The DeTroyes Expedition

1664 marked the beginning of a significant change in the relationship between New England and New France. In that year, England seized the Dutch settlements in what is now New York State and acquired with them a new interest in the fur trade.

Previously there had been little conflict of interest between the two societies. New England's economy was settled and based upon agricultural pursuite; New France was composed largely of soldiers, missionaries and adventurers, with an economy heavily dependent upon fur-trading.. Even by 1667, however, when the Treaty of Breck confirmed England in possession of the territory acquired in the second Dutch War, there was little real rivalry, for North America's finest source of furs still lay within practicable reach only of the French.

Then English attention came back again to the 150 year-old concept of a Northwest Passage, and in 1665 the English court played host to the colourful Médart Chouart, Sieur des Groseilliers, and his brother-in-law, Pierre Esprit Radisson. Veteran coureurs de bois, they had left New France in disgust at what they felt to be bureaucratic injustice, and their theory of a northern route to the fur country caught the imaginations of an influential group of Englishmen - including King Charles 11.

Their advice had much to do with the founding of the Hudson's Bay Company, whose ship "Nonsuch" spent the winter of 1668-69 at Rupert's River and returned with a fine cargo of furs the following October.  In 1670, a royal charter was granted to the -Governor and Company of Adventurers of England trading into Hudson's Bay".

The expedition of 1668 had established the post of Fort Charles at the Rupert River on Hudson Bay. By 1674 a second post was in occupation on the Moose River, and between 1675 and 1681 a third had been established on Rayly's Island near the mouth of the Albany River.

This activity had not escaped the notice of the French. Colbert, France's efficient Minister of Marine and Colonies, indeed, had known of it since 1670, but an Anglo-French naval alliance prevented action being taken to thwart it. This consideration did not prevent the Intendant of New France, Jean Talon, from sending a small party overland to the deserted Bay in the fall of 1671. Governor Bayly returned the following spring to find clear evidence of the winter's visitors, who had taken formal possession of the country in the name of Louis XIV.

The succeeding ten years found the English and the French traders increasingly in conflict, though matters did not reach the point of armed aggression until 1682. In that year, an almost simultaneous attempt was made by parties from England, France and New England, to settle on the Nelson River. The French gained the upper hand, but were dispossessed two years later by the English company.

In 1685, the Marquis de Denonville newly appointed governor of New France, conceived a daring scheme to re-establish the French on the Bay.  Denied the use of naval vessel to support the venture, originally planned as seaborne, he resolved upon an overland attack. To lead it, he chose the young Chevalier Pierre de Troyes, who receivecl his orders in February, 1686.

Of De Troyes' officers, three were brothers, the Sieurs de Ste-Helene, d'Iberville, and de Maricourt. Ste-Helene, the eldest, was only twenty-seven years of age. With them were the Sieur de la Nous, the Sieur de St-Germain, the Sieur L'Allemand, and a chaplain, Father Silvy. Thirty of the troops were French regulars; the remaining seventy, Canadian voyageurs.

At the beginning of March, De Troyes left Quebec City for Ville-Marie, on the Island of Montreal. There he was joined by the hundred men who would make up his expedition. At the lower end of the island, he assembled sleds, canoes and provisions for the journey. There a soldier named Pourpoint deserted after committing several 'thefts and other breaches of discipline, but he was later caught and hanged.

On March 30, the expedition set forth, walking on the still-frozen Lake of Two Mountains but taking with them thirty-five canoes for use once the spring thaw was over. Already the ice was treacherous, and a yoke of oxen drawing St-Germain's baggage was rescued only with difficulty.

By the following day the men themselves were continually breaking through the ice, and the oxen had to be sent back. Progress was very slow, much time being consumed in mutual rescue operations.

On April 1, camp was set up on Carillon Island in the Ottawa River where, because of rain, De Troyes remained until the morning of the 4th.  On that day, walking with the aid of his sword, which he used to test the thickness of the ice, he reached the foot of the Long Sault rapids. There he visited the scene of the massacre in 1660 of Dollard and his sixteen companions.

