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Full text of "May Meeting, 1870. Letter Relating to William Pynchon; "St. Regis Bell""

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308 



MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. 



[May, 



Minchin & Welch 

MuNROE & GrOSVENOR 

Seth Weight & Son 
Whitney & Dork 
Samuel Dorr 
Luther Faulkner & Co. 
David Greenough 
B. & T. Wiggin 
S. & N. Appleton 
Bellows, Cordis, & Jones 
Sewall, Salisbury, & Co. 
Gore, Miller, & Parser 
S. & H. Higginson 
Andrew Eliot 
Joshua Datis 
Stevens & Joy 
Bent. Rich 
Parker & Appleton 
Knowles & Hurd 
Otis & Dwight 
James & Jno. Carter 
Bryant P. Tilden 
Timothy Williams 
Thos. C. Amory & Co. 
Eben. Francis 



Joseph Tilden 

David S. Baton 

Colburn & Gill 

Giles Lodge 

Cabot & Lee 

John Tappan 

Jonathan Phillips 

S. J. Prescott & Co. 

Lovejoy & Taggard 

Joseph Nye & Son 

N. & R. Freeman 

Eben'r. & Jno. Breed 

Torrey, Symmes, & Co. 

Tuckerman, Shaw, & Rogers 

F. & S. Clark 

Smith & Otis 

Freeman & Cushing 

Kirk Boon 

Pratt & Andrews 

Richardson & Wheeler 

Thomas Wigglesworth 

Whitney, Cutler, & Hammond 

Cornelius Coolidge & Co. 

Wm. Shimmin 

Uriah Cotting. 



MAY MEETING, 1870. 

A stated monthly meeting of the Society was held this day, 
Thursday, May 12th, at eleven o'clock, a.m. ; the President in 
the chair. 

The record of the last meeting was read. 

In the absence of the Librarian, the list of donors was read 
by the Eecording Secretary. 

Among the donations announced was a manuscript copy of 
the oration delivered by Nathaniel Appleton Haven, Esq., of 
Portsmouth, N.H., May 21, 1823, two hundred years from the 
landing of the first settlers ; and of the poem on that occasion 
by 0. W. B. Peabody, Esq., — presented by George B. Chase, 
Esq., of Boston.* 



* This oration, in 1827, was included in a printed volume, entitled " The Remains 
of Nathaniel Appleton Haven, with a Memoir of his Life. By George Ticknor." 



1870.] LETTER RELATING TO WILLIAM PYNCHON. 309 

Mr. Whitmore presented a copy of the earliest printed Cata- 
logue of the Society's Library, containing some manuscript 
additions. 

The Hon. William T. Davis, of Plymouth, was elected a 
Resident Member. 

The Recording Secretary said he understood that our asso- 
ciate, the Rev. R. C. Waterston, was about to start on a trip to 
California, over the Pacific Railroad, on a tour of observa- 
tion and pleasure, to be absent for some months ; and he 
offered the following vote, which was unanimously adopted : — * 

Voted, That the Rev. Mr. Waterston be requested, during 
his absence on his western tour, to represent this Society on 
any occasion that may be agreeable to himself, or may be for 
the interest of the Society. 

Mr. Appleton communicated the following letter from Henry 
Smith, of Wyrardisbury, or Wraysbury, Bucks, England, to 
John Pynchon, of Springfield, Mass., dated February 20, 
1662, relating to the death of William Pynchon, one of the 
early settlers of Springfield, and furnishing the exact date of 
that event, which has hitherto been wanting in all published 
accounts of him : — 

