Philip Schaff.

The American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 9) online

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found seven or eight English trading-posts, and to visit
the Capuchins on the Penobscot, who received him with
the kindness due to a brother religious. Early in the
summer of 1647 he returned to Quebec to report to his
superiors and get recruits for the mission.

A study of the geography of Maine will give the reason
why the French authorities were anxious to attach the
Abenakis and cultivate missions among them. The St.
John and the Penobscot run up very close to the St.
Lawrence ; the head-waters of the Kennebec are inter-
woven with those of La Chaudiere, which fiow^s into the
St. Lawrence. It was of the last importance for the
French to seize and hold these water-routes. The Nor-
ridgewock band of the Abenakis, who lived on the Ken-
nebec, and the kindred bands on the Penobscot, the St.
Croix, and the St. John, if securely allied to the French,
would be a living barrier against English intrusion and
Iroquois irruption in this direction. There was no better
means to keep them true to France than to make them
children of the church and to station missionaries among


It was three years before Druillettes returned. Prob-
ably the Jesuits of Canada were short of subjects, and older
missions claimed their attention. Another probable reason
may be deduced from an entry in the Journal of the
superior of the Jesuits. It is there stated that the Capu-
chins of the Penobscot had mildly protested against the
intrusion of the Jesuits into their territory. But shortly
after, owing to political dissensions and troubles among
the colonists of the Penobscot that threatened the closing
up of their missions, the Capuchins reconsidered the step
and begged the Jesuits to resume charge of the Indians of
the Kennebec. In the autumn of 1650 Druillettes again
descended the river and arrived at Norridgewock, to the
joy of the Indians. This time he came not only as a mis-
sionary, but also as a political envoy charged with the
negotiation of a treaty. The colony of Massachusetts had
asked for reciprocity of trade with Canada. The authori-
ties at Quebec were willing on one condition — an offensive
and defensive alliance against the Iroquois. Since the
EngHsh commonwealth claimed jurisdiction over the Ken-
nebec Indians, it was its plain duty to protect them against
their sleepless foes. Druillettes was an envoy of Quebec
and of the Abenaki nation to negotiate the treaty. While
his friend Winslow forwarded to Boston notice of the mis-
sionary's embassy, the work of instructing and converting
went on at Norridgewock.

In November he started for the Puritan stronghold,
whose chief object in colonizing was " to raise a bulwark
against the kingdom of Antichrist, which the Jesuits labor
to rear up in all places of the world " — the Puritan strong-
hold that just three years before had enacted *' that Jesuits
entering the colony should be expelled, and if they re-
turned, hanged.'' But the Puritans chose to see in him
not the Jesuit, but the ambassador. He was welcomed


and feted everywhere. Edward Gibbons gave him hospi-
tahty and a room wherein to say mass ; Governor Dudley
had him as guest of honor at a dinner graced by the
magistrates ; Governor Bradford, of Plymouth, also enter-
tained him at dinner, and, as it was Friday, provided fish
for him ; Eliot lodged him for a night at Roxbury and
showed him his Indian pupils ; Endicott, at Salem, sympa-
thized with the purpose of his embassy, and advanced him
money for his return voyage; and Druillettes himself, we
fancy, kept his eyes open and compared the young, bus-
tling, freedom-loving colonies with the feudal colony on the
St. Lawrence. He returned to Quebec in June without
any definite answer, but with the hope that the object of
his mission would meet with success in the near future.

The governor of Quebec and his council heard his
report and sent him back to meet the Commissioners of
the Four Colonies assembled in New Haven (165 i). The
Catholic priest pleaded before the assembly — a strange
meeting indeed — for a brotherhood of the European nations
settled on American soil, and for combined action against
the heathen power of the Iroquois. It was in vain. The
bait of free trade failed to bring the Puritans to sacrifice
their strongest bulwark against French power. Druillettes
went back to Canada to report his failure, nor did he ever
again revisit his Indian flock on the Kennebec.

For thirty-six years — that is to say, from 1652, date of
Druillettes' last visit to the Kennebec, until 1688 — the
mission work of Maine was interrupted, or rather no mis-
sionary resided among the Abenakis. However, frequent
visits of the Indians to missions on the St. Lawrence kept
them in constant contact with the French and the Jesuits.
A certain number of the Abenakis, in order to be under
French protection and near their Christian teachers, emi-
grated to Sillery and fixed their residence in that mission.


