Louise Seymour Houghton.

Our debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States online

. (page 8 of 14)
Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 8 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

metis who traded at this post before the coming of
Juneau in 1811. In the Green Bay region trade was
entirely in the hands of such French mixed-bloods as
the Langlades, Grignons, Viauds and La Framboises.
Judge Morgan L. Martin, a graduate of Hamilton
College, who went from Utica, N. Y., to Green Bay in
1827, found about three hundred civilians there,
mainly French and metis voyageurs. In the fall, he
says, a trader, metis or American, setting out for the
Indian country, would engage four or five of these,
equipping them with one-horse carts built with im-
mense wheels without irons (the '^ barefoot carts" of
the Pembina metis), some of them to cut and haul
w^ood, make little truck patches and help in trading,
the more trustworthy to be sent in canoes along the
waterways with goods to various points, or on pack
horses to Rock River or Winnebago Lake, to remain
all winter trading. Among the traders with Indian
wives was ' ' the gentlemanly half-breed Lapence, ' ' who
had been Senator from the Territory,^ and Joseph
Bales, whom the English called Bailly, and who

2 The letter book of William Burnett, who traded at Michilimackinac
and in 1792 had a storehouse where Chicago stands, contains
a playful allusion to "the bearer of this letter, Mr. Lapence,
one of the principal senators of this province". The letter is
dated Feb. 6, 1791 and a footnote says that Lapence is "a gen-
tlemanly half-breed", and that "principal senator" is "a recog-
nition of an imijortant part of tlie new American government."


The Metis as a Trader

traded at Fort Dearborn '^ before American occupa-
tion, sending his half-Indian daughters to Detroit and
Montreal for education. Esther Bailly married the
son of Lieut. Whistler of Fort Dearborn; Rozanne
married the president of the Illinois State Bank of
Chicago. In the treaty of 1833, the last treaty with
Indian executives in Chicago, we find a long list of
mixed-bloods receiving money from the government
in consideration of land claims ; Esther Bailly receiv-
ing $500, Sophie, Hortense and Therese Bailly $1,000
between them. Probably the last three were daugh-
ters of Joseph Bailly 's second wife, a full blood In-
dian, who had a wonderful gift of story telling, and
who was in charge of the trading post at Wapasha.

A leading merchant in the infant village of
Chicago in 1829 was Medard Beaubien, the metis son
of ''the first citizen of Chicago," who with his elder
brother, Charles Henry, received by the treaty of
1833 a half section of land near the old Ottawa vil-
lage Kewigrahkeem, or Kewishkum, probably the site
of Grand Rapids, Mich. Their father, Jean Baptiste
Beaubien, of an ancient French family (perhaps
originally of the name Trotier) from the old French
department of La Perche (says Ohio Antiquities),
married Mah-naw-beno-qua, sister of the Potawatomie
Chief Shab-bo-na. The two sons were sent to Prince-
ton for education, and the younger, Medard or
Medore, became a leading merchant in his home city.

3 Fort Dearborn was completed in 1804, burned in 1812, rebuilt in
1814; Chicago was divided into town lots in 1831.

[ 105 ]

Our Debt to the Red Man

He was also clerk of election in 1830 and trustee of
the first Town Boards He married liis cousin, a
daughter of the Potawatomie Chief Joseph La Fram-
boise. We read in Wentworth's ^' Early Chicago"
that this was "a high-toned wedding, well worthy of
an Indian chief's daughter, the Indian war dance in-
cluded, in which many of the white young men and
ladies joined. ' ' Medard Beaubien subsequently joined
the tribe of his mother and wife, was elected chief,
and eventually led the tribe to Silver Lake, Shawnee
County, Kansas, of which city he was mayor when
he died in 1883.