Deare Brother Pynchon: — Our most Cordiall love and re- 
spects salute you and yo ra Ioying in y e continuance and extension of y* 
goodness of God toward yow all, as by yo r Letters reed appeares. 
S', y" only wise Lord in whose hand is all o p wayes & tymes, all 
whose works are done in wonderfull and admirable councell,are very 
just holy and good even when they seemingly speake forth to vs the 
sharpest and sorest tryalls crosses and temptations, (as to Abra : when 
to offer vp his only Isaack.) dayly intstructeth vs both by his word & 
workes to live in a dayly expectation of and p'peration for changes in 
y 8 o r pilgrimadge. Its his vsuall course of dealinge with all his Saints 
to give y m occations of dayly exercise of those p'ciouse graces (y e worke 
of his holy Spt in y r hearts) w c h else would contract rust, or ly in 

* Mr. Waterston went with a large number of gentlemen and ladies, forming a 
,iarty projected under the auspices of the Board of Trade of this city. They left Bos- 
ton on the 23d of May, and arrived at San Francisco early in the morning of the 
1st of June. See Boston Newspapers of 23d May and 2d June. — Eds. 



810 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [Mat, 

obscurity not shining forth soe splendid and bewteose to y* prayse of 
his gloriouse Grace in Je : Ctit. The decree of God hath Limited us 
o r stations so o* tymes and dayes beyond w ch we canot may not pass : 
The same is manifested in his late visitation vpon yo r and our most 
loved and much Hon' d ffather who expired and drew his last breath in 
Wyrardsbury Octobr: 29 th , a loss to vs vnrepayrable, a gayne to him 
vnexpressable, making a blessed change from earth to heaven, from a 
state of corruption, to a state of incorruption, from im'pfection to per- 
fection ; from a state of sin & sorrow to compleated joy and bliss, 
celebrating y e everlasting prayses of God and of the Lambe, who 
hath redeemed vs with his blood. Bro : I p'sume yow are not alto- 
gether vnp'pared for y" sad tydings, w c h I am occationed as one of 
Jobs messengers to acquaint yow with, resolving all yo r thoughts & 
greifes into y' holy speech of his : The Lord gave and y" Lord hath 
taken away, Blesed be y" name of y e Lord. Its one of God's vnal- 
terable appoyntmts y* all must dye. Death passeth on all men in as 
much as all have sified w c h should learne vs Davids silence and submis- 
sion, because y e lo : hath done it ; and y* rather seeing it pleased Him 
to continue him among vs soe longe to such an age, giveing vs y" op- 
portunitys to reape y e fruite of his godly & grasciouse exampls & 
councells, w c h, now he is taken from vs, y e lord help vs y' we may 
practically ffollow, so running y* we may obtayne y" pmised recom- 
pence of reward, y" Crowne of imortality & life, w c h he is now 
poseseed of. Dear Brother, this gvidence (I suppose doth vnavoyd- 
ably call yow to make a voyadge into these partes w'h all possible 
speede for y° transacting and settling of yo r affayrs heere, some things 
not being in soe good a posture as were to be wished : viz : y e busy- 
ness of Carletons administration, w c h was like to be wholly obstructed 
on my ffathers death ; But M r Wickins a faithful freind being intrusted 
in his will to act in his behalfe, hath slacked no diligence or paynes 
therin, he will write to yow himself, therefore ile say no more to that. 
You are made sole Executor, M r Wickins w'h my self are desired to 
be overseers of y e same in yo r absence. I carryed y e will to him to 
London, w°h he hath since pved in the Prerogative Court, who will 
send yow a Coppy thereof. I was lately at London of purpose to comu- 
nicate yo r letters and Bills to him, for goods to be sent this yeare and 
care will be taken to send y e greatest pt of them, by y" first good ship. 
Though vpon o r conference w'h M r Bridge & partnrs they make 
scruple of parting w'h any mony of yo™ in y r hands, w'h out a particu- 
lar order from yo* owne hand y* w c h yow give to my ffather for y° dis- 
pose thereof being (they say) dead w'h him. 



