Cajuns, Canada, French Canadian, Gabriel Franchère, John Jacob Astor, Migration to USA, New France, Quebec, United States, voyageurs
Photo credit: The Encyclopædia Britannica[i]
Yesterday, I went to my Gmail account and read posts written by people who are following my blog. It was an education and I am not finished. At least two of my readers are investigating their French-Canadian and French ancestry.
The story of the French in North America is a lengthy tale and although Quebec is home to the largest concentration of French-speaking North Americans, French Canadians are everywhere in North America and a large number are in the United States. Let us raise that curtain.
The Revocation of the Edict of Nantes
The first to leave New France and find a home in the United States are the Huguenots (Reformed Church of France or Calvinist Protestants). There were many Huguenots in New France. They left when Louis XIV revoked the Edict of Nantes, in October 1685.[ii] For instance, whenever the Bourbeau family, my mother’s family, has a reunion, most “relatives” comes from the United States. The Bourbeau family was a Huguenot family. Three Bourbeau families found refuge in Canada, but two left for the United States in 1685 so they could remain Huguenots. One Bourbeau family converted to Catholicism. They stayed in New France and are my ancestors.
In an early edition of his Histoire du Canada, written between 1845 and 1848, François-Xavier Garneau expressed the view that New France was weakened when the Huguenots left. However, he had to delete these comments to avoid condemnation on the part of the Church. His Histoire would have been à l’Index, or on the List of Prohibited Books.
Many Canadiens who worked as voyageurs were employed by German- and Waldensian– born John Jacob Astor (July 17, 1763 – March 29, 1848).[iii] Upon retirement, they settled in Minnesota, but many moved to other parts of the United States.
In fact, John Jacob Astor so trusted one of his voyageurs, Gabriel Franchère (3 Nov. 1786 in Montreal – 12 April 1863 in St Paul, Minn), that he asked him to take voyageurs from New York to Fort Astoria, at the mouth of the Columbia River, in the Oregon Country. These voyageurs, some of whom were employees of the North West Company, based in Montreal, traveled on the Tonquin around Cape Horn. The Tonquin was purchased by American John Jacob Astor on August 23, 1810, the day John Jacob founded the Pacific Fur Company. It left New York on September 8, 1810 and reached its destination on March 22, 1811.
Gabriel Franchère returned to Montreal, married and wrote his memoirs for his family and friends. However his manuscript was edited and published by Michel Bibaud in 1820. After spending several years in Montreal, Franchère went back to the United States and died in St Paul, Minnesota.
It is possible to follow the path of Canadiens voyageurs who worked for John Jacob Astor. They gave French names to rivers, forts and other locations. For example, it has been suggested that Ozark comes from aux arcs, at the arches, because of bends in a river. I heard this on A&E.
Acadians of the Great Expulsion (1755-1763)
Other inhabitants of New France who became Americans are Acadians deported in 1755. Some boats did not sail down the Thirteen Colonies, but some did. The deportees stayed aboard until one of the colonies, Georgia, allowed them to leave their ships. A few of these Acadians found their way back to Canada’s current Atlantic provinces, but many traveled from Georgia to Louisiana, another province of New France, and are known as Cajuns.
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (27 February 1807 – 24 March 1882) immortalized the Great Expulsion (le grand dérangement [the great disturbance]) by creating a fictional Évangéline whom Acadians transformed into their héroïne. The mythic Évangéline is alive in the mind of Acadians.
French Canadians and Acadians: US Migration
Moreover, close to a million French Canadians and Acadians left Quebec or Acadie because they could not find employment in Canada. This period of Canadian history, the USA Migration FR (1840-1930), is often referred to as l’Exode. I have an American grandfather. He could not find work in Canada. My grandmother stayed in Canada, but my grandfather rebuilt his life in Massachusetts. I would never have met him had my mother not decided that her children would have at least one grandfather. Her father had died.
In fact, many of the voyageurs were French Canadians or Canadiens who could not find employment on the shores of the St Lawrence. The thirty acres of land they had rented from a seigneur since the seventeenth century could no longer be divided. Some retired near the Red River in Manitoba, but the voyageurs who had been in the employ of John Jacob Astor became Americans. These could be considered exode French-Canadians.
The above seem the main groups of Canadiens who became Americans. But there may be others. For instance, the people of Louisiana, other than the Cajuns, were also French, but traditionally Canada and Acadie have been considered the provinces of New France. Until recently, Louisiana was not looked upon as a province of New France.
Therefore, the French-speaking inhabitants of Louisiana are the descendants of the French who settled in Louisiana and did not return to France after the Louisiana Purchase (1803). They are not descendants of French-Canadians. Acadiens, called Cajuns, are the descendants of Acadiens who were deported and settled in or near Baton Rouge when Louisiana was still a French colony. Other French-Canadians are descendants of voyageurs, or French-speaking Canadians who left New France to avoid religious persecutions or migrated south because they could no longer earn a living in Canada.
I will conclude by saying that French Canada and the United States are inextricably linked because of migrations from New France and Canada to the United States. Many, if not most, Americans of French-Canadian descent do not speak French, but we share cultural affinities and a collective memory. Historical events have linked Americans and French-Canadians. There is a brotherhood among us, a brotherhood I celebrate.
[i] Jolliet, Louis: Mississippi River exploration with Marquette. Photograph.
Britannica Online for Kids. Web. 13 Nov. 2012. <http://kids.britannica.com/comptons/art-101193>.
