Maine Historical Society.

Collections of the Maine Historical Society (Volume 1, ser.1) online

. (page 38 of 52)
Online LibraryMaine Historical SocietyCollections of the Maine Historical Society (Volume 1, ser.1) → online text (page 38 of 52)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

which has long since elapsed, we are left only to the painful
resource of conjecture. "We can only conclude that, in distant
antiquity, the native inhabitants of this land, of the various races
which belonged to it, have intermingled intimately and exten-
sively in peace, and been often compelled into political amalga-
mation by war; that diflerent tribes have occupied long together
the same cabins, united in marriage, and as they mingled their
blood, compromised also their pride and obstinacy of habit, by
melting their languages together, and forming a currency for oral
communication, of a new stamp and heterogeneous character.


About the year sixteen hundred and ten, the condition of the
Bettlement which Poutrincourt had made at Port Eoyal in
Acadia, required him to send liis son Biencourt to France for
aid from that country. The Queen Pegent, mother of the
infant Louis XIII, was satisfied with directing her attention to
the spiritual concerns of the New World, and her policy was
confined to imposing upon Poutrincourt two Jesuits, the fathers
Biart and Mass6. The persons concerned in fitting out the
expedition destined for the young colony, refused to receive
those holy men, unless they would contribute to reimburse the
expense they should occasion. A charitable donation of two
thousand crowns enabled the pious fathers not only to remove
the difficulty, but to make some provision of temporal good, by
the purchase of a share in tlie adventure. This measure has
been satirically remarked upon; but it should be recollected tliat
the duty of benevolencb to their order was considered as of
primary obligation ; and if it was not discharged, it was but a
substitute for it in them to appropriate the misdirected charity
intended for other purposes, to the comfort of the missionary.
Besides, the society were in the habit of offering' some liiindred
thousand masses and rosaries per annum for the benefit of
souls, and notwithstanding their vow of poverty, it had long
been found by them entirely proper to extend their salutary
influence, by gathering all the riches they could, and converting
their missions to factories which secured much of the trade of
the world.


They found in Poutrincourt an obstinate man, who would not
allow them to manage the purse and sword with the breviary
too, so that they were niuch ini[)eded in the execution of tlieir
designs ; nor did they agree better with the savages, for they
preaehed against plurality of wives ; and their 'husbands, un-
willing to renounce the sin, attacked with all the adroitness of
civilized men those who forbade it, and expressed a very un-
friendl}' opinion of such scrupulous teachers. In the meantimo
the Father Biart proceeded alongthe coast to the Cannibas on
the Kennebec, where he exchanged the light and knowledge of
his doctrines for provisions for the inhabitants of Port Royal, the
place of his residence. The Cannibas received the reverend
father with a respect and cordiality strikingly in contrast with
the disposition they had a short time before exhibited toward
those from England, who intended to form an establishment on
their river, but who had not considered it prudent to execute
their design.

Father Masse also engaged in a journey to explore the field
of his apostolic labors, but was taken dangerously ill on the
way. His guide and only companion was the son of Membertou,
a distinguished chief, who prayed him to write to the Governor
of Acadia to notify him that death would probably overtake
him there in the wilderness^ so that the Indian might be safe
from the suspicion of murder. " That," said the wily Jesuit, " I
shall specially avoid, for you, perhaps, will be the man to kill me
and use my letter to conceal your crime." The conscienc(
stricken guide acknowledged that the sick man saw his heart
and that it repented and drove away the bad thought which hac
harbored there.

The two missionaries were under the patronage of the Mar
chioness de Guercheville, who had taken a cession of the righb
of De Monts in New France, and became an associate wit'
Poutrincourt. She prevailed on the Queen mother to aid in th
fitting out a vessel to be placed under the command of tlie Sieu
de la Saussaye for the purpose of forming another establishmeri
independent of that at Port Royal. In 1613 the vessel proceedec
with two other Jesuits, Quantin and Gilbert du Thet, as coadju-
tors of Biart and Mas-e ; ajid^ taking these latter persons on the


