A Clear Path to Antoine Lafreniere and
our Metis Heritage
After a two month break, I have decided to approach our family ancestry by reviewing what we know for certain about our Metis heritage beginning with Helen and Ulric Livingston (more details of all siblings and their beautiful families will follow at a later date).
- Helen Marie Marguerite Langevin - born Oct. 6, 1897 in St. Alphonse, MB
- Ulric Livingston (born Michael Liversant) - married on Jul. 2,1917
Front row: Pat, Marguerite, Helen, Francis, and Eileen
Helen's parents were:
- Marie Clara Lafreniere born Feb. 15, 1863 in Penetanguishene, ON
- Joseph Langevin born January 20, 1857; and married Apr. 6, 1891 at St. Leon, MB.
Back row: Nora, Leo VanColeart, Jack Grandison, Joe Langevin, Mary Langevin, Anthony Langevin ("Tenny"), Blanche Langevin, Arthur Langevin, Ernest Langevin
Middle row: Anna VanColeart, Marie Clara Langevin; Lea (Langevin) Grandison holding Noel; Helen Marie Marguerite (Langevin) Livingston holding Eileen; Ulric Livingston holding Marguerite, Joseph Langevin
Front row: Ralph Grandison, Edgar Grandison, Archie Livingston
From Doreen Livingston's account:
In a letter written to Helen, daughter of Joseph and Clara, I submit
the following paragraphs, excerpts from same, to show the closeness
of these relations throughout their life time:
"We went on a trip (from Estavan, Saskatchewan) on the first of the
month to Melita, Brandon, Oaklake and Souris (Manitoba) in our new
"We went to Melita to see your Aunt Lenora," (where they stayed and
spent the night). "____ , two of the Desaunier boys, sons of
Marie Rose Alba Lafreniere from St. Pierre were there with a cousin
of theirs, a Prefontaine boy."
"On Sunday, we took another trip to Radville and visited your uncle
Arthur and Victoria (Labossiere) Lafreniere."
Lovingly Mildred and-Tenny (Anthony Langevin)
The parents of Marie Clara (Lafreniere) Langevin were:
- Marie Maurice born 13 October 1842 at Batiscan, QC.
- Ovide Benjamin Lafreniere born 26 June 1837 and married on 11 June 1858.
They had 17 children (as provided by Doreen's notes):
- Marie Virginia born April 23, 1859; married (1) J.B. Bourdeau; (2) W.Hamilton; and (3)Max Macaffrey. Died 21 November 1923.
- Marie Jeanne born 27 January 1861; married Arthur Laroche on January 23, 1883. Died 2 July 1949 at St. Pierre, MB.
- Charles Ernest born 8 February 1862; died 8 February 1862.
- Marie Clara born 15 February 1863 at Penetanguishene, ON; married Joseph Langevin on 6 April 1891. Died 3 February 1936 in Brandon, MB.
- Louis Napoleon born 26 December 1864; married 28 November 1894 at Altamont, MB to Ermelinde Menardi; died 6 July 1936 at St. Boniface Hospital, and buried 9 July 1936 at St. Leon, MB.
- Joseph Magloire born 20 October 1866, Lafontaine, ON; married Philamise Poulin 8 January 1889. Died 26 December 1936.
- Marie Olive born 27 October 1868; married Gustave Rougeau on 4 June 1888. Died 8 June 1938.
- Rose Delima born 24 September 1870; married Michel Parenteau on 5 November 1902. Died 3 April 1915.
- Marie Leonore (Louise Elenore) born 1 July 1872; married Jerome Langevin 22 April 1890. Died 5 November 1945. (Note of interest from her niece Helen Livingston - nee Langevin, "Aunt Lenore was a large woman with flaming red hair. She was a victim of epilepsy.")
- Victoria Emelie born 26 June 1874; married (1) George Heizler (or Heasler) 12 December 1898; (2) ______Furnish. Died 18 February 1943.
- Marie Josephine born 20 April 1876; married Francois Guillard 20 October 1911. Died 28 June 1936.