1870.] "ST. REGIS BELL." 311 

I spake with some of y" men to whom yow directed yo r bills, for 
goods, and they were all cheerfull to send wmT yow write for, though 
they stay for payment till y e next returne of ships. In much hast & 
breifly I give yow a hint of things, hoping this may come to yo r hands, 
before other ships in w c h goods will be sent, by whom if God please 
yow shall heare further! Clarke is not yet arived, but dayly ex- 
pected. 

S 1 , my selfe and wife w" 1 all o r children are at present in comfortable 
health, who all present y r endeared respts to yow & yo™ : The mercy 
of y" blessed mediator overshaddow yow & yo rs and guide yow in all 
yo r vndertakings y' in due tyme we may see yo r face to o r mutuall 
Comfort soe prays 

Yo r ever Lovinge Brother 

Henry Smith. 

Wtbardsburt ffebr : 20th 
1662. 

Addressed, 

ffor his Deare and Welbeloved 

Brother M r John Pynchon, 

at his house in Springfeild 
on Conecticott. 
p r sent 

New-England 

Mr. Davis communicated the following paper on 

" The St. Regis Bell" 

On the 29th of February, 1703-4, the town of Deerfield, in 
Massachusetts, was sacked and burned by a party of two hundred 
French and one hundred and forty-two Indians, under Major Hertel 
de Rouville, and one hundred and twelve men, women, and children 
were carried into captivity, including the Rev. John Williams, and his 
wife and children. A full account of this raid is given by Hoyt, in 
his book on " Indian Wars," published in Greenfield in 1824. In that 
book, as I believe, appeared the first printed statement in relation to 
what has been since commonly known as the story of the " Bell of 
St. Regis." That story has since been the basis of many publications 
in poetry and prose, and has invariably been received by the public as 
substantially true. I propose to state the results to which I have been 
led by my own inquiries as to its authenticity. 

Hoyt, who is a perfectly honest and truthful historian, states that 
Eunice, a daughter of the Rev. John Williams, never returned from 



312 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

her captivity, but married an Indian ; and he adds that " recently one 
of the great grandsons of Mr. Williams, under the name of Eleazer 
Williams, has been educated by his friends in New England, and is 
now employed as a missionary to the Indians at Green Bay, on Lake 
Michigan." Hoyt goes on to say as follows : — 

" In a recent visit to Montreal and Quebec, Mr. Williams made 
some exertions to secure documents relative to his ancestors, particu- 
larly on his grandmother's side. . . . He found a Bible, which was the 
property of his great grandfather, the Rev. John Williams, in which 
is the date of purchase with his name ; also the journal of Major 
Rouville, kept on the expedition against Deerfleld in 1704, in which 
he frequently mentions John Williams as 'an obstinate heretick.' From 
the journal, it appears that Rouville's French troops suffered extremely 
from a want of provisions on the march to Deerfleld, and were in a 
mutinous state when they arrived before the place ; but were kept to 
their duty by the Indians, who, from their greater facility in procuring 
game in the woods, and superior hardiness, were faithful to the comr 
mander. Mr. Williams has also procured the journal of the command- 
ing officer on the expedition against Schenectady, in 1690. These 
journals were obtained at one of the principal convents, where copies 
were required to be deposited on the return of the commanders of 
parties, as well as with the government. Mr. Williams states that 
when Deerfleld was destroyed, the Indians took a small church bell, 
which is now hanging in an Indian church in St. Regis. It was con- 
veyed on a sledge as far as Lake Champlain, and buried, and was 
subsequently taken up, and conveyed to Canada. Mr. Williams's father 
and other Indians at St. Regis, are well acquainted with the facts re- 
lating to the bell, as well as the destruction of Deerfleld." 

Hoyt adds in a note, " Communicated by Col. Elihu Hoyt, who 
recently conversed with Mr. Williams." 

It will be observed that Hoyt, born in Deerfleld, and always residing 
there, does not suggest the existence of any tradition or record in Deer- 
fleld, bearing upon this subject ; nor does he appear to have seen the 
journals spoken of by Eleazer Williams. 

