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With Tortured Eyes

On this day, 18 October 1646, Fr. Isaac Jogues was killed on his third visit to the lands of the Iroquois. In commemoration of this eventful day we provide some historical background of his life and journeys.  Many of our readers will be familiar with him through the study of local history and being taught that he was the one who gave, what we know today as Lake George, the name of Lac du St. Sacrement to that body of water in 1646.

“A gentle and scholarly Jesuit, more fitted for the cloisters of a continental monastery than for the solitudes of a wilderness, walked painfully along the portage.  His bleeding hands had been mutilated by the teeth of his captors.  The Iroquois warriors had likewise tortured two young donnes of his Mission, Rene Goupil and Gullaume Couture, and these, with nineteen captive Hurons, they taunted and prodded along to the head of the portage.  There, perhaps in too much physical anguish to appreciate its wild beauty, “First of white men, Jogues and his companions gazed on the romantic lake that bears the name, not of its gentle discoverer, but of the dull Hanoverian King.” Southward along this great highway between New France and New Holland the little party made its way, to suffer the indescribable horrors of the Mohawk torture-scaffold.  For Jogues this meant escape after a year with the aid of Dutch friends at Fort Orange (Albany).  Four years later, having been granted the right to perform the duties of his office with mutilated hands, he returned along the portage in 1646 and reached the lake that he had discovered on the eve of Corpus Christi.  Because of this he gave to the lake the name Lac du St. Sacrement.  Thus it remained for more than a century until in 1755 Colonel William Johnston sought to honor George II by calling it Lake George…..” 

(From Historical Ticonderoga and published by the Town of Ticonderoga. 1933)

Isaac Jogues icon photo

An icon picture of Fr. Jogues ~ No actual portrait is know

The Jogues family was prominent and affluent with income from business enterprises in the city of Orleans, France and sizeable estates in the country.  The father Laurent, like all heads of family, held public office.  His first wife, a member of minor royalty, died leaving two daughters.  His second wife Francoise, whose family was also successful in business, bore him six sons and one daughter.  Isaac, the third son, was his mother’s favorite.

He received his early education from his mother and private tutors; and at ten entered a Jesuit school attended by sons of only the best familities.  He was seventeen when he announced his desire to become a priests.  When he announced that he wanted to become a Jesuit, she was deeply saddened and tried to dissuade him.  As a Jesuit, whose order worked as teachers and missionaries all over the world, she would have little or nothing to say about his future.

His first two years were spent in seclusion and prayer at the Navitate at Rouen.  His Navitate Master was Father Loius Lalemont who was deeply interested in the American missions.   It could be supposed then, that Father Jogues’ intense interest and desire to serve in the Indian missions was influenced by his master.  Following this two year period of reflection, Jogues entered into the study of Philosophy at LaFleche where he spent the next three years. He then taught at the Jesuit College in Rouen for four years when he was order to report to Clairmont College at Paris to begin his studies for the priesthood.  In January 1636 it was announced that Jogues would be among four seminarians to be ordained; this a whole year earlier than he had expected.

He arrived in Canada 2 June 1636 and spent a short time at Quebec before being ordered to leave from Trois Rivers for the mission on Lake Huron, a distance of 900 miles.   Their food was Indian corn mush and water; and, had many arduous portages through dense forests.  Shortly after arrival, Father Jogues fell ill  with what appeared to be an influenza that soon spread among the French and Indians alike.  November cold had arrived and they had very little to eat.  Despite the efforts of the missionaries and the Indian’s own Medicine Men, a great many Hurons died from the disease.  The missionaries were blamed and a massacre was threatened.  Several small missions were closed and the Jesuits moved to Ste. Marie which became the center of all their work for many years.


Fr. Jogues Mnt Lake George Side: Couture & Coupil

Father Jogues was given the charge of superintending the building for Ste. Marie.  This mission became a success and he, with Father Raymbault, were later assigned to the work of a new mission at Sault Marie and was one of the first Europeans to stand on the shores of Lake Superior.  In need of supplies and Father Raymbault dying, they returned to Quebec. Shortly after arriving in Quebec, Father Raymbault died, he being also the first Jesuit in Canada.  Jogues re-supplied and with a group of thirty-five including was a young donne, Rene Goupil and a layman, Guillaume (William) Couture.

On 1 August 1642 when the party was about thirty miles north of Trois Rivers the group was attacked by Iroquois, and though Father Jogues had been dumped from his canoe and lay hidden and secure, he willingly went to the wounded, baptizing and comforting them.  At first the Iroquois were starled at the sight of the “Black Robe“, but they soon recovered and beat him with clubs and sticks until he fell senseless. The captives were brutally tortured and Couture, becasuse he had been responsible for the death of  Iroquois chiefs, most brutally.  The captives were stripped, bound and placed in canoes and taken to an island in Lake Champlain (near Westport) and were further subjected to torture.

