Ville-Marie was originally conceived as an idyllic Christian community where French and Aboriginals would live together in harmony. The island of Montréal had long been a common stopping place among Aboriginal peoples. Once the fort was built, the Algonquin and Ottawa peoples came to say for long periods, were baptized, and left again at the first threat of an Iroquois attack. There was intense commercial competition between the Mohawks and the Aboriginal allies of the French. During the city's first twenty years, most of the Aboriginal population was on the island because Montréal was a refuge to a great number of Huron, Iroquois and Algonquin bands, who had become separated from their tribes by war, famine and epidemics.
Ville-Marie was originally conceived as an idyllic Christian community where French and Aboriginals would live together in harmony. The island of Montréal had long been a common stopping place among Aboriginal peoples. Once the fort was built, the Algonquin and Ottawa peoples came to say for long periods, were baptized, and left again at the first threat of an Iroquois attack. There was intense commercial competition between the Mohawks and the Aboriginal allies of the French. During the city's first twenty years, most of the Aboriginal population was on the island because Montréal was a refuge to a great number of Huron, Iroquois and Algonquin bands, who had become separated from their tribes by war, famine and epidemics.

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

When Jeanne Mance left to found Ville-Marie in New France , her plans were clear: build a hospital. In the early years, she had to content herself with a building inside the fort for her infirmary. But in 1645, she became the first colonist to obtain a location on the Côteau Saint-Louis, where the new city was to be built. The buildings she had constructed there were thus the first urban structures in Montréal. They included a building to care for the sick and a chapel. On four occasions, the hospital was destroyed by fire, and four times, thanks to the legendary determination of Jeanne Mance, it was rebuilt and enlarged.
When Jeanne Mance left to found Ville-Marie in New France , her plans were clear: build a hospital. In the early years, she had to content herself with a building inside the fort for her infirmary. But in 1645, she became the first colonist to obtain a location on the Côteau Saint-Louis, where the new city was to be built. The buildings she had constructed there were thus the first urban structures in Montréal. They included a building to care for the sick and a chapel. On four occasions, the hospital was destroyed by fire, and four times, thanks to the legendary determination of Jeanne Mance, it was rebuilt and enlarged.

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

The town's first houses were small and modest. The framing, walls, roof and floor were all made out of wood. Windows, kept to a minimum to conserve heat, had shutters but no glass, which was an imported material that only the rich could afford. The houses, which occasionally sat on rudimentary foundations made from field stones, had no basements and consisted of a single un-partitioned storey and an attic for storing staple foods. All domestic activities-cooking, eating, waking and sleeping-took place in a single room around a central hearth. It is not surprising that the first Montréal families were close-knit!
The town's first houses were small and modest. The framing, walls, roof and floor were all made out of wood. Windows, kept to a minimum to conserve heat, had shutters but no glass, which was an imported material that only the rich could afford. The houses, which occasionally sat on rudimentary foundations made from field stones, had no basements and consisted of a single un-partitioned storey and an attic for storing staple foods. All domestic activities-cooking, eating, waking and sleeping-took place in a single room around a central hearth. It is not surprising that the first Montréal families were close-knit!

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Fear of the Iroquois haunted the young colony. Both women and men were armed. With each attack, the habitants took refuge in the fort or the hospital. A curfew was imposed. The people went to work and returned together when a bell rang. Meals were taken together. Each day, the most devout prepared spiritually through prayer to face death. Their deep faith was what carried them through these hard times, and they continued to clear land, plant crops and build.
Fear of the Iroquois haunted the young colony. Both women and men were armed. With each attack, the habitants took refuge in the fort or the hospital. A curfew was imposed. The people went to work and returned together when a bell rang. Meals were taken together. Each day, the most devout prepared spiritually through prayer to face death. Their deep faith was what carried them through these hard times, and they continued to clear land, plant crops and build.

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Jeanne Mance came from a bourgeois family in Langres, in the Champagne region of France . Extremely pious, she was fascinated by the tales of missionaries working in New France and decided to go there. She met Angélique de Bullion, a wealthy Parisian philanthropist, who entrusted her with the funds to establish a hospital in New France. After a chance meeting with Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière, Jeanne Mance became a member of the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal and incorporated her project into plans to found a missionary city on the Island of Montréal. Her zeal and drive, helped make the Ville-Marie project a reality; she was even put in charge of the expedition's administration. She played many roles in the colony, treating the sick and wounded, dealing with administrative issues, and even acting as God-mother to many of the colony's children.
Jeanne Mance came from a bourgeois family in Langres, in the Champagne region of France . Extremely pious, she was fascinated by the tales of missionaries working in New France and decided to go there. She met Angélique de Bullion, a wealthy Parisian philanthropist, who entrusted her with the funds to establish a hospital in New France. After a chance meeting with Jérôme Le Royer de la Dauversière, Jeanne Mance became a member of the Société de Notre-Dame de Montréal and incorporated her project into plans to found a missionary city on the Island of Montréal. Her zeal and drive, helped make the Ville-Marie project a reality; she was even put in charge of the expedition's administration. She played many roles in the colony, treating the sick and wounded, dealing with administrative issues, and even acting as God-mother to many of the colony's children.

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Jeanne Mance

Jeanne Mance

Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.


"I was born to command. When I open my mouth, everyone listens."

An entire dynasty of Algonquin chiefs bore the title "Tesouat," which was handed down from chief to chief. The last Tessouat, dubbed "Le Borgne," from l'île des Kichesipirinis, suffered the hostility of the French because of the actions of his predecessor, who died in 1636. He also apparently suffered one of his predecessor's infirmities: he had only one eye ("borgne" meaning "one-eyed" in French). The Jesuits described him as a "haughty, clever, man, the enemy of French ways and of Christianity." He was also called "the terror of all nations." Tessouat coveted the Huron's role as the acknowledged partners of the French, and the establishment of Montréal presented him with an opportunity for an alliance. In 1643, he was baptized and received the name "Paul", after his Godfather, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. During peace negotiations with the Iroquois in 1646, he spoke eloquently for the return of prisoners of war.
"I was born to command. When I open my mouth, everyone listens."

An entire dynasty of Algonquin chiefs bore the title "Tesouat," which was handed down from chief to chief. The last Tessouat, dubbed "Le Borgne," from l'île des Kichesipirinis, suffered the hostility of the French because of the actions of his predecessor, who died in 1636. He also apparently suffered one of his predecessor's infirmities: he had only one eye ("borgne" meaning "one-eyed" in French). The Jesuits described him as a "haughty, clever, man, the enemy of French ways and of Christianity." He was also called "the terror of all nations." Tessouat coveted the Huron's role as the acknowledged partners of the French, and the establishment of Montréal presented him with an opportunity for an alliance. In 1643, he was baptized and received the name "Paul", after his Godfather, Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve. During peace negotiations with the Iroquois in 1646, he spoke eloquently for the return of prisoners of war.

© Pointe-à-Callière, Montréal Museum of Archaelogy and History 2006. All Rights Reserved.

Learning Objectives

The learner will:
  • explain the importance of the foundation of Montreal in New France from 1642 to 1763;
  • put into context the socio-economic cleavages specific to that time;
  • demonstrate the importance of Montreal as a hub for British North America.

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