Pioneers in Canada
Sir Harry Johnston

Part 1 out of 6

In this e-text "a" with a breve and "o", "u", and
"a" with a macron are represented by [)a] [-o] [-u] [-a].




With Eight Coloured Illustrations by E. Wallcousins



The Pioneer Library

A standard series by Sir Harry Johnston. Tastefully bound.

Pioneers in Australasia.
Pioneers in Canada.
Pioneers in South Africa.
Pioneers in West Africa.
Pioneers in Tropical America.
Pioneers in India.


I have been asked to write a series of works which should deal with
"real adventures", in parts of the world either wild and uncontrolled
by any civilized government, or at any rate regions full of dangers,
of wonderful discoveries; in which the daring and heroism of white men
(and sometimes of white women) stood out clearly against backgrounds
of unfamiliar landscapes, peopled with strange nations, savage tribes,
dangerous beasts, or wonderful birds. These books would again and
again illustrate the first coming of the white race into regions
inhabited by people of a different type, with brown, black, or yellow
skins; how the European was received, and how he treated these races
of the soil which gradually came under his rule owing to his superior
knowledge, weapons, wealth, or powers of persuasion. The books were to
tell the plain truth, even if here and there they showed the white man
to have behaved badly, or if they revealed the fact that the American
Indian, the Negro, the Malay, the black Australian was sometimes cruel
and treacherous.

A request thus framed was almost equivalent to asking me to write
stories of those pioneers who founded the British Empire; in any case,
the first volumes of this series do relate the adventures of those who
created the greater part of the British Dominions beyond the Seas, by
their perilous explorations of unknown lands and waters. In many
instances the travellers were all unconscious of their destinies, of
the results which would arise from their actions. In some cases they
would have bitterly railed at Fate had they known that the result of
their splendid efforts was to be the enlargement of an empire under
the British flag. Perhaps if they could know by now that we are
striving under that flag to be just and generous to all types of men,
and not to use our empire solely for the benefit of English-speaking
men and women, the French who founded the Canadian nation, the Germans
and Dutch who helped to create British Africa, Malaysia, and
Australia, the Spaniards who preceded us in the West Indies, and the
Portuguese in West, Central, and East Africa, in Newfoundland and
Ceylon, might--if they have any consciousness or care for things in
this world--be not so sorry after all that we are reaping where they

It is (as you will see) impossible to tell the tale of these early
days in the British Dominions beyond the Seas, without describing here
and there the adventures of men of enterprise and daring who were not
of our own nationality. The majority, nevertheless, were of British
stock; that is to say, they were English, Welsh, Scots, Irish, perhaps
here and there a Channel Islander and a Manxman; or Nova Scotians,
Canadians, and New Englanders. The bulk of them were good fellows, a
few were saints, a few were ruffians with redeeming features.
Sometimes they were common men who blundered into great discoveries
which will for ever preserve their names from perishing; occasionally
they were men of Fate, predestined, one might say, to change the
history of the world by their revelations of new peoples, new lands,
new rivers, new lakes, snow mountains, and gold mines. Here and there
is a martyr like Marquette, or Livingstone, or Gordon, dying for the
cause of a race not his own. And others again are mere boys, whose
adventures come to them because they are adventurous, and whose feats
of arms, escapes, perils, and successes are quite as wonderful as
those attributed to the juvenile heroes of Marryat, Stevenson, and the
author of _The Swiss Family Robinson_.

I have tried, in describing these adventures, to give my readers some
idea of the scenery, animals, and vegetation of the new lands through
which these pioneers passed on their great and small purposes; as well
as of the people, native to the soil, with whom they came in contact.
And in treating of these subjects I have thought it best to give the
scientific names of the plant or animal which was of importance in my
story, so that any of my readers who were really interested in natural
history could at once ascertain for themselves the exact type alluded
to, and, if they wished, look it up in a museum, a garden, or a
natural history book.

I hope this attempt at scientific accuracy will not frighten away
readers young and old; and, if you can have patience with the author,
you will, by reading this series of books on the great pioneers of
British West Africa, Canada, Malaysia, West Indies, South Africa, and
Australasia, get a clear idea of how the British Colonial Empire came
to be founded.

You will find that I have often tried to tell the story in the words
of the pioneers, but in these quotations I have adopted the modern
spelling, not only in my transcript of the English original or
translation, but also in the place and tribal names, so as not to
puzzle or delay the reader. Otherwise, if you were to look out some of
the geographical names of the old writers, you might not be able to
recognize them on the modern atlas. The pronunciation of this modern
geographical spelling is very simple and clear: the vowels are
pronounced _a_ = ah, _e_ = eh, _i_ = ee, _o_ = o, _o_ = oh,
_[-o]_ = aw, _oe_ = u in 'hurt', and _u_ = oo, as in German, Italian, or
most other European languages; and the consonants as in English.



II. JACQUES CARTIER.......................................... 29
NORTH AMERICA.......................................153
ALL CANADA..........................................202
X. SAMUEL HEARNE............................................248
XI. ALEXANDER MACKENZIE'S JOURNEYS...........................277
XII. MACKENZIE'S SUCCESSORS...................................313



Type of Ship sailed in by the English or French Pioneers in the
Sixteenth Century _Frontispiece_
Icebergs and Polar Bears
Indians hunting Bison
Indians lying in wait for Moose
Caribou swimming a River
Great Auks, Gannets, Puffins, and Guillemots
Scene on Canadian River: Wild Swans flying up, disturbed by Bear
Big-horned Sheep of Rocky Mountains


Jacques Cartier
Samuel de Champlain and Alexander Henry the Elder
An Amerindian Type of British Columbia
Lake Louise, the Rocky Mountains
Samuel Hearne and Alexander Mackenzie
The Upper Waters of the Fraser River
The Kootenay or Head Stream of the Columbia River
A Hunter's "Shack" in British Columbia: After a successful Shoot of
Blue Grouse

Map of Canada
Map of Eastern Canada and Newfoundland
Map of Part of the Coast Region of British Columbia

List of the Chief Authorities


_The Saint Lawrence Basin_. By Dr. S.E. DAWSON. London. 1905.
Lawrence & Bullen.

_Relation Originale du Voyage de Jacques Cartier au Canada en
1534_; Documents inedits, &c. Publies par H. MICHELANT et A. RAME.
Paris. Librairie Tross. 1867.

_Voyage de Jacques Cartier au Canada en 1534_, &c. Par H.
MICHELANT. Paris. 1865.

_Champlain's Voyages_: The Publications of the Prince Society.
Boston. 1878. Three volumes.

_Voyage of Verrazano_, &c. By HENRY C. MURPHY. New York. 1875.
(Also the Essay on the Journeys of Verrazano, by Alessandro Bacchiani,
in the Bollettino della Societa Geografica Italiana. Rome. November,

_Volume IX of the Proceedings and Transactions of the Royal Society of
Canada_. (For the History of Cape Breton and of the Beothiks of

_The Search for the Western Sea_. By Lawrence J. Burpee. London.
Alston Rivers. 1908.

_Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New
France_, &c. Edited by REUBEN GOLD THWAITES. Vol. LIX. Cleveland,
U.S.A. Burrows Bros. 1900.

_Travels and Explorations in Canada and the Indian Territories between
the years 1760 and 1776_. By ALEXANDER HENRY, Esq. New York. 1809.

_Voyages from Montreal on the River St. Lawrence through the Continent
of North America to the Frozen and Pacific Oceans, in the years 1789
and 1793_, &c. &c. By ALEXANDER MACKENZIE, Esq. London. 1801.

_A Journey from Prince of Wales's Fort in Hudson's Bay to the Northern
Ocean_, &c. By SAMUEL HEARNE. London. 1795.

_Les Bourgeois de la Compagnie du Nord-Ouest_. By L.R. MASSON.
Quebec. 1890. Two volumes.

_New Light on the Early History of the Greater North-West_: The
Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry, Jun., and of David Thompson.
Edited by ELLIOTT COUES. Three Volumes. New York. Harper. 1897.

_Sport and Travel in the Northland of Canada_. By DAVID T. HANBURY.
London. Edward Arnold. 1904.

_Henry Hudson the Navigator_, &c. By G.M. ASHER. London. Hakluyt
Society, 1860.

_The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher_. By Rear-Admiral RICHARD
COLLINSON. London. Hakluyt Society. 1867.

_The Voyages and Works of John Davis the Navigator_. By Admiral Sir
ALBERT HASTINGS MARKHAM. London. Hakluyt Society. 1880.

_The Voyages of William Baffin, 1612-1622_. By Sir CLEMENTS R.
MARKHAM. London. 1881.


The White Man's Discovery of North America

So far as our knowledge goes, it is almost a matter of certainty that
Man originated in the Old World--in Asia possibly. Long after this
wonderful event in the Earth's history, when the human species was
spread over a good deal of Asia, Europe, and Africa, migration to the
American continents began in attempts to find new feeding grounds and
unoccupied areas for hunting and fishing. How many thousands or
hundreds of thousands of years ago it was since the first men entered
America we do not yet know, any more than we can determine the route
by which they travelled from Asia. Curiously enough, the oldest traces
of man as yet discovered in the New World are not only in South
America, but in the south-eastern parts of South America. Although the
most obvious recent land connection between the Old and New Worlds is
the Aleutian chain of islands connecting Kamschatka with Alaska, the
ethnologist is occasionally led to think by certain evidence that
there may, both earlier and later, have existed another way of
reaching western America from south-eastern Asia through Pacific
archipelagoes and islets now sunk below the sea. In any case it seems
quite probable that men of Mongolian or Polynesian type reached
America on its western coasts long before the European came from the
north-east and east, and that they were helped on this long journey by
touching at islands since submerged by earthquake shocks or tidal

The aboriginal natives of North and South America seem to be of
entirely Asiatic origin; and such resemblances as there are between
the North-American Indians and the peoples of northern Europe do not
arise (we believe) from any ancient colonization of America from
western or northern Europe, but mainly from the fact that the
North-American Indians and the Eskimo (two distinct types of people)
are descended from the same human stocks as the ancient populations of
the northern part of Europe and Asia.

It was--we think--from the far _north-west_ of Europe that America was
first visited by the true White man, though there has been an ancient
immigration of imperfect "White" men (Ainu) from Kamschatka. Three or
four hundred years after the birth of Christ there were great race
movements in northern and central Europe, due to an increase of
population and insufficiency of food. Not only did these white
barbarians (though they were not as barbarous as we were led to think
by Greek and Roman literature) invade southern Europe, North Africa,
and Asia Minor, but from the fourth century of the Christian era
onwards they began to cross over to England and Scotland. At the same
time they took more complete possession of Scandinavia, driving north
before their advance the more primitive peoples like the Lapps and
Finns, who were allied to the stock from which arose both the Eskimo
and the Amerindian.[1] All this time the Goths and Scandinavians
were either learning ideas of navigation from the Romans of the
Mediterranean or the Greeks of the Black Sea, or they were inventing
for themselves better ways of constructing ships; and although they
propelled them mainly by oars, they used masts and sails as well.[2]
Having got over the fear of the sea sufficiently to reach the coasts
of England and Scotland, the Hebrides, Orkneys, and Shetlands, they
became still more venturesome in their voyages from Norway, until they
discovered the Faroe Archipelago (which tradition says they found
inhabited by wild sheep), and then the large island of Iceland, which
had, however, already been reached and settled by the northern Irish.

[Footnote 1: This is a convenient name for the race formerly called
"American Indian". They are not Indians (i.e. natives of India), and
they are not the only Americans, since there are now about 110,000,000
white Americans of European origin and 24,000,000 negroes and
negroids. The total approximate "Amerindian" or aboriginal population
of the New World at the present day is 16,000,000, of whom about
111,000 live in the Canadian Dominion, and 300,000 in the United
States, the remainder in Central and South America.]

