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History of Monroe County





The early European adventurers found these regions in the possession of numerous tribes of savages, divided into seperate communities and speaking various languages, but having a general resemblance in their manners and customs, their religion, government and institutions. Much labor and research have been devoted to the study of their origin and migrations. That they are branches of the great Tartar stock is generally believed at the present day. Many points of resemblance, both physical and moral, leave little doubt upon the subject. But why, or when, or where the separation occurred, or by what route, or in what manner they were conducted from the plains of Asia to those of America, it were vain to inquire, and impossible to tell.


Three centuries have elapsed, since Jacques Cartier, the first European adventurer who ascended the St. Lawrence, that great artery of these regions, landed upon the Island of Montreal, then called Hochelaga. He found it in the possession of a branch of the Wyandotte * stock of Indians, who had not long before subdued the more ancient inhabitants, and established themselves in their place. The slight record which the historians of this expedition has left, of the appearance and situation of the primitive people who occupied this continent before us, and whose descendants still occupy it with us, leave little room to doubt, that in all the essential features of character and condition, this branch of the human family has been as stationary as any whose records are known to

That the coming of the white man among them has on the whole heen injurious, there is too much reason to believe. But those day dreams of Arcadian innocence and peace, which assigned to the Indian every moral and physical blessing till he was stripped of them by the Christian spoiler, exist only where sentimental heads and warm hearts contemplate the picture formed by their own imaginations. It is only necessary in


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* Early writers spell this word Wyandot; the present form is preferred.


confirmation of the general position, to state that the various tribes were continually in a state of relentless warfare which could have no other termination than the destruction of one of the parties engaged in it.

Cartier was the pioneer, but Champlain was the founder of the French power upon this continent as Maissoneuve was the founder of Montreal (1641). For twenty years succeeding the commencement of the seventeenth century, he was zealously employed in planting and rearing upon the banks of the St. Lawrence that infant colony, which was destined to extend its branches to these shores, and finally to contest with its great rival Great Britain, the sovereignty of North America. Champlain displayed, in his adventurous life, traits of heroism, selfdevotion, and perseverance which, under more favorable circumstances, would have placed him in the ranks of those whose deeds are the landmarks of history.

The progress of these settlements, their alternations of prosperity and adversity are peculiarly interesting to us, only as they exhibit the grad ual and successive steps, by which a knowledge of these inland seas, and of the countries around them, was acquired, and the settlements established and extended. As the tide of French power flows toward this peninsula we become more anxious to trace its purposes and progress, and to inquire into the motives and means of the hardy adventurers, who were every year ascending, still farther and farther, the boundless waters before them. It was early discovered, that a profitable traffic in furs could be carried on with the Indians, and the excitement of gain prompted those engaged in it, to explore every avenue, by which the camps and hunting grounds of the Indians could be approached. A better and nobler feeling, too, brought to this work a body of learned and pious men, who left behind them their own world, with all its pleasures and attachments, and sought, in the depths of remote and unknown regions, objects for the exercises of their zeal and piety. The whole history of human character furnishes no more illustrious examples of self-devotion, than are to be found in the records of the establishments of the Roman Catholic missionaries, whose faith and fervor enabled them to combat the difficulties around them in life, or to triumph over them in death.


The ordinary sufferings and hardships endured by the devoted Jesuit Fathers were small compared to the horrible tortures and unbelievable torments suffered at the hands of the bloodthirsty and inhuman Iroquois in the seventeenth century in the wilderness of Michigan. There is one statement by a coadjutor brother in the archives of Canada at Ottawa, written in French, a translation of which I have been permitted to copy. Neither the truth nor the authenticity of this “veritable account” can be doubted, and probably scores of other instances could be gathered confirming the impression and belief that the Iroquois tribe of Indians were fiends in human form, who killed for the pleasure of killing and derived pleasure from witnessing the sufferings of victims. This is a horrible and repulsive chronicle, that defies all efforts to reconcile it with the traditions of the Indian race as anything but noble. This is the only tribe which appears to have possessed the ferocity of malignant hatred toward the white race.

“Veritable Account of the martyrdom and most happy death of Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel L'Allemant in New France, in the country of the Hurons, by the Iroquois enemies of the Faith.”

“Father Jean de Brebeuf and Father Gabriel L'Allemant had set out from our cabin to go to a small bourg called St. Ignace, distant from our cabin about a short quarter of a league, to instruct the savages and the new Christians in that bourg.

