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The Migration of Voyageurs from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene in 1828

The story of the transfer of the British garrison from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene in 1828 and the migration of voyageurs connected with the post has never been told in print. In the following notes Mr. Osborne has endeavored to gather this story from the lips of the few survivors who migrated at that time. Descendants of French-Canadians largely predominated in this movement, but we also get glimpses of what a strange and heterogeneous people once gathered around Mackinaw and Drummond Island, especially about the time of the coalition of the two fur companies in 1821. The migrant voyageurs settled principally near Penetanguishene, in the township of Tiny, Simcoe County. Offshoots of the band settled at Old Fort Ste. Marie, at Fesserton and Coldwater, and another south of Lake Simcoe, near Pefferlaw, York County. These notes will form a useful supplement to Joseph Taase’s “Les Canadiens de l’Ouest.”

List of the Drummond Island Voyageurs

In 1828 the transfer of the British garrison from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene commenced. A list of voyageurs who resided on Drummond Island at the time of the transfer. In many cases a brief biographical sketch is contained which may provide clues to their ethnicity, family relationships, and the location where they or their ancestors settled.

Narrative of Michael Labatte

Michael Labatte, a typical French-Canadian voyageur, lives on an island in Victoria Harbor (Hogg Bay). His family history and descent is an interesting one. He claims over one quarter Indian blood, but the aboriginal element in his nature is most unmistakably marked. His father went up to the North-West in the closing years of the last century, and probably accompanied the British army in their first move to “Sault Ste. Marie” and St. Joseph Island, on the first transfer of Mackinaw to the Americans in 1796. He also formed one of the contingent of one hundred and sixty French-Canadian voyageurs accompanying Mr. Pothier, under Captain Roberts, at the capture of Mackinaw by the British in July, 1812, and three years later he moved to Drummond Island with the British forces on the second transfer of Mackinaw to the Americans, and finally to Penetanguishene. For a man of his years (over 85) Michael is vigorous and alert, and his memory is apparently intact. Narrative of Michael Labatte I was born at Sault Ste. Marie (on the American side) in 1814, the last year of the war, my mother being there on a visit to friends at the time, though our home was on Drummond Island. My father was Louis George Labatte, a blacksmith by trade, who was born in Lower Canada. He was a soldier in the British Army, and was at the capture of Mackinaw in 1812. He went up from Montreal with the North-West Company, and moved from Mackinaw with the British soldiers to Drummond Island. My mother’s name was Louisa Cadotte, a Chippewa, from whom I learned...

Narrative of Lewis Solomon

Lewis Solomon was the youngest son of William Solomon,1 who was born in the closing years of the last century, of Jewish and Indian extraction. This William Solomon lived for a time in Montreal, but entered the service of the North-West Company and drifted to the “Sault’, and Mackinaw. Having become expert in the use of the Indian tongue, he was engaged by the British Government as Indian interpreter at the latter post during the War of 1812. During his sojourn at Mackinaw he married a half-breed woman named Miss Johnston,2 the union resulting in a family of ten children, of whom, at the first writing of these notes, Lewis was the sole survivor, but joined the majority March 9th, 1900. Lewis very humorously claimed that in his person no less than five nationalities are represented, though he fails to tell us how. As the Indian nature appeared to predominate, and since his father was partly German, his mother must have been of very mixed nationality. When the British forces were transferred to Drummond Island, Interpreter Solomon and his family accompanied them thither; and later, when it was decided that Drummond Island was in U.S. territory, he followed the British forces to Penetanguishene in 1828, where he subsequently died, and where he and his wife and the majority of his family lie buried. It was the fond hope of the family that Louie would succeed his father in the Government service as Indian interpreter. In pursuance of this plan, his father sent him to a French school at L’Assomption;3 to the Indian schools at Cobourg and Cornwall; also, for...

Oregon in Control of Hudson’s Bay Company

As the ten-year period of joint occupation drew to a close, new commissioners were appointed by the two governments to effect a settlement of title to the disputed territory, but after much discussion they were unable to agree upon a boundary line, and, in 1827, a new treaty was signed extending the period of joint occupation indefinitely, to be terminated by either party upon giving one year’s notice. Thus, again, the settlement of the question was left to time and chance. In the meantime the British government, through the agency of the Hudson’s Bay Company, had gained a tangible foot hold in Oregon by actual occupation, and so strong and powerful was this company that it crushed all effort at competition. A few American fur traders did make the attempt to contest the field with the great English corporation, but through lack of unity of purpose and combination of capital they were driven to the wall. The first of these American traders was J. S. Smith, agent of the Rocky Mountain Fur Company, who, with several associates, came in 1825. He and his party were attacked by the Indians, a number were killed and the venture proved, in every way, unsuccessful. Smith was followed by a second party of American trappers led by Major Pitcher. They came in 1828, but shared the same fate as their predecessors, all but three of them being murdered by the Indians. The next band of American trappers was led by Edwin Young, who, a few years later, became one of the first and most energetic settlers in Oregon. In 1831 the old American...

Growth, Power and Purposes of British Fur Companies

The American government made no effort to retake the captured fort until the close of the war of 1812, when, under the treaty of Ghent, which stipulated that “all territory, places and possessions, whatsoever, taken by either party from the other during the war, or which may be taken after the signing of the treaty, shall be re-stored without delay.” Mr. Astor applied to the government for the restitution of his property, since he wished to resume operations on the Columbia River and carry out the plan of American occupation which had been so well begun. In July, 1815, notice was given the British government that steps would be taken to reoccupy the captured fort, but no official response was received. For two years no active measures were taken, but in 1817 the United States government dispatched the war sloop Ontario to the Pacific, to receive the surrender of the fort in accordance with the terms of the treaty of Ghent. This brought matters to a crisis, and a spirited discussion of the subject of title to the country followed, involving the question of abstract rights by discovery and absolute right by possession, both parties claiming tinder both titles. The claim of the United States was fourfold: First, as a portion of Louisiana, purchased from France in 1803; second, by right of discovery by the Spanish explorers Ferrelo in 1543, and later by Perez; Aguilar, Heceta, Bodega, Quadra, and others, the benefit of whose discoveries accrued to the United States by the Florida purchase made in 1819, though the title was not asserted in the first negotiations, as the...

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