A Canadian Family

First Nations, French Canadians & Acadians

News of Chief Joseph’s Death (1881)

Index: Newspaper Clippings & Other Extracts Related To Kahnawà:kenewspapers in a stack b



The news of Chief Joseph’s sudden and untimely death was read with deep interst by thousands throughout Canada and the United States yesterday. His work and intelligence were recognized throughout this continent, and friends and foes alike looked upon him as a man of power. Owing to Caughnawaga being inaccessible to ordinary means of communication, some inaccuracies have crept into the reports hitherto given of the circumstances attending his death. All that is known at present of the manner of his death is …. told.

On Friday evening he, as already stated, left Montreal for Caughnawaga via Lachine. At Lachine he was a moment late, and when he was seen coming down the shore the pilot of the ferry canoe put off, although requested to wait a moment by one on the canoe, and left him standing there on that bitter cold day. Not being able, it is said, to obtain accommodation in Lachine, Joseph came back to Montreal, and returning on Saturday arrived at home. About midnight he awoke his wife and told her he had a pain in his heart and limbs. She rubbed him well with Radway’s Relief and Thomas’ Electric Oil, and he took a small dose of medicine, and seemed to have found relief.

On Sunday he was better although the pains in his limbs were severe, and told one of his friends, named Dionne, that he had got a chill of Saturday, but it was all over except that his legs were so stiff that he could hardly walk.

On Monday there appeared to be no change in his condition until in the afternoon, when he vomited and his wife gave him some warm water to assist it. While the vomiting had stopped he took a litte more Radway’s Relief, an crossed the room and back again, and lay down on his bed. It was about half past three o’clock. He turned his face toward the wall and said, “I am sure that I would not have died so soon if I was not in Caughnawaga”. He then vomited again; cramps seized hold of his body, and his spirit quietly passed away to the God who gave it.

When the alarming symptoms were noticed a messenger was sent for the doctor, and another to the telegraph office to send to Oka for his brother. While the operator was writing out the message before sending it, another arrived saying that Joseph as dead and the wording was changed.

On Sunday his wife wished to send for a physician, but Joseph would not listen to it.

When the news of his death was spread throughout Caughnawaga it is said that the feeling of sorrow was very general. He had made many friends who admired him for his manly character, gentleness and his helping hand, ever ready when needed. Half the village visited the corpse, which had been tastefully laid out by and Indian of the village, being dressed in a black suit, while a pair of moccasins that never had trod the earth, were on his feet. The widow was assisted in her extremity by sever kind friends, white and Indian. She says that latterly he was much encouraged at the work in Caughnawaga.

At first all looked upon him with suspicion, but latterly they had changed their opinions, and several even had joined themselves to his church. His work at St. Regis, an more particularly Cornwall Island, was also bearing good fruit. Since the New Year he had said and given away some fifty copies of his own translation of the Gospels and had completed the translation of the New Testament, except Revelations and a few chapters immediately preceding it. On Saturday also there reached him the last proof of his translation of some fifty of the Moody and Sankey hymns.

Yesterday evening a WITNESS reporter, with Mr. Ward, of Armstrong & Co., arrived at the house with the coffin. It is a new building unusually large and roomy for an Indian home. The reporter was greeted by a firm clasp of the hand by the chief’s wife, who had left the cradle of her ailing boy of two and a half years, whom she was rocking, sobbing aloud the while. She then resumed her occupation. Many Indians stood around, most of them from Oka. The body lay up stairs. It soon was confined, when Thomas, brother of the chief, led in singing the hymn,

“I’m going to Jesus,”

in the Iroquois language, in which the others joined. It was a pathetic scene. The large upper room; the bare walls; the group of Indian men and women in the darkness relieved only by the moonlight rendered more misty by the thick haze which covered the earth, and the glimmer of a single light; the sobs heard from all parts of the room; the corpse of the missionary chief.

After the hymn all knelt in prayer, led by Thomas. It is a prayer that never can be forgotten, although delivered in Iroquois. It wa prayer first for thos is Caughnawaga who were not friends of the one dead, and who had endeavoured to cast ridicule upon his work and to injure him; it was a prayer for the family that was bereaved but who were sure of the comfort given to all those who call upon Jesus in their distress; it was an expression of confidence that the immortal spirit that had fled was enjoying the rest given in Heaven to those who serve God on earth, and that the separation was only for a few days – and then the leader almost broke down, and in the midst of his broken sobs he deplored the great loss they felt they had sustained, and entreated for wisdom and guidance in the hour of extremity.

Joseph leaves a wife and three children, all boys, aged eight, six and two and a half years respectively. The last mentioned has always been ill and never has walked. Besides he has a stepson aged seventeen, he having married a widow.

It is expected that the funeral will take place to-morrow afternoon, leaving the St. James Street Church at 3 o’clock.


Source: Montreal Daily Witness, Feb 9, 1881



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April 16, 2017 - Posted by | . |

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