It was on the 16th day of March, in the morning, that we perceived a great fire at the place to which these two good fathers had gone. The fire made us very uneasy. We did not know whether it was enemies, or if the fire had taken in some of the huts of the village. The Rev. Father Paul Ragenau, our superior, immediately resolved to send some one to learn what might be the cause. But no sooner had we formed the design of going there to see, than we perceived several savages on the road coming straight towards us.

We all thought it was the Iroquois who were coming to attack us, but having considered them more closely, we perceived that it was Hurons, who were flying from the fight and who had escaped from the combat. These poor savages caused great pity in us. They were all covered with wounds; one had his head fractured ; another had his hand cut off by a blow from an axe. In fine, the day was passed receiving into our huts all these poor wounded people and in looking with compassion towards the fire, and the place where these two good fathers were. We saw the fire and the barbarians, but we could see nothing of our two fathers.

"Here is what these savages told us of the taking of the bourg St. Ignace, and of the Fathers Jean de Brebæuf and Gabriel L'Allemant:

“The Iroquois came to the number of twelve hundred men or more; took our village; took Father Brebouf and his companion; set fire to the huts. Then they proceeded to discharge their rage on these two fathers, for they took them both and stripped them entirely naked, and fastened each to a post. They tied both of their hands together. They then tore the nails from their fingers. They beat them with a shower of blows from cudgels, on the shoulders, the loins, the belly, the legs, and the face, there being no part of their body that did not endure this torment.

“They told us further: Although Father Brebeuf was overwhelmed under the weight of these blows, he did not cease continually to speak of God, and to encourage all the new Christians who were captives, like himself, to suffer well, that they might die well, in order that they might go in company with him to Paradise. While the good Father was thus encouraging these good people, a wretched Huron renegade, who had remained a captive with the Iroquois and whom Father Brebæuf had formerly instructed and baptized, hearing him thus speak of Paradise and Holy Baptism was irritated and said to him: 'Echon,' (that is Father Brebæuf's name in Huron) 'thou sayest that the baptism and the sufferings of this life lead straight to Paradise, thou wilt go soon, for I am going to baptize thee and to make thee suffer well in order to go the sooner to thy Paradise.' The barbarian having said that, took a kettle of boiling water, which he poured over his body three different times, in derision of Holy Baptism. And each time that the barbarian baptized him in this manner he said to him in bitter sarcasm, 'Go to Heaven, now, for you are well baptised.' After that they made him suffer several other torments. The first was to make a collar of red hot axes, and apply them to the loins and at the arm pits. They made six of these axes red hot, taking a large withe of green wood, passed this through the large end of the axes, joined the two ends of the withe together and put it around the neck of the sufferer. I have seen no torment which moved me with more compassion than this; for you see, a man bound naked to a post who having this collar on his neck, cannot tell what posture to take. For if he lean forward, those above his shoulders bear the more upon him; if he lean back, those on his chest or stomach make him suffer the same torment; and if he keep erect, without

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leaning entire forward or back, the burning axes applied equally on both sides, give him a double torture. After that they put upon him a belt full of pitch and rosin and set fire to it, which roasted his whole body. During all these torments, Father Brebeuf endured like a rock insensible to fire and flames, which astonished all the bloodthirsty wretches who tormented him. His zeal was so great that he preached continually to these infidels to try to convert them. His executioners were enraged against him, for constantly speaking to them of God and conversion. To prevent him from further speaking to them of God, they cut off his upper and lower lips. After that they set themselves to strip the flesh from his legs, thighs and arms to the very bone, and put it to roast before his eyes, in order to eat it. Whilst they tormented him in this manner, these wretches derided him, saying, “thou seest well that we treat thee as a friend, since we shall be the cause of thy eternal happiness; thank us then for these good offices we render thee for the more thou shalt suffer, the more shalt thy God reward thee.' These villains, seeing that the good father was growing weak, made him sit on the ground, took a knife and cut out his heart, which they roasted and ate. Others came and drank his blood, using their both hands. This is what we learned of the martyrdom and most happy death of Father Jean de Brebeuf, by several Christian savages worthy of belief, who had been constantly present from the time the good father was taken, until his death. Father Brebeuf was taken on the 16th of March in the morning in the year 1649. I had the happiness of carrying both Father Brebeuf and Father Gabriel L'Allemant to their graves, both having died on the same day of their torture. It is not a doctor of the Sorbonne who has written this. It is a remnant from the Iroquois, and a person who has lived more than thought.

