POULAIN, GUILLAUME, Recollet, priest, the first missionary to the Hurons in the Nipissing region; b. c. 1594 in France; d. 1623 at Châlons.
As soon as he reached Quebec, Father Poulain was assigned to Trois-Rivières, where he stayed until the spring of 1622. At that time, joining the French and indigenous people who were going westwards for the fur trade, he reached the Huron country. This long voyage was marked by an incident which almost cost him his life. The Iroquois attacked the flotilla and Father Poulain, “who was in a canoe by himself, having landed, was surprised by the Iroquois in the woods, along with a Frenchman. The good priest suffered with the greatest fortitude and patience the indignities and cruelties of the savages.” The Iroquois had already begun to torture him when they agreed to exchange him for several of their men who had been captured by the French.
This incident did not however keep him from continuing his trip westwards, as Le Clercq tells it: “Since his [Guillaume Poulain’s] escape from the Iroquois he had completely recovered and had been able to continue with the four French canoes into the territory of the Nipissings.” He added: “that the Indians whom he had met on his way had seemed to him to be fairly docile and tractable, [and] that since his departure he had baptized more than 30 persons, children as well as various adults who were desperately ill.”
In the autumn of this same year Father Poulain returned to Quebec in order to go back to France and recover his health. He was not to come back. On 12 March 1623 he died in the convent at Châlons, in Champagne.
ASQ , MSS, 200, Mortuologe des Recolets. Le Clercq, First establishment of the faith (Shea), I, 146–47, 178, 187. Jouve, Les Franciscains et le Canada (1615–1629).