The evidence, traditional or documentary, existing in Deerfleld in 
relation to the matter, is fully and fairly stated in a letter dated 
Feb. 21, 1870, addressed to me by Mr. George Sheldon, of Deerfleld, 
who has devoted much time to the investigation of the history of 
Deerfleld, and whose statements are worthy of full credit. He writes 
as follows: — 



1870.] "ST. REGIS BELL." 313 

" This romantic legend, so often repeated, has at length come to be 
accepted by most people as an historic fact. As a student of the early 
history of my native town, the bell story has become to me a subject 
of intense interest. In the course of my investigation, from a firm 
believer I became an utter sceptic, but at present am all out to sea. 
If there exists any satisfactory evidence anywhere, it would seem it 
must be lodged in the old convents or churches in Canada. In ac- 
cordance with your desire, I will give some of the reasons for the lack 
of faith which is in me. . . . While not one particle of evidence has 
been found (by me, at least) to support the statement of Mr. Williams, 
on the other hand nothing better than negative evidence has been 
found to disprove it ; but there is a good deal of that. The town 
records, covering a period of twenty years before the event, are com- 
plete, but give not the slightest hint that there was ever a bell in 
town. Town and parish were then one. In the ' Redeemed Captive,' 
a minute narrative of the events of the assault, the march to Canada, 
and of the captivity, and the repository of many reflections on the 
condition of his church and people, Mr. Williams gives us no hint 
that a bell ever summoned his flock to worship. His son Stephen has 
left us another account of the same events, entering into particulars, 
even more minutely than his father, and it seems almost impossible 
that the bell from his father's church could have been conveyed by the 
party either on poles or men's shoulders, or drawn upon a sledge, 
without so attracting his boyish notice as to leave some trace upon 
his journal ; but we get no hint from him, though he was carried 
to St. Louis, and lived there long enough to learn the language. 

" Aaron Denio, who was born in Canada of parents captured by 
Rouville at Deerfleld in 1704, was a very prominent man, and lived 
to a good old age in the town of Greenfield. Many stories are told of 
him to this day, but none of them convey the faintest tone of a bell. 
Much is known and told of the Kellogg boys and girls, who grew to be 
men and women amongst the Caughnawagas, and who figured largely 
in the history of this part of the colony as officers and interpreters, but 
not the faintest tinkle of the bell can we wring from them. There 
lives in this town a bright, smart woman of eighty-eight years, with 
an astonishing memory, who tells many stories of her grandmother, 
who was born less than thirty years after the massacre, and whom she 
remembers perfectly ; but not the faintest murmur of the bell is heard 
in them all. 

" The church, at Deerfleld, was square, with a four-sided roof, from 

40 



314 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

the centre of which sprung the centre belfry, which must have been 
fully exposed in every direction ; at a distance of about eight rods 
stood the house of Benoni Stebbifls, which was successfully defended 
to the last by a party of sharpshooters, and several Indians and at 
least one Frenchman were killed by their fire. A party in the belfry, 
it would seem, must be at their mercy. A service of such a peculiar 
nature, in the face of such imminent danger, could hardly have been 
accomplished without leaving some mark on the traditions of the times, 
but none have been discovered as yet. The field of inquiry, in this 
region, seems to be about exhausted ; and I earnestly hope that some 
interested antiquarian, qualified for the work, will unearth those musty 
records, which are said to be deposited in convents or churches in 
Canada, and set the matter at rest, one way or the other." 

In further illustration of the difficulties which the attacking party 
would have found in carrying away an article so cumbrous as a bell, I 
annex a copy of a petition, of which the original is to be seen in the 
Massachusetts Archives, with the legislative order indorsed on the 
original paper. 

To his Excellency the Governour together with the Hon d Council and 
Representatives met in the Great and General Assembly at Boston, 
May 31, 1704. 

