Harbor In Winter, With Ice Track.
Railway On The Ice.
Montreal, From Notre Dame.
In this age of cables, trains, and telegraphs, it is difficult to conceive how isolated from the outer world was the young colony at Montreal. The journey of a hundred and seventy-two miles from Quebec which one makes now so easily by rail in four and a half hours, or by a comfortable steamer in a single night, required then, even under the most favorable conditions, fifteen days of hardship. In summer, travelers were obliged to hold themselves in painful immobility within a frail canoe, which the least awkward movement might upset and cost the voyagers their lives. In winter, they were forced to make a long and painful march on snowshoes on the frozen surface of the river. Beyond this lonely outpost stretched away, north, south, and west, wrapped in the solemn silence of the wilderness, an unknown world. The site, however, had been well selected. As every one knows, Montreal lies at the extremity of a fertile island, thirty miles in length and ten in breadth, clasped by the waters of two noble rivers, the Ottawa and the St. Lawrence, whose confluence was inevitably destined to bestow on any city that should be established here the absolute control of an enormous inland navigation. Even the Indians had perceived the advantages of such a situation; and when Jacques Cartier, in October, 1535, looked for the first time on the Mount which he called Royal, he found collected at its base the dwellings of twelve hundred natives in the Huron-Iroquois town of Hochelaga.
ST. James Cathedral, Montreal.
Strangely enough, however, in view of the present industrial prosperity of Montreal, its founders were not animated chiefly by desire for worldly gain, nor even by a prescience of its commercial future. No city ever had a more religious origin. It is impossible to separate Christianity from Canada in studying its early history; for in the steps of the explorer the cross was always planted with the fleur-de-lis; and if one set of heroes toiled and suffered for the cause of France, an equally numerous and valiant company labored and endured privations for the Christian faith. The missionary zeal burned no less brightly then in France'than did the lust for gold and conquest.
Jacques Cartier Square.
Accordingly, in 1640, a group of pious enthusiasts in Paris determined to establish in the New World, farther west than even the precarious colony at Quebec, another centre for the conversion of the natives.
Selecting for this purpose a spot already favorably mentioned by Champlain, they called themselves the "Compagnie de Montreal." The leader and director of these fearless pioneers was the brave soldier and devoted patriot, Maisonneuve, who ranks with Cartier and Champlain as one of the real creators of Canadian civilization. It was in the spring of 1642 that his flotilla of two little boats and barges left Cape Diamond, and slowly stemmed the flood of the St. Lawrence, which the returning sun had lately freed from winter's icy clutch; and on the 18th of May the little company landed on the site of the present city, and formally took possession of the island
The moment Maisonneuve reached the shore, he fell upon his knees in prayer; and at a hastily constructed altar, decorated with the flowers growing round them in profusion, mass was said.
Thus the first words which echoed through the stately trees that formed a sylvan temple were those of supplication and thanksgiving; and in honor of the Holy Virgin, the settlement was called at first the "Colony of Villemarie".
Prominent also in the enterprise, and second in importance only to Maisonneuve himself, were two devoted women, Mademoiselle Mance and Madame delaPeltrie, who had come out unhesitatingly to this comfortless abode to nurse the sick and teach the children of the Indians. At the conclusion of that first memorable service, Father Vimont, the officiating priest, turned and spoke eloquently to the little company. "You are," he said, "a grain of mustard-seed that shall arise and grow until its branches overshadow the earth. You are few, but your work is of God. His smile is upon you, and your children shall fill the land".