From April 5 to 8, De Troyes remained in camp, refitting his canoes and making paddles and poles for the assault on the rapids. A reconnaissance carried out by St-Germain indicated there was nothing for it but to drag the canoes up, waist-deep in icy water.

Rain and a high wind having abated by the morning of the 9th, Ste-Helene and D1berville, accompanied by the best of the canoe-men, started up the rapids in bitterly cold weather. The remainder followed on the 10th, De Troyes and Father Silvy taking the difficult but drier route along the shore. Several canoes were damaged, and had to be repaired in camp that evening.

The following five days were occupied in the laborious task of surmounting of a series of rapids as far as the present site of Grenville, Quebec. Progress was severaly hampered by huge chunks of ice. On the 12th, De la Nous and five men were required to break up a drunken brawl, in the course of which one man had broken another's jaw with the butt of his musket. De Troyes deprived the culprits of their "eau de vie", giving each in its place a sack of corn to carry.

Wind and cold kept the expedition in camp the next day, but some of the hardier ones went exploring and returned with two moose skins the Indians had hidden. De Troyes ordered the skins returned to the spot where they were found. On the 14th, Easter day, Father Sfivy held high mass, after which De Troyes divided his men into three "brigades" and read them his marching orders. Here he instituted guard clutv for the first time, to accustom them to "the discipline which regularity of service demands, and which alone is lacking in the natural worth of Canadians".

On the 15th, twelve hours of travel resulted in less than five miles' progress, the men toiling sometimes neck-deep in water. Pride in their reputation as canoemen led four of the officers to try poling up a rapid, but they succeeded only in wrecking their canoes. Another member of the party almost drowned helping them ashore.

This excerpt was taken directly from The Corporation of the Town of Iroquois Falls Commercial Professional & Tourist Guide, printed in 1972, and added here simply for your enjoyment. The Iroquois Falls Pioneer Museum is an excellent source of history related to Iroquois Falls and it's surrounding area.The Iroquois Falls Public Library has a wonderful exhibit pertaining to the De Troyes Exhibition as well as genuine artifacts.

On the 16th, De Troyes, who had gone ahead on foot, was joined in camp by most of the expedition. A near-tragedy resulted when De Maricourt set down a bundle of firearms, accidentally discharging one. The next day was spent in camp, overhauling the many canoes damaged on the preceding two days. One man burned his hand badly while trying to extinguish a fire which had broken out in his resin-pot. Another chopped off a finger with his axe, and several more were ill from the effects of cold water and fatigue.

On April 19, De Troyes camped near present day Buckingham, Québec, and there spent the following day because of bad weather. A problem of discipline arose among some of the independent-minded Canadians, and one of them was ordered tied to a tree for insubordination.

The following three days' travel, partly under sail, brought the party to Calumet Island. The long series of portages around the island took four more days, including the time required to repair and dry canoes and equipment. Four men deserted on the 30th, taking a canoe with them.

The inclement weather which forced a halt on May 1 failed to discourage the men from planting a maypole in front of De Troyes' tent, and firing a salute. The following day a fifty-pound keg of gunpowder caught fire and exploded, fortunately causing no casualties.

The distance covered on May 3 and 4 brought the party to the end of the allumette portage, near present-day Petawawa. Here a small band of Indians was obscured on the opposite shore, beating a drum and waving a white flag. St-Germain went across to investigate, and found that they apparently wished to give the Frenchmen a present of meat. The parley evidently lasted until after dark, for St-Germain lost his way going back, spent the night in the woods and had to be "homed iC the next morning by gunfire.

By May 10, De Troyes had reached approximately the present site of Klock, Ontario, where a mixture of rain, snow and wind kept the party immobile the following day.

On the 12th they reached the junction of the Ottawa and Mattawa rivers, encamping where the town of Mattawa now stands. There De Troyes -dined with the Sieur Juchereau. who was an route from Michilimackinac to Quebec. Initially distrustful of the local Indians, De Troves set a special guard on his belongings, but no incident occurred, and he actually hired an, Indian guide there. Continuing bad weather delayed recommencement of the journey until May 15.

