We are glad to know that the paper appearing in The Beaver recently in regard to Champlain and his probable stay for some weeks in this county - the first white man to ever traverse it - has attracted a good deal of interest. The writer has received letters from several well-known learned gentlemen regarding it, and the views of some others of them, may be given, later on. The following paper is from Mr. C.C. James, a Napanee old boy, and now Deputy Minister of Agriculture for this Province. He has given the early history of this Province, and especially of this section of it, a good deal of careful attention. From his well-known thoroughness and accuracy in such matters, his opinion is of much value. We bespeak, therefore, a careful reading of the following. We hope, too, that his suggestions about reporting any relics that may be found anywhere about here may be acted on. Already we have been informed of several Indian relics found about Mud Lake during the past few years; but of these more will be given hereafter.
MR. JAMES' PAPER
The question of the camping ground of Champlain and the Indians on their return from the raid in 1615 into the Iroquois country to the south of Lake Ontario, has been taken up in The Beaver of Oct. 26th. Mr. Casey and Dr. Beeman suggest Mud Lake or Varty Lake as the probably place of the sojourn. Being asked for my opinion in the matter, I gladly do so, not that I have an idea that I can settle it, but perhaps I may add something to the discussion, and indicate a line of investigation that some student of our early history may care to follow out.
Mr. Casey and Dr. Beeman start their work from the statement given in Kingsford's History of Canada, Vol. 1, page 53. Kingsford then says:
"It is not possible to follow the return route of Champlain. He tells us, that after having traversed the end of that lake they followed a river for some twelve leagues, then they carried their canoes for half a league, to a lake ten or twelve miles in circumference. There is no locality closely answering to this description. The difficulty is in the small lake rather than the river, for north of Amherst Island the waters would be regarded as a river. Here the party established themselves for the purpose of hunting. They remained until the 4th December, when the navigation was closed by the frost. "
In a foot-note, Dr. Kingsford suggests Hay Bay, adding, "to some extent, it answers the description given."
First of all let us get back to the original. Champlain's work appeared first in 1619, but without a map. In the edition of 1632, the map appears for the first time, and much discussion has taken place as to whether Champlain was the author of the map or not. Orsamus H. Marshall, the well-known American historical student, formerly of Buffalo, thought that it was the work of other hands, added to the volume to make it more attractive. In 1870, "The Works of Champlain" were re-published by the University of Laval, Quebec, edited by Abbe Provencher. In 1882, the Prince Society, of Boston, brought out a translation in English. In this Boston edition the passage vital to the discussion appears as follows:
"The next day, the 28th of the month, they began to make preparations; some to go deer hunting, others to hunt bears and beavers, others to go fishing, others to return to their villages. An abode and lodging were furnished me by one of the principal chiefs, called D'Arontal, with whom I had already had some acquaintance. Having offered me his cabin, provisions and accommodations, he set out also for the deer hunt, which is esteemed by them the greatest and most noble one. After crossing from the island, the end of the lake, we entered a river some twelve leagues in extent. They carried their canoes by land some half a league, when we entered a lake which was some ten or twelve leagues in circuit, where there was a large amount of game, as swans, white cranes, ontards, ducks, teal, song thrush, larks, snipe, geese and several other kinds of fowl too numerous to mention. Of these I killed a great number, which stood us in good stead while waiting for the capture of deer. From there we proceeded to a certain place some ten leagues distant, where our savages thought there were deer in abundance. Assembled there were some twenty-five savages, who set to building two or three cabins out of pieces of wood fitted to each other, the chinks of which they stopped up by means of moss to prevent the entrance of the air, covering them with the bark of trees."
On comparing the above English with the original French as it appears in the Laval work, I find one important change, and it is so important that I reproduce the French - "Nous entrasmes dans rene riviere enviorn 12 lienes." The translation is faulty; it should read - "We entered a river about twelve leagues." The twelve leagues (30 miles) undoubtedly refers to the length of their journey on the river, not to the length of the river.
