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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part XXV, Chapter VIII
The Voyages to the great river St. Lawrence...

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

This is the twenty-fifth 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.

The voyages to the great river St. Lawrence, 
made by Sieur de Champlain,
Captain in ordinary to the King in the Marine, 
from the year 1608 to that of 1612

CHAPTER VIII.

RETURN TO QUEBEC. CONTINUATION AFTERWARDS WITH THE SAVAGES TO THE FALL OF THE RIVER OF THE IROQUOIS.

The next day, we set out all together for our settlement, where they enjoyed themselves some five or six days, which were spent in dances and festivities, on account of their eagerness for us to engage in the war.

Pont Gravé came forthwith from Tadoussac with two little barques full of men, in compliance with a letter, in which I I begged him to come as speedily as possible.

The savages seeing him arrive rejoiced more than ever, inasmuch as I told them that he had given some of his men to assist them, and that perhaps we should go together.

On the 28th of the month, [328] we equipped some barques for assisting these savages. Pont Gravé embarked on one and I on the other, when we all set out together. The first of June, [329] we arrived at St. Croix, distant fifteen leagues from Quebec, where Pont Gravé and I concluded that, for certain reasons, I should go with the savages, and he to our settlement and to Tadoussac. This resolution being taken, I embarked in my shallop all that was necessary, together with Des Marais and La Routte, our pilot, and nine men.

I set out from St. Croix on the 3d of June [330] with all the savages. We passed the Trois Rivières, a very beautiful country, covered with a growth of fine trees. From this place to St. Croix is a distance of fifteen leagues. At the mouth of the above-named river [331] there are six islands, three of which are very small, the others some fifteen to sixteen hundred paces long, very pleasant in appearance. Near Lake St. Peter, [332] some two leagues up the river, there is a little fall not very difficult to pass. This place is in latitude 46°, lacking some minutes. The savages of the country gave us to understand that some days' journey up this river there is a lake, through which the river flows. The length of the lake is ten days' journey, when some falls are passed, and afterwards three or four other lakes of five or six days' journey in length. Having reached the end of these, they go four or five leagues by land, and enter still another lake, where the Sacqué has its principal source. From this lake, the savages go to Tadoussac. [333] The Trois Rivières extends forty days' journey of the savages. They say that at the end of this river there is a people, who are great hunters, without a fixed abode, and who are less than six days' journey from the North Sea. What little of the country I have seen is sandy, very high, with hills, covered with large quantities of pine and fir on the river border; but some quarter of a league inland the woods are very fine and open, and the country level. Thence we continued our course to the entrance of Lake St. Peter, where the country is exceedingly pleasant and level, and crossed the lake, in two, three, and four fathoms of water, which is some eight leagues long and four wide. On the north side, we saw a very pleasant river, extending some twenty leagues into the interior, which I named St. Suzanne; on the south side, there are two, one called Rivière du Pont, the other, Rivière de Gennes, [334] which are very pretty, and in a fine and fertile country. The water is almost still in the lake, which is full of fish. On the north bank, there are seen some slight elevations at a distance of some twelve or fifteen leagues from the lake. After crossing the lake, we passed a large number of islands of various sizes, containing many nut-trees and vines, and fine meadows, with quantities of game and wild animals, which go over from the main land to these islands. Fish are here more abundant than in any other part of the river that we had seen. From these islands, we went to the mouth of the River of the Iroquois, where we stayed two days, refreshing ourselves with good venison, birds, and fish, which the savages gave us. Here there sprang up among them some difference of opinion on the subject of the war, so that a portion only determined to go with me, while the others returned to their country with their wives and the merchandise which they had obtained by barter.

