Timothy J. Kent
Preface by Claiborne A. Skinner, author of The Upper Country, French Enterprise in the Colonial Great Lakes
Timothy Kent has produced an important work in Phantoms of the French Fur Trade . The meticulously researched biographical sketches of his phantoms provide a portrait of the peltries commerce and of New France that is available nowhere else. The world that Alan Greer roughed out so tellingly in his People of New France is here brought to life, with real men and women engaged in real lives. Scholars, students, and interested general readers will be in Tim's debt for decades to come. From my own researches into characters such as these, I know the sort of effort that this kind of research entails, and Tim is to be strongly commended for the vast amount of legwork that was required in bringing this long-lost world back to life.
Readers of his numerous earlier works will hardly be surprised at this new one. Once Tim has undertaken a field of research, he does not let go until he has gotten to the very heart of the thing, exploring it in extraordinary depth and with considerable sophistication. When he asked me to write a preface for this work, I initially wondered what on earth I could possibly say that he has not already addressed, and with substantially more footnotes. There is, however, one matter I would like to tackle here.
Tim is a prolific independent scholar, wilderness traveler, reenactor/living history researcher, genealogist, and historian, and he has merged these various interests into a distinct historical style. In a sense, his approach is unique. In the world around him, relations between scholars, latter-day canoe men, reenactors, and the rest are often cool, dismissive, or worse. This is sad business, and a considerable hindrance to the task of recovering and understanding the past. Tim's example is, therefore, as important as his scholarship.
Tim Kent's brand of history dovetails with my own. He is just better at it. My own scholarly career began in the woods of northern Ontario in 1982. I was camping my way along the North Channel of Lake Huron, and had stopped in at a Parks Canada museum to get out of the rain. While waiting out the storm, I sat through several viewings of the documentary film The Voyageurs, about the men who drove the canoes of the Canadian fur trade. One of the canoe men's songs in the film stuck in my head, C'est L' Aviron, arousing, 13-verse ballad of love lost/opportunity. A used bookstore near the University of Chicago had a copy of Folk Songs of Old Quebec, and from it I quickly learned the lyrics. However, I now encountered a problem. Walking the streets of Chicago singing chansons des jongleurs was not really a satisfying pastime, and I concluded that I needed a canoe to sing them in. I then spent far too much money on a fiberglass replica of a birchbark trade canoe, and all seemed well. Here again, however, I encountered difficulties. Singing French canoe men's songs in a canoe paddling up and down Chicago's lakefront was not really what I was looking for . After I began graduate studies in history, I became increasingly involved in paddling the lakes and rivers of the Middle West and Canada.
From this dichotomous perspective, I learned that academics often distrust the “celebratory history” of popular authors. They also question the technical competence and/or the analytical abilities of genealogists and amateur local historians, and they simply dismiss reenactors out of hand. In turn, these various parties return the favor, accusing the academics of sloppy generalizations, superficial treatment of areas that they consider important, etc. In general, the academics feel that the amateurs cannot see the forest for the trees, while amateurs firmly believe that the academics ignore the trees and so miss the forest. I, caught between these groups, have found that all of them have valuable insights to offer to those seeking to understand our distant past. We are all, as the Canadian scholar William Eccles once put it, “tillers in the garden.” Nowhere is this truer than in the story of the Canadian fur trade . Mastering its geography, material culture, social structure, and the bureaucratic labyrinth within which it functioned requires a lifetime of study.
The geography alone is daunting. The riverine highways of the commerce sprawled full three thousand miles across the continent, and this was just the “mainline.” Feeder routes certainly dou- bled this distance. I have known very accomplished professional historians to locate events hundred of miles from where they had actually occurred. The routes, moreover, evolved and changed over time. The maps in one of the classic surveys of early Canada confused the Grand Portage with the Kaministiquia River, and thus threw the whole story of the early Northwest into a cocked hat. Distances are often confusing or misleading, as well. These are the sorts of details that the historic traveler or reenactor could happily provide, if asked.
The material culture of the trade is also complex, dynamic, and long-removed from us. Understanding even items as basic as the birchbark canoe requires specialized knowledge (such as Tim documented in his two volumes of Birchbark Canoes of the Fur Trade). The famous paintings of Frederick Remington and Francis Anne Hopkins continue to adorn the covers of books on the trade. This is true despite the fact that the oversize Montreal canoes that they so splendidly portrayed actually arrived late on, during the 1790s, and in any case, they were only suitable for the eastern third of the long passage. Questions of lading, crews, costs, handling, and performance all hinge on the particular canoe in use at the time. How the work was done is often confused, as well. One well-known book describes a voyageur “perched on a thwart” through his long paddling day. No canoe man ever “perched on a thwart.” Anyone who has spent time in a canoe knows this from hard experience, and the documents to prove it are not hard to find.
In academic histories, these and other questions are often tangled, and sometimes mangled. On the other hand, there is a wealth of research out there to be found in other venues. An historical painter/illustrator recently rendered a painting of a French trade canoe with its mast and furled sail slung outboard along the port bow . I had always wondered how the voyageurs carried shipped sailing gear, and this arrangement made so much sense that I was stunned. Years ago, a reenactor taught me the proper way to track a canoe à la cordelle (pulling it upstream on a long line). The trick was to secure the line at the second thwart, rather than at the bow . This allowed the canoe to swing straight into the current, rather than constantly diving toward the bank as it would if secured at the bow . A modern journey by canoe demonstrates that this technique works, and the physics of this would have been the same three or four centuries ago.
Academic historians, for their part, bring something important to the study of the past. By training and expectation, it falls to them to figure out why things happened, and what it meant when they did happen. Otherwise, as one professor of mine warned, history becomes just “one damn thing after another.” This places academics under pressures that amateur scholars don't have to contend with. Mastering detail isn't enough. They have to both make a contention and argue it with evidence. As Ferdnand Braudel once declared, “No thesis, no history.” Academic presses sometimes complicate this issue. Mindful of costs as well as potential sales, they frequently impose quite strict limits on the length of books. Citations are often rationed as well. Academic historians also have to contend with the issue of novelty. Research must not only be thorough, detailed, and comprehensive, it must also be new. Caught between all of these expectations, the detail that is so admired among antiquarians and reenactors is sometimes given a back seat.
The quest for originality is drilled into academics from early on. Some years ago, I attended a conference in which two graduate students presented a paper arguing that the Indians only used tobacco for spiritual purposes, and not for the narcotic properties enjoyed today. It was an absurd argument, the sort which could only have originated with people in pursuit of something new. It was also an argument which could only have come from scholars who had never smoked nor spent much time in the bush. The accounts of tobacco use in the Jesuit Relations make it clear that the Indians suffered the same sort of addiction that modern smokers do. Tobacco certainly had spiritual purposes, but the Indian preference for the strong, black Brazilian variety makes it unlikely that they had no interest in its chemical content. I tried to explain to the two students that both the Indians and the voyageurs had used tobacco as an appetite suppressant. I also pointed out that when you are seriously dependent, it has a peculiar effect. You can be indifferent to the cold, the wet, fatigue, and discomfort, as long as you can smoke. It was this strange feature that made it so valued among both the French and the Indians.
Reenactors have their own quirks as well. I once listened to a long harangue on the garters that were worn by voyageurs to secure their leggings and/or stockings. In this young man's telling, garters functioned as some sort of knee brace. He had clearly tied his on too high, and would have done damage to the tendons behind his knees had he actually tried to walk any distance while wearing them in that manner. More common than outright mistakes is a fearsome, uncritical loyalty to the characters or groups they recreate. I remember once having an intense debate with some reenactors of the Troupes de la Marine or colonial marines. From my reading, I had discerned that these troops were not exactly a crack military outfit. But these guys would hear none of it. The implication was clear enough: “Would we pretend to be anything less than heroes?”
On the other hand, reenactors are a deeply empirical lot, and this sometimes brings them to truths that others miss. Many years ago, I attended a voyageur rendezvous and conference at Thunder Bay, Ontario. After the meeting, a number of us gathered around a campfire in a snowstorm to imbibe and tell stories. Two of our number recalled that they had once hired on for the summer as French Marines at the Louisbourg Historical Park on Cape Breton Island. The first few weeks went well enough: the park is a fascinating place, and working the crowds was fun. After a time, however, they confronted an inescapable fact: they were on Cape Breton Island until September. The fog, the isolation, and the boredom finally got to them, and they decided to take drastic measures. They could not simply leave; they had to break their contract. To this end, they drank heavily one night, neglected to shave the next morning, and made sure their uniforms were in disarray as they marched out for the morning flagraising ceremony. A crowd of tourists had assembled to watch, and the two warmed to their own performance, stumbling about and repeatedly dropping the flag. Returning to their barracks, they learned that the head of Parks Canada had attended the flagraising that morning, as part of his visit and inspection of the facility. Concluding that they were now well and truly canned, they began to pack. Then, however, the head of Parks Canada walked in, to shake hands and to congratulate them on what he said was the most authentic portrayal of French Marines he had ever seen. Our raconteur concluded ruefully that he never did get off Cape Breton Island that season. This story has informed my perception of the colonial forces of New France down to the present day.
Genealogy, often dismissed as an affected hobby by both scholars and the general public, has a very critical role to play in the study of the fur trade. Immigration to early Canada was scant, and today the ten million Quebecois who live in French Canada trace their ancestry back to just a few thousand colonists. This poses special problems for the historian. Families were huge, everyone seemed to be cousins, and the surviving records of the fur trade frequently omit first names. I once encountered this problem in my own work. The Dictionary of Canadian Biography, an invaluable standard source, had an entry for a Montreal tanner who had gone west for a season in the fur trade. I was intrigued with this, and wanted to use this tanner as an example of a young artisan who tried his luck in the trade before settling down to a more conventional profession and town life in Montreal. The only problem was that it wasn't true. The document that was cited to prove his participation actually gave only a last name. From my own research, it seemed far more likely that the particular coureur de bois in question was actually the tanner's cousin Louis, a veteran canoe man in the Illinois Country. These things matter. In New France, most of the ad hoc trading companies of the early days were formed of friends, neighbors, and family members. To understand the character of these firms requires a clear sense of who the participants were, and their connections to one another.
A final concern is language. To study the Canadian fur trade, one must not only master French but also 17th century Fench, a far cry from the Parisian variety taught today. Another matter is the fact that there were no printing presses in New France. The market for printed material in the largely illiterate colony was thought to be too small to support a press. News, moreover, posed another problem. There just wasn't that much of it. Ships from Europe generally came only twice a year, and so, such news as did arrive on the wharves of Quebec was too scant and too old to be of much interest to the locals.
Given all this, Canada was a land of hand-written French. Reports, correspondence, and business documents were all produced in longhand. Even governmental and commercial forms were laboriously hand-copied. Much of this was undertaken by a handful of notaries, several of whom had famously indecipherable scripts. As a result, decades of invaluable business records of the colony, written in the crabbed scrawl of these scribes, lie safe from prying eyes. This has produced a peculiarly Canadian form of scholarly training : cryptographology, the deciphering of ancient scribbled documents.