- Marie Rose Alba born 14 March 1878; married 12 June 1901 Josephat Desaulnier. Died 20 February 1956 at St. Pierre, MB.
- Olea Marie born 29 April 1880 at St. Leon, MB (first of the Lafreniere, O.B. children to be born here); married Pacifique Lalonde at Norman, ON on 20 August 1901. Died 21 May 1971 at Kenora, ON.
- Marie Louise Madeleine born 13 May 1882. Godparents, Louis Napoleon and Clara. Died 5 June 1904.
- Marie Delia born 18 March 1884 at St. Leon, MB. Died 2 August 1885 at St. Leon, MB.
- Joseph George Arthur born 3 February 1886;married Victoria Labossiere 8 April 1907. Died 30 August 1954 at Radville, SK.
- Thomas Antoine born 6 December 1888;married (1) 14 November 1911 Helen Moreau (born 22 April 1894 - died 12 September 1920); (2) Yvonne Cote. Died 22 October 1940.
From Bernie Livingston's collection, here are more of the Lafreniere children are pictured below clockwise: Pacific Lalonde and Lea; Louis and Joseph in fur coats; Thomas; Victoria; and middle picture: Louise and Josephine.
Other relations of O.B. Lafreniere also settled in the Pembina Mountains near St. Leon, MB. Marie Maurice Lafreniere was known to suffer with rheumatism and asthma. On the fiftieth anniversary of the wedding of Ovide-Benjamin and Marie-Maurice, they were honoured by 250 of their fellow parishioners at St. Leon, Manitoba on 27 June 1908.
Author G.S. Andrews of Metis Outpost: Memoirs of the first Schoolmaster at the Metis Settlement of Kelly Lake claims that Metis families flourished in the Pembina region with enough trees to build log cabins, fuel and fence rails for vegetable gardens. They had grazing rights on the open prairie and played an active role in the fur trade dominated by the Hudson Bay Company. They had semi-annual buffalo hunts and relied on other game in the region also, such as moose. Their main sources of transportation were the Red River home-made two-wheeled carts along the plains, and their birch bark canoes along the rivers. In addition, birch trees were utilized to craft snowshoes and toboggans during the winter.
|Photo of Red River Cart in Pembina, North Dakota from the collection of the |
State Historical Society of North Dakota
- Antoine Lafreniere (born 16 October 1799 in Maskinonge, QC)
- Magdeleine dit Letard dit St. Onge dit McTavish (born between 1801-11 Michilimackinac Island, Michigan) of Metis descent.
The above description is an excerpt from The Migration of Voyageurs from Drummond Island to Penetanguishene in 1828 published by the Ontario Historical Society about how the voyageurs remained loyal to the British forces.The British military post at Michilimackinac was transferred to the United States in 1796 by mutual agreement, and the forces stationed there retired to St. Joseph Island, where a fort and blockhouse were erected. From this latter post, at a subsequent period, issued that famous volunteer contingent of one hundred and sixty Canadian voyageurs, accompanied by a few (30) British regulars with two field pieces, under Captain Roberts, who effected the recapture of Mackinaw for the British.
This occurred on the 16th of July, 1812, the first year of the war. In a subsequent attack by the Americans to recover the post the Canadian voyageurs gallantly assisted in its defense. Mackinaw was again restored to the United States according to treaty stipulations in 1815, when the British garrison found refuge on Drummond Island, in proximity to the former post of St. Joseph. The Canadian voyageurs still preferring to follow the fortunes of the British flag, with one or two exceptions, removed with the forces to Drummond Island. On the completion of the treaty surveys, Drummond Island proved to be in United States territory. Thereupon the British forces, under Lieut. Carson, commanding a detachment of the 68th Regiment, withdrew to the naval station at Penetanguishene, which event occurred on the 4th of November, 1828. ("Canadian Archives," 1898, p. 553.)
|This map is from The Atlas of Great Lakes Indian History edited by Helen Hornbeck Tanner|
When Antoine met and married Magdeleine on August 17,1826, he was a voyageur employed by the Northwest Company post at the British Fort Michilimackinac (also known as Mackinac).
|Marital record of Antoine Lafreniere and Magdeleine from St. Anne's parish, Detroit MI|
At the end of the document, "Antoine Lafreniere" is listed as one of the voyageurs and he is described as a "cooper" (also known as a barrelmaker). As part of concessions for the war, Canada rescinded claims to Drummond Island and it became part of the United States territory. In 1834, Antoine and his wife Magdeleine were granted a land allotment of "Park lot No.18", approximately 20 to 40 acres on Pentanguishene Bay in a Simcoe township called Tiny, which was located several hours southeast.
