Blogiversary: 10/2/2013

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Jean-Baptiste Drouillard

Father Jean Baptiste Drouillard 1707 - 1754

A Voyageur who traveled from Quebec to Detroit. Killed by British in the French and Indian War as a member of Beaujeu force that fought at Fort Duquesne in 1755 against the British led by George Washington. 


If ever there was a Voyageur (which literally means "traveller") it was Jean Baptiste Drouillard. Born February 14th 1707 on the Ile Jesus, which is in the Saint Lawrence River across from Montreal. Jean Baptiste was the son of Simon dit Argentcourt Drouillard and his mother Marquerite. It would be no surprise to learn that he was born in the rear of a canoe, but it for certain that Jean Baptiste was born with adventure in his veins and a spirit as large and as brave as New France itself.

Jean Baptiste was a courageous man who had learned his fighting skills from his father, who was a soldier with Antoine de Lamothe Cadillac. He was also a young entrepreneur who trapped furs and traded with the Native Indians. Much of Jean Baptiste youth was spent on the rivers of New France, in a canoe trapping and fur trading which was very lucrative for New France. Jean Baptiste risked the journey west and north through hostile Iroquois territory from the settlements around Montreal to the pays d'en haut, or "upper country" (the area around the Great Lakes) to trap and trade with Native Indians.

In 1731 at the age of 26, Jean Baptiste was married at Lachine to Elizabeth Rapin who was born in 1712. Elizabeth was the daughter of John Baptiste Rapin and Catherine Janson dit Lapalme. The wedding was a family affair and it was recorded in church records that it was well attended. Lachine was a settlement just below Montreal at Lake St. Louis. Jean continued his free-spirited trade while at the same time started a family having three children in Lachine. Sometime around 1741 the family was on the move. John Baptiste was in the military service under Joseph Marin de la Malgue who was a French officer that was involved in the War with the Foxes in Wisconsin and Illinois. Jean and his family, during this period, moved from one trading post (or fort) to another, and this fact alone, may explain the reason why some of the birthplaces of his children are unknown.

In 1744 Jean Baptiste left the military and began managing canoe trains from Montreal to Detroit. This route was filled with danger as the fierce Iroquois it seemed where hiding behind every tree. The canoe trains started from Montreal up the Ottawa River to Lake Nipissing then down the French River to Georgian Bay. Entering Lake Huron they drifted past Cape Kurd following the coast line of Lake Huron down to Port Huron. They were in large groups of 100 or more and at the time they were the lifeline for the struggling settlement at Detroit.

Jean Baptiste Drouillard took a liking to area and on the 26th of July 1749, he arrived in Detroit to settle there with his Elizabeth, five sons and 3 daughters. They took up 3 arpents of farm land situated on the south side of the Detroit River. The family built a homestead, but farming it seems was no life for the adventurous John Baptiste and he went back into the service as a Major in the French militia. Duty called and Jean Baptiste left Fort Pontchartrain in 1755 with about 100 Frenchmen and several hundred Indians under Beaujeu, their leader, to reinforce the garrison at Fort Duquesne, which is today the town of Pittsburg Pennsylvania. In this campaign of the French and Indian War, Jean Baptiste would fight but not survive the fray. Jean Baptiste would never return to his family but he died as he lived, adventurous to the end.

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