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.”
1610 – We have been notified via the moccasin telegraph that Etienne Brule will be arriving with Chief Iroquet and his people within the next week and a half. Iroquet has set off from his Algonquin homeland in the lower Ottawa valley for the fall hunt and plans to follow through to winter with the Rock Nation of the Wendat somewhere near the Narrows at the current city of Orillia. Iroquet will be accompanied by Champlain’s young servant Etienne Brule.
We have responded to this notice and have arranged for a couple of receptions for the earliest European tourist to visit our region.
The first event will be held at the foot of the Champlain monument in Orillia shortly after 1:00 PM on Saturday October 16th.
The second event will be hosted by the Huronia Museum in the Huron/Wendat Native village longhouse in Midland shortly after 1:00 PM Sunday October 17th.
As the museum will be open during this event those wishing to attend will be required to pay the normal admission fee.
Come and help celebrate the 400th anniversary of Brule’s arrival and raise the awareness of the local community to its rich history.
Etienne Brule came to New France as a teenager in the employ of Samuel de Champlain. He volunteered to go and live with the natives to learn their language and customs. He lived among the Hurons for most of the rest of his life. He is the first European to visit Huronia and is believed to be the first European to see all of the Great Lakes. Sadly he left no written record of his travels and experiences. Our view of him is only through the writings of Champlain, Sagard, and Brebeuf. The picture portrayed of him in the Jesuit Relations is not especially flattering and has sadly coloured much of the subsequent history of this early explorer.
Further reading: Etienne Brule, Immortal Scoundrel, by James Herbert Cranston 1949, is the key book available about Brule.
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.
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).
1649 was a bad time in the Huron confederacy in what is now called central Ontario. see next post for more information.
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.