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Topic – Heroine of New France

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Heroine of New France

Imagine being just 14 years old and saving a whole fort from an enemy attack. That is what Madeleine de Verchères did!

Fur Trade Fights

statue of Madeleine de Verchères

Although this hero’s real name was Marie-Madeleine Jarret, she became known as Madeleine de Verchères. That is because she saved her family home, which was called Fort Verchères.

animal pelts

De Verchères was born on March 3, 1678, at her parents’ fort. When she was growing up in New France, which is now the province of Quebec, there were many conflicts between the Indigenous peoples and the settlers. The Huron and Iroquois peoples who lived there battled for control of the fur trade. Europeans wanted furs, especially beaver pelts, for hats that were the height of fashion in Europe at the time. Selling furs to the Europeans could make a lot of money for Indigenous peoples.

Attack!

In the late 1600s, the French Canadians were the allies of the Hurons. So de Verchères’ family and the other French Canadians helped the Hurons in their fights with the Iroquois. When de Verchères was only 12, her mother defended their fort against an Iroquois attack that lasted for two days.

By the fall of 1692, there were far fewer Iroquois attacks, and life seemed peaceful. De Verchères’ parents needed to complete some business a few days away, so they both left the fort. Only one soldier had been left to guard the fort while they were away.

Suddenly, one day in October, the Iroquois attacked Fort Verchères. De Verchères was working in a field outside the fort with the farmers when she saw the Iroquois capture some of the farmers. She raced to the gate and barely made it inside before the attack began.

Madeleine to the Rescue

De Verchères quickly took command of the fort. She got the women and children to yell and bang pots together so the Iroquois would think there were lots of soldiers inside. She put on a soldier’s hat and fired her musket (an old-fashioned gun) from different areas of the fort to make the attackers think the people in the fort had lots of weapons.

example of a musket

Meanwhile, de Verchères fired a cannon to signal to nearby forts that she needed help. Then she stayed up all night guarding the fort. The Iroquois finally gave up the next day, just before help arrived. De Verchères had saved the fort. Her bravery has never been forgotten. Today, a statue of de Verchères stands near Montréal.


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