The humble petition of Jonathan Wells and Ebenezer Wright in 
»he behalfe of the company who encountered the French and Indians 
at Deerfield, Feb. 29, 1704, sheweth : 

1st, That we, understanding the extremity of the poor people at 
Deerfield, made all possible haste to their reliefe, that we might deliver 
the remnant that were left, and doe spoil on the enemy. 

2dly, That, being joyned with a small number of the inhabitants 
and garrison souldiers, we forced the enemy out of town, leaving a great 
part of their plunder behinde them, and pursuing them about a mile and 
an halfe, did great execution upon them. We saw at the time many 
dead bodies, and we and others did afterwards see the manifest prints 
on the snow, where other dead bodies were drawn to a hole in the 
river. 

Sdly, That the enemy being reinforced by a great number of fresh 
men, we were overpowered, and necessitated to run to the fort ; and, 
in our flight, nine of the company were slain, and some others wounded ; 
and some of us lost our upper garments, which we had put off before 
in the pursuit. 



1870.] "ST. EEGIS BELL." 315 

Athly, That the action was over, and the enemy withdrawn about 
fourscore rods from the fort, before any of our neighbours came into 
the fort. 

Wherefore we doe humbly supplicate this Hon a Assembly, that ac- 
cording to their wonted justice and bounty, they would consider the 
service we have done in preserving many lives and much estate, and 
making a spoil on the enemy, the hazzard that we run, the losse we 
sustained, the afflicted condition of such as have lost near relations in 
this encounter, and bestow upon us some proportionable recompence, that 
we and others may be incouraged upon such occasions to be forward 
and active to repell the enemy, and rescue such as shall be in distresse, 
though with the uttmost peril of our lives, and your petitioners shall 
pray, &c. 

Jonathan Wells, 
Ebenezer Wkight, 

In the name of the rest. 

In the House of Representatives. Read a first time, June 2, 
1704. 

In the House of Representatives, June 8, 1704. 

In answer to the petition on the other side, — 

Resolved, That the losses of the petitioners be made good, and paid 
out of the publick Treasury to such as sustained them, according to 
their account herewith exhibited, amounting to the sum of thirty-four 
pounds and seventeen shillings. 

That the sum of five pounds be paid to each of the widows of those 
slain, mentioned in the list annexed, being four in number. 

And, although but one scalp of Indians slain by them is recovered, 
yet, for their encouragement, that the sum of sixty pounds be allowed 
and paid to the petitioners, whose names are contained in the said list 
annexed as surviving, for scalp-money, to be equally divided amongst 
them, together with all plunder whereof they give account. 

James Conveese, Speaker. 
Sent up for concurrence, June 9, 1704. 



In Council. 
Read and passed in concurrence. 



Isaac Addington, Secretary, 



316 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

The annexed list of persons engaged in the fight bears fifty-seven 
names. The plunder taken from the enemy is described in a schedule, 
of which the following is a copy : — 



An account of w l plunder was taken from the enemy, and solde by y e com- 
pany on the last of February, 1703-4. 

£ s. d. 

