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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XIV

The Journals of the intrepid French explorer who was the first European to discover Lake Champlain

This is the fourteenth in a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. To view Part I, click here. For Champlain's account of the discovery of the lake that bears his name, click here...

Original translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D. Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.

Volume II



When we were some six leagues from Mallebarre, we anchored near the coast, the wind not being fair, along which we observed columns of smoke made by the savages, which led us to determine to go to them, for which purpose the shallop was made ready. But when near the coast, which is sandy, we could not land, for the swell was too great. Seeing this, the savages launched a canoe, and came out to us, eight or nine of them, singing and making signs of their joy at seeing us, and they indicated to us that lower down there was a harbor where we could put our barque in a place of security. Unable to land, the shallop came back to the barque; and the savages, whom we had treated civilly, returned to the shore.

On the next day, the wind being favorable, we continued our course to the north [210] five leagues, and hardly had we gone this distance, when we found three and four fathoms of water at a distance of a league and a half from the shore. On going a little farther, the depth suddenly diminished to a fathom and a half and two fathoms, which alarmed us, since we saw the sea breaking all around, but no passage by which we could retrace our course, for the wind was directly contrary.

Accordingly being shut in among the breakers and sand-banks, we had to go at hap-hazard where there seemed to be the most water for our barque, which was at most only four feet: we continued among these breakers until we found as much as four feet and a half. Finally, we succeeded, by the grace of God, in going over a sandy point running out nearly three leagues seaward to the south-south-east, and a very dangerous place. [211] Doubling this cape, which we named Cap Batturier, [212] which is twelve or thirteen leagues from Mallebarre, [213] we anchored in two and a half fathoms of water, since we saw ourselves surrounded on all sides by breakers and shoals, except in some places where the sea was breaking to go to a place, which, we concluded to be that which the savages had indicated. We also thought there was a river there, where we could lie in security.

When our shallop arrived there, our party landed and examined the place, and, returning with a savage whom they brought off, they told us that we could enter at full tide, which was resolved upon. We immediately weighed anchor, and, under the guidance of the savage who piloted us, proceeded to anchor at a roadstead before the harbor, in six fathoms of water and a good bottom; [214] for we could not enter, as the night overtook us.

On the next day, men were sent to set stakes at the end of a sand-bank [215] at the mouth of the harbor, when, the tide rising, we entered in two fathoms of water. When we had arrived, we praised God for being in a place of safety. Our rudder had broken, which we had mended with ropes; but we were afraid that, amid these shallows and strong tides, it would break anew, and we should be lost. Within this harbor [216] there is only a fathom of water, and two at full tide. On the east, there is a bay extending back on the north some three leagues, [217] in which there is an island and two other little bays which adorn the landscape, where there is a considerable quantity of land cleared up, and many little hills, where they cultivate corn and the various grains on which they live. There are, also, very fine vines, many walnut-trees, oaks, cypresses, but only a few pines. [218] All the inhabitants of this place are very fond of agriculture, and provide themselves with Indian corn for the winter, which they store in the following manner:--

They make trenches in the sand on the slope of the hills, some five to six feet deep, more or less. Putting their corn and other grains into large grass sacks, they throw them into these trenches, and cover them with sand three or four feet above the surface of the earth, taking it out as their needs require. In this way, it is preserved as well as it would be possible to do in our granaries. [219]

* * * * *



_The figures indicate fathoms of water_.

