Saturday, May 21, 2016

My Leber Family -- La Prairie, Quebec, Canada

Yours truly dressed as a Coureurs de Bois at the Wind River Rendezvous 1987.
Even tho I have studied family history since 1972, it wasn't until 2010, that
I made a breakthrough and discovered my French-Canadian heritage. See

François LeBer -- my 8th great grandfather

François LeBer was born 1626 in France. François LeBer was the child of Robert LeBer and Collette Cavelier

François was an immigrant to Canada, arriving by 1662.

François married (1)  Marguerite Leseur before 1655 in France.  Marguerite Leseur was born about 1628 in France and died 1662 in Canada.

François and Marguerite had (at least) 1 child:

i Anne Leber was born abt. 1656 in France. Anne Leber was the child of François LeBer and Marguerite Leseur. Anne was an immigrant, arriving by 1672. She married (1) Antoine Barrois 12 January 1672 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal) .  Antoine Barrois  was born abt. 1647 in France.  He died bef. 1689 in Albany, New York, USA. She married (2) Jean Baptiste Lotman dit Albrin 1689 in New York, USA .  Jean Baptiste Lotman dit Albrin  was born 1662 in New York, USA .  He died 30 March 1717 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal).  

François married (2) Jeanne Testard 2 December 1662 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal) .  Jeanne Testard was born abt. 1641 in Rouen, France. Jeanne Testard was the child of Jean Testard and Anne Godefroy. Jeanne was a Fille à Marier, arriving in New France by 1662.  Jeanne Testard  was born abt. 1641 in Rouen, France .  She died 18 January 1723 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis) .

The couple had (at least) 6 children.

i Joachim-Jacques LeBer (b.10 June 1664, Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal)  d. bef. 19 November 1696, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis). He married  Jeanne Cusson 28 January 1692 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis) .  Jeanne Cusson  was born 1663 in Trois-Rivières, Québec, Canada (Trois Rivieres) (Three Rivers) .  She died 19 March 1738 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis) .  She was the daughter of Jean Cusson and Marie Foubert. Joachim-Jacques LeBer died bef. 19 November 1696 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).

+ii Marie LeBer (b.6 December 1666, Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal)  d. 23 December 1756, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis). She married (1) Charles Robert dit Deslauriers 9 January 1681 in Contrecœur, Québec, Canada (Ste-Trinité-de-Contrecoeur) .  The couple had (at least) 1 child. Charles Robert dit Deslauriers  was born 1645 in France.  He died bef. July 1684 in Québec (Quebec) Province, Canada (New France) . She married  (2) François Bourassa 4 July 1684 in Contrecœur, Québec, Canada (Ste-Trinité-de-Contrecoeur).  The couple had (at least) 6 children. François Bourassa was born abt. 1659 in Poitiers, France.  He died 9 May 1708 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal) . She married (3) Pierre Herve 22 April 1714 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis) .  Pierre Herve  was born abt. 1673 in France.  He died 5 April 1736 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis). Marie LeBer died 23 December 1756 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).

iii Jeanne LeBer (b.1670, Québec (Quebec) Province, Canada (New France)  d. 10 December 1687, Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal). She married  Jean Tessier dit Lavigne 21 November 1686 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).  Jean Tessier dit Lavigne  was born 14 June 1663 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal).  He died 6 December 1734 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal).  He was the son of Urbain Tessier dit Lavigne and Marie Archambault. Jeanne LeBer died 10 December 1687 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal).

iv Jacques LeBer (b.20 July 1672, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis)  d. 21 July 1672, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis). Jacques LeBer died 21 July 1672 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).

v François LeBer (b.11 October 1673, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis)  d. 24 April 1753, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis). He married Marie-Anne Magnan dite Lespérance 29 October 1698 in Montréal, Québec, Canada (Notre-Dame-de-Montreal).  The couple had (at least) 5 children. Marie-Anne Magnan dite Lespérance was born 30 November 1677 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).  She died 11 November 1760 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).  She was the daughter of Jean Magnan dit Lespérance and Marie Moitié. François LeBer died 24 April 1753 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).

vi Claude LeBer (b.14 September 1675, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis)  d. 10 October 1675, La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis). Claude LeBer died 10 October 1675 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).