“Your humble and obedient servant,

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CHRISTOPHE REGNAUT, Coadjutor Brother with the Jesuits of Caen, 1678, companion of

Fathers Brebeuf and L’Allemant, above mentioned.


Through the Catholic missionaries and French fur dealers, a knowledge of the great features of the continent was gradually acquired, and the circle of French power and influence enlarged. As early as 1632, seven years only after the foundations of Quebec were laid, the missionaries had penetrated to Lake Huron, and Father Sagard has left an interesting narrative of their toils and sufferings, upon its bleak and sterile shores. The Wyandottes had been driven into that region, from the banks of the St. Lawrence, by their inveterate enemies the Iroquois, the tales of whose conquests made up a large part of the romance of Indian history. The priests accompanied them in their expatriation, and if they could not prevent their sufferings, they shared them. No portion of these wide domains was secure from the conquering Iroquois, and they pursued their discomfitted enemies with relentless fury. Little would be gained by an attempt to describe the events of this exterminating warfare: Villages were sacked; men, women and children murdered; and by day and by night, in winter and in summer, there was neither rest nor safety for the vanquished. The character of the missionaries did not exempt them from a full participation in the misfortunes of their converts, and many of them were murdered at the foot of the altar, with the crucifix in their hands, and the name of God upon their lips. Many were burned at the stake,* with all the accompaniments of savage ingenuity, which add intensity to the pangs of the victims, and duration of their sufferings. But nothing could shake the fortitude of these apostles of benevolence. The feeble remnant of the once powerful Wyandottes sought and found refuge among the Sioux, in the country west of Lake Superior. Here they remained, until the power of their enemies was reduced by contests with the French, when they descended the Upper Lakes, and established themselves in this locality

The story of a notable institution has survived the general wreck in which so much of their tradition has perished. Upon the Sandusky river, and near where the town of Lower Sandusky now stands, lived a band of the Wyandottes, called the Neutral Nation. They occupied two villages, which were cities of refuge, where those who sought safety never failed to find it. During the long and disastrous contests, which preceded and followed the arrival of the Europeans, and in which the Iroquois contended for victory, and their enemies for existence, this little band preserved the integrity of their territories and the sacred character of peacemakers. All who met upon their threshold, met as friends, for the ground on which they stood was holy. It was a beautiful institution; a calm and peaceful island, looking out upon a world of waves and tempests.

This neutral nation, so-called by Father Sagard, was still in existence two centuries ago, when the French missionaries first reached the Upper Lakes. The details of their history and of their character and privileges, are meagre and unsatisfactory; and this is the more to be regretted, as such a sanctuary, among barbarous tribes, is not only an anomalous institution, but altogether at variance with that reckless spirit of cruelty, with which their wars are usually prosecuted. The Wyandotte tradition represents them, as having separated from the parent stock, during the bloody wars between their own tribe and the Iroquois, and having fled to the Sandusky river for safety. That they here erected two forts, within a short distance of each other, and assigned one to the Iroquois, and the other to the Wyandottes and their allies, where their war-parties might find security and hospitality, whenever they entered their country. Why so unusual a proposition was made, and acceded to, tradition does not tell. It is probable, however, that superstition lent its aid to the pact, and that it may have been indebted for its origin to the feasts, and dreams, and juggling ceremonies, which constituted the religion of the Aborigines. No other motive was sufficiently powerful to stay the hand of violence, and to counteract the threat of vengeance.

Internecine quarrels finally arose in this neutral nation; one party espousing the cause of the Iroquois, and the other of their enemies, and like most civil wars, this was prosecuted with relentless fury. One informant says, that within his recollection, the remains of a red cedar post were yet to be seen where the prisoners were tied previous to being burned.


As the course of the French trade first took the route of the Ottawas' river, their establishments upon the Upper Lakes, preceded their settlement on the Detroit strait. Soon after the middle of the seventeenth century, trading posts were established at Michillimackinac, at the Sault Ste Marie, at Green Bay, at Chicago, and at St. Joseph. It was soon known, from the reports of the Indians, that a great river flowed

See Martyrdom of Breboeuf.

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