MSS-060-Settling the American West: the Role of the Canadiens and Métis-Part 2

Episode 060-April 1, 2017

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Today Rob Foxcurran, co-author of Songs upon the Rivers, and I continue the story we began last month, the virtually untold story of the Canadiens and Métis who were living in Louisiana before the Louisiana Purchase.

Settling the American West: the Role of the Canadiens and Métis-Part 2

Picking up where we left off at the end of episode #59, today Rob and I discussed the following:

  • The central dilemma was that the French-Canadian West ended up in US territory. Therefore, the Canadiens and the Métis were written out of Canadian history and were never written into American history.
  • As the fur trade went away, the fur traders were treated as if they went away also; but they didn’t. They were very instrumental to the waves of American explorers who eventually traversed the continent. They were initially guides, translators, and intermediaries.
  • After approximately 1760, after the British took over Canada, French was removed from most of the written business communication of the fur trade. However, it remained the predominate language at the operational level.
  • When Americans arrived in the Pacific Northwest, they were surprised to discover that the best land was already taken by Canadien and Métis families.

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Illinois country

A typical early settlement consisted of a French-Canadian community grafted onto an existing Indian village through intermarriage. We heard the story of Marie Rouensa. There are descendants of Marie Rouensa and her two husbands in Prairie du Rocher, Illinois, today.


In the Fort St. Joseph area, Joseph Bertrand helped negotiate large tracts of land for the Potawatomi Indians, angering the Michigan governor.

In many of these towns on the frontier, an Anglo, German, or Irishman officially became the town founder. But if one digs deeper, one will often find earlier Canadian or Métis founders.


While visiting Cape Girardeau, Missouri, Lewis (of Lewis and Clark fame) remarked negatively about the immigrants to the area from Kentucky and Tennessee, but spoke positively of Canadian Pierre-Louis de Lorimier, a successful businessman, and his aboriginal wife and family. The next wave of Americans did not continue to look as favorably on the Frenchmen and Métis in the area.


Simon Plamondon was one of the first French-speaking settlers in western Washington north of the Cowlitz River. There is currently a minimal amount of a evidence of French historical presence in the area. Plamondon was deemed unworthy of a role in local history by museum board members because he had been married four times. Rob had to point out that he was not a womanizer; his previous wives had all passed away, and he remarried. In the early 21st century, one-half of the members of the Cowlitz tribe counted Simon Plamondon as an ancestor.

The Catholic Church

The number of Catholics in the United States almost doubled with the Louisiana Purchase.

Father Pierre Gibault played a large role in helping the Americans to win the trust of the Canadians and Indians in the area of Illinois.

In the Detroit region, Father Gabriel Richard became the only priest in the US Congress as a territorial representative. He helped advance Michigan Territory toward statehood. In 1825, he was unseated after his first term in the midst of a voting rights controversy.

Recommended books

Books mentioned in this episode as well as parts 1 and 3 are in this bibliography provided by Rob Foxcurran.



If you’re attending the New England Regional Genealogical Consortium conference from April 26-29 in Springfield, Massachusetts, I’d love to meet you! I will be at the:

  • French-Canadian table at the Table Topic luncheon sponsored by the New England Chapter of the APG
  • Ancestors Road Show – sign up if you need help with your French-Canadian research
  • The French-Canadian tracks all day on Friday

Survey results

To be continued in episode #62


The winner of a copy of Songs Upon the Rivers was Tom Arens of Missouri. Congratulations, Tom. Your book is on its way.

And Rob has suggested we hold another contest. So, just like before, send your name, email address, and mailing address to maplestarsandstripes [at] gmail [dot] com before April 7 and put the word “Songs” in the subject line. I’ll announce the new winner in episode 61. And those who entered in episode 59, you’re all set. You’re automatically entered in this contest also. So good luck!

French-Canadian News

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The French Canadian Heritage Society of Michigan

April 8, 11 AM, at the Mount Clemens Public Library: Dawn Evoe-Danowski will present Early History of Saint-Antoine and River Raisin; the Monroe County Historical Society Bi-Centennial Certificate Program; and Diane Wolford Sheppard will present French Private Land Claims from River Raisin to Lake Erie and the 1796 Census. The examples will allow you to research your ancestors in Wayne County, Macomb County, and at Michilimackinac.

The Quebec Family History Society

April 8, at 10:30 AM, at the Briarwood Presbyterian Church Hall in Beaconsfield: what family historians can expect to find at the McCord Museum, including the Notman photo collection.

April 29, from 1-4 PM at the QFHS Heritage Centre in Pointe-Claire: Lesley Anderson will speak on How Can Ancestry’s DNA Tests Help to Find Your Ancestors.

The French-Canadian Genealogical Society in Tolland, CT

April 22 from 1-3 PM, at the United Congregational Church on the Green in Tolland, CT: the FCGSC’s Spring General Membership Meeting. Guest speaker Ron Blanchette will give a presentation on how and why Quebec City and the rest of New France were doomed with the 1759 battle on the Plains of Abraham. Ron will describe the mistakes made by the French defenders and the incredible luck of the British that turned into success. Even though this battle lasted only minutes, it cost the lives of the two generals, Wolf and Montcalm, and meant the exit of France from any control of North America. This meeting is open to non-members.

The Vermont French-Canadian Genealogical Society

April 8, Maximizing Your Use of Census Records with Lynn Johnson

Classes run from 10:30 AM until noon and are held at the Vermont Genealogy Library in Colchester, Vermont.

The American-Canadian Genealogical Society

April 22, ACGS Library, 4 Elm St., Manchester, New Hampshire (registration begins at 8 AM): The day consists of three presentations:

  • Resources Helpful in French-Canadian Genealogical Research by two librarians from the New Hampshire State Library
  • ACGS Library Holdings by Gerry Savard & Muriel Normand
  • The Franco American Collection in the Geisel Library at St. Anselm College by Keith Chevalier, archivist and head of special collections


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