Given all of the requirements of studying the fur trade, it seems a shame that all of this knowledge is squandered between different groups who could be of great assistance to one another. Academic historians are drilled in the questions of “So What?” and “Why does a particular thing matter?” This can be of use to people who are heavily engaged with the nuts and bolts of “the something. ” Instead, there is a tension, or even hostility, between them . Some years ago, I published an undergraduate survey book on the French era in the Great Lakes. It was a flying tour of the region and period, covering 175 years in 70,000 words. It did quite well in the reviews, but one day my editor forwarded to me an email which savaged it, the publisher, and me. I thought I had produced an uncontentious, straight-forward account, and I could not figure how I had offended anyone. But my editor asked me to contact the writer of the email, and figure out what was going on. Writing to her, I said that if I had gotten something wrong, I would appreciate help in fixing it for the second printing. She was quite an expert in the early French history and genealogy of Michigan, and I was struck by how, once I had acknowledged her expertise, her tone changed entirely . She pointed out some places where my sources had not been the best, which had led me to conclusions that needed some revision. And in one instance, I had egregiously misidentified the rank of a colonial officer. For the last six years, she has been a friend, an advisor, and an endless source of expertise and primary source documents. All that was required was an acknowledgement that she knew things that I did not, an acknowledgement that was no burden for me to make, but one that is apparently not made very often.
In a recent biography of an English fur trader and explorer, its author noted that, as part of his research, he had driven to northern Saskatchewan to walk the famous Methye Portage. I had to smile at this. Tim Kent, along with his wife and two sons, has hiked virtually all of the portages along the entire mainline route of the fur trade. (In fact, on one especially grueling path, both of the little guys disappeared down a wrong fork for several hours.) In addition, Tim has walked these historic pathways with a canoe digging into his shoulders, and he and his family have paddled the 3,000 miles of rivers and lakes between those portages, along the route between Fort Chipewyan and Montreal.
I first met Tim in the spring of 1987. A number of us reenactors had assembled for a pageant commemorating the 300th anniversary of the death of the explorer René-Robert Cavelier, the Sieur de La Salle. We had gathered at Starved Rock State Park in north central Illinois, the site of his Fort St. Louis des Illinois. On the discharge of a signal cannon atop The Rock, our flotilla of canoes was to come down the river and deliver a La Salle impersonator to the bank, where he would meet the mayor of La Salle, Quebec, as well as a detachment of Troupes de la Marine reenactors. These soldiers were to fire a salute, speeches were to follow , and declarations of Canadian-American amity would conclude the day. The pageant went off nearly without a hitch. Shortly before we set out, the Army Corps of Engineers had opened the sluices of a dam just upstream, so our arrival was somewhat ahead of schedule, but nothing else of note happened. With our “La Salle” delivered, all that remained was to retrieve the cannon from the top of Starved Rock. This was a small matter of hauling the gun down the 150 steps from the top of the sandstone butte. Tim and I volunteered, and by the time we had manhandled the thing down, we had become fast friends.
There was more at stake here than a talent for toting ordinance. Through the Chicago reenacting and paddling grapevine, I had heard of Tim, and of his great project of paddling with his wife and two young boys the entire length of the voyageurs' mainline route. The summer before, as research for my dissertation, I had paddled a thousand miles of it, from Montreal to Thunder Bay on Lake Superior, and I intended to paddle on to Lake Winnipeg the next summer, and perhaps as far as the Saskatchewan River. Since Tim and I had each traveled different sections of the overall route at that point, we began to exchange notes on where he was going, where I had been, and vice-versa.
There was also a certain pride that we were in a special class of reenactor, what Tony Horowitz referred to as “hardcores” in his Confederates in the Attic some years ago. As we got to know each other over time, I came to recognize Tim's deep and thorough grasp of the sort of history that I learned in my graduate courses. We began to exchange books, documents, and ideas as well. As my dissertation deadline loomed, my increasingly panicked phone calls came to be perhaps dreaded in the Kent household, but Tim was always gracious to a fault.
Tim Kent is a remarkable hybrid creature. He began his sojourns into Canadian history as a genealogical exploration of his family's past. In addition, his formidable traditional scholarship has been augmented by a massive wealth of personal experiences. He has paddled the entire mainline route between Montreal and Fort Chipewyan in northern Alberta. Over the years, he has also upped the ante on traditional reenacting, by transforming it into true living history research. He has done this by voyaging in a genuine birchbark canoe on journeys which relied exclusively upon the clothing, tools, and implements of the period, most of which he fashioned by hand himself. In contrast, most reenactors content themselves with theater: fiberglass replica canoes instead of the real thing, wooden panniers disguising modern coolers, etc.
In several respects, Tim is part of an old tradition. Francis Parkman knew The Oregon Trail from personal experience. Samuel Elliot Morison sailed the voyages of Columbus while researching his Admiral of the Ocean Seas. Thor Heyerdahl tested his thesis regarding the settlement of Polynesia from the Americas by his famous Kon Tiki expedition. Like them, Tim also applies the more orthodox skills of the historian in his work: language skills, research skills, cryptographology of a high order, and a clear sense of where his work fits into the larger story. Confronted with the concerns and limitations of academic presses, he arrived at a novel solution: he started his own publishing house. This was not something which would have occurred to me, nor would I have had the nerve to try it.
The result of Tim's myriad efforts over the past forty years is a special sort of history. It combines the various kinds of experiential research he has pursued for decades, as well as the academic scholarship he has undertaken in equal measure. In addition, he writes in a length and format that is governed solely by his judgement of what is required to properly tell his story.
Finally, his is a remarkably ego-less sort of history . He wants to know , he is the first to ask when he doesn't, and he has engendered only good will among his vast network of contacts. As I wrote this, I had to laugh. In his own gentle, bemused sort of way, Tim has out-paddled me, out- researched me, and out-published me, yet I am still delighted to write this preface. He offers a simple resolution to the questions, the issues, and the interdisciplinary squabbles discussed above: Good history is a question of modesty.
Upon first glance, the title of this work, Phantoms of the French Fur Trade, may seem rather odd and puzzling. However, the terms fantôme and spectre (translated as phantom, ghost, spirit, or specter) convey very accurately the manner in which most scholars and enthusiasts of the peltries trade have long perceived the vast majority of the individuals who labored in this commerce. It has been widely believed that nearly all of the people who worked in myriad occupations within the trade would always be destined to be nameless, unfathomed characters whose personal lives could not be divined or reconstructed. This misconception has long been applied to both the period of the French regime and the French participants who worked in the trade during the later era of Anglo rule of New France. This skewed outlook has been particularly salient among English-speaking aficionados of the fur trade. Over the course of the previous 150 years, they have utilized almost exclusively the English-language records of the prominent figures in the Northwest Company, the XY Company, the Southwest Company, the American Fur Company, and the Hudson's Bay Company as their foundations of study and reflection. These scholars have mistakenly assumed that the information which is contained within the later English-language documents also applied to the earlier periods of the commerce, and that it reflected how business was conducted by the French participants during their 1 1/2 centuries of domination of the North American commerce in furs and hides.
Truth be told, the men who labored in the trade during the French era, along with their wives, children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, and myriad other relatives, friends, and neighbors, are definitely not shadowy, unidentified personnes oubliées (forgotten people). In fact, by applying plenty of diligent research within widely diverse and dispersed resources, it is possible to reconstruct amazingly detailed portraits of these individuals and their daily lives, as well as to discern how they handled the furs-and-hides business.
The majority of the research and writing about the peltries commerce which has been conducted up to this point has focused very heavily on the activities of men, for the most part ignoring the contributions of women. This gender bias (by omission) has been applied against both those females who participated directly in the trade, as well as those who played major roles in the lives of the fur trade men. In contrast, from its very inception, the present work has been designed to reveal a great amount of information concerning the wives and children, as well as other relatives, friends, and business associates, of the men who dealt in the commerce of hides and furs. In addition, it has sought to present as much data as possible about the men's activities when they were not specifically employed in the trade, especially when they were at home on their family farms amid their loved ones.
This change of emphasis away from male-dominated narratives offers a richer and fuller picture of la vie quotidienne (daily life) in New France during the fur trade era. The life stories of the wives are as compelling as those of their husbands, and are as worthy of being told. In addition, the activities that the couples carried out jointly, and the horrors that they often endu r ed with their families (which did not specifically relate to the men's fur trade careers), are as important to understand as the events that applied to the trade...
In the personal narratives that are included within these two volumes, a great many aspects of life in New France, as well as a wide array of people of myriad occupations, have been inserted and described. For readers wishing to gain a full picture of this early era, it is crucial that all of these subjects and individuals be heartily embraced and thoroughly understood. The style of this work is “narrative history,” involving the presentation of events from the past in the manner of an unfolding, unadorned story. In this blend of biography and history, events of the times have been inserted at regular intervals, to assist in weaving a broader and deeper tapestry of the seventeenth and eighteenth century chronicle and culture. In the process, a rather detailed history of the French fur trade and the colonization of New France emerges, through the vehicle of individual life stories.
One of the primary goals has been to illuminate this history through the real experiences of a series of participants, the inhabitants of the colony. This approach has entailed presenting historical events, as much as possible, from the viewpoint of the biographical subjects and their relatives, friends, and associates, or at least offering thoughts concerning the events which would have been derived from their perspectives.
One example of this treatment of historical information is the account of the horrendous raid that was carried out by Iroquois warriors upon the inhabitants of the Lachine seigneury and the surrounding area on August 5, 1689. This raid took place six days after François Brunet dit Le Bourbonnais, Sr.'s return from one of his trading ventures in the west. Instead of simply presenting details of the events of the attack, the personal stories specifically describe which of the subjects' relatives, neighbors, and friends were wounded or killed on the spot, who was captured and dragged away, and which of those lattermost individuals eventually returned to the hearth of the French communities.
Another example of the insiders' approach to history involves the numerous virulent epidemics which regularly swept through the St. Lawrence Valley. These personal accounts often indicate specifically who lost their spouse, their children, or their friends and neighbors during these terrible scourges. This grows the grief of the reader, drawing him more deeply into the lives of the colonists...
This series of twenty biographies actually focuses upon a total of 48 different individuals, including 22 men and 26 women. The fact that there are more than twenty men and an equal number of women represented is due to the remarriages of a number of the subjects. During the course of their lifetimes, four of the men married twice, while one of them was married three times; in addition, two of the women took a husband twice.
In the first thirteen of these accounts, the entirety of the fur trade careers of the men, or the first portion of their respective careers, took place during the 1600s. In the latter seven biographies, the labors of the subjects in the furs-and-hides business occurred entirely during the following centu- ry, the 1700s.
Numerous wide-ranging aspects of daily life in the colony are considered within these accounts, as may be revealed by simply scanning the extensive Life in New France section of the Index by Subjects. A tiny sampling of these elements includes indentured laborers, Iroquois and Anglo attacks, private financiers (in the absence of a banking system), legal separation of married couples, earthquakes, out-of-wedlock children, and the harvesting of eels, salmon, and porpoises, to mention a few .
Clearly, much of the information in these two volumes concerns other aspects of living during the colonial era besides the business of furs and hides. However, the unifying trait among each of the twenty men whose stories are presented here is that they were all gainfully employed in various occupations within the fur trade. Huge amounts of data which are included within these biographies pertain to the peltries commerce, including numerous aspects of this business that have been seldom or never considered before. Again, the long section entitled The Fur Trade in the Index by Subjects shows the wide extent of this information, which will serve as a rich vein of data to be mined by future scholars. For example, the text includes extensive summaries of the history of trading firearms and ammunition as well as alcoholic beverages, along with a thorough survey of the activities of coureurs de bois and the illegal peltries commerce which was conducted from 1654 onward, extending throughout the entire French regime. Also included is a minutely detailed history of the Montreal trade fair, which continued to operate for about a century longer than it has been generally believed.
Many of the discussions in these biographies focus upon various occupations and certain elements of the peltries commerce that have been very rarely spotlighted. Simply reading the capsule descriptions of the careers of the twenty subjects in the Table of Contents exposes a number of those seldom-explored activities. One of these unusual elements was the official apprenticeship program that was sometimes offered to budding voyageur-traders...
