Késsinnimek - Roots - Racines

All Sources Are Not Created Equal
Part 7
by
     Suzanne Boivin Sommerville



Author's note: these articles are still in progress. For full citations of my sources, see the previous part(s). Copyright is mine. These articles may not be copied except for personal use, with full citation of author and source. Since I am, at this stage, my only proof-reader, any comments or corrections will be graciously accepted.

All Sources Are Not Created Equal
Part 7
The Proper Use of Sources

Suzanne Boivin Sommerville

In writing history and family history, it is imperative to evaluate one's sources. Not all are equal, for a variety of reasons. I have to believe that web sites and published writers did the best they could with the information they researched or accepted from others and that they were honest in reporting their finds. I have been honest in reporting my primary documents, and I have necessarily sometimes accepted without question some of my secondary sources, on occasion to my chagrin. I've learned that some sources are nevertheless simply inaccurate, often because they relied on earlier works that were based on guesses or deductions. Other writers put too much faith in the French documents that have been translated and published, which, as of now, are partial and faulty. Partial evidence can lead to invalid conclusions. It is indisputable that writers in the past, and even more recently, did not have access to primary source documents that are now available, even if they have not been published. Locating and consulting primary documents is much easier now with microfilms and photocopies available by mail, not to mention the improved indexing and computer search capabilities that did not exist until relatively recently; but, for much of Isabelle's story, the researcher must, of course, be able to read French.

The exclusive use of secondary sources can create other problems because some writers do not say where they obtained their information, often merging various sources without any indication they are doing so. Or they may show preconceptions or prejudice, thus slanting their interpretation. Personal, religious, or political biases or misunderstandings are obvious in both the older and the more recent histories.

I am not immune from any of this. Nor am I immune from the occasional typographical error or even from speculation when documentation is lacking or unclear, although I do try to emphasize that some of my conclusions are speculative. When I point out the errors and misunderstandings of writers in the past and present, I do so only to set the record straight as I see it, and to present a model for judging and using sources. I fully expect someone will find issues to debate in my presentation.

A final problem with evaluating one's sources stems from having to decide whether to believe all of the information or testimony found in primary documents. Disinformation was not invented in the modern period.

In my study of the Couc / Montour family, I have not been satisfied to accept the information provided by indexes or secondary source histories, especially those written in the nineteenth century, and I have even questioned information and testimony found in primary documents. In this article I will demonstrate why I challenge previous histories of the Couc / Montour family. I will do this by acting as a detective or trial lawyer might do in sorting through the assertions and the evidence.

Madame Montour According to the Older Secondary Sources

On several Web references, Madame Montour is identified as the wife or daughter of Montour, who is sometimes given the first name Roland.1 United States historian Daniel Richter cites Montour's first name as Alexander.2 I have seen no primary evidence of either. A frequently cited secondary source, William M. Darlington, writing in 1880, gave his version of Montour's background:

About [sic] the year 1667 a French Gentleman named Montour settled in Canada. By a Huron Indian woman he had three children-one son and two daughters. The son, Montour, lived with the Indians, and was wounded in the French Service, in a fight with some Mohawks, near Fort La Motte.3 He deserted from the French, and lived with "the farr Indians" the Twightwees (Miamis) and Diondadies (Pétuns or Wyandots). By his assistance Lord Cornbury prevailed on some of these tribes to visit and trade with the people of Albany in 1708. [Parenthetic information as it appears in the original.]4

Of these comments, only the last, the reference to Lord Cornbury, is accurate. The "Huron Indian woman" designation is definitely a guess made years after the fact. In his letter from New York on 20 August 1708, Cornbury's exact words are, as cited by Charles A. Hanna (1911):5

I did in a letter of the 25th day of June last [O.S.], inform your Lordships that three French soldiers, who had deserted from the French at a place called by them Los Destroit, were come to Albany.

"Los Destroit" is obviously Detroit, then called Fort Pontchartrain / Le Détroit du Lac Érie by the French. Another published version of this document uses the form "Le Destroit", not Hanna's "Los Destroit".

In addition to these soldiers, Cornbury mentions another "deserter", whom he questioned, and

Besides this deserter, there is come to Albany one Montour, who is the son of a French gentleman, who came above [i.e., more than] forty years ago to settle in Canada; he had to do with an Indian woman, by whom he had a son and two daughters. The man I mention is the son. He had lived all along like an Indian. Sometime ago, he left the French, and had lived among the Far Indians; and it is chiefly by his means that I have prevailed with those Far Nations [the Miamis and Wyandots6 ] to come to Albany.7

In using the Cornbury letter, Darlington evidently chose to interpret the phrase "above forty years ago" as precisely the forty-first year, 1667, and he did not hesitate to supply a Nation for the "Indian woman", although this is not found in the Cornbury letter (or in any other primary source I have seen). Peter Wraxall, writing in the 1750s, much closer in time than Darlington, wrote: "Tho the Records do not say who this Montour was, yet from various circumstances I gather, that he was an Indian who had formerly been in the Service of the French & was by them deemed one of their Indians, (of what particular Nation I cant find but I believe either a Senneca or Mohawk Indian who had been made a convert by the Jesuits) but had now come over to this Govt & was employed to Negotiate our Interest with the Western or farr Indians."8

Darlington's source for the wound received by a Montour "in the French Service" is an English version of the original French Rélation of events that happened in 1694 and 1695, translated and published in New York Colonial History, Paris Documents. The incident is noted by the French historian La Potherie as well; but, although La Potherie was alive at the time of the event, he was not then in New France.