passage, they disembarked, with twenty-five others, on the
northerly bank of the Penobscot.* Father Biart mad(.' an
excursion from this phice to visit the neighboring people, anil
arriving near a village of the Etchemins, he heard frightful erie.'^,
like those of lamentation for the dead. He hastened forwtird
with the prompt anxiety wliich generally impels the ecclesiastics
of certa'n orders to be present at that scene, where pleasure,
interest, or duty are generally satisfied by the oftering of peni-
tence, bequests, and iioraage. He ascertained that the occasion of
the clamor was the illness of a child, and found the inhabitants
of the village ranged in two rows on each side of it; the father
holding it in his arms and uttering loud cries, to which the whole
assembly responded with one accord. The missionary took the
child, and having administered the sacred mystery of baptism,
prayed with a loud voice that God would vouchsafe some token
of his power. He forgot not, however, to use the means which
might contribute, humanly speaking, to the miracle he petitioned
for, and presented the child to the warmth and cherishing virtue
of the maternal bosom. It soon became well. Whatever else
may be said, it must be admitted that the administration of the
baptism was judiciously and admirably seasonable ; for the
Indians were persuaded that its divine efficacy drove away the
disease which had so much distressed them ; and they looked
upon the missionary as one who could call down from the master
of life the health of his children.

The auspicious dawn, which promised so bright a day for the
harvest of souls to God, was soon overcast, and a storm suc-
ceeded, which swept away, every vestige of the new establish-

* [It had been the purpose of the Jesuits to found a mlssiou on the Penob-
scot at Kadesquit, (Kenduskeag), now Bangor, just below the well ascer-
tained location of the ancient Norumbega. Ou their way thither they
"disembarked" on Pemetiq, now called from their naming, Mount Desert.
Finding here the most interesting circumstances of encouragement from the
Indians, and particularly from their sagamore, Asticou, they were led to relin-
quish the Penobscot, and to form their setilewent on an attractive plat of
land, gently sloping to the water, and designated by two fountains, still
well known. This place is near the mouth of Soames" sound, and is at pres-
ent a rich and productive farm. (See Biart's Relation, ch. xxiv.)] Ei.

GOVERNOR Lincoln's papers. 481

ment of St. Sauveur on the Penobscot.* A party of Anglo ^
Virginians under the command of one Samuel Argal, who had
been to Mt. Desert on a fishing voyage, attacked the place, killed
Du That and some others, compelled La Saussaye to surrender,
stole his commission, then charged him with piracy, plundered
everything of value, reduced the rest of the property to ashes,
and carried away the surviving persons as captives. The
robbers then went to Port Royal, under the guidance of Father
Biart, as Biencourt affirmed, and committed similar ravages

I shall not pursue the chain of incidents which belong to the
lives of these Jesuits, but will revert only to a single incident
connected with them, which will probably be deemed of some

AYhen the setdements were first made on the coast of this conti-
nent, the natives had it in their power to exercise any violence to-
ward them with impunity; and the breath of a hostile chief had
been enough to have blown them into the sea. Had the Indians
been permitted to have had but one glance into futurity, they
would have fought against them until the soil had drank all the
blood that flowed in the veins of every white man who stood upon
it. It was important, however, in order to gain a foothold, to
seize even upon the twigs of the shore. The Jesuits failed not to
do so. They courted the chieftain Membertou, who had great
intluence over the surrounding tribes, and by his conversion first
planted Christianity on the region of which we are taking the
survey. Membertou, as we are assured by Lescarbot, was more
than a hundred years of age ; yet active and vigorous, he bore
the number of his years without bowing beneath them. He
was the prophet of his tribe, and performed, with high authority,
the functions of the mysterious and revered character of an
Autmoin or Powaw.

Being taken dangerously ill, the fathers Biart and Mass6
caused the removal of this valuable proselyte to Port Royal, and
attended upon him with the most sedulous care ; but the old
rnan sunk under the malignity of his disease, and they could not

* [Tlie word Penobscot seems to have beeu used in an extended sense, U>

denote tlic- regiot).]


save him either by prayers or medicine. He desired tliat after
his death his body might be removed and buried among the
bones of his ancestors, to which the governor consented witlioiit
hesitation; but the missionaries warmly remonstrated again>t
pLacing the sacred carcase of a convert in a land profaned by tho
jishes of pagans, as a scandal to religion and a violence to tli<.-ir
rules; and vt'hen they were urged to consecrate the place of
sepulture, they declared that their benediction could never bo
bestowed upon it, before the remains of tho heathen had ceased
to sully it. The dying chieftain, who in his health would iiave
risked all the penalties which the Jesuits denounced against him,
in case of his non-compliance svith their wishes, finally saved
Bome moments of peace for the close of his life, by telling his
importunate instructors that when his spirit should have departed
for the other world, they might do as .they thought prosier with
his body: a concession which secured him much solemn mum-
mery at his funeral, and christian ground to rot in.


