HomeFrancois Hertel 1642 - 1722Tree

Francois Hertel

Sex: Male.
Birth: 3 Jul 1642 in Trois Rivieres, Canada
Death: 31 May 1722 in Boucherville, Quebec, France

Family: Wife: Marguerite de Thavenet 1646 - .
Marriage: 26 Oct 1645 Quebec, Canada.

Parents: Husband: Jacques Hertel 1603 - 1651. Wife: Marie Marguerie 1620* - 1700.

Francois Hertel was revered as a hero by his contemporaries. From today's point of view he was a ruthless warrior, slaughtering without mercy the enemies of New France - the Iroquois, the Dutch, and the British. He instilled the same cold-bloodedness in his children. But his attitude is wholly explicable when one considers: his upbringing in a raw frontier post at the edge of the wilderness, subject to constant Indian attack; his role as the only protector of his mother from the age of ten, following the death of her brother and husband and marriage to an evidently exploitative husband; most importantly his capture at age 21 and horrendous torture by the Iroquois; and the indifference of the Dutch to rescuing him from his plight. Is there any doubt that this experience left him scarred and seeking revenge for the rest of his life?

Francois was born and raised in Trois-Rivieres, the only son of Jacques Hertel, the founder of the settlement and the greatest frontiersman of New France. One year after his father died, on 19 August 1652, the Iroquois assaulted the town and massacred nearly half the settlers. Francois and his family survived, but at age 15 he was already enrolled as a soldier in the militia of the settlement. In these desperate times his mother promptly remarried. Her new husband was Quentin Moral, a king's lieutenant, who would become a quarrelsome barrister in the settlement. He seems not to have trusted Moral with his father's legacy, for on 21 January 1654 it is reported that he was clearing the trees on an island adjacent to the settlement that he had inherited from his father. The official document states that he wanted to seed the island to support his mother and his young sisters. Ironically the island would eventually fall into Quentin's hands and is known today as Ile-de-St-Quentin.

Childhood was brief in the 17th Century. On 26 August 1657, at age 15, Francois enlisted in the local militia for the defense of Trois-Rivieres.

In July 1661, Francois was captured by the Iroquois and severely tortured. He smuggled letters out to the Jesuit missionaries in the area, pleading with them to free him and two other prisoners that with them. Remarkably, the Jesuits quoted from these letters of Francois - we have his account of his sufferings in his own words.

In the first letter he informs the Jesuits "...My Father, I pray you, bless the hand that writes to you, which has had one finger burnt in a Calumet as reparation to the Majesty of God, whom I have offended. The other hand has a thumb cut off, but do not tell my poor Mother..." A second letter is addressed to his mother directly: "...I well know my capture must have greatly afflicted you. I ask your forgiveness for having disobeyed you.... Your prayers, and Monsieur de St. Quentin's and my sisters', have restored me to life. I hope to see you again before Winter...." He signs the letter "Your poor FANCHON".

One wonders in what way Marie's "Fanchon" disobeyed her. Did he go hunting at a dangerous time or in place? Had she warned or prohibited him from doing it? This anguish from a son sorry for having disobeyed his mother is the closest we can feel to Marie in the historical documents. The entire account from the Relations of the Jesuits describes the terrible tortures Francois suffered and witnessed. Eventually, a Christian Huron Chief managed to buy 20 French prisoners from the Iroquois and began their repatriation in Montreal in October 1661.


Francois' presence back in Trois-Rivieres was not documented again until 3 October 1663. On 22 September 1664 he married Marguerite de Thavenet at Montreal, then returned to Trois-Rivieres, where he served as an Iroquois interpreter as well as being a member of the local garrison.

He found himself enjoying the forays and raids made against the Iroquois in 1666, and became a professional soldier. He was on the 1673 Buade expedition to Lake Ontario which built Fort Frontenac. In 1678, on a mission to Hudson Bay, he tried his hand at the fur trade and ran foul of the authorities. His cargo was confiscated on his return to Quebec. He evaded a fine and prison sentence and returned, chastised, to Trois-Rivieres.

In 1680 Governor of New France gave Francois Hertel command of all the tribes who were allies of the French. To counter continuing the hit-and-run raids the settlers were constantly subject to, Francois developed surprise attack tactics using the Indians' own methods of silent approach. The brutal "Hertel's Raids" were said to have brought a measure of relief to the constant Indian attacks on the French settlements.

In 1690 the governor of New France decided to retaliate against a perceived British-sponsored atrocity at Lachine. Three columns would be sent to lay waste to British settlements. Francois was sent against Fort Rollinsford at Salmon Falls, New Hampshire. He assembled a party consisting of 25 French, many of them his relatives, including his three eldest sons, his nephew Louis Crevier (his mother's godson), Nicolas Gastineau Duplessis and Jacques Maugras (one of his sister's husbands). Twenty Sokoki and five Algonquin Indians were also in the party.

A two-month march in the depth of winter took the party to Salmon Falls on the night of 27 March. Three columns of eight men made a simultaneous night attack on the fort and town. Surprise was total. Within two hours the place was gone. Between 30 and 43 Englishmen were killed, 54 taken prisoner, 27 houses burned down, and the cattle of the settlement set loose. The French lost two, one of them Jacques Maugras.

A British retaliatory troop of between 100 and 250 men headed to intercept Hertel. He detected their approach, and laid an ambush at a bridge over the Little Wooster River. Twenty more British were killed before they retreated in confusion, thinking themselves to be under attack by hordes of Indians. However again Marie's family received casualties - Louis Crevier was killed and Francois' son Zacharie received a wound that would cripple him for life.

After these successes Francois and his sons became ferocious raiders. Like his father and great-uncle, Zacharie Hertel was taken prisoner by the Iroquois in a battle in 1691. He did not return for three years. His skills in Indian languages and ways made him a third-generation Indian fighter and negotiator for the colony.

Through a death in his wife's family, Francois inherited the seigneury of Chambly on 11 Oct. 1694. The property would be divided among his sons.

Francois reported in 1712 that during "all the wars" of his lifetime "no party of men or expedition has been made ready" that did not include himself and some of his sons. At one point all seven of these sons were serving in the Army of New France at the same time.

The governors of New France first requested letters of nobility for Francois in 1689. It was the beginning of a battle with the government in Paris that stretched over a quarter century; Finally, in 1716, the honor, with all of its associated privileges, was bestowed on Francois.

Aside from the scars and mutiliations he had received in battle, Francois was said to have remained in good health throughout his long life, until weeks before his death. He passed away in 1722, two months short of his 80th birthday.


Change: 1 Jan 2007 Time: 09:14:33.