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  • Writer's pictureArt Duval

The Lepines

Sketch by Shalleen Riley

There is a interesting branch of my family history. Louis Lepine and Jacques Laramie were lifelong friends. Beyond the simple reference, you can see that the truth is they were friends, trusting each other in so many ways. Somehow in 1828, Louis and Jacques convinced their wives to have their families board a batteaux, a small scow like boat, and travel for a month on the North Channel of Georgian Bay, 6 adults and 8 children along with a pair of horses.

So we know by oral history and documentation that the Lepine family in the form of Louis and Pierre, brothers, and their wives were close to the Laramie family. Louis and Pierre were

LAchine Fur Trade Museum

half brothers and their father was named Pierre Lepine as well. All three Lepines were voyaguers, travelling from the area of Berthier in Quebec to the Great Lakes in Canoes. Travelling down to Lachine to board canoes for the Northwest Company eventually the sons would be hivernant (winterers) in the western part of Lake Huron, based in the area of St Joseph Island.

The elder Pierre spent most of his life as a voyageur, rising to gouvernail, the man who guided the boat, a role he even played in an expedition led my Sir John Franklin prior to the lost Franklin expedition. That expedition would follow rivers and portages to the arctic with Pierre as one of the gouvernail. Along the way, they would see people who would later come to Penetang, Hypolite Bressette and Jean Baptiste Laramie, who was the older brother of Jacques.

In the Spring of1825, George Back, representative and artist for Sir John Franklin, travelled along the St Lawrence accumulating voyageurs to take to the arctic. Going through Berthier, he picked up future Penetang resident Cuthbert Amiot and Pierre Lepine, the father of Louis and Pierre. (I assume since he was a gouvernail (steersman) it was the Senior, who had established that rank elsewhere).

The group would meet Franklin in Penetanguishene, which was little more than a small naval base at the time. They would cross Lake Huron and Lake Superior in canoes before picking up the fur trade route through Rainy River and Lake of the Woods on to Lake Winnipeg. They then turned North to Fort Cumberland. At Fort Cumberland they met up with another part of the expedition that had left Hudson bay weeks earlier. They arrived later at Fort Resolution on Great Slave Lake later that year. In all, from Penetang to Fort Resolution, is a little over 3000 miles (almost 5000 Kilometers), in canoes and on foot. There some familiar names trading. Hypolite Brisette had been there since 1819 and Baptist Laramie had been trading for awhile.

Hudson Bay Post Fort Franklin

They built winter quarters, and spent the winter on Great Bear Lake, (Fort Franklin) before continuing on the Arctic the next travelling season. In 1826, they went up to the Mackenzie River then returned to Fort Franklin, where some hunters had been left to gather supplies for the next winter.

In 1827, the party returned to "civilization" arriving in Penetang where the party was let off. Ironically, Cuthbert Amiot's good friend Hipolyte Brisette also left Great Slave Lake that year. Some have said by eloping with Archange L'hirondelle, but that is a story I still have to fully research. Did he follow the group back to Penetang?

This would be the most successful of Franklin's expeditions. The previous one had half the crew become casualties and of course his next journey, 20 years later would result in calamity.

Louis and Pierre the younger would follow in his footsteps, becoming voyageurs paddling canoes between Montreal and the Great Lakes. They eventually were stationed on the Great Lakes and were going down into what was then Louisiana, down the Mississippi and up the Missouri. They were paddling trade goods out and furs back into bases on St Joseph Island in the western part of Lake Huron.

Pierre would find himself a wife in the daughter of a fur trader named Angelique Cadotte from the fur trade family mostly out of Sault Ste Marie. Louis would find himself a native woman as well, Lisette Milikibi, who he would marry in St Anne's on Montreal Island.

The Lepine men were hardy in nature and could accomplish much in life, but had difficulty keeping their women safe and healthy. Pierre the elder would lose a wife and remarry, Pierre the younger would see his wife in danger in a shipwreck and Louis' wife would have difficulty bringing babies into the world, having just one survive into adulthood.

The story of the Shipwreck has its issues. Hired to do a charter late in the shipping season, particularly for sail craft, Captain Hackett would steer the ill fated ship into a charted anchorage marked on the map for such an occasion. That the ship was not completely lost is, in my opinion quite a feat. November gales have claimed much larger and formidable vessels and per history, no one was lost. A sailing vessel can be unwieldly particularly in a storm. The story also tells of a woman and child being lashed to the mast. Some have offered that the child was not so young, but in fact a 10 year old child. This may be true, but the woman, Angelique Lepine, had a child, Therese, who suffered from some disability that would render her unable to look after herself for her entire life. She would be found in a log cabin, dead beside her mother, reasons were not given, but tragically she could not survive without her mother, evidence suggests. Some other indications are that she was debilitated in some way. Jean Baptist Boucher, Jacques son-in-law, would find the pair it was stated.

Commonly, we all know the ship as the Alice Hackett, but no Alice Hackett ever was registered. The ship could have been the Cincinnati, or go by another name. The ship wasn't a complete loss, some of the voyageurs travelling to Penetang returned and set up a fishing camp on shore, probably using some planks from its superstructure.

Louis would marry Lisette at Ste Anne's on Montreal Island in 1810. In 1825, while still on Drummond island and preparing for the trip ahead, Louis and Lisette would find their daughter gravely ill, so much so that at the midnight hour, without a priest in town (there was no resident priest) they called on Dedin Revol, a sort of deacon on the island, to baptize the baby as Lisette Lepine.

Typical Batteaux

Louis and Jacques, lifelong friends did an amazing thing in 1828. They convinced their wives that they could pile their families on a batteaux, a flat bottomed scow, with two horses and another family. This batteau they floated across most of Georgian Bay to Penetanguishene, where Louis and Jacques, side by each, carved out a lot and dwelling before moving to Lafontaine. They did this with three men, three women, two horses and 8 children. An amazing feat in itself.

So the Lepines and the Laramies together to the end, would display friendship that could only be shared by people who had been through many hardships in life. Paddling a canoe, then a batteau across the entire width of Georgian Bay. Having children parish and debtors in pursuit. All things that the ordinary French Canadian settler would endure and thrive through in their lives in early and mid 19th century life.

Art Duval Pipesmoke of the Past

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2 comentarios

11 feb 2022

I discovered the story of the Alice Hackett when I was chasing down an ancestor of. mine named Angelique Cadotte - as it turned out, a different Angelique Cadotte. I also found some holes in the story mainly the lack of any boat actually named Alice Hackett. It makes a good story, the babe and mum who were lashed to the mast and rode out the storm while the men were on the beach getting drunk. Another hole was that Angelique LePine did not have a baby at the time. I haven't heard that Therese was a disabled child who was found dead with her mother. Didn't Angelique Cadotte LePine live well into her 90s? Great to see accurate re…

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16 ene 2022

Thank you so much for this article. As a matrilineal descendant of Louis Lepine and Lisette Milikibi, I appreciate the additional information provided. You are a great storyteller! Cindy Calvert

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