John Wells, one gun 01 09 00 

" " one bariell of gun 00 03 06 

Samuel Barnard, one gun 01 09 00 

Thomas Russell, one bariell & lock 01 03 00 

John Matone, a pece of gun 00 14 00 

John Wells, 3 peces of guns 00 07 00 

Thomas Barnard, one hatchet 00 02 00 

Hezeciah Root, one blancket 00 09 00 

Thomas Barnard, one blancket 00 03 08 

Samuell Carter, one blancket 00 04 00 

Jonathan Wells, one blancket 00 04 04 

Ebene Farley, one cap 00 04 06 

Jonathan Wells, one cap 00 06 00 

William Belding, one cap 00 02 00 

Jonathan Wells, one cap 00 03 00 

Ebenezer Wright, one gun 01 15 00 

Benja» Stebins, one pistill 00 10 00 

John Graves, one hatchet 00 01 06 

Joseph Smith, one gun 02 00 06 

Ebene Boltwhood, one pistile 00 09 00 

Samue" Dickeson, a hatchet 00 02 00 

Natha" White, a hatchet 00 02 02 

Thomas Howes, a hatchet 00 02 00 

Sa" Church, a powderhorn 00 01 02 

Nath 11 White, a blancket 00 05 08 

Eben Seldin, a baganet 00 04 06 

Sam" Field, a hatchet 00 02 00 

Joseph Brooks, a gun 01 11 06 

Zacrye Field, Ind"> shoes 00 00 10 

Nat" Coleman, gun case 00 00 06 

Primus Noyes, glas botle 00 00 06 

Richard Billing, glas botle 00 08 04 

John Wait, a hatchet 00 02 07 

Zacrye Field, a squaline 00 01 07 

Sam" Warner, a squaline 00 02 10 

Nath" Colman, a squaline 00 01 06 

Jona Well3, a squaUne 00 01 02 

Zacrye Field, a cap 00 02 10 

Sam 11 Wright, a kniffe 00 01 00 

Amount carried forward £15 14s. 08rf. 



14s. 


08d. 


01 


03 


05 


03 


02 


08 


03 


00 


05 


00 



1870.] " ST. REGIS BELL." 317 

Amount brought forward £15 

Sam" Warner, a kniffe 00 

Zacrye Meld, a pair of snoshoes 00 

Zacrye Meld, a blancket 00 

John Graves, a blancket 00 

Thomas Wells, a blancket 00 

Sum total! £16 12s. 1W. 



In following up this inquiry, it seemed important next to ascertain 
what evidence of the truth or falsehood of the story could be found at 
St. Regis. No long investigation was needed there, as it appears that 
St. Regis did not exist in 1704, nor till some half century afterwards. 
Rev. F. Marcoux, now resident priest at St. Regis, fixes it in 1759. 
Rev. B. F. De Costa, in an article on the St. Regis bell, in the 
" Galaxy" for January, 1870, fixes it in 1760. And Dr. F. B. Hough, 
in his history of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties, states that the 
Indians from St. Louis settled there in 1760, and that their priest, 
Anthony Gordon, then gave it the name of St. Regis. 

That these dates are not precisely correct, may be inferred from a 
letter which is to be found in the Massachusetts Archives, which 
seems to be a translation from an original letter by one P. R. Billiard. 
This letter, to which my attention was first called by Mr. Sheldon, 
seems to fix the settlement of St. Regis as early as 1754. 

To Monseigneur the Keeper of the Seals, Minister of the Marine. 

Monseignetjk, — The Iroquois Indians cf the Falls of St. Louis, 
near Montreal, in Canada, are of the Iroquois Agniers (Mohawks), 
who formerly left their country to come and settle along the river 
St. Lawrence. Those of them that remained in the place of their 
nativity presently came under the dominion of the English, being in 
the neighborhood of Albany, while the others became the allies of the 
French. As the people of the two villages are relations, we have seen 
from time to time some of those that were settled round Albany re- 
unite with their brethren of the Fall of St. Louis. Mons. Duquesne, 
Governor- General of Canada, who perceived their inclinations, has 
always treated them with great kindness, and has privately engaged 
them to come and settle near him, knowing well, by experience in the 
last war, that they were the only Indians to be feared on the side of 
Fort St. Frederic and Lake Champlain. 