François LeBer died 19 May 1694 in La Prairie, Québec, Canada (St-Philippe-de-la-Prairie) (St-Jean-François-Régis).

Fathers of the Fur Trade

Francois Leber and his three sons were "coureur-de-bois" and were known as the fathers of the fur trade

The most active and most picturesque figure in the fur-trading system of New France was the "coureur-de-bois". Without him the trade could neither have been begun nor continued successfully. Usually a man of good birth, with some military training, and a good education, he was a rover of the forest by choice and not as an outcast from civilization.

Young men came from France to serve as officers with the colonial garrison, to hold minor civil posts, to become seigneurial landholders, or merely to seek adventure. Very few came out with the fixed intention of engaging in the forest trade; but hundreds fell victims to its magnetism after they had arrived in New France.

The young officer who grew tired of garrison duty, the young seigneur who found yeomanry tedious, the young habitant who disliked the daily toil of the farm--young men of all social ranks, in fact, succumbed to this lure of the wilderness.

"I cannot tell you," wrote one governor, "how attractive this life is to all our youth. It consists in doing nothing, caring nothing, following every inclination, and getting out of the way of all restraint." In any case the ranks of the "coureur-de-bois" and "voyageurs" included those who had the best and most virile blood in the colony.

The story of Joachim Leber (1664-1695) -- My 8th Grand Uncle

The following is a excerpt from Narratives and identities in the Saint Lawrence Valley : 1667-1720, by Linda Breuer Gray, Ph. D., McGill University (published between 1999 and 2001 in English and available for download from the Library and Archives Canada at

If identity is expressed largely through language, then language becomes
particularly important for individuals carving an identity in cross-cultural settings.
To be sure, these individuals spoke different languages: Dutch, Iroquois, French,
Abenaki. But within these corporate languages were subsets of language, which
were sometimes called jargon or lingua franca, which allowed communication
across standard language and cultural barriers. To explore the relationship
between language, narrative and identity we can turn to the choices of Anne
Leber's brother, Joachim Leber, who moved as a child with his parents from
Montréal to La Prairie.

Young men, particularly when they are in the middle of an illegal activity,
are difficult to track. It is certain that some young men left these communities
and never returned. Such, apparently, was the case with a man named Jacques
Guitaut. Guitaut received a concession at La Prairie. He had apparently, a
daughter but no living wife. He left the daughter with nuns, probably the
Congrégation Notre Dame. He rnay have planned to pay for his land with furs.

In any case. he departed in 1674 but had not returned by 1678. At this date he
was presumed dead.

The voyages and (perhaps undocumented) returns of Guitaut signal the
pattern which was to engage several men, and occasionally, families, at La
Prairie for the next 175 years. This pattern is absence, due to engagement --
either legal or illegal -- in trade with Indians, Dutch and English. One can gather
from the record that those left on the banks of the St. Lawrence awaited the
return of these traders, often for years. For most of those who did not return, it
is difficult if not impossible to trace their route. They could have, in fact, traveled
up the Ottawa, or to Lake Superior, or only as far as a few miles upstream.
There were probably some who arrived in other communities in the colony (either
lndian or French) and never returned to La Prairie. Some may have arrived in
Indian, English or Dutch communities to the south and stayed there. marrying,
changing their names and religion. Others may have taken a boat to another
part of the colony, to another colony or back to Europe. These who did not
return, however, would not have significantly affected the flow of information to
La Prairie. Quite simply. the narrative of their lives would not have been well-known.
Their absence would be noted, of course, and perhaps was a cause of
mystery or fear to the remaining residents of La Prairie who contemplated similar
voyages. But they did not return to tell their tale. and as such were not an active
part of the evolving community of La Prairie.

There were some who did return, and who, by doing so, drew the attention
of officials in Montréal. In 1681 Frontenac wrote to the King describing "certain
individuals, who resort among the Indians . . .[convey] Beaver to Fort Orange by a
place called Chambly." Frontenac notes that the 'Loups (Mahicans) and Iroquois
of the five nations . . . have pursued trade to Fort Orange for a long time by means of
those of their tribe who have settled at Sault St. Louis,"near Montreal," which is,
as it were, their entrepot for this traffic. He informed the king that he sent guards
to Chambly to keep the French from imitating the Indian trade to Fort Orange.