The Indian mother of these sons having died in
their early childhood, in 1814 J. B. Beaubien, who
was becoming very wealthy in the Indian trade, mar-
ried the charming Josette La Framboise, metisse
daughter of Francis La Framboise, and sister of the
Potawatomie Chief Joseph La Framboise. She was
living with the Kenzie family at the time of the mas-
sacre at Fort Dearborn (1812) and with them escaped
in a boat, taking shelter with the Potawatomie Chief
Alexander Robinson. Josette Beaubien had twelve
children, whom she brought up in a home of much
refinement and beauty, sending the sons to New York
and the daughters to France for education. A relic of
the latter fact remains in the "marvelous French lace
veil" owned by Mrs. Josette Beaubien, now in the
Chicago Historical Library.

The La Framboise family, all French mixed-
bloods, had a large part in the early business life of

Daughter of Jean Baptiste and Josette La Framboise Beaubien
Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society

The Metis as a Trader

the Middle and North West, all of them being trusted
and influential eniployes of the American Fur Com-
pany. Chief Joseph La Framboise and his brother
Claude were voters in Chicago in 1825. In the same
year the Chief, one of the fourteen taxpayers in that
village, bought one thousand acres of forest reservation
in its vicinity and opened it to settlement. It was
doubtless in recognition of the services of Claude La
Framboise as interpreter that a grant to him of a
section of land on the Kiviere aux Plaines, Chicago,
appears in the treaty of Prairie du Chien in 1829.
The two sections next adjoining were granted to Chief
Alexander Robinson, of the recently united Potawa-
tomie, Ottawa and Chippewa tribes. The metis chil-
dren of Robinson and his wife, Catherine Chevallier,
were born on this land, and their venerable and much
loved da^ughter still lives there. The Chicago His-
torical Society would like to have ''this lovely bit of
woodland, with the adjoining La Framboise Reserva-
tion" reserved as a public park, "for associations
more romantic it would be difficult to find." (Report,

When Chicago ceased to be a fur-trading post
these and many other French mixed-bloods in the
company's service moved farther west. Very early
in the history of those territories we find La Fram-
boises under varied orthographies in Wisconsin, South
Dakota and even in Oregon. So early as 1785, indeed,
Alexander La Framboise, cousin of Chief Joseph and
Claude, was trading on the site of Milwaukee, then

Our Debt to the Red Man

a village of agricultural Indians cultivating five or six
acres each. He was joined about 1802 by his brother,
Joseph-Francis, who had long been trading from
Michilimackinac, with his metisse wife, Madeline,
daughter of Jean Baptiste Mascotte, whose acquaint-
ance, with that of his wife Misigan, daughter of
Chief Ke-wan-a-quot (Returning Cloud), we have al-
ready made/ Mascotte had a large family of sons
and daughters, whom he sent to Montreal for educa-
tion. Dying, however, when the youngest two, Made-
leine, afterw^ard wife of Joseph-Francis La Fram-
boise, and Therese, later Mrs. Schindler, whom we
have met as the grandmother of Mrs. Baird of Green
Bay, were respectively three months and five years old,
these two little girls failed of a like opportunity. In
1809 Joseph-Francis La Framboise, ''a fine w^orthy
man," says Judge Morgan of Milwaukee, and a man
of deep piety and great force of character, was sent
by the Company to found a post at Grand Haven,
Mich. That winter, while kneeling in prayer, he was
shot by a Winnebago to whom he had refused to sell
drink. His wife, Madeline Mascotte, ^'a, woman of
extraordinary ability, ' ' says Col. Hubbard of Chicago,
successfully carried on his business after his death,
being long retained in the employ of the company
as one of its most competent and trusted managers.
She is described as tall, handsome and refined, speak-
ing French like a Parisian though always wearing the
dress of an Indian squaw. Col. Hubbard says that

* Supra p. 67.


The Metis as a Trader

she had been taught by her husband to read and
write, and after his death, notwithstanding her busi-
ness responsibilities, she kept up her studies, becom-
ing really proficient in French literature, with an
extensive acquaintance with French classics. She de-
voted much attention to the instruction of Indian
youth. Her cabin in Grand Haven has been pre-
served as the earliest historic relic of the city. She
died in 1846 at the age of sixty-six.

