This day belongs to Madeleine Jarret de Verchères, a fourteen-year-old girl who became Canada’s outstanding heroine. She lived at Verchères, about 20 miles from Montreal, in “Fort Dangerous,” so-called because it was on a route used constantly by the Iroquois and was liable to be attacked.
The summer of 1692 had been quiet, and Madeleine’s father and mother decided that they could go away for a few days on business. The Iroquois had waited for such an opportunity, and they suddenly attacked the fort on the morning of October 22. Men and women were working in the fields, bringing in a bountiful harvest of pumpkins, melons, and fruit. Most of them were killed immediately. Madeleine was playing on a wharf when the massacre began, and she barely managed to elude one of the Indians as she dashed back to the fort and closed the gate. There was panic inside. Two soldiers, who had been left to guard the fort, were ready to blow it up than be captured and tortured by the Indians. Madeleine told them they were cowards and made them go to their posts.
Then she put on a soldier’s hat to show that she had taken command, gave guns to her brothers, who were only twelve and ten years old, and told them to fight for their home and their religion. She rallied the people in the fort through her courage, and ordered the women to stop wailing and crying, which would only encourage the Indians. At her command a cannon was fired to warn the neighbours of the attack.
For eight days and eight nights, with little food or sleep, Madeleine organized a skilful defence of her home. She had the people moving around in the fort, shouting to each other as if they were soldiers. This led the Indians to believe that there were more people in the fort than was actually the case.
When help came from Montreal, Madeleine met the commanding officer at the gate, said, “I surrender my arms to you,” and collapsed!
Most holders of the Victoria Cross would have taken off their hats to this brave girl, had they seen her courageous action. King Louis XIV granted a pension to her father in recognition of her bravery … why didn’t the King reward Madeleine Jarret de Verchères? – but I digress …
To learn more, I highly recommend visiting the Canadian Fontaine Genealogy Association to read to an account written by Madeleine herself (translated into English). After that, you might want to read more at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography, and Micheline’s Blog (I also suggest you browse through her posts; very interesting!).