The Massacre Of Lachine

The conquest and settlement of all new regions are necessarily more or

less written in blood, and the natural characteristics of the North

American Indian have caused much of the early history of Canada to be

traced in deeds of horror and agony lighted by the torture fire, with

sufferings the most exquisite of which the human mind can conceive. When

these were inflicted on individuals, it was sufficiently heartrending,

but when a whole community fell a victim to their ferocity, as was the

case in what is called "The Massacre of Lachine," the details are too

horrible for even the imagination to dwell upon. Standing on the river

bank, or "shooting" the rapids in the steamer, with the green shores as

far as the eye can reach dotted with villages and villas, the wonderful

bridges spanning the stream, and beyond, the great city with its domes

and spires, it can scarcely be realized that for two days and two

nights the spot was a scene of the most revolting carnage. It was an

evening in the summer of 1689. In spite of a storm of wind and rain

which broke over the young settlement, the fields of grain and meadows

looked cheerful and thrifty. In each cabin home the father had returned

from the day's toil in the harvest field and was sitting by the

fireside, where the kettle sang contentedly. The mother sat spinning or

knitting, and perhaps singing a lullaby, as she rocked the cradle,

little recking that ere the morning dawned the hamlet would lie in

ashes, and the tomahawk of the Indian be buried in her babies' hearts;

but such was the case, for after forty-eight hours of fiendish cruelty,

death and desolation reigned for miles along the shores. Where the blue

smoke had curled up among the trees were only the smoking ruins of

hearths and homes, surrounded with sights and suggestions of different

forms of death, which even the chronicler, two hundred years after, is

fain to pass by in shuddering silence.

The crumbling remains of a fortified seigniorial chateau, within sight

of the Rapids of Lachine, a tradition asserts, was in the year 1668 the

home of La Salle, who was one of the most excellent men of his day.

Leaving his fair demesne, which the Sulpicians had conferred upon him,

and the home which to-day is slowly falling to decay among the

apple-orchards along the river side, he too followed his thirst for

adventure into untrodden fields.

There is a well-founded legend that the old chimney attached thereto was

built by Champlain in his trading post of logs. It is of solid masonry,

and is sixty years older than the walls which surround it. The wide

fireplace has a surface of fifty square feet, and is the most

interesting piece of architecture in all Canada. The snowflakes of

almost three hundred winters have fallen into its cavernous depths since

these stones and mortar were laid. When Champlain stood by its hearth,

as its first blaze, lighted by tinder and flint, roared up to the

sky--William Shakespeare was still writing his sublime lines, Queen

Elizabeth had lain but twelve years in her marble tomb, and the Chateau

de Ramezay was not to be built for a hundred years to come. Often in the

two years during which it had for La Salle the sacredness of the home

fireside, its light must have fallen on his handsome young face, and

flowing curls, as he laid out plans for his palisaded village, and

dreamt of the golden lands towards the setting sun. He was a true

patriot, and literally gave his life for the advancement of his country,

being murdered in the Lower Mississippi by one of his own men while

endeavouring to extend its territory.

Posterity is not true to the memory of these great pioneers, for the

elements beat upon the roofless timbers, the north wind sweeps the

hearth that is mouldering under the rains and sunshine of the skies they

loved. In another generation all that can be said will be--here once

stood the historic stones of the ancient fireside of the heroes who won

the wilderness for those who have allowed this monument of their

fortitude and self-sacrifice to crumble into dust.

La Salle had heard from some stray bands of Seneca Indians, who had

visited his post at Lachine, of a great river that flowed from their

hunting grounds to the sea. Imagining it would open his way to find the

route to the golden Ind, he sold his grant at Lachine, and in company

with two priests from the Seminary at Montreal, and some Senecas as

guides, started on July 6th, 1669. With visions of finding for France a

clime of warmer suns and more rich in silver and gold than Canada, he

pushed on. The priests on their return brought back nothing of any

value except the first map procured of the upper lake region.

One of the most enthusiastic fellow travelers of La Salle was a

Franciscan, Father Hennepin. They crossed the ocean from France

together, and probably beguiled many an hour of the long voyage in

relating their dreams of finding the treasures hidden in the land to

which the prow of the vessel pointed.

Hennepin also penetrated to the Mississippi, reaching in his wanderings

a beautiful fall foaming between its green bluffs which he named St.

Anthony, on which spot now stands the "Flour City," Minneapolis, in the

county of Hennepin, Minnesota. He probably heard of the other falls,

five miles away, which we know as Minnehaha, and around which the

sweetest of American poets has woven the witchery of Indian legend in

the wooing of "Hiawatha." It seems almost incredible that where are now

the largest flour mills in the world, turning out daily about 40,000

barrels, there was, scarcely fifty years ago, only the cedar strewn

wigwam and smoke of the camp fire, the tread of moccasined feet and the

dip of the paddles by the bark canoe.

