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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

Louis Chevrette, comes to the Community of Penetang

In 1828 many families came from Drummond island to Penetang. One of them, stopped at LA cloche. LA Cloche post was locally known as McBean's post. Jacques Laramie came with the Lepine and Fortin family in a bateau and two horses. They stopped in LaCloche. We know this because Rosette Laramie Boucher told it to Alex C Osborne and he wrote her narrative in his collection of Drummond island voyageurs to Penetang.

What isn't written is that they stopped there not just out of convenience but also because Rosette (Jacques wife) sister was married to John McBean, to whom the post was called McBean's post. In fact many names in the area are still referred to by the name McBean.

Also what isn't mentioned is who was at LaCloche at the time. Working at the post was a young man named Louis Chevrette. These small scraps of information are so vital to relearning our history. In the Lacloche journal is a mention of Matchedash. At Matchedash was a post run by Cowan. This post was so prominent that when Simcoe was looking for to establish a base at Penetang, he went by Coldwater and the post at Matchedash to scout it out. (But that is another story, and it might involve a still!)

St Cuthbert church

Louis was born in 1802 in St Cuthbert Quebec. Louis was the son of Louis and Magdelaine (Paquin) Chevret of St Cuthbert Quebec. Louis was the sixth of 13 children in his family. He was also the second Louis!

St Cuthbert is on the Chicot River, a tributary of the St Lawrence in the Berthier region. A region many settlers of Penetanguishene came from, including Cuthbert Amyot and Hypolite Brisette. Louis signed up with the Hudson Bay Company left St Cuthbert and travelled onto Fort William. He was not the only Chevrette to make that voyage, although he was the only one who seemed to become a voyageur in his family. About ten years later, in 1832, St Cuthbert Parish would be described as such:

The Church was was erected about 50 years ago and measures three leagues in front, between Berthier and Maskinonge, on the road from Montreal to Quebec, and consists of a considerable part of the S. belonging to the Hon. James Cuthbert and of three other fiefs. Its E. boundary is the N.E. line of the county. It contains 500 families and 300 farm-lots are settled upon, most of which are three arpents in front by 30 or 40 deep. The church is on the W. side of the R. Chicot, about 2 m. in the interior. This P. extends over a large portion of Berthier and the adjoining S. N.E.

Population 2754

A Topographical Dictionary of The Province of Lower Canada by Joseph Bouchette, Esq., London, 1832

So Louis grew up in typical Quebec, St Lawrence valley village. They had a church and with a population of almost three thousand, was a thriving community. Saint Cuthbert is a very English Saint, but the town is a very French town. James Cuthbert built a protestant church there, but in modern times it is almost exclusively french.

Life in the St Lawrence valley was simple, most people were farmers in some way and if you didn't inherit the family farm you had to move on. So at the age of 19 Louis took over the contract of another named Baudry, signed up to be a winterer at Fort William.

Fort William was at the merger of the fur trade companies. Long a Northwest Company post, the post would now be a Hudson Bay Company post. Fort William is at the western end of Lake Superior, along way from St Cuthbert Quebec.

Whereas this seems like a long way, it would be a route travelled by quite a few from the Berthier area to the west. Louis would be given a blanket and a carot (roll of pipe tabacco) and be removed to Fort William. As a winterer that is where he would be asked to live for the next three years.

So he was loaded into a canoe, we presume with a paddle and off to Fort William he went. Unlike the usual voyageur, he was not to ply paddle to water over the course of that time. As a winterer he would remain in Fort William and preform all the duties of the fur trade for that location. Fort William is in the location of present day Thunder Bay Ontario.

Louis would preform the duties assigned to him. More than likely making bales of the fur to prepare to ship (by canoe) back to Montreal. He could also be called on to cut wood, construct buildings or basically do whatever was asked of him by the Chief factor of Fort William.

Fort William is a sort of halfway point between the east and the Great Lakes and the west and Red River etc. The fur trade would bring in furs to Fort William (Which replaced Grand Portage) and load them onto canoes for the trip west. Trade goods would be brought into Fort William from Montreal, and divied up amongst the traders and trappers heade out to the hinterland to trade for furs. But after 1821 and the fur trade merger, Fort William lost importance. It would eventually become more of a fishing port.

