A race, a community, an individual, awaking to the unhappy fact that he is not progressing but rather losing in the fight for place grows gradually jealous of the more successful rival or rivals and the spirit quickly develops into hate.
So it was with the British and the French. The latter finding themselves out-distanced by the people who were even then developing fast into the ” nation of shop-keepers,” put forth every effort to stop their onward march.
But the attempts proved unsuccessful, Voyageurs were now used to the ways of the Englishmen whose gold was as good to them as was that of the French. The Courreurs des Bois and their grown up sons were willing to engage with anyone, irrespective of nationality, if the payments. were sufficient and regularly made and the powers at Quebec saw the West rapidly slipping from their grasp.
At that time Jonquiere was Governor under Louis XIV. and to him was entrusted the working out of a scheme whereby the influence of the newcomers might be ended. The plan adopted by him was one calculated to prove efficient as well as most economical.
He requested the home government to make a grant of land on the south shore of the river six leagues long by six leagues wide to his nephew, a certain Captain Bonne, and to Chevalier de Repentigny on condition that a fort be erected and maintained at their personal expense and the ground thereabout, comprised in their thirty-six square leagues be placed under cultivation.
Of Bonne we know nothing, save of his relation to the Governor and that he fought at the battle of Sillery, but of Repentigny and his people the history of Canada has much to say.
The Repentigny family was one of the most distinguished under the old regime.
The great grandfather of our hero came to Canada in 1634, two years be-fore Nicolet reached Sault Sainte Marie. To the founder of the family in the New World were born twenty-three sons. Madame Repentigny and her husband were eminently religious and in those first days were noted and beloved for their work of charity to the poor of Quebec.
No Christian festival was complete without them, and often did they encourage by their presence, the Fathers of the parish church, as they taught the Pater Noster, the Credo and the Ave to the Indian children assembled to learn.
The spirit of the soldier was inherited by each generation in turn, until the middle of the eighteenth century found Louis Legardeur Repentigny one of the most trusted and successful officers in the colonial service. Mackinac, Acadia, Lake George, Lake Erie, Lake Pepin, Sillery, Schenectady and the Plains of Abraham, Quebec, at various times, saw his daring exploits and bore testimony to his achievements, and to him was entrusted in 1750 the care and guard over the West.
Arriving at Michilmacanac he was met by the chief of the Sault Sainte Marie Indians who presented him with four strings of wampum and most hearty assurances of the cordiality of his tribe to the French. The chief informed him that they would ever be the friends of the French, reminded him that he had already on a former visit been adopted by the Indians and besought him to forward the belts to the Governor.
Repentigny replied in a similar strain, presented the chief with an equal number of wampum strings, and shortly afterward proceeded to his future headquarters at the Rapids of St. Mary.
He was received with great joy, and as a token of the affection of the French for their Indian subjects he presented them with a necklace, which cemented the bond.
An Indian named Cacosagane, however, told Repentigny of a similar necklace which had been presented to the tribe by the English and which was still kept secreted in their village. It had been amongst them for five years and had been first brought in as an inducement to the Ojibways to join the confederacy of the Iroquois and English against the French. The object had proved a failure and now the commandant secured possession of the wampum and it disappeared from history.
The deed of gift of the land had been made as stated to Repentigny and de. Bonne, but there is nothing discoverable to show that the latter ever became interested enough to visit and inspect his acres.
The name of his associate alone appears in many transactions which took place either with the Indians or with the white people to whom the Governor’s relative must have been merely a name.
Although the party arrived in the early Fall, yet so severe did the weather become that work on the proposed fort had to be delayed.
October 10th of that year found the snow a foot deep and the time was spent in cutting down the trees and preparing timber for the Spring building.
Eleven hundred pickets fifteen feet in length were prepared for a palisale and the necessary material for the construction of three houses one thirty feet long and twenty feet wide and two others each twenty-five feet long and twenty feet wide.
The fort when completed was enclosed in a palisade one hundred and ten feet square with a redoubt of oak twelve feet square and reaching twelve feet above the centre gate.
Among other possessions of the resusitated French colony were eight cattle and three horses which Repentigny had caused to be forwarded to him.
A Frenchman who had married an Indian woman at Sault Sainte Marie was placed upon a section of the grant of land for the purpose of inaugurating farming operations and Repentigny himself set two slaves to work to cultivate his acres.
And so after a lapse of 6o odd years was the ground once more made to yield her increase.
Among those who came in the little band of followers was one M. Cadeau whose descendants were to earn for themselves through many successive generations respected and honourable report.
Cadeau married an Ojibway girl and settled on his master’s clearing. For what reason, it is not known, the name was soon changed to Cadotte and through all the Lake Superior district in after years and far into the Great West the Indians knew and trusted him and his sons.
But Repentigny was not to be left undisturbed to work out his splendid plans. The enmity between France and Britain had broken out in open war and every son of the former in the New World was needed to defend the colony. In 1755, the year following the renewal of hostilities, Repentigny was under St. Pierre and fought at the head of a regiment of Canadians at Lake George. The next year found him again at Sault Sainte Marie directing the efforts of his handful of settlers, but once more the call to arms was heard. The British were rapidly getting the best of it and Quebec, the stronghold, was threatened. Leaving Cadotte in command of the fort, Repentigny hastened with all speed to lend his aid to the Governor. With him journeyed Ma-mong-e-se-da, father of Waubo-jeeg, of whom we shall hear again, and a body of Redmen. The party arrived safely at the Citadel, but were of little avail. Everyone knows the story of its downfall and the consequent wiping out of French rule in Canada. In the darkness of the night, in the silence of the camp, the alarm suddenly sounded, but it was too late.
As though they had risen from the ground at their feet, were the British soldiers, on all sides, and as far as the defenders could see. Bravely, however, did the French and their allies give battle, but without avail They were driven back and put to confusion and the victory fell to the besiegers.
Here first in history was the word ” Shaugan-aush” applied to the conquerors. Those braves who returned to the Fort at the Sault carried back with them the story of the enemies’ unaccountable and sudden appearance on the Plains of Abraham and henceforth the British were known by that term, which means ” those who dropped from the cloud.”
But Repentigny did not return.
The day was lost. France no longer held proud sway over Canada and there was now no further inducement to stay.
Long and vainly did Cadotte watch for his commander’s coming and heartened the natives and settlers with his words, but one day there was sighted coming up the river a flotilla of canoes bearing a detachment of British soldiers under Lieutenant Jemette. They landed and in the name of the King took possession of the post. The lilies of France drooping from their staff were lowered after an ascendency, from the ccming of Saint Lusson, of ninety-one years, and the triple cross of the ensign of Great Britain and Ireland was unfolded and flung to the breeze.
If Bonne can be considered as indifferent in regard to his landed estate, those who claimed descent from him afterward were most zealous in their efforts to regain possession.
In 1706 his interest in the property was sold to one James Caldwell of Albany for something in the neighborhood of £1500, and long years after the death of these men their heirs laid claim to the acres. Agents were employed at great expense to obtain recognition by Congress of their claims, and in 1860 that body passed an act to the effect that if the courts decided against the claimants their rights should be forever barred. Many perplexing questions of international law arose, and finally the decision was given by Hon, Samuel Nelson that the claimants had failed to establish their case. Thus the question was settled and the titles of the later settlers were confirmed.
NOTE : The writer wishes to acknowledge the very great assistance which Reverend Mr. Neill’s work has been to him on this chapter and from which work he has quoted extensively.