Whether the "Montour" La Potherie and the Rélation mention is the same as Louis Couc dit Montour cannot be established definitively. (Some writers still believe the Montour who was wounded is the father of the 1708 Montour). There nevertheless appears to be only one individual in the colony using the name Montour at that time.9 This is the episode as reported by La Potherie in his history, my translation:

Two Mohawks having met three Frenchmen near Fort La Mothe, which is in Lac Champlain, they asked one to the other, "Who is there?" [qui vive?] We are Mohawks [Anies], said the former; and we are French [said the latter]. Good, replied the Mohawks, placing their weapons at their cheeks [couchant en joue; taking aim at], you are the ones we are looking for. At the same time, Monsieur [the individual to whom La Potherie's "letter" is addressed], Montour was hit by a gunshot [coup de fusil], which did not prevent him from firing his gun [fusil] at the one who had wounded him, which threw him to the ground as if dead; the other two Frenchmen did the same to the other [Mohawk]; but they were very surprised when they heard them [the Mohawks] cry out a moment later. The Frenchmen quickly ran away [gagnèrent bien vite du pied] in the fear that there were many other Indians [Sauvages] in the neighboring woods.10
I translated the preceding text from the French version recently published in France of Le Roy Bacqueville de la Potherie's Histoire de l'Amérique Septentrionale. My photocopy from the microfilm of the original Rélation of events that happened in 1694 and 169511 gives the date as 13 June 1695 and includes these further details not found in the published version of La Potherie: (1) that Montour was wounded in the stomach or belly: au ventre; (2) that this did not prevent him from taking revenge; and (3) that the Frenchmen, fearing there were other sauvages in the area, did not want to divert themselves by scalping the Mohawks they had wounded. I translated "s'amuser" as "to divert themselves" (even though it is sometimes translated as "to amuse themselves") because it certainly has a different connotation here, that of wasting valuable time in which they could escape. At least one of these wounded was captured a few days later.12 The incident took place during the attempt to re-establish Fort Frontenac in 1695.13

Since La Potherie did not arrive in New France until 28 November 1698 and left in 1701, he must have used this 1695 Rélation, and other official documents, as a source for his Histoire de l'Amérique Septentrionale, which he first submitted in 1702 after his return to France; but he or someone else must have chosen not to include some items of description in the original Rélation.14 It is possible his manuscript itself was censored, as it was submitted in 1702 but its publication was refused until 1722. This is another example of taking into account a writer's credibility and sources - and, possibly, the editor involved. La Potherie did not footnote any of his sources, although he does identify the times he was an eyewitness, for example, at the Great Peace of 1701 at Montréal.

I am amazed at the various published versions available of this incident, none of which specifically identifies this Montour in any other way in the text itself, although La Potherie seems to assume his reader, the person to whom this "letter" is addressed, will know who Montour is because he gives no further identification. You can read an English translation of the Rélation at Early Canadiana on the Web.15 La Potherie's history is also available there in French.

But to return to the identity of this Montour. Can he be Louis Couc? In October of 1695, Callière reports news received from Cadillac at Michilimackinac informing him that since springtime the allied Nations had sent about 900 men against the Iroquois and that the Hurons were intriguing with the Iroquois through wampum offered to Le Baron, a Huron-Petun.16 Did Louis Montour join these Natives in traveling with the intention to fight against the Iroquois? He can be documented as planning to go to Michilimackina in 1692 in an endeavor estimated to take three years, thus to 1695,17 and he returned there by at least 1697.18 It seems possible he is the Montour of the above incident.

Darlington expresses no such restraint. On the basis of one mention of a Montour wounded in the French Colony and Lord Cornbury's 1708 reference to a Montour appearing in Albany, Darlington assumes Madame Montour was one of the two daughters of Cornbury's "Frenchman Montour" senior, placing her birth "in Canada about the year 1684". Why "Montour" mentioned only two sisters to Cornbury will never be known; perhaps he referred only to the two sisters known to have been at Detroit, Isabelle and Marguerite.19 It is even possible he said no such thing but that both of these sisters were with him in New York in 1708 and Cornbury knew they were.20

Darlington then proceeds to base his next suppositions on the version of Madame Montour's life reported by Witham Marshe in 1744. Marshe understood she was the daughter of a "French gentleman" who had been "governor" in Canada and that she had been "captured by some warriors of the Five Nations when she was but ten years old, taken to their country and brought up by them." Since Marshe wrote she claimed she had been taken about fifty years ago, Darlington calculated her birth year as sixty years before she spoke to Marshe, 1684, actually Isabelle's marriage year.

Therefore, three isolated references, in the years 1695, 1708, and 1744, serve as the basis for his conclusions. Darlington obviously did not know that Montour's sister fled Fort Pontchartrain for the English colonies or Cadillac's story about a sister to Montour, La femme de Tichenet, formerly La femme de Germaneau, "marrying" a Loup (Mahican) Indian and allegedly living with him for twelve years sometime after 1684. I wonder what he would have concluded had he known this tale.