_A_. Pond of salt water. [Note: This is now called Oyster Pond.]
_B_. Cabins of the Savages and the lands they cultivate.
_C_. Meadows where there are two little brooks.
_C_. Meadows on the island, that are covered at every tide. [Note: The letter _C_ appears twice in the index, but both are wanting on the map. The former seems to point to the meadows on the upper left-hand corner: the other should probably take the place of the _O_ on the western part of the island above _F_.]
_D_. Small mountain ranges on the island, that are covered with trees, vines, and plum-trees. [Note: This range of hills is a marked feature of the island.]
_E_. Pond of fresh water, where there is plenty of game. [Note: This pond is still distinguished for its game, and is leased by gentlemen in Boston and held as a preserve.]
_F_. A kind of meadow on the island. [Note: This is known as Morris Island; but the strait on the north of it has been filled up, and the island is now a part of the main land.]
_G_. An island covered with wood in a great arm of the sea. [Note: This island has been entirely obliterated, and the neck on the north has likewise been swept away, and the bay now extends several leagues farther north. The destruction of the island was completed in 1851, in the gale that swept away Minot's Light. In 1847, it had an area of thirteen acres and an elevation of twenty feet.--_Vide Harbor Com. Report, 1873.]
_H_. A sort of pond of salt water, where there are many shell-fish, and, among others, quantities of oysters. [Note: This is now called the Mill Pond.]
_I_. Sandy downs on a narrow tongue of land.
_L_. Arm of the sea.
_M_. Roadstead before the harbor where we anchored. [Note: Chatham Roads, or Old Stage Harbor.]
_N_. Entrance to the harbor.
_O_. The harbor and place where our barque was.
_P_. The cross we planted.
_Q_. Little brook.
_R_. Mountain which is seen at a great distance. [Note: A moderate elevation, by no means a mountain in our sense of the word.]
_S_. Sea-shore.
_T_. Little river.
_V_. Way we went in their country among their dwellings: it is indicated by small dots. [Note: The circuit here indicated is about four or five miles. Another path is indicated in the same manner on the extreme northern end of the map, which shows that their excursions had been extensive.]
_X_. Banks and shoals.
_Y_. Small mountain seen in the interior. [Note: This is now called the Great Chatham Hill, and is a conspicuous landmark.] _Z_. Small brooks.
_9_. Spot near the cross where the savages killed our men. [Note: This is a creek up which the tide sets. The other brook figured on the map a little south of the cross has been artificially filled up, but the marshes which it drained are still to be seen. These landmarks enable us to fix upon the locality of the cross within a few feet.]

* * * * *

We saw in this place some five to six hundred savages, all naked except their sexual parts, which they cover with a small piece of doe or seal-skin. The women are also naked, and, like the men, cover theirs with skins or leaves. They wear their hair carefully combed and twisted in various ways, both men and women, after the manner of the savages of Choüacoet. [220] Their bodies are well-proportioned, and their skin olive-colored. They adorn themselves with feathers, beads of shell, and other gewgaws, which they arrange very neatly in embroidery work. As weapons, they have bows, arrows, and clubs. They are not so much great hunters as good fishermen and tillers of the land.

In regard to their police, government, and belief, we have been unable to form a judgment; but I suppose that they are not different in this respect from our savages, the Souriquois and Canadians, who worship neither the moon nor the sun, nor any thing else, and pray no more than the beasts. [221] There are, however, among them some persons, who, as they say, are in concert with the devil, in whom they have great faith. They tell them all that is to happen to them, but in so doing lie for the most part. Sometimes they succeed in hitting the mark very well, and tell them things similar to those which actually happen to them. For this reason, they have faith in them, as if they were prophets; while they are only impostors who delude them, as the Egyptians and Bohemians do the simple villagers. They have chiefs, whom they obey in matters of war, but not otherwise, and who engage in labor, and hold no higher rank than their companions. Each one has only so much land as he needs for his support.

Their dwellings are separate from each other, according to the land which each one occupies. They are large, of a circular shape, and covered with thatch made of grasses or the husks of Indian corn. [222] They are furnished only with a bed or two, raised a foot from the ground, made of a number of little pieces of wood pressed against each other, on which they arrange a reed mat, after the Spanish style, which is a kind of matting two or three fingers thick: on these they sleep. [223] They have a great many fleas in summer, even in the fields. One day as we went out walking, we were beset by so many of them that we were obliged to change our clothes.