It has often been observed that students of the history of New France and its colonists enjoy the great luxury of working in “documentary heaven” or “genealogical heaven.” This declaration, often made by rather envious scholars whose work is focused on other locales and different periods of history, is rooted in several important realities. One of these is the fact that, during both the French regime and later during the period of Anglo rule, the priests were required to submit a copy of their respective parish registers each year to the administrators at Quebec, where they were added to the official governmental records. This annual effort provided a significant degree of backup protection to the ecclesiastical registers, especially in those cases in which a church or presbytery burned and its ledgers were destroyed. In addition, an amazingly diverse range of agreements, land transfers, and myriad other transactions of daily life were regularly taken by the people to the offices of the notaries, to be permanently recorded by those scribes. A third reality of the colony and its culture also greatly facilitated the later study of its residents and their wide-ranging activities: all females retained their maiden names throughout their entire lives, never converting to the family names of their husbands. This custom facilitated immensely the tracing of individuals, as well as entire families and clans, down though the centuries.
Considering these facts, it is no surprise that the two largest categories of original documents that were employed in the writing of these biographies were, first, the records of baptism, marriage, and burial of the Catholic Church and second, the massive collection of notarial documents of the colony. In the Life in New France section of the Index by Subjects, a perusal of the Notary Documents listings reveals some seventy different subjects which were addressed in the records that have been included in the twenty biographies. Within these life stories, the church records and notarial documents provided the foundational canvas, onto which were then painted innumerable additional details from a wide array of other sources. These latter sources included such documents as censuses, court records, period accounts and memoirs, personal and official letters, governmental directives, land ownership maps, and other early maps and illustrations, including sketches and plan drawings of the settlements...
Through the records that have miraculously come down to us, it has been possible to determine a great many fascinating details about each of the subjects' lives. For example, certain of them annulled their initial marriage contracts, while certain others (both male and female) produced out-of-wedlock babies. One of the individuals operated a prostitution business in her own home (in which she herself acted as the main service provider), while one of the men engaged in illicit sex with a teenage prisoner before she was executed. In addition, a number of the men were convicted, or were at least suspected and charged in court, with operating as coureurs de bois, trading in the interior without official permission. Finally, several of th e subjects (both men and women) participated in physical fights that required medical treatments and led to lawsuits involving charges of assault and battery...
The collective history and culture of a people is the result of the combined experiences of hundreds of thousands of individuals. It is crucial to remember that, even though the life stories that are offered in these volumes represent only certain specific individuals, the details of their lives generally reflected the experiences of the vast majority of the French Canadian population during this early era...
During the long process of working with the ancient scribbled records and accumulating increments of knowledge from them, I experienced over and over the same sequence of events, accompanied by the same personal reactions. First came the challenges of locating the documents in the archival landscape and then acquiring them. These steps were followed by the difficulties of cracking open and deciphering the texts. Finally, Ahh, the satisfaction that arrived with those gleaming nuggets of data that were revealed inside!
Riding this roller-coaster process for several decades has made an entire series of old French proverbs resonate particularly clearly for me:
Cuire dans son jus (“Stew in one's own juice,” meaning to suffer from something of your own doing.)
À cheval donné on ne regarde pas les dents (“One does not look at the teeth of a horse given as a gift,” meaning to accept the good with whatever accompanies it, often expressed in English as “Don't look a gift horse in the mouth.”)
Après la pluie, le beau temps (“After the rain, nice weather,” meaning good and bad things come one after the other, often stated in English as “Every cloud has a silver lining.”)
À quelque chose malheur est bon (“For something bad there is good,” meaning negative things can have a positive aspect, especially when viewed from a distance.)
À coeur vaillant rien d'impossible (“For a brave heart, nothing is impossible.”)
(The last saying within this series has served as a mantra for me over the course of these many decades.)...
Writing these biographies was a major exercise in empathy for me, as I sought to relate to both the physical world and the mental and emotional states of my subjects. I spent decades with these people, physically and mentally entering their worlds, connecting with them, and vicariously participating in their activities. These efforts were greatly enhanced by decades of paddling the ancient fur trade routes and conducting living history research in the wilderness. (In the lattermost efforts, our family utilized the same kinds of objects that the early French and native people had used and traded, including a birchbark canoe.)...
Napoleon Bonaparte famously stated, “History is a set of lies agreed upon.” In these volumes, I have provided massive amounts of factual information about the men and women of New France, with the hope of rectifying some of the lies of omission which have been committed against the vast majority of them. Endeavoring to offset the neglect of these figures and their activities, I have sought t o acknowledge and clarify their rich legacy, and to give them back their voices. They are certainly not fantômes, but real people who led substantial lives and made significant contributions.
Mariner and ship's pilot on the St. Lawrence River as an employee of the fur trade monopoly company, and harvester of seals on the lower St. Lawrence for oil and pelts
At the time of her husband's final departure in the autumn of 1664, Abraham's wife Marguerite was most likely about 64 or 65 years old. When they had first arrived at Quebec in 1619 (having been married in about 1615 and having welcomed their first child in September of 1616), Abraham had been about age thirty, while she had probably been around nineteen years old. This would make her probable year of birth in France around 1600, or slightly earlier. The Martin- Langlois couple had been married for about 49 years. During the fall of 1664, their youngest child, Charles Amador, was 16 1/2 years old; all of the other surviving children were already grown adults.
As decreed by the law of the land, a month after Abraham's demise, on October 7, 1664, the notary Pierre Duquet and two other individuals drew up an inventory of the possessions that had belonged to him and Marguerite. Such inventories were conducted in New France after the death of all persons who died with one or more heirs, and in these documents, the estimated valuation of each listed article was close to true market value. However, not every asset belonging to the deceased individual and his or her spouse was recorded. First of all, fixed assets such as property and buildings were often not listed, and even when they were inventoried, they were rarely appraised. Such assets, if they had been acquired before the marriage or had been inherited from relatives, were passed on to blood relatives instead of to the surviving spouse. In addition, the lists of movable assets (although these items were recorded and appraised in order to be equally divided among the heirs) were very often incomplete. Articles of small monetary value were frequently omitted; widows were typically allowed to not declare cash money; and silverware (another form of wealth) was often recorded but without an appraised value. Also, before the estate was inventoried and legally divided, with half going to the surviving spouse and half to the children, the survivor was entitled to withdraw personal effects from the mass of belongings. For example, a widow usually took her clothing, jewelry, and a fully equipped bed or a roomful of furniture. 169
The Martin-Langlois household inventory, although it is not a comprehensive list of everyone of their belongings, does offer an extremely detailed, insider's sketch of their home lives. In this presentation of the document, the specific order of the articles has been rearranged somewhat, and the assigned monetary value of each item has been omitted. This has been done in order to foster a clearer and less muddled picture of their daily existence on the farm.
“Was drawn up by me, royal notary in New France, in the presence of the below-signed witnesses, an inventory and description of all of the movable belongings and animals, titles, and instructions remaining after the death of the said deceased in a house located on the outskirts of Quebec and in which died the said deceased Abraham Martin, being shown [all of the possessions] and instructed by the said Marguerite Langlois, Guillaume Lallier, and Jean Levicompte, their servants and hired hands, after each of them had separately taken an oath that they would show and explain all of the said belongings, without secreting or holding back anything, under the penalties of the laws which they were made to understand by me, the said notary. The said movable belongings were appraised and estimated by Monsieur Jean Bourdon, Sieur de Romainville, Royal Bailiff at the said Quebec, appraiser and sworn seller of movable belongings in the said town of Quebec, assisted by Jacques de la Rue, master joiner, who have appraised and estimated the value in currency after declaring each item, as follows.
First [in the kitchen, which also served as the primary living space during the colder seasons]
One pair of ember tongs
One fire shovel
One pair of andirons
One other pair of andirons fitted with brackets to support roasting spits
One roasting spit
One drippings pan
Two pot hangers
One grill [or gridiron]
Two cast iron pots
One small low-walled saucepan of copper
One other small low-walled saucepan
One frying pan
Two large cooking spoons
One iron fork for turning roasting fish
One perforated spatula-turner
One copper basin
One colander [or strainer]
One jug from Flanders
Two faience [tin-glazed earthenware] platters, of which one is cracked
One pail [or bucket] fitted with iron bands
One hand saw [for cutting animal bones and firewood]
One coarse-grade sieve
One fine-grade sieve
One wooden box for kneading and raising bread, with its two cover boards
One lamp with its candleholder
One gun...valued at 16 livres
One [obviously derelict] pistol without buttcap...valued at 1 1/2 livres
And after having broken the seal which had been affixed to the chest of the said house by Monsieur Jean Bourdon, Sieur de Romainville, by order of Milord the Governor in the presence of myself, the said notary, and after the seal had been acknowledged to be sound and complete by the said Sieur de Romainville and by me the said notary, were found the following:
First, an entire suit [breeches, waistcoat, and dress coat] of the said deceased
One hood and one rain cap
The said wooden chest fitted with its lock and its key [in a later listed chest were found four shirts for men and one lined woolen cap]
In the parlor ( cabane ) [the primary living space during the warmer seasons] were found
One old table
Two earthenware platters
One billhook [short curved tool for cutting brush and wood]
One cutlass [short curved sword] and one dagger
In another room [bedroom and storage room], where the said deceased had died, were found [the mattress, bolster, and white blanket, as well as the clothing of Marguerite, were not inventoried at this time, only later after her own death]
A baldric [shoulder belt for a sword] of buff leather
One holy water font of faience
Three printed pictures
Twenty earthenware pans
One silver cup
One scrubbing board for washing clothes
One cudgel with an iron blade [possibly used for splitting boards and shingles]
Three worn-out hoes
One pair of snowshoes
Five bushels of salt
Three empty kegs
In a small chest, after the seal had been acknowledged by the said Sieur de Romainville and by me the said notary to be sound and complete and had been broken, were found several linens for the use of the widow, which were not inventoried by consent of the parties.
In a cabinet, after the seal had been acknowledged by the said Sieur de Romainville and by me the notary to be sound and complete and had been broken, were found:
Two earthenware pitchers
One large pair of scissors
Two small chisels
Two iron molding planes
Four iron splitting wedges
One collection of various small iron implements
In a chest in the said room, after the seal had been acknowledged [to be sound and complete] by the said Sieur de Romainville and by me the said notary [and had been broken], were found:
First, three linen sheets
Four hand towels
Four shirts for men
One lined woolen cap
The said chest in the attic were found:
One winnowing basket
Three bushels of corn
In the cellar [was found]:
One container for holding and salting side pork
And having not proceeded, and postponing the continuation of the present inventory on the first day, carried out in the presence of Noël Morin and Pierre Biron, the undersigned witnesses [Biron had been the husband of the Martins' deceased daughter Barbe], with the said named individuals and the notary, therefore signed Noël Morin, E. Racine, Biron, Jacques Ratté, Jacques de la Rue, J. Bourdon, and Duquet, notary royal, with a flourish.
And on the eighth of October of the said year, at the request of the said Monsieur the Attorney General of the King and the heirs, I the said notary, in the presence of the said witnesses, proceeded with the continuation of the present inventory, which follows.
First, twenty-two pounds weight of pewter items [spoons, bowls, porringers, plates, platters, pitchers, cups, mugs, measuring cups, basins, candlesticks, etc.]