[Footnote 2: It is doubtful whether actual masts and sails were known
in America till the coming of Europeans, though the ancient Peruvians
are said to have used mat sails in their canoes. But the northern
Amerindians had got as far as placing bushes or branches of fir trees
upright in their canoes to catch the force of the wind.]

Iceland, though it lies so far to the north that it is partly within
the Arctic Circle, is, like Norway, Scotland, and Ireland, affected by
the Gulf Stream, so that considerable portions of it are quite
habitable. It is not almost entirely covered with ice, as Greenland
is; in fact, Iceland should be called Greenland (from the large extent
of its grassy pastures), and Greenland should be called Iceland.
Instead of this, however, the early Norwegian explorers called these
countries by the names they still bear.

The Norse rovers from Norway and the Hebrides colonized Iceland from
the year 850; and about a hundred and thirty-six years afterwards, in
their venturesome journeys in search of new lands, they reached the
south-east and south-west coasts of Greenland. Owing to the glacial
conditions and elevated character of this vast continental island
(more than 500,000 sq. miles in area)--for the whole interior of
Greenland rises abruptly from the sea-coast to altitudes of from 5000
to 11,000 ft.--this discovery was of small use to the early Norwegians
or their Iceland colony. After it was governed by the kingdom of
Norway in the thirteenth century, the Norse colonization of south-west
Greenland faded away under the attacks of the Eskimo, until it ceased
completely in the fifteenth century. When Denmark united herself with
the kingdom of Norway in 1397, the Danish king became also the ruler
of Iceland. In the eighteenth century the Norwegian and Danish
settlements were re-established along the south-east and south-west
coasts of Greenland, mainly on account of the value of the whale,
seal, and cod fisheries in the seas around this enormous frozen
island; and all Greenland is now regarded as a Danish possession.

But the adventurous Norsemen who first reached Greenland from Iceland
attempted to push their investigations farther to the south-west, in
the hope of discovering more habitable lands; and in this way it was
supposed that their voyages extended as far as Massachusetts and Rhode
Island, but in all probability they reached no farther than
Newfoundland and Nova Scotia. This portion of North America they
called "Vinland", more from the abundance of cranberries (_vinbaer_) on
the open spaces than the few vines to be found in the woods of Nova

[Footnote 3: The grapes and vines so often alluded to by the early
explorers of North America ripened, according to the species, between
August and October. They belong to the same genus--_Vitis_--as that of
the grape vines of the Old World, but they were quite distinct in
species. Nowadays they are known as the Fox Grapes (_Vitis vulpina_),
the Frost Grape (_V. cordifolia_), the _V. aestivalis_, the _V.
labruska_, &c. The fruit of the Fox Grape is dark purple, with a very
dusky skin and a musky flavour. The Frost Grape has a very small
berry, which is black or leaden-blue when covered with bloom. It is
very acid to the taste, but from all these grapes it is easy to make a
delicious, refreshing drink. Champlain, however, says that the wild
grapes were often quite large in size, and his men found them
delicious to eat.]

This brings us down to the year 1008. The Icelandic Norsemen then
ceased their investigations of the North-American Continent, and were
too ignorant to realize the value of their discoveries. Their colonies
on the coasts of Nova Scotia ("Vinland") and Newfoundland
("Estotiland") were attacked probably by Eskimos, at any rate by a
short, thick-set, yellow-skinned ugly people whom the Norsemen called
"Skraeling",[4] who overcame the unfortunate settlers, murdered some,
and carried off others into the interior.

[Footnote 4: Perhaps from the Eastern Eskimo national name _Karalit_.]

But about this period, when Europe was going through that dismal era,
the Dark Age which followed the downfall of the Roman Empire of the
west, various impulses were already directing the attention of
European adventurers to the Western Ocean, the Atlantic. One cause was
the increased hold of Roman and Greek Christianity over the peoples of
Europe. These Churches imposed fasts either for single days or for
continuous periods. When people fasted it meant that they were chiefly
denied any form of meat, and therefore must eat fish if they were not
content with oil, bread, or vegetables. So that there was an enormous
and increasing demand for fish, not only amongst those fortunate
people who lived by the seashore, and could get it fresh whenever they
liked, but among those who lived at a distance inland, and were still
required to fast when the Church so directed. Of course in many parts
of Europe they could get freshwater fish from the rivers or lakes. But
the supply was not equal to the demand; and fish sent up from the
seacoast soon went bad, so that the plan of salting and curing fish
was adopted. The Norsemen found it a paying business to fish
industriously in the seas round Iceland, Norway, Scotland, and
Ireland, salt and cure the fish, and then carry it to more southern
countries, where they exchanged it against wine, oil, clothing
materials, and other goods. This led to the Venetians (who had
absorbed so much of the carrying trade of the Mediterranean) sending
their ships through the Straits of Gibraltar into the northern seas
and trading with the Baltic for amber and salt fish. In the course of
this trade some Venetians, such as Antonio Zeno, found their way to
Norway and Iceland.[5] It is thought that by this means Venice became
acquainted with the records of the Icelandic voyages to North
America, and that her explorers thus grew to entertain the idea of a
sea journey westward, or north-westward, of Britain, bringing mariners
to a New World represented by the far-eastern extension of Asia.

[Footnote 5: Antonio Zeno served as pilot to Earl Sinclair of the
Faeroe Islands and of Roslyn, a Norman-Scottish nobleman who owed
joint fealty to the kings of Norway and Scotland. Sinclair was so
impressed with the stories of a "Newland" beyond Greenland that he
sailed to find it about 1390, but only reached Greenland.]

Christopher Columbus, the Genoese, conceived a similar idea, which
also may have owed something to the tradition of the Norsemen's
discovery of Vinland. But Columbus's theories were based on better
evidence, such as the discovery on the coasts of the Azores
archipelago, Madeira, and Portugal of strange seeds, tree trunks,
objects of human workmanship, and even (it is said) the bodies of
drowned savages--Amerindians--which had somehow drifted across, borne
by the current of the Gulf Stream, and escaping the notice of the

Whilst Columbus was bestirring himself to find Asia across the
Atlantic, a sea pilot, JOHN CABOT (Zuan Cabota)--Genoese by birth, but
a naturalized subject of Venice--came to England and offered himself
to King Henry VII as a discoverer of new lands across the ocean. At
first he was employed at Copenhagen to settle fishery quarrels about
Iceland, and probably Cabota, or Cabot, visited Iceland in King
Henry's service, and there heard of the Icelandic colonies on the
other side of the Atlantic, only recently abandoned.

In 1496 King Henry VII provided money to cover some of the expense of
a voyage of discovery to search for the rumoured island across the
ocean. The people of Bristol were ordered to assist John Cabot, and by
them he was furnished with a small sailing ship, the _Matthew_, and a
crew of fifteen mariners. Cabot, with his two sons, Luis and Sancio,
sailed for Ireland and the unknown West in May, 1497, and, after a sea
voyage quite as wonderful as that of Columbus, reached the coast of
Cape Breton Island (or "the New Isle", as it was first named[6]) on
June 24, 1497. They found "the land excellent, and the climate
temperate". The sea was so full of fish along these coasts that the
mariners opined (truly) that henceforth Bristol need not trouble about
the Iceland trade. Here along this "new isle" were the predestined
fisheries of Britain.[7]

[Footnote 6: Cape Breton was not then, or for nearly two hundred years
afterwards, known to be an island. It was thought to be part of the
"island" (peninsula) of what we now call Nova Scotia, and the whole of
this region which advances so prominently into the Atlantic was
believed to be at first the great unknown "New Island" of Irish and
English legends--legends based on the Norse discoveries of the
eleventh century. Cape Breton was thus named by the Breton seaman who
came thither soon after the Cabot expeditions to fish for cod. This
large island is separated from Nova Scotia by the Gut of Canso, a
strait no broader than a river.]

[Footnote 7: Dr. S.E. DAWSON (_The St. Lawrence Basin_) says of this
voyage: "When the forest wilderness of Cape Breton listened to the
voices of Cabot's little company (of Bristol mariners) it was the
first faint whisper of the mighty flood of English speech which was
destined to overflow the continent to the shores of another

They encountered no inhabitants, though they found numerous traces of
their existence in the form of snares, notched trees, and bone netting
needles. John Cabot hoisted the English flag of St. George and the
Venetian standard of St. Mark; then--perhaps after coasting a little
along Nova Scotia--fearful that a longer stay might cause them to run
short of provisions, he turned the prow of the _Matthew_ eastward, and
reached Bristol once more about August 6, and London on August 10,
1497, with his report to King Henry VII, who rewarded him with a
donation of L10. He was further granted a pension of L20 a year (which
he only drew for two years, probably because he died after returning
from a second voyage to the North-American coast), and he received a
renewal of his patent of discovery in February, 1498. In this patent
it is evidently inferred that King Henry VII assumed a sovereignty
over these distant regions because of John Cabot's hoisting of the
English flag on "the new Isle" (Cape Breton Island) in the preceding

The new expedition of 1498 was a relatively important affair. The
king assisted to finance the ventures of the Bristol captains, and
five of his ships formed part of the little fleet. It is probable that
John Cabot was in command, and almost certain that his young son
Sebastian was a passenger, possibly an assistant pilot. The course
followed lay much farther to the north, and brought the little sailing
vessels amongst the icebergs, ice floes, polar bears, and stormy seas
of Greenland and Labrador. Commercially the voyage was a failure,
almost a disaster. The ships returned singly, and after a considerable
interval of time. Nevertheless, some of the king's loans were repaid
to him; and in 1501 a regular chartered company was formed (perhaps at
Bristol), with three Bristolians and three Portuguese as directors.
Henry VII not only gave a royal patent to this association, but lent
more money to enable it to explore and colonize these new lands across
the western sea.

There can be little doubt that between 1498 and 1505 these Bristol
ships, directed by Italian, English, and Portuguese pilots, first
revealed to the civilized world of western Europe the coasts of
Newfoundland, Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, Massachusetts, and
Delaware. They must have got as far south as the State of Delaware
(according to Sebastian Cabot, their southern limit was lat. 38 deg.),
because in 1505 they were able to bring back parrots ("popyngays"), as
well as hawks and lynxes ("catts of the mountaigne"), for the
delectation of King Henry; and parrots even at that period could not
have been obtained from farther north than the latitude of New

[Footnote 8: Almost certainly this was _Conurus carolinensis_, a green
and orange parrakeet still found in the south-eastern States of North
America, but formerly met with as far north as New York and Boston.]

But after 1505 English interest in "the Newe founde launde" and the
"Newe Isle" languished; the exploration of North America was taken up
and carried farther by Portuguese, Bretons and Normans of France,
Italians, and Spaniards.[9] It revived again under Henry VIII, owing
to the irresistible attraction of the Newfoundland fisheries and the
knowledge that the ships from France were returning every autumn with
great supplies of fish cured and salted; for an adequate supply of
salt fish was becoming a matter of great importance to the markets of
western Europe. In 1527 Henry VIII sent two ships under the command of
John Rut to explore the North-American coast, and Captain Rut seems
to have reached the Straits of Belle Isle between Newfoundland
and Labrador (then blocked with ice so that he took them for
a bay), and afterwards to have passed along the east coast of
Newfoundland--already much frequented by the Bretons, Normans, and
Portuguese--and to have stopped at the harbour of St. John's, thence
sailing as far south as Massachusetts.