All the harbors, bays, and coasts from Choüacoet are filled with every variety of fish, like those which we have before our habitation, and in such abundance that I can confidently assert that there was not a day or night when we did not see and hear pass by our barque more than a thousand porpoises, which were chasing the smaller fry. There are also many shell-fish of various sorts, principally oysters. Game birds are very plenty.

It would be an excellent place to erect buildings and lay the foundations of a State, if the harbor were somewhat deeper and the entrance safer. Before leaving the harbor, the rudder was repaired; and we had some bread made from flour, which we had brought for our subsistence, in case our biscuit should give out. Meanwhile, we sent the shallop with five or six men and a savage to see whether a passage might be found more favorable for our departure than that by which we had entered.

After they had gone five or six leagues and were near the land, the savage made his escape [224], since he was afraid of being taken to other savages farther south, the enemies of his tribe, as he gave those to understand who were in the shallop. The latter, upon their return, reported that, as far as they had advanced, there were at least three fathoms of water, and that farther on there were neither shallows nor reefs.

We accordingly made haste to repair our barque, and make a supply of bread for fifteen days. Meanwhile, Sieur de Poutrincourt, accompanied by ten or twelve arquebusiers, visited all the neighboring country, which is very fine, as I have said before, and where we saw here and there a large number of little houses.

Some eight or nine days after, while Sieur de Poutrincourt was walking out, as he had previously done, [225] we observed the Savages taking down their cabins and sending their women, children, provisions, and other necessaries of life into the woods. This made us suspect some evil intention, and that they purposed to attack those of our company who were working on shore, where they stayed at night in order to guard that which could not be embarked at evening except with much trouble. This proved to be true; for they determined among themselves, after all their effects had been put in a place of security, to come and surprise those on land, taking advantage of them as much as possible, and to carry off all they had. But, if by chance they should find them on their guard, they resolved to come with signs of friendship, as they were wont to do, leaving behind their bows and arrows.

Now, in view of what Sieur de Poutrincourt had seen, and the order which it had been told him they observed when they wished to play some bad trick, when we passed by some cabins, where there was a large number of women, we gave them some bracelets and rings to keep them quiet and free from fear, and to most of the old and distinguished men hatchets, knives, and other things which they desired. This pleased them greatly, and they repaid it all in dances, gambols, and harangues, which we did not understand at all. We went wherever we chose without their having the assurance to say any thing to us. It pleased us greatly to see them; show themselves so simple in appearance.

We returned very quietly to our barque, accompanied by some of the savages. On the way, we met several small troops of them, who gradually gathered together with their arms, and were greatly astonished to see us so far in the interior, and did not suppose that we had just made a circuit of nearly four or five leagues about their territory. Passing near us, they trembled with fear, lest harm should be done them, as it was in our power to do. But we did them none, although we knew their evil intentions. Having arrived where our men were working, Sieur de Poutrincourt inquired if every thing was in readiness to resist the designs of this rabble.

He ordered every thing on shore to be embarked. This was done, except that he who was making the bread stayed to finish a baking, and two others with him. They were told that the savages had some evil intent, and that they should make haste to embark the coming evening, since they carried their plans into execution only at night, or at daybreak, which in their plots is generally the hour for making a surprise.

Evening having come, Sieur de Poutrincourt gave orders that the shallop should be sent ashore to get the men who remained. This was done as soon as the tide would permit, and those on shore were told that they must embark for the reason assigned. This they refused in spite of the remonstrances that were made setting forth the risks they ran and the disobedience to their chief. They paid no attention to it, with the exception of a servant of Sieur de Poutrincourt, who embarked. Two others disembarked from the shallop and went to the three on shore, who had stayed to eat some cakes made at the same time with the bread.

But, as they were unwilling to do as they were told, the shallop returned to the vessel. It was not mentioned to Sieur de Poutrincourt, who had retired, thinking that all were on board.