Madame La Framboise was not the only success-
ful metisse trader of her day. Her sister, Therese
Mascotte, the energetic wife of the trader, George
Schindler, after the failure of her husband's health
successfully carried on his business, while he, being a
man of education, opened a boys' school on Mackinac
Island. Another metisse member of the Michili-
mackinac circle, the beautiful wife of Dr. David
Mitchell, surgeon in the British army, intelligent, as
well as ''extremely pretty and delicate," but with no
book-learning, was not only a successful farmer, rais-
ing hay, potatoes and corn for sale, but an able fur
trader^ She educated her two sons in Montreal, and
her daughters, like so many French-Indian girls,
were sent to Paris for education.

It was while visiting these "handsome, attractive
and entertaining" daughters of Mrs. Mitchell, that in
the winter of 1816-17 Mme. Madeline La Framboise's
daughter, the cultivated and charming Josette, met the
Commandmant of Michilimackinac, Captain Benjamin
Pierce, whose brother Franklin later became President

Our Debt to the Red Man

of the United States. They were married that same
winter. The wedding was a brilliant affair, writes
after long years, from her childhood's memories of
the occasion, the bride's younger cousin Mrs. Therese
Baird, granddaughter of Mme. Schindler.

Mme. La Framboise's eldest son, Joseph, born
in Michilimackinac, who was graduated from college
at the early age of fifteen, was the first settler of South
Dakota, having been sent in 1817 by the metis manager
of the American Fur Company, Joseph Rolette, to
establish a trading post in what is now Flandreau.
His first post was at the mouth of the Teton River
and was called Fort Framboise. He afterward built
Fort Teton and later Fort Pierre. In that remote
region he always kept with him a small but choice
collection of books. He was "a gracious host and
delightful companion," says Catlin. He spoke not
only French and various Indian languages, but was
a master of English. His first wife was the daughter
of the Wahpeton (Sioux) chief Walking Day, and
their son Joseph, third of the name, born in 1839, was
a ''typical Sioux," who "rendered inestimable service
to the whites in the days of the great massacre, ' * says
Mr. Doane Robinson, the historian of South Dakota.
His mother died young and he appears to have lived
with her tribe, especially after 1846, when his father
married Jane, the Scotch-Indian daughter of Col.
Robert Dickson. In 1900, in his seventy-first year, he
was living on his reservation, unlike his father,
illiterate, a condition easily explicable in the early

The Metis as a Trader

days of Dakota Territory, but like him highly intelli-
gent, his mind a repository of family traditions, and
proud of being, according to Indian relationship,
' ' cousin of the President, ' ' through his cousin, Josette
La Framboise Pierce.

It was apparently Joseph's cousin Frank, per-
haps a son of Alexander, since he is called the nephew
of old Joseph La Framboise, who built and was in
charge of the second Fort La Framboise, which was
later occupied by Gen. Sully's troops.

In early days the advantages of the site of the
Potawatomie village where Milwaukee now stands,
for a branch post of the great fur trading- centre at
Michilimackinac, were perceived by others than the
La Framboise brothers. The Frenchman Le Claire,
father of the metis whom Iowa remembers with grati-
tude,^ was a partner of Joseph-Francis La Framboise,
and appears to have been like minded with him in
refusing to sell liquor to Indians. They traded
blankets, ammunition, calico, woolen cloth, pipes,
knives, awls, needles and vermillion paint for furs
and peltries, which La Framboise took to Michili-
mackinac and Le Claire to Detroit.

In 1785 came also to Milwaukee Andrew
Jacques Viaud, metis grandson of a Frenchman of
Huguenot strain who had migrated to Canada during
the later Wars of Religion, and whose son, born near
Montreal, had married a half-blood niece of the Pota-
watomie chief On-a-que-sa, Angelique Le Roy, of the

c Supra p. 86.


