The Great Southwest is the land of prairies, oak savannah, and the Mushrat French, including what we beleive to be a relative Pierre Doucet on the Raisin River in Michigan. This history is not well known but absolutely fascinating. But I’m no expert so before we go on a time travel voyage though the land of the Mushrat French, I invite you to explore a few links and I will sprinkle more through the article:
A really good article:
“Muskrat French”: Origins of a Culture, a Language, and a People
by James LaForest
And a book about the Mushrat French from 1935:
And an article about by Dean Cousino from the Monroe Evening News: http://www.mlloyd.org/gen/navarre/text/muscrat.html
And another thoughtful and well researched article:
THE MUSHRAT FRENCH: THE SURVIVAL OF FRENCH CANADIAN FOLKLIFE ON THE AMERICAN SIDE OF LE DÉTROIT
by Dennis M. Au
Do a Google search and you can download the PDF for free!
From Fur Trading on the Detroit River
by Kathy Warnes
Pierre LeBlanc, Fur Trader
Individual fur traders like Pierre LeBlanc were as instrumental as Native Americans in establishing fur trading regions and without premeditation, transforming the cultures of both French and Indian worlds. Leblanc, who would later settle in Ecorse, a small settlement about eight miles from Detroit, was one of the first French men to travel to the area, arriving in 1790 for the Hudson Bay Company.
Fur trading comprised most of the business in this western country at this time and created Native American, French, and British capitalists. Hunting fur bearing animals like beaver and muskrat, preparing their furs for market and transporting them to Montreal provided much of the impetus for exploration and settlement along the Detroit and Ecorse Rivers.
Trade was carried on between Montreal and the upper country by canoes and bateaux. Canoes loaded at Montreal were brought to Detroit either over the Ottawa River coming down through Georgian Bay or through the Niagara route over Lakes Ontario and Erie. The Niagara Route was easier because it had one portage at Niagara Falls while the Ottawa route had at least 30 portages.
Pierre LeBlanc Blends Cultures
Since French and other white women were scarce in this frontier settlement, Pierre married a Fox Indian woman and established a homestead farm on what is now West Jefferson Avenue near the Detroit River. When a French trapper took an Indian wife, his marriage helped him survive Native American attacks or other trouble with the warriors still numerous in the Downriver area. The LeBlancs established themselves as sturdy farmers and trappers, trading with the Indians and maintaining a good relationship with them.
Pierre and his Indian wife had a son whom they named Pierre, who was born in 1820 in a log house on the old family farm. This log house served as a place of worship for the early Catholics and for many years Mass was said within its rustic walls. Early in his life, the second Pierre revealed his sturdy French stock and Indian blood. He was a constable when he was only twenty years old and for many years he was a highway commissioner, laying out many of the first roads in the southeastern part of Michigan.
Pierre Le Blanc Pays his Taxes
In 1850, the LeBlancs built a new house to replace the old log cabin and Pierre’s son, Frank Xavier LeBlanc, was born in that house. Through his years of growing up on the LeBlanc farm near the Detroit River, Frank X. collected many souvenirs of his family’s early days in Ecorse and Downriver.
Peter Godfroy, a merchant, survived the Indian massacre at Frenchtown in Monroe in which the entire garrison and all the settlers within the fort except him were tomahawked. He gave Frank X. LeBlanc’s grandfather Pierre a receipt for goods that he had purchased and although yellowed and faded it was still legible. Another of his valuable possessions was a tax statement that the sheriff of Wayne County had sent Pierre LeBlanc in July 1824. The statement requested that LeBlanc pay the $2.03 he owed in taxes!
Individual fur traders like Pierre LeBlanc brought about a blending or exchanging of Native American and white culture and the transformation of both.
Burton, C.M., Cadillac’s Village or “Detroit Under Cadillac,” with a List of Property Owners and a History of the Settlement,” 1701 to 1710, Detroit, 1896
LaForest, Thomas and Saintonge, Jacques, Our French-Canadian Ancestors, Palm Harbor, Florida, 1993.
Morgan, Lewis Henry, The League of the Iroquois, North Dighton, Massachusetts: J.G. Press, 1995
Murphy, Lucy Eldersveld, A Gathering of Rivers: Indians, Metis, and Mining in the Western Great Lakes, 1737-1832. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000
Smith-Sleeper, Susan, Indian Women and French Men: Rethinking Cultural Encounters in the Western Great Lakes, Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 2001.
White, Richard, The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great lakes Region, 1650-1815, Cambridge University Press, 1997
“Catholic Masses Said in Log Cabin of LeBlanc,” Ecorse Advertiser, June 6, 1950
“An Old Time Trip with the Voyageurs: An Interesting Account of Transporation of Furs from the Northwest by Way of the Ottawa River One Hundred Years Ago,” Dr. Charles Codding, Duluth Evening Herald, April 7, 1900.