From the time of Jogues and Raymbault’s visit in 1642, Sault Sainte Marie was without a missionary, until in 1665 Father Claude Allouez arrived with a party of 400 Indians and traders who were journeying from the East. Allouez did not establish his headquarters here, but continued with the fleet of canoes to Keweenaw Bay, a place in Lake Superior from whence, as opportunity permitted, he visited the Redmen at the village by the Rapids. Finding the necessity, however, of a permanent station, Louis Nicolas was sent to join him and he became the first resident priest.
By 1668 a small white settlement of between 20 and 25 voyageurs had been formed, and this fact, together with Pere Allouez’ glowing description of the promising condition of the mission, may have induced the superior of the Jesuits to send to the Sault him who may justly be termed the Apostle of the district.
Pere Jacques Marquette, for such was this great man’s name, left Montreal April 21, 1668, to begin his work at the reclaimed mission.
He was a man in whose veins flowed the best blood of France, for, through many generations, had his ancestors as soldiers and statemen spent their lives for country and for king.
At that period, the youth of France looked longingly, for adventure, to the New World and the spirit permeated every class of society.
The soldier volunteered eagerly to help in its conquest.
The trader saw there a mint of profit from the furs, while the novices in the colleges, to whom the stories of atrocities and barbarism came, thirsted to be allowed to join the number of those who, as suffering preachers, were to win undying glory and renown.
Having been selected for the new country’s conversion, Marquette set sail in a little craft with a number of others and not long after his arrival he began his journey westward.
In birch bark canoes, kneeling, on rushes all alike white man and red, bending to the paddles, the party sped away up the waters, and after many days reached its destination. Here Allouez had come to meet them, and as quickly as possible a location was chosen and preparations made for the building of a station.
The dense forest of the south shore where they had landed afforded the best of pine and cedar for the work.
First was erected a chapel where the sacrifice that had been offered once for all on Calvary might daily be pleaded before the throne of God, and Marquette, in the hope of appealing more strongly to the natives, adorned its rude walls with sundry pictures of doctrinal meaning.
A house was also built for the Fathers, both fur their own abode and for the entertainment of travellers, for this was ever regarded by them a sacred duty, while necessity also existed for a room other than the chapel where Indians could be dealt with who came to enquire the ” Way of Salvation.” The ground about the tiny ” post’. was ploughed and sown with wheat, peas and corn in the hope that the Indians observing the advantages of having crops, would follow the example of the Fathers.
In these days of medical missionaries, whose splendid exploits fill us with admiration, it may be well not to forget that priest-physicians in the persons of such men as Father Drouillette at Sault Sainte Marie, and Father Gamier among the Hurons, were at work centuries ago healing the diseased in body as well as those who were sick of soul.
The chapel and community house having been finished, the whole was surrounded with a strong stockade of cedar twelve feet high as a means of protection, should the necessity arise, and the whole occupied a position as nearly as may be determined, at the point where, in the American town, Bingham avenue and Water street cross to-day (1903).
If these men truly sought hardship they as truly found it in the place wherein their lot had fallen.
In the Relation of 1666-67 le Mercier, writing of the whole district, says :
” Toil, famine, scarcity of all things. ill-treatment from the Barbarians and mockery from the Idolators form the most precious portion of these mrssrons.
” We have to bear everything from their bad humour and their brutality in order to win them by gentleness and affection. One must make himself in some sort a Savage with these Savages and lead a Savage’s life with them and live sometimes on a moss that grows on the rocks, sometimes on pounded fish bonesa substitute for flourand sometimes on nothingpassing three or four days without eating as they do whose stomachs are inured to these hardships ” *
It was at this time that Sault Sainte Marie took its final name.
* Quoted from Thwaite’s ” Life of Marquette.”
Till then it had been known as Sault du Gaston,
Tradition, fondly held by some of the old people, tells how, overcome with weariness, vexation and disappointment, the Fathers, soon after their arrival, faltered in their work, but night brought to one of the little community a vision of the Blessed Virgin who gave assurance of protection and bade all take heart.
After such an event it was only right that something should be done by way of commemoration, and so the name was changed from Sault du Gaston to that of Sault Sainte Marie.
The probability is, however, that the name was given merely because the mission had now become firmly established and the Virgin invoked as the interceding saint.
There came with Marquette, in r668, a young artificer, the very kind of man for a newly opening country.