Our Debt to the Red Man

Le Roy family, which we have already met/ Andrew
Jacques Viaud, Sr., grandson of the emigrant, who
had married into his mother's tribe, traded in Mil-
waukee with Alexander La Framboise in 1785, also
establishing a branch of his business in Green Bay,
where he soon secured a farm, to which he retired in
1836. He had numerous children. Andrew Jacques,
Jr., who later became a United States Senator, was a
partner of Solmon Juneau, who had married Viand's
half-sister, the charming metisse Josette Viaud. An-
drew Viaud, Jr. dictated his reminiscences to the
late R. G. Thwaites in 1887. Mr. Thwaites said that
he could not read or write, but in view of the educa-
tional advantages which we have seen to exist at Green
Bay in his generation this seems hardly possible. No
doubt he could not read and write English.

Mr. Viand's sister, Mrs. Juneau, among many
contributions to the welfare of the new community,
Milwaukee, rendered it and the whole country a signal
service when the Indians, not unnaturally incensed
because their property was thrown open to settlement
before the time stipulated by treaty, planned a general
massacre and would have carried it out but for her.
Her husband being absent, she remained in the streets
all night watching over the whites. (Buck's ''Early
Milwaukee," p. 2, note). She became the mother of
twelve children, all of whom were educated and be-
came prominent. One of her sons was the founder
of Juneau, Alaska.

^ Supra p. 75.


The Metis as a Trader

Madame Juneau, says Judge Lewis Morgan, was
' ' a most amiable and excellent woman, noted for deeds
of charity. . . . She was one of the proverbial neat
and tidy French women," he adds, furthermore say-
ing that "the old trading house" of Solomon Juneau,
so far from being the filthy, disgusting house repre-
sented in the "History of Milwaukee" (Buck's), was
in all respects neat and tidy, "for the French women
knew how to make their habitations attractive."

Mrs. Juneau's younger brother, Louis Viaud,
became Chief of the Potawatomies, and accompanied
his tribe when in accordance with the treaty of 1833
they went west, first to Council Bluffs and later to
Kansas. Jacques Viaud, the third brother, went into
business in Milwaukee, and in 1835 was keeping the
Cottage Inn in that town. We get a glimpse into
pioneer social life in Buck's remark (op. cit.) that
"Jacques Vieux (sic) kept the Cottage Inn, as he
said, 'like hell,' and he did." The Inn was a rendez-
vous for both Indians and whites. Jacques Viaud,
like his brother Louis, married a metisse of his tribe.
He accompanied Louis the Chief when the Potawa-
tomies moved west, and died in Council Bluffs. An-
other brother, Amable, was a noted fur trader in Mil-
waukee. He died in Muscogee in 1887. Many Viands
received a section of land under the treaty of 1833,
and under the name Viaud or Viall their descendants,
all of them metis, may be found today in various
parts of the Northwest. In 1871 James Viall was
Superintendent of Indians in Montana.

Our Debt to the Red Man

Permanently identified with the pioneer history
of Wisconsin is the Grignon family, whom we have
already met in Green Bay/ The father, Pierre
Grignon, of the old French Grig-nan family into which
the daughter of Madame de Sevigne married, was a
voyageur in the Lake Superior region and an inde-
pendent trader in Green Bay before 1763 ; ' ' very dig-
nified and well bred and charming," writes Mrs.
Kinzie. ''The most important man in Green Bay,"
wrote an American who later joined the Green Bay
colony. His first wife was a full blood Menominee, his
second Louise Domitilde, the metisse daughter of Sieur
Charles de Langlade, ''the father of Wisconsin." By
her he had nine children. For their education he had
as private tutor a French-Canadian gentleman,
Jacques Porlier, who in 1820 became Judge of Brown
County, Wis., and after Chief Justice of the State.

