In the early hours of 5 August 1689 as a violent rainstorm hovered above, 1,500 members of the Iroquois confederacy silently crept into the small settlement of Lachine. Located on the lower end of the island of Montréal, Lachine was the home of approximately 375 unsuspecting, sleeping inhabitants. The Iroquois were on a mission – to destroy the town as well as the people who lived there. According to Wikipedia, “the attack was precipitated by growing Iroquois dissatisfaction with the increased French incursions into their territory, and was encouraged by the settlers of New England as a way to leverage power against New France during King William's War”. It is also possible that the Iroquois wanted to avenge the 1,200,000 bushels of corn that had been previously burned by the French during a recent conflict, but since they were unable to reach the food stores in Montréal, they were determined to kidnap and kill the Lachine crop producers instead. Regardless of the reason for the attack, the horrific events that were about to unfold in the lives of these early French settlers would not be forgotten more than 325 years later. The events of this day became known as the Lachine Massacre.
As the attack began, the residents were jolted awakened to the all-too-familiar sound of the Iroquois war cries. As the residents jumped for their loaded muskets, they were met with the loud bangs of the tomahawks hacking against their doors. Although the habitants attempted to defend themselves and defy the inevitable, their attempts were futile due to the large number of Iroquois. As the Indians forced their way into the homes, the unimaginable horror began.
Some of the colonists were dragged outside and killed immediately – including women and children. Many houses were set on fire with the inhabitants inside as the attackers waited outside for the residents to flee the flames. In some instances, these residents fled their burning homes only to be captured and tortured. Other inhabitants were burned alive in their homes. Babies were cut from the wombs of pregnant women.
Although the number of those massacred at Lachine has been widely disputed, many believe that about 25 residents were initially killed. There are other reports, however, that place the death toll as high as 250. Fifty-six of the seventy-seven houses were razed by fire. Most of the barns were destroyed.
One of our Avoyelles ancestral families, that of Toussaint Hunault dit Deschamps and Marie Lorgueil, were residents of Lachine at the time of the massacre and experienced the horrifying attack firsthand. Their 26-year old daughter – a married woman with seven children - Marie-Thérèse, was “tuée cruellement dans la grange par les Iroquois” (killed cruelly in the barn by the Iroquois). The family was unable to bury her until twelve days later. (Note: Some reports indicate that the murder of Marie-Thérèse was part of the Lachenaie Massacre which took place several months later. However, it is likely that she might have lived in some location between Lachine and Lachenaie and was killed on 5 August or in the days after the 5 August attack.)
Another Louisiana ancestor who may have witnessed the horror at Lachine was Françoise Bouet/Bouat/Bouhet. Françoise, who along with her first husband Jean Roy I were the parents of the Jean Roy II who married Marie Anne Bouchard, was married to Alexis Buet at the time of the 1689 massacre. However, based on sacramental events in the years before and after the August 5th attack, it appears that Françoise and Alexis likely lived in Lachine or very near this location in 1689.
In addition to these two families, it also appears that the family of Pierre Serat dit Coquillard and Françoise Sabourin were also at Lachine at the time of the massacre. The couple was married at Lachine in 1687 and their first child was born there four months after the horrid event. They are the ancestors of the Broussard family.
Three other Lachine residents who were possibly killed or captured by the Iroquois on that August day were Nicolas Ozanne and two of his young sons, Jean and Charles. The three of them seemed to have disappeared after this event. Charles was less than three months old at the time. Nicolas’ wife, Marie L’Homme, along with her 6-year-old son, Pierre, appear to have escaped. Pierre Ozanne (aka: Doza) later became the father of Antoine Doza who migrated to Louisiana and is the progenitor of the Dauzat family.
Sadly, the tragic events of 5 August 1689 does not tell the entire story of the horror suffered by the victims of this massacre and many believe that those killed during the initial attack were the ‘lucky ones’. The warriors remained on the island for several more days as they feasted on some of the spoils of their rage. As they settled into a drunken stupor from drinking the alcohol confiscated from the victims, they continued to ransack, pillage and murder. Supposedly, the Iroquois took up to 90 people as prisoners and many believe that these prisoners were the ones who truly suffered atrocious torture at the hands of their captors. Many of the prisoners were stripped of their flesh while alive and, eventually, burned at the stake.
François Vachon de Belmont, superior of the Sulpicians of Montréal, described the horror:
"After this total victory, the unhappy band of prisoners was subjected to all the rage which the cruellest vengeance could inspire in these savages. They were taken to the far side of Lake St. Louis by the victorious army, which shouted ninety times while crossing to indicate the number of prisoners or scalps they had taken, saying, we have been tricked, Ononthio, we will trick you as well. Once they had landed, they lit fires, planted stakes in the ground, burned five Frenchmen, roasted six children, and grilled some others on the coals and ate them."
Unfortunately, the response to the attack by the French was woefully inadequate. Initially, 200 soldiers were mobilized along with 100 armed civilians and some soldiers from nearby forts. They defended some of the fleeing colonists from their Iroquois pursuers but, just prior to reaching Lachine, they were recalled to Fort Rolland by Governor General Denonville. Denonville was more interested in a diplomatic solution even though many felt that the Iroquois forces could have been easily overtaken - especially if the Governor had made use of the 700 soldiers at his disposal in Montréal. Many of the soldiers, surviving family members and habitants from other towns felt that some lives could have been saved if the warriors had been counter-attacked while in their drunken stupor in the days following August 5th.
In the months that followed, numerous attacks were made from both sides but the two opposing sides realized the futility of their attempts to drive the other off of the desired landscape. In February 1690, the French began peace negotiations with the Iroquois.
Of the approximate 90 habitants who had been taken prisoner after the initial attack, surviving prisoners reported that 48 of them had been tortured, burned and eaten by the Iroquois shortly after being taken captive. Approximately 42 others were later released or escaped and returned home – in some cases, years later - to tell grisly tales. Many retained the physical scars of their torturous assault.List of those killed in the 1689 Lachine Massacre (and those who were erroneously listed as killed in previous publications)