Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

COUC, ELISABETH? (La Chenette, Techenet; Montour), daughter of Pierre Couc, dit Lafleur, and Marie Mite8ameg8k8e. The given name of this woman is not definitely known. If she was Elisabeth, as evidence suggests, she was born at Trois-Rivières in 1667. It has been claimed that she was married once in the church, but no record has been found and her husband’s name is not known. Her several later marriages were probably according to Indian custom and cannot be dated exactly. She died about 1750 probably near Harris’s Ferry (Harrisburg, Pa.).

Information on Elisabeth Couc’s early life is vague and contradictory. She was captured by an Iroquois war party about 1695, just where is uncertain. According to one account she was only a child of ten and was seized by anti-French raiders; according to another she was already married and living among the English, and her captors were pro-French Iroquois. Ransomed by her brother-in-law Maurice Ménard, she accompanied him to Michilimackinac where he was an interpreter. While there, she apparently ran afoul of Cadillac [Laumet*], the commandant, who later reported that he had “sent her under guard to the Chevalier de [Callière*] who sent her down to Quebec to send her to France,” but that she had been rescued by Outoutagan* who brought her back to Michilimackinac and married her.

Although it is not necessary to believe Cadillac’s assertion that she had been “kept by more than a hundred men,” her attitude to marriage was apparently somewhat casual. By 1704 she was living at Detroit and was known as Mme La Chenette or Mme Techenet. When in late 1706 Étienne de Véniard* de Bourgmond, a former acting commandant of Detroit, deserted the post to live in the woods, she went with him, and it was said that she had “for a long time led a scandalous life with the said Sieur de Bourgmont.”

Her brother Louis Couc Montour left Detroit at about the same time and went to New York, where the governor engaged him to conduct the western Indians to Albany for trade, and she joined him in the English colony. After his death in 1709, Mme Montour (as she now called herself) was employed as an interpreter by the governor and became the wife of an Oneida chief, Carundawana (Robert Hunter), who was killed in 1729 when with an Indian war party in South Carolina.

In 1727 she and her husband attended an Indian conference in Philadelphia; and so far as is known she spent the remainder of her life in Pennsylvania, where she performed a few official services and was the centre of some attention. She was regarded as a Frenchwoman and was reported to have lived among the Miamis and as “having a Sister married to one of that Nation.” Count von Zinzendorf, who met her in 1742, described her as an Indianized Frenchwoman from Quebec. The story of her early life as reported by Witham Marshe, who met her at Lancaster in 1744, is a mixture of fact and fiction: he understood that her father was a governor of Canada.

Mme Montour lived near the present site of Williamsport, Pa., about 1737–42 and at that of Sunbury about 1745. In the following year her son Andrew moved to the Ohio, travelling from Logstown (Ambridge, Pa.) to Venango (Franklin, Pa.) “in the Month of March, when his Mother who was blind rode on Horseback and he led the Horse on Foot all the Way.” She was reported living with him near Harris’s Ferry in October 1748, but seems to have died no great while afterward.

Andrew, also known as Henry, was employed in Indian affairs by Pennsylvania and Virginia; another son, Louis, is mentioned; her “daughters” included French Margaret, actually a niece, and even the latter’s daughter Catherine, both of whom for a time made their home with her. A younger brother, Jean, traded at Albany in 1725 and is mentioned in Pennsylvania in 1728–34.

William A. Hunter

Moravian Church Archives (Bethlehem, Pa.), Indian missions, box 121, Shamokin. New York State Archives (Albany), Colonial manuscripts, 57, f.169a; 62, ff.1, 3. PAC, RG 10, A3, 1819, ff.55, 137a–38, 296–96a. “Cadillac papers,” Michigan Pioneer Coll., XXXIII (1903), 237–38, 432–41; XXXIV (1904), 234–36. [Cadwallader Colden], The letters and papers of Cadwallader Colden . . . (9v., N.Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., L–LVI (1917–23), LXVII–LXVIII (1934–35), New York, 1918–37), IX, 370–74; “Letters on Smith’s history of New York,” N.Y. Hist. Soc. Coll., I (1868), 200. Information respecting the history, condition and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States . . . , ed. H. R. Schoolcraft (6v., Philadelphia, Pa., 1851–57), IV, 326–27. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), V, 64–65, 268, 273; IX, 830, 900, 902. Pennsylvania, Colonial records, III-IV. Pennsylvania archives, 1st ser., I; 2nd ser., VII, 146. “Witham Marshe’s journal of the treaty held with the Six Nations . . . June 1744,” Mass. Hist. Soc. Coll., 1st ser., VII (1800), 189–91. Peter Wraxall, An abridgement of the Indian affairs contained in four folio volumes, transacted in the colony of New York, from the year 1678 to the year 1751, ed. C. H. McIlwain (Harvard historical studies, XXI, Cambridge, Mass., 1915), 50, 64–68. Benjamin Sulte, “The Montour family,” Notes and queries, historical, biographical and genealogical, relating chiefly to interior Pennsylvania (4th ser., 2v., Harrisburg, 1893–95), II, 19–21. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, I, 142, 440; III, 160.

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D294 Elisabeth Couc dit Montour