[Footnote 9: The name _America_ probably appears for the first time in
English print in the old play or masque the _Four Elements_, which was
published about 1518. In a review of the geography of the Earth, as
known at that period, a description is given of this vast New World
across the Ocean: "But these new landys found lately, been called
America, because only Americus did find them first". Americus was a
Florentine bank clerk--Amerigo Vespucci--at Seville who gave up the
counting-house for adventure, sailed with a Spanish captain to the
West Indies and the mainland of Venezuela (off which he notes that he
met an English sailing vessel, and this as early as 1499!), and then
joined the first exploring voyage of the Portuguese to Brazil. He
returned to Europe, and in a letter to a fellow countryman at Paris,
written in the late autumn of 1502, he claimed to have discovered a
New World across the Ocean. His clear statement about what was really
the South American Continent aroused so much enthusiasm in civilized
Europe that five years afterwards the New World was called after him
by a German printer (Walzmueller) at the little Alsatian University of
St. Die. By 1518 the English writers and mariners were probably aware
that the discoveries of Cabot, Columbus, and the Portuguese indicated
the extension of "America" from the Arctic to the Antarctic, but not
till about 1553 did the scholars and adventurers of England show
themselves fully alive to the gigantic importance of this New World.
Between 1530 and 1553 their attention was distracted from geography
and over-sea adventure by the religious troubles of the Reformation.]

The Portuguese monarchy had begun to take possession of the Azores
archipelago from the year 1432. These islands were probably known to
the Phoenicians, and even to the Arabs of the Middle Ages; between the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they had been rediscovered by
Catalans, Genoese, Flemings, and Portuguese; and after 1444 the Azores
began to prove very useful to the sea adventurers of this wonderful
fifteenth century, as they became a shelter and a place of call for
fresh water and provisions almost in the middle of the Atlantic, 800
to 1000 miles due west of Portugal. Portuguese vessels sailed
northwards from the Azores in search of fishing grounds, and thus
reached Iceland, which they called Terra do Bacalhao.[10] They may
even before Cabot have visited in an unrecorded fashion the wonderful
banks of Newfoundland--an immense area of shallow sea swarming with

[Footnote 10: _Bacalhao_ in Portuguese (and a similar word in Spanish,
old French, and Italian) means dried, salted fish. It comes from a
Latin word meaning "a small stick", because the fish were split open
and held up flat to dry by means of a cross or framework of small
sticks, the Norse name "stokfiske" meant the same: stockfish or

As soon as the news of the Cabot voyages reached the King of Portugal
he arranged to send an expedition of discovery to the far north-west,
perhaps to find a northern sea route to Eastern Asia. He gave the
command to Gaspar Corte-Real, a Portuguese noble connected through
family property with the Azores. Starting from the Azores in the
summer of 1500, Corte-Real discovered Newfoundland, and called it
"Terra Verde" from its dense woods of fir trees, which are now being
churned into wood pulp to make paper for British books and newspapers.
He then sailed along the coast of Labrador,[11] and thence crossed
over to Greenland, the southern half of which he mapped with fair
accuracy. His records of this voyage take particular note of the great
icebergs off the coast of Greenland. His men were surprised to find
that sea water frozen becomes perfectly fresh--all the salt is left
out in the process. So that his two ships could supply themselves
with fresh water of the purest, by hacking ice from the masses
floating in these Greenland summer seas. The next year he started
again, but on a more westerly course. His two ships reached the coasts
of New Jersey and Massachusetts, and sailed north once more to
Labrador. They captured a number of Amerindian aborigines, but only
one of the two ships (with seven of these savages on board) reached
Portugal; Gaspar Corte-Real was never heard of again. His brother
Miguel went out in search of him, but he likewise disappeared without
a trace.

[Footnote 11: _Labrador_ (_Lavrador_ in Portuguese) means a labourer,
a serf. The Portuguese are supposed to have brought some Red Indians
from this coast to be sold as slaves.]

Nevertheless these Portuguese expeditions to North America have left
ineffaceable traces in the geography of the Newfoundland coast, of
which (under the name of Terra Nova[12]) the governorship was made
hereditary in the Corte-Real family. Cape Race for example--the most
prominent point of the island--is really the Portuguese _Cabo
Raso_--the bare or "shaved" cape--and this was by the Spaniards
regarded as the westernmost limit of Portuguese sovereignty in that
direction. For the Spaniards were by no means pleased at the intrusion
of other nations into a New World which they desired to monopolize
entirely for the Spanish Crown. They did not so much mind sharing it,
along the line agreed upon in the Treaty of Tordesillas, with the
Portuguese, but the ingress of the English and French infuriated them.
The Basque people of the north-east corner of Spain were a hardy
seafaring folk, especially bold in the pursuit of whales in the Bay of
Biscay, and eager to take a share in the salt-fish trade. This desire
took them in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries to Ireland and
Iceland. They began to fish off the Newfoundland coasts perhaps as
early as 1525. About this time also the Emperor Charles V, King of
Spain, having through one great Portuguese sea captain--Magalhaes
(Magellan)--discovered the passage from Atlantic to Pacific across
the extremity of South America, thought by employing another
Portuguese--Estevao Gomez--to find a similar sea route through North
America, which would prove a short cut from Europe to China. This was
the famous "North-west Passage" the search for which drew so many
great and brave adventurers into the Arctic sea of America between
1500 and 1853, to be revealed at last by our fellow countrymen, but to
prove useless to navigation on account of the enormous accumulation of

[Footnote 12: Corte-Real's name of Terra Verde ("Greenland") was soon
dropped in favour of the older English name "New Land" (Newfoundland,
Terra Nova). This was at once adopted by the French seamen as "Terre

Gomez left Corunna in the winter of 1524-5, and reached the
North-American coast somewhere about Florida. He probably only began
to investigate closely after he passed into the broad gulf of Maine,
between Cape Cod and Nova Scotia. Here he sighted from the sea the
lofty mountains of New Hampshire, and steered for the mouth of the
Penobscot River (which he named the River of Deer), a title which
sticks to the locality--in Deer Island--at the present day. But this
being no opening of a broad strait, he passed on into the Bay of Fundy
(from Portuguese word, _Fundo_, the bottom of a sack or passage),
explored its two terminal gulfs, then returned along the coast of Nova
Scotia,[13] past Cape Sable, and so to the "gut" or Canal of Canso.
Gomez realized that Cape Breton was an island (we now know that it is
two islands separated by a narrow watercourse), but thought that Cabot
Strait was a great bay, and guessed nothing of the Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and the chance of securing for Spain the possession of this
mighty waterway into the heart of North America.

[Footnote 13: The name Nova Scotia was not applied to this peninsula
until 1621, by the British Government. It was at first included with
New Brunswick under the Spanish name of Norumbega, and after 1603 was
called by the French "Acadie".]

From Cape North he crossed over to the south coast of Newfoundland,
and followed this more or less till he came to Cape Race. Newfoundland
was a "very cold and savage land", and Gomez decided it was no use
prosecuting any farther his enquiry as to a water passage across North
America, because, if it existed, it must lie in latitudes of frozen
sea and be unnavigable.

At different places along the east coast of North America he kidnapped
natives, and eventually returned to Spain (via Florida and Cuba) with
a cargo of Amerindian slaves.

He had been preceded, by seven or eight months, in his explorations
along the same coast by GIOVANNI DA VERRAZANO, a native of Florence,
who as a navigator and explorer had visited the East, and had
associated himself a good deal with the shipowners of Dieppe. Ever
since the issue of Cabot's voyages was known--at any rate from
1504--ships from Brittany and Normandy had made their way to Cape
Breton Island and Newfoundland for the cod fisheries. In 1508 a Norman
named Aubert was sent out by Jean Ango--a great merchant of Dieppe of
that day--to found a colony in Newfoundland. Aubert failed to do this,
but he captured and brought away at least seven of the natives, no
doubt of the Beothik tribe, from Newfoundland to Rouen, with their
canoe, clothing, and weapons. A good many ships also went out from La
Rochelle on the west coast of France, and took part in the fishing off
the coast of Newfoundland: together with the ships of Brittany and
Dieppe there may have been a French fishing fleet of seventy to eighty
ships plying every summer season between France, Newfoundland, and
Cape Breton. So that when "John from Verrazano" offered his services
to Francis I to make discoveries across the ocean, which should become
possessions of the French Crown, he was quickly provided with the
requisite funds and ships.

Verrazano started on the 17th of January, 1524, for the coast of
North America, but I shall say little about his expedition here,
because it resulted chiefly in the discovery and mapping of what is
now the east coast of the United States. He reached as far as the
south coast of Newfoundland, it is true; he also gave the names of
Nova Gallia and Francesca to the coast regions of eastern North
America, and distinctly intended to take possession of these on behalf
of the French Crown. But his work in this direction did not lead
directly to the creation of the French colony of Canada, because, when
he returned from America, Francis I was at war with Spain, and could
pay no attention to Verrazano's projects. His voyage is worth
recording in the present volume only for these two reasons: he
certainly put it into the minds of French people that they might found
an empire in North America; and he inspired geographers for another
hundred years with the false idea that the great North American
Continent had a very narrow waist, like the Isthmus of Panama, and
that the Pacific Ocean covered the greater part of what is now called
the United States. This mistake arose from his looking across the
narrow belts or peninsulas of sand in North Carolina and Virginia, and
seeing vast stretches of open water to the west. These were found, a
hundred years afterwards, to be merely large shallow lagoons of sea
water, but Verrazano thought they were an extension of the Pacific

Nevertheless, Verrazano's voyage developed into the French
colonization of Canada, just as Cabot drew the British to
Newfoundland, Columbus the Spaniards to Central and South America, and
Amerigo Vespucci showed the Portuguese the way to Brazil. The modern
nations of western Europe owe the inception of their great colonies in
America to four Italians.


Jacques Cartier

Verrazano and Gomez, and probably the English captain, John Rut, had
all sought for the opening of a strait of salt water--like Magellan's
Straits in the far south--which should lead them through the great
North-American continent to the regions of China and Japan. Yet in
some incomprehensible way they overlooked the two broad passages to
the north and south of Newfoundland--the Straits of Belle Isle and of
Cabot--which would at any rate lead them into the vast Gulf of St.
Lawrence, and thence to the St. Lawrence River and the Great Lakes; a
natural system of waterways connected each with the other and all with
the Mississippi and Missouri, the Arctic Ocean, and Hudson's Bay; nay,
more, with the North Pacific also; so that with a few "portages", or
carryings of canoes from one watershed to another, a traveller of any
enterprise, accompanied by a sturdy crew, can cross the broad
continent of North America at its broadest from sea to sea without
much walking.

Estevao Gomez noticed Cabot Straits between Cape Breton and
Newfoundland, but thought them only a very deep bay. John Rut and
others discerned the Straits of Belle Isle as a wide recess in the
coast rather than the mouth of a channel leading far inland. And yet,
after thirty years of Breton, English, and Portuguese fishing
operations in these waters, there must have been glimmerings of the
existence of the great Gulf of St. Lawrence behind Newfoundland: and
JACQUES CARTIER (or Quartier), who had probably made already one
voyage to Newfoundland (besides a visit to Brazil), suspected that
between Newfoundland and Labrador there lay the opening of the great
sea passage "leading to China". He proposed himself to Philippe de
Chabot, the Admiral of France, as the leader of a new French adventure
to find the North-west Passage, was accepted by King Francis, and at
the age of forty-three years set out, with two ships, from St. Malo in
Brittany, on April 20, 1534, ten years after Verrazano's voyage, and
reached the coast of Newfoundland after a voyage of only twenty days.
As he sailed northwards, past the deeply indented fiords and bays of
eastern Newfoundland (the shores of which were still hugged by the
winter ice), he and his men were much impressed with the incredible
numbers of the sea fowl settled for nesting purposes on the rocky
islands, especially on Funk Island.[1] These birds were guillemots,
puffins, great auks,[2] gannets (called by Cartier _margaulx_), and
probably gulls and eider duck. To his sailors--always hungry and
partly fed on salted provisions, as seamen were down to a few years
ago--this inexhaustible supply of fresh food was a source of great
enjoyment. They were indifferent, no doubt, to the fishy flavour of
the auks and the guillemots, and only noticed that they were
splendidly fat. Moreover, the birds attracted Polar bears "as large as
cows and as white as swans". The bears would swim off from the shore
to the islands (unless they could reach them by crossing the ice), and
the sailors occasionally killed the bears and ate their flesh, which
they compared in excellence and taste to veal.