In this particular Kingsford is right, but when we compare the rest of the narrative with his condensation he is seriously at fault. The party went up a river 30 miles, portaged 1¼ miles to a lake 25 or 30 miles in circumference, and after a short stay there went forward 25 miles and made a camp and settled down to deer hunting. Reading further on in Champlain we find that the camp was on a river. Not only does Dr. Kingsford confuse leagues and miles, but he leaves out the removal from the lake to the river, he drops out the 25 mile trip entirely. Parkman does not make this mistake. He refers to a lake north of northeast of the site of Kingston, but as to the camping ground he says: "They were thirty-eight days encamped on this nameless river, and killed in that time a hundred and twenty deer." (See "Pioneers of France in the New World," pp. 422-3).
This, I think, settles one point, namely, that their camp was on a river, and it was 40 or 50 miles from Amherst or Wolfe Island. The country to the north of Kingston and Napanee was a great deer hunting section, and is so marked on many old maps. While there the Indians constructed one of their pounds, described by Champlain. Into this pound they drove the deer for slaughter. Further points noted by Champlain are that the country was rough, there were high hills and lowlying swamps, and the river was in places "wide and turbulent."
Let us return to the route taken. Champlain says, "After crossing from the island." The French words suggest that it is an island already referred to. Most students incline to the opinion that he means the same island that he passed in going south. What island was it? Parkman from his map evidently favors the route past the western end of Amherst Island. Years ago Orsamus Marshall and Gen. John S. Clark, of Albany, fought over this question. Marshall contended that the route was as Parkman shows it, passing by Points pleasant and Traverse. Gen. Clark and John Gilmay show Lake Champlain along the front as far east as Kingston, and then send him across by Wolfe and Simcoe Islands. The editor of the Prince Society publication leaves it in doubt, as being too indefinite. Students interested will find Marshall's views with a map in a chapter in his "Historical Writings," published in Albany in 1887. If we bring Champlain back to either Amherst or Wolfe Island we next find a 25-mile journey up a river. Was this up what we now call the Bay of Quinte, or was it up the Cataraqui? Kingsford suggests that the waters of the Bay would be called a river by Champlain, and that the language of the narrative of the trip out would lead to the belief that Kingsford is justified in this but here is the point - if Champlain were going back by the same route as he came out would he not have said so? The language of the original it appears to me, indicates that it was not the same river. The Prince Society editor suggests the Cataraqui as the river, and Langton as the lake. Kingsford says, speaking of the of the journey after the hunting, "It is plain that Champlain returned by a route different to that by which he came." Was this because it was winter and the water routes were frozen up, or was it because their hunting camp was so far removed from the Trent route?
A careful examination of all the information available seems to me to indicate the following conclusions: Hay Bay does not fit in with Champlain's narrative, and Dr. Kingsford based his remarks on an incomplete and faulty reading of the original narrative; the winter deer hunting camp was on a fair-sized river 40 to 50 miles inland, and 25 or 30 miles from the lake referred to by Kingsford. Was it on the Napanee river, or on the Salmon River? Perhaps we shall never know. When Champlain was going up the Ottawa early on their trip he lost one of his astronomical instruments, an astrolabe. This was found some years ago in a perfect state of preservation. It was on view at an Historical Exhibition in Toronto last year. Perhaps some day there may be picked up on the banks of the Napanee River by a deer hunter some relics that will help us to identify this camping ground. Without some such clue we are left largely to conjecture. This point, however, is interesting that Champlain in 1615 went out by the Bay of Quinte and returned across the northern part of Lennox and Addington, and somewhere in the northern region he witnessed a deer hunt such as our hunters of 1900 can hardly expect to see. If only Champlain had been a little more explicit in his journal.
Are there any traces of the winter camp of 1615? May we expect to find them? Two or three cabins were built. A large number of Indians were gathered there. Most people would say that after 285 years all trace would be gone. In 1669, two Frenchmen, Dollier de Casson and Galinee wintered in Ontario near Longue Pointe. Their wintering place has been hitherto a matter of conjecture. But this very year after 231 years the exact site has been discovered and the outlines of their winter home have been identified. A full account of their journey and their wintering place will be published during the winter by the Ontario Historical Society. It is within the possibilities that Champlain's camp of 1615 may yet be located and identified.