Setting out from the mouth of this river, which is some four hundred to five hundred paces broad, and very beautiful, running southward, [335] we arrived at a place in latitude 45°, and twenty-two or twenty-three leagues from the Trois Rivières. All this river from its mouth to the first fall, a distance of fifteen leagues, is very smooth, and bordered with woods, like all the other places before named, and of the same forts. There are nine or ten fine islands before reaching the fall of the Iroquois, which are a league or a league and a half long, and covered with numerous oaks and nut-trees. The river is nearly half a league wide in places, and very abundant in fish. We found in no place less than four feet of water. The approach to the fall is a kind of lake, [336] where the water descends, and which is some three leagues in circuit. There are here some meadows, but not inhabited by savages on account of the wars. There is very little water at the fall, which runs with great rapidity. There are also many rocks and stones, so that the savages cannot go up by water, although they go down very easily. All this region is very level, covered with forests, vines, and nut-trees. No Christians had been in this place before us; and we had considerable difficulty in ascending the river with oars.

As soon as we had reached the fall, Des Marais, La Routte, and I, with five men, went on shore to see whether we could pass this place; but we went some league and a half without seeing any prospect of being able to do so, finding only water running with great swiftness, and in all directions many stones, very dangerous, and with but little water about them. The fall is perhaps six hundred paces broad. Finding that it was impossible to cut a way through the woods with the small number of men that I had, I determined, after consultation with the rest, to change my original resolution, formed on the assurance of the savages that the roads were easy, but which we did not find to be the case, as I have stated. We accordingly returned to our shallop, where I had left some men as guards, and to indicate to the savages upon their arrival that we had gone to make explorations along the fall.

After making what observations I wished in this place, we met, on returning, some savages, who had come to reconnoitre, as we had done. They told us that all their companions had arrived at our shallop, where we found them greatly pleased, and delighted that we had gone in this manner without a guide, aided only by the reports they had several times made to us.

Having returned, and seeing the slight prospect there was of passing the fall with our shallop, I was much troubled. And it gave me especial dissatisfaction to go back without seeing a very large lake, filled with handsome islands, and with large tracts of fine land bordering on the lake, where their enemies live according to their representations. After duly thinking over the matter, I determined to go and fulfil my promise, and carry out my desire. Accordingly, I embarked with the savages in their canoes, taking with me two men, who went cheerfully. After making known my plan to Des Marais and others in the shallop, I requested the former to return to our settlement with the rest of our company, giving them the assurance that, in a short time, by God's' grace, I would return to them.

I proceeded forthwith to have a conference with the captains of the savages, and gave them to understand that they had told me the opposite of what my observations found to be the case at the fall; namely, that it was impossible to pass it with the shallop, but that this would not prevent me from assisting them as I had promised. This communication troubled them greatly; and they desired to change their determination, but I urged them not to do so, telling them that they ought to carry out their first plan, and that I, with two others, would go to the war with them in their canoes, in order to show them that, as for me, I would not break my word given to them, although alone; but that I was unwilling then to oblige any one of my companions to embark, and would only take with me those who had the inclination to go, of whom I had found two.

They were greatly pleased at what I said to them, and at the determination which I had taken, promising, as before, to show me fine things.


ENDNOTES:

328. The reader will observe that this must have been the 28th of June, 1609.

329. Read 1st of July.

330. Read 3d of July.

331. The river is now called St. Maurice; and the town at its mouth, Three Rivers. Two islands at the mouth of the river divide it into three; hence, it was originally called Trois Rivières, or Three Rivers.

332. Laverdière suggests that Champlain entered this lake, now for the first time called St. Peter, in 1603, on St. Peter's day, the 29th June, and probably so named it from that circumstance.

333. From the carrying-place they enter the Lake St. John, and from it descend by the Saguenay to Tadoussac. In the preceding passage, Sacqué was plainly intended for Saguenay.

334. Of the three rivers flowing into Lake St. Peter, none retains the name given to them by Champlain. His _St. Suzanne_ is the river du Loup; his _Rivière du Pont_ is the river St. François; and his _De Gennes_ is now represented by the Yamaska. Compare Champlain's map of 1612 with Laurie's Chart of the river St. Lawrence.

335. This is an error: the River of the Iroquois, now commonly known as the Richelieu, runs towards the north.

336. The Chambly Basin. On Charlevoix's Carte de la Rivière Richelieu, it is called Bassin de St. Louis.

This is the conclusion of Volume II, Part XXV, Chapter 8 of Voyages
1608-1612
Click here for Voyages, Volume II, Part XXVI, Chapter 9

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Sources/Notes:

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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