Monday, 20 February 2012


The clouds of tragedy in the 1649 -50 Iroquois invasion of Huronia forced the Nipissing, the Amikoue and the Amikouet Indians to flee to the Lake Nipigon region.

It was there that Father Allouez found them in 1667.

Father Allouez kept a journal,
 part of which has been published in the Jesuit Relations for 1666-67.

"On the 6th of May of this year, 1667, I embarked in a Canoe with two Indian to serve me as guides. (This being Chequamegon Bay near Ashland Wisc.)

"Continuing our journey, on the seventeeth as we crossed a portion of our Great Lake, paddling twelve hours without dropping the paddle from the hand. God renered me very sensible aid; for as there were but three of us in our CAnoe, I was obliged to paddle with all my strength, together with the Indians, in order to make the most of the calm, without which we would have been in great danger, utterly spent as we were with toil and lack of food.  Nevertheless we lay down supperless at nightfall, and on the morrow contented ourselves with a frugal meal of Indian corn and water; for the wind and the rain prevented our Indians from casting their nets."

"On the nineteenth, invited by the beautiful weather, we covered eighteen leagues (54 miles), paddling from daybreak till Sunset, without respite and without landing."

"On the twentieth, finding nothing in our nets, we continued on our journey, munching some grains of dried corn. On the following day, God refreshed us with two small fishes, which gave us new life. Heaven's blessings increased on the next day, our Indians catching so many sturgeon that they were obliged to leave part of them at the water's edge."

"Casting along the northern shore of this great Lake on the twenty-third, we passed from Island to Island, these being very frequent. There is one at least twenty leagues long, where are found pieces of copper, which is held by Frenchmen who have examined it here to be true red copper."

"After accomplishing a good part of our journey on the Lake, we left it on the twenty-fifth of this month of May, and consigned ourselves to a River, so full of rapids and falls that even our Indians could go no farther, and learning that Lake Alimibegong was still frozen over, they gladly took the two days rest imposed by necessity."

"As we drew near our journey's end, we occasionally met Nipissirien Indians, wandering from their homes to seek a livelihood in the woods. Gathering together a considerable number of them for the celebration of Whitsuntide, I prepared them by a long instruction for the hearing of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which I celebrated in a chapel of Foliage. They listened with as much piety and decorum as do our Indians of Quebec in our Chapel at Sillery; and to me it was the sweetest refreshment I had during the Journey, entirely removing all past fatigue."

This is the first record of a Mass being said in all of Ontario north and west of Sault Ste. Marie.

Bishop Edward Q. Jennings said  in 1967, " The observance of the three hundredth anniversary of the first Holy Mass offered in this part of Canada by the great Jesuit Missionary, Father Claude Allouez, is a commemoration that strongly appeals to the faith of all of us."

"It is most appropriate that the event is being recalled in perpetuity by memorals planned by both Church and State....A commemorative plaque commissioned and erected by the Government of Ontario "



On May 29, 1667, beside the Nipigon River, Father Claude Allouez, S.J., celebrated the first Mass west of Sault Ste. Marie, thus re-establishing spiritual contact with the Nipissing Indians who had fled from their home area during the Iroquois onslaught of 1649-50.  After visiting their village on Lake Nipigon he returned to his Mission of the Holy Spirit on Chequamegon Bay (now Ashland Bay, Wisconsin). Father Allouez, born in St. Didier-en-Forenz, France, had entered the Jesuit order in 1642 and come to Quebec in 1658. He established the Chequamegon mission in 1665 and, until his death, ministered to the Indians of an area including much of the present north-central United States.

Archaeological and Historic Sites Board of Ontario

The "Allouez Mission" plaque was sponsored by the Las Navas - 152 - Caravan of the Alhambra and erected by the Ontario Department of Public Records and Archives with the cooperation of the Ontario Department of Public Works. The Plaque is situated at the Nipigon Lookout on Highways 11 and 17. Special gratitude is owed to Professor K.Dawson of Lakehead Uniersity for his interest and cooperation in the making and erection of the plaque.


Sketched above is the artist's concept of the chalice used in the Mass concelebrated at Nipigon, Ontario, on June 25, 1967, by Most Reverend Edward Q. Jennings, Bishop of Fort William, and the Jesuit Missionaries of Northern Ontario.

The chalice, commissioned by Mr. Hubert Badanai, M.P., of Fort William, was crafted by Rev. H.H. Thyssen of the Diocese of Sault Ste. Marie. Father Thyssen, a native of Holland, has gained wide recognition at home and in Canada as an artist in many media.

