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Sainte Marie Among the Hurons: Outpost of New France in Ontario

Sainte Marie Among The Hurons near Midland, Ontario is a reconstruction (on the excavated foundations) of the original Jesuit mission to the native peoples that existed briefly from 1639 to 1649.

The city of Midland is located just outside the Georgian Triangle and about 3 hours drive north of Toronto just off Highway 400.

It's also about 45 minutes drive from Collingwood, if you're visiting Blue Mountain or other resorts in the area.

Sainte Marie Among the Hurons' History

In the early 1600's this land was New France's frontier, explored by the famous French explorer Samuel de Champlain and traversed regularly by fur traders on their way to the interior. The local people, Wyandot Hurons, were allies of the French settlers who in turn supported the Hurons in their war against the Iroquois. Needless to say, the Iroquois had the support of, and were allies of, the English (this being before England's Union with Scotland and the change of their name to 'British') settlers to the south.

Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, near Midland, Ontario, Canada

The addition of Europeans into the neighborhood brought disease and the mission was soon occupied in treating the sick and dying local people who had no immunity to smallpox and other European ailments. The local native band was decimated by illness and easily overwhelmed when the Iroquois attacked, killing everyone including the Jesuit leaders Jean de Brebeuf and Gabriel Lalement.

The area around Ste Marie was abandoned by Europeans for about a hundred years until the American War of Independence (or Revolutionary War, depending on where you come from) brought thousands of Loyalists into what is now Ontario. The British government provided land and the refugees provided the hard work to make the area a logging and then, when the land was clear, a farming community.

Sainte Marie among the Hurons is reminiscent of America's James River Plantations in Virginia. Travel site Virginia Beach Family Fun has an excellent review of the historic houses you can tour there, (as well as tips for getting discounts and deals for Virginia travel).

Ste Marie Among the Hurons Today

Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, near Midland, Ontario, Canada

Today, Sainte Marie Among the Hurons is a faithful reconstruction on the original site, with some remaining ruins left as foundations and low walls to show how it looked when archaeologists began excavating in the 1940's and before reconstruction in the 1960's.

Guides in period costume explain the site and its history but there are also plenty of notes and an interpretive brochure to help you understand what you're seeing as you go round. On a summer day, the site looks idyllic and you feel you could live there. In mosquito season and winter, it must have been a very different story.

Sainte Marie and Wye River

Sainte Marie Among the Hurons, near Midland, Ontario, Canada

In the days of New France, nothing much moved in Ontario except by water and the water near the Mission is the Wye River. The river today has a wildlife center, the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre, not far from Ste Marie and easily included on a long summer's day trip.

Also. a Catholic church stands just outside the Mission site commemorating Brebeuf and Lalement's martyrdom. It too is worth visiting.

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