CHAPTER XXV. 1648, 1649. SAINTE MARIE.
THE CENTRE OF THE MISSIONS. - FORT. - CONVENT. - HOSPITAL. - CARAVANSARY. -
CHURCH. - THE INMATES OF SAINTE MARIE. - DOMESTIC ECONOMY. - MISSIONS. -
A MEETING OF JESUITS. - THE DEAD MISSIONARY.
The River Wye enters the Bay of Glocester, an inlet of the Bay of Matchedash, itself an inlet of the vast Georgian Bay of Lake Huron. Retrace the track of two centuries and more, and ascend this little stream in the summer of the year 1648. Your vessel is a birch canoe, and your conductor a Huron Indian. On the right hand and on the left, gloomy and silent, rise the primeval woods; but you have advanced scarcely half a league when the scene is changed, and cultivated fields, planted chiefly with maize, extend far along the bank, and back to the distant verge of the forest. Before you opens the small lake from which the stream issues; and on your left, a stone's throw from the shore, rises a range of palisades and bastioned walls, inclosing a number of buildings. Your canoe enters a canal or ditch immediately above them, and you land at the Mission, or Residence, or Fort of Sainte Marie.
Here was the centre and base of the Huron missions; and now, for once, one must wish that Jesuit pens had been more fluent. They have told us but little of Sainte Marie, and even this is to be gathered chiefly from incidental allusions. In the forest, which long since has resumed its reign over this memorable spot, the walls and ditches of the fortifications may still be plainly traced; and the deductions from these remains are in perfect accord with what we can gather from the Relations and letters of the priests. [ Before me is an elaborate plan of the remains, taken on the spot. ] The fortified work which inclosed the buildings was in the form of a parallelogram, about a hundred and seventy-five feet long, and from eighty to ninety wide. It lay parallel with the river, and somewhat more than a hundred feet distant from it. On two sides it was a continuous wall of masonry, [ 1 ] flanked with square bastions, adapted to musketry, and probably used as magazines, storehouses, or lodgings. The sides towards the river and the lake had no other defences than a ditch and palisade, flanked, like the others, by bastions, over each of which was displayed a large cross. [ 2 ] The buildings within were, no doubt, of wood; and they included a church, a kitchen, a refectory, places of retreat for religious instruction and meditation, [ 3 ] and lodgings for at least sixty persons. Near the church, but outside the fortification, was a cemetery. Beyond the ditch or canal which opened on the river was a large area, still traceable, in the form of an irregular triangle, surrounded by a ditch, and apparently by palisades. It seems to have been meant for the protection of the Indian visitors who came in throngs to Sainte Marie, and who were lodged in a large house of bark, after the Huron manner. [ 4 ] Here, perhaps, was also the hospital, which was placed without the walls, in order that Indian women, as well as men, might be admitted into it. [ 5 ]
[ 1 It seems probable that the walls, of which the remains may still be traced, were foundations supporting a wooden superstructure. Ragueneau, in a letter to the General of the Jesuits, dated March 13, 1650, alludes to the defences of Saint Marie as "une simple palissade." ]
[ 2 "Quatre grandes Croix qui sont aux quatre coins de nostre enclos." - Ragueneau, Relation des Hurons, 1648, 81. ]
[ 3 It seems that these places, besides those for the priests, were of two kinds, - "vne retraite pour les pelerins (Indians), enfin vn lieu plus separe, ou les infideles, qui n'y sont admis que de iour au passage, y puissent tousiours receuoir quelque bon mot pour leur salut." - Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1644, 74. ]
[ 4 At least it was so in 1642. "Nous leur auons dresse vn Hospice ou Cabane d'ecorce." - Ibid., 1642, 57. ]
[ 5 "Cet hospital est tellement separe de nostre demeure, que non seulement les hommes et enfans, mais les femmes y peuuent estre admises." - Ibid., 1644, 74. ]