Jacques Porlier, some while tutor of the Grignon
children, became a member of the house of Porlier
and Grignon and married a metisse, Margaret Gresie,
daughter of a Frenchman living with the Menominee
and a woman of that tribe. While Judge of Brown
County, Porlier translated into French the Revised
Statutes of the State, the manuscript of which is pre-
served in the Wisconsin Historical Society. His de-
scendants received a section of land and money by
the treaty of 1833. His metis son, Jean Jacques, who
died in 1838, left a large family ; one son, Louis, who

' Supra, pp. 65, 68.


The Metis as a Trader

married a daughter of Augustin Grignon, has been a
generous benefactor of the Historical Society of

Pierre Grignon 's daughters, as we have learned
not only from Mrs. Baird but also from Mrs. Kinzie,
were strikingly dignified, well bred young ladies.
His sons, Pierre, Augustin, Amable, Charles, and
Perriot (grandsons and heirs of Charles de Langlade),
were "courteous and open-hearted" men, partners in
an extensive business, the centre of which was Green
Bay. All had a numerous posterity. The business
houses of their sons and sons-in-law were well known
all over the West. In 1836 Amable Grignon and his
partner, Lieut. Marcy, built at Grignon 's Rapids the
first sawmills on the Wisconsin River. Antonin
Grignon was interpreter with John de la Ronde, who
tells (in the seventh volume of the Wisconsin His-
torical Collections) a most interesting story of their
adventures. Charles Grignon established a business
at Fort Winnebago (Portage) near Oshkosh, Wis.

These traders, says Turner (op. cit.) fixed the
sites of the leading cities of the Northwest; their
trails became our early roads. By 1834 there were
"at least forty-five main posts and 'jack-knife' posts
in Wisconsin."

The Grignons did not, however, confine their
interest to business. Judge Martin (W. H. C. xi),
mentions Pierre and Louis Grignon as farmers in
Green Bay, "fine, very good hearted and hospitable;"
Augustin Grignon, who had a frame store and traded


Our Debt to the Red Man

with the Indians, had also a ' ' good farm, well stocked,
with a comfortable log house and a large frame
barn" at Kaukana Rapids, below the present city of
that name. These brothers, Pierre, Louis and Augus-
tin, were partners in trade with John (afterward
Judge) Lawe at Green Bay. Judge Martin says that
Lawe, Grignon and Porlier (afterward Judge) were
leading farmers, but did little work, though ''wide
awake in business." Alexander Grignon, ''a young
half-blood Menominee," doubtless a son of one of
these brothers, went as interpreter with Judges Doty
and Martin when they explored the region between
Green Bay and Prairie du Chien in 1829.

In 1829 Louis Grignon, whom we have seen
holding a British commission in 1812-16, was chair-
man of the first public meeting ever held in Green
Bay, at which a petition was drawn up asking Con-
gress to build a road from Green Bay to Chicago, and
also to improve the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, water
being at that period the chief means of travel.

The trading interests of this family carried them
far afield. Turner writes in his "History of the Fur
Trade ' ' that Amable Grignon ' ' of the parish of Green
Bay, Upper Canada," wintered on Lac Qui Parle
(Minn.) in 1818, Lake Athabasca in 1819, in 1820 in
the hyperborean regions of Great Slave Lake, "re-
ceiving from the American Fur Company a salary
of $400 and found in tobacco and shoes and two
doges ' ' besides ' ' the usual equipment given to clerks. ' '

The Metis as a Trader

Joseph Rolette, whom we have met in Green Bay/
and who has been mentioned as holding a British com-
mission in 1812, was one of the most marked charac-
ters of Wisconsin in the early days. He was prob-
ably the grandson of Jean Joseph Rolette, who came
from France to Canada in 1750. Whom the emigrant
married or where he lived there seem to be no means
of ascertaining, bnt from the fact that his son lived in
Prairie du Chien, which at the time of his arrival was
an Indian village, and later, almost to the present day,
a town of mixed-bloods, it is not improbable that he
married an Indian. Joseph the grandson married the
daughter of ''the gentle Sioux Chief Wapasha II,"
and later, as we have seen, the elder sister of Mrs. The-
rese Baird. Like all French mixed-bloods who held
British commissions in the war of 1812, he became a
good American citizen at the close of the war, though
during its progress he was court martialed by the Brit-
ish on the charge of being in collusion with his father-
in-law, Wapasha, against their interests, the Chief
being in nominal alliance with the British in this war.