Subsequently they were transferred to the mission of St.
Francis, on the Chaudiere River. These had great influ-
ence over their fellow-tribesmen in Maine, and were ever
ready to give them hospitality on their visits to the French
settlements and authorities, and to take part with them in
their wars. The distance from St. Francis to the Abenaki
villages on the Kennebec was but a two-weeks' journey.
This condition of things explains how Christianity was
maintained among them in spite of the absence of a mis-

In 1688 the Maine missions were reopened at three
points — at Norridgewock on the Kennebec, at Pentagoet
on the Penobscot, on the St. John River at its mouth.
The Jesuits took charge of the Kennebec tribe, the Semi-
nary of Quebec of the Penobscot, the Recollects of the
Micmacs on the St. John. As the work of the latter lay
mostly to the north of the river, outside the limits of the
United States, we dismiss it. The Seminary of Quebec
after a few years surrendered its post on the Penobscot.
By the year 1 700 all the Indians in Maine were in charge
of the Society of Jesus, and most of them at that time
were Christians.

When the war known in Europe as the War of the
Spanish Succession, and in America as Queen Anne's
War, broke out, the Maine Indians very naturally sided
with the French, to whom they were bound by ties of
religion and trade. It was in vain that Dudley, governor
of Massachusetts, attempted in May, i 702, at the meeting
of Casco, to bring the Abenaki chiefs to an attitude of
neutrality; in a few weeks, war, burning, desolation, and
death raged all along the frontier. Few incidents in our
border history and Indian wars are more pathetic than the
attacks on Deerfield and Haverhill. Nothing in all our his-
tory more than the cruelties of this war filled the Ameri-


cans with greater hatred for the French missionaries, whom
they held responsible, though without ground, for the
fierceness with which Canadians and Indians waged war
on the defenseless colonists, respecting neither age nor
sex. To the same source may be attributed that contempt
for the Indian, that dogged determination to exterminate
the race, that have characterized the Puritan and placed
him in such unenviable contrast to the New Yorker,
Dutch and English, the Pennsylvanian, the Marylander,
and the Southern colonists.

This terrible war was ended (17 13) by the Peace of
Utrecht, which was no less important for America than it
was momentous for Europe. It gave to England large
concessions of territory hitherto considered as French, and
in so far was the entering wedge that split and shattered
the American empire of France. England obtained the
entire possession of Hudson's Bay, of New^foundland,
and of Nova Scotia or Acadia " according to its ancient
boundaries " ; and France acknowledged that the Five
Nations were subject to the protectorate of Great Britain.
This latter concession was big with important conclusions,
which were drawn and made practical at a later date.
The cession of Acadia '' according to its ancient bound-
aries " raised immediately the question, Which are the
ancient boundaries ? The St. Croix, said the French, and
therefore the territory between the Kennebec and the St.
Croix was not ceded ; in other words, the Treaty of Utrecht
did not give Maine to the British crown. The Kennebec,
said the English, and therefore not only the territory now
called Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, but also what is
now known as Maine, was ceded by the Peace of Utrecht
to England; and therefore not only the Five Nations, but
the Abenaki tribes also, were English subjects.

To solve this and other disputed questions, commis-


sioners were appointed by both countries who held many
meetings ; but no sokition was found until the war of 1744.
While France and England were fighting over maps and
charts and relations of early voyagers, to decide which was
in possession of Maine, the Abenakis themselves came for-
ward with the assertion that they alone were the rightful
owners of their land, and backed their claim by a war of
their own making against the English encroachers on their
domain. That they were sustained in this struggle by the
government of Canada cannot be denied when one studies
the original documents of Paris, New York, and Massa-
chusetts. That the Jesuits instigated the war; that they
sacrificed to their national sympathies and the political
interests of France the lessons of Christianity, the spiritual
interests of their flock ; and that they used their power over
their neophytes only to drive back the English colonists
and hold the Abenaki country as a buffer between the
Protestant colonies and Catholic Canada, cannot be proved
by any original authorities worthy the serious considera-
tion of a grave and impartial critic.