Below is a list of Antoine and Magdeleine's children:
- *Olivier Lafreniere born 31 March 1827; married (1) Delima Moreau and (2) Olive Maurice 26 November 1866 at St. Croix, Lafontaine, ON; and died 19 February 1899 at St. Leon, MB.
- Antoine Lafreniere born about 1828.
- Josephte Lafreniere born about 1830.
- Henri Lafreniere born June 1835 at Penetanguishene, ON and married Elizabeth Moreau on 26 April 1858.
- Marie Lafreniere born about 1836 at Penetanguishene, ON and died on 7 June 1865 at St. Croix, Lafontaine, ON.
- Ovide-Benjamin Lafreniere born 26 June 1837 at Penetanguishene, ON; married Marie Maurice on 11 June 1858 at Pentanguishene, ON; and died 10 July 1917 at St. Leon, MB.
- Zoe Lafreniere born 17 August 1839 and married (1) Touissant Moreau on 26 September 1864 and (2) Joseph Vautrin (date unknown).
- Julie Lafreniere born 11 May 1841 at Penetanguishene, ON; married ____Labissoniere date unknown; and died 22 October 1877 at St. Croix, Lafontaine, ON.
- Charles Lafreniere born 16 May 1843 at Penetanguishene, ON; married Marie-Lucie Brausseur on 9 February 1866 at St. Croix, Lafontaine, ON; and died 13 September 1903 at St. Leon, MB.
- Theophile Lafreniere born about 1844 at Penetanguishene, ON and 13 September 1903 at Penetanguishene, ON.
- Louise Lafreniere born 5 June 1845 at Lafontaine, ON and married Laurent Anthime Pilon in 1863; and died 1882.
- Victoire Lafreniere born about 1847 at Penetanguishene, ON and married Ovila Rondeau date unknown.
- Virginie Lafreniere born 30 March 1850 at Penetanguishene, ON; married Joseph Brasseur date unknown; and died 29 May 1925.
- Auguste Lafreniere born about 1851 at Penetanguishene, ON and died 3 July 1864 at St. Croix, Lafontaine, ON.
|Antoine Lafreniere and his wife Magdeleine|
Based on Odile Martel's Pionniers de la Montagne Pembina*, Antoine and Magdeleine's son Olivier and his own son were amongst a group of settlers who founded the town of Saint-Leon in Manitoba, about 100 kms southwest of Winnipeg. It was described as:
St. Leon was a small place located near a round lake founded in 1870. This town had a unique start in that it was initially built at the south end of the lake, but it disappeared a decade after the arrival of early settlers. The town was moved to north side of the lake for reasons unknown, but perhaps due to flooding.(*Please note: In 2009, this book, written in French, was available by contacting: Comite du Livre, Saint-Leon, MB R0G 2E0 for $65 plus $5 shipping. I do not own a copy nor have I tried to obtain one.)
Several years ago, this blog creator was handed an orange 90 paged duotang labeled Le Montagnard du Saint Leon: Gravsioons les collines (loosely translated "The mountains of St. Leon: climb the hills"), which was written in French and compiled in January 1979. It is a collection of historical documents, and letters related to the families of St.Leon to mark its centennial celebration. It is at this time that I would like to acknowledge and thank my son, Thomas Nowak, for translating some of this important historical primary source. The following letters from Antoine's son, Olivier Lafreniere, demonstrate the care that was taken to pick the appropriate location for the St.Leon's first parish, and the song-writing abilities of Olivier's brother Charles.