Other young men from La Prairie returned each year, or even more often.
These include members of some of the oldest families in La Prairie, such as the
Leber, Roy, and Deniau families. Often, in these families, one or more
members worked in alternation or together as a team in the fur trade. One
example of this frequent trading activity by a young unmarried man is Joachim
Leber. Joachim is of particular interest because he, probably against his will, left
for historians a narrative record.

Joachim Leber was born early in 1664. He was baptized on June 10,
1664 at Notre-Dame-de-Montréal as Joachim-Jacques Leber. He was the
eldest son of François Leber and Jeanne Testard. By 1672, as a young boy of
about eight, he had moved with his parents and older step-sister, Anne, to La
Prairie. Joachim worshipped with the Indians of the mission at La Prairie until
1676 when the native mission moved the first time, to the place called
Kahnawake, at the mouth of the Portage River. He may have had an opportunity
to learn native languages at the mission during the 1670s. Too young to be a
soldier for Prouville de Tracy during the raid of Iroquois villages in 1666, he would have been privy to the tales told by the soldiers who returned from this mission and settled at La Prairie. He also would have heard the stories told by returning coureurs de bois in his youth. It is difficult to ascertain exactly what Joachim knew about the route, the Iroquois, the Dutch or the fur trade, but it is clear that unless he was deaf (and later events demonstrate that he was not) he had many opportunities to learn about things which would fascinate a growing boy.

It is possible that Joachim went along on trips to the Iroquois or Ottawa
when he was as young as fifteen or sixteen years old, either as an assistant to
the Jesuits or as a helper for older coureurs de bois. His brother François may
have been a fur trader. The first recorded contract for Joachim's services.
however, was in May, 1685. when Joachim was 21 years old. He was paid the
same wage as a 30-year-old engage, which indicates that the contractor, Claude
Grizonneau (Greysolon), knew that Joachim was experienced. Joachim was
engaged, with others, to go to the Ottawas. Three years later, in 1688, he and
François Bourassa were hired by René Legardeur de Beauvais. Two years later,
in 1690, he was hired with 'Pierre Bourdeau, André Babu, Francois Bourassar again
by Legardeur, this time to go to "Michilimackinac."

Joachim was about twenty-seven years old when he contracted to go to
Michilimackinac -- a longer trip which often took more than one year depending on
weather conditions and good, or bad, relationships with the Indians. It seems
that he came home from this trip. Following Leber in the parish records, we find
that in January 1692 at La Prairie he married a widow, Jeanne Cusson. Jeanne
had two children by a previous marriage with Jean Bareau/Brelau. The records
show that Joachim attended a baptism in February, 1696. Joachim died,
perhaps in 1696, perhaps as part of an Indian raid. Jeanne testified that Joachim
had been "burle par les Iroquois." Jeanne had a child during the summer of
1696, perhaps by the man who was to become her third husband in the fall of
1696, and with whom she would have several more children.

The exact details of Joachim's life are difficult to discern. Though the
record of Joachim's life in New France is scanty, a few patterns emerge.
Joachim had all the training necessary to be a valued employee in the fur trade,
by virtue of growing up in La Prairie. He probably understood at least a few
words of Iroquois or Algonquian, and it is very possible that he was bilingual. His
uncle was the wealthy Montréal merchant Jacques Leber, brother of Joachim's
father François. This family connection opened opportunaties for employment for
Joachim -- indeed several members of this extraordinary family are found among
the engages, as well as in leadership positions in their parish.

It is very likely that he was away from La Prairie during the August, 1690
attack, led by Johannes Schuyler, on La Prairie which left 25 dead. He was also
not at La Prairie during the August 1691 attack by Peter Schuyler and some
Mohawks which left fourteen dead. If he was in Iroquois, as plans for these
attacks were developed, he may have heard about them. The time which
elapsed between his recorded engagements is about two to three years leaving
time, depending on how far he went each time, for a short illegal trip in between

Like many of his contemporaries, Joachim married when he was a
relatively old fellow, at about the age of twenty-nine. Also, like many of his
contemporaries, he married a woman who had been married before, and who
had children. He seems to have acquired little -- there is no mention of
belongings. He and Jeanne baptized no children, indicating, among other
possibilities, that he was absent from La Prairie for much of the time between
their marriage in January, 1692 and his demise in 1695 or 1696.

