From the Archives: Tourvilles as Middlemen Voyageurs

The very preliminary steps of the first acknowledged trip in which Toussaint Tourville and his older brother Pierre were involved as voyageurs started on April 3, 1790 at the office of Notary Public Louis Chaboillez (in office 1787-1813), where they each sign a one-year contract with the merchant company Todd McGill & Co. The destination was unknown as they were accepting to travel wherever they were required to (North excluded). Even if the agreement entered into was for a one-year term only, they were contracted as “hyvernants” which meant they would spend the winter and make the return trip the next year.

In 1790, their father, Jérôme, had passed away for five years already and their mother was still alive but would die in turn five years later in 1795. Their older sister Marie-Josephte (my 4G grandmother) was married since 1781 to Étienne Content. Their sister Élisabeth would marry Pierre Chartrand in January 1799 and Pierre attended the ceremony, but Toussaint didn’t, as he would get married a few weeks later in St. Ferdinand.


Fur Traders on Missouri River, painted by George Caleb Bingham c. 1845 [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Toussaint and Pierre were engaged as middlemen voyageurs in the canoe. Both were granted with one blanket, three cotton sheets, one collar and one pair of shoes. Toussaint’s wages were 300 pounds and he received an advance of 14 pounds. Pierre was paid 350 pounds for the trip and obtained an advance of 28 pounds as well as tobacco.

On the date of the signature, Toussaint was 19 and his brother, 26. Is the reason why Toussaint’s wages were lower than Pierre’s and he hasn’t been provided with tobacco because he was a minor? Or maybe it was not Pierre’s first trip?

Of course we are sure that Toussaint settled in St. Ferdinand Township (now Florissant) in Missouri where he married Marie-Reine Calvé in 1799. Has he stayed there during his 1790 trip or did he actually go there for the first time later on? I didn’t come across any other contract in notarial records in respect of Toussaint nor have I found any trace of him in the Quebec church records as a witness or as a godfather.

As for Pierre, it is a proven fact that he was back in Lachenaie in 1799 but the story doesn’t end there for him. He will be featured in a future post.

Further readings:

You will find here a very good article on Voyageurs from McGill University.

You may download the original contracts of both brothers in PDF format (in French).