Near by Place d'Armes Square may be seen a grey stone house on which

is written "Here lived Sieur DuLuth." He was a leading spirit among the

young men of the town, who gathered around his fireside to listen to his

thrilling tales of adventure, and of his early life when he was a

gendarme in the King's Guard. Coming to Canada in the year 1668, he

explored among the Sioux tribes of the Western plains. He was one of the

first Frenchmen to approach the sources of the Mississippi. The city of

Duluth in Minnesota received its name from him. A tablet on a modern

building in the same locality informs the passer-by that Cadillac, who

founded the City of Detroit about the same time as the Chateau de

Ramezay was built, spent the last years of his wandering life on this


The town of Varennes, down the river, is called from the owner of a

Seigniory in the forest, le Chevalier Gauthier de la Verandrye, a

soldier and a trader, who was the first to explore the great Canadian

North-West, and to discover the "Rockies." He was an undaunted and

fearless traveler, establishing post after post, as far as the wild

banks of the Saskatchewan and even further north, which, in giving to

France, he ultimately gave to Canada.

"Honour to those who fought the trees,

And won the land for us."

The traditions connected with the Chateau de Ramezay are scarcely more

interesting than those surrounding many spots in the vicinity.

Incorporated in this prosaic, business part of the city are many an old

gable or window, which were once part of some mediaeval chapel or home of

these early times. On the other side of Notre Dame street, where now

stands the classic and beautiful pile called the City Hall, were to be

seen in those days the church and "Habitation," as it was called, of

the Jesuit Fathers, within whose walls lived many learned sons of

Loyola, Charlevoix among others. They were burnt down in 1803, at the

same time as the Chateau de Vaudreuil was destroyed, by one of the

disastrous fires which have so frequently swept the cities of Montreal

and Quebec, and in which many quaint historical structures disappeared.

About a mile to the west is still standing the family residence of

Daniel Hyacinthe, Marie Lienard de Beaujeu, the hero of the Monongahela,

at which battle George Washington was an officer.

It was a lamentable event, the indiscriminate slaughter of three

thousand men through the stupidity and incredible obstancy of General

Braddock, who, like Dieskau at a subsequent time, despising the counsel

of those familiar with Indian methods of warfare, determinedly followed

his own plans.

Washington in this engagement held the rank of Adjutant-General of

Virginia. "His business was to inform the French that they were building

forts on English soil, and that they would do well to depart peaceably."

Beaujeu was sent at the head of a force composed of French soldiers and

Indian allies to answer the Briton with the powerful argument of force

of arms.

As Braddock reached the ford over the river which was to put him on the

same side as the fort, Colonel Thomas Gage crossed in advance, without

opposition. Beaujeu had intended to contest the passage, but his Indians

being refractory, his march was delayed. Gage with the advance was

pushing on when his engineer saw a man, apparently an officer, wave his

cap to his followers, who were unseen in the woods. From every vantage

ground of knoll and bole, and on three sides of the column, the

concealed muskets were levelled upon the English, who returned the fire.

As Beaujeu fell, Dumas, who succeeded him, thought that the steady front

of the red-skins was going to carry the day, until he saw his Canadians

fly, followed by the Indians, after Gage had wheeled his cannon on the

woods. A little time, however, changed all this. The Indians rallied and

poured their bullets into the massed and very soon confused British

troops. Braddock, when he spurred forward, found everybody demoralized

except the Virginians, who were firing from the tree trunks, as the

enemy did. The British General was shocked at such an unmilitary habit,

and ordered them back into line. No one under such orders could find

cover, and every puff from a concealed Indian was followed by a

soldier's fall. No exertion of Braddock, nor of Washington, nor of

anyone prevailed. The General had four horses shot under him and

Washington had two. Still the hillsides and the depths of the wood were

spotted by puffs of smoke, and the slaughter-pen was in a

turmoil--scarce one Englishman in three escaped bullets. The commander

then gave the sign to retreat, and was endeavouring to restore order

when a ball struck him from his horse. The British Army had become

bewildered fugitives, and a guard could hardly be kept for the wounded

General, as he was borne along on a horse as a litter.

The sinking Braddock at last died and was buried in the road, that the

tramp of the surging mass of men might obliterate his grave. His remains

are said to have been discovered in 1823 by some workmen engaged in

constructing the National road, at a spot pointed out by an old man who

had been in the ranks in 1755. He claimed to have seen Braddock buried,

and to have fired the bullet that killed him. It was impossible to

identify the remains almost seventy years after their interment, but

with them were found bits of military trappings, so his tale may have

been correct. In the year 1841, near to the spot, was discovered a large

quantity of shot and shell left by the retreating army.

Adjoining the grounds of the Chateau de Ramezay was the mansion of

General Ralph Burton, who fought close to Wolfe in the siege of Quebec,

to whom his dying words were spoken, and who carried out his last

command, which decided the day. As Wolfe lay half unconscious, the riot

of the battle growing dull on his failing senses, they were roused by

the cry, "They run!" He opened his glazed eyes and asked, "Who run?" and

the reply was, "The French!" With a supreme effort he turned to Burton,

and ordered him, saying, "Command Webb to march down to the St. Charles

and cut off the retreat at the bridge"; and then amid the crash and

carnage of war, he murmured, "Now I thank God, and die contented," and

instantly expired.