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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Drummond Islanders-Brisette (the Hypolite's)

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

There is no way that I can uncover all about a given subject, so I do the best I can. Working with Johanne Brissette I have attempted to untangle the records of two Hypolites in the same family. It's possible I got some information wrong, but I don't think so.

Hypolite and Archange

First a few pronunciations-Hypolite (Pronounced Hip-o-lit) and Archange, (pronounced Arc-onge) as far as I can describe. These names are very french. As is Archange's maiden name of L'Hirondelle, french for Sparrow. (Lyre-own-dell) keep in mind I am not a linguist!

First of all, there are three Hypolites in the same line and it is easy to mix them up. As I believe the HBC archives did below.

There is a Hypolite Brissette, listed as fighting at Chateauguay in the war of 1812. (There were three Brissette's listed in the Chateauguay battle. Jacques Brissette a sergeant 1st Battalion under Tonnencoeur, Xavier Brissette a Corporal under Lesveques and Hypolite, a common soldier.) I am not sure if this was father or son, as both are of the age necessary. I am thinking it is the younger, as the elder seemed to be more into carpentry and would have probably been listed as such. He fought as a voltigeur, voltigeurs are light infantry, so musket, bayonet and away you go.

The Brissette's can trace their military presence years earlier, even as far back as the founding of Detroit. Jacques Briset is listed below.

HBC file for Hypolite Brisette

So we'll say it's the son who after the war went to Lesser Slave Lake with the fur trade. In his time at Lesser Slave Lake he met a girl who he would ask to marry. Her name was Archange L'Hirondelle and Her father, Wanetew, who was believed to be a chief denied the marriage, as the voyageur lifestyle would mean that Archange's husband would likely someday take her away or leave her widowed. So in the night and pursued by her tribesmen they fled to the Great Lakes.

They fled east to the Great Lakes as Hypolite's father was there. Hypolite senior was working at charting the Great Lakes with Admiral Bayfield, his knowledge of boat building and navigation probably blossoming on his time as a young man from Berthier (Du Pas Island), which is on the St Lawrence River. It wouldn't be a stretch to think he may have been to sea, as shipping had long been a regular occurrence on the St Lawrence River. Hypolite, Cuthbert Amyot and William Cowan are listed as crew for Admiral Bayfield, so was Hypolite a carpenter for William Cowan at Matchedash Bay before aiding the Admiral?

Hypolite senior would presumably be the one to have also started a sawmill at Doaust Bay as there is one recorded to have existed that was owned by Hypolite Brissette. Hypolite Jr would make a homestead in the area but that was not the end of the road for Hypolite Senior. (Ironically the sawmill was at the end of the road) Hypolite, under, I believe, the influence of Admiral Bayfield headed west. Also heading west and pioneers of Penetang Pierre LePine and Cuthbert Amyot, as they would accompany John Franklin on his overland trip to the artic. That was the same year Hypolite Senior would head west, so he probably was with the group but dropped out somewhere west.

Carpenters were needed at Fort Colville (now Washington) and later at Red River, Hypolite senior was a Carpenter so it seems the above document is for two different people. (Also makes you wonder why someone tweeted that Brissette's were not metis, as he was a metis in Red River, but not before being a metis in Penetang.)

As for Hypolite, the junior, his travels would not end either. Archange was with child and her and her husband would be settling in Penetang. She must have felt a return to her father and clan to reassure them of her safety was needed. So off they went and John (Jean-Baptiste) their son would be born on the route in Calgary.

Hypolite's time in the Hudson Bay Company was extensive and far-ranging. Beginning not long after the war of 1812, where he served in the Battle of Chateauguay with a voltigeur unit, the fur trade would bring him to Cumberland (House) (Saskatchewan), Great Slave Lake (Northwest territories) Bow River Alberta, Lesser Slave Lake, which is in Northern Alberta.

But here is where I believe the other Hypolite takes over. Hypolite Brissette senior would travel all the way out to Fort Colvile, which is in what is now Washington. Hypolite learned the carpentry trade in his early life, perhaps in Berthier or Penetanguishene as the construction of homes and the presence of British Military carpenters augmented the skills of Hypolite before he went to far off Fort Colvile. He also could have built boats in or around Berthier.