Roles Fort William played in the fur trade

At some point Louis would come into contact with the Souliere family where a young woman named Margeurite would catch his eye. The Souliere family would be at Fort William, and have land in Sault Ste Marie, among other places. They would travel to Detroit to baptise young Margeurite and her sister.

Louis would continue in the fur trade stopping at LaCloche (By Kilarney) and in Saugeen before making his way to land in Penetanguishene.

When the Hudson Bay Company decided to send Alexander McKay to the Saguinque (Saugeen)The LaCloche journal has Louis Chevrette Michel Frechette and a Mcfarlane also being sent to Saugeen to open a post there.

We find Louis in Saugeen trading in the Saugeen river region. Saugeen is on the Bruce Peninsula, on the Lake Huron side. By todays standards, of car and roads we would think of Saugeen being far from LA Cloche, but in those days of water and canoes, not so far.

Louis would be mentioned in the journal at LaCloche, he would accompany Alexander William MCKay, son of Lieutenant-

Colonel William McKay to Saugeen to set up the post. He had learned many things in the three years iat Fort Williams and would ply the trade at Saugeen. Also accompanying in beginning the post was Peter McFarlane and Antoine Frechette. The trio of McKay, McFarlane and Frechette are all known to be metis or michif. Saugeen fur trade post was built amongst a Ojibway tribe who had been hunting and fishing in the region for centuries.

McKay was under the leadership of Dr Mitchell, Dr Mitchell was on Drummond island, then onto Penetang in or around 1828. So here we see the connections of the Chevrette family to Drummond Island and Penetang and the Mitchell's. (Being under the leadership of Dr Mitchell actually entails being under Mrs Mitchell, who ran the fur trade out of Mackinaw when Mitchell moved to Penetang.

Louis would eventually buy land in Penetang, in what was known to the British as the Half-breed (metis) community. He then, like many moved on to Tiny where the half-breed (metis) community would move to get better land and an ability to farm. While in Penetang he would do what many of the settlers would do, he would tap trees and make maple sugar.

The Souliere side is more mysterious. They appear to have been around the Windsor Detroit area, but also in the western Great Lakes. At some point they would meet, perhaps in Fort William, or LaCloche or Detroit. , a place where possibly Louis would have ventured during his time in Saugeen. However it happened census show they were married in Penetang in 1829.

(Authors note: Jacques Laramie, my ancestor, had a pit saw that the community would use to saw boards for the early homesteads, Louis would have probably had a "bee" where all the local men would come, Jacques with his saw, and build their house.)

By Margurite's baptism it would appear she was born in 1812, the year of the war. She was born and baptised in Assomption church in what is now Windsor. . She was also baptized (ondoyee) in an emergency fashion, as illness threatened to take her unbaptized. We know not where.

So Louis and Marguerite were married in 1829 and became part of the half-breed (metis) community at Penetang. There first residence seemed to be in the area of Dr Mitchell at Main street (Penetanguishene Rd) and water street where he had a maple sugar shack. We don't know if he lived there too

Well we know of the sugar shack, we can only assume they lived there or with Dr Mitchell in some fashion. My thinking is that he was probably hosted in some way by Mitchell or Gordon, early fur traders who resided in that area. David Mitchell, the son of Dr Mitchell had a store there trading furs also.

In later years they would move "across the Bay" to the half-breed community established there. But like many of the community when the lands of Lafontaine opened up to settlement, and taxes became high in Penetang, they would move on to lot 13 Concession 17 Tiny Township. There he would be surrounded by other halfbreed (metis) families who had already moved there.

They would have seven children, many marrying into the local community. Me and my ancestors from this community are very proud to know them. But I call them half-breeds because it seems for 30 years they have been persecuted and have finally been removed from being anything but. But perhaps we should be proud of them instead. As for me and my ancestors who are or were neighbors, community members and friends, I chose the Chevrette's over those who would deny them.

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past

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