Later in the same article, Darlington modifies his earlier statement:

Madame Montour evidently was older than she told Marshe, at Lancaster in 1744, as she was at Albany in 1711 as Mrs. Montour-her old age referred to in 1734 as her protection -and blind before 1754 [sic]. "It is probable that she was captured prior to 1696, after which year the raids of the Iroquois into Canada ceased for some time. That she was very young when captured, is clear. She could not have been less than sixty years old at the time of the treaty of Lancaster in 1744, and probably was older, and if but ten years of age when taken, as she said, the year of her captivity was 1694, and of her birth 1684." [Quotation marks as in original]21
Note the use of "probably" and "if", qualifications usually ignored by those who cite Darlington or, without citing anyone, proclaim these deductions as fact. It does not even enter his mind that Madame Montour herself may have "invented" her answers to Marshe, the inquisitive delegate from Maryland.

I've already quoted Logan's description of Madame Montour as "ancient" in 1733.22 The allusions to "her old age referred to in 1734 as her protection-and blind before 1754 [sic]" also come from the United States colonial records and can probably be trusted. The account of being blind and led on horseback took place in 1746 and is reported by her son Andrew. William Hunter in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography writes: "In the following year [1746] 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.'"23

Nevertheless, even though adding and subtracting are necessary skills in making conclusions about who an individual might be, first one must evaluate one's sources. Not everything that appears in print is automatically accurate. Darlington, and many others, nevertheless accept without question Madame Montour's story reported by Marshe, just as many accept without question Lamothe Cadillac's version of La Tichenette's past. Misunderstandings, fabricated life stories, lies, slander, and simple typographical errors do exist even to this day. Just pick up a copy of the National Inquirer or even the New York Times.

Madame Montour according to Marshe

Witham Marshe went to interview "Mrs. Montour" on 28 June 1744 (O.S.), at Lancaster, Pennsylvania, while both he and she were attending the Treaty of 1744. Marshe, the secretary to the commissioners of Maryland at the 1744 treaty, visited her cabin specifically because he had heard about "the celebrated Mrs. Montour, a French lady (but now, by having lived so long among the Six Nations . . . become almost an Indian." She was a "celebrity" to him, an exotic. In addition to her tale about her parentage and early life, he reports what he himself had previously heard about her [as recorded in the version cited by Hanna, emphasis mine]:

She has [(sic) another version reads "had"] been a handsome woman, genteel, and of polite address, notwithstanding her residence has been so long amongst the Indians; though formerly she was wont to accompany the several chiefs who used to renew treaties of friendship with the Proprietor and Governor of Pennsylvania, at Philadelphia, the metropolis of that Province; and being a white woman was there very much caressed by the gentlewomen of that city, with whom she used to stay for some time.24

That a French white woman could survive and thrive among the Indians and yet preserve her language (they spoke to each other in French), learn English, and be accepted by gentlewomen in society in Philadelphia is definitely a source of wonderment for Marshe. Had he not been titillated by her fame, would he even have bothered to visit? What if he had known she was the daughter of a Frenchman and an Algonquinne, thus, in the eyes of his contemporaries, a "half-breed"? What if he had known that later historians would call her "a slut"?

Hanna's version of Marshe's account mentions her children, whom Marshe identifies as "two of her daughters, by the war-captain, who were both married" and present with her in 1744, and only one son, who was "gone to war against the Catawbas"; but he does not reproduce Marshe's description of Madame Montour's grandson:

One of these young women had a son, about five years old, who, I think was one of the finest featured and limbed children mine eyes ever saw, and was not so tawny or greased as the other Indian children were, but on the contrary, his cheeks were ruddy, mixed with a delicate white, had eyes and hair of an hazel colour, and was neatly dressed in a green ban-jan, and his other garments were suitable.25

Why Hanna chose not to include this description will never be known. He does include the detail that Madame Montour had not remarried after the death of her husband "about fifteen years ago". Count Zinzendorf in 1742 wrote about her son Andrew: "Andrew's cast of countenance is decidedly European, and had his face not been encircled with a broad band of paint, applied with bear's fat, I would certainly have taken him for one."26 Hanna does cite Zinzendorf.

Cadwaller Colden, in 1759, just six years after Madame Montour was reported to be deceased, wrote that Governor Hunter of New York had

allwise a French woman standing by him, who had married one of our Indians, to inform him whether the interpreters had done their part truly between him and the Indians, notwithstanding that Col. Schuyler was present at the same time. This woman, commonly called Madame Montour, had a good education in Canada before she went among the Indians, and was very useful to Mr. Hunter on many occasions, for which reason she had a Pension, and was sometimes admitted to his table in her Indian dress.27

Colden arrived in New York by 1719, when he was named first surveyer general. His use of the word "commonly" suggests she may not be using her husband's name.

In none of these references is Madame Montour herself said to be of mixed parentage, nor is she so-identified in the references to her at Fort Pontchartrain. In speaking to Marshe, "Mrs. Montour" apparently said only that her father was "a French gentleman" and "governor" in Canada. Was Isabelle shrewd enough to know that being of so-called "mixed blood", the daughter of an Algonquinne, would be a political disadvantage to her? Cornbury, also, reports Montour was "the son of a French gentleman", although he clearly says Montour's mother was an Indian. Louis seems not to have obscured his ancestry.

