Bill's Story of Kaskaskia



Our Cousin Bill "B"

I received word recently from Pat Weeks that Bill passed away recently. I enjoyed the many emails and phone calls I shared with Bill over the years. I will miss visiting with him. He was 72.
November 2010

Click Here for Bills Genealogy now filed in the LDS Archives
French Ancestors to Barker's

French Colonization begun in 1608 when explorer Samuel de Champlain founded Quebec on the St. Lawrence River. Colony settlement was slow until 1634, when Cardinal Richelieu, minister of King Louis XIII, organized a stock company granting large tracts of land to men who could find suitable colonists to settle it. The population then increased; Trois-Rivieres was founded nearby in 1634, and Montreal in 1642, both experienced flourishing trade with the Huron Indians. In 1663, New France became a royal colony which resulted in the French government sending troops for defense and actively encouraging settlement and industry. The reasoning for this decision was that the pro-British Iroquois Indians, rivals of the French allies, the Hurons, had become a serious threat to the colony; at one point, they had nearly demolished the white population of Quebec. The Iroquois menace ended in 1665, when French troops decisively defeated them in battle, opening the way for new settlers to arrive and live in relative safety. Although sporadic Indian attacks continued for the rest of the century, the French population grew quickly and by 1675, the number of white settlers had grew to 8,000, and by 1683, the number had ballooned to nearly 10,000.

I have three French Canadian Ancestor Grandparents named Danis, LaBruyere and Hulin. They came West & South during the 1700's. The route they followed was the Pere Marquette's trail at Detroit and they floated down the Mississippi to Fort Kaskaskia Ill. In 1703 Kaskaskia was established first as a mission by Jesuit missionaries located at the confluence of the Mississippi and Kaskaskia Rivers, (4 years after Cahokia, making it the second-oldest permanent white settlement in Illinois). The name Kaskaskia was the local Indian tribe's name who inhabited the area. In time, an agricultural community grew up on the fertile bottomlands surrounding the village, and traders made it a center. By 1712, Kaskaskia population had grown to over 2,500. In 1733, a Fort was built and was occupied until 1755.

In 1722 my Ancestor Grandfather Charles Danis received one of nine land grants, (the first in Illinois to be given by the French), for a track of land on the bank of the Metchigamie River. His wife was Dorthee Metchiperta an Indian maiden and daughter of the Grand Chief. Charles and Dorthee's son was named Micheal Danis, and his son was named Jerome Danis and his daughter was Agatha Danis who in 1807 married Antoine Labruyere and his daughter was named Eugenie Labruyere who married Walter Barker.

Very little is known about my earliest known LaBruyere ancestor Pierre Normand LaBruyere (I) - probably born and died in France, he married Marie Guilman. It is not known when or where Pierre or his wife died.

Their son was Pierre Normand dit LaBruyere (II) - born 1638 in Chartres, France and he died in Quebec, Canada. Chartres is located southwest of Paris. It is an ancient city, first populated by Celtic Druids. During Roman times, the city was known as Carnutum. It was burned by Viking Normans in 858 A.D., and was passed to the French crown in 1286. Later it became a grain-trading center. The city is known for the world-famous Cathedral of Notre Dame, its two spires towering over the highest point of the hilly area.

Pierre Normand dit LaBruyere II immigrated to Quebec before 1665 and made his living as a tailor. He married Catherine Pajot in Quebec, 9/7/1665; daughter of Jean-Baptiste Pajot & Catherine St. Hilare. Catherine, born 1646, Village of Sens in the Bourgogne area of France. Their 10 Quebec born children were: Pierre (b.1666), Charles (b.1669), Marguerite (b.1671), Phillipe (b.1673), Jean-Baptiste (b.1675), Anne (b.1677), Jean (b.1679, Louis Norman dit Labruyere, born 10/13/1680, Francois (b.1683), and Marie-Catherine (b.1685). Catherine died on 2/5/1703, at age 58.

Little is known about Louis Normand dit LaBruyere, birth Oct 13, 1680, married Anne Bruneau on June 19, 1701 and died in Quebec on July 15, 1729, age 49. The only known child was Louis Ratte Normand dit LaBruyere.