The seed wdiich had been sown by Father Biart during his
transient visit among the Cannibas, had not fallen upon barren
ground. They were so much pleased with the specimen he had
furnished them of the excellence of religion, that they sent to
the civil governor and religious superior of Canada for a teacher
of the faith. It did not escape the sagacity of a.Jesnit that the
temporal policj' of opposing a brave and unconquerable people,
as a barrier against English aggression, happily coincided with
the purposes of ecclesiastical piety and ambition ; and Father
Gabriel Dreuillettes was accorded to the request. He was the
first evangelical laborer regularly settled in the wilderness of the
Kennebec, where he found himself in the year'lG46. His
success was wonderful, for he succeeded in the fabrication of
christians out of even the interested priests of the heathen, and
wrought a marvelous number of conversions, or at least of
baptisms. His catholic majesty was in the habit of exercising a
parental liberality in tlie presents distributed among the Indians
v/ho at the same time acknowledged fealty to him and submis-


sion to the cross; and they seem uever to have beeu less willing
to become the reci]jients of the grace of ro^-al muniticcnce, tiian
of Catholic dogmas. However that might have been, the double
recommendation of diligence and success, which the report of
the labors of Father Dreuillettes bore, produced the establish-
ment of a regular mission.

He remained a faithful and efficient shepherd of the flock which
he had gathered into the gospel fold. In the character of an
envoy he twice journeyed to Boston to form, among other
objects, an alliance for the protection of the Cannibas and others
of tlie Abenakis against the invasion of their enemies the Iro-
quois. The Abenakis were, in fact, in 1652, the only nations
within the limits of French America, where the Iroquois had
not pushed their victories; but the ermiity of the latter was a
subject of most serious alarm to the former; and the apprehen-
sion they sutiered not only furnished them a strong inducement
to unite with tliC French, but also undoubtedly aided •■.he
missionary in gathering the harvest of his apostolical zeal. •

The duties of Father Dreuillettes called him from the Canmbas,
but he still sounded the " silver trumpet of the gospel" in remote
regions of the North/ By his eloquence, and the wonders which
he wrought, he extended far and wide, to use the language of
Catholicism, the glory and the kingdom of God. Cht:rlevoix has
preserved a specimen of his miracles, which either proves the
influence he had acquired over the imaginations even of the
French, or the instrumentality which he had, as an agent of an
overruling providence. The historian informs us that a lady,
Madame de Connoyer, had fallen into a languor which the
physicians could not cure; yet when the missionary did but
make the sign of the cross upon his forehead, the disease was
instantaneously dispelled. There is no doubt of the fact, as the
author who has recorded it, received it from Madame de Lientot.

Aware of the credit of this priest among the Abenakis, the
English flattered and caressed him with a view of securing the
benefit of his influence. Meanwhile the adroit ecclesiastic
received the incense with an accommodating condescension, but
went on, at the same time, in the power of his words and works
to advance his faith and diffuse that relirrioa whicli bound liis

434 . MAINE riisToracAL society.

proselytes to an iinforgiving hatred of their protestant nciglib.'r«.
Thus did the Frencli acquire the possession of that lever \v:;;ch
they could always use to impel the Abenakis to war, frutu the
time when civilization first cursed them with its presence, until it
triumphed by their extinction.


Of the mission of the Fathers Bigot, but little is recorded.
By a letter of Mons. Denonville it appears that Vincent Bigot,
in 168S, was at Penobscot for the purpose of gathering the
savages into a new village on the lands of the king of France,
arid to guard against the eftbrts of Governor Andros to draw
them to the English. And the same gentleman, in a memoir
addressed to the ^Minister of Marine, says that he owed to the
missionaries, particularly to the two Fathers Bigot, the good
intelligence he had preserved with the Abenakis, and the success
they had met with in their expeditions against the English.