The imprecision about their parents has led many English language sources to accept without question even more speculations put forward about Louis Montour and Madame Montour. Thus, some claim Isabelle / Madame Montour is the illegitimate daughter of a governor of New France, an extrapolation on the story Witham Marshe reported he heard from her lips.28 This "governor" is most often guessed to be Frontenac,29 based on an allegation that "he is charged with 'debasing the morals of the Colony by propagating more than sixty half-breeds.'"30 Actually, Marshe does not mention Frontenac, or any other name, only that he understood Madame Montour to say her father was a "gentleman" and a "governor" in Canada. How good was Marshe's French? The governor of France was called Onontio (Great Mountain) by the Indians, and he was also addressed as "mon père", my Father, by all the Nations who interacted with the French.

Isabelle could not possibly have been taken by the Indians as a child, also Marshe's understanding. She was confirmed in 1678, age eleven; served as godmother in 1682, age fifteen; witnessed Angélique's marriage contract the same year; and married 1684, age seventeen, all events documented earlier in my articles. As in the case of Cadillac's tale about her living twelve years with a Loup Indian, the math just does not compute. It is possible she (and her brother) may have lived for a time among the Miamis prior to (or after) the Detroit years, considering her apparent friendship with Pierre Roy's wife, Marguerite OuabanKiKoué, since she served twice as godmother for Roy infants.31

Madame Montour's Connection with the Miamis

She had another link with the Miami Indians. In the United States colonial documents, "Mistress Montour" is said to have a sister "married to a Miami", according to James Letort's report at a council in Philadelphia 18 April 1728 (O.S.). Letort, an Indian Trader,32 said he had been given information "by Mistress Montour, who had married the Indian called Robert Hunter [Carondowana took this name out of respect for the governor], & was here [Philadelphia] with her said husband last summer". She told him:

the people of the five Nations had sent to the Miamis and Twechtweys, called also the naked Indians, settled at the Western end of the Lake Erie, within the french claims, desireing [sic] them to engage & take up the Hatchet of War against the English & Christians."33

He had heard this news "last Fall", 1727, when he had planned to journey to trade with the Miamis, and thus he had

consulted Mrs. Montour, a French woman, Wife to Carondowana, about his journey thither, who having lived amongst & having a sister married to one of that Nation he believed might be a proper person to advise him.34

The alleged "sister" among the Miamis could well be Marguerite Couc, Isabelle's true sister, although she was not, as far as is known, married to a Miami.35 She is documented at the Saint Joseph Miami Mission (now Niles, Michigan) between 1720 and 1723. After John Henry Lydius, originally from Albany, married her daughter Geneviève Massé in Montréal in 1727, the year Letort consulted Madame Montour, she may have returned there, or to the Ouiatanon (Miami) post,36 or to St. Philippe on the Maumee,37 nearer Lake Erie (modern-day Fort Wayne, Indiana), where Pierre Roy and his family then lived. Marguerite may even have voyaged to New York because the Miamis are documented as trading with the English. These eighteenth century people traveled far more than I ever imagined before I began my examination of the original documents. Or this "sister married to a Miami" could have been Carondowana's "sister" or even Louis Couc Montour's wife, perhaps now remarried. The terms "sister" and "brother", "son" and "daughter" were used fairly loosely among the Indians, and even among the French, to designate "in-laws". Or it is possible Letort may simply have misunderstood. He would not be the first or last to do so.

At the very least, Isabelle did have ties with the Miamis through her acquaintance with the Pierre Roy family and, as will be seen, the Roy family is documented at the St. Philippe Miami post by 1720,38 at the latest. The couple was still definitely at St. Philippe Miamis eight years later when their daughter Magdeleine married Pierre Chesne (dit Labutte) on 25 May 1728.39

Continuing his report, Letort says:

she seemed very much to approve of the same [his voyage to the Miamis], upon which he proposed that she & her husband should goe [sic] along with him, which she readily agreed to, & that she appeared very cheerfull & desirous to undertake the Journey.40

Letort was not able to set out that fall of 1727 but did seek the approval of Manawkyhickon, "an Indian Chief of Note." Manawkyhickon, though, had "discouraged him, telling him he might happen in his way to see some white heads, who come to hunt not for Skins but for flesh and scalps". Later when he spoke again with

Mistress Montour about their intended Journey, she told him she could not goe with him, for that she had heard some news that he was a stranger to, with which she would acquaint him, but he must by no means lett [sic] it be known that she was his author.41

The news involved, in part, the warning quoted above, and a Delaware Indian woman, "whose son had been killed some time agoe [sic] by a Shawanese." She had sent Manawkyhickon

a Long Belt of black Wampum of twelve Rows, Desiring that by means thereof her tears might be wiped away, that Manawkyhickon had sent his black Belt to the five Nations, and that the five Nations sent the same to the Miamies, with a message desiring to know if they would lift up their Axes, and joyn [sic] with them against the Christians, to which they agreed.42

Letort then "acquainted Mrs. Montour of his Design of communicating what she told him to our Governour, they [sic] answered he might do so, for it was with that intention she had acquainted him with it.43

Letort again questioned Manawkyhickon about whether he was aware of any further news, but when "he would tell him nothing", Letort informed him about what he himself had heard, "at which the Indian appeared surprized, admiring who could inform him of these things, but that at length He (Manawkyhickon) own [sic] to him that both these were true."44

It seems, as Letort continued in his report to the board, Manawkyhickon was "a near relation of Wequeala, who was hang'd last year in Jersey, that he much resented his Death, & went immediately after to the five Nations" to seek revenge. This threat of violence was not, however, the only potential conflict.

