beaches and as the waves went up they uttered in a voice which shook the earth -- "To-u-r"-and then as the waves broke and raced back over the pebbles "de Beurre," Tower of Butter-Tower of Butter! René Menard was starving with a trace of homesickness for his student days in Rouen.
Five weeks of struggle against the tides of the St. Lawrence River, near Québec, and against the rapids of the upper River and against the storm of Lake Ontario, in canoes laden with all the heavy baggage for a settlement -- more baggage than food -- had brought the expedition of the Onondaga pioneers to Famine Bay near Selkirk Beach Park. Today Port Ontario is nearby and Pulaski, N. Y. lies inland to the east. As René Menard slept in his robes, protected by a piece of smoke-tanned deer hide, his senses returned slowly out of the land of sleep, half awake he rolled over to adjust his body to a new position to fit the hollows and ridges in his hard bed on the ground. He became aware that a noise had ceased. The waves on the great lake, which had cannonaded the beaches for a week, could not now be heard, and the roar of the wind in the forest had died down to a faint whisper. A thrush behind the cool green draperies of the forest began its morning exercise of greeting the sun. A blue heron, wading and hunting for clams, uttered a qu-aa-nk. He rose when he knew that morning was coming, with a feeling of empty faintness. Like other members of his Order, in the party, he began preparing for the new day with spiritual exercises, for he esteemed the health of his soul of more value then the comfort of his body. No one had lighted a fire because this was the seventh morning with nothing to cook. A few of the more than fifty sleeping spots on the ground were vacant. Some hunters had gone to watch on a deer runway and fishermen were out on the Bay in the early morning mists, but there was no breakfast. The herd of 200 buffalo which Fr. LeMoyne had seen near there two years before had wandered far away. The tedious day wore on with more hunger and more faintness. There was danger that the Indians might desert or that the weakened expedition might fall before the attack of enemies. René Menard comforted himself with the thought that the sufferings of the body were discipline for the soul. Then came a shout which roused the entire camp. The messengers had returned from Onondaga with corn and salmon in abundance. [See correction at end of chapter -- Ed.]
Provided with abundance of food a member of each canoe group began to build a fire. Some worked for fire with an arrow whirled by a bowstring and some with that wonderful new thing, white man's steel and flint. Some Indians wolfed down chunks of raw salmon. Soon straight columns of smoke rose to Heaven from fires and from simmering kettles full of food, and with the smoke went words of heartfelt thanksgiving. The famine was past, but danger was ever with them.
This expedition, however, was delayed near Famine Bay for a few days longer, until it was decided whether the new settlement should be on ground which was common to all the tribes or at Onondaga, which was the capitol of the Iroquois confederacy, "our Washington" modern Iroquois visitors say. Picture now a flotilla of a score of bark canoes leaving the vicinity of Port Ontario and heading westward on Lake Ontario, toward the mouth of the Oswego River. The granite country with its many sheltering islands crowned by pinnacles of pine, cedar and spruce, is left behind. From east to west, on the left, stretched shores with steep banks of earth. Drumlin hills half cut away by the waves, and rocks colored by red iron rust, begin to appear. To the right the lake is as boundless as the sea. It was anxious paddling, traveling more than a mile from shore, headed toward a point which was winking behind the waves on the horizon. One saucy wavecrest slopped over the gunwale into Fr. Menard's canoe leaving a chilly spot in his bedding for the next night. The afternoon breeze was freshening. Strong arms brown and white, toughened by thousands of miles of paddling, pushed against the headwind with paddle strokes like the jump of a moose's leg. For an hour it seemed like no progress, then the mouth of the Oswego River began to approach rapidly and suddenly the canoes slipped quietly upriver by the quickly passing shore, giving a sense of relief from blowing winds and from the eyestrain of far horizons. Somewhere on the river these mariners of the wilderness will rest for the night. A favorite camp was at the falls at Fulton. Another camp site was where the Oneida Lake outlet joins the Seneca River to form the Oswego River, a place which used to be called "Three Rivers Point," not connected, however, except by waterway, with Trois-Rivières in Québec. This Oneida outlet was the beginning of the canoe route to the land of the Mohawks and to the Hollanders in Nieuw Amsterdam. The cascades at the present site of Fulton called for heavy poling, wading and lifting. More heavy work took the paddle and pack-weary voyagers into Lake Onondaga (Ga-nen-ta a) which the expedition entered firing gun salutes to the Indians along the banks. The date was July 11th, 1656. The start from Québec had been on May 17th, of the same year.