Proceeding then up the Mattawa River, the expedition arrived on the 18th at the post of the Compagnie du Nord. This mt was situated on an island (since disappeared) in Lake Temiskaming, near the inlet of the Montréal River. Here Ste-Helene. St-Germain and D'Iberville transacted some business and traded their largest canoes for lighter ones.

Do Troyes spent May 22-24 in the company of a trader named Cognac, searching for a 1ead mine-, which they finaily located opposite lie du Chef. Some ore samples and letters were entrusted to Cognac, who was going to Quebec.

The journey was finally resumed on May 26, despite very gusty weather, and some progress was made up the Blanche River. The following day, Do Troyes left the Blanche and proceeded up the Windigo and Larder rivers, a portage-filled route which occupied him until May 30. Several canoes were swamped in the last portage before Lake Opasatika and De la Nous could not swim. was very nearly drowned.

May 30 must in many ways have been the most memorable of all, for on that day the expedition almost met its end in a forest fire. One of the previous evening's campfire touched off the forest and descended upon the party in the midst of a portage, "Some loading. other walking loaded, One group came back to enquire what there was to carry, and... the trail was so full of corners and goers that I can think of no better comparison than that of ants around their ant hill.

"I feel myself obliged, continues De Troyes, to note here a circumstance which will not displease the superstitions. The Sieur L'Allemand took care to mark on his map... the names of the portages for those of the saints in their order in the litany. It happened that the portage where we underwent the fire fell (honestly) to St. Lawrence. He refers, no doubt, to St. Lawrence's legendary ordeal by fire.

On May 31, the party crossed the height of land into theHudson's Bay watershed, and on June 1 reached and crossed Lake Dasserat. Here De Troyes engaged two more Indian Guides. Traversing Lake Duparquet the following day, he descended the river to Lake Abitibi. There he spent three days, building a replica of an English fort in order to hold tactical exercises. The passage of Lake Abitibi was made June 6-7 despite a high wind, and on the 8th the expedition portaged around <present day>, lroquois Falls.

On June 10 Noel Leblanc, one of De Troyes best men, drowned while running a rapid in D'Iberville's canoe. D'Iberville, a good swimmer, survived, but lost nearly all his personal effects. By June 18, De Troyes was a short distance from his first goal, Moose Fort, and he set about to prepare his siege equipment. D'Iberville and St-Germain were sent ahead to recognize. Setting up camp on an island a scant mile from the fort, De Troyes laid plans for his attack, which was carried out at dawn on June 21.

The inhabitants wore totally unprepared, for England and France were not at war. Indeed, a last-minute reconnaissance carried out by Ste-Helene had established that the English cannon were not loaded. He had thrust his ramrod down their barrels to make sure: Half an hour elapsed before the defenders, still in their nightshirts, surrendered.

De Troyes spent the next three days at Moose Fort, planning his next move, which he decided would be against Fort Charles. On July 3, with sixty picked men, he attacked the fort, first capturing the Hudson's Bay Company ship "Craven", which was moored nearly. The defendemput up only a broken resistance, and De Troyes spent the following two days loading his booty aboard the ship.

On July 9 he departed by canoe for Moose Fort. becoming lost in a fog an route and only arriving on the 16th. Three days later he left for Fort Albany, the ship following with captured cannon aboard. No doubt emboldened by success, De Troyes flatly demanded the surrender of the place. The answer led him to believe the Governor Serooent" was a man of ceremony and that he asked only a few cannon shot to allow him to come out with honour". Leaving the captured forts in charge of Ste. Helene and D'Iberville. De Troyes set out for Quebec at the end of August.

His career ended tragically at Niagara. On May 8, 1688, after 6 winters full of hardship and disease, he died at the fort to whose commend he had been appointed the previous year.

Of the posts which De Troyes' Audacious expedition had captured, Albany was retaken by an English force in 1693. The other two were reestablished by the Hudson's Bay Company after the treaty of Utredt in 1713.
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