We know from early notary records in the archives of Quebec that Gabriel Lemieux -- my 8th great-grandfather -- made two legal trips as a voyageur. It's a safe bet that he made other trips as a coureur de bois, a term used to describe unlicensed fur traders and canoemen.
8 May 1690, Jean Baptiste Migeon, sieur de Bransat, hired Gabriel Lemieux for a voyage to the Ootawas (Ottawa Indians) [Antoine Adhémar]
From: Michigan’s Habitant Heritage (MHH), Vol. 35, #1, January 2014 - 17th Century Engagé Contracts to the Great Lakes and Beyond – 20 May 1682 to 15 May 1690 - Part 1
19 August 1692, Joachim Germaneau hired Gabriel Lemieux and Laurent Glory dit LaBrière to make a voyage to the 8ta8ois (Ottawa Indians) specifically to Michilimackinac and Sault Ste. Marie [Antoine Adhémar - 2 contracts]
From: Michigan’s Habitant Heritage (MHH), Vol. 35, #2, April 2014 - 17th Century Engagé Contracts to the Great Lakes and Beyond – 15 June 1690 to 23 May 1695 – Part 2. Also see: http://www.leveillee.net/ancestry/suzanne5.htm
1805 map - land of the Ottawas (Ootawas)
north of Lake Erie, east of Lake Michigan, south of Lake Huron
To get to Ottawa Indians Country (Ootawas) Gabriel would have had to travel on the Ottawa River
The Ottawa River played an integral role in many of the key stories that make up Canada’s history. It was the route for much of the early European exploration of North America, including Samuel de Champlain. Explorers in search of the Northwest Passage began their journeys along the Ottawa River. Other celebrated figures in Canadian history including Nicollet, Radisson, La Vérendrye, Dulhut and De Troyes, traveled west along the Ottawa River to establish trade relationships with First Nations communities, laying the groundwork for the fur trade.
The fur trade relied on the famous waterway routes that began and ended with the Ottawa River. France’s North American colonial economy depended on the fur trade, which led to the development of the coureurs de bois and voyageurs era, and later to the creation of the North West and Hudson’s Bay Companies. Amid the profound social, political, and economic changes of the 17th century, the Ottawa River remained one of North America’s most important trading routes. It played a central role in the story of the fur trade in North America, and thus in the development of Canada.
Ottawa River Routes
The Ottawa River led to two strategically important sites for the fur trade: The first was Lake Temiskaming post, the largest trading post on the Ottawa under the French. The second, Michilimackinac (now called Mackinaw City, Michigan), was the fur trading hub for the Great Lakes region. It was an 18-20 day voyage from Lachine to Lake Temiskaming, or a 35-40 day voyage from Lachine to Michilimackinac. This second route was extremely important to the fur trade: following the Ottawa River to the Mattawa Forks, voyageurs would then turn west along the Mattawa River, across Lake Nipissing, along the French River, and finally, through the Great Lakes to Michilimackinac.
The voyageurs’ tasks varied with the seasons. In summer, they would make long journeys into the continent’s interior, usually following the Ottawa River for much of their way. Their days of paddling were long: they would leave early in the morning and often continue until far into the night. In autumn, they would establish a winter camp near a First Nations village and a body of water. Here, they would build a fort and a few dwellings, and from this base, would trade throughout the winter with First Nations Peoples. In this way, the voyageurs would collect furs from the tribes, even those that lived at great distances. In the springtime, the voyageurs would return along the same route to Montreal. Life was so hard for the voyageurs that desertions were common.
The canoes used by the voyageurs were built following Aboriginal methods, but were designed to fit the colonists’ needs. A voyageur canoe could measure as much as 36 feet in length and nearly 5 feet in width. The boat bore an extremely heavy load. Eight men, each carrying a pack weighing around 40 lbs., as well as a total of 1000 lbs. of provisions, were piled in alongside 60 to 80 bundles, each weighing from 90 to 100 lbs. In total, these slight vessels would carry a load of about 4 tons. Later, canoes carrying 15 people were constructed. Made of birch bark, it was only 1/4 inch thick. Given this, navigation along the rivers was both difficult and dangerous: even a small collision with a rock or piece of floating wood could pierce the canoe’s bark and spoil its precious cargo. After every night of paddling, the canoe had to be unloaded, pulled out of the water, inspected, and repaired.
