Born January 28, 1657* in France, he attended college then taught Greek at Nimes in Southern France. There he learned of the need for missionaries in Canada to serve the Indian population and decided to make it his life’s work.
Rasle (also Rasles or Rale) studied the Abenaki’s language and folkways by spending much time among them. After a brief mission in Illinois, he was recalled to Quebec and assigned to the Norridgewock Indian village on the Kennebec River at the southern tip of what is now Madison. He arrived in 1695.
A student of the Indian culture, he made detailed observations and reports on life among them.
Fearing the French influence among the Indians to be a threat to their claims on the land, the British attacked the first in 1722, led by Colonel Thomas Westbrook, with the goal of capturing Rasle, who was not found. His strongbox with letters and documents was seized. (It is now in the collections of the Maine Historical Society.) The settlement was attacked again in 1724, massacring most of the residents, including Father Rasle.
Monuments to him and his mission stand today in the Old Point cemetery, near the original Indian community.
The marker at right was placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution in 2000 commemorating Rasle’s school and contributions to the development of an Abenaki dictionary.
*Rasle’s birthdate is reported differently in several sources.
The Catholic Encyclopedia is a bit tentative stating he was born “Pontarlier, Diocese of Besançoison, 20 Jan., 1654 (?)” http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12635b.htm
The College of the Holy Cross states “A native of Pontarlier, France, Sebastian Râle was baptized on 28 January 1652 . . . .” http://college.holycross.edu/faculty/vlapomar/jesuits.htm
Baxter, James Phinney. The Pioneers of New France in New England, with contemporary letters and documents. Albany, N.Y. J. Munsell’s Sons. 1894.
Chute, Robert M. Thirteen Moons. Brunswick, Me. Blackberry. c1978.
Connolly, Arthur T. “Fr. Sebastian Rasle.” Boston, Ma. New England Catholic Historical Society, 1906. (“Read at the annual meeting of this society, June 3, 1903.”) [Maine State Library]
Eckstorm, Fannie Hardy. The Attack on Norridgewock, 1724. New England Quarterly, 1934. Cataloger Note: Extracted from: New England Quarterly, Sept. 1934. Includes bibliographgical references.) [Maine State Library; Bangor Public Library]
“Father Sebastian Rale, S.J.” Catholic World, 1970. (Excerpt from Catholic World, vol. XVIII, no. 35, 1970.) [Maine State Library]
Francis, Convers. Life of Sebastian Rale: Mmissionary to the Indians. Boston, Ma. Little, Brown. 1845. (xcerpt from: Library of American biography / conducted by Jared Sparks. 2nd series, vol. 7.) [Maine State Library]
Morrison, Kenneth M. Sebastien Rale vs. New England: A Case Study of Frontier Conflict. 1970. (Thesis (M.A.) in History–University of Maine, 1970) [University of Maine, Raymond H. Fogler Library, Special Collections]
Sprague, John Francis. Sebastian Ralé: A Maine Tragedy of the Eighteenth Century. Boston, mA. Heintzemann Press. 1906.
Williams, William Carlos. In the American Grain. New York. New Directions Books. 1956.