[ii] The Edict of Nantes, an edict of tolerance, was issued on 13 April 1598, by Henri IV, king of France and Navarre. Henri IV had been a Huguenot. He is famous for have said that “Paris (being King) was well worth a mass” (Paris vaut bien une messe). The first expeditions to Canada, Acadie to be precise, were undertaken during his reign by Pierre Du Gua de Monts (c. 1558 – 1628) a Huguenot, and Champlain, also a Huguenot but less visibly.
[iii]John Jacob Astor founded the American Fur Company (1808) and the Pacific Fur Company (June 23, 1810).© Micheline Walker November 13, 2012 WordPress
Very, very interesting article, dear Micheline! Thanks, Lou
Thank you Lou. You are very nice. Micheline
I’ve just been listening to “L’anse aux pailles”. So lively, I love it! Good find, thanks again, Lou
“L’anse au pailles” is so genuine, the real thing. Cajuns are a very musical people. A lot are “violoneux”. Quebec also has “violoneux” but fewer and fewer. Years ago, on a trip to Quebec, Jehudi Menuhin asked to meet the best “violoneux” in the province and the person he met was a virtuoso violinist who could not read music and was entirely self-taught. I admire these musicians who are “naturals”.
I thank you for your comment.
Micheline, my dear, as always, a great article!
Thank you so much for the history lesson! I learned a lot again from you!
Movie also liked very much!
Hope you have a wonderful day! Big hugs, always, with love, Stefania! 🙂
Thank you Stefania, That story, migration to the United States, is very special. So many families were affected. I have always loved studying history.
I have looked at your latest posts. They are so beautiful. The dancers have incredible grace and they are in lovely rooms. I thank you for sharing such lovely images and music.
Big hugs and take care,
James LaForest said:
Very interesting. Your readers might also be interested in the sizable F/C populations of Michigan, which can be explored here https://theredcedar.wordpress.com/ and here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/109717099063919/ or the F/C of New England: https://theredcedar.wordpress.com/2012/11/03/memory-culture-and-franco-american-identity-by-david-vermette/
All the best,
James, I think that the voyageurs may have settled in Michigan. Marcel Marquette S. J. and Louis Jolliet who explored the Mississipi, were the first white people to spend a winter in what is now Chicago. They had left from Michigan. I discussed Jolliet and Marquette in two posts on the Jesuit Relations. I am mentioning this posts on the blog I am now working on.
Thank you for writing and best regards, Micheline
Naomi Baltuck said:
I so appreciate your blog! It is intelligent and interesting and very informative.
Thank you Naomi. I’m a little slow at the moment, but I should regain all of my energy when I stop taking medication. I thank you for writing. I hope you have a wonderful Christmas.
Naomi Baltuck said:
The same to you, Micheline!
Thank you Naomi and my best wishes for the Holidays. May the New Year be pleasant and full of wonderful surprises.
Jon Verville said:
Great posts about French Canadian history. I am a fellow Bourbeau ancestor, exciting! I would enjoy emailing with you, if that is okay. My email is jonverveREPLACEWITHATSYMBOLgmail.com Just replace the capitol letters with an @ symbol. Sorry, I just do not want to get spam. Thank you again! Keep up the great writing!
– Jon Verville, 7th great grandson to Elie Bourbeau (born circa 1596, La Rochelle or Poitou, France, immigrated to Quebec, Trois-Rivieres region circa 1611)
I tried to reach you at the address you gave me, but my emails were returned to me. The problem may be that I am not home. My connection may not be working.
Yes, we are related. I am also a descendant of Élie Bourbeau, but it would appear my ancestor converted to Catholicism as other Bourbeaus left mainly because they were Huguenots.
Three Bourbeaus came to New France: Élie, early in the first half of the 17th century; Pierre and Simon, in the second half. Pierre or Simon or both survived the Siege of La Rochelle. Richelieu starved out twenty thousand Huguenots as he felt absolutism required: one king, one religion, one land. Pierre and/or Simon were among five thousand survivors. They left for the Anglo-Norman islands and then made their way across the Atlantic.
The Bourbeaus were from Poitiers where a street is named after them. They were notaries and lawyers. That province of France is called Charente-Maritime.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charente-Maritime. Bourbeau was my mother’s name. Her father came from the Arthabaska region, just south of Trois-Rivières. They are a prosperous family. Marc-Aurèle de Foy Suzor-Coté was a friend of the family and painted: le Pont Bourbeau, la Rivière Bourbeau, etc. In all likelihood, he met my grandmother at Suzor-Coté’s studio. She was an artist and probably worked for him. The Bourbeaus were also friends of Sir Wilfrid Laurier . There are very few Bourbeaus in Quebec. As a result, I changed my name to Bourbeau.
My sister has studied our genealogy, I’ll ask her to tell me more. Why is it we are not in the United States?
I’m delighted to have found a relative in the United States. Sometimes US Bourbeaus have a reunion in Trois-Rivières. It used to be a yearly event, but I do not think they met since my mother’s death (2003).
I’ll send you an e-mail when I return home. I had an operation and would not be able to look after myself at home unless someone did my groceries.
Please write again so that we may keep in touch.
With kindest regards,
Suzor-Coté also made a drawing of a Verville: http://www.lafitte.com/marc-aurele-de-foy-suzor-cote.htm. It’s at the Lafitte Galerie in Montreal. Love, Micheline