After consulting with Madame Montour, Letort himself had met with the Iroquois,

who told him, on his enquiring of them for news, That the French Governour, at his return to Montreal last year from New York, where he went about the new fort built by the English near the Lakes [at Oswego, New York], sent for the chiefs of all the Nations about Canada in Alliance with the French, & told them he wanted them to pull down a certain house that had been lately built, but the Chiefs answered, that could not be his business with them to pull down a house, if he wanted them to goe to War he should tell them so. The Governour answered that he could not say that, but would send them to the Chief Governour at Quebeck [sic], who would give them an answer, that the Governour of Quebeck received them very kindly, & sent them back with a Letter to the Governour of Montreal, who told them on receipt of the Letter, that they, vizt: the Governours would write to their Master the King of France, & desired the Indians in the mean time to goe home & be in readiness till the King's orders came.45

In 1728, the "governour" at Montréal was Claude-Michel Bégon, who was sent to New York in the summer of 1727 to expel the English from their new Fort Oswego (Chouaguen). He is the brother of Michel Bégon, who, in 1720, had authorized La St. Serny (Angélique Couc) to keep her écarlatines (red English strouds or duffel cloth), a gift from her sister, "La Germano", in English territory. I will discuss this visit in Part 8. The "house that had been lately built" at Oswego was the English response to the stone fort erected by 1720 at Niagara (across the Niagara River from present-day Niagara-on-the Lake, Ontario) by Joncaire, the French agent responsible for carrying out the killing of Louis Montour. Vincens reports that a year after Fort Oswego opened, 1,200 packets of beaver were received there because "the Western Nations were enchanted that they no longer had to travel as far as Albany to trade; the Miamis bluntly invited the English to go to them; their emissaries were none other than 'Jean Fafard alias Maconce and Joseph Montour, son of the assasinated Montour.'"46 The governor at Québec was Beauharnois, who at that time was still supporting John Henry Lydius, husband of Geneviève Massé and nephew-in-law of Isabelle, another fact to be examined in Part 8. The "Nations about Canada in Alliance with the French" waiting "in readiness till the French King's orders came" would include the Miamis.

Although the council board "were of the opinion, that there is no great Dependance [sic] to be had on this information of Montour's," further inquiries were to be made, and the governor of Pennsylvania ordered that "three Matchcoats be given to James Letort & John Scull, to be by them delivered to Allummapees, Mrs. Montour & Manawkyhickon."47 The further inquiries and subsequent outbreaks of violence on the frontier confirmed the truth of Mistress Montour's warning.48 It seems she was definitely knowledgeable about the political maneuvers of both the French and English colonies.

The fact that Madame Montour's daughter, Marie-Anne Montour, and Isabelle Couc's goddaughter, Marguerite Roy, can be documented in the mother colony, specifically in Québec City in 1728, is also of interest, appearances to be considered later in this work. Marguerite had left Fort Saint-Philippe in May of 1728. Also about this time, nephews of Louis and Isabelle Couc begin to use the dit name of Montour.

I have quoted at length from the 1728 council at Philadelphia to have it serve as a counterpoint to the "tale" told in 1744 by "the celebrated Madame Montour", as recorded by Marshe. The eighteenth century was no more immune to rumor, speculation, sensationalism, innuendo, and out-right lies than is the twenty-first. Nor are historians, now and in the past, untarnished by misinterpreting their sources or slanting their versions of history. In my study of the Couc / Montour family, I have not been satisfied to accept the information provided by indexes and other secondary publications because I learned not to trust them when I myself examined the sources and the ways in which they were interpreted. Marshe, Darlington, Hanna, and some of the translations of French colonial documents just do not hold up to a careful analysis once other documents are consulted.

In 1744, Isabelle was seventy-seven years-of-age, her Iroquois husband deceased since 1729, just two years after she began to interpret for the government of Pennsylvania in 1727. The move to Pennsylvania took place not many years after the French fort was erected at Niagara in 1720, followed by English Fort Oswego, and, in 1725, the death of Governor Vaudreuil. Her brother, Louis Couc dit Montour, had been assassinated thirty-five years earlier by Louis-Thomas Chabert, sieur de Joncaire, on the orders of the governor of New France, Philippe Rigaud de Vaudreuil. In 1721, William Burnet, then governor of New York replacing Hunter, in a letter to Vaudreuil, protested this "infamous murder" that had occurred twelve years earlier, saying Joncaire deserved to be hanged.49 Vaudreuil, in 1706, knew that La Tichenette had served as truchement (go-between or interpreter) for Cadillac and that she was related to Montour, as documented above. In 1709, after Montour's death, Vaudreuil gave as one of the reasons for approving the assassination of Montour that he was the issue of a marriage between a Frenchman and a female Indian, a sauvagesse; and, according to him, offspring of such marriages cause the most trouble for the French. He used this as a reason for not allowing marriages between the new colonists of Fort Pontchartrain in 1706 and Native women, a decision Pontchartrain questioned but later upheld. It seems Vaudreuil objected most to the independence and free spirit these children of two cultures demonstrated. Yet, in 1719, he wished her to return to New France.

Isabelle most likely witnessed the assassination of her brother but then continued to lead the Indians recruited by him to trade at Albany in 1709, and again in 1710. Under the name Madame Montour, first name "Eysabelle", wife of Carondowana, she is documented as an interpreter and advisor to the New York government by August 1711,50 when she appeared at a conference in Albany between Governor Robert Hunter and the leaders of the Iroquois. Hunter himself, writing to Kilian Van Rensselaer the following year, 15 May 1712 (O.S.) said: "I beg you'll countenance [give or express approval to] Mrs. Montour for I shall never be able to hear the truth but by her means,"51 another ironic counterpoint to the "tales" she told and the tales told about her.