[Footnote 1: Funk Island--called by Cartier "the Island of Birds"--is
only about 3 miles round, and 46 feet above the sea level. It is 3
miles distant from the coast.]

[Footnote 2: The Great Auk (_Alca impennis_), extinct since about 1844
in Europe and 1870 in Labrador, once had in ancient times a
geographical range from Massachusetts and Newfoundland to Iceland,
Ireland, Scotland, N.E. England, and Denmark. Perhaps nowhere was it
found so abundantly as on the coasts of Eastern Newfoundland and on
Funk Island hard by. The Great Auk was in such numbers on the
north-east coast of Newfoundland that the Amerindians of that country
and of southern Labrador used it as fuel in the winter time, its body
being very full of oil and burning with a splendid flame. The French
seamen called it _pingouin_ ("penguin") from its fatness, and this
name was much later transferred to the real penguins of the southern
seas which are quite unrelated to the auks.]

Passing through the Straits of Belle Isle, Cartier's ships entered
the Gulf of St. Lawrence. They had previously visited the adjoining
coast of Labrador, and there had encountered their first "natives",
members of some Algonkin tribe from Canada, who had come north for
seal fishing (Cartier is clever enough to notice and describe their
birch-bark canoes). After examining the west coast of Newfoundland,
Cartier's ships sailed on past the Magdalen Islands (stopping every
now and then off some islet to collect supplies of sea birds, for the
rocky ground was covered with them as thickly as a meadow with
grass).[3] He reached the north coast of Prince Edward Island, and
this lovely country received from him an enthusiastic description. The
pine trees, the junipers, yews, elms, poplars, ash, and willows, the
beeches and the maples, made the forest not only full of delicious and
stimulating odours, but lovely in its varied tints of green. In the
natural meadows and forest clearings there were red and white
currants, gooseberries, strawberries, raspberries, a vetch which
produced edible peas, and a grass with a grain like rye. The forest
abounded in pigeons, and the climate was pleasant and warm.

[Footnote 3: On the shores of these islands they noticed "several
great beasts like oxen, which have two tusks in the mouth similar to
those of the elephant". These were walruses.]

Later on he coasted New Brunswick, and paused for a time over Chaleur
Bay, hoping it might be the opening to the strait across the continent
of which he was in search; but finding it was not, he continued
northwards till he had almost rounded the Gaspe Peninsula, a course
which would have led him straight away into the wonderful discovery of
the St. Lawrence River, but that, being forced by bad weather into
Gaspe Bay, and perhaps hindered by fog, instead of entering the St.
Lawrence he sailed right across to Anticosti Island. After that,
being baffled by bad weather and doubtful as to his resources lasting
out, he decided to return to France through the Strait of Belle Isle.

So far he had failed to realize two of the most important things in
the geography of this region: the broad southern entrance into the
Gulf of St. Lawrence (subsequently called Cabot Strait), which
separates Newfoundland on the north from Cape Breton Island on the
south, and the broad entrance into the River St. Lawrence between
Anticosti Island and the Gaspe Peninsula.

Yet, whilst staying in Gaspe Bay, he had a very important meeting with
Amerindian natives of the Huron-Iroquois stock, who had come down the
River St. Lawrence from the neighbourhood of Quebec, fishing for
mackerel. These bold, friendly people welcomed the French heartily,
greeting them with songs and dances. But when they saw Cartier erect a
great cross on the land at the entrance to Gaspe Bay (a cross bearing
a shield with the arms of France and the letters "Vive le Roi de
France"), they were ill at ease. It is certain that not one word could
be understood in language between the two parties, for there were as
yet no interpreters; but the Amerindians were probably shrewd enough
to perceive that Cartier was making some claim on the land, and they
explained by signs that they considered all this country belonged to
themselves. Nevertheless, Cartier persuaded two youths, the sons of
one of the chiefs, to go back with him to France on his ship, to learn
the French language, to see what France looked like, and to return
afterwards as interpreters. The boys, though they were practically
kidnapped at first, were soon reconciled to going, especially when
they were dressed in French clothes!

[Illustration: JACQUES CARTIER]

When Cartier was on his way home he sailed in a north-easterly
direction in such a way as to overlook the broad channel between the
Gaspe Peninsula and Anticosti Island, but having rounded the
easternmost extremity of that large island, he coasted along its
northern shores until he caught sight of the opening of the Canadian
channel to the west. He believed then that he had discovered the
long-looked-for opening of the trans-continental passage, and sailed
for France with his wonderful news.

On the 19th of May, 1535, Cartier started again from St. Malo with
three ships, the biggest of which was only 120 tons, while the others
were respectively 60 and 40 tons capacity. The crew consisted of about
112 persons, and in addition there were the two Indian youths who had
been kidnapped on the previous voyage, and were now returning as
interpreters. Instead, however, of reaching Newfoundland in twenty
days, he spent five weeks crossing the Atlantic before he reached his
rendezvous with the other ships at Blanc Sablon, on the south coast of
Labrador; for the easy access to the Gulf of St. Lawrence through
Cabot Strait (between Newfoundland and Cape Breton) was not yet
realized. Once past Anticosti Island, the two Huron interpreters began
to recognize the scenery.[4] They now explained to Cartier that he had
entered the estuary of a vast river. This they said he had only to
pursue in ships and boats and he would reach "Canada" (which was the
name they gave to the district round about Quebec), and that beyond
"Canada" no man had ever been known to reach the end of this great
water; but, they added, it was fresh water, not salt, and this last
piece of information much disheartened Cartier, who feared that he had
not, after all, discovered the water route across North America to the
Pacific Ocean. He therefore turned about and once more searched the
opposite coast of Labrador most minutely, displaying, as he did so, a
seamanship which was little else than marvellous, for it is a very
dangerous coast, the seas are very stormy, and the look-out often
hampered by a sudden rising of dense fog; there are islands and rocks
(some of them almost hidden by the water) and sandbanks; but Cartier
made this survey of southern Labrador without an accident.

[Footnote 4: Anticosti Island received from Cartier the name of "the
Island of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin", in consequence of his
having discovered it to be an island on the feast day of that name. It
did not receive its present title until the late seventeenth century.]

At this period, some three hundred and seventy-five years ago, the
northern coasts of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and of Anticosti Island
swarmed with huge walruses, which were described by Cartier as sea
horses that spent the night on land and the day in the water. They
have long since been exterminated by the English and French seamen and

At last Cartier set sail for the south-west, intending to explore this
wonderful river and to reach the kingdom of Canada. According to his
understanding of the Amerindian interpreters, the waters of the St.
Lawrence flowed through three great states: _Saguenay_, which was the
mountainous Gaspe Peninsula and the opposite coast; _Canada_, Quebec
and its neighbourhood; and _Hochelaga_, the region between Montreal
and Lake Ontario. At the mouth of the Saguenay River, where Tadoussac
is now situated, he encountered large numbers of white whales--the
Beluga. These are really huge porpoises, allied to the narwhals, but
without the narwhal's exaggerated tusk. When he reached the vicinity
of the modern Quebec,[5] and his Amerindian interpreters found
themselves at their actual home (for they were far away from home on a
fishing expedition when he caught them in Gaspe Bay) there was great
rejoicing; for they were able to tell their relations of the wonderful
country to which they had been across the ocean. Cartier was delighted
with the surroundings of "Canada" (Quebec), near which at that time
was a large settlement (Stadacona) of Huron Indians under a chief
named Donnacona. He decided to lay up his ships here for the winter,
and to pursue the rest of his western explorations in his boats.

[Footnote 5: Then called "Canada". The word Quebec (pronounced
_Kebek_) means the narrow part of a river.]

But the Amerindians for some reason were not willing that he should go
any farther, and attempted to scare him from his projects by arranging
for three of their number to come down river in a canoe, dressed in
dogs' skins, with their faces blackened, and with bisons' horns
fastened to their heads. These devils pretended to take no notice of
the French, but to die suddenly as they reached the shore, while the
rest of the natives gave vent to howlings of despair and
consternation. The three devils were pretending to have brought a
message from a god to these Hurons of "Canada" that the country up
river (Hochelaga) was so full of ice and snow that it would be death
for anyone to go there.

However, this made little or no impression on Cartier; but he consented
to leave a proportion of his party behind with the chief Donnacona as
hostages, and then started up country in his boats with about seventy
picked officers and men. On the 2nd of October, 1535, they reached the
vicinity of the modern Montreal, the chief settlement of Hochelaga.
The Huron town at the foot of the hills was circular in outline,
surrounded by a stockade of three rows of upright tree trunks, which
rose to its highest point in the middle, where the timbers of the
inner and outward sides sloped to meet one another, the height of the
central row being about 8 feet above the ground. All round the inside
there was a platform or rampart on which were stored heavy stones to
be hurled at any enemy who should attempt to scale the fence. The town
was entered by only one doorway, and contained about fifty houses
surrounding an open space whereon the towns-people made their
bonfires. Each house was about 50 feet long by 12 to 15 feet wide.
They were roofed with bark, and usually had attics which were
storerooms for food. In the centre of each of these long houses there
was a fireplace where the cooking for the whole of the house
inhabitants was done. Each family had its own room, but each house
probably contained five families. Almost the only furniture, except
cooking pots, was mats on which the people sat and slept. The food of
the people consisted, besides fish and the flesh of beavers and deer,
of maize and beans. Cartier at once recognized the maize or Indian
corn as the same grain ("a large millet") as that which he had seen in

He gives a description of how they made the maize into bread (or
rather "dampers", "ashcakes"); but as this is not altogether clear, it
is better to combine it with Champlain's description, written a good
many years later, but still at a time when the Hurons were unaffected
by the white man's civilization. According to both Cartier and
Champlain, the women pounded the corn to meal in a wooden mortar, and
removed the bran by means of fans made of the bark of trees. From this
meal they made bread, sometimes mixing with the meal the beans
(_Phaseolus vulgaris_), which had been boiled and mashed. Or they
would boil both Indian corn and beans into a thick soup, adding to the
soup blueberries,[6] dried raspberries, or pieces of deer's fat. The
meal derived from the corn and beans they would make into bread,
baking it in the ashes.

[Footnote 6: The Canada Blueberry (_Vaccinium canadense_), called by
the French _blues_ or _bluets_. These blues were collected and dried
by the Amerindians, and made a sweet nutriment for eating in the

Or they would take the pounded Indian corn without removing the bran,
and put two or three handfuls of it into an earthen pot full of water,
stirring it from time to time, when it boiled, so that it might not
adhere to the pot. To this was added a small quantity of fish, fresh
or dry, according to the season, to give a flavour to the _migane_ or
porridge. When the dried fish was used the porridge smelt very badly
in the nostrils of Europeans, but worst of all when the porridge was
mixed with dried venison, which was sometimes nearly putrid! If fish
was put into this porridge it was boiled whole in the mealy water,
then taken out without any attempt to remove the fins, scales, or
entrails, and the whole of the boiled fish was pounded up and put back
into the porridge. Sometimes a great birch-bark "kettle" would be
filled with water, fish, and meat, and red-hot stones be dropped in
till it boiled. Then with a spoon they would collect from the surface
the fat and oil arising from the fish or meat. This they afterwards
mixed with the meal of roasted Indian corn, stirring it with this fat
till they had made a thick soup. Sometimes, however, they were content
to eat the young corn-cobs freshly roasted, which as a matter of fact
(with a little salt) is one of the most delicious things in the world.
Or they would take ears of Indian corn and bury them in wet mud,
leaving them thus for two or three months; then the cobs would be
removed and the rotted grain eaten with meat and fish, though it was
all muddy and smelt horribly. Cartier also noticed that these Huron
Indians had melons and pumpkins, and described their wampum or shell

[Footnote 7: Cartier, in Hakluyt's translation, is made to say (I
modernize the spelling): "They dig their grounds with certain pieces
of wood as big as half a sword, on which ground groweth their corn,
which they call 'offici'; it is as big as our small peason.... They
have also great store of musk melons, pompions, gourds, cucumbers,
peas, and beans of every colour, yet differing from ours."