Pembina Mountain (Montagne de Pembina)
January 17, 1878
To His Grace Monsignor Taché, St. Boniface.
I have promised to find you a lot (place) of wood for the church, but these last few days I have not had the time to search for it. It's been 2 days since we started looking, M. Lapierre and I, and it is difficult to finder a section all in wood, but in section 14 township 5 place (rang) 9 we found the SW quarter well-wooded.
We have talked among ourselves, and all the inhabitants here would like me to ask of you permission to commence to build a small chapel. We will give, M. Charbonneau and myself, 1.5 acres each in section 35 township 4 place (rang) 9. This would then find itself in the present centre of the parish and in a beautiful place.
I am your very humble and very devoted servant.
Fifteen months later, Olivier wrote a follow up letter to the Monsignor:
St-Leon, April 20, 1879
To His Grace Monsignor Taché
I am going to try to inform you of the sections the furthest away; it’s the section 4-5-9 of the west, and to the north it’s the section 20-5-9, and to the south section 6-4-8, and to the east it is section 28-4-8. I hope that you will forgive me if I am a little long on this letter, but I was begged by all of this side to give you all these explanations because were it only myself I would not make a large difference; only that I would like there to be as few disputes as possible, because for making something we need that everyone put in a hand. We ask again for a delay of a few weeks for deciding the thing so that all the arrivals are well-placed and we ask you as well your advice on how that we must next act; if we must decide by elections or otherwise.
Our school goes very well and we hope that that will make a large goodness in our young colony and from this we must give much recognition to Reverend Father Gladu for having us obtain something so grand.
Accept, sir, the feelings of respect and loyalty of your very humble and very obedient servant.
Antoine donated land to build the town's church and Olivier developed his second lot into village lots. Olivier's brother Charles Lafreniere wrote a song/poem to describe his feelings about moving from St. Leon, MB from Lafontaine, ON:
It was in the year of '82According to Doreen's notes, Charles' travels are described as:
That I took off for this part of the country.
Thinking I could improve my lot.
Alas, I was duped.
I left on April 11th
With my family and all my trunks
Vulnerable to all the risks
On the Chicago Central Line.
In this country of great reknown
That gave us such hope
There is no risk to indebtedness
Why, we'll even give you a line of credit!
A few cents here, a few dollars there
It melted away like butter in a frying pan.
That's the idiom in Manitoba.
But I say it's worse than frost or hail
In December of that same year
I was struck by an evil curse.
I was on a foolish course
Where I nearly died.
I stabbed my eye on broken tree branch
As I was hunting in the brush
So, I had to stay on my back
During the precious sowing season
How many honest people have lost
Their land, their horses, their machinery
And left more than half-naked, To work in the factories.
Some went to Dakota, Leaving unpaid debts behind
Others left in great haste
Further still among the Yankeed
If I ever made enough money
I'd go back to Lafontaine
To rejoin my extended family
And I'd stay, that's for sure
Closer to the church and to the convent
Much closer to God's church.
The future of my children
Would be much less in doubt.
To compose this song
A man named Charles Lafreniere
At home on a winter's night
Made up these verses to occupy his time
Surrounded by his children
Telling them his sad,- sad tale
They listened most attentively!
And cherish it forever.
Conditions which confronted these Settlers into virgin country: From the first stage of their journey leaving St. Croix, Ontario to Chicago by the newly built railway, unfamiliar experiences had to be faced. Then, from Chicago to Fisher's Landing where they travelled by boat on the Red River to St. Boniface, Manitoba. The third stage of their journey was almost overwhelming. Travelling bv Red river carts, pulled by oxen, over rough ground and through sloughs across the plains. Unprotected from the mosquitoes and scorching winds brought misery to all the travellers. To augment their meagre diet they trapped small game and prairie chickens, in snares.[According to Google maps, this is a road distance of 2,387 kms.!]
As unveiled in the previous blog posting dated May 17, 2012, Antoine's parents were Antoine Charles Lupin Lafreniere (born January 10, 1762 in Maskinonge, QC) and Marie Josephe Banhiac Lamontagne Beaulieu (born June 4, 1766 in Louisville, QC). On his birth records, Antoine's father is recorded as a "terrien" (perhaps interpreted as "farmer"?).
