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Michel Messier

His captivities by the Iroquois

Michel had to fight several times with the Iroquois as a lieutenant and later as a captain of the militia. Militiamen in Montreal were present whenever their services were required and they were greatly appreciated. We think of the expedition of January 9, 1666, where 70 militiamen of Ville-Marie accompanied the soldiers and September 14,  1666 with 110 Montrealers, etc. Militiamen from Montreal had the reputation of being hard fighters and were feared warriors of the Iroquois. They said they would rather face two French from elsewhere rather than a guy from Montreal.

His first captivity

In the fall of 1654, Michael is in New France for 5 years. They leave the fort to clear the land. To protect themselves from enemy attacks which very common, the settlers decided to post a sentry to guard against any surprise attack. Clearing the land demand strong arms. Michel was fourteen, he does not have the strength of a man. They resolved to give him a weapon with the task of ensuring the protection of workers has a sentinal. To get a better view, he decided to post himself on a big tree stump. The hours passed, his attention is drawn to the forest and occasionally to workers. The enemy lurks. Iroquois slowly approaches the sentry whenever his gaze is directed towards the settlers. When Michel looks to the forest, the Iroquois  remain motionless, hidden by a tree or bush. The Iroquois wait patiently for the right moment. at the right time, the Iroquois charges to grabb him by the legs and fled at full speed towards their accomplices. Our ancestor was ataken prisoner.


Upon his cries, the settlers organized to try to snatch the teenager from the enemy. The noise attracts Lambert Closse who was in the fort. He sees an Iroquois captain named "La Barrique" haranguing his troops to attack the French. Lambert Closse asks his best shot to kill this man. He executed his shot perfectly. At the sight of their leader they believe dead, the Iroquois retreat bringing with them their prisoner. "La Barrique" will be taken to the fort, where the care of Jeanne Mance saves his life. This is the beginning of a long guerrilla war ending in June 1655 by the release of Michel.


An exchange of prisoners is done. Many Iroquois were held in Ville-Marie. Disembarking their prisoners on the banks of St. Lawrence, they leave them to the first settlers there to get their prisoners. They rush to seek their fortunes strong brothers. Michel returns from captivity with other French men and Elizabeth Moyen who became the wife of Lambert Closse. The absence of Michel lasted roughly nine months.


Elizabeth Moyen, this young 14 year old girl whose parents were killed by the Iroquois, was supported by Jeanne Mance. She was then assigned to the Messier family, with a good reputation, until her marriage with Lambert Closse.

Second captivity of Michel

On Thursday, March 24, 1661, near Ville-Marie, there was a strong fight. Many French were killed, others were taken prisoners. Michel is among them. On June 18, 1661, at the baptism of his daughter Jeanne, he is absent and in the register we do not know whether he is dead or alive. A few days later, ambassadors of peace for Iroquois appear in Ville-Marie. Charles Lemoyne, diplomat and interpreter inquires about the French prisoners. He places particular emphasis on the fate of his brother-in-law Michel Messier. Mohawk ambassadors tell him after the fights of March 24, they had traded prisoners and that Michel was in the hands of Onondaga to be burned.


This is an outrage in Ville-Marie. Michel is well regarded and what's more he is allied with the main families of the area. He was also the boy that Maisonneuve, Jeanne Mance and other founders of Montreal knew him well. In the records of Ville-Marie of June 22, 1661, three months after it is made his death is registered Later, at an unspecified date, these words were added: "Since that time, we got some news that he is not dead."


Where is Michel? Father de Jordy claims he escaped his tormentors before they put their plan into action. To support this thesis, he copied a text he found in the Jesuit Relations, replacing a "French" by "Michel Messier." I do not think French is the husband of Anne LeMoyne. The Iroquois, his jailers, have three choices of his fate: to kill now, be considered a slave or be adopted by a family. He will probably be spared being "adopted" by Indian custom, to replace a brother, a husband or a son killed in the war. It was often women who decide the fate of prisoners. Their clothes are destroyed and replaced by those worn by the Indians.

His come back

On August 29, 1661, Mr. Lemaitre, Sulpician, was killed and beheaded by the Iroquois. They wrapped his head in his handkerchief and brought the macabre package with them. In their village, they develop the parcel and surprise! The figure of the Sulpician appears printed on the handkerchief. Some French prisoners whose Michel Messier "trustworthy man" according to the testimony of Sister Marie Morin, Hospitalière of St. Joseph, saw the handkerchief.