The northwestern end of the city of Syracuse, N. Y., touches the southeastern end of Onondaga Lake. A site which slopes gently to the lake on the northeast side was chosen by the pioneers for the head house of the colony. 1/2 mile east of Liverpool is the position in which the colony house was built. [Author's correction -- printed version says that the residence of a Mrs. Ward in the east end of Liverpool was the site.]
A great council of the Indians soon assembled. Fr. Chaumonot, who had been on the ground from the year before, addressed the Indians with fascinating and pictorial language. In part of his speech he said "It is for the faith that I take in my hands this rich present and open my mouth to remind you of the pledges you gave at the time you came to Québec to conduct us to your country." Among the archives of the Onondagas was a belt of beads 4 feet long with a cross at one end. General Clark of Auburn thought that this might have been the present given at the time. The site of this council and of this first white man's colony west of the Mohawk River, is Central New York's Plymouth Rock. A park and monument, now marking this site, were dedicated on August 16, 1933. The site was identified by the late Reverend William Beauchamp, S. T. D. The well of salt water, shown to Fr. Simon LeMoyne, S. J., on his mission to the Onondaga in 1654, and since known as "the Jesuit's well," is now enclosed with a suitable wall, having an inscription explanatory of its historical importance. Early in August an aged chief from Cayuga presented a request on behalf of his nation, that one of the Fathers might be sent to instruct his people in the Faith, with the assurance that a chapel would be provided and that this was the desire of the whole people. Fr. Menard was accordingly sent with two Frenchmen. The chief was Saonchiogwa. Fr. Chaumonot went with Fr. Menard. The journey took two days. On the way the swift water called Jack's Riffs would give Fr. Menard a chance to step out of the canoe and cool his feet in the pleasant waters. Little fish inquisitive about the strange white feet would nibble his toes. (Scout Troop 58.) Possibly a portage was made where the old canal now crosses the horseshoe peninsula at Jack's Riffs. On the second day of travel from Onondaga Lake, René Menard came into the outskirts of his parish, which included many square miles of the Montezuma Marshes. In these marshes, drumlins, or whaleback hills with their steep blunt nose-end to the north, lie half submerged in rich muck land and swampy bays. Near the drumlin of Kipps Island, the canoes stopped at the village of Onontare, which successors of René Menard in this parish named St. René.
(Locations: Jes. Rels. LI. 293; LII 179: LIV. 53)
[Marginal note in author's handwriting: Recent explorations as by H. F. Follett have put village sites down river north of Montezuma = St. René; St. Stephen or Tiohero beside Menard Bridge. St. Joseph on Gans Farm. At Mapleton and 4 miles ± east of Union Springs.]
The old chief proudly exhibited the strange new white man in black robes, the like of which the Huron Christian captives had often described to them. The noise and excitement of the people broke the monotony of the lonely marsh island village. Scared water fowl took themselves farther away. At this point, where the Clyde River enters the Seneca River, coming from the land of the Sonontuans, Fr. Chaumonot could inquire whether there was water enough in the Clyde River, in that late summer season, to go by canoe to the Senecas, all of whose villages were then west of Canandaigua Lake, or must he go by the trail which crosses the river at Thiohero. Three miles up river from the site of the present Montezuma Bridge and two miles past St. René's, the flotilla of canoes passed the place of the Old Free Bridge and of the new bridge dedicated to Fr. René Menard on September 4, 1933. Three miles more brought them to the large Indian village at Thiohero at the outlet of Cayuga Lake.