Louis Ratte Normand LaBruyere came to Kaskaskia in November of 1731, where he signed as a witness to a land transaction between Indians and a settler. His signature appears as a witness or as a notary throughout the Kaskaskia records until January, 1758; his name also appears often as a record of his personal life. He was a Mastersmith and Locksmith, as the records note his contracts to furnish other villagers with metal tools, lime (for roofing), ironworks and Lock Smithing for homes. In return for his services, he was paid in money (the livre was the currency), flour, livestock, land, labor, or the use of tools or slaves. he also hired apprentices, and, for a brief time, went into a business partnership with another tradesman. Records found at the Kaskaskia Archives list contracts to make and furnish hinges and locks for many of the Kaskaskia homes. In 1837 he furnished 30 hoes to Mr. Dominique Quesnel. He moved to St. Genevieve about 1760.

Even though Louis Ratte's father, Louis Normand dit LaBruyere died in 1729 in Quebec, it wasn't until 1741 that Louis Ratte managed to settle his estate. There is a passage in the Kaskaskia records that states: "Agreement by Pierre Charbot, former voyager-trader in the Illinois country, residing now in Canada, to act for Louis Normand LaBriere, master smith of Kaskaskia, in all matters pertaining to his inheritance from the late Louis Labriere, his father, in exchange for one half of Labriere's share in the estate, dated 4-4-1741." So, twelve years after his father's death, Louis Ratte agreed to forfeit half of the estate to have his father's affairs put to order by a Canadian resident. The reason it took so long may have been the vast distance between southeastern Illinois and Quebec, covered by paddling a canoe upriver; add to that the slow pace of communication, and each transaction between Illinois and Quebec could take months or years.

Meanwhile back in 1747 a Kaskaskia Indian maiden named Dorthee Accia married Pierre Hulin who was from New Orleans. The only entry found in the Kaskaskia records, besides Pierre's death was that he bought a slave named Chocolat from a merchant for 1,500 livres. After Pierre's death Dorothee Accica, went on to marry or live with several other men before her death. Their daughter was Agnes Hulin who married Louis Ratte Normand LaBruyere - born at Quebec; died 1809 at Ste. Genevieve (Ste. Genevieve Co), Missouri. Their son, Raimond LaBruyere married Agneise Cotineau and their son, Antoine LaBruyere, the same person mentioned above.

Louis also had a second son Julian who sold the St. Genevieve home in 1809 and he declared in his deed that he and father lived there for 25 years, (since 1784). Later the house was used as a stagecoach depot and still stands today.

Louis Ratte Normand LaBruyere married first wife Catherine Clement, daughter of Marc Clement and Agnes Annard. Catherine died 10 years later, on July 3, 1747. Ten days after that, on July 13, 1747, Louis married second wife Agnes Hulin (born in 1734), a girl of 12 years of age; he was engaged to marry her on the day after his first wife's death. Kaskaskia records show that it was common to marry again soon after a spouse's death, probably because the hardships and labors of pioneer life made it necessary to have a partner in order to survive the burden of everyday living. Also, 12 years old may seem to be an early age for marriage by modern standards, but, in colonial times, a girl was considered ready to marry at the onset of puberty or child-bearing years. Pierre died five months before his daughter's marriage, in December of 1747, and Louis acted on behalf of his new wife, who at age 12 was a minor, to receive her share of the estate. Three years later, in 1750, Louis and Agnes were separated. They were eventually united, however, because they had more children together in the years to come. Some time in the late 1750's, they moved to Ste. Genevieve (now in Ste. Genevieve County, Missouri). On Nov 28 1753, Louis bequeathed all of his possessions "in the Illinois" to the Church of the Immaculate Conception at Kaskaskia, while his possessions in Canada were given to his relatives. There are many possible reasons for the move.

The Kaskaskia records reveal that from 1751 on, Louis was often deep in debt, even resorting to selling his inheritance rights to a brother-in-law in April of 1756----so he may have decided to start all over in a new place. But many of Kaskaskia's other residents moved to Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis in the late 1750's, just as many did from Cahokia. One reason was that much of the farmland in the area had by then been all but depleted from overuse, and the rich bottomlands on the west bank of the Mississippi River must have looked inviting. After the 1756 Indian Wars and French defeat, English rule started. Many French speaking people moved across the River to the French Missouri territory. They were in need of a good port to ship lead being mined about 30 miles to the West. Three miles south Commercial Salt was available. The land that became called "La Grand Champ", was rich and easily tilled. This later became called the "Mississippi French side".

