is the twenty-first 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
translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D.
Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.
The voyages to the great river St.
made by Sieur de Champlain,
Captain in ordinary to the King in the Marine,
from the year 1608 to that of 1612
RETURN OF PONT GRAVÉ TO FRANCE. DESCRIPTION OF OUR QUARTERS AND THE
PLACE WHERE JACQUES CARTIER STAYED IN 1535.
After all these occurrences, Pont Gravé set out from Quebec, on the
18th of September, to return to France with the three prisoners.
After he had gone, all who remained conducted themselves correctly
in the discharge of their duty.
I had the work on our quarters continued, which was composed of
three buildings of two stories. Each one was three fathoms long, and
two and a half wide. The storehouse was six fathoms long and three
wide, with a fine cellar six feet deep. I had a gallery made all
around our buildings, on the outside, at the second story, which
proved very convenient. There were also ditches, fifteen feet wide
and six deep. On the outer side of the ditches, I constructed
several spurs, which enclosed a part of the dwelling, at the points
where we placed our cannon. Before the habitation there is a place
four fathoms wide and six or seven long, looking out upon the
river-bank. Surrounding the habitation are very good gardens, and a
place on the north side some hundred or hundred and twenty paces
long and fifty or sixty wide. Moreover, near Quebec, there is a
little river, coming from a lake in the interior,  distant six
or seven leagues from our settlement. I am of opinion that this
river, which is north a quarter north-west from our settlement, is
the place where Jacques Cartier wintered,  since there are
still, a league up the river, remains of what seems to have been a
chimney, the foundation of which has been found, and indications of
there having been ditches surrounding their dwelling, which was
small. We found, also, large pieces of hewn, worm-eaten timber, and
some three or four cannon-balls. All these things show clearly that
there was a settlement there founded by Christians; and what leads
me to say and believe that it was that of Jacques Cartier is the
fact that there is no evidence whatever that any one wintered and
built a house in these places except Jacques Cartier, at the time of
his discoveries. This place, as I think, must have been called St.
Croix, as he named it; which name has since been transferred to
another place fifteen leagues west of our settlement. But there is
no evidence of his having wintered in the place now called St.
Croix, nor in any other there, since in this direction there is no
river or other place large enough for vessels except the main river
or that of which I spoke above; here there is half a fathom of water
at low tide, many rocks, and a bank at the mouth; for vessels, if
kept in the main river, where there are strong currents and tides,
and ice in the winter, drifting along, would run the risk of being
lost; especially as there is a sandy point extending out into the
river, and filled with rocks, between which we have found, within
the last three years, a passage not before discovered; but one must
go through cautiously, in consequence of the dangerous points there.
This place is exposed to the north-west winds; a half fathoms. There
are no signs of buildings here, nor any indications that a man of
judgment would settle in this place, there being many other better
ones, in case one were obliged to make a permanent stay. I have been
desirous of speaking at length on this point, since many believe
that the abode of Jacques Cartier was here, which I do not believe,
for the reasons here given; for Cartier would have left to posterity
a narrative of the matter, as he did in the case of all he saw and
discovered; and I maintain that my opinion is the true one, as can
be shown by the history which he has left, in writing.
* * * * *
CHAMPLAIN'S EXPLANATION OF THE ACCOMPANYING MAP.
ABITATION DE QUEBECQ.
_A_. The storehouse.
_C_. A building where our arms are kept, and for lodging our
_D_. Another building for our workmen.
_F_. Another building, comprising the blacksmith's shop and the
lodgings of the mechanics.
_G_. Galleries extending entirely round the dwellings.
_H_. The dwelling of Sieur de Champlain.
_I_. Gate to the habitation where there is a drawbridge.
_L_. Promenade about the habitation ten feet wide, extending to the
border of the moat.
_M_. Moat extending all round our habitation.
_N_. Platforms, of a tenaille form, for our cannon.
_O_. Garden of Sieur de Champlain.
_P_. The kitchen.
_Q_. Open space before the habitation on the bank of the river.
_R_. The great river St. Lawrence.