Wampum, or shell money (which recalls the shell money of the Pacific
Islands), consisted either of beads made from the interior parts of
sea shells or land shells, or of strings of perforated sea shells. The
most elaborate kind of wampum was that of the Amerindians of Canada
and the eastern United States, the shell beads of which were generally
white. The commoner wampum beads were black and violet. Wampum belts
were made which illustrated events, dates, treaties of peace, &c, by a
rude symbolism (figures of men and animals, upright lines, &c), and
these were worked neatly on string by employing different-coloured

From the eminence on which the Huron city stood, Cartier obtained a
splendid view of rivers and mountains and magnificent forests, and
called the place then and there, in his Norman French, Mont Real, or
Royal Eminence, a name which it will probably bear for all time,
though the actual city of Montreal lies a few miles below.

Montreal was the limit of Cartier's explorations on this journey. He
returned thence to "Canada" or Stadacona, where his men built a fort
armed with artillery, and where his ships were anchored. Here he had
to stay from the middle of November, 1535, to the middle of April,
1536, his ships being shut in by the ice. The experiences of the
French during these five months were mostly unhappy. At first Cartier
gave himself up to the collecting of information. He noticed for the
first time the smoking of tobacco,[8] and collected information about
the products and features of "Canada". The Indians told him of great
lakes in the far west, one of which was so vast that no man had seen
the end of it. They told him that anyone travelling up the Richelieu
River (as it was called sixty years later) would eventually reach a
land in the south where in the winter there was no ice or snow, and
where fruit and nut trees grew in abundance. Cartier thought that they
were talking to him of Florida, but their geographical information can
scarcely have stretched so far; they probably referred to the milder
regions of New Jersey and Virginia, which would be reached by
following southwards the valley of the Hudson and keeping to the
lowlands of the eastern United States.

[Footnote 8: "There groweth also a certain kind of herb whereof in
summer they make a great provision for all the year, making great
account of it, and only men use it; and first they cause it to be
dried in the sun, then wear it about their necks wrapped in a little
beast's skin made like a bag, together with a hollow piece of stone or
wood like a pipe. Then when they please they make powder of it and put
it in one of the ends of the said cornet or pipe, and laying a coal of
fire upon it at the other end, suck so long that they fill their
bodies full of smoke, till that it cometh out of their mouth and
nostrils, even as out of the tunnel of a chimney. They say that this
doth keep them warm and in health: they never go without some of it
about them. We ourselves have tried the same smoke, and having put it
in our mouths, it seemed almost as hot as pepper." The foregoing is
one of the earliest descriptions of tobacco smoking in any European
language, the original words being in Cartier's Norman French.]

As the winter set in with its customary Canadian severity the real
trouble of the French began. They did not suffer from the cold, but
they were dying of scurvy. This disease, from which the natives also
suffered to some extent, was due to their eating nothing but salt or
smoked provisions--forms of meat or fish. They lived, of course, shut
up in the fort, and Cartier's fixed idea was to keep the Hurons from
the knowledge of his misfortune, fearing lest, if they realized how
the garrison was reduced, they might treacherously attack and massacre
the rest; for in spite of the extravagant joy with which their arrival
had been greeted, the Amerindians--notably the two interpreters who
had been to France and returned--showed at intervals signs of disquiet
and a longing to be rid of these mysterious white men, whose coming
might involve the country in unknown misfortunes. In January and
February, also, Donnacona and these two interpreters and many of the
Huron men had been absent hunting in the forests, so that there was no
one among the Amerindians to whom the French could turn for
information regarding this strange disease. At last 25 out of the 112
who had left France were dead, and of the remainder only 10 men,
including Cartier, were not grievously ill. Those who were living
found it sometimes beyond their strength to bury the dead in the
frozen ground, and simply placed their bodies in deep snow. Once or
twice, when Cartier left the fort to go out to the ships, he met
Domagaya, one of the two interpreters, and found that he also was
suffering from this mysterious disease, though not nearly so badly as
the French people. On the body of one young man who died of scurvy
Cartier and his officers, shuddering, made investigations, opening the
corpse and examining the organs to try and find the cause of death.
This was on the afternoon of a day on which they had held a solemn
service before a statue erected to the Virgin Mary on the shore
opposite to the ships. All who were fit to walk went in procession
from the fort to the statue, singing penitential psalms and the Litany
and celebrating Mass.

Some days after this religious service Cartier met the interpreter,
Domagaya, and to his surprise found him perfectly well and strong. He
asked him for an explanation, and was told that the medicine which
cured this disease was made from the leaves and bark of a tree called
ameda.[9] Cartier then ventured to say that one of his servants was
sick of this unknown disease, and Domagaya sent for two women, who
taught the French people how to make an extract from the balsam fir
for drinking, and how to apply the same liquid to the inflamed skin.
The effect on the crews was miraculous. In six days all the sick were
well and strong.

[Footnote 9: This tree was the balsam fir, _Abies balsamea_.]

Then came the sudden spring. Between April 15th and May 1st the ice on
the river was all melted, and on the 6th May, 1536, Cartier started
from the vicinity of Quebec to return to France. But before leaving he
had managed to kidnap Donnacona, the chief of the Huron settlement,
and six or seven other Amerindians, amongst them Tainyoanyi, one of
the two interpreters who had already been to France. He seized these
men, it appears, partly because he wanted hostages and had good reason
to fear that the Indians meditated a treacherous attack on his ships
before they could get away. He also wished for native witnesses at
Court, when he reached France, to testify to the truth of his
discoveries, and even more to convince the King of France that there
was great profit to be obtained from giving effect to Cartier's
explorations. The chief, Donnacona, was full of wonderful stories of
the Saguenay region, and of the great lakes to the northwards of
Quebec. Probably he was only alluding to the wealth of copper now
known to exist in northern Canada, but to Cartier and the other
Frenchmen it seemed as though he spoke of gold and silver, rubies, and
other precious stones.

Donnacona's people howled and wept when their chief was seized; but
Cartier obliged the chief to reassure them, and to say that the French
had promised to bring him back after he had paid a visit to their
great king, who would return him to his country with great presents.
As a matter of fact, not one of these Indians rapt away by Cartier
ever saw Canada again. But this was not the fault of Cartier, but of
the distractions of the times which turned away the thoughts of King
Francis I from American adventures. The Indians were well and kindly
treated in France, but all of them died there before Cartier left St.
Malo to return to Canada in 1541.

One advantage he derived from sailing away with these hostages was (no
doubt) that they could give him geographical information of importance
which materially shortened the return journey. For the first time he
made use of the broad strait between Anticosti Island and Gaspe
Peninsula, and, better still, entered the Atlantic, not by the
dangerous northern route through the straits of Belle Isle, but by
means of Cabot Strait, between Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. Of
these discoveries he availed himself on his third and last voyage in

When in that year he once more anchored his ships near Quebec he found
the attitude of the Hurons changed. They enquired about their friends
and relations who had been carried off five years before, and although
they pretended to be reconciled to their fate when they heard (not
altogether truly) that one or two were dead, and the others had become
great lords in France and had married French women, they really felt a
disappointment so bitter and a hostility so great that Cartier guessed
their expressions of welcome to be false. However, he sent back to
France two of the ships under his command and beached the other three,
landed his stores, built two forts at Cap Rouge, above and below, and
then started off with a few of his men and two boats to revisit the
country of Hochelaga. Here he intended to examine the three rapids or
"saults"--interruptions to the navigation of the St. Lawrence--which
he had observed on his previous journey, and which were later named
the La Chine Rapids (in the belief that they were obstacles on the
river route to China). But these falls proved insuperable obstacles to
his boats, and he gave up any further idea of westward exploration,
returned to his forts and ships near Quebec, and there laid the
foundations of a fortified town, which he called Charlesbourg Royal.
Here he spent a very difficult winter, the Hurons in the neighbourhood
becoming increasingly hostile, and at last, when the spring came, as
he had received no relief from France, he took to his three ships,
abandoned Charlesbourg Royal (having probably to do some fighting
before he could get safely away) and thence sailed for France. Off the
Avalon Peninsula of Newfoundland he met the other ships of the
expedition which was to have occupied Canada for France. These were
under the command of the Sieur de Roberval, a French nobleman, who had
really been made head of the whole enterprise, with Cartier as a
subordinate officer, but who, the year before, had allowed Cartier to
go off to Canada and prepare the way, promising to follow immediately.
The interview between Cartier and Roberval, near where the capital of
Newfoundland (St. John's) now stands, was a stormy one. Roberval
ordered Cartier to return at once to Charlesbourg and await his
arrival. However, in the middle of the night which followed this
interview, Cartier took advantage of a favourable wind and set sail
for France, arriving soon afterwards at St. Malo.

But Roberval arrived at Charlesbourg (going the roundabout way through
the straits of Belle Isle, for Cartier had told him nothing of the
convenient passage through Cabot Strait), and there spent the winter
of 1542-3, sending his ships back to France. This winter was one of
horrors. Roberval was a headstrong, passionate man, perfectly reckless
of human life. He maintained discipline by ferocious sentences,
putting many of his men in irons, whipping others cruelly, women as
well as men, and shooting those who seemed the most rebellious. Even
the Indians were moved to pity, and wept at the sight of the woes of
these unhappy French men and women under the control of a bloodthirsty
tyrant, and many of them dying of scurvy, or miserably weak from that

[Footnote 10: A story was subsequently told of Roberval's stern
treatment which had a germ of truth in it, though it has since been
the foundation of many a romance. On the journey out from France it is
said that Roberval took with him his niece Marguerite, a high-born
lady, who was accompanied by an old companion or nurse. Marguerite was
travelling with her uncle because, unknown to him, she had a lover who
had sailed with him on this expedition and whom she hoped to marry. As
they crossed the Atlantic these facts leaked out, and Roberval
resolved to bide his time and punish his niece for her deception. As
they passed the coast of Southern Labrador Marguerite and her old
nurse were seized and put into a boat, Roberval ordering his sailors
to row them ashore to an island, and leave them to their fate. They
were given four guns with ammunition and a small supply of provisions.
But, as the boat was leaving the ship, Marguerite's lover threw
himself into the sea and swam to the island. Here, according to the
story which Marguerite is supposed to have told afterwards, they
endeavoured to live by killing the wild animals and eating their
flesh; but her lover-husband died, so also did her child soon after it
was born, and then the old nurse, and the unhappy Marguerite was left
alone with the wild beasts, especially the white Polar bears, who
thronged round her hut. Nevertheless she kept them at bay with her
arquebus, and managed somehow to support an existence, until after
nineteen months' isolation the ascending smoke of her fire was seen by
people on one of the many fishing vessels which, by this time,
frequented the coasts of Newfoundland. She was taken off the island
and restored to her home in France. The island to which this tradition
more especially relates is now called Grand Meccatina.]

However, when the weather was warm again, in June, 1543, Roberval
started up the St. Lawrence River in boats to reach the wonderful
country of Saguenay. Apparently he met with little success, and, being
relieved by French ships in the late summer of 1543, he returned to

Thus the splendid work achieved by Cartier seemed to have come to
nothing, for neither he nor Roberval revisited America. The French
settlement near Quebec was abandoned, so far as the officers of the
French king were concerned, and between 1545 and about 1583, if any
other Frenchman or European visited Canada it was some private
adventurer who traded with the natives in furs, or Basques from France
and Spain who frequented the waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence on
account of the abundance of whales, walruses, and seals. In fact, at
the close of the sixteenth century, the Spanish Basques had
established themselves on shore at Tadoussac and other places, and
seemed likely to colonize the country.