He was a lay brother, Louis le Boeme, or Bohesme, who became armorer and blackmith, jeweller, lay brother, and, at times garrison to the mission, as when in 1674 he manned the cannon against the Sioux who sought to avenge the death of one of their number.
Louis made crosses and candlesticks among other things, and may be considered the pioneer manufacturer of the West.
Father Dablon arrived in the summer of 1669 to succeed Allouez as Superior of the mission, and in his letter to le Mercier at Quebec, he describes the settlement, the Indians and the fishing.
Up to this time no religious order, save that of the Jesuits, had sought to penetrate into the Great Lake district, but in f 670 Fathers Dollier and Galinee were fitted out by the Sulpitians of Montreal and left with La Salle’s expedition just as Midsummer drew near. La Salle in the course of the trip changed his plans, and the Sulpitians came on alone, arriving at the Sault on the 25th of May.
Here they w ere received by Dablon and Marquette who, although treating them most hospitably, showed unmistakably that they wished no interference from them or from anyone else.
Three days did they sojourn in the mission and then took their departure, not with Indians to the West as they had hoped, but under a French guide back whence they came.
With the unreasonable spirit, born no doubt of eagerness for the triumph of the cause, but which has unfortunately characterized the religious enthusiasts of every age, Galin& criticized severely the apparent lack of results as noticed in his three days visit. He says that ” though the Jesuits had baptized a few Indians at the ‘ Sault,’ not one of them was a good enough Christian to receive the Eucharist,” and he intimates that the case by their own showing was even worse at St. Esprit. Little did he appreciate the difficulties under which his brethern wrought.
It has already been mentioned that Radisson and Groseilliers passed up some years previous to this. Then they were thinking of the interests of France, but a change had taken place. A British company had since been formed with headquarters in London, a company which was destined to play a very considerable part in the history of Canada. It was called ” The Governor and Company of Adventurers of England Trading in Hudson’s Bay,” but was most popularly known as the Hudson’s Bay Company. This organization engaged Radisson and his brother in-law Groseillers as the men who were best acquainted with the country and as those who had the greatest authority among the natives and it was as the inauguration of a policy to offset their power that caused Talon, the Intendant, to send Daumont de St. Lusson and his band of soldiers and gentlemen in 1676 t to take formal possession of the whole western land in the name of Louis XIV. of France.
The scene was set at Sault Sainte Marie. Nicolas, Perrot, a young voyageur of twenty-six years, who had formerly been attached to the Jesuits, went to act as interpreter. He was not only courageous but enterprising and as well a man of good address. He spoke the Algonquin fluently and was regarded with affection by the Indians of many tribes.
St. Lusson wintered at the Manitoulin Islands while his trusty lieutenant went for many miles in every direction where natives would likely be and summoned them to the parley to take place at the Sault.
Everywhere he was received right royally. At one place, Green Bay, the tribe received him with a sham battle and an exhibition of their game of lacrosse. ”
When the winter slackened and the ice broke up, Perrot and a number of Sacs Winnebagoes and Mennominies started for the rendevous where they arrived May the fifth, 1671.
Saint Lusson and his men, fifteen in number, had alrea reached the Sault and the Indians fast returning from the winter hunting grounds thronged the beach.
Two thousand braves, representing fourteen distinct tribes, had gathered before the Frenchmen prepared to carry out their design.
On the fourteenth of June, the little host, with flags unfurled and swords drawn, marched out from the mission gate and took its stand on the brow of the hill. Following the soldiers, whose splendid uniforms and flashing weapons. fascinated the Indians, paced solemnly the Black Robes, the Wa-mit-ig-oshe, as the Redmen were pleased to term them, Claude Dablon, Gabriel Druillette, Claude Allouez and Louis Andre, arrayed in their robes of office, to take part in the ceremony. The natives followed after and when the party halted, ” crouched around with eyes and ears intent.”
A large cross of wood had been made ready, and Dablon now stepped forward and blessed it, while firm hands raised it and planted it firmly in the ground.
With one accord the Frenchmen uncovered and upon the charmed ears of the Indians there fell the sweet sounds of St. Bernard’s hymn, known as the Vexilla Regis.
The Royal Banners forward go,
The Cross shines forth in mystic glow, Where He in Flesh, our flesh Who made, Our sentence bore, our ransom paid.
The whilst He hung, His sacred Side By soldier’s spear was opened wide, To cleanse us in the precious flood Of Water mingled with His Blood.