The missionary on the Kennebec at this time was one
who in life attracted the hatred of the English colonists,
for whom France and Catholicity were one and equally
inimical to their interests; who in death is still the target
of historical hates hardly less fierce. Sebastien Rale, born
in Franche-Comte, France, in 1657, came to the American
missions in 1689, at the age of thirty-two. After spend-
ing some time among the Abenaki immigrants in Canada
and on the Illinois beyond Lake Michigan, he was sent to
the Abenakis of the Kennebec, where he was pursuing mis-
sionary work when Queen Anne's War broke out. Near
the present village of Norridgewock, at a point known then
as Narantsouac and now as Indian Old Point, stood his
church. Here he lived and labored for a quarter of a



century. We have from himself, in letters to his brother
and his nephew, a detailed description of his life, than
which nothing more apostolic can be found in the history
of the church. He was familiar with several Indian lan-
guages of the Algonquin family, and knew Abenaki so
thoroughly that he wrote a very complete dictionary of it,
the manuscript of which is still preserved in Harvard and
was published in 1833.

During the war the villages on the Penobscot were
raided by Major Church, and those on the Kennebec by
Major Hilton (1704-05). Not only were the habitations
destroyed, but the church of Father Rale was burned and
its sacred contents stolen and profaned. On the conclusion
of peace the governor of Massachusetts offered to rebuild
the church if the Indians would dismiss the French mis-
sionary and receive a Puritan minister. Evidently the
governor was not familiar with the temper of the Christian
Indian. His offer was scorned. The government of Can-
ada rebuilt the church, and it was so goodly in size and
style that, according to Rale himself, it might have passed
muster in Europe. At the time there was another church
in Maine, on the Penobscot, somewhat above the present
Castine, in charge of Father Lauverjat.

This was the condition of the missions in Maine when,
soon after the Peace of Utrecht, the Abenakis were in-
formed that France had abandoned them and had ceded
their country to England. As if to prove the truth of the
news, not only were the English villages destroyed during
the war restored, but the Kennebec was crossed, new
English settlements and trading-posts were planted on its
eastern bank, and forts were raised. But the Abenaki
chiefs did not recognize the right of France to give away
what God had made theirs — their country ; and tlierefore
denied the Englishman's right to occupy it, Canada,


it is true, could not openly side with them in a war for
their right of possession, since there was peace between
France and England ; but Canada could secretly encourage
and help them to maintain an independence which was of
sovereign importance to the integrity of the St. Lawrence.
The colony of Massachusetts was well aware that, if it
would have its own way with the Abenakis, the first step
was to get rid of the French missionaries, especially of
Father Rale. As a direct demand had been more than
once made on the Indians for his dismissal and had been
refused, only two ways remained to encompass the end —
competition or violence. Competition was first tried. A
Protestant minister, the Rev. Joseph Baxter, was sent to
the tribe to counteract, and in due course of time to de-
stroy, the influence of the Catholic priest. Parkman very
frankly says . '* With no experience of Indian life or knowl-
edge of any Indian language, he entered the lists against
an adversary who spent half his days among savages, had
gained the love and admiration of the Norridgewock, and
spoke their language fluently. Baxter, with the confidence
of a novice, got an interpreter and began to preach, exhort,
and launch sarcasms against the doctrines and practices of
the Roman Church. Rale came to the rescue of his flock.
* My Christians,' said he, ' believe the truths of the Catho-
lic faith, but are not skillful disputants.' " Thereupon, on
behalf of his neophytes, he entered the field of controversy,
and sent Baxter a long defense of Catholic doctrines. The
paper was in Latin. To prepare an answer and put the
answer in Latin, Baxter found it convenient to go to
Boston. The answer was short, and, says Rale in a letter
to his brother, " of a style so obscure and a Latinity so
outlandish that I had to read it more than once to get at
its meaning. I finally made out that he complained of my
baseless attack on him, and that my arguments were ridicu-


lous and puerile. I rejoined in a second letter showing up
his mistakes. After two years I got answer that evidently
I was of a scornful and critical temper and was incHned to
anger." So ended and failed the attempt at competition.