Elizabethan Pioneers in North America

Except that the ships of Bristol still no doubt continued to resort to
the banks of Newfoundland for fishing, and that even the captains of
these ships were occasionally elected admirals of the French, Basque,
Portuguese, and English fishing fleets during the summer, the English,
as a nation, took no part in claiming political dominion over North
America after the voyage of Captain John Rut in 1527. This was the
fault of Sebastian Cabot, the son of the man who founded British
America, and who had returned to England long afterwards as the Grand
Pilot appointed by Edward VI to further the discovery of a northern
sea passage to China. Through him the attention of adventurers for a
time was diverted from America to the "discovery" of Russia (as it has
been called). The efforts of Sebastion Cabot were directed towards the
revelation of a north-east passage by way of Arctic Russia to the
Pacific, rather than past Newfoundland and Labrador and across Arctic

But as soon as Elizabeth came to the throne the sea adventurers of
Britain, freed from any subservience to Spanish wishes, developed
maritime intercourse between England, Morocco, and West Africa on the
one hand, and Tropical and North America on the other. Once more the
discovery of the North-west Passage across America to China came into
favour. MARTIN FROBISHER[1] offered himself as a discoverer, and the
Earl of Warwick found the means which provided him with two small
sailing vessels of 25 and 20 tons each, besides a pinnace of 10
tons.[2] Queen Elizabeth confined herself, in the way of
encouragement, to waving her lily hand from her palace of Greenwich as
these three little boats dropped down the Thames on the 8th of June,
1576. She also sent them "an honourable message", which no doubt
reached them at Tilbury.

[Footnote 1: The name was also spelt Furbusher, and in other ways. He
became Sir Martin Frobisher over the wars of the Armada, and died Lord
High Admiral of England in 1592.]

[Footnote 2: It may be of interest to set forth the kind of rations
shipped in those Elizabethan times for the food of the sailors.
According to Frobisher's accounts these consisted of salted beef, salt
pork, salt fish, biscuit, meal for making bread, dried peas, oatmeal,
rice, cheese, butter, beer, and wine, with brandy for emergencies. As
regards beer, the men were to have a ration of 1 gallon a day each.
Altogether it may be said that these rations were superior in
variety--and no doubt in quality--to the food given to seamen in the
British merchant marine in the nineteenth century.]

But the pinnace was soon swallowed up in the high seas; the seamen in
the vessel of 20 tons lost heart and turned their ship homewards.
Frobisher alone, in his 25-ton bark, sailed on and on across the
stormy Atlantic, past the south end of Greenland, and over the great
gulf that separates Greenland from Labrador. He missed the entrance to
Hudson's Bay, but reached a great "island" which he named Meta
Incognita[3]. Here he gathered up stones and, as he believed,
minerals, besides capturing at least one Eskimo, and then returned.

[Footnote 3: We now know Meta Incognita to be the southernmost
peninsula of the vast Baffin Island.]

One of his stones was declared by the refiners of London to contain
gold. There was at once--as we should say in modern slang--a boom for
these Arctic regions. Queen Elizabeth took part in it, and on the 27th
of May, 1577, a considerable fleet, under the command of Frobisher,
sailed past the Orkneys for the south end of Greenland. It did not
reach as far as Meta Incognita, but it brought back large heaps of
earth and pieces of rock, probably from northern Labrador, which
almost certainly contained mica schist, and were therefore believed
to be full of gold. The following year 1578, Frobisher started on his
third American voyage with a fleet of fifteen vessels, mainly financed
by Queen Elizabeth, and manned to a great extent by the sons of the
aristocracy, besides a hundred persons who were going out as
colonists. For this region of ice and snow which was believed to be a
mass of gold-bearing rocks! But the result was one of bitter
disappointment. The captains were bewildered by the immense icebergs,
"so vast that, as they melted, torrents poured from them in sparkling
waterfalls". One iceberg toppled over on to a ship and crushed it,
though most of the sailors were picked up in the sea and saved. In the
thick mists the greater part of the fleet blundered into Hudson's
Straits, yet did not realize that they had found a passage into the
heart of Canada. At last, disgusted with this land of bare rocks, ice,
and snow, they filled up the ships with cargoes of stones supposed to
contain gold, and straggled back to England. No gold was extracted,
however, from these cargoes, and much discouragement ensued.

SIR HUMPHREY GILBERT, one of the brilliant figures of Elizabeth's
reign--scholar, poet, courageous adventurer, and man of
chivalry--stimulated by the discoveries of Frobisher, obtained a
patent or charter in 1578, and, after several unsuccessful attempts,
led an expedition of small sailing ships to Newfoundland, where he
entered St. John's Bay, and in the presence of the Basque, Portuguese,
and Breton fishermen took formal possession of the country for Queen
Elizabeth, raising a pillar on which the arms of England were engraved
as a token. He then proceeded to grant lands to the fishermen to
reassure them, and loaded his ships with rocks brought from the
interior mountains and supposed to contain minerals. But in his
further explorations of the southern coast of Newfoundland one of the
ships was lost and nearly a hundred men intended as colonists were

Gilbert then determined to return to England in his small frigate of
10 tons named the _Squirrel_. He was accompanied by a larger vessel,
the _Golden Hinde_, but refused to leave the men on the _Squirrel_ to
their fate. Consequently, between the Azores and the north coast of
Spain, when the _Squirrel_ was overwhelmed by the heavy seas, Sir
Humphrey Gilbert perished together with all on board.

In spite, however, of the disappointing results of Gilbert's attempt
to found a colony in Newfoundland, the importance of the cod fishery
and the ivory tusks and oil of the walruses drew ever more and more
ships from Bristol and Devonshire to the coasts of that great island
and to the Gulf of St. Lawrence beyond. In 1592 the English
adventurers got as far west as Anticosti Island (in a ship from
Bristol), and in 1597 there is the first record of English ships (from
London--the _Hopewell_ and the _Chancewell_) sailing up the St.
Lawrence River, perhaps as far west as Quebec.

In 1602, stimulated by Sir Walter Raleigh,[4] Bartholomew Gosnold
sailed direct to the coast of North America south of the Newfoundland
latitudes, and anchored his bark off the coast of Massachusetts on the
26th of March, 1602. Failing to find a good harbour here, he stood out
for the south and definitely discovered and named Cape Cod, not far
from the modern city of Boston. From Cape Cod he made his way to the
Elizabeth Islands in Buzzard's Bay, and here he built a storehouse and
fort, and may be said to have laid the foundations of the future
colony of New England. He brought back with him a cargo of sassafras
root, which was then much esteemed as a valuable medicine and a remedy
for almost all diseases.

[Footnote 4: In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh, the half-brother of Sir
Humphrey Gilbert, financed an expedition to sail to the coast of North
America in a more southerly direction. In this way was founded the
(afterwards abandoned) colony of Roanoke, in North Carolina. It was to
this region that Queen Elizabeth applied the title of Virginia, which
some years afterwards was transferred to the first English colony on
the James River.]

Subsequent expeditions of English ships explored and mapped the coast
of Maine, and took on board Amerindians for exhibition in England.
Their adventures, together with those of the colonists farther south,
led to the creation of chartered companies, and to the great British
colonies of New England, New York, Virginia, the Carolinas, and
Georgia, which were to become in time the United States of America--a
vast field of adventure which we cannot follow farther in this book.

As regards Newfoundland, James I, in 1610, granted a patent to a
Bristol merchant for the foundation there of a colony, and although
this attempt, and another under Sir George Calvert (Lord Baltimore) in
1616, came almost to nothing through the attacks of the French and the
dislike of the crews of the fishing vessels to permanent settlers who
might interfere with the fishing industry, the English colonization of
Newfoundland to some extent caught hold, so that in 1650 there were
about two thousand colonists of English descent along the east and
south-east coasts of the island. But settlement was prohibited within
six miles of the shore, to please the fishermen, and this regulation
checked for more than two hundred years the colonization of

Nova Scotia as a British colony also came into being as another result
of these adventurous British expeditions to North America in the reign
of James I. Under the name of Acadie this region had been declared to
be a portion of New France by De Monts and Champlain in 1604-14. But
the English colonists in 1614 drove the French out of the peninsula of
Nova Scotia on the plea that it was a part of the discoveries made by
the Cabots on behalf of the British Crown. In 1621 James I gave a
grant of all this territory to Sir William Alexander under the name of
Nova Scotia, and both Charles I and Cromwell encouraged settlement in
this beautiful region. When Charles II ceded it to France in 1667 the
English and Scottish colonists who were residing there, and the
English settlers of New England, refused to recognize the effects of
the Treaty of Breda, and so harassed the French in the years which
followed that in 1713 Nova Scotia was, together with Newfoundland,
recognized as belonging to Great Britain. The French colonists were
allowed to remain, but during the course of the eighteenth century
they combined with the Amerindians (who liked the French and disliked
the British) and made the position of the British colonists so
precarious that they were finally expelled and obliged to transfer
themselves to Louisiana and Canada. This was the departure of the
Acadians so touchingly described by Longfellow.

The British had become tenacious of their rights over the east coast
of Newfoundland, because from the middle of the seventeenth century
onwards they were becoming increasingly interested in the whale
fisheries and the fur trade of the lands bordering on Hudson's Bay,
and would not tolerate any blocking of the sea route thither by the

In the explorations of Arctic America, Frobisher's expeditions had
been succeeded by those of JOHN DAVIS, who in the course of three
voyages, beginning in June, 1585, passed the entrance of Hudson's
Straits and reached a point as far north as 72 deg. 41', a lofty granite
island, which he named Sanderson's Hope. He saw beyond him a great
sea, free, large, very salt, and blue, unobstructed by ice and of an
unsearchable depth, and believed that he had completely discovered the
eastern entrance of the North-West Passage.


HENRY HUDSON, the great English navigator, who had made two voyages
(1607-8) for the English-Moscovy Company to discover a north-east
passage to India, past Siberia, commanded a third experiment in 1609
at the expense of the Dutch East India Company. He was to discover the
North-West Passage. For this purpose he entered the river now named
the Hudson, but soon found it was only a river; though he returned to
Holland with such an encouraging account of the surrounding country
that the Dutch a little later on, founded on the banks of the Hudson
River their colony of New Amsterdam (afterwards the State of New
York). In 1610 Hudson accepted a British commission to sail beyond
where Davis and Frobisher had passed, and once more seek for the
north-west passage to China. Instead he found the way into Hudson's
Bay. Here his men, alarmed at the idea of being lost in these regions
of ice and snow, mutinied against him, placed him and those who were
faithful to him in a boat, and cast them off, themselves returning to
England with the news of his discovery. Hudson was never heard of
again, and, strange to say, the mutineers apparently received no

Between 1602 and 1668, English adventurers from London and Bristol,
notable amongst whom were WILLIAM BAFFIN, LUKE FOX, and CAPTAIN JAMES,
mapped the coasts of Hudson's Bay and Baffin's Bay and brought to the
notice of merchants in England the abundance of whales in these Arctic
waters, and of fur-bearing beasts and fur-trading Indians in the
region of Hudson's Bay.

