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Isaac Jogues Memorial in Lake George

Isaac Jogues
French Missionary to the Mohawk

By James P. Millard

In August 1642, a French Missionary by the name of Isaac Jogues, was captured on the St. Lawrence by an Iroquois war party. En route to the native village, the natives and their captives stopped first at Isle la Motte, and then at a small island near present day Westport, NY.
Here, the prisoners were forced to submit to the Iroquois sport know as "running the gantlet." This brutal event consisted of having the captives run between two rows of Indians, each beating them furiously with sticks as they passed. Upon reaching their villages on the Mohawk River, the natives again subjected their "guests" to every manner of torture. The hapless clergyman ended up with fingers knarled and useless. 

After some fourteen months in captivity, Jogues was ransomed back to Quebec, where shortly afterward he sailed to Europe to petition the Pope to allow him to celebrate Mass with his deformed hands. Having received this special dispensation from Rome, Jogues then set out back into the land of his abusers on a special "peace mission" to the Mohawk.

On his way south to the Mohawk villages, he again stopped at Isle la Motte, no doubt at the site of the old French settlement, Fort Ste. Anne, then detoured to a settlement on Otter Creek. Upon reaching the lake known to the natives as Andiatrocte [present-day Lake George] in 1646, he christened it Lac du Sainte-Sacrement. Incredibly, Jogues was received hospitably by the Mohawk, with whom he left gifts of religious articles. He returned to Canada with the good news that he had been favorably received. Upon receiving permission to establish a mission among the Mohawk nation, he once again set out on the arduous journey south. 

In the meantime, a plague of caterpillars had devastated the Mohawk grain harvest. The missionary was charged with bringing "bad spirits" among the Indians and he and his colleagues were murdered. As a warning to future missionary visitors, their decapitated heads were mounted on posts facing north Click here to see Jogues Islandto Canada. Reverend Jogues was canonized a saint in 1930. His peaceful countenance looks out to this day over the beautiful site of Battlefield Park in Lake George.

Jogues Island, Lake Champlain

Sources/Notes:

Jogues Island illustration: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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