These last references are found in the United States colonial records, but she is also documented under her other names in the records of New France, one of which I found in 2002, which I will consider in Part 8, and, after that, the next generation of the Couc / Montour family.

Suzanne Boivin Sommerville
[begun June of 2002] May 18, 2003


Sources
(1)But see also: "Roland MONTOUR b. 1740, m. Betsey SENECA, b. USA, d. 1830, Dunnville, Ont., CAN. Roland died 1828, Dunnville, Ont., CAN.", which I found surfing the web. Dunnville is the modern name for the area of La Grande Rivière, where Louis Couc Montour allegedly stashed pelletries in 1707. This Roland is said to be the son of Andrew Montour.
(2) Daniel Richter, Ordeal of the Longhouse, University of North Carolina Press, 1992, p. 224. It is hard to say who Richter's source is, as his footnotes cover whole paragraphs.
(3) Darlington's footnote 1: "New York Colonial History: Fort St. Anne, or La Motte, erected 1666, on the upper part of Lake Champlain." This "La Motte" is obviously not Antoine de Lamothe, who would have been only eight years old in 1666.
(4) Wm. M. Darlington, "The Montours," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 4: 2, April 1880. See also William M. Darlington, "The Montours," in Christopher Gist's Journals, Pittsburgh: J. R. Weldin & Co., 1893, p. 152 of 152-175. Darlington cites "Letter of Lord Cornbury, Governor of New York, to the Board of Trade, August 20, 1708. N. Y. Col. Hist., vol. v. p. 65. Emphasis mine. The word "above" is quoted as "about" by Darlington.
(5) Charles A. Hanna, The Wilderness Trail, originally published 1911, New York and London, in two voumes, reprint Lewisburg, Pennsylvania: Wennawoods Publishing,1995.
(6) Brackets added by Hanna. In the letter itself Cornbury identifies the "Far Nations" as "Twigtwicks [Miamis] and Dinnondadoes [Wyandots]; the nearest of their castles is eight hundred miles from Albany." Quoted in Hanna, Vol. 1, p. 198.
(7) Quoted in Hanna, Vol. 1, p. 198. Emphasis mine. The original Cornbury letter is transcribed in the New York Colonial Manuscripts, London Documents, Vol. V, Book XVIL, pp. 64-66, CD-Rom version. This version uses the form "Le Destroit", not Hanna's "Los Destroit".
(8) Peter Wraxall, An Abridgment of the Indian Affairs Contained in Four Folio Volumes, Transacted in the Colony of New York, from the Year 1678 to the Year 1751, edited with an Introduction by Charles Howard McIlwain, Cambridge Harvard University Press, 1915, footnote 1, p. 52-53. Burton Library, Detroit Public Library, R I 974.7 N42.
(9)Do a search on PRDH. Louis Couc, dit Lafleur and dit Montour, signed "Montour" on his sister Angélique's marriage contract in 1682, photocopy, citation above.
(10) Le Roy Bacqueville de la Potherie, Histoire de l'Amérique Septentrionale, Éditions du Rocher: 1997, p. 575-76, from Lettre IX of La Potherie's Tome IV. My translation. I also have a handwritten version from the microfilmed original.
(11)See Peter N. Moogk, "Monseignat (Monseignac), Charles de," DCB II. He was secretary to Governor Frontenac in these years.
(12) Rélation d'évènements survenus en 1694 et 1695, MG1, Vol. 14, 77v, NAC F-14, photocopy. The 1694 here refers to after September of that year. See Léon Pouliot, S. J., "Le Roy dit Bacqueville DE LA POTHERIE, CLAUDE-CHARLES," DCB II.
(13) I have seen the date confidently cited as 1694, 1698, and other years!
(14)See DCB, Vol. 2.
(15)"An account of the most remarkable Occurences in Canada from the month of September 1694 to the departure of the Ships in 1695," History of King William's War, and the consequent negotiations between the French and Indians, in America, 172 pages. (S.I. " s.n., 18--?) Selection begins on p. 76, and episode is reported on p. 81. Read at Early Canadiana on-line.
(16) "Nouvelles reçues de Cadillac: depuis le printemps les alliés auraient envoyé environ 900 hommes contre les Iroquois, intrigues de ces derniers auprès des Hurons (colliers offerts à Le Baron), négociations entre les Indiens de Michillimakinac et les Iroquois" 1695, octobre, 27, Montréal, Lettre de Callière au ministre, MG 1 - Série C11A, NAC F-13 ff. 376-378. For Le Baron, see Gilles Havard, The Great Peace of Montreal of 1701, French-Native Diplomacy in the Seventeenth Century, McGill Queen's: 2001, p. 203.
(17) 21 August 1692, Maugue, ANQ, photocopy. See earlier reference.
(18) Sixteen men, Montour among them, were allowed to go up to Michlimackinac at the beginning of September 1697 with Sieur de Tonty capitaine Reformé, signed 28 October 1697 by Champigny. Photocopy.
(19)Louis's sister Jeanne died in 1679. Madeleine, wife of Maurice Ménard, had to have been at Michilimackinac in the 1690s because her son Antoine is recorded as having been baptized there in 1695. It is possible Antoine Laumet dit de Lamothe Cadillac served as godfather and gave the baby his first name. She was back in the mother colony by at least 13 March 1701, when son Pierre was baptized at Boucherville. Other children older than Pierre may also have been born in the pays-d'en-haut, but exactly where cannot be said. Madeleine most likely returned to Michilimakinac with her husband in 1713-14 and may have died there. I have no evidence Angélique traveled outside of the mother colony, except in 1719-20 to New York, but several of her children, said to be born in the early 1690s, also have no extant baptismal records. None of Marguerite's children have extant baptismal records. PRDH. All who married with the blessings of the Church, however, as did these children without extant records, did have to have been baptized somewhere.