This last point was most forcibly presented to Charles II and his
Government by a disappointed French Canadian, Pierre Esprit Radisson,
whose adventures will later on be described. Radisson, conceiving
himself to be badly treated by the French Governor of Canada, crossed
over to England with his brother-in-law, Chouart, and the two were
warmly taken up by Prince Rupert of Bavaria, the cousin of Charles II.
They were sent out by Prince Rupert in command of an expedition
financed by him and a number of London merchants, and in 1669 the New
England captain, Gillam, returned to England with Chouart and the
first cargo of furs from Hudson's Bay. This cargo so completely met
the expectations of those who had promoted the venture that it led in
1670 to the foundation of the Governor and Company of Adventurers of
England trading into Hudson's Bay, a company chartered by Charles II
and presided over by Prince Rupert, and an association which proved to
be the germ of British North America, of the vast three-quarters of
the present Dominion of Canada.


Champlain and the Foundation of Canada

From the first voyage of Cartier onwards, Canada was called
intermittently New France, and its possibilities were not lost sight
of by a few intelligent Frenchmen on account of the fur trade. Amongst
these was Amyard de Chastes, at one time Governor of Dieppe, who got
into correspondence with the adventurers who had settled as fur
traders at Tadoussac, prominent amongst whom was Du Pont-Grave. De
Chastes dispatched with Pont-Grave a young man whose acquaintance he
had just made, SAMUEL CHAMPLAIN.[1] This was the man who, more than
any other, created French Canada.

[Footnote 1: Afterwards the Sieur de Champlain. The title of _Sieur_
(from the Latin _Senior_) is the origin of the English "sir", and is
about equivalent to an English baronetcy.]

Champlain had had already a most adventurous life. He was born about
1567, at Brouage, in the Saintonge, opposite to the Island of Heron,
on the coast of western France. From his earliest years he had a
passion for the sea, but he also served as a soldier for six years.
His father had been a sea captain, and his uncle as an experienced
navigator was commissioned by the King of Spain to transport by sea to
that country the remainder of the Spanish soldiers who had been
serving in Brittany. The uncle took his nephew with him. Young
Champlain when in Spain managed to ingratiate himself so much with the
Spanish authorities that he was actually commissioned as a captain to
take a king's ship out to the West Indies. No sooner did he reach
Spanish America than he availed himself of the first chance to
explore it. For two years he travelled over Cuba, and above all
Mexico. He visited the narrowest part of Central America and conceived
the possibility of making a trans-oceanic canal across the Panama

When he got back to France he placed before Henry IV a report on
Spanish Central America, together with a project for making a canal at
Panama. Henry IV was so pleased with his work and enterprise that he
gave him a pension and the title of Geographer to the King. Shortly
afterwards he met Governor de Chastes at Dieppe, and was by him sent
out to Canada. The ship which carried Champlain, PONT-GRAVE,[2] the
SIEUR DE MONTS,[3] and other French adventurers (together with two
Amerindian interpreters whom Pont-Grave had brought from Canada to
learn French) arrived at Tadoussac on May 24, 1603.

[Footnote 2: Correctly written this was Francois Grave, Sieur du

[Footnote 3: The full name was Pierre du Guast, Sieur de Monts.
Including de Champlain and de Poutrincourt, who will be described
later, we have here the four great heroes who founded French Canada.]

Champlain lost no time in commencing his explorations. Tadoussac was
at the mouth of an important river, called by the French the Saguenay,
a name which they also applied to the mysterious and wonderful country
through which it flowed in the far north; a country rich in copper and
possibly other precious metals. Champlain ascended the Saguenay River
for sixty miles as far as the rapids of Chicoutima. The Amerindians
whom he met here told him of Lake St. John, lying at a short distance
to the west, and that beyond this lake and the many streams which
entered it there lay a region of uplands strewn with other lakes and
pools; and farther away still began the sloping of the land to the
north till the traveller sighted a great arm of the salt sea, and
found himself amongst tribes (probably the Eskimo) who ate raw flesh,
and to the Indians appeared absolute savages.[4] This was probably
the first allusion, recorded by a European, to the existence of
Hudson's Bay, that huge inlet of the sea, which is one of the leading
features in the geography of British North America.

[Footnote 4: The real name for this remarkable people, the Eskimo, is,
in Alaska and Arctic North America, _Innuit_, and in Labrador and
Greenland, _Karalit_. Eskimo (in French, _Esquimaux_) is said to be a
corruption of the Montagnais-Indian word, Eskimantsik, meaning "eaters
of raw flesh".]

The Montagnais Indians round about Tadoussac received Champlain with
great protestations of friendship, and at the headquarters of their
principal chief or "Sagamore" celebrated this new friendship and
alliance with a feast in a very large hut. The banquet, as usual, was
preceded by a long address from the Sagamore in answer to the
description of France, given by one of the Indian interpreters. The
address was accompanied by the solemn smoking of tobacco, and at every
pause in this grave oration the natives present shouted with one
voice: "Ho! ho! ho!" The repast consisted of elk's meat (which struck
the Frenchmen as being like beef), also the flesh of bear, seal,
beaver, and wild fowl. There were eight or ten stone boilers or
cauldrons full of meats in the middle of the great hut, separated each
six feet from each other, and each one having its own fire. Every
native used a porringer or vessel made of birch bark. When the meat
was cooked a man in authority distributed it to each person. But
Champlain thought the Indians ate in a very filthy manner. When their
hands were covered with fat or grease they would rub them on their own
heads or on the hair of their dogs. Before the meat was cooked each
guest arose, took a dog, and hopped round the boilers from one end of
the great hut to the other. Arriving in front of the chief, the
Montagnais Indian feaster would throw his dog violently to the ground,
exclaiming: "Ho! ho! ho!" after which he returned to his place.

At the close of the banquet every one danced, with the skulls of
their Iroquois enemies slung over their backs. As they danced they
slapped their knees with their hands, and shouted: "Ho! ho! ho!" till
they were out of breath.

The huts of these Indians were low and made like tents, being covered
with the bark of the birch tree. An opening about a foot of the top
was left uncovered to admit light and to allow the smoke to escape.
Though low, the huts were sometimes quite large, and would accommodate
ten families. These slept higgledy-piggledy on skins, with their dogs
amongst them. The dogs in appearance were something like what we know
as Eskimo dogs, and also rather resembled the Chinese chow, with broad
heads and rather short muzzles, prick ears, and a tail inclined to
curl over the back. "All these people have a very cheerful
disposition, laughing often, yet at the same time they are somewhat
phlegmatic. They talk very deliberately, as if desiring to make
themselves well understood, and, stopping suddenly, they reflect for a
long time, when they resume their discourse."

They were agile, well-proportioned people, who in the summertime went
about nearly naked, but in the winter were covered with good furs of
elk, otter, beaver, bear, seal, and deer. The colour of their skin was
usually a pale olive, but the women for some reason made themselves
much darker-skinned than the men by rubbing their bodies with pigments
which turned them to a dark brown. At times they suffered very much
from lack of food, being obliged then to frequent the shore of the
river or gulf to obtain shellfish. When pressed very hard by famine
they would eat their dogs (their only domestic animal) and even the
leather of the skins with which they clothed themselves. In the autumn
they were much given to fishing for eels, and they dried a good deal
of eel flesh, to last them through the winter. During the height of
the winter they hunted the beaver, and later on the elk. Though they
ate wild roots and fruits whenever they could obtain them, they do
not seem to have cultivated any grain or vegetables. In the early
spring they were sometimes dying of hunger, and looked so thin and
haggard that they were mere walking skeletons. They were then ready to
eat carrion that was putrid, so that it is little wonder that they
suffered much from scurvy.

Yet the rivers and the gulf abounded in fish, and as soon as the
waters were unlocked by the melting of the ice in April, the surviving
Indians rapidly grew fat and well, and of course the late summer and
the autumn brought them nuts (hickory and other kinds of walnut, and
hazel nuts), wild cherries, wild plums, raspberries, strawberries,
gooseberries, blackberries, currants,[5] cranberries, and grapes.

[Footnote 5: The wild currants so often mentioned by the early
explorers of Canada are often referred to as red, green, and blue. The
blue currants are really the black currant, now so familiar to our
kitchen gardens (_Ribes nigrum_). This, together with the red currant
(_Ribes rubrum_), grows throughout North America, Siberia, and eastern
Europe. The unripe fruit may have been the green currants alluded to
by Champlain, or these may have been the white variety of our gardens.
The two species of wild strawberry which figure so frequently in the
stories of these early explorers are _Fragaria vesca_ and _F.
virginiana_. From the last-named is derived the cultivated strawberry
of Europe. The wild strawberries of North America were larger than
those of Europe. Champlain does not himself allude to gooseberries
(unless they are his _groseilles vertes_), but later travellers do.
Three or more kinds of gooseberry grow wild in Canada, but they are
different from the European species. The blueberry so often Mentioned
by Champlain (bluets or blues) was _Vaccinium canadense_.]

Champlain observed amongst them for the first time the far-famed
Amerindian snowshoes, which he compares very aptly for shape to a
racquet used in tennis.

Champlain next visited the site of Stadacona, but there was no longer
any settlement of Europeans at that place, nor were the native
Amerindians the descendants of the Hurons that had received Jacques
Cartier. For the first time the name Quebec (pronounced Kebek) is
applied to this point where the great River St. Lawrence narrows
before dividing to encircle the Isle of Orleans. In fact, Quebec meant
in the Algonkin speech a place where a river narrows; for a tribe of
the great Algonkin family, _the_ Algonkins, allied to the tribes of
Maine and New Brunswick, had replaced the Hurons as the native
inhabitants of this region.

On the shore of Quebec he noticed "diamonds" in some slate rocks--no
doubt quartz crystals. Proceeding on up the River St. Lawrence he
observed the extensive woods of fir and cypress (some kind of _Thuja_
or _Juniper_), the undergrowth of vines, "wild pears", hazel nuts,
cherries, red currants and green currants, and "certain little
radishes of the size of a small nut, resembling truffles in taste,
which are very good when roasted or boiled". As they advanced towards
the interior the country became increasingly mountainous on the south
(the green mountains of New Hampshire), and was more and more
beautiful--"the pleasantest land yet seen". Landing on the south bank
of the St. Lawrence, west of the entrance of the river of the Iroquois
(the Richelieu), he found magnificent forests, which, besides the
trees already mentioned, included oaks, chestnuts, maples, pines,
walnut-like nut trees,[6] aspens, poplars, and beeches; with climbing
hops and vines, strawberries trailing over the ground, and raspberry
canes and currant bushes "growing in the thick grass". These splendid
woods on the islands and banks of the broad river were full of game:
elks,[7] wapiti deer, Virginian deer, bears, porcupines, hares, foxes,
beavers, otters, and musk rats, besides many animals he could not

[Footnote 6: Of the genera _Juglans_ and _Carya_.]

[Footnote 7: The huge deer of the genus _Alces_. Elk is the old
Scandinavian name. _Moose_, derived from the Kri language, is the
Canadian term, "Elk" being misapplied to the wapiti (red) deer.
Champlain calls the elk _orignac_, its name in Algonkin.]

At last his little expedition in "a skiff and canoe" had to draw into
the bank, warned by the noise that they were approaching a great fall
of water--the La Chine or St. Louis Rapids. Champlain wrote: "I saw,
to my astonishment, a torrent of water descending with an impetuosity
such as I have never before witnessed.... It descends as if in steps,
and at each descent there is a remarkable boiling, owing to the force
and swiftness with which the water traverses the fall, which is about
a league in length.... The territory on the side of the fall where we
went overland consists, so far as we saw it, of very open wood, where
one can go with his armour without much difficulty."

From the Algonkin Indians in the neighbourhood of these St. Louis
Rapids, and also from those living near Quebec, Champlain obtained a
good deal of geographical information to add to his own observations.
He was given an idea, more or less correct, of Lake Ontario, the Falls
of Niagara, Lake Erie and Lake Huron, and perhaps also of Lake
Superior, a sea so vast, said the Amerindians, that the sun set on its
horizon. This sheet of water, Champlain calculated, must be 1200 miles
distant to the west, and therefore identical with the "Mer du sud"
(Pacific Ocean), which all North-American explorers for three
centuries wished to reach.