* * * * *
As still farther proof that this place now called St. Croix is not
the place where Jacques Cartier wintered, as most persons think,
this is what he says about it in his discoveries, taken from his
history; namely, that he arrived at the Isle aux Coudres on the 5th
of December,  1535, which he called by this name, as hazel-nuts
were found there. There is a strong tidal current in this place; and
he says that it is three leagues long, but it is quite enough to
reckon a league and a half. On the 7th of the month, Notre Dame Day,
 he set out from this island to go up the river, in which he
saw fourteen islands, distant seven or eight leagues from Isle aux
Coudres on the south. He errs somewhat in this estimation, for it is
not more than three leagues.  He also says that the place where
the islands are is the commencement of the land or province of
Canada, and that he reached an island ten leagues long and five
wide, where extensive fisheries are carried on, fish being here, in
fact, very abundant, especially the sturgeon. But its length is not
more than six leagues, and its breadth two; a fact well recognized
now. He says also that he anchored between this island and the main
land on the north, the smallest passage, and a dangerous one, where
he landed two savages whom he had taken to France, and that, after
stopping in this place some time with the people of the country, he
sent for his barques and went farther up the river, with the tide,
seeking a harbor and place of security for his ships. He says,
farther, that they went on up the river, coasting along this island,
the length of which he estimates at ten leagues; and after it was
passed they found a very fine and pleasant bay, containing a little
river and bar harbor, which they found very favorable for sheltering
their vessels. This they named St. Croix, since he arrived there on
this day; and at the time of the voyage of Cartier the place was
called Stadaca,  but we now call it Quebec. He says, also, that
after he had examined this place he returned to get his vessels for
passing the winter there.
Now we may conclude, accordingly, that the distance is only five
leagues from the Isle aux Coudres to the Isle of Orleans,  at
the western extremity of which the river is very broad; and at which
bay, as Cartier calls it, there is no other river than that which he
called St. Croix, a good league distant from the Isle of Orleans, in
which, at low tide, there is only half a fathom of water. It is very
dangerous for vessels at its mouth, there being a large number of
spurs; that is, rocks scattered here and there. It is accordingly
necessary to place buoys in order to enter, there being, as I have
stated, three fathoms of water at ordinary tides, and four fathoms,
or four and a half generally, at the great tides at full flood. It
is only fifteen hundred paces from our habitation, which is higher
up the river; and, as I have stated, there is no other river up to
the place now called St. Croix, where vessels can lie, there being
only little brooks. The shores are flat and dangerous, which Cartier
does not mention until the time that he sets out from St. Croix, now
called Quebec, where he left his vessels, and built his place of
abode, as is seen from what follows.
On the 19th of September, he set out from St. Croix, where his
vessels were, setting sail with the tide up the river, which they
found very pleasant, as well on account of the woods, vines, and
dwellings, which were there in his time, as for other reasons. They
cast anchor twenty-five leagues from the entrance to the land of
Canada;  that is, at the western extremity of the Isle of
Orleans, so called by Cartier. What is now called St Croix was then
called Achelacy, at a narrow pass where the river is very swift and
dangerous on account of the rocks and other things, and which can
only be passed at flood-tide. Its distance from Quebec and the river
where Cartier wintered is fifteen leagues.
Now, throughout the entire extent of this river, from Quebec to the
great fall, there are no narrows except at the place now called St.
Croix; the name of which has been transferred from one place to
another one, which is very dangerous, as my description shows. And
it is very apparent, from his narrative, that this was not the site
of his habitation, as is claimed; but that the latter was near
Quebec, and that no one had entered into a special investigation of
this matter before my doing so in my voyages. For the first time I
was told that he dwelt in this place, I was greatly astonished,
finding no trace of a river for vessels, as he states there was.
This led me to make a careful examination, in order to remove the
suspicion and doubt of many persons in regard to the matter. 
While the carpenters, sawers of boards, and other workmen, were
employed on our quarters, I set all the others to work clearing up
around our place of abode, in preparation for gardens in which to
plant grain and seeds, that we might see how they would flourish, as
the soil seemed to be very good.
Meanwhile, a large number of savages were encamped in cabins near
us, engaged in fishing for eels, which begin to come about the 15th
of September, and go away on the 15th of October. During this time,
all the Savages subsist on this food, and dry enough of it for the
winter to last until the month of February, when there are about two
and a half, or at most three, feet of snow; and, when their eels and
other things which they dry have been prepared, they go to hunt the
beaver until the beginning of January. At their departure for this
purpose, they intrusted to us all their eels and other things, until
their return, which was on the 15th of December. But they did not
have great success in the beaver-hunt, as the amount of water was
too great, the rivers having overrun their banks, as they told us. I
returned to them all their supplies, which lasted them only until
the 20th of January. When their supply of eels gave out, they hunted
the elk and such other wild beasts as they could find until spring,
when I was able to supply them with various things. I paid especial
attention to their customs.