(20) Isabelle was gone from Fort Pontchartrain after September of 1706, and Marguerite is documented there: 9 October 1707, Marguerite Couk, wife of Massé, godmother with Charles Fafard, son of Sieur Delorme, her first husband's nephew, for baptism of Joseph, son of Joseph Soudinan(?), huron, & 8entralon(?), huronne, the first documented evidence of her there; and 20 March 1709, baptism of Marguerite, daughter of François Marquet dit Périgord and his wife Louise Galernaud, but not in 1708.
(21)I do not understand the use of internal quotation marks in this passage. Footnotes for this page refer to (1) Dussieux, Canada, and (2) Marshe's Journal, with the (2) coming after this passage presented as a quotation, although it is not a direct quotation from Marshe. Darlington, p. 157.
(22)See Part 4.
(23) On 15 October 1734, the Iroquois Hetaquantagechty accused "a certain Woman" of making "some base Mis-representations" and said "old Age only protects her from being punished for such Falsehoods; that in the mean time they must resent it and hope to get rid of her." The reference is to a council on 15 September 1734, when it was "represented [that] by the Account given of those Indians [including Hetaquantagechty] by Mrs. Montour, now in Town, whose Husband, Carondowana, was the Oneida Chief, it appears that though they [Hetaquantegechty and his companions] are not Persons of any great Note amongst the Six Nations, yet they set out for this place at the Desire of some Chiefs of those Nations." Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania, Vol. III, p. 578 and p. 572. See William Hunter's biography of her in DCB III (1974), p. 147, but this too is in need of revision.
(24) Marshe's Journal entry for June 28, 1744 (O.S.), as quoted in Hanna, Vol. 1, p. 201, emphasis mine. I have noted that Hanna changed several words and punctuation marks in his version of Marshe's account; as examples, he uses the word "has" instead of "had been a handsome woman"; says that Madame Montour reported having plural sons-in-law instead of one "son-in-law"; and omits two pertinent passages entirely, those which describe her grandbaby, age five, also present, and: "She is in great esteem with the best sort of white people, and by them always treated with abundance of civility; and whenever she went to Philadelphia (which formerly she did pretty often), the ladies of that city always invited her to their houses, entertained her well and made her several presents." The other version I have seen was published in William Henry Egle's Notes and Queries, Historical and Genealogical, chiefly relating to interior Pennsylvania, Vol. 1, Harrisburg, Penna.: Harrisburg Publishing Company, 1895, pp. 293-94. I do not know which is the typographically accurate version nor whether the original manuscript copy still exists. Hanna does not cite the version he is copying, but he does refer to Egle in other citations.
(25) Ibid., p. 294.
(26) Written by Zinzendorf as an entry for 30 September 1742, as quoted in Hanna, Vol. 1, p. 223. It was common knowledge that Carondowana was his father.
(27) Quoted in Hanna, Vol. 1, p. 199, footnote.
(28) 28 June 1744 (O.S.), cited by Vincens, Madame Montour, pp. 33-34, in a French translation, and partially quoted by Hanna, pp. 200-202 in English.
(29) Louis de Buade de Frontenac and de Palluau was governor of New France from 1672 to 1682 and again from 1689 to his death in November of 1698 at Québec at the age of seventy-seven. See DCB, Vol. I.
(30) Hanna states: "Buell, in his Life of Johnson, says: 'Catharine [Madeleine?] [sic] Montour was a daughter of the Count de Frontenac by a Huron woman. She was born at Fort Frontenac about 1692 [1680-84, or earlier] [sic], and her name figures in a curious old document called Accusation against Louis de Buade, Comte de Frontenac, in which, among other things, he is charged with 'debasing the morals of the Colony by propagating more than sixty half-breeds.' " Information in brackets as found in the original, except for my use of sic. I have been unable to find the "curious old document". Charles Hanna, Wilderness Trail, Vol. 1, p. 201, footnote 2.
(31) The friendship of the Roy and Montour families evidently continued because on 30 October 1711, Magdeleine, daughter of Joseph Montour (son of Louis Montour & Jeanne, an Algonquinne) & Isabelle Monthio (PRDH version, but I read "Ononthio"), a Huronne, at Détroit, was baptized with godparents Pierre Roy & Marguerite Fafard, cousin to Joseph (Ste-Anne). 1711 is the year Madame Montour begins to appear in the extant documents as an interpretress in New York so this "Isabelle", wife of Joseph Montour, and a Huron, cannot be the wife of Carondowana. Could this "Huronne", with the name "Ononthio", the name given to the governor of New France by the Indians since the days of Montmagny (Great Mountain = Onontio), be a source for "Mrs. Montour" being the daughter of a governor? She too would have been called "Mrs. Montour" by the English. Another child, Joseph, was born to Joseph Montour and Elisabeth (an alternate name for her just as it was for her aunt), "hurone du detroit", in January of 1714 and baptized at Montréal 23 July 1714 (six months old). Godparents were Pierre Crepeau & Marie Joseph Cusler. Pierre signed "P. Crespeau", photocopy. Pierre had been a Frère Charon, religious brother, from 1704 to before 1712, when he married Angélique Aubuchon, from a voyageur family, on 17 May 1712. He was a brewer. His wife died and was buried 12 May 1714, just two months before Joseph's baptism. He remarried to Marie Leduc (Lambert & Jeanne Descaries), cousin of Pierre Leduc who married Françoise Massé, Joseph Montour's cousin.