The chalice is constructed of local materials:
  • hammered copper,
  • Lake Superior agate,
  • Lake Superior amethysts,
  • pine,
  • and ceramic on copper and gold.

The Canoe indicates that Father Allouez came across Lake Superior by canoe.

The paddles and headdress form the Greek symbol for Christ.

The flute and the open book, which appear in place of the canoe on the opposite side of the base, remind us that Father Allouez was an accomplished musician who pied-pipered the youth of the village to his catechism classes.

The slab insert of Lake Superior agate in the stem of the chalice was cut, brilled, shaped, and polished by Mr. Ralph Johnson of Michigan, an old friend of Father W. P. Maurice, S.J.

Mr. Johnson also domed and polished the Lake Superior agates mounted on the base and tumbled the amethysts set in the stem.

Present successors to Father Allouez :1967
At right, Father J.E.McKey, Superior of the Northern Ontario Indian Missions;
below from left to right, Father H.W. Barry, Father G.B. Bazinet,
 Father L.E. Brennan, Father D. Hannin, Brother N. Hinton,
 Father D. J. Hourigan, Father S.A. Hyrchenuk, Father O.H. Labelle, Brother J.J. Mara


(Likely written by Professor Dawson though the program says Historical Resume given by Professor Johnson, McMaster University)

This Whitsunday Mass of May 29th, 1667, was very probably said in the near vicinity of Virgin Falls where the Nipigon River begins to flow southwards. This is shown by a careful consideration of a cross on a map and a few words in Allouez' journal.

The map to which we refer is an early one of Lakes Huron, Superior and Michigan, and the upper Mississippi valley. On this map crosses mark the site of early Jesuit missions as well as places the missionaries visited for apostoic purposes. THe original of this map is in the Bibliotheque de la Marine, Paris, but it has been reproduced in various publications. The map is undated and its author is unknown, but artographers agree that it was drawn not later than 1680. Now one of the crosses on this map is placed near the south-eastern shore of Lake Nipigon. The general shape and contours of the Lake are, unfortunately, too badly drawn to identify the exact spot which the cross indicates. All we can say is that it points to a place somewhere in Kilkenny, Kitto, or Eva townships. But there can be no doubt about its indicating the site of the Nipissing village Allouez visited in 1667. For it is quite certain that no other missionary went to Lake Nipigon before 1726, and it is most improbable that any priest was ever there again till 1852. There is no record of Allouez' or any other Jesuit ever going back, and there and there was no need of their doing so. For, not long after the visit of 1667 the Nipissings and their neighbours the Amikouets returned to their old homes north and east of Gerogian Bay.

We may take it then that the cross on the 1680 map indicates the site of the Nipissing village which Allouez reached on June 3, 1667, and that it is in commemoration of that visit. But how does that help us to locate his celebration of Mass on May 29th? It was certainly not said in the Nipissing village.

The following lines from Allouez' journal , where he tells us what happened between May 29th and June 3rd, next comes to our assistance:

"We spent six days in paddling from Island to Island seeking some outlet; and finally, after many detours we reached the Nipissiriniens on the third of June."

The point under consideration is the place from which the party set out on this six days' journey. For that was the place where they were on May 29th, the day on which the first Mass was celebrated. Now this could only have been somewhere on or near that half mile southern shore of the narrow inlet where the waters of Lake Nipigon enter the river. The bay just north of this inlet is studded with islands, and there are several others just north and east of it in the lake. These are certainly the islands to which Father Allouez refers. It is important to consider that the six days were not consumed wandering indefinitely around Lake Nipigon looking for the Nipissing village. For the Indians who had attended the Mass on Pentecost were Nipissings, and Allouez would most surely have found out from them, if his own guides di not know it, that it was in a general north-easterly direction that he must go to find the village. It was not therefore ignorance of where to find their destination on the lake, nor its great distance from where they were, which caused the six days' delay in reaching the Nipissings. The difficulty was rather that of finding a passage for their frail canoe through the floating and half melted ice which choked the bay and the lower part of the lake between the various islands. This can be the only meaning of the "outlet" they were seeking, and the "many detours" they were obliged to make. We must remember that when the party was at the mouth of the Nipigon River on May 25, news reached them that Lake Nipigon was still frozen over. No doubt the ice was breaking up a few days later.

On the basis of this argument, we may conclude with some semblance of probability that the Mass of May 29 was celebrated at or near the opening of the Nipigon River on the inlet near what is now called Virgin Falls.

The 1967 Program for the Tercentennial Mass also included the Mission Bay Indian Girls' Choir of Fort William Reserve and Nipigon's Village Choristers.

No comments:

Post a Comment