Translated from an article entitled “De remarquables oubliés – Isabelle Montour“, published by Radio-Canada in November 22, 2016.
A woman of rare intelligence and great beauty, Isabelle Montour is a prominent figure in the young history of the United States.
Élisabeth Couc was born in 1667 at the fiefdom of Algonquin Sachem Pachirini in Trois-Rivières. Her mother Marie Mite8ameg8k8e is Algonquin. Her father, Pierre Couc, from Cognac, is one of the first settlers.
In 1676, the family moved to Saint-François, on the other side of the river from Trois-Rivières. In 1679, Jeanne, the eldest child, was raped and killed by a man called Rattier, an employee of Lord Jean Crevier.
This tragedy illustrates the Settler’s disregard for the Métis. Elizabeth is 12 years old and she will never forget the incident.
From Couc to Montour
It is Elizabeth’s brother, Louis, who adopts the name of Montour when baptizing his children. In 1687, Elizabeth became Isabelle and she married Joachim Germaneau, a much older coureur des bois. Her sisters also marry coureurs des bois. The men know each other and do business together.
A desired woman
In 1692, Isabelle Germaneau and her two sisters moved to the Michillimackinac area, the strategic post between Lake Huron and Lake Erie, then ruled by Lamothe-Cadillac. In 1693, Isabelle’s husband disappears in the woods: she is widowed at 26 years old. Isabelle is very beautiful and leads a libertine life. Lamothe-Cadillac had her arrested and returned to Quebec.
In Quebec, Isabelle Montour is kidnapped by an Indian chief Ottawa, Outoutagan, a very handsome man, who brings her back to Michilimackinac. They marry. It is from this moment, in 1697, that Isabelle becomes an interpreter: she speaks Algonquin, Huron and Iroquois, which is unique. Around 1701, she separated and married a French soldier: she became La Téchenet and moved to Detroit.
The beginning of a saga
Étienne de Maubourg, who came from France to inspect the Cadillac colony, becomes Isabelle’s new lover, who is nearly 40 years old. Meanwhile, Louis Montour fur trade with the English who want to break to the west. He is very powerful. In Detroit, many people desert to follow him, including Isabelle and Etienne.
Maubourg had an affair with a married woman, Madame Tichenet, known as “La Chenette”, at Fort Pontchartrain. After his desertion in 1706, the couple met up and lived among a group of deserters on an island in Lake Erie
The French go after them. They do not find them, but their heads are priced.
In 1709, Louis Montour was murdered by Private Joncaire on the orders of Governor Vaudreuil.
A clan mother
Isabelle takes over from her brother. After having entrusted her daughter to her sisters in Trois-Rivières, she returned to Albany. She moved to Iroquois territory. She becomes accepted by the Oneida Nation and definitively adopts the name of Montour. She marries the chief Karontowa:nen, known also as Robert Hunter, of whom she is very in love. She is a diplomat who participates in all major conferences. Despised by the French, she is greatly respected by the English. She perpetuates the legend of her brother Louis.
A big liar
During her old age, her son Andrew manages to get her a big stone house. She receives a lot and likes to tell her life, but by inventing all sorts of stories! That’s why there are passages that remain unknown in this unusual life. Isabelle Montour died in 1751, at the age of 85.
She left a large Métis descent named Montour.
At the beginning of the story
In 1670, the population of New France was barely 6,700 people against 120,000 in New England. The Hudson’s Bay Company has just been created under the influence of Médard Chouart des Groseilliers and Pierre-Esprit Radisson. In 1676, the defeat of the Indians in New England gave European settlers control of the North American coast.
In 1850, in Pennsylvania, in memory of Madame Montour and her descendants, Montour County was created in the Susquehanna Valley named in honor of Madame Montour. In the United States, there are, in New York State, the Montour Falls and the city of Montour.
In 1679: Cavelier de la Salle explores the Great Lakes region. Then he goes down the Mississippi River. He takes possession of Louisiana in the name of France.
In 1863: William Penn signs a peace treaty with the Delaware Indians.
In 1686: Pennsylvania attracts many German and French Protestants who chose exile after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes.
In 1691: a far cry from virginia condemns to banishment any individual who is married to a black man, a mulatto or an Indian.
In 1699: the first permanent French colony is established in Louisiana.
References and bibliography:
Madame Montour and her time, by Simone Vincens, published by Hébert publications.
Mrs. Montour, White Queen of the Iroquois, by George G. Struble, published at Lebanon Valley College.