Little Bits of History

August 5

Posted in History by patriciahysell on August 5, 2017

1689: The Lachine massacre takes place. Lachine, New France was named in 1667 as a mocking gesture toward Robert Cavelier de La Salle. La Salle had been searching North America for a passage through the continent to reach Asia. Lachine is French for China. Today, it is borough of Montreal, Quebec. During the 1600s, natives were vying for control of the beaver trade, which was the primary pelts traded to Europeans (they needed them to make hats) and a lucrative business venture for whomever controlled the trade. Therefore wars were fought throughout the Great Lakes region. These were known as the Beaver Wars or the Iroquois Wars.

The Iroquois League (French) and Five Nations (English) were a powerful northeast Native American confederacy. The Mohawk were part of this group. Although the Iroquois absorbed many other smaller native groups into their culture as well, but eventually Six Nations (after 1722) remained prevalent even now. On this day, about 1,500 Mohawk attacked Lachine whose inhabitants numbered about 375. The Iroquois were disturbed with the increasing French presence in what was their territory. They were not just defending the rights to their lands and the resources on it, but also their way of life. As the years rolled past, French influence continued to push westward and it was destroying the Iroquois culture.

Jesuits and fur traders were both forcing their own agendas on natives who were unable to stop the slow eroding of their homeland. Even as their own culture was being overtaken by the priests’ insistence of a new worship, they needed the French to buy the pelts they trapped. There were intermittent battles and alliances and French and Iroquois would fight each other or a common enemy. The region was in flux as new powers vied for control over the land and the resources. The Iroquois did not want more war, but instead a larger share of the fur trade. In 1687, the French invaded Mohawk territory and destroyed villages and much of the Mohawk winter corn supply, about 1,200,000 bushels, crippling their economy.

As a retaliatory strike, the Mohawk gathered together on this day. It was a rainy morning when they carried out a pre-dawn raid on Lachine. They had traveled up the Saint Lawrence River by boat and crossed Lake Saint-Louis to land on the south side of Montreal Island. They surrounded the homes of the sleeping colonists and waited for a signal from their leader. They attacked, dragging the colonists outside and many were killed. When colonists barricaded themselves inside, their buildings were set on fire. They killed 24 French colonists unless 250 colonists and soldiers lost their lives. Sources vary. They took about 70 prisoners. While the Mohawk would have liked to be able to take back food from Montreal’s food stores, the best they could do was kill or capture the food producers instead. As a bonus, this was the last stop before the French went west to trade for beaver pelts and so upset further incursions into Iroquois lands.

Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil and you’re a thousand miles from the corn field. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

I have no hostility to nature, but a child’s love to it. I expand and live in the warm day like corn and melons. – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Vines will be planted, corn will spring up, a whole growth of new crops; and people will still fall in love in vintages and harvests yet to come. Life is eternal; it is a perpetual renewal of birth and growth. – Emile Zola

For what were all these country patriots born? To hunt, and vote, and raise the price of corn? – Lord Byron



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