These people suffer so much from lack of food that they are
sometimes obliged to live on certain shell-fish, and eat their dogs
and the skins with which they clothe themselves against the cold. I
am of opinion that, if one were to show them how to live, and teach
them the cultivation of the soil and other things, they would learn
very aptly. For many of them possess good sense, and answer properly
questions put to them. They have a bad habit of taking vengeance,
and are great liars, and you must not put much reliance on them,
except judiciously, and with force at hand. They make promises
readily, but keep their word poorly. The most of them observe no law
at all, so far as I have been able to see, and are, besides, full of
superstitions. I asked them with what ceremonies they were
accustomed to pray to their God, when they replied that they had
none, but that each prayed to him in his heart, as he wished. That
is why there is no law among them, and they do not know what it is
to worship and pray to God, living as they do like brute beasts. But
I think that they would soon become good Christians, if people would
come and inhabit their country, which they are for the most part
desirous of. There are some savages among them, called by them
Pilotais, whom they believe have intercourse with the devil face to
face, who tells them what they must do in regard to war and other
things; and, if he should order them to execute any undertaking,
they would obey at once. So, also, they believe that all their
dreams are true; and, in fact, there are many who say that they have
had visions and dreams about matters which actually come to pass or
will do so. But, to tell the truth, these are diabolical visions,
through which they are deceived and misled. This is all I have been
able to learn about their brutish faith. All these people are well
proportioned in body, without deformity, and are agile. The women,
also, are well-formed, plump, and of a swarthy color, in consequence
of certain pigments with which they rub themselves, and which give
them a permanent olive color. They are dressed in skins: a part only
of the body is covered. But in winter they are covered throughout,
in good furs of elk, otter, beaver, bear, seals, deer, and roe, of
which they have large quantities. In winter, when the snow is deep,
they make a sort of snow-shoe of large size, two or three times as
large as that used in France, which they attach to their feet, thus
going over the snow without sinking in; otherwise, they could not
hunt or walk in many places. They have a sort of marriage, which is
as follows: When a girl is fourteen or fifteen years old, and has
several suitors, she may keep company with all she likes. At the end
of five or six years, she takes the one that pleases her for her
husband, and they live together to the end of their lives. But if,
after living some time together, they have no children, the man can
disunite himself and take another woman, alleging that his own is
good for nothing. Hence, the girls have greater freedom than the
After marriage, the women are chaste, and their husbands generally
jealous. They give presents to the fathers or relatives of the girls
they have wedded. These are the ceremonies and forms observed in
their marriages. In regard to their burials: When a man or a woman
dies, they dig a pit, in which they put all their property, as
kettles, furs, axes, bows, arrows, robes, and other things. Then
they place the body in the pit and cover it with earth, putting, on
top many large pieces of wood, and another piece upright, painted
red on the upper part. They believe in the immortality of the soul,
and say that they shall be happy in other lands with their relatives
and friends who are dead. In the case of captains or others of some
distinction, they celebrate a banquet three times a year after their
death, singing and dancing about the grave.
All the time they were with us, which was the most secure place for
them, they did not cease to fear their enemies to such an extent
that they often at night became alarmed while dreaming, and sent
their wives and children to our fort, the gates of which I had
opened to them, allowing the men to remain about the fort, but not
permitting them to enter, for their persons were thus as much in
security as if they had been inside. I also had five or six of our
men go out to reassure them, and to go and ascertain whether they
could see any thing in the woods, in order to quiet them. They are
very timid and in great dread of their enemies, scarcely ever
sleeping in repose in whatever place they may be, although I
constantly reassured them, so far as I could, urging them to do as
we did; namely, that they should have a portion watch while the
others slept, that each one should have his arms in readiness like
him who was keeping watch, and that they should not regard dreams as
the actual truth to be relied upon, since they are mostly only
false, to which I also added other words on the same subject. But
these remonstrances were of little avail with them, and they said
that we knew better than they how to keep guard against all things;
and that they, in course of time, if we continued to stay with them,
would be able to learn it.
the conclusion of Volume II, Part XXI, Chapter 4 of Voyages
Click here for Voyages, Volume II, Part XXII, Chapter 5
Help Support This Site. Visit our