(32) His father was Jacques Letort, whom Hanna identifies as a Frenchman Huguenot refugee who came to Pennsylvania from London in 1686, Vol. 1, p. 165.
(33) Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania, Vol. III, At a Council at Philadia [sic], April 18th, 1728 [O.S.], Patrick Gordon, Esqr., Lieut. Governr., p. 295. Hereafter MPCP.
(34) Ibid.
(35) People who know I read and understand French often assume I was born in French Canada instead of in Detroit to French-Canadian parents. It is possible Letort had a similar misunderstanding about Madame Montour's sister. He may have wondered why a French woman would live among the Miamis if she was not married to one.
(36) In Tippecanoe County, near Lafayette, Indiana. See Vergil E. Noble, "Ouiatenon on the Ouabache: Archaeological Investigations at a Fur Trading Post on the Wabash River," in Waddell, Editor, French Colonial Archaeology.
(37) Ouiatenon on the Ouabache was "but three days' journey from a nine-mile portage (at present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana) connecting the Maumee and Wabash rivers. … St. Philippe des Miamis (Fort Miami) was established to guard the portage in 1722". Noble, p. 67.
(38) Pierre Roy was ordered to take himself, his wife and children, and his possessions to Fort Pontchartrain, to winter there, and to return the following spring to the new colony. See an English language excerpt of the instructions in Frances Krauskopf, translator and editor, Ouiatanon Documents, Indianapolis, Indiana Historical Society, 1955, specifically p. 167. As summarized on the Canadian Archives ArchiviaNet: 3611 Extrait du mémoire de Vaudreuil pour servir d'instruction à l'enseigne Dumont qui s'en va commander au pays des Ouiatanons et à la rivière des Miamis - lettres à remettre à Tonty; les voyageurs munis de congés et les marchandises resteront à Détroit jusqu'à ce qu'on sache si les Miamis et les Ouiatanons quitteront leurs villages ou non; ira avec Reaume au village des Miamis et communiquera à Pierre Roy et aux autres Français l'ordre de quitter ce village et de se retirer à Détroit; demandera à Vinsenne "de le venir joindre" au village des Miamis; tâchera de convaincre les Miamis de s'établir à la rivière Saint-Joseph et les Ouiatanons de s'installer sur le Téatiki. Colonial Archives Item part of: Fonds des Colonies. Série C11A. Correspondance générale; Canada MG 1 - Microfilm of original, reel no. F-42, Volume 42 , fol. 158-160v. The full letter refers specifically to Roy's wife, children and possessions and to the other details.
(39) Photocopy of marriage contract written by Father Dominique Thaumur at St.-Philippe and deposited 30 July 1728 in the Étude of J. B. Adémar, ANQ. Marriage act inserted in the records of Ste.-Anne de Detroit. Magdeleine's sister, Marguerite, and her husband, Guillaume Dupont, returned to Québec City that year after Magdeleine's marriage.
(40) MPCP.
(41) Ibid, p. 296. Emphasis mine.
(42) Ibid, p. 296.
(43) Ibid. Emphasis mine.
(44) Ibid. Emphasis mine.
(45) Ibid., 296. See also S. Dale Standen, "Beauharnois de La Boische, Charles de, Marquis de Beauharnois," DCB, Vol. III.
(46) Vincens, p. 243, citing Norton and the same document I cited in Part 3. The Miamis trading with the English in 1731-32 returned with the deadly smallpox, which spread throughout the pays-d'en-haut, including Detroit (taking the life of Pierre Roy's wife, Marguerite 8abanKiK8é), and, transported by the domiciled Indians who traded in Albany, even in the mother colony of New France, where 2000 deaths were said to have occurred because of it.
(47) MPCP, p. 297.
(48) "At a Council held at Philda., September 1st, 1728 (O.S.), All those appearances of disquiet among the Indians seemed more & more to confirm the information which James Letort gave this Board in April last, & that it was not to be doubted but they were, in a great measure, owing to the practices of Manawkyhickon, who, in Resentment for the Death of his relation Wequeala, hang'd last year in Jersey, has been endeavouring, not only to stir up the Twechtwese or naked Indians, call'd by the French Miamies, against the Christians, but likewise if possible, to sett the five Nations at variance with the English." Ibid., p. 330.
(49) Written in French, Letter from William Burnet, 11 July 1721, NAC, photocopy.
(50) Peter Van Brugh and Hendrick Hansen, already cited.
(51) Letter from Robert Hunter, governor of New York, to Kilian Van Rensselaer, Albany, 15 May 1712, photocopy of manuscript from the New York Historical Society.

   
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