After collecting much information about possible copper mines in the
regions north and south of the Lower St. Lawrence, and of silver[8] in
New Brunswick or Nova Scotia, and a terrible story which he more than
half believed about a monster of prodigious size, the _Gougou_,[9]
Champlain set sail for France at the end of August, 1603.

[Footnote 8: Or lead mixed with silver. The local natives used this
ore, which was white when beaten, for their arrowheads.]

[Footnote 9: The Gougou dwelt on the small island of Miscon, to the
east of the Bay of Chaleurs. It had the form of a woman but was about
a hundred feet high. Its habit was to catch and devour men and women,
whom it first placed in a pocket capacious enough to hold a small
ship. Its roarings and hissings could be heard at times coming from
the island of Miscon, where the Gougou lay concealed. Even a
Frenchman, the Sieur Prevert, had heard these noises. Probably this
islet had a whirlpool communicating with a cavern into which fishermen
were sucked by the current.]

In April, 1604, Champlain accompanied the Sieur de Monts (who had
succeeded the dead Amyard de Chastes as head of a chartered
fur-trading association) in a fresh expedition to North America,
together with a hundred and twenty artisans and several noblemen.
They were to occupy the lands of "Cadie" (Acadia, Nova Scotia),
Canada, and other places in New France. De Monts thought Tadoussac and
Quebec too cold in wintertime, and preferred the sunnier east coast
regions. He aimed indeed at colonizing what is now New England.

On the way to Nova Scotia, the expedition was nearly wrecked on Sable
Island, about one hundred and twenty miles south of Cape Breton
Island, and noticed there the large red cattle run wild from the bulls
and cows landed on Sable Island by the Portuguese some sixty years
earlier. (The Portuguese of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries
deserved well of humanity for the generous way in which they left
cattle, goats, pigs, and rabbits to run wild on desert islands and
serve as provender for shipwrecked mariners like Robinson Crusoe.)
Champlain also speaks of the "fine large black foxes" which he and
other voyagers noticed on Sable Island. How they came there is a
mystery, unless the island had once been part of the mainland.

This same Sable Island had been the scene of an extraordinary
experiment at the end of the previous century. In 1598 the Marquis de
la Roche, given a commission to colonize New France, sailed in a small
ship for North America with sixty convicts from French prisons as
colonists. He landed them on Sable Island, and went away to look for
some good site for his colony. But then a storm arose, and his little
ship was literally blown back to France. The convicts, abandoned thus,
built themselves shelters out of the driftwood of wrecks; killed and
ate the cattle and caught fish. They made themselves warm clothes out
of the skins of the seals which frequented the island coast in
thousands. But these convicts quarrelled and fought among themselves
so fiercely that when at last a ship from Normandy came to take them
away, there were only twelve left--twelve shaggy men with long tangled
hair and beards; and, a legend says, in addition a Franciscan monk
who had been landed on the island with them as a kind of missionary or
chaplain, and who had been so heartbroken at their bloody quarrels and
horrible deeds that when the Norman ship arrived to take the castaways
back to France, the Franciscan refused to go with them, believing
himself to be dying and wishing to end his life undisturbed. So he was
left behind. But after the ship had sailed away he slowly mended, grew
well and strong, and cultivated eagerly his little garden. For food he
ate the whelks, mussels, and oysters that were so abundant on the
shore. Occasionally ships (then as now) were wrecked on Sable Island
in stormy weather, and the good monk ministered to the mariners who
reached the shore. Also he was visited, ever and again, by the Breton
fishing boats, which brought him supplies of necessaries and the bread
and wine for celebrating Mass. Long after his death his spirit was
thought to haunt the desolate island.

Champlain and his companions passed on from Sable Island to the
south-east coast of Nova Scotia, noticing as they landed here and
there the abundance of rabbits[10] and sea birds, especially the Great
Auk, of which they killed numbers with sticks, cormorants (whose fishy
eggs they ate with enjoyment), puffins, guillemots, gulls, terns,
scissorbills, divers, ospreys, buzzards, and falcons; and no doubt the
typical American white-tailed sea eagles, ravens, ducks, geese,
curlews, herons, and cranes. Here and there they found the shore
"completely covered with sea wolves"--seals, of course, probably the
common seal and the grey seal. Of these they captured as many as they
wanted, for the seals, like most of the birds, were quite unafraid of

[Footnote 10: There are no real rabbits in America. This was probably
the Polar Hare (_Lepus timidus glacialis_), or the common small
varying hare (_L. americanus_).]

They then explored the Bay of Fundy, and, after zig-zagging about,
decided to fix on the harbour of St. John's (New Brunswick) as the
site for their colony. The future capital of New France, therefore,
was begun on La Sainte Croix (Dochet) Island, near the mouth of the
wonderful tidal estuary of the Uigudi (Ouygoudy) River.

Here they passed the winter, but suffered so badly from scurvy[11]
that, when in the spring of 1605 Du Pont Grave arrived from Brittany
with supplies, the remnant of the colony was removed to the opposite
coast of Nova Scotia to Port Royal (afterwards named by the English
Annapolis[12]). The French seem to have fallen in love with this place
from the very first. Nevertheless here they suffered from scurvy
during the winter as elsewhere. Before moving over here, however,
Champlain, together with De Monts, had explored the west of New
England south of New Brunswick as far as Plymouth, just south of

[Footnote 11: How awful was this "mal de terre" or scurvy amongst the
French settlers may be seen from this description of Champlain: "There
were produced in the mouths of those who had it great pieces of
superfluous and drivelling flesh, which got the upper hand to such an
extent that scarcely anything but liquid could be taken. Their teeth
became very loose and could be pulled out with the fingers without its
causing them pain.... Afterwards a violent pain seized their arms and
legs, which remained swollen and very hard, all spotted as if with
fleabites; and they could not walk on account of the contraction of
the muscles.... They suffered intolerable pains in the loins, stomach,
and bowels, and had a very bad cough and short breath.... Out of
seventy-nine who composed our party, thirty-five died and twenty were
on the point of death (when spring began in May)."

Scurvy is said to be a disease of the blood caused by a damp, cold,
and impure atmosphere combined with absence of vegetable food and a
diet of salted or semi-putrid meat or fish, such as was so often the
winter food of Amerindians and of the early French pioneers in Canada.
We have already noted Cartier's discovery of the balsam remedy.]

[Footnote 12: From Queen Anne.]

Off the coast of Maine (Richmond's Island) they encountered
agricultural Amerindians of a new tribe, the Penobskot probably, who
cultivated a form of rank narcotic tobacco (_Nicotiana rustica_),
which they called _Petun_. (A variety of this has produced the
handsome garden flower _Petunia_, whose Latin name is derived from
this native word Petun.) They also grew maize or Indian corn, planting
very carefully three or four seeds in little mounds three feet apart
one from the other, the soil in between being kept clear of weeds. The
American farmers of to-day cannot adopt any better method.

The islands round about Portland (Maine) were matted all over with
wild red currants, so that the eye could scarcely discern anything
else. Attracted by this fruit, clouds of wild pigeons had
assembled[13]. They manifested hardly any fear of the French, who
captured large numbers of them in snares, or killed them with guns.
The natives of southern Maine fled with dismay on sighting the French
ships, for they had never before seen sailing vessels, but later on
they timidly approached the French ships in a canoe, then landed and
went through a wild dance on the shore to typify friendliness.
Champlain took with him some drawing paper and a pencil or crayon,
together with a quantity of knives and ship's biscuit. Landing alone,
he attracted the natives towards him by offering them biscuits, and
having gathered them round him (being of course as much unable to
understand their speech as they were French), he proceeded to ask
questions by means of certain drawings, chiefly the outlines of the
coast. The savages at once seized his idea, and taking up his pencil
drew on the paper an accurate outline of Massachusetts Bay, adding
also rivers and islands unknown to the French. They went on by further
intelligent signs to supply information. For instance, they placed six
pebbles at equal distances to intimate that Massachusetts Bay was
occupied by six tribes and governed by as many chiefs. By drawings of
growing maize and other plants they intimated that all these people
lived by agriculture.

[Footnote 13: The pigeons referred to by Champlain were probably the
Passenger pigeon (_Ectopistes_) which at one time was extraordinarily
abundant in parts of North America, though it has now been nearly
killed out by man. It would arrive in flocks of millions on its
migratory journeys in search of food.]

Champlain thought Massachusetts (in his first voyage) a most
attractive region in the summer, what with the blue water of the
enclosed arms of the sea, the lofty forest trees, and the fields of
Indian corn and other crops.

When these French explorers reached the harbour of Boston, the islands
and mainland were swarming with the native population. The Amerindians
were intensely interested in the arrival of the first sailing vessel
they had ever seen. Although it was only a small barque, its size was
greater than any canoe known to them. As it seemed to spread huge
white wings and to glide silently through the water without the use of
paddles or oars, it filled them with surprise and admiration. They
manned all their canoes[14] and came out in a flotilla to express
their honour and reverence for the wonderful white men. But when the
French took their leave, it was equally obvious that the natives
experienced a sense of relief, for they were disquieted as well as
filled with admiration at the arrival of these wonderful beings from
an unknown world.

[Footnote 14: It is interesting to learn from his accurate notes that
in Massachusetts (and from thence southwards) there were no more bark
canoes, but that the canoes were "dug-outs"--trunks of tall trees
burnt and chipped till they were hollowed into a narrow vessel of
considerable length.]

Champlain describes the wigwams or native huts as being cone-shaped,
heavily thatched with reeds, with an opening at the top of the roof
for the smoke to escape. Inside the huts was a low bed raised a foot
from the ground and made of short posts driven into the ground, with a
surface made of boards split from trees. On these boards were laid
either the dressed skins of deer or bear, or thick mattresses made of
reeds or rushes. The beds were large enough for several people to lie
on. Champlain describes the huts as being full of fleas, and likewise
the persons of the nearly naked Indians, who carried these fleas out
with them into the fields when they were working, so that the
Frenchmen by stopping to talk to the natives became covered with
fleas to such an extent that they were obliged to change their

In the fields were cultivated not only maize, but beans similar to the
beans grown by the natives of Brazil, vegetable marrows or pumpkins,
Jerusalem artichokes[15], radishes, and tobacco. The woods were filled
with oaks, walnut trees[16], and the red "cedar" of North America,
really a very large juniper, the foliage of which in the summertime
often assumes a reddish colour, together with the trunk. This
Virginian juniper or "red cedar" is now quite a common tree in
England. In warm weather it exhales a delicious aromatic scent.

[Footnote 15: This tuber, which is a well-known and very useful
vegetable in England, comes from the root of a species of sunflower
(_Helianthus tuberosus_). It has nothing to do with the real
artichoke, which is a huge and gorgeous thistle, and it has equally
nothing to do with Jerusalem. The English people have always taken a
special delight in mispronouncing and corrupting words in order to
produce as much confusion as possible in their names for things.
Jerusalem is a corruption of _Girasole_, which is the Italian name
given to this sunflower with the edible roots, because its flower is
supposed always to turn towards the sun. The Jerusalem artichoke was
originally a native of North America.]

[Footnote 16: These walnut trees were afterwards known in modern
American speech as hickories, butter-nuts, and pig-nuts, all of which
are allied to, but distinct from, the European walnut.]

All these natives of the Massachusetts coast were described by
Champlain as being almost naked in the summertime, wearing at most a
small piece of leather round the waist, and a short robe of spun hemp
which hung down over the shoulders. Their faces were painted red,
black and yellow. The men pulled out any hairs which might come on the
chin, and thus were beardless. They were armed with pikes, clubs,
bows, and arrows. The pikes were probably made of wood with the ends
hardened by being burnt to a point in the fire, and the arrow tips
were made of the sharp termination of the tail of the great


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