After Dinner We Escaped

English: Monochrome version of the IHS emblem ...
Monochrome version of the IHS emblem of the Jesuits  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Sometimes when people describe a boring party they say, “After dinner we escaped.”  The phrase was grimly true on March 19, 1658, but the escape was from murder, not boredom.

Despite the horrible massacre of Fathers Brébeuf and Lalemant (see March 16th post: Indians Murder Jesuit Priests), the Jesuits agreed to set up a mission in Iroquois country where Syracuse, New York, now stands.

The Iroquois pretended they wanted a mission, but in reality they were hostile to the French and planned to drive them from Canada so that they could control all the territory from the Atlantic.

During the winter, the Jesuits began to realize the true intentions of the Iroquois and knew they had to escape.  It was necessary to wait until the ice broke in the rivers; in the meantime, they secretly built two flat-bottomed boats in the attic of their fort.

Young Pierre Radisson was working for the Jesuits.  He had been brought up by Mohawks and knew their legends.  One of them was that impending disaster could be warded off by having a feast, at which every morsel of food must be eaten.  He told the Indians that he had dreamed of a disaster and that the Jesuits were going to help by putting on an “eat-all” feast.

The banquet was held just outside the gate of the fort.  The festivities began with songs, dancing and games.  The food was served: venison, bear meat, wild duck, fish and everything that had been collected for the occasion.  It has even been suggested that the food was spiked with drugs. In any case, the Iroquois were made to keep on eating until every one of them fell on the ground exhausted and asleep.

The Jesuits and members of their party then dragged the boats they had made down to the river, which took them to Lake Ontario.  Five weeks later, after battling the spring storms and floods, they were aware that the Iroquois might be following.  After the loss of three men in the rapids of the St Lawrence, they reached Quebec on April 23.

To get a much broader account of the Jesuit Missions, I suggest visiting The Jesuit Missions by Thomas Guthrie Marquis; it’s a fascinating read!



  1. As a Protestant Christian, I am fascinated to learn more about the Jesuits. They started out, I believe, as the shock troops of the Counter-Reformation and did many evil things to combat the Reformation, especially in Spain.

    In more recent years, they are the intellectual leaders of the Roman Catholic Church. I have been especially impressed by the Jesuits priests and scholars at the University of Central America (UCA) in San Salvador, six of whom were savagely murdered in November 1989 by the Salvadoran military only seven months after my first visit to El Salvador. They were wonderful human beings and servants of the people. I have written about them and the legal proceedings regarding their murders on my blog (

    I also wonder about the Radisson you mention. Did he come to Minnesota, and later his name was used for hotels by a Minnesota company?


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