1640s Huron Village St Ignace II altar

Saint Gabriel Lallemant
Saint Gabriel Lallemant (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

DSC_5553 St Ignace II altar by gnawledge wurker
DSC_5553 St Ignace II altar, a photo by gnawledge wurker on Flickr.

description by T. Fegarty “In 1649 St. Ignace II, as named by the Jesuit missionaries who visited or lived there, was a relatively new Wendat village on a plateau about 50 feet above what is now known as the Sturgeon River in Tay Township. The village proper comprised 29 buildings, including a chapel – priests’ residence, occupied some 6 acres, and was surrounded by fortifications measuring some 2,000 feet in the round, including 2 main gateways. About 2 thousand people lived there.

The Wendat chose village sites for their defensive advantages: high ground, surrounding river and/or ravine and nearby year-round spring. Villages were fortified by palisades of pine trunks, some 15 feet tall. The people lived in long-houses, about 20 feet in width and up to 100 feet in length, with 20-100 people per house. These dwellings were constructed of saplings, their pointed and charred ends planted in holes in the ground. A census of the Huron nation by the Jesuits in 1639 reported 32 active villages, consisting of about 700 lodges and 20,000 people.

1649 saw the culmination of the war between the Wendat and their French allies against the Iroquois confederacy based in what is now upper New York State. A large Iroquois war party attacked and overran several Wendat villages, including St. Ignace II. At nearby St. Louis, on the Hogg River, the raiders captured two Jesuit missionaries, Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalemant, and brought them to St Ignace II, where they were tortured and killed. These events led the Jesuits to abandon and burn their headquarters at Ste. Marie on the Wye River, after burying the remains of Brebeuf there. They then retreated with their remaining Wendat converts first to Christian Island and then to Quebec in the following year. They took with them relics (small bone fragments) of the martyrs.”

Jesuit cell – desk and chair – Ste Marie among the Hurons 068

Jesuit cell – desk and chair – Ste Marie among the Hurons 068

Originally uploaded by canuckshutterer (W.J. Gibson)
it is interesting to imagine sitting at this spot in 1640s a long way from home in France, working to convert the Hurons to Catholicism

Ste. Marie Among the Hurons is the reconstruction of the 1640s era central mission to the Hurons (Wendat) in central Ontario.

Located just east of Midland, Ontario.

I have visited many times over the years. Not many chances to step back in history.

door latch 1640s reconstruction

door latch

Originally uploaded by canuckshutterer (W.J. Gibson)
Ste. Marie Among the Hurons is a reconstruction of the 1640s fortified French mission located just east of Midland, Ontario. The reconstruction was undertaken in 1967. The original buildings were burned to the ground during the Iroquois campaign against the Huron in 1649.

This photo is of a door in the French compound. The French had a blacksmith’s forge at Ste. Marie.

fish trap – functional object with beautiful abstract lines and shape

fish trap

Originally uploaded by canuckshutterer.

wonderful shape to this wooden fish trap – it is hanging inside a block house at Ste. Marie. I have been visiting this historic site over the past 45 years. I first visited it before the current reconstructed site had been built. The original mission was built in the 1640s. In 1649 the mission was burnt to the ground during a war between the Wendat of the area and the attacking Iroquois.

Ste. Marie Among the Hurons web site

It is located about 100 miles due north of Toronto and is well worth a visit.

St. Louis plaque

St. Louis plaque

Originally uploaded by canuckshutterer.

Federal government plaque at the historic site about two miles from the shores of Georgian Bay.

Well, it is not impossible to find after all. The better way to get there is to turn south off Hwy 12 at Reeves Rd and drive south to Granny White's Side Road and turn left (East) and drive about 200 metres. You will see on the left or north side of the road a very badly faded blue historic site sign. Turn left (north) immediately at this sign. There are gates but they were open today. I have no idea when they are closed. As has been pointed out, take that immediate turn, just a few feet further to the east is a private drive and you don't want to go in there. The narrow dirt road runs 0.5 km with tall wire fencing on both sides to a small opening in the woods where the stone monument stands. There is enough room for a car to turn around. The space is quite a bit smaller than at St. Ignace II. There is not a great deal to see. Still to drive to the spot is an attempt in a small way to travel back in time to 1649. As you drive in some of the land on the east side falls away from the road. One argument for the site I suppose is the proximity to the creek a little further to the east. St. Ignace II is also located near to a creek.

The story of St. Louis according to Bruce G. Trigger, The Children of Aataentsic: A History of the Huron People to 1660, is significant. The Iroquois army (mainly Seneca and Mohawk, over 1000, well supplied with firearms and ammunition) captured the village on the morning of March 16th (?). After the torture and death of Brebeuf and Lalemant, on the 17th, a group of Huron attacked an advance party of 200 Iroquois headed for Ste. Marie. After losses on both sides the Huron forced the Iroquois back to St. Louis and took possession of the village, capturing some 30 Iroquois. The main party of the Iroquois returned to the village and a long battle took place. Some 100 Iroquois were killed. After their heavy losses at the protected battle to retake St. Louis, the Iroquois regrouped and decided to retreat (Trigger, pp. 763-766).

St. Louis – Huron village destroyed by the Iroquois in 1649

St. Louis – Huron village destroyed by the Iroquois in 1649

Originally uploaded by canuckshutterer.

1649 was a bad time in the Huron confederacy in what is now called central Ontario. see next post for more information.

timeline considerations

Today as I was standing at St. Louis, it occurred to me that given the current lack of progress in dealing with "modern" man's pollution of the earth whether someone will be able to stand on this same spot in 2406 or 2449.

Carhagouha cross – 1615 first Mass in Ontario (Champlain)

Carhagouha cross

Originally uploaded by canuckshutterer.

a Mass is still said at this spot each year to commemorate the first Catholic Mass said in Ontario in 1615 — drove up to this location this morning before the thunderstorms hit. It is a little strange to walk around the spot where about 400 years ago Samuel Champlain stood. I read a biography of him recently and the vague recollection of him from my grade school social studies classes rose to a new level of appreciation of a remarkable figure in the first days of Canada. Today the mosquitoes and I reflected on the passage of 400 years. It also occurred to me that someone is going to have a serious task to cut the grass at this site to make it reasonably passable for the annual Mass. Today it was about two and a half to three feet tall.