Another ceremonial of greeting would be gone through with at this village. Then ten miles southward, down the east and left side of the lake, brought the party to the county seat or capitol of the Cayugas, Goiogouen, (There are fifty ways of spelling it). The polite customs of the Indians dictated that a prominent visitor be met by the villagers long before he reached their places of abode, so that when Chief Saonchiogwa with the strange new white man in black robes, in his canoe, came up Cayuga Lake, the entire canoe fleet of the Cayugas would launch out into the lake filled with inquisitive Indians, coming to accompany the visitor. After landing Fr. Menard could see, as he walked up the slope to the village, that the creek gorge of more than 60 feet deep extending far across the country, formed the chief line of military defense in that region. In the village long houses with ridge-pole roofs covered with elm bark were in the midst of fields of corn which extended to the edge of the forest.
The chief's house was larger. Shelves ran along the walls, divided into sleeping compartments, as in a lumber camp or sleeping car. One of these compartments piled deep with rich furs, made the best bed that Fr. Menard had had since he left Trois-Rivières. Fire holes surrounded by stones were at equal distances along the center of the earthen floor. There was one fireplace with a smoke hole in the roof overhead for each family. Relics of these fireplaces, in the form of fire scorched stones, may be found on the sites of nearly all Iroquois villages. Fr. Menard, in this house, could feel safe. He knew that while the Indians were terrible in war, their sense of honor to a guest gave him the same protection in this house as if he were a member of the family.
The Huron language, which Fr. Menard had learned in the Georgian Bay country, was enough like the talk of the Cayugas so that, when the chief spoke to an Indian woman by the fireplace, Fr. Menard understood that he was to share the best food, for as long as he wished to stay. He soon found three Indians who became his teachers in the correct use of the Cayuga dialect.
The country which Fr. Menard saw during his residence among the Cayuga villages was described in a letter dated June 24, 1672, written by Fr. Peter Raffeix who was then in charge of the Cayuga villages. (See Hawley, p. 63.)
"Cayuga is the most beautiful country I have seen in America. It is situated in latitude 42 1/2 and the needle dips hardly more than 10 degrees.
"It lies between two lakes (Owasco and Cayuga) and is no more than four leagues wide, with almost continuous plains, bordered by fine forests. Agnie (Mohawk) is a valley very contracted and always covered with fogs. The hills that envelop it appear very bad land. Oneida and Onondaga appear too rough and little adapted to the chase as well as Seneca. More than a thousand deer are killed every year in the neighborhood of Cayuga. Fishing for both salmon and eel, and for other sorts of fish, is as abundant as at Onondaga."
"Four leagues from here, on the brink of the river (Seneca) I have seen within a small space eight or ten fine salt fountains. It is there that numbers of nets are spread for taking pigeons and from seven to eight hundred are often caught at a single stroke of the net.
"Lake Thiohero (Cayuga) one of the two adjacent to the village, is full fourteen leagues long by one or two wide (a league is about 2 1-2 miles) It abounds in swan and geese through the winter and in spring nothing is seen but a continual cloud of game. (Cayuga Lake is on the line of annual migration of birds which come up the Atlantic Coast through the Susquehanna Valley to Cayuga Lake and onward to the St. Lawrence River and Hudson's Bay nesting places.)
"The river Ochouguen (Oswego) which rises in this lake, soon branches into several channels and attractive bays for the preservation of hunting. I find the people of Cayuga more tractable and less haughty than the Onondagas and Oneidas. They count more than 300 warriors and a prodigious swarm of little children."