The next day, in the morning, the 15th of October, the savages did not fail to come and see in what condition our men were, whom they found asleep, except one, who was near the fire. When they saw them in this condition, they came, to the number of four hundred, softly over a little hill, and sent them such a volley of arrows that to rise up was death. Fleeing the best they could towards our barque, shouting, "Help! they are killing us!" a part fell dead in the water; the others were all pierced with arrows, and one died in consequence a short time after. The savages made a desperate noise with roarings, which it was terrible to hear.

* * * * *



The figures indicate fathoms of water.

_A_. Place where the French were making bread.
_B_. The savages surprising the French, and shooting their arrows at them.
_C_. French burned by the Savages.
_D_. The French fleeing to the barque, completely covered with arrows.
_E_. Troops of savages burning the French whom they had killed.
_F_. Mountain bordering on the harbor.
_G_. Cabins of the savages.
_H_. French on the shore charging upon the Savages.
_I_. Savages routed by the French.
_L_. Shallop in which were the French.
_M_. Savages around our shallop, who were surprised by our men.
_N_. Barque of Sieur de Poutrincourt.
_O_. The harbor.
_P_. Small brook.
_Q_. French who fell dead in the water as they were trying to flee to the barque.
_R_. Brook coming from certain marshes.
_S_. Woods under cover of which the savages came.

* * * * *

Upon the occurrence of this noise and that of our men, the sentinel, on our vessel, exclaimed, "To arms! They are killing our men!" Consequently, each one immediately seized his arms; and we embarked in the shallop, some fifteen or sixteen of us, in order to go ashore. But, being unable to get there on account of a sand-bank between us and the land, we threw ourselves into the water, and waded from this bank to the shore, the distance of a musket-shot. As soon as we were there, the savages, seeing us within arrow range, fled into the interior. To pursue them was fruitless, for they are marvellously swift. All that we could do was to carry away the dead bodies and bury them near a cross, which had been set up the day before, and then to go here and there to see if we could get sight of any of them. But it was time wasted, therefore we came back. Three hours afterwards, they returned to us on the sea-shore. We discharged at them several shots from our little brass cannon; and, when they heard the noise, they crouched down on the ground to avoid the fire. In mockery of us, they beat down the cross and disinterred the dead, which displeased us greatly, and caused us to go for them a second time; but they fled, as they had done before. We set up again the cross, and reinterred the dead, whom they had thrown here and there amid the heath, where they kindled a fire to burn them. We returned without any result, as we had done before, well aware that there was scarcely hope of avenging ourselves this time, and that we should have to renew the undertaking when it should please God.

On the 16th of the month, we set out from Port Fortuné, to which we had given this name on account of the misfortune which happened to us there. This place is in latitude 41° 20', and some twelve or thirteen leagues from Mallebarre. [226]


210. Clearly a mistake. Champlain here says they "continued their course north," whereas, the whole context shows that they must have gone south.

211. "The sandy point" running out nearly three leagues was evidently the island of Monomoy, or its representative, which at that time may have been only a continuation of the main land. Champlain does not delineate on his map an island, but a sand-bank nearly in the shape of an isosceles triangle, which extends far to the south-east. Very great changes have undoubtedly taken place on this part of the coast since the visit of Champlain. The sand-bar figured by him has apparently been swept from the south-east round to the south-west, and is perhaps not very much changed in its general features except as to its position. "We know from our studies of such shoals," says Prof. Mitchell, Chief of Physical Hydrography, U. S. Coast Survey, "that the relative order of banks and beaches remains about the same, however the system as a whole may change its location."--_Mass. Harbor Commissioners' Report_. 1873, p. 99.

212. _Batturier_. This word is an adjective, formed with the proper termination from the noun, _batture_, which means a bank upon which the sea beats, reef or sand-bank. _Cap Batturier_ may therefore be rendered sand-bank cape, or the cape of the sand-banks. _Batturier_ does not appear in the dictionaries, and was doubtless coined by Champlain himself, as he makes, farther on, the adjective _truitière_, in the expression _la rivière truitière_, from the noun, _truite_.