Ottawa River Portages
The Ottawa River’s rapids and waterfalls interrupted the days of regular paddling of the voyageurs. Whenever the waters became impassable, the men were forced to stop, disembark, and carry their cargo and canoes through the forest until the waters were again calm enough to continue paddling. The voyageur setting out from Lachine would have twenty portages on his way to Lake Temiskaming, and thirty-five on his way to Michilimackinac.
The majority of these portages were located on the north shore of the river, and followed already existing First Nations portage routes that they fortified to withstand the increased traffic. These portages were long and exhausting. Each man carried two or three bundles of merchandise weighing approximately 90 lbs. each. The men would often have to take several trips back and forth in order to transport all of the gear to the end of the portage route. Portages were so exhausting that the voyageurs measured the exact number of paces required to walk from the beginning to the end of each route. For example, it was recorded that the particularly challenging Grand Calumet portage measured some 2,035 paces long!
Source (above) Canadian Heritage Rivers System -- http://www.ottawariver.org/
More about Gabriel Lemieux
Gabriel Lemieux (my 8th great-grandfather), b. September 4, 1663 at LaPrairie, Quebec; d. September 18, 1739 at LaPrairie, Quebec.
He was the son of Gabriel Lemieux, b. April 10, 1630; d. December 2, 1700 and Marguerite Leboeuf, b. March 15, 1636; d. 1671.
He married Jeanne Robidoux, 17 December 5, 1690 at LaPrairie, Quebec
About Jeanne Robidoux:
Jeanne Robidoux, b. September 19, 1673 at LaPrairie, Quebec; d. 12 April 1736 at LaPrairie, Quebec. She was the daughter of André Robidou, dit L'Espagnol and Jeanne Denote.
Children of Gabriel Lemieux and Jeanne Robidoux:
i. Jeanne Lemieux, b. August 2, 1696, d. February 1, 1769, m. (1) Francois Longtin (2) Antoine Rousseau
ii. Joseph Lemieux, b. December 27, 1698, m. (1) Francoise Brignon (2) Marie-Josephe Forand
iii. Pierre-Gabriel Lemieux, b. October 6, 1700, m. Marie-Josephte Demers
iv. Marie-Josephte Lemieux, b. June 8, 1702, d. December 1, 1744, m. Joseph Rousseau
v. Jacques Lemieux, b. May 17, 1704, d. April 21, 1775, m. (1) Catherine deniger (2) Pineault Marguerite
+vi. Marie-Anne Lemieux, b. February 27, 1706, d. February 8, 1777, m. Joseph Poupart
vii. Marie-Marguerite Lemieux, b. October 6, 1710, d. April 30, 1796, m. Joseph Beauvais
viii. Gabriel Lemieux, b. May 10, 1712, d. April 11, 1751, m. Madeleine Babeu
Our Lineage from Gabriel Lemieux:
Gabriel Lemieux (1663 - 1739) -- my 8th great-grandfather
Marie Anne Lemieux (1706 - 1777) -- daughter of Gabriel Lemieux
Marie Josephe Poupart (1725 - 1799) -- daughter of Marie Anne Lemieux
Pierre Barette dit Courville (1748 - 1794) -- son of Marie Josephe Poupart
Marie Angelique Baret (Barette) dit Courville (1779 - 1815) -- daughter of Pierre Barette dit Courville
Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier dit Lagassé (1808 - 1883) -- daughter of Marie Angelique Baret (Barette) dit Courville
Lucy Passino (1836 - 1917) -- daughter of Marie Emélie (Mary) Meunier dit Lagassé
Abraham Lincoln Brown (1864 - 1948) -- son of Lucy Passino
Lydia Corinna Brown (1891 - 1971) -- daughter of Abraham Lincoln Brown -- my Grandmother