Chief Saonchiogwa immediately began to carry out his promise given at Onondaga, that a chapel would be built. The ground was leveled off, postholes were dug, "Y" shaped poles were set to catch the upper poles in their angle. Rivalry arose among the workers as to who would bring in the largest sheet of elm-bark. This was not so easy as in spring, because the bark began to cling tight to the elm trunks. Deer-horn and bone awls were used to drill the sewing holes in the bark. One youth was very proud of a steel knife which he used, which he had bought with some furs from a Dutch trader. In two days work and in four days after arrival at Goiogouen the whole building was complete. Not Notre Dame cathedral -- simply a chapel, and yet the outgrowth of the spirit of the great cathedrals of France, and, like all other churches everywhere, it spoke with the one voice. Man is not satisfied until he finds rest in God. After the dedication of the chapel Fr. Chaumonot went to visit the Seneca villages near Victor, leaving Fr. Menard to be the first white resident whose name we know of the Owasco and Cayuga Lakes region.
Fr. Menard immediately began to be busy. His own letter relates that he furnished the chapel with rugs and placed two sacred pictures near the altar. A translation of his words follows: "This was a spectacle the novelty of which so greatly surprised the barbarians that they came in crowds to consider it and gaze upon the countenances of the two pictures. I had abundance of opportunity to explain our mysteries -- each day was instruction from morning till night." (P. 22, Hawley.)
The Cayugas had contributed their quota of fighting men in the winter of 1649, when a thousand Iroquois destroyed the Huron nation in the southern Georgian Bay country (near Midland, Ontario). Before 1649, missionaries in the Huron country had brought most of the Huron nations into Christianity. Many of these Huron Christians were now slaves of the Cayugas. They formed the most grateful part of Fr. Menard's congregation. Among the sainted missionaries in that early Huron mission had been Fr. Jean de Brébeuf and Fr. Gabriel Lalemant. When the Iroquois captured them in the destruction of their chapel and village, each had stood fast in the faith till the last breath during hours of fiendish torture. At this point, Fr. Menard's letter continues, "the second adult that I baptized was a cripple who applied himself so faithfully to instructions and prayers that I soon baptized him in our chapel." He told me that he was a witness of their death (Brébeuf and Lalemant) and having, by his valor acquitted himself with credit among his fellow warriors on that same day, on which he had slain with his own hand eight Hurons and taken five others prisoners, he had pity on the two captive fathers and had bought them from the Mohawks for two beautiful wampum belts, with the design of returning them to us in safety, but that soon their captors gave back to him these pledges, reclaimed their prisoners and burned them with all imaginable cruelty." Superstition made difficulties and dangers. White traders in the Hudson River region told an Indian customer that baptism caused people to vomit up the soul with the blood and that children baptized died of sorcery. A crazy Cayuga came for three nights into the chief's house looking for a chance to kill Fr. Menard as a sorcerer. The chief caught him just in time to turn aside the fatal blow. This danger was not long past when a young warrior accused Fr. Menard of being able to give life or death to whom he pleased, and since he had baptized a sick man and caused him to die, instead of making him live, the young warrior threatened to kill Fr. Menard. After two months Fr. Menard was called back to Onondaga to help with the foundation and the seminary of all the missions among the Iroquois. Soon, however, he returned from Onondaga to Cayuga with six Frenchmen and all the prominent people of the Cayugas received him back with great rejoicing. Ultimately, his work brought in 400 converts. So great was the success of the missions that Fr. Ragueneau started from Montréal with a party composed of Hurons, Onondagas and Senecas.
[following notes were in the author's personal copy -- editor]
See Mère Marie of the Ursulines. Her letters in printed form are in possession of W. B. McCluskey, Bank Bldg., Syracuse, N. Y.
Menard accompanies Chaumonot to the Oneidas -- early winter of 1656 - Jes. Rels XLIV 29-35 but did not go to the Senecas. Reference to this in Thwaite's Jes. Rels. vol. 73 - p- indicate events which occured in 1668, seven years after Menard's death.