213. The distances here given appear to be greatly overstated. From Nauset to the southern point of Monomoy, as it is to-day, the distance is not more than six leagues. But, as the sea was rough, and they were apparently much delayed, the distance might naturally enough be overestimated.

214. The anchorage was in Chatham Roads, or Old Stage Harbor.

215. Harding's Beach Point.

216. They were now in Stage Harbor, in Chatham, to which Champlain, farther on gives the name of Port Fortuné.

217. This is the narrow bay that stretches from Morris Island to the north, parallel with the sea, separated from it only by a sand-bank, and now reaching beyond Chatham into the town of Orleans. By comparing Champlain's map of Port Fortuné with modern charts, it will be seen that the "bay extending back on the north some three leagues" terminated, in 1606, a little below Chatham Old Harbor. The island on Champlain's map marked G. was a little above the harbor, but has been entirely swept away, together with the neck north of it, represented on Champlain's map as covered with trees. The bay now extends, as we have stated above, into the town of Orleans. The island G, known in modern times as Ram Island, disappeared in 1851, although it still continued to figure on Walling's map of 1858: The two other little bays mentioned in the text scarcely appear on Champlain's map; and he may have inadvertently included in this bay the two that are farther north, viz. Crow's Pond and Pleasant Bay, although they do not fall within the limits of his map.

218. _Vide antea_, notes 168, 204, 205.

219. Indian corn, _Zea mays_, is a plant of American origin. Columbus saw it among the natives of the West Indies, "a sort of grain they call Maiz, which was well tasted, bak'd, or dry'd and made into flour."-- _Vide History of the Life and Actions of Chris. Columbus by his Son Ferdinand Columbus, Churchill's Voyages_, Vol. II. p. 510.

It is now cultivated more or less extensively in nearly every part of the world where the climate is suitable. Champlain is the first who has left a record of the method of its cultivation in New England, _vide antea_, p. 64, and of its preservation through the winter. The Pilgrims, in 1620, found it deposited by the Indians in the ground after the manner described in the text. Bradford says they found "heaps of sand newly padled with their hands, which they, digging up, found in them diverce faire Indean baskets filled with corne, and some in eares, faire and good, of diverce collours, which seemed to them a very goodly sight, haveing never seen any such before:"--_His. Plym. Plantation_, p. 82. Squanto taught the English how to "set it, and after how to dress and tend it"--_Idem_, p. 100.

"The women," says Roger Williams, "set or plant, weede and hill, and gather and barne all the corne and Fruites of the field," and of drying the corn, he adds, "which they doe carefully upon heapes and Mats many dayes, they barne it up, covering it up with Mats at night, and opening when the Sun is hot"

The following are testimonies as to the use made by the natives of the Indian corn as food:--

"They brought with them in a thing like a Bow-case, which the principall of them had about his wast, a little of their Corne powdered to Powder, which put to a little water they eate."--_Mourts Relation_, London, 1622, Dexter's ed., p. 88.

"Giving us a kinde of bread called by them _Maizium_."--_Idem_, p. 101.

"They seldome or never make bread of their _Indian_ corne, but seeth it whole like beanes, eating three or four cornes with a mouthfull of fish or flesh, sometimes eating meate first and cornes after, filling chinckes with their broth."--_Wood's New Eng. Prospect_, London, 1634. Prince Society's ed., pp. 75, 76.

"Nonkekich. _Parch'd meal_, which is a readie very wholesome, food, which they eate with a little water hot or cold: ... With _spoonfull_ of this _meale_ and a spoonfull of water from the _Brooke_, have I made many a good dinner and supper."--_Roger Williams's Key_, London, 1643, Trumbull's ed., pp. 39, 40.

"Their food is generally boiled maize, or Indian corn, mixed with kidney beans or Sometimes without.... Also they mix with the said pottage several sorts of roots, as Jerusalem artichokes, and ground nuts, and other roots, and pompions, and squashes, and also several sorts of nuts or masts, as oak-acorns, chesnuts, walnuts: These husked and dried, and powdered, they thicken their pottage therewith."-- _Historical Collections of the Indians_, by Daniel Gookin, 1674, Boston, 1792. p. 10.