Then followed the animals:
Two cows and one young bull
Five large pigs and three of medium size
One wheeled cart with its iron-shod wheels
One sled [or sledge]
One plow with its plowshare
Also found were three vats or cisterns [This was the only listing for which no numeral was recorded for an estimated valuation, apparently indicating that the vats had no value]
Then followed the papers, titles, and instructions
A. First, a contract of concession made by Monsieur [Governor Charles Huault, Sieur] de Montmagny to Adrien Duchesne of twenty arpents of wooded land, dated the fifth of April, sixteen hundred thirty-nine
B. One donation made to Abraham Martin by both Monsieur de Montmagny as well as Monsieur Duchesne of the aforementioned land (sic), dated the fourth of December, sixteen hundred thirty-five [quickly scanned by the enumerator and thus incorrectly described, instead of the report by Jean Bourdon and François Derré concerning their official survey of Abraham's land grant on that date]
C. One confirmation by the Messieurs of the Company [of One Hundred Associates] of twelve arpents of land, signed by A. Chissault and dated the sixteenth of May, sixteen hundred fifty
D. One certificate by which it was shown that the said Sieur Duchesne had [verbally] transferred the concession mentioned above, dated the twenty-fifth of October, sixteen hundred forty-five and signed by [notary Guillaume] Tronquet
E. One transfer and donation of the said land by the said Sieur Duchesne to the said Abraham Martin, signed by [notary Laurent] Bermen [on October 10, 1648], with ratification at the bottom which was signed by [Governor Jean] De Lauzon and dated the first of February, sixteen hundred fifty-two
F. One discharge [receipt indicating full payment] of the [token seigneurial] rents on the said land [the original 1635 grant, from its initial survey in December of 1635 until its official ratification in 1650], signed by [Olivier] Le Tardif and dated the twenty-third of January, sixteen hundred fifty-one
G. One discharge by the Sieur [Martin] Grouvel of the sum of one hundred forty-two livres, passed by the notary Audouart and dated the twenty-first of October, sixteen hundred fifty
H. One discharge by Sieur Bourdon dated the fourteenth of April, sixteen hundred forty-eight by which it appears that the said Martin owed nothing to the Community [the storehouse of the Community of the Habitants, the firm that leased the fur trade from the monopoly company]
I. One discharge by the Sieur [Vincent] Poirier of the sum of of sixty-three livres, passed by the notary Audouart and dated the seventeenth of July, sixteen hundred fifty-six
J. One request by the said Martin to the Fiscal Attorney by which he asked our Seigneurs of the Company [of One Hundred Associates] for new titles to a certain place at Quebec, signed and answered by the said Sieur Fiscal Attorney and dated the sixteenth of January, sixteen hundred fifty-eight....
This [inventory] was drawn up, closed, and settled at the house of the said widow on the said aforementioned day and year, in the presence of the Sieur Noël Morin and Pierre Biron, witnesses who signed below with the said heirs. The said widow has declared that she does not know how to write or sign, after having been asked according to the ordinance and in the presence of Monsieur Jean Bourdon, Royal Bailiff, and Master Jacques de la Rue, appraisers who have also signed. Thus have signed Noël Morin, E. Racine, Biron, Jacques Ratté, Jacques de la Rue, J. Bourdon, and Duquet, royal notary, with a flourish.”
Reading the inventory, one can readily picture the rather small, one-story home, built entirely of wood, which was roofed with thatch, planks, or wooden shingles, featuring a single chimney of wattle-and-daub construction and a few windows with panes made of oiled or greased paper. 170 The ground floor interior was partitioned into three separate chambers. Upon first entering the house, one encountered the kitchen, with its generous hearth that accommodated two pairs of andirons; this room, the only area in the building to receive heat directly from a fire, was used for cooking, and for living space during the seasons of coldest weather. The next room, the cabane or parlor, served as the main living space when the outdoor temperatures were less frigid; heat from the kitchen hearth wafted into this chamber, but blankets were kept close at hand to offset the chill when necessary. The third room, which was used for sleeping and for storage, was spacious enough to hold a bed, two chests, a cabinet, a brazier (which heated the air somewhat with glowing embers from the kitchen), and a great number of stored articles. Its walls were adorned with three prints and a faience holy water font. The contents of the grenier (attic), which was typically used as sleeping space for children and farm hands, as well as the safe, dry storage of grains, reflected both of these usages. At this time, with all but the youngest Martin child grown and gone, only Charles Amador (age sixteen) and the two farm hands lived in the house with Marguerite. However, in earlier years, when Abraham and their numerous children had been living at home, this must have indeed been a crowded and activity-filled building.
The enumeration of a gun, a pistol, a cutlass with its shoulder belt, and a dagger in the house reflected the realities of the times, when the possibility of attacks by Iroquois war parties was a part of daily life. For example, a decade earlier, Pierre Delaunay had been killed by Iroquois in the Quebec area on November 28, 1654. 171 The attacks had begun after the 1641 Iroquois declaration of war against the French and their native allies. During the 1640s, their raids had been carried out primarily against the allied nations in the interior regions. However, from 1643 on, they had also preyed upon the settlers at Montreal and Trois-Rivières, to a certain degree. Ultimately, the attacks had forced the flight of the surviving native remnants from their homes in the interior during 1649 and 1650. One of these refugee movements had brought as many as three hundred Hurons to Quebec in 1650; they had moved onto the nearby Île d'Orléans the following year. Then Iroquois raiders had stepped up their prowling in the St. Lawrence Valley, mostly striking in the areas of Montreal and Trois-Rivières between 1650 and 1653, and from 1654 on, as far east as Quebec and the other settled areas further downriver. In 1656, Iroquois warriors had boldly attacked the Huron refugee community on Île d'Orléans, taking many of them captive within plain sight of the French. After this raid, the remnant Hurons had sought refuge at Quebec for the next twelve years. The constant fear of attack by Iroquois forces, against both the French and their native allies, did not ease until the Carignan- Salières Regiment arrived in New France in 1665, and soon began striking back forcefully. 172
Interpreter and trade ambassador; junior clerk, clerk and trader, chief clerk and trader, and general manager of the storehouse at Quebec; and general manager of the fur trade monopoly company in New France
Based upon both his literacy and various other traits and talents, Olivier was hired to join a very elite and crucial brotherhood of young men in New France: the trade ambassadors and interpreters of native languages. Commencing with Étienne Brûlé in 1610, these French lads traveled with various native groups back to their home regions in the interior after the native traders had completed their annual commerce on the St. Lawrence. Two of their primary assigned roles included mastering the languages of the host nations and becoming thoroughly steeped in the cultures and customs of those nations. With these attributes under their belts, the young men could then serve as commercial and cultural ambassadors: encouraging the native groups to paddle out to the St. Lawrence each summer with canoeloads of furs and hides, and acting as translators and advisors during the resulting trading rendezvous. For example, Champlain wrote in 1623, “ Two other Frenchmen were given to the Algonkins, to maintain them in friendship and to induce them to come to trade.” 13
In 1664, the Jesuit François Du Creux described the cultural and language immersion program in which Jean Nicolet had been trained:
“Immediately after his arrival [in 1618, about the very same time as Olivier Letardif], those in authority at Quebec sent him for two years [to live] among the Island Algonkins [on the upper Ottawa River] to learn their language...Next he visited the Nipissing natives [also speakers of an Algonquian dialect, residing a little further toward the northwest], and lived with them for seven years as one of themselves. He had his own belongings, his lodge, his furniture, utensils for fishing and hunting, and no doubt his own beaver pelts and the same trading rights as the others. In a word, he was admitted to their councils. Recalled by those in power at Quebec, he was placed in charge of stores and acted as interpreter.” 14
Although no known period description of Olivier's immersion program was ever penned, he doubtless had very similar experiences to those of his close friend and brother-in-law Nicolet, which enabled Olivier to eventually speak both Algonquian and Iroquoian dialects fluently.
During the earliest years, the native nations who were involved in the French peltries trade had included the Montagnais, who lived to the north of the St. Lawrence River as far west as the St. Maurice River; various Algonkin groups who resided along the upper sections of the St. Lawrence and along the Ottawa River; and the Hurons, who lived just south of the southern end of Georgian Bay. The first two groups spoke dialects of the Algonquian language family, while the Hurons spoke a dialect of the Iroquoian language family. With the passing of the years, additional Algonquian- speaking nations residing to the west of the Algonkin groups and the Hurons also began making the annual trek by canoe out to the St. Lawrence. They did this in order to deal directly with the French, instead of acquiring their French merchandise indirectly from Algonkin and Huron traders. To discourage these far-flung nations from making the eastward voyage themselves, thus eliminating the middlemen traders, the Algonkins and Hurons charged them tolls to paddle along their waterways, and sometimes harassed the travelers and stole their belongings and peltries en route. 15
...Besides encouraging their native hosts to travel out to the St. Lawrence Valley to trade with the French each summer, and then translating at the resulting trade-fests, the young ambassadors and interpreters also carried out a number of other important roles. Their activities, both while in the interior and while in the St. Lawrence Valley, promoted and facilitated many exchanges that flowed in both directions, from the French to the native worlds and from the native to the French worlds.
These exchanges dealt in material objects, services, technologies, customs, languages, practices of commerce and warfare, allegiances, world views, gene pools, and, unfortunately, various diseases. In addition, the young Frenchmen also brought out to their superiors a great deal of detailed geographical information; this data arrived much earlier than the knowledge that was later gathered by the so-called “explorers.”
The demands that were involved in becoming an excellent trade ambassador and translator to the native nations, through total immersion in their cultures while living in their distant homelands, required a special breed of characters. Each of “Champlain's young men” was obliged to have in his arsenal a considerable array of personal attributes. Whether the lad was literate or not, his obligatory traits included high intelligence; a good ear for languages; the ability to memorize quickly and efficiently; excellent powers of observation and mimicry; a sensitivity to cultural and social norms and signals; a healthy degree of self-sufficiency, confidence, and independence, yet also considerable gregariousness and affability; physical strength, prowess, and endurance; emotional flexibility; considerable amounts of curiosity, adventuresomeness, and boldness; highly developed communication skills; and the ability to endure high levels of pain, deprivation, and hardship, while actually enjoying the experiences. In short, these young men were highly imbued with the primal urge to not only survive but also to thrive under adverse conditions. They were living this unusual, adventurous, and arduous life of their own choice.
By creatively adapting, adjusting, and learning how to mesh seamlessly into both the native spheres and their original French sphere, these men became indispensable to both sides. Their activities as liaisons and advisors reduced the cultural gap, built diplomatic connections, and fostered mutual understanding, respect, and accommodation. In the process, the ambassadors greatly reduced, for both sides, the degree of unpredictability in the actions and behaviors of “The Others.”
Wholesale store owner and operator, ship outfitter, ship owner, and transatlantic merchant in La Rochelle, France, and owner of a retail and wholesale-outfitting store in the Lower Town area of Quebec
The official price roster of the fur trade which was conducted in the St. Lawrence Valley in 1665, nine years after François' store was permanently established at Quebec, presented a list of the articles which were most commonly traded during this period. These items included hooded coats (in large, medium, and small sizes), white blankets from Normandy, cloaks made of woolen rateen fabric, cloaks made of woolen Iroquoise fabric, awls, axes, butcher knives, clasp knives, iron arrow points, sword blades to be hafted as spears, ice chisels, guns, gunpowder, lead for casting balls and shot, and corn. 76
The hooded coats, mantles, shirts, and chemises that were exchanged in the peltries commerce, as well as various of the simpler iron articles that were traded, such as awls, axes, arrow points, and ice chisels, were manufactured in large numbers by French seamstresses and blacksmiths in the St. Lawrence settlements. These articles were fashioned from the supplies of woolen fabrics, hempen fabrics, iron, and steel which were imported in bulk amounts from the mother country by merchants such as François. Thus, not only did the ready-made articles in his imported merchandise figure prominently in the fur trade; the supplies of raw materials that he brought in also played a significant role in the trade as well.
