Timothy J. Kent
Historical Author, Paddler, and Reenactor

 

 

 

 

 

About the Author

Timothy Kent is an independent scholar and lecturer living in Ossineke, Michigan. He and his family, including his wife Doree, their sons Kevin and Ben, and their dog Toby, paddled from end to end the mainline fur trade canoe route across North America. Traveling northwestward from Montreal to eventually reach Ft. Chipewyan in northern Alberta, they accomplished this feat in a series of annual segments, which commenced when the boys were just five and seven years old. Their adventures and misadventures along the lakes and rivers were recounted in A Modern-Day Voyageur Family, Paddling the 3,000 Mile Fur Trade Canoe Route Across the U.S. and Canada, which is accompanied by a DVD containing 370 color photographs with narrative and musical accompaniment. In addition, the author spent two decades researching and replicating the main articles of native daily life and the primary French trade goods, and then he and his family utilized a decade of vacations living in wilderness settings with only those articles. This program of living history research carried out by the Kents resulted in the entertaining volume Tahquamenon Tales, Experiences of an Early French Trader and his Native Family.


Tim's other works to date include the book Paddling Across the Peninsula, An Important Cross-Michigan Canoe Route During the French Regime, as well as three monumental double-volume sets. These works are entitled Birchbark Canoes of the Fur Trade; Ft. Pontchartrain at Detroit, A Guide to the Daily Lives of Fur Trade and Military Personnel, Settlers, and Missionaries at French Posts; and Rendezvous at the Straits, Fur Trade and Military Activities at Fort De Buade and Fort Michilimackinac, 1669-1781. For the latter two set of volumes, Tim twice received the prestigious State History Award from the Historical Society of Michigan. Concerning Rendezvous at the Straits, David Armour, long time Deputy Director and Historian of Mackinac State Historic Parks, noted, "Kent has written the only comprehensive overview of the area known as Michilimackinac, focusing equally on both sides of the Straits."

Among the more than 800 direct French and French Canadian ancestors whom Tim has researched (originating from over 130 communities in France), many were involved in the fur trade of North America, from about 1618 to at least 1758. In addition, other of his forbears served as soldiers in Canada, in the Carignan-Salières Regiment during the 1660s and the Troupes de la Marine in the 1680s and 1690s. The ongoing research on these individuals has already involved visiting in person and researching at each of the 137 ancestral communities which are scattered across the length and breadth of France, as well as at uncounted locales across much of Canada and the U.S. Tim intends to ultimately visit every one of the places where his forbears are known to have lived and labored over the centuries. He also has works in preparation for publication on the very early protohistoric period of the fur trade and the traditional birchbark canoes of the native population of the midwest region. In addition, he has nearly completed a highly detailed study of some five hundred dugout canoes across the U.S. and Canada, ranging from the southern tip of Texas to Nova Scotia to the Yukon, which will result in a major publication of these craft.

 

 

 

 















Timothy Kent,historian, reenactor
Timothy Kent portraying a French fur trader
of the 17th century.
Dorothy Kent portraying a Métis woman
of the 17th century.

Ancestry
Here is a small selection of Tim's direct ancestors who worked in various capacities in the fur trade:

Olivier LeTardif arrived in New France within about a decade of the founding of Quebec in 1608. He was sent by Champlain in about 1618 to live for several years in the interior, to the north and west of the St. Lawrence Valley. He first resided with the Montagnais, then with the Algonkins, and finally with the Hurons. In each instance, he served as a trade ambassador, acting as translator and cultural liaison between the native group and the French. Before 1629, he became the interpreter for the settlement of Quebec in each of the three main native languages, and he eventually managed the fur trade company of the colony.

Charles Sevestre emigrated from France in 1636, and served as the clerk and manager of the warehouse of the fur trade company of New France through the 1640s and 1650s, at Quebec.

Claude David was one of the very earliest of the Frenchmen who ventured into the interior specifically to trade. (Until 1653, Frenchmen in the interior only served as trade ambassadors, rather than as actual traders; these ambassadors encouraged the native populations to paddle out to the St. Lawrence settlements every year to trade there.) Claude David lived with the Ottawas, Tionontates, and Hurons in the area of Chequamegon Bay on western Lake Superior from 1660 to 1663. Eight years after he departed from these three native groups, they moved eastward to establish the settlement of St. Ignace, at the Straits of Mackinac. After Claude's three year stint in the interior, he served as a stay-at-home investor, backing other traders. For example, he formed a partnership in 1673-74 with Nicholas Perrot, who became one of the most famous of the early traders in the Wisconsin-Minnesota region.

Francois Brunet dit Le Bourbonnais was hired by LaSalle as a voyageur on four occasions between 1675 and 1677. He was engaged to haul freight for LaSalle between Montreal and Ft. Frontenac, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario. Over the following decade or more, Brunet was also employed as a trader in various areas, such as at St. Ignace in 1685-87. This was only fourteen years after this community had been permanently established at the Straits, and only two years after Ft. de Buade had been founded there. When Brunet departed from the Straits for Montreal in 1686, after his first trading period there, he and his voyageur partner had gathered 26 extra packs of beaver pelts that they could not fit into their canoe with the rest of their furs and hides. So they left these packs behind with a trusted friend, to return on another voyage to collect them. Brunet later served as an investor financing other traders, including some who worked in the Illinois Country in 1688-89. (It is interesting to note that there were only eight generations between this Brunet ancestor and Tim Kent.)