A great number of them are determined in consequence of this, 



318 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. [May, 

and it is impossible the rest should stand out a great while. In the 
mean time, the village of the Fall of St. Louis being very numerous, 
is too much crowded ; and, moreover, the quality of the land not per- 
mitting them to push out further there because of the marshy places 
that are throughout, several families of the Fall of St. Louis, with a 
great number of Iroquois Agniers, have desired to make a new settle- 
ment in a place where the land was more fertile : in the first place, for 
the convenience of life ; and, next, to be out of the way of drunken- 
ness, to which the nearness of Mountroyal exposed them ; and the 
readiness of the French to sell them brandy, notwithstanding the 
severe prohibitions of the Generals. Agreeably to this projection, 
they have made choice of a place in the King's territories, situated 
towards the south at the entrance of Lake St. Francis, half-way be- 
tween the mission of the Falls of St. Louis and that of the Presenta- 
tion. As this place appears to have all the properties for making a 
solid and advantageous settlement for the Indians, I came here with 
them ; and it is actually the mission which I have now the charge of, 
under the title of St. Regis. But as the Agniers desire to have the 
peaceable possession of said territory, I take the liberty to ask in their 
name, — 

1st, That they have granted to them the property of the territory 
lying south, at the entrance of Lake St. Francis, between two rivers ; 
one to the north-east, called Nigentsiagoa ; the other south-west, 
called Nigentsiage ; being in front six leagues, comprising the two 
rivers, together with the islands that lie towards the shore, for the said 
Indians to hold so long as their village shall there subsist, upon con- 
dition that if the mission is dissolved, the said lands shall revert to the 
King. 

2d, That the Jesuites missionaries be authorized under the title of 
feoffees in trust to make the partition of said land among the Indians, 
and amicably decide any controversies that may hereafter ensue re- 
lating to this matter ; and to manifest that the said missionaries in 
no wise seek their own interest in this, they desire it may be expressly 
prohibited both now and hereafter to make any grant to the French, 
as likewise to reserve for themselves, the missionaries, in said place any 
land for ploughing; and then the distance of the French will take 
away from the Indians the opportunity of copying their faults, and 
ruining themselves with strong drink. 

3d, That you would please to favor the good dispositions of the 
governor-general by giving orders that they may have some assistance 



1870.] "ST. REGIS BELL." 319 

in this settlement, advantageous, at the same time, to the interest of 
religion and the good of the colony. 

P. R. Billiabd, Jesuite, 
Missionary to the Iroquois of the Mission of St. Regis. 
St. Regis, Dec. 7, 1754. 

Under date of " St. Regis, 1st April, 1870," Rev. P. Marcoux favors 
me with information as follows : — 

"I will further add the tradition on the testimony of the most 
ancient inhabitants of this place, of whom some are almost contemporary 
with the foundation of their village in 1760, . . . that from 1760 
down to 1835, there have been but two bells in St. Regis ; one came 
from the Catholic Church of Fort Frontenac (now Kingston, Ontario), 
and was given to them, at their request, by one of the first governors 
of Quebec, after the conquest ; the other was purchased at Albany in 
1802. These two bells, having been cracked, were earned to Troy, 
N.Y., in 1835, and re-cast into a single bell. This is the tradition of 
St. Regis." 

It has more recently been stated, however, that the tradition, though 
untrue as to St. Regis, is in fact true of a bell which is hanging in 
St. Louis (now Caughnawaga), a place situated on the south side of 
the St. Lawrence, and about nine miles above Montreal. In Hough's 
" History of St. Lawrence and Franklin Counties," published in 1853, 
the statement is made as follows : — 

" While on a visit to Caughnawaga in October, 1852, the author 
found in the village a direct and consistent tradition of the bell, which 
is still used in their church ; and among the records in the hands of 
the priest, a manuscript, in the French language, of which we shall 
give a translation. The bell is a small one, and once possessed an 
inscription, which has been effaced. The legend purports to have been 
found some fifteen years since in an old English publication, and is 
regarded by the priest of the mission, Rev. Joseph Marcoux, who has 
for many years resided there, as, in the main points, reliable." 

The Rev. Francis Marcoux, of St. Regis, has also expressed his 
full belief in the existence and authenticity of the tradition as applied 
to the bell of St. Louis. 

