More than two centuries have elapsed since the Hurons vanished from their ancient seats, and the settlers of this rude solitude stand perplexed and wondering over the relics of a lost people. In the damp shadow of what seems a virgin forest, the axe and plough bring strange secrets to light: huge pits, close packed with skeletons and disjointed bones, mixed with weapons, copper kettles, beads, and trinkets. Not even the straggling Algonquins, who linger about the scene of Huron prosperity, can tell their origin. Yet, on ancient worm-eaten pages, between covers of begrimed parchment, the daily life of this ruined community, its firesides, its festivals, its funeral rites, are painted with a minute and vivid fidelity.
The ancient country of the Hurons is now the northern and eastern portion of Simcoe County, Canada West, and is embraced within the peninsula formed by the Nottawassaga and Matchedash Bays of Lake Huron, the River Severn, and Lake Simcoe. Its area was small, - its population comparatively large. In the year 1639 the Jesuits made an enumeration of all its villages, dwellings, and families. The result showed thirty-two villages and hamlets, with seven hundred dwellings, about four thousand families, and twelve thousand adult persons, or a total population of at least twenty thousand.
[ Lalemant, Relation des Hurons, 1640, 88 (Cramoisy). His words are, "de feux enuiron deux mille, et enuiron douze mille personnes." There were two families to every fire. That by "personnes" adults only are meant cannot be doubted, as the Relations abound in incidental evidence of a total population far exceeding twelve thousand. A Huron family usually numbered from five to eight persons. The number of the Huron towns changed from year to year. Champlain and Le Caron in 1615, reckoned them at seventeen or eighteen, with a population of about ten thousand, meaning, no doubt, adults. Brebeuf, in 1635, found twenty villages, and, as he thinks, thirty thousand souls. Both Le Mercier and De Quen, as well as Dollier de Casson and the anonymous author of the Relation of 1660, state the population at from thirty to thirty-five thousand. Since the time of Champlain's visit, various kindred tribes or fragments of tribes had been incorporated with the Hurons, thus more than balancing the ravages of a pestilence which had decimated them. ]