After landing at the southern end of Lake George it was another thirteen day march under agonizing conditions. Heavily burdened and subsisting only on berries and roots, the captives arrived at the Mohawk village of Ossernenon, now Auriesville, NY.  They were met at the outskirts of the village and forced to run the Guantlet. Father Jogues being last in line was most cruelly beaten and after falling nearly unconscious was dragged to a platform where he and the other captives were again tortured. Their fingers were gnawed or cut off, and their finger nails torn out.  On the second day, Fr. Jogues left hand thumb was cut off.  For the next week the captives were taken from town to town undergoing further tortures until nearly all had been either killed or taken off to other villages.  William Couture’s courage under torture had been so greatly admired that he was adopted into the family of the chief that he had killed. Father Jogues and Rene Goupil were given to the chief who had capture them.   After seen blessing a young child Father Goupil was tomahawked to death on 29 September 1642.

William Couture levis canada

William Couture Mnt Levis Canada

The following summer of 1643, Father Jogues was taken by a trading party to Rensselaerswyck (Albany).  Here after much urging by Van Corlear, the Commandant, he slipped away early one morning and made his way to a vessel anchored off shore where he was made welcome and hidden by the captain.  When the Indians found that he had escaped, they threatened to murder the entire Dutch community.  Jogues returned willingly to shore, but was kept hidden while it was hoped the Indians coud be appeased.  Word had already been received by the Queen Regent of France of the captivity of Father Jogues and she had appealed to the Netherlands government.  This request had been transmitted to New Amsterdam (New York City) from where orders were sent to Albany that the Jesuit was to be brought down, no matter what the cost.  The Dutch at Albany offered a monetary gift to the Indians, but were refused.  In turn the Dutch threatened never to trade with the Indians again. After much haggling and many speeches, the Indians accepted the money and Father Jogues was smuggled aboard a waiting ship and sailed to New York City the following morning.  He was the first priest to set foot in Manhattan  and honorably received and treated with great kindness.  He left the New World in November and arrived in Falmouth, England in December 1643.  Here, while the ship docked, it was boarded by pirates and he was robbed of his few possessions.  A passage was found for him to France where  he was given shelter by a fisherman and his family.  With the aid of that family and others who had discovered his identity he was transported to Rennes, and arrived at the Jesuit College on 5 January.

He became the center of curiosity and interest and summoned to Paris by the Queen.  When asked to tell his story, he related some of the high-lights.  When asked to show his hands, the Queen descended the throne weeping and kissed his fingers.  Jogues’ supreme grief was that the mutilation of his hands would ban him forever from saying mass.  The Superior General of the Society sent a petition accompanied by letters from  Queen Anne and her council seeking dispensation.  Pope Urban, deeply loved, immediately granted this.


Fr Jogues Mnt – St. Marys Church Ticonderoga

In June 1644 Father Jogues returned to Quebec and was stationed at Montreal. For three years the Iroquois had been harassing and terrorzing the French, the Hurons and Algonkins who dared no longered to go down the St. Lawrence.  A delegation of Mohawks came to Trois Rivers to negotiate the peace.  William Couture came as one of the envoys of the Indians.  He did not return with them, but remained in Canada where he eventually married.  He was to live to the age of ninety.

An emissary was needed to go to the Mohawk villages and Father Jogues was to be that emissary.  On May 30, 1646, the eve of Corpus Christi, he reached the shores of Lake Andearocte (George) at Ticonderoga and was struck by the mirror-like beauty of the waters and named it Lac du St. Sacrement.

In September Jogues was again ordered to the Mohawk Country, but the savages had renewed their hostility to the French, captured Jogues near Fort Richelieu, and him with Jean de la Lande were taken to Ossernenon.  Though  a council had decided to set the men free, they were treacherously assassinated by members of the Bear Clan of the Mohawk Tribe.  No trace of the body of Father Jogues was ever found. He was canonized as a saint in the Roman Catholic Church in 1930 by Pope Pius XI.”


St. Isaac Jogues Council 333 Ticonderoga Knights of Columbus Bldg, Montcalm St.

(Edited from the Ticonderoga Historical Society’s Patches and Patterns Extended publications.)

Cover page Relations 1642 & 43

Cover Page from the original French Publication

A principal source for this historic review was collected from the original publication: “The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents – Travels and Explorations of the Jesuits Missionaries in New France – 1610-1791. Edited by Reuben Gold Thwaites. This multi-volume collection is available in our research library and contains the original French, Latin and Italian texts, with English translations and notes; illustrated by portraits, maps and facsimiles.

10/18/2015 wgd

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