I am fully assured that the negative evidence which I have pro- 
duced is sufficient to show that the tradition, if ever it existed, could 
have had no foundation in truth ; and I have as yet not discovered any 



320 MASSACHUSETTS HISTORICAL SOCIETY. 



[May, 



precise and detailed evidence of the existence of this story before the 
preparation of Hoyt's book, nearly fifty years ago. 

The " legend," of which Dr. Hough gives a translation, is calculated 
to cause doubt rather than belief. It does not profess to be founded 
on tradition, but is said to have been taken, some fifteen years before 
1853, from an old English book ; and Hoyt's book is the only one we 
know of, from which its leading facts could have been taken. This 
" legend " describes the St. Louis Indians, living nine miles from the 
church bells of Montreal, as having never heard the sound of a bell, 
and getting their first idea of its tones from the account of their 
priest, and going out in procession to wreathe it with flowers, and 
overcome with rapture in hearing it for the first time. It seems to be 
simply a magazine story, in which a few well-known historical facts 
are decked with the ornaments of fiction. 

Strong circumstances of suspicion attach to the story as first pub- 
lished by Hoyt. As published, it purported to come from Rev. Eleazer 
Williams, who, at the time of the publication, was a clergyman in good 
standing, whose statements of fact would be likely to be received with 
implicit belief. There were, without doubt, certain defects and improb- 
abilities in the story as he told it. He spoke of obtaining Rouville's 
journal, and another of the same kind, "from one of the principal 
convents, where copies were required to be deposited on the return of 
the commanders of parties." I am informed by gentlemen accustomed 
to investigations among Canadian records,* that they know of no con- 
vent where manuscripts of that description were required to be de- 
posited, or can now be found. He says that De Rouville, in his 
journal, describes Eev. John "Williams as an " obstinate heretick." As 
De Rouville himself is described by Abbe Ferland (following Charle- 
voix) as a Huguenot, it is not probable that he would have used this 
particular term of reproach.f 

The additional fact that Williams fixed upon an impossible locale 
for the resting-place of the bell, raises a strong suspicion that he 
invented the whole story. 

All that is known of Mr. Williams goes to confirm this suspicion. 



* One of these gentlemen is Mr. J. M. Le Moine, of Quebec, who has given great 
attention to the early history of the Dominion, and to whose intelligent kindness I am 
much indebted. 

t Since the above was written, however, I learn that a communication by M. Faucher 
de St. Maurice has appeared in a Canadian paper, in which it is claimed that the De 
Rouvilles were, in fact, Catholics. 



1870.] " ST. REGIS BELL." 321 

He could not resist any temptation to mystify the public. At one 
time he came to a distinguished antiquary, now living in New York, 
and told him that the priest's house in Caughnawaga had been left for 
some time untenanted, had been blown down by a tempest, and that 
he had then discovered, in a recess thus revealed in a chimney, a 
number of Indian manuscripts, which he had taken away with him to 
Green Bay in Michigan. Inquiry was immediately instituted, and it 
was ascertained that the house had neither been left untenanted nor 
been blown down, and that the whole story was fictitious. In 1853, 
very general attention was excited by two articles published in " Put- 
nam's Magazine," asserting his claims to be considered the son of 
Louis XVI. of France. In one of those papers appeared his account 
of an interview with the Prince de Joinville, in which the prince was 
represented as making him large pecuniary offers if he would sign an 
instrument releasing his claim to the throne of France. To this prop- 
osition, according to his own statement, he returned an indignant 
refusal. This statement, being brought to the notice of the prince, 
was publicly contradicted by him as " a work of the imagination," and 
" a speculation upon public credulity." 

Nothing, then, seems to me more likely than that "Williams invented 
the alleged tradition of the Deerfield or St. Regis bell ; but, however 
originated, it seems quite clear to me that the truth of the story is not 
sustained by the evidence now known. 



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