One is forced to wonder at, if not to admire, the energy with which these priests and their scarcely less zealous attendants toiled to carry their pictures and ornaments through the most arduous of journeys.
Previously in The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century.
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The town of Ossossané, or Rochelle, stood, as we have seen, on the borders of Lake Huron, at the skirts of a gloomy wilderness of pine. Thither, in May, 1637, repaired Father Pijart, to found, in this, one of the largest of the Huron towns, the new mission of the Immaculate Conception. The Indians had promised Brébeuf to build a house for the black-robes, and Pijart found the work in progress. There were at this time about fifty dwellings in the town, each containing eight or ten families. The quadrangular fort already alluded to had now been completed by the Indians, under the instruction of the priests.
[1 The doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin, recently sanctioned by the Pope, has long been a favorite tenet of the Jesuits.]
[2 Lettres de Garnier, MSS. It was of upright pickets, ten feet high with flanking towers at two angles.]
The new mission-house was about seventy feet in length. No sooner had the savage workmen secured the bark covering on its top and sides than the priests took possession, and began their preparations for a notable ceremony. At the farther end they made an altar, and hung such decorations as they had on the rough walls of bark throughout half the length of the structure. This formed their chapel. On the altar was a crucifix, with vessels and ornaments of shining metal; while above hung several pictures, — among them a painting of Christ, and another of the Virgin, both of life-size. There was also a representation of the Last Judgment, wherein dragons and serpents might be seen feasting on the entrails of the wicked, while demons scourged them into the flames of Hell. The entrance was adorned with a quantity of tinsel, together with green boughs skilfully disposed.
[3 “Nostre Chapelle estoit extraordinairement bien ornée, . . nous auions dressé vn portique entortillé de feüillage, meslé d’oripeau, en vn mot nous auions estallé tout ce que vostre R. nous a enuoié de beau,” etc., etc. — Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1637, 175, 176. — In his Relation of the next year he recurs to the subject, and describes the pictures displayed on this memorable occasion. — Relation des Hurons, 1638, 33.]
Never before were such splendors seen in the land of the Hurons. Crowds gathered from afar, and gazed in awe and admiration at the marvels of the sanctuary. A woman came from a distant town to behold it, and, tremulous between curiosity and fear, thrust her head into the mysterious recess, declaring that she would see it, though the look should cost her life. [Ibid., 1637, 176.]
One is forced to wonder at, if not to admire, the energy with which these priests and their scarcely less zealous attendants  toiled to carry their pictures and ornaments through the most arduous of journeys, where the traveler was often famished from the sheer difficulty of transporting provisions.
[4 The Jesuits on these distant missions were usually attended by followers who had taken no vows, and could leave their service at will, but whose motives were religious, and not mercenary. Probably this was the character of their attendants in the present case. They were known as donnés, or “given men.” It appears from a letter of the Jesuit Du Peron, that twelve hired laborers were soon after sent up to the mission.]
A great event had called forth all this preparation. Of the many baptisms achieved by the Fathers in the course of their indefatigable ministry, the subjects had all been infants, or adults at the point of death; but at length a Huron, in full health and manhood, respected and influential in his tribe, had been won over to the Faith, and was now to be baptized with solemn ceremonial, in the chapel thus gorgeously adorned. It was a strange scene. Indians were there in throngs, and the house was closely packed: warriors, old and young, glistening in grease and sunflower-oil, with uncouth locks, a trifle less coarse than a horse’s mane, and faces perhaps smeared with paint in honor of the occasion; wenches in gay attire; hags muffled in a filthy discarded deer-skin, their leathery visages corrugated with age and malice, and their hard, glittering eyes riveted on the spectacle before them. The priests, no longer in their daily garb of black, but radiant in their surplices, the genuflections, the tinkling of the bell, the swinging of the censer, the sweet odors so unlike the fumes of the smoky lodge-fires, the mysterious elevation of the Host, (for a mass followed the baptism,) and the agitation of the neophyte, whose Indian imperturbability fairly deserted him, — all these combined to produce on the minds of the savage beholders an impression that seemed to promise a rich harvest for the Faith. To the Jesuits it was a day of triumph and of hope. The ice had been broken; the wedge had entered; light had dawned at last on the long night of heathendom. But there was one feature of the situation which in their rejoicing they overlooked.
The Devil had taken alarm. He had borne with reasonable composure the loss of individual souls snatched from him by former baptisms; but here was a convert whose example and influence threatened to shake his Huron empire to its very foundation. In fury and fear, he rose to the conflict, and put forth all his malice and all his hellish ingenuity. Such, at least, is the explanation given by the Jesuits of the scenes that followed.  Whether accepting it or not, let us examine the circumstances which gave rise to it.
