At the Edge of Collapse
In the spring of 1651, Montreal was at the edge of collapse. All the inhabitants were forced to take refuge inside the fort. People had to admit that the policies to bring the French and the Amerindians together failed.
Ten years after the town’s founding, the colony had too few settlers to defend Ville-Marie (future Montreal) against its enemies. Montreal was suffocating under pressure from the Iroquois and colonists contemplated giving up and go back to Quebec or even to France.
In the last attempt to solve the crisis, Jeanne Mance, one of the founders of the city, decides to go pay a visit to France in order to recruit new colonists. She gives Paul de Maisonneuve 22,000 livres that the Society of Notre-Dame had allocated to the Hotel-Dieu, the first Montreal hospital. These sacrifices drained the resources of the hospital, but it nonetheless saved the town from total ruin. In 1653, new recruits come to settle in Montreal.
The group comprised 120 or so immigrants, mostly men. However, there were a few women among them, including Marguerite Bourgeoys, who will play a key role in Montreal history. These reinforcements revitalised the young colony. New houses were built in the urban area and some immigrants went to settle as far as two kilometres from the walls.
Montreal’s isolation from the rest of the known world, especially during the winter compelled the Montrealers to cultivate their lots of land, to raise cattle and chicken. The inhabitants learned to round out their diet with big and small game, with wild birds and fish.
Anyway, around 1660, it became increasingly clear that Ville-Marie ant inhabitants were to survive.