During the winter of 1658, while preparing his large vessel L e Taureau for the next expedition to New France, François invested 1,000 livres as his 3/4 share of the expenses, while his associate, Captain Élie Tadourneau, covered the remaining quarter of the costs. Half of their contributed sums were spent on repairing the storm-inflicted damage on the ship from the previous year's voyage and then restocking the vessel with new provisions and equipment. The other half of their respective contributions were spent on their shared commercial cargo, 1,050 bushels of salt. At the conclusion of this year's trip, the two men would share, in the same ratio of three-to-one, any profits or losses that would be generated by the sale of the salt as well as the sale of the cargo of peltries that would be purchased and brought back from the colony in the autumn. This division of the financial results would be made after the 500 livres in wages for the Captain and his crew had been deducted from the proceeds.
Since the two associates did not share the business operations of the store at Quebec, François paid entirely for the supply of new sales items for this facility which were loaded aboard the ship.
The array of articles that he had gathered for the store were probably similar to those which he had dispatched to the colony in 1655. In addition, he recruited fifteen indentured workmen for three-year contracts of employment in the colony, having them sign their notary contracts on May 14 and 15.
According to these contracts, the men would serve “during the time and course of the next three years, consecutive and without interruption, which would commence on the day in which they would set foot on land at the said Quebec.” To these individuals, François dispensed a total of 506 livres in advances from their first year's wages (averaging 34 livres per man). He also paid for their food (but not for their housing) during the period from the first day of May until the vessel set sail. At the last minute before departure, a woman named Mathurine Lacroze, 22 years old, also signed on as an indentured worker for the colony.
Weighing anchor at La Rochelle on May 29, the ship made an especially quick crossing, reaching Quebec on July 6, after just 38 days at sea. One of the resident priests recorded in the Journal des Jésuites on the sixth day of the month: “Tadourneau's ship arrived at Quebec.” Besides François' 150 ton vessel, three other merchant ships from La Rochelle (with internal capacities of 200, 300, and 350 tons) also traveled to New France this summer; in addition, one ship sailed to the colony from Rouen. 77
Not long after Le Taureau had dropped anchor in the roadstead at Quebec, a fur or a rose concerning Mathurine Lacroze, the single female among the sixteen indentured workers whom François' ship had delivered to the colony. In a letter written some months later, on October 24, Governor Pierre d'Argenson informed the Jesuit Charles Lalemant in Paris: “It is necessary that I tell you one thing that will entertain you. It is a judgement which I rendered against a merchant of La Rochelle called Perron. He was so insolent as to send to us in this region a dissolute young woman, currently pregnant, whom he knew to be in this condition.” The administrator ordered that the woman, not only pregnant but also of Protestant background, be transported back to La Rochelle at François' expense, and also that Monsieur Perron be obliged to pay a fine of 150 livres, in the form of a contribution to the hospital at Quebec. It is possible that, when Mademoiselle Lacroze signed her contract of indenture at the notary's office in mid-May, just before departing for New France, her pregnancy had not been obvious, and she may have disguised her condition by wearing bulky clothing.
However, after the transatlantic voyage of nearly six weeks, her special physical state was considerably more visible, particularly to the eyes of her caretakers. In accepting her as a contract worker at the last minute, it is entirely possible that François may not have been “insolent” at all. He might have simply been unobservant, while he was preoccupied with the final details before dispatching his largest vessel to New France. 78
During the summer and early autumn, Michel Desorcis carried out considerable business at the Quebec store, some of it on credit. One of his more significant transactions involved providing Martin Grouvel with a stock of merchandise that was worth the substantial sum of 942.25 livres.
According to the notary agreement which this resident of Beauport signed on September 28, he promised to repay this amount by St. Jean's Day (June 23) of the following year. 79 Along with 830 livres worth of merchandise from the La Rochelle merchant Antoine Grignon and 1,000 livres worth contributed by Grouvel's associate Eustache Lambert, a Quebec merchant, this stock was intended for use as trade goods during the voyage that Grouvel would take the following spring. (In search of untapped sources of commerce with the native people who lived along the southern shore of the lower St. Lawrence River and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, he would indeed depart in mid-May of 1659 aboard his own barque, manned by six sailors and a pilot. Trading with the native populations en route as they made their way down the lower reaches of the River and the Gulf, the party would finally reach the Canseau Strait in Acadia, and then sail across the Atlantic to France. The following year, loaded with new merchandise from the mother country, they would retrace their transatlantic route to Canseau. However, as they would sail back upriver along the Gaspé Peninsula, they would be shipwrecked beside the Notre Dame Mountains, and Monsieur Grouvel would lose his life.) 80
Other bulk sales which Desorcis handled at the store in 1658 included 302.25 livres worth of merchandise that he supplied to Nicolas Bélanger of Beauport, as well as articles worth 221 livres which he provided to Roger Doré. The latter individual promised to pay off this amount of credit upon the arrival of the first vessel that would come from France during the following summer of 1659. 81
As Captain Tadourneau prepared to set sail for the mother country in October, part of the cargo that was loaded aboard consisted of furs and hides that had resulted from transactions at the Perron store. Other portions of the cargo included peltries belonging to other merchants of both New France and Old France. Some of the latter furs and hides which were stowed in the hold were the property of the La Rochelle merchant Guillaume Feniou; upon arrival back in the home port, these valuable assets would be delivered to Jean De Ro y, Jean Bairon, and other creditors of Monsieur Feniou. During the loading stage, the Captain was concerned about the considerable damage that could be inflicted on the edible peltries cargo during the voyage, by the many rats that infested Le Taureau . Thus, as a safeguard, he installed ten cats below decks on October 13, the day before the vessel was to depart from Quebec.
On the following day, one of the Jesuits in the city recorded in their Journal : “The ships of Captains Rémon [Élie Raymond] and Tadourneau sailed; on board one of them was Mademoiselle Mance [who had founded the Hôtel Dieu hospital at Montreal sixteen years earlier, in 1642].” Also among the passengers en route to France was Michel Desorcis, François' storekeeper at Quebec.
During the next eight months or more, the Perron store in the colony would be in the hands of Daniel Suire (Monsieur Perron's son), who was about to celebrate his 20th birthday. After a rather long crossing of 46 days, compared to the average return trip of 35 days, the vessel reached La Rochelle on November 28. 82
One of the very earliest Frenchmen to venture into the interior regions of New France as a trader, then served as an investor and outfitter backing other traders
On September 4, a major celebration was in order, as Suzanne and Claude welcomed the safe arrival of their sixth and final child, who would also be their only daughter. When baby Thérèse was baptized later that same day at the Trois-Rivières church, the godfather was Jean Denoyon, Suzanne's younger brother, age 29 and still single, who lived just 110 feet away from the David family; the godmother was Jeanne Loisel. 131
Over the span of the previous fourteen years, since the arrival of their first offspring in April of 1650, Suzanne and Claude had produced six children, all of whom had, by good fortune, survived infancy . During this interval, Suzanne had advanced in age from 24 to 38, while Claude's age had increased from about 23-to-29 up to 37-to-43. After the arrival of their first son Michel, the intervals between the births of the next four children had been 26, 13, 41, and 33 months, respectively. Then five years had elapsed between the births of Barthélemy in September of 1659 and Thérèse in September of 1664; during that period, Claude had been absent on his western expedition from August of 1660 until August of 1663. 132
Trader at both the Montreal trade fair and in the western interior (sometimes with permission and sometimes as an illegal coureur de bois ). Also an investor and merchant outfitter backing other voyageur-traders, as well as a private financier
On March 27, 1678, the Turpin couple appeared in the office of the Quebec notary Rageot, in order to officially cancel their Lower Town house-rental agreement with Nicolas Gauvreau. In the document which was penned by the scribe on this day, Alex and Catherine were both identified as residents of Pointe aux Trembles (Aspen Point), which was the alternate name during this period for the seigneury of Dombourg. As a result of this action, for the first time since their arrival in the colony some thirteen years earlier, the couple did not have an official place of residence in the town of Quebec. 66
Three weeks later, in the afternoon on April 21, Alex and his friend Étienne de Xaintes stood before the same notary, this time to officially register the commercial partnership which they had decided to establish. Étienne, about 37 to 43 years old and unmarried, was a gunsmith who had been documented at Montreal in 1665, 1666, and 1667. At this point, he was living in the Lower Town area of Quebec with his younger brother, the cutler Claude de Xaintes, his wife, and their two young children. (Slightly more than a decade later, in October of 1688, Étienne would pass away at Quebec, having never married.) The record of partnership which was penned by Monsieur Rageot on this day in the spring of 1678 is the earliest surviving document which specifically links Alex's various business activities with the fur trade.
“Before Gilles Rageot, clerk, notary, and record keeper of the King our Sire at Quebec in New France, were present in person the Sieur Alexandre Turpin, living at the Pointe aux Trembles , and Étienne de Xaintes , master gunsmith living in this town [of Quebec]. They together have voluntarily formed a company and partnership, which will extend from their departure from this town to go to trade with the native people at Montreal [during the annual trade fair] until after their return from the said voyage to this town, in order to conduct the said trade with the native people, splitting all of the profits entirely in halves between them. This will be done with the understanding that the said Sieur Turpin will furnish all of the trade merchandise, the sum total of which, including the expenses for the costs or other unforeseen necessary expenses of transporting it to the said place of Montreal, will be initially covered and discharged by the said Sieur Turpin before their departure. All of the other expenses which will be generated will be shared equally in halves between them, including the rent of the house, the food, the firewood, and other things which will be necessary for their partnership [in Montreal]. During the course of the partnership, they will each work at their own profession [tailor-merchant or gunsmith] in a manner which will be to the best advantage of the union, and the said Sieur Turpin will guard the purse and will keep an exact account of both the receipts as well as the expenses, to the best of his knowledge and abilities. Each of them will do all that is possible for the profit of their partnership and company. At the end of the said trading, the said Sieurs de Xaintes and Turpin will share equally in halves both the losses, if losses are encountered, and the profits, after the preliminary advances which were discharged as described above and their expenses have been repaid and reimbursed [to Monsieur Turpin], it having been agreed between the said parties that the said Sieur Turpin will cover and discharge all of them until after the said trading, and any remaining belongings and merchandise which he has furnished for the said trading have been credited to their individual accounts.” 67
A later notary document, written in the autumn of 1680, would show that Alex, in order to carry out this trading expedition to Montreal in the spring of 1678, acquired a very large consignment of trade merchandise and other necessary articles from a Quebec merchant before his departure. This extensive array of items, worth a total of about 2,500 livres, was supplied by Guillaume Bouthier, a young unmarried merchant bourgeois of Quebec who would not wed until eight years later, in July of 1686. 68
One of the earliest recorded voyageurs during the 1670s, one of the very earliest documented voyageur-traders to be hired after the license system was implemented in 1682, then an independent voyageur-trader partnered with other traders
On May 24, 1685, François made the eight-mile trip from his farm northward to Montreal, in order to officially approve the following contract, by which he would work in the distant west as a voyageur-trader:
“Before Hilaire Bourgine, notary of the Island of Montreal, and the undersigned witnesses was present in person François Brunet, son of Antoine Brunet, habitant of this island, at present in this city, who, of his own free will and voluntarily, has bound and engaged himself and has promised to well and faithfully serve Michel Messier, Sieur de Saint Michel, residing at present in this said city, who has specified and accepted him for the voyage of about eighteen months which he is going to make to the Ottawa Country. During this period, [Brunet] will do all that the Sieur de Saint Michel commands or will command of him which seems honest and lawful. In consideration of which, the said Sieur promises and obliges himself to give and pay to the said Brunet, upon his return from the said voyage, the sum of three hundred livres for wages, and he has permission to trade, for his own profit, his gun and his blanket. The beaver pelts derived therefrom will be brought down with those of the Sieur, without any deductions from his wages. Thus, everything having been willfully specified and agreed upon by the said parties, who have the intention of being obligated to mortgage all of their possessions, present and future, they have promised, waived, and obligated themselves.