The attempt at violence came in a short time. Several
Indian chiefs, at the instigation of the colonial authorities,
were sent to Boston as deputies to arrange amicably the
difficulties between the tribe and the commonwealth. They
were detained in Boston as prisoners, or rather as hostages,
not to be given up until certain outrages perpetrated on
the colonists, and valued at two hundred beaver-skins,
were made good. The Indians — not that they owned to
the outrages and the obligation to compensate for them,
but that they wished for the freedom and return of their
chiefs — paid the required indemnity. Notwithstanding,
the hostages were detained. To this violation of good faith
another injury was added. A war-chief, Baron de St. Cas-
tin — French on his father's side, and as such holding from
the court of Paris a commission as governor of Pentagoet ;
Indian on his mother's side, and as such a true Abenaki
and a chief among them — was seized by stealth and carried
ofif to Boston, where he was treated as a traitor to the
English crown, though he was at last set at liberty, for the
reason that the Indians were aroused and had begun to
burn and kill along the border,

A price was set on Rale's head to tempt the Indians, but
without avail. Finally, in midwinter. Colonel Westbrook,
at the head of three hundred men, pounced suddenly down
on Norridgewock at a time when the warriors were away
and Rale was in the village with only the old, the women,
and the children. The fatlier, warned of the enemy's ap-
proach by some Indians who had seen them coming, had
time to consume the consecrated hosts, which he dreaded
to leave to profanation, and escaped to the woods, where


he was not discovered, though his pursuers came within a
few feet of him. His papers fell into the hands of West-
brook, and are still preserved in the archives of Massa-
chusetts. Parkman makes the assertion that they prove
beyond all doubt that he had acted as an agent of the
Canadian authorities in exciting his flock against the Eng-
lish. And yet he specifies but one letter from Vaudreuil
to Rale expressing great satisfaction at the missionary's
success in uniting the Indians against the English. If this
be the only premise he has for his conclusion, there is more
in the conclusion than in the premise. Bancroft contents
himself with saying, *' The correspondence with Vaudreuil
proved a latent hope of establishing the power of France
on the Atlantic."

Exasperated by all these insults, the Abenakis resolved
to wage a war of extermination. They sent deputies to
carry the hatchet and chant the war- song among their
friends and allies along the St. Lawrence. The burning of
settlements and murdering of settlers went on with great-
est cruelty. Rale clearly foresaw that in the end the red
men must be conquered. By his advice many families
withdrew to the Christian missions on the Canadian
border, though this policy did not at all suit that of Vau-
dreuil and the Canadian authorities, who were unwilling
to abandon to the English the rivers of Maine, whose
head-waters were so close to the St. Lawrence To the
solicitations of his neophytes to seek safety in flight, ac-
company the refugees to the Canadian missions, and leave
the warriors to deal with the English, Rale opposed a con-
stant refusal ; he would remain at his post until the very

In July, I 722, the government of Massachusetts declared
formal war against the Abenakis and raised troops. In
March, 1723, Westbrook fell on the Indian settlement of



the Penobscot, probably Old Town, above Bangor, and set
fire to the village. The fort, every house, and the church
where ministered Father Lauverjat were consumed. In
August, 1724, Norridgewock was surprised by two hun-
dred and eight men under Colonel Moulton. The Indians
did not become aware of the presence of the English until
the first volley had been fired within the streets of the
village. Fifty warriors — all that were at home — rushed
out in disorder, not so much to defend themselves as to
give time to the non-combatants to flee to the woods. In
the same spirit of heroic self-sacrifice, Rale, well aware
that he was the one prey the English were in search of,
came forward to draw their attention from his flock to
himself. At sight of him a great yell went up from the
English ranks ; he fell, riddled with bullets, at the foot of
the great cross on the village square. When the invaders
retired and the Indians came back from their hiding-places
to care for the wounded and bury the dead. Rale's body
was found " mangled by many blows, scalped, his skull
broken in several places, his mouth and eyes filled with
dirt." So Bancroft describes the work of the English, or
of the Indians that accompanied them.