Indian captain halted them in the forest and -- paraphrase, not a quote -- my fathers, how weary you are to alk in the show andover the ice, and in the water. Yet we go to bear tidings to prevent the ruin of provinces and of nations. -- This must have occurred in the early winter of 1656 when Menard was called back to Onondaga.
Jes. Rels Index Vol. LXXIII, 142: Menard to "the Senecas" is an error. Events indicated in text in 1669 occurred eight years after his death. The embassy of Saonchiogwa (of the Cayugas) to Québec which he performed on behalf of the Senecas at which time he was baptized occurred in 1669 -- eight years after the death of Menard, and eleven years after 1658, when Fr. Menard left the Iroquois country entirely. Menard is mentioned as a guest and early instructor of Saonchiogwa.
Converts of Menard are mentioned in the Cayuga country after his death.
On the 2nd of August, 1657, this party, one week on its way, fell into a tragic dispute. All the Huron men were killed, unwanted women and children were burned at the stake, so that Fr. Ragueneau and his companion, Fr. Du Peron, arrived at Onondaga with the murderers of their Huron congregation for guides.
[Marginal note in author's handwriting: Joseph Imbert Du Peron]
The Iroquois before 1600 found themselves surrounded by hostile tribes and threatened with extinction. Five tribes with a common speech, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas and Senecas, succeeded in forming a league of peace among themselves.
When armed with European guns bought in trade at Fort Orange (Albany) and with light canoes made of birchbark, easy to carry and swift to paddle, from the newly acquired lands of the North, they proceeded to compel the other tribes of Northeastern America to surrender to their league of peace or submit to enslavement or death by torture.
In 1649-50 the Iroquois had destroyed the Hurons. In 1651 the tribe which occupied the Niagara country, between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, which were called Neutrals by the Jesuits, because they refused to take sides in the Huron war, was destroyed by the Senecas and their Iroquois allies. Many Hurons and Neutrals took refuge among the Eries. The Eries were a tribe occupying the country from Cattaraugus County, New York, westward to Lake Erie.
The Eries strengthened by additions from these other tribes and doubtless spurred on by these Hurons and Neutrals, began a war on the Iroquois villages. They succeeded in destroying one Seneca village (1654) and in cutting to pieces a column of 60 picked Seneca warriors and in capturing a Seneca chief. Consternation filled the four upper Iroquois tribes and rage against the remnants of their old enemies, the Hurons, and well might the Iroquois be alarmed for it seemed that the Hurons who had survived the destruction of their villages, and those who had escaped capture, could arouse the various Indian tribes, in which they had taken refuge, to a vengeful and annihilating war against the Iroquois.
The Iroquois therefore foresaw the menace of being surrounded by war on all sides at once incited by these Huron refugees in various tribes. The diplomats among them feared that the Hurons who had taken refuge with the French in villages on the St. Lawrence River might succeed in persuading the French to take part in this war. And with almost unbelievable craft and sagacity, they had invited this French colony, including Fr. Menard, to come and live amongst them while they were finishing the Erie War, which would, dispose of menacing enemies, southwest of the Genesee River.
Along with the invitation to the French to come to Onondaga was an invitation for all the Hurons living in the vicinity of Québec to come also. That the crafty Iroquois diplomats had succeeded in deceiving the French is illustrated by the fact that the Hurons accompanying Fr. Ragueneau in his return to Onondaga from Québec in July, 1657, were attacked by the Iroquois guides in the party and put to death.
War increased the difficulties of Fr. Menard. It intensified heathenish customs. It brought in slaves with new dialects. It took able-bodied men away from his influence and his instruction and when the warriors returned they brought with them captives for torture. Missionaries at this time had to prepare captives for death. Some times Baptism was administered while the fires of agony were blazing at the captive's feet.
The Erie War ended when the Iroquois marched to the stockaded fort of the Eries, carrying their canoes over their beads for shields, and were able to destroy the chief village and disperse the tribe. In the Neutral and Erie wars most of New York State west of the Genesee River was added to the territory of the Seneca Iroquois.