The war over, Rolette traded widely for the
American Fur Company, being reputed to be not only
the most active and the largest trader in the North-
west, but also the best educated and most enlightened.
Though we repeatedly meet him at the Sault and in
St. Paul, he being a partner in the Company with
Henry H. Sibley (afterwards Brigadier-General), his
home appears to have been Prairie du Chien. There
he had a contract to supply the troops at Fort Snelling

8 Supra, p. 68.


Our Debt to the Red Man

with beef, the Astors going on his bond, and there in
his later years he exercised a fine hospitality, enter-
taining many celebrities, among them the Bishop of
Nancy and various French noblemen, and also Jeffer-
son Davis and Gen. Zachary Taylor, with both of
whom he was intimate. In these later years he de-
lighted in reading Horace, as he had done In his boy-
hood. In 1837 he gave one thousand piastres toward
building the first church in Prairie du Chien. Under
it he was buried.

His son, ' 'young Joe Rolette, ' ' joined the Pembina
band of Chippewas (Ojibways), nearly all of them
metis, of whom Judge Flandreau, in his ''History of
Minnesota and Tales of the Frontier" (1900, pp.
70-79), gives a picturesque description. For years
they had traded with the American Fur Company,
which in 1844 had established a trading post at Pem-
bina, Mich., two miles south of our northern frontier.
The Pembinas brought in furs and took back their
trading supplies by the famous Pembina or Red River
carts, which as we have seen " were a peculiar two-
wheeled construction, entirely of wood and raw hide,
with ' ' barefoot ' ' wheels five and a half feet in diame-
ter, with a tread of three and a half or four inches.
They were drawn by one ox, and long trains of these
carts would come in, loaded each with from 600 to
800 pounds of furs and peltries, four carts to one
driver, making fifteen miles a day through swamps
and sloughs impassable to other vehicles. Their trail

» Supra, p. 104. i "



French-Chippewa, Pembina Band
See p. 162
Courtesy of tl^e Minnesota Club, St. Paul, Minn

The Metis as a Trader

in the prairie was deeply cut and lasted for years.
The driver always wore the Pembina sash, "a beauti-
ful girdle, giving them a most picturesque appear-
ance." Two full length portraits of Joe Rolette are
preserved, one in the Gallery of the Minnesota His-
torical Society, and the other in the Minnesota Club,
St. Paul, both the gifts of a very dear friend of the
original, says Judge Flandreau.

Not a few Huguenot names appear among these
Pembina Chippewas, — Demarais, Le Noir, Denomie
and others, especially Bottineau, as we shall later see.
They probably date from the expulsion of the Hugue-
nots from Quebec by Richelieu. Mr. R. R. Elliot, in
"The Last of the Barons" (Mich. Pion. and Hist. Soc.
21:509), says of men like the Rolettes, Renvilles,
Beaubiens, La Framboises and other French mixed-
bloods, "if baronial rights and dignities were admissi-
ble under Federal law, these were entitled to such
special privileges .... they compose a chaplet recall-
ing ancestral virtues most worthily perpetuated."

In 1892 two Rolettes, by name Joseph and
Jerome, signed as members of the Turtle Mountain
band of (Pembina) Chippewas in North Dakota.

There were many French names among the
mixed-bloods of whom in 1885 the future Senator

1 2 3 4 5 6 8 10 11 12 13 14

Online LibraryLouise Seymour HoughtonOur debt to the red man; the French-Indians in the development of the United States → online text (page 8 of 14)