Father Pierre du Jaunay: a Jesuit missionary in North America 3

In 1743 a new church was constructed at Michilimackinac to accommodate the growing community. During his ministry in the parish from 1742 to 1765 Du Jaunay conducted twenty-five weddings and 120 baptisms. Obviously in his work, he directly touched the lives of most families who lived in the region. Working with him at various times were fellow priests Claude Godefroy Coquart, Jean Baptiste de Lamorinie, and Marin Louis Le Franc, several Indian slaves and an occasional lay worker also assisted in the program. In 1754 after nearly twenty years in the interior, Du Jaunay visited Montreal. This was rather fortuitous for him as he missed the tragic smallpox epidemic in the Michilimackinac region in 1757 and a strong chance of an early death as such epidemics took a heavy toll on the priests administering to the sick and dying. Fr Pierre returned to Michilimackinac to find an impoverished and desolate community.

In 1760, following the British capture of Canada, Du Jaunay spoke out for a peaceful acceptance of the new regime. His influence assisted the smooth transition when British troops finally arrived at Michilimackinac in 1761. Although Du Jaunay had persuaded the French and the Ottawa Indians to accept the British, he had little success with the nearby Ojibwa (or Chippewa) Indians. On 2 June 1763, encouraged by Indian Chief Pontiac's attack on Detroit, the local Ojibwa led by Minweweh and Madjeckewiss surprised and overpowered the local British garrison. Appalled by the slaughter, Du Jaunay risked his life in sheltering some of the soldiers and traders in his house. A short time later the Ottawas from L'Arbre Croche arrived and took the survivors under their protection. In a letter to Henry Gladwin, George Etherington, the commandant, remarked that the priest was a 'very good man, and had a great deal to say with the savages hereabout, who will believe everything he tells them.' Du Jaunay himself carried this letter to Detroit, arriving there on 18 June. Two days later Gladwin sent him back with verbal instructions and a wampum belt for the Ottawas. The pious priest, who is reputed to have 'never told a lie in his life', had refused to carry a letter that he could not reveal if stopped by hostile Indians. Before leaving Detroit he held a council with Pontiac in an unsuccessful effort to free the English prisoners.

Affairs at the Straits of Mackinac remained chaotic until the post was regarrisoned by the British. Du Jaunay tried to restore order and wrote to Sir William Johnson to give assurances of the goodwill of the French and the Ottawa. On 22 Sept 1764, when British troops returned, the priest was at the waterside to welcome them. He was the first to sign the oath of allegiance as an example to the community. He demonstrated his good faith by supplying food for the troops and delivering up a captive soldier whom his servant had ransomed from the Indians.


Click to email Proformat