Jaques Bigot, or Bigot the younorer, was probably the mis-
sionary at Kennebec, for when the Governor of New England
in 1699, proposed to treat with the savages there. Bigot repaired
to Montreal to inform Monsieur de Calligres of the fact and to
state to him the dispositions of the parties in regard to it. On
his representation de Callieres determined not to interpose. The
English made their proposition to the Cannibas, who in reply
avowed their attachment to the French, and declared that no
English habitation should stand upon their soil, and expressed
their determination not to change their missionaries, but to
support with their lives the religion they had taught them.

Charlevoix alleges that Vincent Bigot once accompanied the
Abenakis in an expedition against Xew England, and knowing
that on their return a large part}' was in pursuit, he endeavo.'-ed
to urge their flight. They replied that they did not fear the
English and refused to hasten their march. At last they were
overtaken by a force twenty times as numerous as their ov,a;
and, having placed the missionary in safety, they, with cool
intrepidity, engaged in battle, strewed the field with dead bodies.
and maintaining tlie fight during the whole day without the loi^3
of a man, compelled the enemy to retire.


These missionaries wore of the family of the Barons Bigots ;
and when we consider that eiroumstanco, and compare it with'
the life of more than patriarchal simplicity which Vincent led at
the established seat of his mission, we shall know how to
appreciate the apostolic zeal with which he was inspired. Al-
though often among the Abenakis of Maine, the place of his
residence was at the village of St. Francois, to which the
Governor of Canada had attracted many of the alert and
intrepid warriors of our tribes, to guard the important and
central settlement of Three Rivers from the incursions of the
Iroquois. The Father dwelt among them and devoted his life
to their conversion and guidance. His domicil was a rude cabin
of bark, his bed a bear skin spread upon the earth, his dishes
were taken from the birch tree, and his food was the sagamito
and the game which the savages furnished him.

■" • THURY.

In 16S7 the conquest of Acadia had carried the boundary of
New England as fur as the river St. Croix, and the condition of
the French prevented their resorting to force to recover a terri-
tory which had been yielded from weakness; but the savages
were too much exasperated by the intrusion of a conqueror, to
be able to resist an incitement to his destruction. There lived
among them, at Penobscot a man who sutfered not the torch of
discord to be extinguished, and knew as well how to inflame tlieir
martial fury as to kindle their spiritual fervor. He was the Jesuit,
Father Thury. In the year 1GS9, being sensible of the danger that
might result to the cause either of religion or his own ministry and
influence, he summoned the Indians to his chapel, and assuming
an air of the greatest affliction, made to them an address, in
which he portrayed an image of British ambition which fully
prepared them for his purpose. " ]\Iy children," said he, " when
fihall the rapacity of the unsparing Xew Englanders cease to
afflict you? and how long will you sulfer your lands to be
violated by the encroaching heretics? By tlie religion I have
tuught, by the liberty you luve, I exhort you to resist them. it.
H time for you to open your cye^ which have long been shut ; —


to rise from your mats and look to your arms and make the::.
once more brigiit. This land belonged to your fatliers, I,*-;;:
before tliese wicked men came over the great water, and arc you
ready to leave the bones of your ancestors, that the cattle t.f
heretics may eat grass on your graves? The Englishmen tliiiil;
and say to themselves, ' We have many cannon ; we have grnwn
strong while the red man has slept. While they are lying in
their cabins and do not see, we will knock them on the head;
we will destroy their women and children, and then shall wo
possess their land without fear, for there shall be none left to
revenge them.' !My children ! God commands 3^ou to shake tho
sleep from your eyes. The hatchet must be cleaned of its rust
to avenge him of his enemies and secure to you your rights.
Night, and day a continual prayer shall ascend to him for your
success; an unceasing rosary shall be observed till you return
covered with the glory of triumph.''

The savages were transported with all that fury of which tluy
are so susceptible; and a hundred warriors made a vow at tho
altar to march to Pemaquid, and never to return until they had
driven the English from the fort. They executed the resolution
with a sort of pious mania of courage, and twenty pieces of
cannon and a powerful garrison were surrendered to address ana
valor, as will be found more accurately traced in the history ot
this tragic event.