Joachim's life, even though short, was affected in important ways by
proximity to Iroquoia. First, he had the opportunity to learn the language and
perhaps the habits of the Indians he lived with as a young boy. The stories he
heard as a boy would have told him more. Second, he traveled several times on
fur trading business, or, as shall be seen, as a captive, far into native territory.
Third, he married the widow of a man who was killed by the Iroquois. Fourth, he
was closely related to several others active in the fur trade, including his brother,
François, who was, in 1693, a prisoner of the Iroquois and most particularly his
uncle, Jacques Leber, who had favored status among the Onondaga. Fifth, he
was, at least according to his wife, captured and killed by the Iroquois.

There is, however, another source on Joachim. It is a source which tells
us much about the other side of his life, away from the notaries, the priests, and
even away from his fellow engagés. Joachim was alone, and perhaps rather
desperate, when he was interrogated by Governor Benjamin Fletcher of New
York, at Albany, on October 4, 1692. Fletcher had been Governor of New York
for only two months when he conducted "The Examination" of Joachim Leber, a
French Man of Canada, and Native of Mont Royal, taken before his Excellency…
at Albany the 4th of October, 1692.

The scene in Albany was one of high alert. It was near the end of the
raucous trading season. The fur trade at Albany had been in serious decline
since 1690 and the Albany merchants complained that they must have access to
more fun from the Great Lakes region. There had been open warfare in the St.
Lawrence region between Sault Indians and League Iroquois since about 1691.
These skirmishes and battles included Europeans on both sides. It is possible
Joachim was taken captive in one of these small raids or in a larger battle. It is
also possible he was on a simple trading trip to Albany when he was taken.
There may have been a secretary or scribe assisting the governor, and whoever
brought Joachim in for interrogation (a jailer or an Indian or a soldier?) may have
been standing to one side. Nearby was a workhouse where impoverished
Iroquois lived and made wampum. Licensed and illegal taverns and bars
conducted a brisk business within earshot. But Joachim, probably a captive, was
in Albany to be interrogated.

Fletcher's report follows:

That he lived at Prairie de la Magdelain. That it is 60 leagues
from Mont Royal to Quebec. That Mr. de Cellier (de Calliere) is
Governor of Mont Royal. That there are 2,200 men carrying
Arms in his Government, soldiers and Inhabitants. That the
Town of Mont Royal is enclosed with stockades. That there are 53 pieces
of Canon, Brass and Iron, eight Companies of Soldiers, unequal in number,
50 men being the most.

That the Fort of  Magdelaine contains 23 families, 400 men in
Arms, 2 pieces of Canon, and 5 Patteraroes. There are 200 men
in the Indian Fort called Canawagne. That there are ten Men of
War (ships) arrived at Quebec, from France, laden with Ammunition,
and that he saw the said Ships. That he hath been taken 43 days,and says, that the day before his being taken he being at Mr.
Cellier's house, he saw a Canon arrive there from Mr.
LeCount, sent to Mr. Cellier to demand the Collem of deeds,
which are usually presented at the concluding a Peace, the
which occasioned him to say there was Ambassadors coming
to treat a Peace.

Upon the Objection made, That there could not be So many
People as he says, that the two Frenchmen were sent to
York sometime since, being now at Canada, did inform Mr.
LeCount, that the English had assembled all their Nations, with a
design upon Canada, which obliged Mr. Le Count to raise all
the men he could possible,which was that number he said.
and says, he knows nothing more.

This document provides some information about Joachim Leber continued
activity, information which is missing from the French record. He seems very
knowledgeable, and perhaps he understands English, for there is no indication of
an interpreter nor any fumbling of answers or misunderstanding of questions.
The specifics are remarkably accurate. For instance, Joachim was a native of
Montréal, but was living in La Prairie. Joachim has adopted the language of
warfare (weapons, defensive and offensive capability) in this situation; it is a
language his interrogators expected and understood. Joachim may have had
other options, such as remaining silent, asking for the assistance of his relatives,
in particular his half-sister Anne Barrois Lotman, or inventing another tale for why he had been captured. With the frequency of travel and intelligence-gathering in the Champlain-Richelieu corridor however, false information was easily detected. Most of the extant testimonies indicate that prisoners provided accurate if sometimes sketchy information.