[5 Several of the Jesuits allude to this supposed excitement among the tenants of the nether world. Thus, Le Mercier says, “Le Diable se sentoit pressé de prés, il ne pouuoit supporter le Baptesme solennel de quelques Sauuages des plus signalez.” — Relation des Hurons, 1638, 33. — Several other baptisms of less note followed that above described. Garnier, writing to his brother, repeatedly alludes to the alarm excited in Hell by the recent successes of the mission, and adds, — “Vous pouvez juger quelle consolation nous étoit-ce de voir le diable s’armer contre nous et se servir de ses esclaves pour nous attaquer et tâcher de nous perdre en haine de J. C.”]
The mysterious strangers, garbed in black, who of late years had made their abode among them, from motives past finding out, marvelous in knowledge, careless of life, had awakened in the breasts of the Hurons mingled emotions of wonder, perplexity, fear, respect, and awe. From the first, they had held them answerable for the changes of the weather, commending them when the crops were abundant, and upbraiding them in times of scarcity. They thought them mighty magicians, masters of life and death; and they came to them for spells, sometimes to destroy their enemies, and sometimes to kill grasshoppers. And now it was whispered abroad that it was they who had bewitched the nation, and caused the pest which threatened to exterminate it.
It was Isaac Jogues who first heard this ominous rumor, at the town of Onnentisati, and it proceeded from the dwarfish sorcerer already mentioned, who boasted himself a devil incarnate. The slander spread fast and far. Their friends looked at them askance; their enemies clamored for their lives. Some said that they concealed in their houses a corpse, which infected the country, — a perverted notion, derived from some half-instructed neophyte, concerning the body of Christ in the Eucharist. Others ascribed the evil to a serpent, others to a spotted frog, others to a demon which the priests were supposed to carry in the barrel of a gun. Others again gave out that they had pricked an infant to death with awls in the forest, in order to kill the Huron children by magic. “Perhaps,” observes Father Le Mercier, “the Devil was enraged because we had placed a great many of these little innocents in Heaven.”
[“Le diable enrageoit peutestre de ce que nous avions placé dans le ciel quantité de ces petits innocens.” — Le Mercier, Relation des Hurons, 1638, 12 (Cramoisy).]
The picture of the Last Judgment became an object of the utmost terror. It was regarded as a charm. The dragons and serpents were supposed to be the demons of the pest, and the sinners whom they were so busily devouring to represent its victims. On the top of a spruce-tree, near their house at Ihonatiria, the priests had fastened a small streamer, to show the direction of the wind. This, too, was taken for a charm, throwing off disease and death to all quarters. The clock, once an object of harmless wonder, now excited the wildest alarm; and the Jesuits were forced to stop it, since, when it struck, it was supposed to sound the signal of death. At sunset, one would have seen knots of Indians, their faces dark with dejection and terror, listening to the measured sounds which issued from within the neighboring house of the mission, where, with bolted doors, the priests were singing litanies, mistaken for incantations by the awe-struck savages.
Had the objects of these charges been Indians, their term of life would have been very short. The blow of a hatchet, stealthily struck in the dusky entrance of a lodge, would have promptly avenged the victims of their sorcery, and delivered the country from peril. But the priests inspired a strange awe. Nocturnal councils were held; their death was decreed; and, as they walked their rounds, whispering groups of children gazed after them as men doomed to die. But who should be the executioner? They were reviled and upbraided. The Indian boys threw sticks at them as they passed, and then ran behind the houses. When they entered one of these pestiferous dens, this impish crew clambered on the roof, to pelt them with snowballs through the smoke-holes. The old squaw who crouched by the fire scowled on them with mingled anger and fear, and cried out, “Begone! there are no sick ones here.” The invalids wrapped their heads in their blankets; and when the priest accosted some dejected warrior, the savage looked gloomily on the ground, and answered not a word.
Yet nothing could divert the Jesuits from their ceaseless quest of dying subjects for baptism, and above all of dying children. They penetrated every house in turn. When, through the thin walls of bark, they heard the wail of a sick infant, no menace and no insult could repel them from the threshold. They pushed boldly in, asked to buy some trifle, spoke of late news of Iroquois forays, — of anything, in short, except the pestilence and the sick child; conversed for a while till suspicion was partially lulled to sleep, and then, pretending to observe the sufferer for the first time, approached it, felt its pulse, and asked of its health. Now, while apparently fanning the heated brow, the dexterous visitor touched it with a corner of his handkerchief, which he had previously dipped in water, murmured the baptismal words with motionless lips, and snatched another soul from the fangs of the “Infernal Wolf.”  Thus, with the patience of saints, the courage of heroes, and an intent truly charitable, did the Fathers put forth a nimble-fingered adroitness that would have done credit to the profession of which the function is less to dispense the treasures of another world than to grasp those which pertain to this.
[6 Ce loup infernal is a title often bestowed in the Relations on the Devil. The above details are gathered from the narratives of Brébeuf, Le Mercier, and Lalemant, and letters, published and unpublished, of several other Jesuits.
In another case, an Indian girl was carrying on her back a sick child, two months old. Two Jesuits approached, and while one of them amused the girl with his rosary, “l’autre le baptise lestement; le pauure petit n’attendoit que ceste faueur du Ciel pour s’y enuoler.”]
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century, Chapter 1 by Francis Parkman
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.