A great and memorable portion of the life of Father Sebastian
Rale was identified with the relations between the natives of
our State and the English, and with incidents which must always
be conspicuous on the pages of our early history. The faithful
attachment of the Indians to his person and his doctrines,
presented an insuperable barrier to the plans of occupancy and
domination which our forefathers prosecuted with regard to tho
country and its inhabitants, where lils intiuence extended ; an J
the English have charged upon his head the christian blood
which flowed in the wars in which these parties were engaged.
However groundless or well founded such a charge may be,
the churaotcr of the man is too remarkable, and the scenes iu

GOVERNOR Lincoln's papers. 437

wliich he was engaged too important, that he should be passed
\<y witliout especial notice, in regard to so much of his life as
was spent with the Abeuakis.

The Indian village where Father Eiile established his abode
was then called Xanrantsouak, and is now known by the name of
Norridgewock ;" and it certainly had, even then, some advantages
in its situation to compensate for his immense sacrifice, in the
abandonment of civilized society. It is seated near the conflu-
ence of the Sandy river with the Kennebec, on one of those
beautiful prairies or spots of alluvial ground, to which natui'e
seems to have invited the residence of man, as if to free him
from toil and to lavish upon him all the goods which spring from
fertility, and all the pleasure wiiich conversation with the finest
Bcenes of a romantic solitude can afford. Above, the rapids of
the Kennebec gave the unceasing music of a water-fall ; little
islands below studded the expanse at the confluence of the
streams, and. the horizon around rested on a gently waving line
of hills. To Quebec was a distance of more than five da3-s of
painful travel, and it was a journey of two days to the dwell-
ings of the English. The country around in every direction was
a wilderness inhabited only by savages. In this situation the
missionary determined to consecrate his life to the political and
spiritual services which he had been appointed to render ; and
began by building a church, supplied with all the decorations
and implements calculated to engage the imagination in the
pompous ceremonies and imposing worship of the catholic faith.
Above the village, at the head of the rapids of the Kennebec,
was a chapel dedicated to the most holy virgin, in which her
image in relief demanded the prayers of the savages as they
passed upward to the chase; and below, where the waters
rested on their quiet level, another chapel stood, dedicated to
the guardian angel of the tribe. The women contended with a
holy emulation in the embellishment of their sanctuary by all the
finery they possessed, and the chapels and the church wove
illumined by brilliant lights from the wax of the bayberries
gathered upon the islands of the sea. Forty youths in cassocks
and surplices officiated in performing the solemn functions around
the altar. Such was the machinery of tlie holy oflice among the


rude people of Xanrantsouak; and multitudinons procc3sio!i-»,
Bymbolical images, painting-s, and mysterious rites were co.a-
bined to arrest the eye and catch the fanc}' of the savage neo-
phytes. Every day was introduced by tne performance of mass,
and the evening was ushered in by prayer in their native tongue,
in which their zeal was excited by the chanting and recitation in
which they took part, while the frequent exhortations of the father
allowed no distraction of their attention, no suspension of their
piety, and no backslidings in tlieir faith. Dictator of the con-
sciences of his flock, where no envious rival, no jealous competi-
tor, no heretical teacher, could break into the fold, the temporal
concerns of their mortal welfare could not be kept from his hands;
and they looked to him for advice at the council fire on the policy
and arrangements for war, not less than for edification in the
principles of the religion of peace. Dependence and devoteJ-
ness were never more perfect, and never was a system adopted
better calculated to obtain and preserve them. The christianiz-
ing of these savages, the regularity of their observances, their
unreservedness of belief, was perfect; yet, what was the state of
their civilization? They were hunters and warriors still.

"While the Father Rale was enjoying the triumph of his zeal,
he received the intelligence in the year 1G97, that tlie Amalingans,
an unconverted people, were coming to settle within a day's
journey of his N'anrantsouaks; and he feared that his followers,

Online LibraryMaine Historical SocietyCollections of the Maine Historical Society (Volume 1, ser.1) → online text (page 38 of 52)