Fulfilled is now what David told
In true prophetic song of old,
How God the heathen’s King should be ; For God is reigning from the Tree.
O Tree of glory, Tree most fait, Ordained those Holy Limbs to bear, How bright in purple robe it stood, The purple of a Saviour’s Blood !
Upon its arms, like balance true,
He weighed the price for sinners due, The price which none but He could pay, And spoiled the spoiler of his prey.
To Thee, Eternal THREE in ONE, Let homage meet by all be done ; As by the Cross Thou dost restore,
So rule and guide us evermore. Amen.
A post of cedar wood was then planted with a metal plate attached on which were engraven the royal arms, during which ceremony was chanted the Exaudiat, and one of the Fathers uttered a prayer for the king.
The Commandant now advanced, and holding his sword in one hand he raised with the other a sod of earth and proclaimed : ” In the name of the Most High, Mighty and Redoubted Monarch Louis, Fourteenth of that name, Most Christian King of France and Navarre, I take possession of this place Sainte Marie du Sault as also of Lakes Huron and Superior, the Island of Manitoulin and all countries, rivers, lakes and streams contiguous and adjacent thereuntoboth those which have been discovered and those which may be discovered hereafter, in all their length and breadth, bounded on the one side by the seas of the North and West, and on the other by the South Sea, declaring to the nations thereof that from this time forth they are vassals of his Majesty, bound to obey his laws and follow his customs, promising them on his part all succour and protection against the incursions and invasions of their enemies, declaring to all other potentates, princes, sovereigns, states and republicsto them and to their subjectsthat they cannot and are not to seize or settle upon any parts of the aforesaid countries, save only under the good pleasure of His Most Christian Majesty and of him who will govern in his behalf, and this on pain of incurring his resentment and the efforts of his arms. Vive le Roi.”
The Frenchmen fired their guns and shouted, and the Indians mingled their cries with the tumult hardly knowing why they did so.
The ceremony of taking possession having been completed, Father Allouez harangued the Indians, and his words have been preserved for us in the Relations of 1671.
Then arose and stepped forward Chief Ke-chene-zuh-yauh, the old warrior from Lake Superior. He was viewed with profound veneration by all his people, who acknowledged him as head of the nation.
As he approached the centre of the open space, Saint Lusson produced a golden heart which he placed on the breast of the ancient brave as a symbol that so did the great French King entrust his confidence to the keeping of his faithful allies.
Addressing the Indians the envoy exclaimed :
Each morning you will look toward the rising sun and you will see the fire of your French father reflecting toward you and your people. If you are in trouble you must arise and cry with your far sounding voice, and I will hear you The fire of your French father will last forever to warm and comfort his children.” t
A treaty, which had been previously drawn up, was now produced and, with much ceremony, signed,and it may be interesting to know the names of those who witnessed the signing of the document.
According to Margry, they were Dablon, Druillette, Allouez, Andre, Nicolas Perrot, Sieur Joliet, Jacques Mogras, Pierre Moreau, Sieur de la Taupine, Denis Masse, Francois de Chavigny, Sieur de la Chevrottiere, Jacques Lagillier, Jean Maysere, Nicolas Dupuis, Francois Biband, Jacques Joviel, Pierre Porteret, Robert Duprat, Vital Driol, William Bonhomme.
So much for the splendid function. Saint Lusson, happy in the belief that he had accomplished much, departed immediately on a tour of observation on Lake Superior, and returning soon afterward missed the cedar post and the plate with the arms of France.
In answer to his inquiries he was told that immediately on his departure the post was uprooted and the plate torn off and carried away, nor could his informant give a reason for the Indians’ action.
Some day, mayhap, a settler, ploughing his field where now stands the virgin forest, will turn up with his plough point a ragged green shield and will hasten off on the first opportunity to some one who can possibly explain it.
The numismatist will hold it reverently before him and exclaim as the truth downs upon him, 4 These are the arms, the crest of France and the plate Saint Lusson nailed to the post in 1671 at Sainte Marie du Sault.
Earnestly now did the Fathers toil in their efforts to Christianize the Savages. Up and down the country, by land and water, in canoes and on foot they journeyed, but success was not to be.
Once more the furious Iroquois advanced to ravage the land. In terror the Ojibways fled before them, yet for a time, in spite of all, the Jesuits held on, but the end finally came. In 1689 the mission was abandoned, the priests passed from the scene and with their departure disappeared from St. Mary’s Rapids the influence of settled white men for a time.