What details can be learned from his testimony? Since Joachim's family
was well-connected it is entirely possible that he visited with and dined at the
home of the Governor of Montréal; his uncle Jacques Leber had a home
adjacent to Callières' home in Montréal.

Had Joachim seen ships in Québec? Ten men of war? Possibly. Did he
go often to Québec? The distance is about 175 miles; Joachim's estimate of the
distance is accurate. No road yet linked the two cities, but the habitants and
traders traveled by boat. As a young engage and sometime coureur de bois
however, Joachim's patterns probably included visits to La Prairie, business
arrangements and obtaining supplies in Montréal, and upriver trips to the Great
Lakes or to Albany. Quebec would be an unprofitable and lengthy detour, and
there is no evidence that he ever was there. A more typical route for this
information would have been word of mouth, which was the fastest.
Communication was frequent between Québec and Montréal, and between
Montréal and La Prairie. His wife was from Cap de la Madeleine, near Trois-
Rivières, half-way between Montréal and Québec. lt is possible that
communication with his wife's family would have informed him with certainty of
"ten Men of War."

Joachim's estimates of the defense capabilities of New France, while not
believed by Fletcher, were fairly accurate. In 1689 the French forces in New
France were consolidated into twenty-nine companies of fifty men each. In 1699
the number of men per Company was reduced from fifty to thirty, probably due to the difficulty commanders experienced in keeping their companies at full
strength; in this the financial strain these forts placed on the colony's finances
was a significant factor? The men defending La Prairie were probably soldiers
billeted there. These soldiers were distributed throughout the St. Lawrence
valley. There were 1,418 regular soldiers in New France in 1688. Soldiers
were also billeted at Sault St.-Louis. The record indicates that Frontenac sent
600 militia, Indians, and regular soldiers to Mohawk territory in 1693, just one
year after Joachim testified in front of Governor Fletcher.

Joachim's narrative moves from the defense of his home town to the
wartime capability of Sault St.-Louis. Like roost of his superiors, he thought of
the mission as a recruiting ground for the defense of New France.

Joachim also has news of a peace. Though not specific, he implies that it
is a peace which will strengthen the defense of New France. Warfare between
League Iroquois (mostly non-Christians) and Sault residents (some of whom
were ardent Christians, others of whom at least tolerated the presence of the
Jesuit priests among them) had been constant since December 1691. By 1692
La Prairie was a garrison town, with soldiers billeted there from other parts of the
colony. The attacks and counterattacks were reaching intolerable levels.
Individuals sometimes refused to fight if they did not know the exact targets.

It was not uncommon for individual soldiers, particularly native soldiers, to ask the
names of individuals in the opposing party before commencing to fight. A
peace with the Iroquois was in fact imminent, following Canada's devastating
raids on the Iroquois in 1690 and 1691. An Oneida, Tarriha, approached
Frontenac in June, 1693 to propose peace. Frontenac's frenetic pattern of trade,
warfare and tough diplomacy was bearing fruit, and perhaps in his recent travels
Joachim Leber had heard rumblings of this.

In general then, Joachim's story is both accurate and precise. He
appears to have been traveling without a permit, or to have been, as he would
have it, captured near a settlement. It seems likely that he was engaged in some
private illegal trading in upper Iroquoia when he was captured. This possibility is
strengthened by the fact that the governor did not ask Joachim the purpose of his
travel, or why he was traveling without a permit. He may have been a captive of
a native group. It is also possible that he had been or would be tortured and
tested for adoption by the native group that captured him. He may have
returned to La Prairie and later died at the hands of the Iroquois, although the
exact timing of his travels is impossible, at this distance, to trace.