France ceded all lands east of the Mississippi to British rule; this area included the village of Kaskaskia. The west side to the river, which is now Missouri, was then still under French control, so many French-speaking residents moved to Ste. Genevieve and St. Louis rather than live under the rule of their long-time bitter enemies, the British.

Whatever the reason, Louis and Agnes moved to Ste. Genevieve's Old Village. The earliest permanent settlement in what is now Missouri, Ste. Genevieve (referred to in earlier land records as St. Joachim) was founded on the west bank of the Mississippi River before 1750 by French settlers from Kaskaskia as a trading post. A damp and muddy place in the bottomlands (the Old Village, it was later called; it has since been washed away by the river), French residents called it misiere! ("misery"). The salt springs, rich bottomlands and the huge quantities of lime in the ground, and nearby lead mines attracted settlers, and the community grew rapidly.

In 1760, France ceded all lands west of the Mississippi to Spain. But Spanish officials did not arrive until the 1770's, but when they did, they extended an invitation to French residents unhappy with the British presence in Illinois to relocate in the Missouri areas on good terms, an offer which many of them accepted. A serious obstacle to the growth of the town was its dangerous position on a riverbank that was being steadily eroded by the waters of the Mississippi during the annual spring flooding. For nearly 50 years, the Old Village of Ste. Genevieve held its precarious ground; then, as the caving banks began to threaten the cabins closest to the river, the town moved three miles upstream to higher ground, to its present site. The period of removal to the new site covered about ten years, from 1781 to 1791, the flood season of 1785 hastening that move. That year, the swirling, muddy waters of the Mississippi reached the houses' rooftops, according to a later published report from Louis' son, Julien.

Louis Ratte Normand LaBruyere and his wife, Agnes, first appeared in the Ste. Genevieve Catholic Church (established 1760) records as a daughter of theirs, Agnes, was born on Feb 2, 1764. However, they had moved to the area long before that. Julien, Louis's son, claimed on record that the LaBruyeres first moved to Ste. Genevieve's Old Village in the late 1750's. Since Louis' last signature as a notary at Kaskaskia was on Jan 29, 1758, and since his daughter, Catherine, and her husband sold the property she received from him at Kaskaskia on Mar 29, 1758, it follows that Louis and Agnes most likely moved to Ste. Genevieve in early 1758, right before the Spanish took over.

Records show that Louis LaBruyere was one of the first landowners at the present site of Ste. Genevieve, on higher ground than the flood-prone Old Village; he purchased a tract of land from the Spanish in 1784, having already been a landowner at the older site. In that same year, he built a large two-story house (which is still standing, though barely) near South Gabouri Creek across the street from the Moses Austin (father of Texas' Stephen Austin) property which bounded on the creek. His land ran from what is now Front Street, then to Common Field Street and to present Main street.

A) LaBruyere was spelled LaBrier, Labriere, La Briere, or any number of combinations and spellings in various records; spelled LaBruyere in all later records. They found LaBrier easier to pronounce in the English tongue.

B) "dit" (or d') in front of a name means "of" or "from" an area or town, or "called", part of a formal title. In French, "la" means "the", "it", or "she"; "Bruyere" means "heath" or "heather"---- so,the name "dit LaBruyere" means "of (or from) the heath or heather". "Normand" means "Norman" or "Norseman" or "Viking"----so the name "Normand dit LaBruyere" translates to "Norman from the heath" (since the Normans overran Chartres, France, the ancestral home of the LaBruyeres, the "Normand" part of the name makes sense; in fact, this could very well indicate some Scandinavian blood in the distant past, since the Normans were Vikings who settled in the part of France that is now named after them, Normandy, which is just west of Chartres). "Ratte" means "scraper" or "hoe", so there were obviously farmers in the LaBruyere ancestry (hence, "Louis Ratte Normand dit LaBruyere" equals 'Louis, Norman farmer from the heath").

C) Baptismal first names, are listed on church baptismal records. Other names used in daily life were usually the second name on the records, and these are the names used in this history. This can be confusing when researching records, as often the baptismal name is used by itself or in combination with the second name.

D) In the case of the father and son both name Louis: to avoid confusion, "Louis Normand" refers to the elder Louis, while "Louis Ratte" refers to his son.

E) Much of this information orginated from fellow Genealogists, (and distant cousins), Ms. Pat Weeks and Mr. Steve Dalton.

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