Mathieu Brunet dit Lestang
spent the years 1683-84 trading in what was then called the "Ottawa Country," which was the upper Great Lakes region. His next venture spanned the years 1685 to 1687, which he spent in the upper Mississippi region of Wisconsin and Minnesota as a trading colleague of Nicholas Perrot.

Jean LaLonde dit L'Espérance
was one of the voyageurs who was hired by Cadillac in 1696, to carry out trading for the officer during his last year as the commandant of Ft. de Buade at St. Ignace. According to Lalonde's hiring contract, he was permitted to take to the Straits two pairs of leggings, six shirts, two hooded coats, a blanket, a gun, and twelve pounds of tobacco. At the end of his year of employment, he was allowed to trade any and all of these items for his own profit, before coming out to Montreal.

Robert Réaume had a particularly distinguished career as a voyageur-trader. Early on, he paddled from Montreal to the Mackinac Straits region to work for investors in 1693-94, 1695-96, and again in 1699. Two years later, in 1701, he again was hired at Montreal, six weeks after Cadillac and his founding brigade has begun to build Ft. Pontchartrain at Detroit. Working with two other trusted voyageur-guides and three soldier paddlers, he transported the wives and children of Cadillac and Tonty to the brand new fort. After wintering there, Réaume and one of his colleagues led the convoy of canoes that transported out the very first shipment of furs and hides that had been collected at Detroit. Arriving at Montreal in June of 1702, he immediately signed on for another round trip to the fort and back, bringing out the second shipment of furs. Réaume made further trading trips into the interior during the following years, and then, in 1715, when legal commerce was finally re-established at Michilimackinac (after having been closed for nearly twenty years), he returned to that area of operations. He then worked as the official trade associate of the commandant there, in 1715-16 and 1718-19. In this high-level arrangement with Captain de Lignery, the first commandant of Ft. Michilimackinac, he first purchased merchandise from an outfitter at Montreal, in partnership with the commandant's wife. Then he transported the cargo in to the Straits, traded it over the course of most of the following year, and hauled out the resulting furs and hides to Montreal. There, he sold the products, paid off all of the expenses, and finally split the profits with the commandant. When Réaume finally came out from Mackinac in 1719 and retired near Montreal at the age of 51, he had spent more than twenty-five years working in the interior as a trusted voyageur-trader. His career had spanned the forts on both sides of the Straits, first Ft. de Buade on the north shore and then Ft. Michilimackinac on the south shore.

Simon Réaume was the son of Robert. He also worked as a professional voyageur, for at least a quarter century between 1720 and 1745. In his hiring contracts, for making summer runs between Montreal and the Straits, he was designated as being equally qualified as either a bow paddler or a stern paddler.

Etienne Tremblay lived his entire life between 1690 and 1767 in the lower St. Lawrence Valley. He was widely known among even the highest administrators of New France as an accomplished builder of birchbark canoes and a carver of canoe paddles.

Guillaume Lalonde was Tim's last documented ancestor who worked in the fur trade. He was hired in 1758 by the Governor of New France, during the French and Indian War, to make a round trip as a voyageur between Montreal and Ft. Michilimackinac. Guillaume's grandfather was the voyageur-trader noted above who had worked for Cadillac at Ft. de Buade in 1696-97, while his father had made summer cargo runs as a voyageur between Montreal and Ft. Michilimackinac during the 1730s. It is a moving situation for Tim when he stands at the grave of Joseph Lalonde, his great grandfather in Black River, Michigan, since Joseph's great grandfather was this Guillaume Lalonde, the voyageur of 1758.

In addition to having a wide array of ancestors who were involved in the fur trade, Tim's desire to write and publish books also appears to have a genetic foundation, since he is descended from a long line of master printers and booksellers in Paris. Gutenburg pioneered the concept of the moveable-type press in Germany and began printing the Bible in about 1450. About ninety years later, Tim's ancestor Louis Sevestre began his 41 year career as a master printer in Paris, which spanned the years from 1543 to 1584. He was followed by his son Thomas, who was a printer and book seller at the University of Paris from 1586 to 1605. Thomas' son Etienne likewise carried on the same tradition during his lifetime, working until about 1625. Finally, Charles Sevestre, the fourth generation of Tim's printer and bookseller ancestors in Paris, left the Old World in 1636, and emigrated with his family to Quebec. There, he became the clerk of the fur trade company for all of New France, running the warehouse. It was at the printing shop of Louis Sevestre, on Rue Du Meurier near the St. Victor Gate, that one of the three additions of Champlain's book Les Voyages De La Nouvelle France was published in 1632. Copies were then sold at the Louis Sevestre sales shop in the courtyard of the Palace of Justice on the Ile de la Cité in Paris. So, Tim's genetic code seems to be rather heavily imprinted with producing books.

The most extensive line of ancestors which Tim has researched so far extends back to Gilbert De Munnines, who was born at Poitiers, France in 1360. This particular lineage between Gilbert and Tim's granddaughter, Amaya, spans 23 generations and about 640 years. When Tim's DNA was analyzed for this maternal line, the laboratory results indicated that this particular ancestral population, designated as Haplogroup J2, had originated in the Middle East approximately 50,000 years ago. Over time, it spread from there into Turkey and the regions of Europe that lie along the northern shores of the Mediterranean. This population is associated with the spread of farming and herding from the Middle East into Europe during the Neolithic Era, beginning about nine thousand years ago.