Joachim Leber is an example of a young man raised at La Prairie whose
life, at least as much of it as we can reconstruct, was centered around the fur
trade. There is no evidence of significant agricultural activity on his part. He did
not help support his mother, though other neighbors and a younger brother did.
He did not receive a concession, and can be documented in lroquoia or New
York in 1685-1690 and 1692. As a part of the fur trade he traveled to Montréal,
to the Ottawas, to Michilimakinac, and, perhaps under force, but likely more than
once willingly as well, to Albany. Yet, if we believe the testimony of his wife, who had two husbands meet similar ends, this proximity to the natives did not save him from a violent death at the hands of "les Irokois."

He had no children, and perhaps knew of his wife's liason with the man
who was to become her third husband. Joachim's burial was not recorded in
New France. It is entirely possible that he remained in Iroquoia, traveled further
into the pays d'en haut, or changed his identity and traveled to another colony. It
is not possible to know for certain how or when he ended his days.

For scholars of Canadian history, Joachim's life is more familiar than
Anne's. Joachim is a resident of New France whose journeys are related to the
fur trade. His testimony is a rare narrative source from an individual in a
population where narrative sources are almost non-existent. This was the story
he told, probably under duress, to the officials in Albany. What story would he
tell in Michilimackinac? In La Prairie? In Montréal? Surely, it would not be the
story recorded by the Albany court officials. Joachim's narrative, however
truthful, was situational. It was tailored for the -- very uncomfortable -- situation
in which he found himself. As a means of survival, he had learned to use the
language of war and diplomacy in telling his story; this was the language his
interrogators wanted to hear. Arguably, he had little choice about what to Say in
this context. It is reasonable to assume that any fairly competent young man in
his situation would have offered information about battle readiness in New
France. As a source about Joachim's identity, or self, this narrative is not
introspective. However, it provides considerable information about his
knowledge, his language, his affiliations and his understanding of his

His activity at the time of his capture is critical to interpreting his narrative.
If he was taken captive at or near La Prairie, for instance, while tending a crop,
he could relate his account similarly in Albany and, later, in Montréal upon his
return. If he was trading illegally, providing information to the Albany officials in
return for some other consideration, or engaging in traitorous activity, he could
not have provided the same account in both places. On his return he would
readjust his narrative to his situation. His narrative and perhaps, as a result, his
sense of his place in the world, would shift a bit with each retelling.

In addition to the existence of his narrative, there is another remarkable
"coincidence" about this testimony. What is extraordinary about his involuntary
appearance before the court in New York is the timing. Joachim appeared alone
in the court in the region where his stepsister, Anne, had been living for nine
years. It is worth underscoring that he did not, in his testimony, mention his
family members, and did not ask for assistance from his half-sister or her
husband. In the following year, perhaps while Joachim was still in New York. his
brother François and his uncle Jacques Leber were both in Iroquoia. Jacques, in
fact, had just been given an Iroquois youth in exchange for his son Jean/Jacques
Leber dit La Rose who had died defending La Prairie. Four members of this
family: Anne, Joachim, Jacques and François were in the New York region during
one twelve-month period. At first glance it would appear that some members of
the family might be engaged in activities which endangered the lives of other
members. Their goals and intentions were different, but were their goals related?

It is difficult at this distance to say, but it appears likely, and later events
support the possibility, that these members of the Leber family were assisting
each other in their journeys, trade and settlement in lroquoia and New York.

Knowledge of passable routes, prices of furs, and news about the arrival or
departure of a new governor or Protestant minister were vital to travel, settlement
and trade in this region. This is the kind of knowledge that Anne Leber Barrois,
Joachim Leber, François Leber and Jacques Leber would have gleaned from
their time in lroquoia or New York, and would have been able to pass on to other
family members or trusted associates. It also appears clear that information
about raids, counter-raids and preparations for war could travel easily along this
"information highway." For instance, Anne Leber was in New York in 1690 and
1691 when plans for the attack on her home community were made. Her
stepmother, stepbrothers and stepsisters still lived in La Prairie. Is it likely that
Anne knew of these plans. Did she attempt to warn the residents of La Prairie?
Did anyone else? Did any warnings arrive at La Prairie? It is hard to know for
certain. It does seem clear that members of this family, a family which spanned
and peopled the Albany fur trade route, a family which knew, intimately, both
poles of that route, sorted information and choices constantly. The narratives
that they told about their lives were necessarily complex and malleable -- tailored
for each situation.