[This agreement] made and drawn up at Villemarie in the office of the notary, in the afternoon of the twenty- fourth day of May, 1685, in the presence of François Pougnets and Claude Tardy, merchants of the said place, as witnesses, as required, who have signed with the said Saint Michel and the notary. The said Brunet has declared that he does not know how to write or sign, having been questioned according to the ordinance.
C. T ardy, F . Pougnets, Michel Messier, and Bourgine ” 52
This document represents one of the very earliest known records of the hiring of a legal voyageur-trader after the new licensing system had been initiated. During the latter 1660s and throughout the 1670s, the number of traders working in the interior without permission had absolutely burgeoned. By 1680, Intendant Duchesneau had estimated that “There are eight hundred persons or more in the bush, whatever may be stated to the contrary.” From the administrators' point of view , something had to be done to change this situation, in which the laws were being so flagrantly disobeyed. Thus, in May of 1681, following the suggestions of the Intendant, the King's Minister had issued a decree which established a system of legal trading licenses or congés. In addition, the ordinance had granted a general amnesty to all of the illicit traders who would come out from the interior regions. As a result, instead of the former ban on traders operating in the west, the Governor or Intendant of the colony could now issue up to 25 official licenses each year. These were to be distributed at the price of 600 livres apiece, or they were to be given at no charge to deserving widows, orphans, charities, or churches, in order to finance charitable works. Some were also to be granted, at no cost, to individuals who needed to generate capital in order to initiate some worthy private enterprise. No recipient could receive a license two years in a row. The recipients were not required to utilize the trading license themselves. They could hire voyageur-traders to carry out the work for them, or they could instead sell the congé outright (such sales often generated considerably more cash than the official fee of 600 livres, with the price often reaching 1,000 to 1,200 livres or more). Each license authorized the departure of a single canoe, staffed by a crew of three men and loaded with equipment, provisions, supplies, and merchandise. In addition to the 25 licenses, the administrators could also issue an unspecified number of free permits, to worthy traders who had performed some special service for the government. After this system had been officially declared by the Crown, Governor Frontenac had decided to postpone its implementation until the following year, to 1682. 53
...For sometime, François, Sr. had been afflicted with pleurisy, an inflammation of the pleura, the thin membrane that covers the lungs and also lines the chest cavity. Sufferers of this disease usually experienced difficult and painful breathing, which was often accompanied by the exuding of liquid into the chest cavity. Finally, on the last day of his life, François was struggling to take in each painful breath. He mercifully passed away on June 23, 1702.
After conducting his funeral on the following day, the priest of the Lachine parish penned the following entry into the church ledger:
“June 24, 1702. Buried François Brunet dit Le Bourbonnais, age 57. Died the previous day in his bed, of pleurisy. Burial was done in the presence of his wife, his children, relatives, and friends. Witnesses [probably Jean] Cuillerier and [Guillaume] Daoust [chanter of the parish].” 162
One of his family members had obviously provided the information that Monsieur Brunet had been 57 years old at the time of his demise. However, back in the spring or early summer of 1681, François himself had reported to the census-taker that he had been 37 at that time; this would have made him about 58 at the time of his death. From these two statements, his year of birth has been extrapolated as about 1644 or 1645.
Eighteen days after his interment, the day of July 11 must have been an especially difficult one for Barbe. On that day, the Brunet couple would have celebrated the 30th anniversary of their wedding. Having become a bride six weeks before her sixteenth birthday, Barbe now found herself widowed with ten living children before she had reached the age of 46. At this point, she could not have foreseen that she had thus far lived only about half of her life, that she would never remarry, and that she would live as a widow at Lachine for 43 1 /2 more years, until January of 1746! 163
The fees that the family paid to the priest for conducting François' burial service (6 livres), and for any Masses that they may have requested that the priest perform for the repose of his soul (6 livres for Low Masses, 8 livres for High Masses), had been standardized throughout the colony back in 1690. At that time, the following ecclesiastical fees had been established:
Publishing the three banns of marriage, together...6 livres
Wedding ceremony ...6 livres
Standard Low Mass...6 livres
High Mass...8 livres
Cemetery burial in the country districts...6 livres
Burials within churches:
In country parishes...40 livres
At Trois-Rivières...60 livres
At Montreal...100 livres
At Quebec...120 livres
(However, the rates for children's burials were to be at half of these standard rates) 164
Trader from the Quebec area who hauled merchandise upriver in his own vessel, to exchange it with native customers and/or French outfitters at Trois-Rivières or Montreal
By this point in his life, when he was 37 to 41 years old, Pierre had already been involved in the fur trade for a number of years. As did a great many other individuals in the colony, he had determined how he could best participate in this commerce. In his case, Monsieur Girard owned his own sailing vessel, a barque named The Samuel, which he utilized to haul merchandise up the St. Lawrence from the Quebec area to the towns of Trois-Rivières and/or Montreal. Both of these upriver communities hosted annual trade fairs, to which large numbers of visiting native traders paddled out from their home regions in the distant interior, bringing canoeloads of furs and hides to exchange for European goods with the French residents. It is not known whether Pierre traded directly with the native customers, or whether he instead sold his hauled merchandise to French outfitters. In all likelihood, he participated in both of these avenues of commerce, both the retail and the wholesale options. In this manner, he could generate maximum profits while remaining with his family for most of the year, on their farm about fifteen miles southwest of Quebec. By working as a combination shipper and merchant, he was only obliged to be absent from home for a limited number of weeks or months each summer. He did not have to be away for many months or even years at a time, as did the voyageurs and the voyageur-traders. Nor did he have to relocate to one of the two upriver towns in order to conduct his business...
Simply hauling merchandise upriver from Quebec before selling it generated a certain degree of profit for a merchant. By good fortune, a list of the prices that were charged for certain selected goods at Quebec, Trois-Rivières, and Montreal back in 1665 has been preserved. 49 This document, although it only included nine items, clearly illustrates the price mark-ups that occurred the further up the St. Lawrence that merchandise was hauled. Transport from Quebec up to Trois-Rivières entailed a journey of about 75 miles, while hauling from there up to Montreal involved a trip of about 80 additional miles. Some of this transport was done with oxen-drawn sleighs on the frozen river during winter, while the rest was done with watercraft during the unfrozen seasons. The price increases which resulted from the hauling procedures enabled merchants and traders to make a significant profit simply by transporting the commodities upriver before selling them. This was especially true if they carried out the hauling themselves (as did Pierre Girard in his own vessel), rather than hiring out this task to others.
In the 1665 list, the selling prices at each of the three more progressively distant locales were thus presented (expressed in livres, sols, and deniers, or l, s, and d):
1 keg of brandy: 140l. [Qc.] .......... 154l. [T-R.] .......... 168l. [Mtl.]
1 keg of wine: 51l. .......... 56l. .......... 61l.
1 yard of woolen serge fabric from Poitou: 4l. 5s. 10d. .......... 4l. 14s. 6d .......... 5l. 3s.
1 yard of fine Meslis linen fabric [sailcloth]: 1l. 9s. 9d. .......... 1l. 13s. ......... 1l. 16s.
1 yard of coarse Meslis linen fabric [sailcloth]: 1l. 8s. 1d. .......... 1l. 11s. .......... 1l. 14s. 2d.
1 large Biscayan axe: 1l. 11s. 5d. .......... 1l. 14s. 2d. .......... 1l. 17s. 9d.
1 small Biscayan axe: 1l. 1s. 10d. .......... 1l. 2s. ............ 1l. 4s.
1 keg of vinegar: 30l. .......... 49l. .......... 54l.
1 keg of salt: 14l. .......... 15l. .......... 16l.
As may be observed from this list, for both brandy and wine, the mark-ups on stocks which were sold at Trois-Rivières were 10 percent higher than their selling prices at Quebec. For those supplies of brandy and wine which were transported twice the distance upriver, all the way to Montreal, the mark-ups were 20 percent above the Quebec prices. For various of the other listed articles, the amounts of mark-up at both of the distant markets were considerably less. The excessive amounts of increase in the prices of vinegar, which were the highest rates of mark-up on the entire roster, must represent an error, either in the original recording of the prices or in a later transcription of the original information. In considering the issue of price mark-ups, one must also note the amounts of mark-up which were added to the imported articles upon their initial arrival in New France. Two years before the above roster of prices was drawn up, back in 1663, the Sovereign Council in the colony had set the maximum prices at which various articles imported from France could be sold at Quebec. These regulations had allowed a 65 percent mark-up over the rates which were paid for similar goods back in the mother country, and a 100 percent mark-up on liquor compared to selling prices back in France. At the same time, the rate that could be charged by shippers for transporting merchandise across the Atlantic had been set at a straight eighty livres per ton, regardless of the type of cargo being hauled. 50 As a result of these official policies, Pierre Girard was probably charged a 65 percent markup on his supplies of tobacco and most of the other trade items that he acquired from his importer at Quebec; in addition, he probably paid to him a 100 percent markup on his stocks of brandy. These mark-ups covered the costs of transporting the merchandise across the Atlantic and up the St. Lawrence to Quebec.
During the 1680s, this transport was usually carried out each year by some seven or eight ships from France. On their return voyage back to the mother country, only two or three of these vessels hauled peltries, while the others sailed back virtually empty, with either little or no cargo at all in their holds. 51
At the upriver towns of Trois-Rivières or Montreal, Pierre traded his merchandise with native customers from the distant interior, and/or with French outfitters who lived in or near to these two St. Lawrence communities. Whenever he received furs and hides from these customers (instead of receiving letters of exchange, also called promissory notes, from some of the Frenchmen), he was obliged to eventually pay an export tax on certain of them. He paid this tax when he handed over the peltries to the warehouse of the monopoly company, which handled the exporting of peltries to France.
In March of 1657, the King had issued a decree by which a droit du quart, an export tax of 25 percent, had been levied on the value of all furs and hides which would be turned in to the monopoly company. These revenues had been utilized by th e company to help defray the expenses of running the colony and conducting the peltries-export business. 52 Six years later, in 1663, the monarch had declared that New France would thereafter be a royal colony, and a Sovereign Council had been established in the colony to carry out its operations. In the following year, the newly established Council had passed certain regulations concerning commerce and the fur trade. As before, all residents of the colony would be permitted to engage in the peltries trade, and, as before, they would be allowed to sell their acquired furs and hides only to the monopoly company. 53 However, a change was made at that time concerning the tax or export duty of 25 percent which since 1657 had been levied on all peltries when they were accepted by the company. Now, there would be a ta x of 25 percent on only all beaver pelts (plus a 10 percent tax on all moose hides, termed the droit du dixième, which would be added in 1666); no export taxes would be charged for the various other types of furs and hides that were taken in by the company. (These export duties on beaver and moose would continue to be charged to the individuals providing peltries until the year 1717.) 54
Voyageur-trader in the upper Great Lakes region during the early and mid 1680s, the first decade in which the license system was in effect
This sudden lifting of La Salle's monopoly on the peltries commerce in the Illinois Country, which was located to the south and southwest of Lake Michigan, inspired a number of men to make preparations to travel to this region. One of these motivated individuals was Mathieu Brunet dit Létang. Early in 1683, he and his thirteen associates amassed the licenses, canoes, supplies, provisions, and merchandise which they would need for their trading venture. For their total outfit, the men spent more than 15,000 livres. 40
By May of 1683, it was time for the fourteen partners to assemble at Montreal. At this time, Mathieu was about 42 to 45 years old, while Marie (who was roughly six months pregnant at this point) was about age 34 to 36. Their eight children included Michel (about 15 years old), Jeanne (about 13), Marie Anne (about 11), Jean (9 1 /3 ), Pierre (7 1 /4 ), Marie (5 1 /2 ), Jacques (2 3/4 ), and Catherine (1 1 /2 ). The interval in which Marie would shoulder the responsibilities of running the farm and household at Champlain by herself would probably extend for about seventeen months or more, if everything played out according to the general plan. Since they had purchased the place 2 1 /2 years earlier, it was presumably in good operating condition by this point. In addition, five of the eight children were old enough to provide a great deal of assistance in its day-to-day operations.
