Ft. St Joseph, a mission in New France

Louis XIII was nobody's fool. He realized that from the outset that Canada was a vast territory and the control of it would be a counter to the English, Swedish, Dutch, and Spanish (1) colonies established in the new world. While they scrambled for the small pieces of land along the Atlantic, Canada provided a huge area, rich in resources, and populated by only the natives. To control this new world he would have to establish a commonality with those natives. that commonality would be the Catholic Faith, and accomplish this the Jesuits stepped up.

My ancestor Etienne arrived in Ville Ste. Marie from Epiney, Champagne, France around 1645 only two years into the long reign of the Louis XIV, known as the Sun King. Already there were Jesuit missionaries teaching the Indians the gospel of Christ and bringing them into the Catholic fold. Travelling singly or in small groups they travelled the width and breath of what would become Canada and the United States preaching the faith, building missions, learning the language of the various tribes, in short bring a bit of civilization to an inhospitable place. Many of these missions have, as in California, become cities in there own time. Niles, Michigan is one such place. Joseph Frome who writes a blog aptly called Good Jesuit, Bad Jesuit, has written a piece on the Jesuit Mission at Ft St. Joseph.

...In the 1680s, Jesuits were granted a tract of land near Niles for their mission. In 1691, a post was established for what proved to be a multi-ethnic community. "There were not only French there," Nassaney said, "but also native peoples living at the fort. We've been able to demonstrate this archaeologically, and the documents also tell us this. At the fort in the early part of the 18th century, there was a commandant, a blacksmith, an interpreter, eight to 10 soldiers (2), there were about 15 fur traders and their wives. They had trouble attracting French women to the frontier back then, so the voyageurs often married native women(3). One of the things we have is a list of marriages and baptisms that the priests performed..." More...

A very interesting article which I again as in the past remove my beret for.

Dieu le Roy

(1) I am here referring of the Spanish colony of Las Floridas which, while bigger than the aforementioned colonies alon g the east coast was noe the less smaller than New France. The time would come when the English would trespass onto areas claimed by France, that story is for another time.

(2) Actually they would have been Marines, as the French Ministry of Marine was given charge of the manning of outposts in all the colonies...

(3)To counter this King louis XIV sent a group of 770 women to the new world with a dowery of 50 livres, a number of livestock and bedding to facilitate their setlement. These women were mostly orphans( not prostitutes) who were brought up at the general Hospital in Paris. Destitute, and without a dower they faced a life of hardship in France. Often called the King's Daughters, filles du Roi – or filles à la cassette , refering to the small box in which each carried their dowry, they made a welcome addition to New France, and played an imprtant part in the civilization of Canada. An interesting note is the chubbier ones where most often the women who married first. I make no comment on that.

1 comment:

Joseph Fromm said...

I am glad you found the post inspiring. Everyday when I wake and read something ridiculous from Jesuit, I think of these great men and the great Jesuits of today that inspire and perspire in the name of our Lord.