This simple story, Joachim Leber, engagé, François Leber, engagé and
prisoner, Anne Leber wife and mother, and Jacques Leber, their uncle, a
merchant, ends where it began, in the village of La Prairie. It also moves from La
Prairie to Albany, to the castle of the Onondagas, and to major affairs of state.
However it describes these events not by following official correspondence, but
rather by following the movement of individuals.

The "fate" of the Leber family in the 1690s begins to look more sculptured,
less arbitrary, in light of the information provided by linking the New York records with the records from the St. Lawrence Valley. Many of the other members of this family lived at La Prairie: Joachim's mother Jeanne Testard, his wife Jeanne Cusson. These residents of La Prairie knew and perhaps spoke of the absence of their family members. It is certain that the members of this family were concerned about the well-being of other family members in the difficult first years of the 1680s and 1690s. The story of this family was taking critical turns during these decades.

Narrative and Identity, Anne, "Anna" and Joachim

The early 1690s were pivotal years for this family, years which required a
shaping of their family story for themselves, for their neighbors and for
government officials. They were pivotal years for the border communities of La
Prairie and Schenectady as well. In addition to the travels of Anne, Joachim and
their uncle Jacques mentioned above, Anne's stepbrother, Joachim's brother
François, was believed to be a captive of the Iroquois in 1693. This is the
decade when the worst attacks took place on La Prairie. With the presence of
Anne, Joachim and Jacques in Albany, and of François in Iroquois, these attacks
take on a new dimension. In addition to the question raised earlier about
whether one part of this family may have warned another about impending
attacks, are other questions. With rumors flying, as they often did in both Albany
and La Prairie, what choices faced Anne? Did she ask the attackers to spare
certain houses? To carry a message? Similarly, if Jeanne Testard knew her son
Joachim and her stepdaughter Anne and her husband were in Albany, what
choices faced her as she heard rumors about attacks on "les Anglais"?

The two examples of Joachim Leber and the family of Anne Leber point
out three other aspects of the effect of contact between French residents of La
Prairie and the English or Dutch: the importance of family networks, the
importance of oral communication, and the lack of written records about such
contact in New France.

First, they were in the same family. Certain families appear to have had
more contact with New York and New England than others, and the extended
Leber family appears to be one that had much contact with New York fur trading

Second, neither Anne nor her step-mother could read or write. During the
seventeenth century La Prairie did not have a schoolmaster or a teacher, so it is
unlikely that Joachim could read or write, either. Therefore it was either through
written messages composed by someone who wrote, or through trips like that of
Joachim, or others from La Prairie, that Anne heard of the death of her father, or
that her mother, Jeanne, was informed of the remarriage of Anne to a man
named "Elbrain." The dearth of surviving written material in the Albany records
signals that it was largely oral information, stories, which this family sorted
constantly in their decisions about travel and protection.

Third, it appears that the interlude that the Barrois family spent in New
York went almost completely unrecorded in the French records. Jeanne
Testard's "inventaire des bins," memos about Barrois' escape, a complaint from
Claude Caron about tasks he had to perform in François Leber's absence, and a
note in the baptismal records of La Prairie de la Magdalene are the only signs of
the sixteen-year absence of an entire family.

A final and not inconsequential note about the movements of the Leber
family during the years from 1683-99: one of Jacques Leber's sons fought as a
solder at the 1691 battle of La Fourche defending La Prairie -- Jean/Jacques
Leber dit La Rose died there? In 1693 Jacques Leber travelled as part of the
military campaign of 300 Canadians, 100 soldiers and 230 Indians that attacked
the Mohawks in their own territory against the Iroquois. He wrote an account
of this campaign which he sent to France with his son. Dùring this campaign
Jacques Leber went to Lac Saint-Sacrement (Lake George). Jacques' account
relates that an lndian gave him one of his own sons in exchange for Jacques'
son (probably Jean/Jacques dit La Rose). Jacques' native "son" apparently
could not keep up with the group -- he was, according to Leber, laden down with
things given him, possibly by women. Because he lagged behind he was killed,
but Leber's report is unclear about the identity of the adoptive boy's killer. He
could have been killed by English or Indians.

