Sunday, December 27, 2009

Joseph Louis Rondeau, NWC and HBC

Now that we are in the Fraser's Lake district, let us wander off to the Macleod's Lake post -- or Trout Lake post of the North West Company (NWC).
Joseph Louis Rondeau was born in Lanoraie, Quebec on August 31, 1797.
He was the son of Louis Rondeau, voyageur for the NWC and a man who appears to have had as many as four wives over the years.
Joseph's mother was Marie Madeleine Borneuf, baptized Jan. 11, 1759 at Notre Dame, Quebec City.

As a youth of about 17 years, Joseph Louis Rondeau joined the fur trade of the North West Company as a voyageur -- this would be about 1814-15.
His 1819 contract with the company was for three years and would have gone on to 1822 -- a year after the NWC merged with the Hudson's Bay Company under the latter company's name.
Rondeau's biography says that he worked on the 'Frazer River,' Great Slave Lake and in the Athabasca District.
He was posted in the Rocky Mountains about 1817, where he served under Archibald Norman McLeod and dandled McLeod's child on his knee.
I will doublecheck, but I think McLeod may have been posted at Dunvegan post north of Edmonton and east of McLeod's Lake -- but he was in charge of McLeod's Lake, the first settlement in modern-day British Columbia, established in 1805 by Simon Fraser.
McLeod Lake was originally named Trout Lake Fort, and the present name of lake honours Archibald Norman McLeod, an employee of the North West Company.
It is highly likely that Joseph Louis Rondeau spent some time at the McLeod's Lake post when it was called Trout Lake.

But Rondeau says that he spent a winter on the banks of the Fraser River, and we can only guess where he was.
Almost certainly he spent some time at McLeod's Lake, but he may have gone to Fort George or even as far as Fort Alexandria -- though the latter fort was built in 1821 and Rondeau was not in the area at that time.
But McLeod's Lake is not far from the Fraser River and the NWC men might have followed a river trail south to spend the winter in the alluvial valley of the Fraser near McBride, B.C.

Rondeau's HBC records say this about him:
He entered the HBC service in 1821; Contracts: 19 August 1824, and 17 July 1826.
1821-1822, Middleman in the Athabasca district
1822-1824, Middleman in the Athabasca district
1824-1827, Middleman in the Swan River district
1824-1830, Middleman in the Island Lake district
1831-1833, Middleman in the Fret establishment (any idea where this is?)
1831-1833, Middleman, general charges?
1833, 1 June, Free at Red River

Before he left the HBC, Rondeau apparently spent time at Edmonton House.
It was there, I believe but will never prove, that he met his wife, Josephine Beaulieu, younger sister of Alexander Caulfield Anderson's mother-in-law, Charlot Beaulieu.
Josephine was born in the territory that was later named Montana, in 1808-10 -- this is mentioned in several Minnesota censuses and in her son's death certificate.
She is supposed to descended from the French-Canadian named Beaulieu and his Kootenais wife.
David Thompson was in this area at Saleesh House, and it is possible that Charlot's and Josephine's father was the voyageur, Beaulieu, who served under David Thompson and who remained in the district as a free-trader for years after Thompson left.

About 1827 Rondeau settled at Red River and lived near Fort Garry about 8 years.
It was there he was married to Josephine Beaulieu.
For a few years he appears in the Red River census (see Drouin Records online, Registres Riviere Rouge, Manitoba, 1831-1849)
He then joined 60 or so refugees who left the Red River district for St. Paul (Minnesota), and settled near Fort Snelling, about 1837.
He purchased a house that was burned by the military when the settlers were forced out in May 1840, and like many others he moved to St. Paul, Minnesota, where a built a new house.
Rondeau appears in Ramsey County census in 1850 -- 56 years old.
He died in 1885 in Crookston, MN, and his obituary says he was 88 years old.
A very famous street in St. Paul was named for him.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting post.
    I worked with a Joe Rondeau in both Vancouver and Calgary back in the early 70s. He was a great fiddle player and had been born in St. Boniface, Manitoba. He called his various groups (including the one in which I was a member) Joe Rondeau and the Rounders.
    By the way, Hudsons Hope, BC is the oldest community on the BC mainland. It was established by McKenzie and was origionally called Rocky Mountain Fort. Ft. St. John is the second oldest.