In a separate posting, I will describe Antoine's parents further, but for now, let's turn to Antoine's wife Magdeleine dit Letard dit St. Onge dit McTavish and her First Nations descendants. (Please bear with me as the documentation is sparse.)
Magdeleine dit Letard dit St. Onge dit McTavish and her First Nations descendants
Magdeleine dit Letard dit St. Onge dit McTavish's parents were:
- Katrine-Genevieve Vasseur (born about 2 July 1792 St. Ignace, Mackinac County, Michigan).
- Joseph dit Letard dit St. Onge (I am searching for data)
This is Katrine-Genevieve's birth record:
Godparents were Antoine Adhemar St. Martin and Genevieve Blondeau. August 15, 1799, by us the undersigned priest, the ceremonies of Baptism were supplied to Genevieve, privately baptized by Laurent Bertrand, born July 2, 1792, of jacques Vasseur and of Madeleine, an Outawa, his lawful wife. The father was present and signed with us. The godfather was Antoine Adhemar St. Martin; and the godmother Genevieve Blondeau, his wife, who signed with us.
Gabriel Richard, priest.
jac Vasseur; Bd. adhemar; adhemar St martin
Magdeleine's mother Katrine-Genevieve wed Joseph dit Letard St. Onge about 1810. Their children present at the wedding ceremony were:
- Amble dit Letard St. Onge
- Genevieve dit Letard St. Onge
- Joseph (Jr) dit Letard St. Onge
- Touissant dit Letard St. Onge born about 1815, and died 1881.
- Magdeleine dit Letard St.Onge born 1801-11 Mackinac Island, MI.;married Antoine Lafreniere and died 6 December 1883 at St. Leon, MB.
- Marie Louisa dit Letard St. Onge born 1822 and died 23 April 1908 at Britt, Parry Sound, ON.
- Marie Veronique Marguerite dit Letard St. Onge born 25 July 1825 at Drummond Island.
Katrine-Genvieve’s parents were:
- Jacques Vasseur
- and Madeleine Ouiouiskoin of the Outawas Nation (more commonly known as Ottawa First Nations of the Ojibway).
Below is their official marriage and baptism registration:
1695--1821: REGISTER OF BAPTISMS OF THE MISSION OF ST. IGNACE DE MICHILIMAKINAK, MI. August 5, 1799, after one publication of bans, with dispensation from the two others, between Jacques Vasseur, son of Jacques Vasseur and of Madeleine Gatien, a native of Montreal, of the one part; and Madeleine of the Outawas Nation, baptized the same day, there being no opposition whatsoever thereto, We, the Undersigned priest, received their mutual consent and gave them the nuptial benediction and legitimized five children whom they acknowledged, namely: Marie Louise, about eleven years old; Jacques, about nine and a half years old; Louis, about eight years old; Genevieve, about seven years old; and Joseph, born on the eighth of the month of August 1797. The whole in the presence of Pierre Queri, of Augustin Hamelin and of others who signed with us.
Gabriel Richard, priest. P. Thierry, witness; Madelaine, + her mark; August Hamelin; Jac Vasseur.
Children of Jacques Vasseur and Madeleine Ouiouiskoin were:
- Marie Louise Vasseur born February 1787; married Joseph Gautier dit Caron on 1 July 1804.
- Louis Vasseur born 15 June 1790 probably at St. Ignace, MI.
- Katrine-Genevieve Vasseur born 2 July 1792 at St. Ignace, Mackinac County, MI.; married
- Joseph Vasseur born 8 August 1797.
- Jacques Vasseur III born 8 January 1799 at St. Ignace, Mackinac County, MI.
- Jean Baptiste Vasseur born 1801.
- Andre Vasseur born 1802 and died at Bruce Mines, ON (date unknown).
Next week: Was Joseph dit Letard dit St.Onge the legitimate father of Magdeleine dit Letard dit St. Onge dit McTavish?