Among Mathieu's thirteen colleagues, six were from the area of Trois-Rivières and its outlying seigneuries, while another one had been raised nearby in the seigneury of Ste. Anne de la Pérade (east of Champlain) but had recently relocated to the Montreal area. Another of the men hailed from Contrecoeur, about halfway between Trois-Rivières and Montreal; two others were from the Montreal region; and three hailed from the area of Quebec. Thus, eight of the fourteen traders, 57 percent of them, were truly from the Trois-Rivières region.
Within this party, Mathieu was definitely the senior member, according to his age, his marital status, and the total number of children in his family. Half of the partners were married, while half of them were still single. In addition to Mathieu (age 42 to 45, with his ninth child due in August), the other married associates were, respectively, 42 years old with two children, 40 with two children, 37 with one child, 28 with no children yet, 26 with his third child due in August, and 26 with one child. The ages of six of the unmarried partners were 37, 28, 25, 23, 22, and 19, while the age of the seventh individual is unknown. In summary, the ages of the seven married men ranged from about 42-to-45 down to 26 (averaging about 34), while the ages of the seven unmarried men (not including the one individual whose age is not known) ranged from 37 down to 19 (averaging about 26).
Among the seven partners who currently lived in the region of Trois-Rivières, the second oldest (and also the third oldest among the entire party) was Martin Foisy. This was Mathieu and Marie's former neighbor in the Prairies Marsolet sub-fief of Cap de la Madeleine, who had at one point charged the Brunet couple in court for having struck his wife. He had later become their friend again, so that they had chosen Martin to be the godfather of their seventh child. Now about 40 years old, Martin had a wife and two children on their farm at Champlain, who were 4 and about to turn 2 years of age. Besides Mathieu and Martin, the other married man from the Trois-Rivières area was Jean Desrosiers dit Dutremble. Soon to turn 26, he had been born at Trois-Rivières and had grown up there, then at Cap de la Madeleine, and finally at Champlain. Having been wed at Champlain 1 1/2 years earlier and having settled there with his new wife, the couple's only child was six months old.
Besides these three married men, four of the unmarried trading associates also hailed from this same region. The oldest of these was Jean Lahaise, about 37 years old, a farm worker who labored at both Champlain and across the St. Lawrence at Gentilly. The next oldest was François Lucas dit Dontigny, age 25, who had grown up at Trois-Rivières and then Cap de la Madeleine; he was now a farm worker in the seigneury of Batiscan, immediately east of Champlain. Another unmarried partner from the same area was Antoine Desrosiers dit Lafresnière, the younger brother of Jean Desrosiers dit Dutremble who was described above. Soon to celebrate his 19th birthday, Antoine had been born and raised at Trois-Rivières, then at Cap de la Madeleine, and finally at Champlain. The fourth single man from this same area was Jacques Baston, whose age is not known. He had been documented at Trois-Rivières five years earlier, back in 1678.
One of the fourteen trading colleagues, Eustache Prévost, hailed from Contrecoeur, which was located about halfway between Trois-Rivières and Montreal. Having been married for five years, this man (who was about age 37) and his wife had thus far produced one child, who was now 1 1 /2 years old.
Among the three partners from the Montreal area, two were married while one was still single. The oldest of these, Joseph de Montenon, the Sieur de Larue, was about age 42; thus, he was the second oldest member of the entire party, after Mathieu Brunet. He and his wife, who resided at Pointe aux Trembles near the northern tip of Montreal Island, had just one child, who was 2 3 /4 years old; they had lost their first baby at the age of just three weeks. The other married associate from the Montreal area, Jean Haudecoeur, was about 28 years old; he and his wife had only been married for seven months at this point. This young man had been raised at Ste. Anne de la Pérade, to the east of Champlain; thus, he was in actuality from the Trois-Rivières region. However, he and his new wife now lived at Boucherville, about six miles northeast of Montreal on the eastern side of the St. Lawrence. Partner Laurent Benoît dit Livernois, age 22, was still single; having been born at Montreal, he had been living in recent years at Boucherville and also a couple miles to the south at Longueuil.
Among the three trading associates from the Quebec area, only Jean Pilote was married. About 26 years old, he had grown up at Beauport and then Quebec. Jean and his wife had been married for five years; they were expecting their third child to arrive in the coming August. The little Pilote family, including their 3 1 /2 and 1 1 /2 -year old offspring, resided directly across the St. Lawrence from Quebec, in the seigneury of Lauson. Partner Jacques Mongeau, 28 years old and having been raised at Quebec, was still single. Likewise, René Legardeur, the Sieur de Beauvais, was also a resident of Quebec and still unmarried. Age 23, René was the son of Charles Legardeur, the Sieur de Tilly, who was a very prominent Quebec businessman and administrator and for decades a member of the Sovereign Council. It was René's cousin, Charles Legardeur, the Sieur de Villiers (27 years older than René, and a resident of both Cap de la Madeleine and across the St. Lawrence at Bécancour), who had owned the latter seigneury of Bécancour ever since 1668. It is abundantly clear that René was the most well-connected among the fourteen men who had formed this partnership in 1683 to trade in the Illinois Country . 41
Near the end of May, it was about time for the convoy to depart for the west. Having assembled at Montreal some weeks earlier, those among the fourteen associates who hailed from distant communities had been residing at various inns and boardinghouses in the town during this period of final preparations. In Mathieu's case (he was some ninety miles from home), he had been both residing and taking his meals at the inn of the Montreal butcher and innkeeper Michel Lecours. This man, about 46 or 47 years old, had been married for eighteen years; he and his wife had produced nine children, of whom three had passed away at young ages. (Monsieur Lecours would die 2 1/2 years later, in September of 1685, when his wife would be about six weeks pregnant.) Shortly before the departure of the brigade, Joseph Lemire promised to pay Mathieu's accumulated bill for accommodations, which totaled 61 livres. This was done with the understanding that Monsieur Brunet would reimburse him upon his return from the trading trip. On May 28, Messieurs Brunet and Lemire met the notary at the home of Monsieur Lecours to officially register these arrangements. “Before Claude Maugue, royal notary in New France, residing at Montreal, was present Mathieu Brunet dit Lestang, living at Champlain, who has acknowledged that he fairly and rightly owes to the Sieur Joseph Lemire, here present and assenting, the sum of sixty-one livres for room and board, which he [Monsieur Lemire] has paid as his discharge to the Sieur Michel Lecours, merchant butcher and innkeeper in this town. The said sum of sixty-one livres will be paid by the said Lestang to the said Sieur Lemire upon his return from the voyage to the Ottawa Country which he is going to make presently, which [return] will be around the beginning of October next , this in beaver pelts at the current price at the time at the office of the King at Quebec [the Compagnie de la Ferme, which held the peltries export monopoly], under the penalty of all expenses, damages, and interests. Thus have they promised, obligated themselves, and waived. [This agreement] made and drawn up at the said Montreal in the house of the said Sieur Lecours, who has declared that he has received from the said Sieur creditor [Lemire] a promise that he will pay the above sum as it stands at the present time, as ordered by the Sieur [Nicolas] Dupré [domestic servant of the Montreal merchant Jacques Le Ber], who has signified to him that he is content, on the 28th of May, 1683 in the afternoon, in the presence of the Sieurs Gilles Carré and Maximilien de Chefdeville [dit La Garenne], witnesses residing here, who have signed below with the said creditor and the notary. The said Lestang and Lecours have declared that they do not know how to write or sign, having been questioned according to the ordinance. The said Lestang has made a cross as his mark. One word [of this document] which is crossed out has no meaning.
Joseph Lemire, + [the mark of Lestang], and Maugue, notary [but not by the two witnesses].” 42
...Eighteen days later, on May 17, 1685, Mathieu and Marie again met with the same notary, along with Monsieur Perrot. However, this time the three gathered at the scribe's own office, in his home at Cap de la Madeleine. Mathieu and Nicolas had been completing the final preparations for their upcoming venture, which might last as long as 2 1 /4 years or more. With this long duration in mind, they had decided to make an important arrangement, one that would be crucial for the sake of Marie and the nine Brunet children during Mathieu's extended absence.
“Before Antoine Adhémar, royal notary and registrar of the [Governmental] Jurisdiction of Trois-Rivières , living at Cap de la Madeleine, and the witnesses named at the end were present in person Mathieu Brunet dit Lestang, living at Champlain, and Marie Blanchard, his wife, who have authorized of their free will the facts and stipulations which follow, showing solidarity and indivisibility with each other, one for the other and each of them for the whole, without division or discussion, renouncing any such said divisions. They have acknowledged and declared that they fairly and truly owe to Nicolas Perrot, living at Rivière Saint Michel, present and assenting, the sum of six hundred livres, which sum has been furnished to the said debtors to provide for the food and maintenance of the said Blanchard and their children during the voyage which the said Brunet is going to make with the said Sieur Perrot to La Baie des Puants [Bay of the Winnebagos, Green Bay], the Mascoutens, and the Nadouessioux [Sioux or Dakotas]. The said Sieur Perrot will take the said sum of six hundred livres from the portion of the peltries belonging to the said Brunet which will be derived from the said voyage. By these presents the said creditors assign, obligate, and mortgage to the Sieur Perrot, in preference to all other creditors, generally all of their other possessions, both moveable and real estate, present and future, subject to all the rigors of the law, without any special obligations and generally derogating one for the other.
For the execution of these presents, the said debtors have selected as their legal residence [to which writs may be delivered] their irrevocable domicile at their home located at the said Champlain. They consent and agree to all of the acts and deeds of the law which may be carried out...Thus have they promised, obligated themselves in solidarity as noted above, and waived.
[This agreement] made and drawn up at the said place of Cap de la Madeleine in the office of the said notary, in the year 1685 on the seventeenth day of May in the afternoon, in the presence of Louis Demiromont, royal bailiff, and Antoine Trottier, living at the said place of Cap de la Madeleine, who have signed below with the said Sieur Perrot and the notary. The said debtors have declared that they do not know how to sign, having been questioned after the reading had been done, according to the ordinance.
N. Perrot, Demiromont, At. T rotier, and Adhemar, notary” 60
This cash advance of 600 livres by Perrot, which would cover the needs of Marie and the Brunet offspring during the next couple of years, was thus officially registered with the notary, and definite arrangements were made for the repayment of this loaned sum. In contrast, it is of particular interest to note that Messieurs Brunet and Perrot did not draw up an official notary document which spelled out the details of their own partnership as traders. This omission clearly implies that their personal arrangements were sealed with simply a handshake, backed by the weight of their respective reputations.