Further research into Hypolite Senior has him getting supplies to establish fur trade posts. "Contract Notes - Cinq Cent livres ou chelins ancien cours de cette Province, pour la première année & le Prix du Poste ou il hivernera par année pour les Deux dernieres années - équipement une Couverte de trois points, une Couverte de deux points et demi, deux Chemises de coton, une brasse de Drap, un Mouchoir de soie, et un Mouchoir de coton Deux Carottes de Tabac, un grand et un petit Couteau, une Paire de Souliers de boeuf et un Collier & L’Equipement du Poste ou il hivernera par année pour les deux dernieres années - s’oblige de contribuer d’un par cent sur ses gages pour le Fond des Voyageurs"

Equipment du Poste ouil hiverna, meant he was a winterer, he stayed and traded for the winter and wouldn't return right away to Montreal. It also does not list a location, so it would seem he was to start a post where he seemed fit. This was all before aiding Admiral Bayfield in constructing the Recovery and charting the Great Lakes, Hypolite was building trading posts.

Lesser Slave Lake is in the top left (red circle) Edmonton is bottom right, in Green

While father was building trading posts, son, from what we know Hypolite was contracted to go to Lesser Slave Lake for 3 or four years, but he only completed one. He would return to Lesser Slave lake with his wife to make amends to the family. So they set out for the west, with Archange already pregnant. They would have the child in an area now known as Calgary Alberta.

Legend has it Hypolite had proved himself to the Chief, Archange's father. However, to complete the transaction, Hypolite would need to be tattoed, telling the story of his life. Tattooing was an important ritual in the Cree culture. Hypolite would display this important cultural artwork for the rest of his life.

Hypolite the elder was not done surprising us yet, as he would go west with a fur trade company, only as a carpenter. At the time Fort Colville was new, so the need for carpenters and millers would have been important. Hypolite's prior experience setting up Posts was probably used in the construction of Fort Colville.

He would become a carpenter and miller, spending time as such in Lac La Pluie (West of Grande Portage) in Ontario). and in Red River as a carpenter as well. In his time at Fort Colvile, he was also the miller, which would prove handy in his time later in Penetanguishene, as he would have a mill on the Indian trail between Penetanguishene, and Nottawasaga Bay.

Hypolite would start a sawmill, by D'oast Bay which I have come to understand was the end of an Indian trail. Remnants of this trail are no longer apparent, but do present themselves on a surveyors map from 1822 although the mill was not there at the time.

So the road adds clues to why the Brissette mill was so far away from the most colonist, perhaps we will never know why. Later, the Brissette family would move to Port Severn. John would be a licenced fisherman, in a time when fishing was very hard labour.

Late in his life, a still virile Hypolite would be seen carrying a sack of vegetables through the streets of Victoria Harbour, where a photographer would see him and take his picture. The lines of his life clearly on his face, there is so much more he could tell of his lofe.

The Brissette family would keep strong ties to the family back in Quebec, which would not have been easy at the time. Travel was not easy, although a stagecoach did come to Penetang as early as 1850.

So that leaves this guy, who I believe may be the third Hypolite in the family.

I'm not finished with the Brissette's in fact only just begun. But I don't want this post to be too long so I will get back to them in the future.

Art Duval

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Andrea Wilson Dyck
Andrea Wilson Dyck
Sep 19, 2023

Hi Art,

I'm curious if the Louis Brissette that lived in Owen Sound in the French Village was a son of Hypolyte? Many of the Drummond Islanders came to live at the French Village which spanned the northeast shore of Owen Sound Bay in the 1840s. I have a newspaper clipping that says Louis Brissette lived at the village with his three sons: Louis, Anthony and Thomas.

My ancestors are the Coutures from Drummond Island. Wondering if you have ever come across any information about them after they left Drummond Island. In Osborne's story, William Couture lives for a short time with Andre Cadieux in a double house where Dr. Spohn's home now stands. We know Joseph Couture ended up…


Jul 27, 2021

Hi Art, I would love to talk with you about Hypolite Brissette.

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