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From Trois-Rivières to Montreal

Île Sainte-Hélène
Did you know…?
Lac Saint-Louis


Midway between Quebec City and Montreal is an interesting meeting point for the Europeans and the Amerindians. Some say they held major war councils here.

Champlain noticed the sandy ground of this natural port where the tide is nearly nonexistent. Always on the look-out for a site to settle in, he wrote, "the habitation at Trois-Rivières would be good for the freedom of some nations who do not dare go there because of the Iroquois, their enemies, who surround the St. Lawrence."

A year before Champlain's death, Laviolette, another French explorer, founded a habitation at Trois-Rivières. The few homes and shops were surrounded by a blockade to protect the inhabitants.

All of the famous characters in the history of New France walked the soil or cut the waters of Trois-Rivières, often called the "heart of Quebec".


Champlain arrived at Hochelaga (Montreal) in 1610. Upon arrival, he named "place Royale", now known as "Pointe-à-Callière".

At the time, Hochelaga was already a main meeting point, already a city.

Champlain really liked Hochelaga because the ground was cleared and ploughed by the Amerindians before they went to war. He cleared part of the forest that surrounded Hochelaga because he found the area so beautiful he wanted to build a fort and a trading post. It was a favourable site for agriculture. There were also many resources: wood, fruit trees, and livestock. In short, everything needed to live well.

Champlain Building a Wall at Montreal, Quebec

Champlain Building a Wall at Montreal, Quebec
National Archives of Canada/C-33195/Detail

Île Sainte-Hélène

From Place Royale, Champlain could see an island that he decided to name "l'isle Saincte-Élaine" in honour of his wife Hélène.

Montreal from Ste. Helen's Island, Quebec [ca. 1830]

Montreal from Ste. Helen's Island, Quebec [ca. 1830]
National Archives of Canada/C-10658/Detail

On Île Sainte-Hélène, Champlain built forts as he had promised the Amerindians he would. The island became the perfect location to trade furs.

Ice Road Between Montreal and Ste. Helen's Island

Ice Road Between Montreal and Ste. Helen's Island, Quebec [ca. 1848]
National Archives of Canada/C-40153/Detail

Did you know...?

When Samuel de Champlain married Hélène Boullé, daughter of Nicolas Boullé, on December 30, 1610 in Paris, she was only 12 years old while he was approximately forty! She was so young that her father forced her to live at home for at least another two years.


Over the course of his third voyage, Champlain travelled the St. Lawrence to the Lachine Rapids. He questioned the Amerindians on the geography of the country and waterways in the hope of finding a passageway to China and the Indies.

Remains of Old Fur Fort Near Lachine

Remains of Old Fur Fort Near Lachine, Quebec [ca. 1930]
National Archives of Canada/PA-51787/Detail

Lachine has a rich history. An explorer from the end of the 17th century, Cavelier de La Salle, founded the city.

On August 5, 1689, Lachine was the stage for one of the bloodiest Iroquois intrusions in Canadian history. Approximately 1 400 men crossed Lac Saint-Louis and landed on Montreal Island. Under cover of darkness, they surrounded the sleeping village. The Iroquois, tomahawks in hand, forced doors and windows and captured everything by fire and blood. In just one night, the Iroquois took nearly 200 victims before fleeing, taking a hundred or so prisoners with them. A monument erected in the Lachine cemetery reminds us of this bloody episode.

Lac Saint-Louis

"I assure you, wrote Champlain, that I have never seen a torrent of water flow with such impetuousness as this one, even though it isn't very high, being only one or two, or at most three strokes high at any one spot. It descends gradually and wherever it is just a little bit higher, the force and roughness of the water creates a strange bubbling across these falls. And aside from this first waterfall, there are ten others, most of them difficult to cross".

The falls presented a dangerous obstacle and the young Frenchman named Louis learned this at his own expense. Louis, who loved to hunt, took a young Native, Savignon, and a Montagnais to hunt for herons. After filling the canoe with game, young Louis refused to listen to the advice of his companions and persisted, recklessly wanting to take this dangerous rapid. His canoe overturned and he disappeared forever in the current. The name Louis has remained connected to these falls ever since this tragic event.

Around the same time, in June 1611, 200 Hurons arrived at Sault Saint-Louis. As they drew near the French allies, they began to scream. Wanting to give them a warm welcome, the French said hello by firing several shots of their muskets, harquebuses and small cannons. This unfamiliar noise scared the Amerindians so much that they begged Champlain to ask these people to stop firing.


18th Century English Gun Plate Found Near Wawa, Ontario;
French Rifle Flints and 17th Century Musket Bullets Jean-Luc Pilon/Canadian Museum of Civilization

Sault Saint-Louis was an important meeting place for Champlain and the Hurons. That, undoubtedly, is the reason Champlain decided to build a fort here.

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