Important voyageur-trader, and eventually a very prominent voyageur-merchant partnered with the first commandant of Ft. Michilimackinac. Worked at intervals in the upper Great Lakes region until he reached the venerable age of 51
Among the three experienced and trusted voyageur-trader-guides who had been hired to make this journey, Robert was the most senior member, in terms of age, number of years married, and number of children. Now 33 2/3 years old, he and Élisabeth had been married for almost five years (with their wedding anniversary coming up on September 22), and they were expecting their third child in about six months. Joseph Trottier, Sieur Desruisseaux, a resident of the Lachine parish, was about 33 years of age. He had been married for nineteen months, and he and his wife Françoise Cuillerier were awaiting the arrival of their second child in about five months. The third and by far the youngest of the three men, Toussaint Pothier dit Laverdure, also a resident of the Lachine parish, was 26 years old. Having been trained as a maker of edged tools, he was still single; he would eventually marry in December of 1703. During the previous summer of 1700, he had been hired to make a trip to the Ottawa Country. (The only other hirings that had been recorded by Montreal notaries that year had been two men in the employ of the Jesuits in the Ottawa Country and five men working for La Forest in the Illinois Country.) 63
When the two canoes departed from Lachine on September 10, 1701, they were paddled by Messieurs Réaume, Trottier, and Pothier, and the three soldiers Picoté, Laurret from the Company of Chaissaigne, and a third whose name has not yet been discovered. The two craft held Madame Cadillac and her one child, Madame Tonty and five to seven of her children, 200 pounds of tobacco encased in two calf skins, 300 pounds of lead encased in cloth bags, and a half-bushel of salt, in addition to the provisions and supplies which the party would consume during the journey. Other cargo items would be picked up where they had been been left behind as overflow lading by the June and August canoes which had been bound for Detroit. (Two canoes with a total of five paddlers had departed for the new fort with supplemental supplies in August, intending to make a round trip to the post and back before the winter freeze.) The first stop for cargo pickup would take place at Ft. Rolland, 1 3/4 miles east of the Réaume farm, followed by another pickup some twelve miles further west, at Bout de l'Île, near the western tip of Montreal Island.
The vessel with the Cadillac family members was propelled by young Pothier in the stern, Réaume in the bow, and the unidentified soldier in the milieu, while the canoe with the Tonty family members was powered by the voyageur Trottier, the soldier Laurret, and the officer Picoté. The two canoes had together been equipped with 10 paddles, 14 yards of Méslis linen sailcloth (fashioned into two sails), 10 pounds of line or cord (for towing lines), 2 oilcloths, and 8 tumplines, as well as 10 pounds of sealant gum, 4 small axes, 1 crooked knife, and 2 bundles of fishhook leaders for repairing the craft while en route. 64
Back in June and July, the main convoy had traveled to Detroit via the customary route to the west, along the Ottawa and Mattawa Rivers, Lake Nipissing, and the French River, after which it had traveled southward down the eastern shorelines of Georgian Bay and Lake Huron. However, since that time, the Great T reaty had been ratified by the Iroquois nations. Thus, the more southerly route, via the upper St. Lawrence River and Lakes Ontario and Erie, would be available to Robert and his colleagues, without any worry of attacks by Iroquois war parties along the way.
After ascending the upper St. Lawrence in thirteen days or less, the party reached Ft. Frontenac, at the eastern end of Lake Ontario, some time before September 23. There, they met two canoes which were returning from Ft. Pontchartrain to Montreal, carrying Lt. Chacornacle and Fr. François Vaillant de Gueslis, as well as the first reports by Captains Cadillac and Tonty. Continuing westward along the full length of the lake, the two family canoes reached the Niagara River at about the end of September, after some three weeks of total progress. Traveling with women and young children, the party may have proceeded more slowly than the usual rugged, cargo-transporting brigade, which only stopped to rest for a few hours each night.
When they arrived at the Niagara River, no post was occupied by the French there. The previous facility at that locale had been evacuated in 1688, and the next recorded French post there would not be erected until 1719. The Niagara River presented one of the greatest ordeals on the passageway to Detroit. This northward-flowing waterway, although it was only about thirty miles long, fell a full 385 feet, in a number of rapids and the tallest waterfall in all of North America. As they paddled up its lowest seven miles, the river offered only a gentle current, with the slope dropping a mere one foot per mile. But then, the water roared out of a 200-foot-tall limestone gorge, whose sheer front face had once been the site of the original Niagara Falls. Over the course of thousands of years, the flowing water had cut this sheer wall of the Niagara Escarpment back a total of seven miles, creating a deep gorge. In this gorge, the slope of the river dropped more than 100 feet, so that it was impossible to navigate it. At the upper end of the 7-mile-long gorge was the gigantic falls, where the water plunged 164 feet, creating clouds of spray with arching rainbows. Immediately above the astounding falls were the upper rapids, in which the water dropped another 51 feet of elevation in less than one mile.
The portage which confronted Robert and the rest of the party at this place commenced at the beginning of the gorge, at its north end. The path extended along the east side of the river, but one to two miles away from the watercourse itself, for seven miles. It ended at a place just above the upper rapids, some 2 1 /2 miles east of the massive waterfall. Along the way, the path included a steep climb over three hills which rose 400 feet in elevation, before the path leveled out on the plateau above the falls. (In later years, certain special voyageurs would sometimes have clauses inserted into their contracts, which guaranteed that they would be allowed to hike over this highly demanding portage without carrying any cargo.) After putting back in, the party paddled upstream for about fourteen miles around the east side of Grande Île, and then five miles more to the head of the Niagara River, to finally reach Lake Erie. 65
With this challenging portage behind them, the little party of two canoes traveled westward along the north shore of Lake Erie, which was some 250 miles long. Compared to Lake Ontario, which was deep and not so easily riled, this body of water was much shallower, only averaging 90 feet in depth. Thus, it could be easily and quickly whipped into stormy conditions with the sudden arrival of winds. After they had covered about one-third of the length of the lake, the party reached the well-known feature of Longue Pointe, which was still about 130 miles east of Detroit. As was customary, they landed at the base of the extremely long and slender point, intending to make the usual portage across it. Thirteen years earlier, during August of 1688, the French officer Lahontan had encountered this same projecting land feature, which was typically handled by hiking across its base, rather than by paddling the laborious detour of fifty miles around its eastward-pointing tip: “The 25th, we arriv'd at a long point of land which shoots out 14 or 15 leagues into the Lake. And the heat being excessive, we chose to transport our boats and baggage two hundred paces over-land, rather than coast about for thirty-five leagues [to round the point].” 66
However, after completing the portage, the Cadillac-Tonty party was not able to continue on their way. In fact, strong and persistent winds forced them to remain on shore at the base of Longue Pointe for a full nine days.
Voyageur and then voyageur-trader who worked over the span of thirty years, sometimes as a legal, licensed trader and at other times as an illegal coureur de bois who was documented in court records
François apparently did not return to the St. Lawrence settlements to spend the winter of 1713 with his family at Lachine. There are no church records which document his presence there during that particular period, and by the first week of May, when major legal difficulties arose with the authorities of the colony, he was nowhere to be found.
At this time, a number of his colleagues had been completing their final preparations in order to join him in the interior with an infusion of new merchandise. It is possible that their activities as coureurs de bois may have been a bit too overt. In any case, someone tipped off the officials about both their preparations and their apparent intentions. In response, certain administrators who were intent upon stopping unlicensed traders before they could depart for the interior set the forces of the legal system into motion.
François' confederates had assembled a large canoe, considerable amounts of traveling food supplies, and a significant amount of trade goods on the Brunet property at Lachine, in anticipation of their imminent departure. However, on May 6, all of these articles were seized by Lieutenant Bouat of the Provost Court in Montreal. On the same day, the officer submitted his detailed report to his superiors. Apparently, Françoise's cover story to him and his accompanying officials, offering a supposed explanation for the presence of these items on their land and in their buildings, was not entirely believed. Regardless of her story, however, the court officer had previously been issued his orders as to what activities he and his men were to carry out there.
“I, François Marie Bouat, Councilor of the King and his Lieutenant of the Provost Court of Montreal, by virtue of the ordinance of Monsieur the Intendant [Michel Bégon] dated the twelfth of April last, signed Bégon, transported myself to the place of Lachine on this Island of Montreal, to the home of François Brunet dit [Le] Bourbonnais, assisted by Jean Petit [Sieur] de Boismorel, bailiff of the Provost Court, and two archers, and for me a sergeant and four soldiers. In talking with the one named Geneviève [actually Françoise] David, a young woman about twenty-eight years of age, I asked her if there were any birchbark canoes there. She declared that in the field was a six-place one which belonged to the Sieur Desroches. [She also stated that,] After expressing his goodbyes to Monsieur [Claude] de Ramezay, Governor of the said Montreal, the said Desroches planned to depart with two canoes to go to Detroit.
Since Monsieur de Ramezay had ordered me to draw up an inventory of the merchandise which had been brought in a cart conducted by the man Jean Cousineau [as the cargo of the said canoe], I had the merchandise for the canoe removed and transported to the home of the Sieur Vital Caron, Captain of the militia of the said Lachine, to whom it has been voluntarily entrusted, which contained the following. That is, four bales of fabric, two cases [of ironwares], seven rolls of tobacco, two sacks of lead, five kegs of gunpowder, six kegs of brandy, three bags of biscuit, one bag of side pork, one keg of salt, and one six-place birchbark canoe which is entirely new. I have placed the above articles into the charge and protection of the said Sieur Caron, with prohibitions against him doing anything with them that may be ordered by those to whom they belong. In witness thereof, we have signed in the presence of the Sieur [Pierre Dupuis dit] Saint Michel, Sergeant of the Troops, Sieur Jean Petit [Sieur] de Boismorel, royal bailiff of the aforementioned Provost Court, and the said Sieur Caron, who has declared that he does not know how to write or sign, having been asked after the reading was done, according to the ordinance.
[This statement] made at Lachine on May 6, 1713. Signed,
Bouat, J. Petit, and Saint Michel Dupui” 54
The initial list of the seized articles (upon which the above statement was based) had included certain pieces of additional information. It had also contained the specific marks which had been applied to most of the shipping containers:
“Statement of the merchandise which I have left in storage at the home of the Sieur Vital Caron, Captain of the Côte [of Lachine and Sault St. Louis]2 bales of fabric marked.........FST
[This document] made at Lachine on May 6, 1713. Sieur Caron does not know how to sign, having been asked according to the ordinance.
Bouat and J. Petit” 55
These are very rare documents from the period of the French regime. Numerous lists of merchandise, equipment, supplies, and canoes that were supplied by specific outfitters to specific voyageur-traders have been preserved, particularly in the ledger books of certain merchants.
However, a detailed roster of materiel which was seized by the authorities from a group of coureurs de bois at a specific time and place is exceedingly unusual.
Voyageur with the transportation corps of the militia forces during the Seven Years' War
The winter of 1791 was a horrendous one, bringing with it an epidemic of terrifying and deadly proportions. This onslaught of sickness and death struck the Lalonde-Sauvé family extremely hard. On March 27, eleven days after Marie Charlotte had celebrated her 49th birthday, she passed away at their home in the Vaudreuil seigneury. With deep melancholy, she was laid to rest in the local cemetery by the Ste. Anne church two days later, on the 29th. Nearly two months earlier, on February 2, she and Guillaume had passed their 30th wedding anniversary. 64
Unfortunately, the beloved mother of the clan was not the only family member to die at this same time. Their married daughter Marie Josèphe, their third-oldest offspring, was also interred on this same day, but in the St. Joseph cemetery some miles to the south, in the Soulanges seigneury.
Departing at the untimely age of 25 1 /3 years, she had been wed to Antoine Chevalier dit Lespérance for seven years and four months. At this point, he was left with two surviving children, Antoine and Joseph Chevalier. 65
But the clan's losses did not end with the deaths of the matriarch and one married daughter. Guillaume (Number 6), the eldest offspring of the family, also passed away, three days after the demise of his mother and his sister. He was buried in the consecrated ground by the Vaudreuil church on March 30, at the age of 29 1 /4 years. He had been wed to Marie Josèphe Rose Legardeur de Repentigny for six years and seven weeks. This young widow now had two surviving children, Guillaume and François Lalonde. 66
Within the span of just four days, Guillaume had been obliged to bury not only his beloved wife of three decades, but also two of their three married children. Now, at the age of 54, he found himself a grieving widower.