Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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RASLE, Sebastien, French missionary, born in Dole, France, in 1658; died in Norridgewock, Maine. 12 August, 1724. His name is often improperly spelled Raale, Rale, and Retle. His family was distinguished in the province of Franche-Comte. and, after completing his studies in Dijon, he became a Jesuit, much against the wish of his parents, and taught Greek for a time in the college of the society at Nimes. At his request he was attached in 1689 to the missions of Canada, and, sailing from La Rochelle, 23 July, he landed at Quebec on 18 October After having charge of various missions he was placed in charge of the station of Norridgewock, on Kennebec river, about 1695. Here he made a thorough study of the Abenaki language, and, by sharing the dangers and hardships of the Indians, he acquired such an influence among them that the French authorities at Quebec thought advisable to utilize it in the struggle against England. A correspondence was carried on between Rasle and Gov. Vaudreuil, and the latter induced him to promote a hostile sentiment among the Indians against the English settlers. Rasle readily accepted the suggestion, as it not only agreed with his patriotic feelings, but was also a means of checking Protestantism, which the English represented. But it has been incorrectly stated that Rasle instigated also the attacks of the Indians on the English settlements along the coast, as he only endeavored to prevent the Abenakis from having dealings with the English. Public opinion in New England became aroused against him, especially after the failure of the conference between Governor Dudley, of Boston, and the Abenaki chiefs in 1702, at which Rasle was present, and in which the Indians declined the English alliance and affirmed their resolution to stand by the French. Several settlements had meanwhile been burned, indignation increased, and the common council of Boston passed a resolution inviting the governor to put a price on Rasle's head, which was done. In the winter of 1705 Captain Hilton, with a party of 270 men, including forty-five New Englanders, surprised Norridgewock and burned the church, but Rasle escaped to the woods with his papers. When peace was restored in 1713 he set about building a new church at Norridgewock. and, aided by the French governor, erected one which, in his own words, " would excite admiration in Europe." It was supplied with all the apparatus of Roman Catholic worship, and the set-vices were conducted with great pomp, forty Indian boys, trained by himself, acting as acolytes. Shute, of Massachusetts, engaged afterward in a correspondence with Rasle; but failing in the attempt to decoy him to Boston, sent parties to seize him. In January, 1723, a band of 300 men under Colonel Thomas Westbrook succeeded in reaching the mission, burned the church, and pillaged Rasle's cabin. There they found an iron box which contained, besides his correspondence with the authorities of Quebec, a valuable dictionary of the Abenaki language in three volumes. This is now preserved in the library of Harvard college, and has been printed in the " Memoirs of tile Academy of Arts and Sciences," with an introduction axed notes by John Pickering (Cambridge, 18335. In 1724 a party of 208 men from Fort Richmond surprised Norridgewock in the night, killed several Indians, and shot Rasle, who was in the act of escaping, at the foot of the mission cross, seven chiefs, who endeavored to protect him, sharing his fate. His body was afterward mutilated by the incensed soldiery and left without burial ; but when the Abenakis returned a few days later, they buried his remains. The French authorities vainly asked reparation for the outrage, but in 1833 the citizens of Norridgewock raised a subscription, bought an acre of land on the spot where Rasle fell, and erected there a monument to his memory, which Bishop Fenwick, of Boston, dedicated on 29 August Vols. xxiii, to xxvii, of the "Lettres edifiantes et curieuses, ecrites des missions etrangdres " (Paris, 1728) contain several interesting letters of gasle describing his labors among the Indians. His life has been written by Reverend Convers Francis, D. D., in Sparks's "American Biography."
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