Jacques Leber's account is, in part, an apology for this death of one
charged to his care, a death which could have had serious repercussions.
However the fact that the natives remembered, three years following the death of
his son in battle, to repay a debt to him by giving him an adoptive son, indicates a
strong and lasting relationship between Jacques Leber and the Onondagas.

In 1694, Jacques Leber's kinship with the lroquois was described by
Teganissorens at a council between lroquois and Frontenac. During the
discussions, Teganissorens, an Onondaga diplomat and leader, announced,
and confirmed with a wampum belt, that the lroquois had adopted Sieurs de
Longueil [Longueuil] and de Maricourt in the place of Monsieur Le Moyne, their
father, as our children, and Monsieur Leber as our brother... They will have nothing
to fear whenever they visit us, and will be received when sent by you. Jacques
Leber was honored on both sides of the Atlantic; he was ennobled in 1696 by
Louis XIV. In 1706, following the death of Jacques Leber, the Onondagas paid
homage to him as was customary to do for French heads of state.

The purpose for this long digression is to pose a question. Of what
significance is it, if any, that Jacques Leber, Anne Leber, François Leber and
possibly Joachim Leber, who, after all, was interrogated in October, 1692, and
perhaps had to spend the winter in Albany or Iroquoia, were all within a few miles of each other in 1693, with the most powerful of the three, Jacques, apparently endangering the others' lives. Jacques apparently, also, at this time in his life and others, cemented relationships with Iroquois, probably Onondaga, who could affect or even threaten the lives and fortunes of those who lived in Albany, or indeed in La Prairie.

They may have been responding to changes in the fur trade market. As
has been observed, the Albany fur trade collapsed in the years 1689-1692. The
Commander in Chief Governor Henry Sloughter, who arrived in the colony in
March 1691, found, in August, 1692, the Indians weary of War and all the
outsettlements forsaken... [I found Indians] very difficult and much inclined to a
peace; however with great industry I have reclaimed them in New York's service,
as allies. In September, 1692, his replacement, Benjamin Fletcher, found "decay
of trade" and "poverty of the people" at Albany. By March, 1694, the Dutch
observed, the "Indians are staggering."

The presence of at least three and possibly four members of the Leber
family in Albany in 1693 could be due to several factors. The most likely possible
explanation is that the Leber family was attempting to increase their profit margin
in a collapsing fur market by selling more fun in Albany and returning to New
France with more currency and more imported goods to sell. It is also possible
that Jacques planned to take advantage of his participation in the military
campaign in order to attempt to rescue or ransom Joachim or François, or to find
Anne Leber.

The presence of many members of the extended Leber family in Iroquoia
in 1693 adds another layer of interpretation, for their stories were brought home
not only to La Prairie and Montréal, but were told also in Albany and at the
council fire in Onondaga. As signaled by the example of Joachim Leber, the
language used to describe one's purpose was necessarily tempered and adapted
by the stories told and by the settings in which they were told. The language
Joachim used to mediate his identity in the dangerous border region was the
language of warfare.

Is it in the DNA? Jerry England (left) and friends at Hart Canyon Rendezvous 1987.
When this photo was taken I had no idea I am descended from the Father of the Fur Trade.

My Lineage from Joachim Leber:

Joachim Leber (1664 - 1695) - 8th great-uncle

Francois Leber (1626 - 1694) - father of Joachim Leber

Marie Le Ber (1666 - 1756) - daughter of Francois Leber

Marie Elisabeth Bourassa (1695 - 1766) - daughter of Marie Le Ber

Joseph Pinsonneau (Pinsono) (1733 - 1779) - son of Marie Elisabeth Bourassa

Gabriel Pinsonneau (Pinsono) (1770 - 1813) - son of Joseph Pinsonneau (Pinsono)

Gabriel (Gilbert) Passino (Passinault) (Pinsonneau) (1803 - 1877) - son of Gabriel Pinsonneau (Pinsono)

Lucy Passino (1836 - 1917) - daughter of Gabriel (Gilbert) Passino (Passinault) (Pinsonneau)

Abraham Lincoln Brown (1864 - 1948) - son of Lucy Passino

Lydia Corinna Brown (1891 - 1971) - daughter of Abraham Lincoln Brown - my grandmother.


  1. Are these beautiful drawings of voyageurs your work?

  2. They are historic art in the public domain.