Tucked away along the southern shores of Georgian Bay in Central Ontario lies the remote town of Midland. While Midland is not a hugely populated Town, it does hold an abundance of Canadian history, which remains evident to this day.
History of Saint-Marie Among the Hurons
On the Wye River about 3 miles (5 km) east of Midland is the reconstructed Fort-Sainte-Marie, which from 1639 to 1649 was the Jesuit mission headquarters for the Huron region. It was one of the first European settlements in inland Canada and was home to Ontario’s first hospital, school, and farm. A visit to Midland is not complete without a visit to St. Marie Among the Hurons which was the headquarters for the French Jesuit Mission to the Huron Wendat people.
Who Were the Jesuits?
The Jesuits were an order of Roman Catholic men who were most known for their educational, missionary, and charitable works.
Construction of Saint-Marie Among the Hurons began in 1639 and it was meant to serve as a retreat and ultimately become the nucleus of the Christian Community.
Who Are the Wendats?
The Wendat are an Iroquoian speaking nation, also known as the Hurons. Huron was a knickname given to the Wendat’s by the French. The term Huron meaning “bores head” which was derived from the hairstyles of the Huron men. The Wendat were a society of extremely skilled farmers and fur traders.
The Huron-Wendat tribe primarily practiced an “animist religion” wherein they believed that humans, plants, animals, and even objects had souls. They believed that humans had anywhere between 2 to 5 souls, some of which remain with the corpse even after death.
During the fur trade era, the Wendats became allies of the Jesuits and worked closely with the Jesuits to assist them in their mission. The largest enemy of the Wendats were the Iroquois, who eventually became their demise.
During 1932 – 1942, the Wendat people were reduced to a population of about 9,000 due to disease such as small pox, measles and influenza.
In the Spring of 1649, the Jesuits and the Wendat’s were forced to burn and abandon their little colony due to an increasing amount of attacks by the Iroquois. The Huron-Wendat First Nation still exists today, but unfortunately only has 4,056 registered members of the tribe. The majority of the remaining tribe members currently reside in Wendake, Quebec.
Who Lived at Saint- Marie Among the Hurons
Saint-Marie Among the Hurons was occupied by all men. While it was the Jesuit priests who build and established the site, it was not all priests who lived at Saint-Marie.
What men lived at Saint-Marie?
- Priests. Also called “Soldiers of Christ”
- Lay Brothers. There were five lay brothers who all took “vows”. They were all skilled craftsmen and devout catholics.
- Donees. The Donees were men who signed a contract to help the Jesuits with their missionary work. Many were skilled labourers.
- Engages. Men hired to help with building. Some men would take vows one or two years into their work.
- Soldiers. The soldiers would accompany the Wendat by canoe from Quebec
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Rebuilding Saint-Marie Among the Hurons
The ruins of Saint-Marie Among the Hurons remained undisturbed for almost three centuries. Through historical research and archaeological digs, the buildings as seen today were able to be reconstructed.
Some buildings still contain the original foundation
In 1967, Saint-Marie Among the Hurons re-opened with the 22 reconstructed buildings to the public. As you wander through the buildings, you will be transported back in time and two of Canada’s founding peoples, the Wendat (or Huron) and the French will be brought to life.
Preparing For a Visit to Saint-Marie Among the Hurons
Know Before You Go
HOURS AND RATES
- Wednesday to Sunday
- 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. last admission 3:00 p.m.
- Admission $5.00 per person plus HST
- Children 12 and under are FREE
- No reservations are required
- Download the free app to obtain the most information
- There are informative guides scattered throughout, but they are limited due to COVID
- Tour will take approximately 1 hour
- Slide show presentation is not currently available
- There is an indoor museum (a must see) and retail store
- Pets are welcome but they are not allowed inside the museum
- There are a few picnic tables outside of the facility and a large park just a short drive down the road.
COVID PROTOCOLS AT SAINT-MARIE AMONG THE HURONS
- Physical distancing is to be maintained
- masks must be worn
- COVID screening to be completed
- reduced visitor capacity
- hand sanitizing stations scattered throughout the site
Why a Visit to Saint-Marie Among the Hurons Should be on Your List of Places to Visit
A visit to Saint-Marie Among the Hurons is a place that can’t be missed when in the Collingwood/Midland area. It will provide you with a unique opportunity to explore Canada’s earliest pioneer life and is the perfect spot for the history buff. Kids will also love exploring the “camp” and seeing how early Canadians lived.
Don’t Skip Visiting Midland
Saint-Marie Among the Hurons is not the only attraction in Midland. Why not make it a day of it and tour the many street paintings and quaint shops in the downtown area? I for one highly recommend a trip to the lively Midland harbour. You will feel like you are living the lifestyle of the rich and famous and it shouldn’t be missed.
If you are obsessed with the law (like I am), the infamous Penetanguishene Prison is 20 minutes down the road. Penetanguishene is one of Canada’s five maximum security prisons and virtually every prisoner charged with a criminal offence passes through the Penetanguishene Prison in order to receive a phycological assessment.
For the adventure enthusiast, a 20 minute trip in the opposite direction will land them at one of Ontario’s top tourist destinations.
There are many reasons to visit the Huronia/Wendat Region of Canada located in Central Ontario. As the home of an abundance amount of Canadian history, adventures, activities, independently owned restaurants, quaint boutiques, and the never-ending views of Georgian Bay, Midland and its surrounding area will keep people of all ages and interests amused for days on end. Midland is one of the “not to be missed” places in Ontario that should be on your list.
SAFE TRAVELS 🙂
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