So late 1661, Michel is still a prisoner. Some believe that he is among his own, on August 31, 1662, when the Iroquois returned to Ville-Marie with some prisoners. Again, we must reject this hypothesis. On May 13, 1664, in Dieppe, Jean Assegond, notary instead, has a proxy Charles, Jacques and Jeanne and Anne Lemoyne about the succession of their parents. Attorney dated on September 4, 1662, five days after the arrival of the Iroquois. The document states that the husband of Anne Lemoyne is still a prisoner.


Meanwhile the promised reinforcements, M. de Maisonneuve creates, on January 27, 1663, the militia of the Holy Family of Montreal to defend his enemies. Michel, who is still unavailable and therefore he is not with them. The reason is that he is still a prisoner. The following explanation is the most logical. In spring 1663, Michel joined other French to slip away from his capture. Taking advantage of a hunting party, he fled in the direction of Fort Orange (Albany), at Dutch people. His escape through the woods lasts nine days traveling at night and hiding during the day to avoid being taken. Having achieved his goal and with the complicity of his hosts, he won Manhattan (New York). Then with the help of the English, he heads to Boston. He is not alone in having distorted the vigilance of his captors. In Boston, he is with six other French people.

The following scenario seems pretty close to the truth. With other French, Michel embarks on an English ship. The ship leaves Acadia in a boat where a French ship takes charge and leads them  to Quebec. Certainly, on July 30, 1663, it was the arrival in Quebec French ship with the English boat that brought Michel and six other French. Did our ancestor leave immediately for Ville-Marie? On July 31, Father Lemoyne left Quebec for Montreal. Was Michel there with the group that accompanied the father Lemoyne? On November 3, 1663, in Montreal, he is present at the baptism of Marie Anne Picard.

Third captivity of Michel

In spring 1692, the Iroquois are present in the eastern part of Ontario and a convoy of Michilimackinac  was expected. Governor Frontenac asked Mr. De Callière to send some travelers to the West. They are escorted by three boats, one commanded by Michel Messier, arrived at the Chats on the Ottawa River, Michel drops to Montreal. On his return, he notices traces of Iroquois. He made his report to M. de Callière, worried, he sends forty men commanded by Michel with a mission to search the river. He went to the Island of Calumets without notice. He returned to Montreal where he made his report to Mr de Frontenac, who had orders to be transmitted to the commander of Michilimackinac. The Governor therefore gave documents to Michel who took the path to go back. To the Portage des Chats, the Iroquois are out in force. He should turn back before being spotted.

About sixty "Ball Heads" are in Montreal. They are asking the Governor to get an escort to the mouth of the Lievre River. Michel offers to drive. They gave him thirty men and three officers. These Indians are not warriors. Arrived at the Long Sault, they must make a portage to avoid the rapids. The tour group was surprised by the enemy. A discharge kills and injures several Frenchmen.

In a glance, the "Heads Ball" vanish into the forest. As related by Michel to Father Charlevoix, the French defend themselves with  bravery which would have saved them if their savages had not forsaken them. They try to escape in a canoe. By misfortune, that of Michel and the two of Hertel capsize. The enemy is one hundred and forty men and about sixty women and children. The French are knocked out and Michel was captured a third time, it is still in Onondaga, with their leader "Boiler Black" which boasts of being able to shake the earth. This time, his imprisonment will be shorter.

When the Sovereign Council meets on October 6, 1692, to judge a case where Michel is involved, it is said that he is dead. A few days later, on October 13, there is another meeting of the Supreme Council. This time they say that he is not dead  but a prisoner. He is being held at the Iroquois headquarters. In July 1693, after giving his captors the slip, he returned to Montreal after walking 25 days through the woods. He informed the authorities that the English built a fort of eight bastions double fence in Onnontagué. Now, the Iroquois headquarters is located near Syracuse NY, Maybe, it serve as a refuge for Iroquois when attacking the French.


Michel also says martyrdom has had to undergo Onnontagué woman named Françoise. She decided to be a Christian and remain in Sault St. Louis, opposite Lachine. At this point, she is kidnapped by his own and returned to her family. The story of his torments, narrated by our ancestor made  many Montrealers cry. Even his eyes were covered with tears when he described this event. On August 26, 1693, he was in Montreal before the notary Adhemar.




Text comes from the volume of Gilles Messier: Les Messier et leurs ancêtres, 700 ans d'histoire.

Last update : 

August 9, 2014

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