220. The character of the Indian dress, as here described, does not differ widely from that of a later period.--_Vide Mourt's Relation_, 1622, Dexter's ed., p. 135: _Roger Williams's Key_, 1643, Trumbull's ed., p. 143, _et seq.; History of New England_, by Edward Johnson, 1654, Poole's ed., pp. 224, 225.

Champlain's observations were made in the autumn before the approach of the winter frosts.

Thomas Morton, writing in 1632, says that the mantle which the women "use to cover their nakednesse with is much longer then that which the men use; for as the men have one Deeres skinn, the women haue two soed together at the full length, and it is so lardge that it trailes after them, like a great Ladies trane, and in time," he sportively adds, "I thinke they may have their Pages to beare them up."--_New Eng. Canaan_, 1632, in Force's Tracts, Vol. II, p. 23.

221. This conclusion harmonizes with the opinion of Thomas Morton, who says that the natives of New England are "_sine fide, sine lege, et sine rege_, and that they have no worship nor religion at all."--_New Eng. Canaan_, 1632, in Force's Tracts, Vol. II. p. 21.

Winslow was at first of the same opinion, but afterward saw cause for changing his mind.--_Vide Winslow's Relation_, 1624, in Young's Chronicles, P 355. See also _Roger Williams's Key_, Trumbull's ed., p. 159.

222. "Their houses, or wigwams," says Gookin, "are built with small poles fixed in the ground, bent and fastened together with barks of trees, oval or arborwise on the top. The best sort of their houses are covered very neatly, tight, and warm with the bark of trees, stripped from their bodies at such seasons when the sap is up; and made into great flakes with pressures of weighty timbers, when they are green; and so becoming dry, they will retain a form suitable for the use they prepare them for. The meaner sort of wigwams are covered with mats they make of a kind of bulrush, which are also indifferent tight and warm, but not so good as the former."--_Vide Historical Collections_, 1674, Boston, 1792, p. 9.

223. The construction of the Indian couch, or bed, at a much later period may be seen by the following excerpts: "So we desired to goe to rest: he layd us on the bed with himselfe and his wife, they at one end and we at the other, it being only plancks layd a foot from the ground, and a thin mat upon them."--_Mourt's Relation_, London. 1622, Dexter's ed., pp. 107, 108. "In their wigwams, they make a kind of couch or mattresses, firm and strong, raised about a foot high from the earth; first covered with boards that they split out of trees; and upon the boards they spread mats generally, and sometimes bear skins and deer skins. These are large enough for three or four persons to lodge upon: and one may either draw nearer or keep at a more distance from the heat of the fire, as they please; for their mattresses are six or eight feet broad."--_Gookin's Historical Collections_, 1674, Boston, 1792, p. 10.

224. This exploration appears to have extended about as far as Point Gammon, where, being "near the land," their Indian guide left them, as stated in the text.

225. On the map of Port Fortuné, or Chatham, the course of one of these excursions is marked by a dotted line, to which the reader is referred.--_Vide_ notes on the map of Port Fortuné.

226. _Port Fortuné_, perhaps here used, to signify the port of chance or hazard; referring particularly to the dangers they encountered in passing round Monomoy to reach it. The latitude of Stage Harbor in Chatham is 41° 40'. The distance from Mallebarre or Nauset to Port Fortuné, or Stage Harbor, by water round the Southern point of Monomoy is at the present time about nine leagues. The distance may possibly have been greater in 1606, or Champlain may have increased the distance by giving a wide berth to Monomoy in passing round it.

This is the conclusion of Chapter 14 of Voyages
Click here for Chapter 15

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Samuel de Champlain. 1567-1635. "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain" Edited by Edmund F. Slafter, (Boston: Prince Society 1878)

Samuel de Champlain image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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