Until the close of the Erie War, Fr. Menard, unaware of the sinister purpose of the leaders of the Iroquois, had been able to perform in his Cayuga parish the duties of the work, which he loved. Among the Iroquois tribes, it was the custom to set aside certain able and princely families for a special purpose. No members of these families went to war, for it was their duty to remember the archives of the tribe and to study the tribe's diplomacy. By them consecutive plans were preserved and carried on through many years and from one generation to another. Again and again, through human history, the idealism of unselfish men has been trapped into serving shrewd and worldly ends; for "the children of this world are wiser than children of light." How little did Fr. Menard, or any of the several missionaries in the Iroquois cantons at this time, suspect that they were being used to keep the Huron Christian captives of the Iroquois from joining in a general uprising against their captors. Unaware or heedless of these circumstances, he labored leaving no heart untouched by his ministrations. Many came to his chapel; but the children and the sick and the aged in the two northern villages at the end of the lake and down the river would also require his ministrations.
How simple it seemed to him, after his hundred mile journeys in Huronia, to get into a canoe with some young paddlers, who were going to hunt in the Montezuma Marshes, and to go to Onontare on an island [original text reads "on to island"] less than 20 miles away. Or again picture him forgetful, busy, unaware of the tragedy overhanging his work as he officiated at burials, mingling the age-old Latin and the graceful decorum of the French cathedrals with the rough, guttural language of the Cayugas, and with their wild burial symbolism. Sundays, feast-days and holidays were crowded with work from dawn until dark; when the village was asleep he must spend two hours with his spiritual exercises, sorting out his emotions, confessing and driving out the imperfect and uplifting the good in himself to higher devotion to God.
Then the Erie War ended and the enemies of the Iroquois, to the west, were crushed. The Mohawks at the eastern end of the league, who meanwhile had bided their time, were now demanding completion of the plan, beginning with hostilities against the French.
Into the midst of this busy life of Father Menard came a messenger from Onondaga. The message which he brought said that the Frenchmen must all come immediately. A great and solemn feast was to be celebrated. Intimations of a situation of extreme danger were conveyed to Fr. Menard secretly.
Arrived at Onondaga he was told that three members of the colony had been murdered by some Oneida Indians and that Indians had been killed in punishment and also that the Mohawks and the pro-Dutch or anti-French party had never been satisfied with the colony located in Onondaga instead of on the common ground at Famine Bay.
A dying Huron had made known a plot to massacre all the Frenchmen. Remaining at Onondaga meant torture and death for everybody. Yet the ice was still in the rivers; how could they escape?
M. DuPuys, executive head of the colony, had made an ingenious plan. A young man who had won the affections of the chief had been instructed to go to the chief and tell that he (the young man) had dreamed that the French had given a great feast to the Onondagas and that he also dreamed that terrible calamities would fall on the Onondagas if the feast was not held.
Dreams were absolute commands from the spirit world to the Indians. So all other plans had to be set aside in order that the Indians might obey the command of the dream. One of the requirements of the dream was that it should be an eat-all feast. No Indian was to refuse anything which was set before him. M. DuPuys found that fifty-three men could not be carried in the canoes they had, so that two boats had to be built secretly in the colony house with Indians lolling at the door, whose slightest suspicion would cause a massacre.
The evening of the feast came and the highway where cars now pass rapidly, between Syracuse and Liverpool, then saw a strange sight. All the Indians in the village were ready for the eat-all feast. Frenchmen began passing out huge quantities of food. No Indian was allowed to rest from eating. Every finished portion was renewed immediately.
Meanwhile, jesters, musicians and jolly noise-makers, kept up a tremendous din. When the din was at its happiest and loudest the boats were taken to the lake, while the Indians on the other side of the house, were rapidly becoming paralyzed with food. Then came the anxious moment when the last of the Frenchmen entered the colony stockade on one side, passed quickly around and out the other side to the last waiting canoe. On the lake the canoes moved very slowly, lest the noise of the ice which the refugees had to break might betray them to torture fires and death. On the river with the high water of spring to carry them and the fear of capture behind them, safety was sacrificed for speed. All hazards were taken at rapids and cascades.