Thus died one of the noblest members of the heroic band
of North American Jesuits, worthy compeer of Jogues,
Bressani, Brebeuf, and many another martyr. The story
of Rale's death comes to us from the account given by the
superior of the Jesuits at Quebec, Father La Chasse, in a
letter to the Jesuits of France, dated October 29, i 724, a few
months after the event. No doubt he had the story from
eye-witnesses, the Abenakis engaged in the fight, *' who
are," says Parkman, *' notorious liars where their interest
and self-love are concerned." But what interest and self-
love of theirs are particularly concerned in Rale's death?
Why call them "notorious liars" when on the very same

144 ^^^ ROMAN CATHOLICS. [Chap. x.

page we read, '' Rale exercised a humanizing influence
over his flock ; the war was marked by fewer barbarities,
fewer tortures, mutilations of the dead, butcheries of
women and infants, than either of the preceding wars " ?
If he could turn these savages into civilized belligerents he
could also have taught them love of truth. To call, in a
gloriously sweeping style, the eye-witnesses of Rale's
death *' notorious liars " is to poison the wells of evidence ;
for the nonce the historian has forgotten himself in the
special pleader.

The war went on for some months. But at last the
Indians, who, though instigated, were not supported by the
French, became painfully aware that they were excelled
by the English even in their own method of warfare, and
concluded a peace (August, i 726) that was long and faith-
fully maintained. They became the subjects of England ;
but they did not for that reason renounce their religion,
thus proving that it was a mistake on the part of the
Canadian authorities to think that their fidelity to Rome
was bound up with their fidelity to Versailles; that the
moment they should escape the French protectorate they
would fall away from Catholicity. The history of the
Abenakis thenceforth pro\'es the contrary.

After the peace the village of Norridgewock was dis-
persed. One hundred and fifty of the tribe emigrated to
Canada, and the remainder found refuge among the other
tribes of Maine. The Penobscot settlement rose from its
ashes ; its chapel was rebuilt, and remained under the care
of Father Lauverjat until he was driven away by the im-
morahties and persecution of the half-breed St. Castines.
In 1730 Norridgewock also rose from its ashes. Indians
from other parts of Maine and from the missions of St.
Francis and Becancour on the St. Lawrence returned to
the Kennebec, and a missionary, Father James de Syresne,


or SIrenne, came from Quebec to reside among them.
From Norridgewock he extended his visits and care to all
the tribes of Maine.

After Father De Sirenne, Father Germain, residing at
St. Ann, on the St. John River, near the present Frederick-
ton, visited the Catholics throughout Maine. For many
years after i 760 the Indians remained without a mission
ary. The stern laws of the Puritan colonies against the
church were in force. Perhaps, for all we know, priests
from Canada made stealthy visits to the scattered Catholic
Indians, and no doubt the Indians made frequent visits
to the Canadian missions. The parents baptized and in-
structed their children. Every Sunday, morning and even-
ing, they assembled in the chapels of their various vil-
lages, and before the priestless altars chanted the mass
and vespers, the Gregorian melodies being handed down
from generation to generation. Thus without priest those
faithful red men kept the faith under circumstances that
would have annihilated religion among the whites. Out-
side of Japan I know nothing more admirable in the his-
tory of Christianity than the perseverance of the Abenakis
in the faith of the early missionaries.

When the War of Independence came on, the Indians
of Maine joined the army of Washington. The Penobscot
chief, Orono, bore a commission which he ennobled by his
bravery. Nor in his wanderings through the colonies did
he or his followers forget their religion. To all invitations
to join in Protestant worship they made answer, " We
know our religion and love it ; we know nothing of you
and yours." When in 1775 they met at Watertown the
council of Massachusetts to agree as to their action in the
war, the chief, Ambrose Var, after the political object of
the meeting had been disposed of, addressed the commis-
sioners in these words : ** We want a black gown, or French


priest. Jesus we pray to, and we will not hear any prayer
that comes from Old England." The council expressed
willingness to get them a priest ; but not knowing where
to find one, could only offer them a minister, an offer most
sternly declined. What a strange scene ! Here was a
colony that had made it a felony for a priest to visit the
Abenakis, that had sought and taken the life of Rale at the

Online LibraryPhilip SchaffThe American church history series, consisting of a series of denominational histories published under the auspices of the American Society of Church History; (Volume 9) → online text (page 12 of 40)