BLTC Press Titles

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My Man Jeeves

P. G. Wodehouse

Esoteric Buddhism

A. P. Sinnett

Mortal Coils

Aldous Huxley

The Secret Doctrine, Volume II Anthropogenesis

H. P. Blavatsky

History of Brown County, Wisconsin

by Deborah Beaumont Martin


Hendrick Hudson had sailed for the first time the great river that bears his name in 1609, the Mayflower made her initial voyage in 1620, and in 1634 Jean Nicolet, an adventurous Norman, made the long trip of 1,000 miles from Quebec to Green Bay. In New France, as Canada was then called, was to be found the spirit' of adventure, of romance and exploration wholly lacking among the prosaic English and Dutch on the Atlantic coast. Samuel de Champlain, governor of the Province of Quebec, was typical of all that the French stood for in North America. He was himself an explorer of no mean reputation, and his discoveries added material and definite territory to the vague maps of that period. Champlain's map of the great lakes country drawn in 1632 is a marvel of accurate guesswork; drafted as it was principally from Indian report couched in allegorical language, it yet gave a fair idea of Lake Huron and Lake Superior.

Beyond the great water (Lake Huron) so the Indians assured him was still another inland sea, and beyond that a wide sheet of water never seen by Frenchmen, which Champlain figured possibly might be the China Sea. We now know this to have been Green Bay, but the popular idea in that day was that not very far to the westward lay the Chinese Empire, "far Cathay," and Champlain, astute explorer though he was, had no means of judging possible distances and correcting erroneous impressions. His imagination took fire when the savage visitors told him that on the shores of this great bay dwelt a strange people, "Men of the sea," who differed entirely in appearance and custom from the surrounding red men. Champlain, eager to discover what this nation of aliens might be, whether Indian or Mongolian, and unable to go himself chose as his envoy the man of all others fitted for the enterprise—Jean Nicolet.

Nicolet had come to New France in the year 1618, and "forasmuch as his nature and excellent memory inspired good hopes of him he was sent to winter with the Island Algonquins in order to learn their language. He tarried with them two years, and always joined the barbarians in their excursions and journeys."—Jesuit Relations.

It had been Champlain's custom for years to send young men among the Indians for the purpose of learning their language and becoming acquainted with their manners and customs, preparing them in short to act as interpreter or in some other capacity for the One Hundred Associates, at that time the great fur corporation of Canada and the precursor of the Hudson's Bay Company.

Nicolet later spent eight or nine years with the tribes in the vicinity of Lake Nipissing, isolated from civilization, living the wild life of the savage and noting down his observations of Indian life and character. He is said to have been deeply religious and to have suffered while in this exile for the consolations of the church "without which among the savages is great peril for the soul." On Nicolet's return to Quebec he entered the employ of the fur company, and at thirty-six years of age was chosen by Governor Champlain as his envoy to arrange a peace between the Hurons and "People of the sea from whom they are absent about 300 leagues."

The chronicler of this famous voyage of Jean Nicolet's is Father Vimont of the Jesuit order. Each year a circumstantial account of the society's work was sent to its superior in Paris, and among the multiplied items of daily life in Quebec and vicinity must be gleaned the story of the coming of the first white man to Green Bay. On the first of July, 1634, two fleets of canoes left Quebec and paddled up the St. Lawrence—the one to build a fort where today stands the town of Three Rivers, Canada, the other under the direction of Father Brebeuf bo found a Jesuit mission among the Hurons. With the latter party was Jean Nicolet under commission from Champlain to proceed to the Huron villages on Georgian Bay, there to obtain men of that nation to act as his boatmen on the expedition to identify the "Winnepigous" or "men of the salt water." 1

Some time late in July Nicolet and his seven Huron savages embarked. Skirting the northern shore of Georgian Bay they rounded the Manitoulin islands and reaching Sault Sainte Marie ascended the river as far as the rapids; then on to Mackinac island where the blue expanse of Lake Huron (la douce mer) met the clear green waters of its sister, Lake Michigan.

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