Fr. Le Mercier's letter tells of going down frightful precipices in the river, of traveling all night and all the next day, of the mouth of the river being frozen and of four hours portaging through the dark woods, where every windfall of trees might form a fort from which the enemy might attack them. The maze of islands as they approached the outlet of the lake leading into the St. Lawrence River puzzled them.
They had no Indian guides. In the rapids on the St. Lawrence River it was possible for the men in one canoe to look into a space between two rocks and see a canoe upside down with three of its occupants out in the river, never to return again. The fourth man, clinging to the side of the canoe, was washed down through the rapids and rescued an instant before he also would have disappeared into the river.
Note in author's personal copy: Le Moyne left for Québec in 1657. Fr. Ragueneau wrote of the excape from Onondaga. See Documentary History of New York I 49 ff.
Fr. Ragueneau wrote "We landed at Montréal in the beginning of the night," the 3rd of April, 1658. Among those who came down the river in what seemed like a complete giving up of the missions among the Iroquois, was the young Fr. James Frémin, nephew of Antoine Frémin, Mayor of Rheims, and while other members of the party may not have lived to see any further success among the Iroquois, it was Fr. Frémin's privilege in the fall of 1668, to be the leader among the Iroquois missions and to assist in restoring missions in every one of the Iroquois cantons. The westernmost one of these missions was at Totiakton, near Rochester Junction, where Fr. Frémin arrived November 1st, 1668. [Note in author;'s personal copy: Or was it Fr. Ragueneau's?] Fr. De Carheil and Fr. Raffeix and others came to Cayuga at that time and the Cayuga missions lasted until 1684. In 1750 two Moravian missionaries, Zeisberger and Cammerhof, found that the Cayugas had not forgotten the purpose of missionaries in coming to them. A century of French influence over the upper Iroquois followed the Onondaga experiment which ended with the fall of Fort Niagara in 1759.
In the party which had been at Onondaga was a young Frenchman named Radisson, who was a resident of Trois-Rivières.
Later, Radisson became a founder of the Hudson's Bay Company. Fr. Menard, in 1658, became a superior of the Residence of his Order in Trois-Rivières. Friends of Radisson were members of his congregation.
References -Francis Teoroniongo, Huron captive mentioned on the monument east of Holcomb at St. Michaels 1668-70 and earlier is reported in Hawley, Early Chapters of Seneca History as host of Fr. LeMoyne. (probably in Huron country). Jes. Rels reports hims as host of S. Le. Moyne. See Fremin's journal LII 80 ff.
Location of Cayuga Villages, Beauchamp-Aboriginal Occupation of New York Bulletin N Y S Museum 32, Vol. 7, Feb. 1900. (p. 35.)
Father S. Le Moyne at Cayuga: Hawley, Cayuga, p. 35, also in Jes. Rels. XLVII p. 71 ff.
Father Simon Le Moyne visited the Cayugas during his year 1661-1662 at Onondaga. See Hawley, Early Chapters of Cayuga History, p. 35, also the Jes. Rels in chapter beginning at LVII p. 71.
Fr. Ragueneau, Jes. Rels. XLIV-153- 171.
Concerning the sincerity of the Onondagas in inviting French amongst them, Jes. Rels., vol. XLIV p. 151.
Frémin, Vol. II p. 95 Cent. Hist. Roch. "First White Residents," by A. M. Stewart.
[Correction: handwritten note in author's personal copy and Note 2 to Chapter 3 of the author's French Pioneers of the Eastern Great Lakes Area (1609-1971) indicate that this location is not correct but rather that the famished party continued up the river to the head of the first rapids of the Oswego River, where they met the messengers.]
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