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Women And Families In War of 1812


• Between Charles Oakes Ermatinger’s Stone House and the North West Company Fort there were only a few scattered log cabins belonging to retired voyageurs. (Ermatinger Family of Sault Ste. Marie)

•  “…When a Royal Veteran Battalion embarks for Foreign Garrison Duty, all Soldier’s Wives of good characters, who are desirous of accompanying their Husbands, are to be permitted to embark.”  In North America the last part of the order only affected the 10th Royal Veterans (stationed at Fort St. Joseph) who had previously been limited to 12 wives per company.  (A Soldier’s Family in the British Army during the War of 1812 by Robert Henderson)

• Most often, women were nameless and faceless participants. Those accompanying the French and English military forces…cooked, laundered, sewed and administered to the sick, and if necessary, assisted in wartime operations. Those that chose to stay in their communities protected their property from marauders and when battles raged on their doorsteps, prepared ammunition, food and medicines. (The Canadian Encyclopaedia)

• Women, many with young families, were sometimes left alone to face the enemy.  With their husbands and older sons serving in the British Army or in the Upper Canadian militia, they experienced the stress of an enemy invasion, watched as their personal possessions were damaged or stolen, or their houses put to the torch.  (Women and the War of 1812 Cheryl MacDonald)

• Madelaine Askin –Wife of John Askin Jr. storekeeper & acting Superintendent for the British Indian Department headquarters at Fort St. Joseph for the North West frontier.  Her Family was French Canadian, the Pelletiers from the Sandwich (Detroit) area of southern Ontario.

Madelaine acted as nurse & midwife as in the case of Jesse Crawford wife of Lewis Crawford who was a fur trader with the South West Company.  Jesse had given birth to twins & Madelaine was the Midwife.  Later the twins contracted pneumonia & died.  Jesse herself became gravely ill with the same disease & eventually died herself.  Throughout all this, Madelaine was her nurse & constant companion.  She wrote of Jesse “she seems to be a lovable woman who will soon be confined.  I intend to take every means possible to take care of her”  (Letter from Madelaine Askin to her Mother, written from the settlement of St. Joseph, October 13th, 1807).

Madelaine was the lead designer of the “Mackinac Coat” – designed & made at Fort St. Joseph by Native, Métis & European women who supported the war effort by supplying the 10th Royal Veteran Battalion with these coats to replace the worn out military coats.

Madelaine worked hard along side her husband in helping to maintain an important alliance with the First Nation People of the Great Lakes.

Madelaine & John Askin were very open & welcoming people & it got to the point that the house was never empty.  “Not once have we been alone at breakfast & there is never less than four or five for dinner” wrote Madelaine in a letter to her mother (Askin Papers).  It was a house where anyone was invited to eat, drink & socialize.  First Nation People, Voyageurs, Traders & Military men with their wives would frequent this house to share stories, play cards & keep each other company.

Mary MacCauley – Wife of Sergeant Patrick MacCauley, came to Fort St. Joseph with her husband.  When her husband was posted she had to enter a lottery to see if she could come with him & the army allowing only six out of a hundred men to bring their wives overseas (her chances were slim) but her name was drawn & off to the colonies she came.  Mary found herself washing soldier’s clothes in the wilderness, tending to the gardens & helping to raise the children of the Post.  It was women like Mary & Madelaine that helped to sustain life on the frontier.  (Correspondence from Madelaine Askin 1807 – 1815 – the Askin Papers)

Elizabeth Mitchell – Ran her retail business from 1816-1828 while her brothers were active in the fur trade in Southern Michigan. During the War of 1812, her ability to recruit native military assistance won her a commendation and a medal from the British (awarded in 1814). Following the onset in 1815 of the American rule on Mackinac Island, the American commander, Major Henry Puthuff, posted a notice for her to stop holding conferences with her Ottawa kin.  When her kinfolk continued to visit, he threatened to arrest her, but she escaped by night to Drummond Island.  She returned to her trade on Mackinac Island once American fears had subsided and her salon became a social hub of the palisade community.

Therese Marcot Lasaliere Schindler – Was an independent fur trader, trading at L’Arbe Croche, the Odawa community closest to Mackinac. Therese also supplied a large number of French fur traders, Barthe, Chevalier and La Framboise families, all members of her kin network.  (Source:  In The Days Of Our Grandmothers: A Reader In Aboriginal Women’s History In Canada. Mary-Ellen Kelm, Lorna Townsend Editors. University of Toronto Press Incorporated. Toronto. 2006. Page: 42)

Susan Johnston – Wife of John Johnston of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Her operation was principally in the field of manufacturing maple sugar. She carried on her husband’s business after his death.

Madeline La Framboise – Sister of Therese Marcot Lasaliere Schindler and a competitor in the Grand River Valley.  Took over the trading business after her husband was murdered in 1806. She continued to manage several trading posts, and expanded her business throughout the western and northern portions of Michigan’s lower peninsula while raising two children on her own.
(The Fist In The Wilderness. David Sievert Lavender. Doubleday & Company. Garden City, NY. 1964. Page:264-265)  (Making a Difference Exhibit Collection. Grand Rapids Public Library. Grand Rapids, Michigan. n/d)

Louise Constrant – Between 1810 and 1820, several French Canadian fur traders, including Lamar Andie, Jean Baptiste Recollect, and Pierre Constant had established fur trading posts around Muskegon Lake, Michigan. Pierre’s beautiful daughter, continued her father’s business after his death. (History Of Muskegon County, Michigan with Illustrations. H.R. Page & Co. Chicago. 1882. Page: 49)

First Nation — Fort St. Joseph would serve not only as the furthest outpost of  the British Military in Canada, but also as the Western Headquarters of the  British Indian Department & a major fur trade supply depot.  At this frontier  outpost & settlement, life upon the fringes of civilization led to many  incidents  in which friendships between First Nation & the people of Fort St. Joseph (be  they military or civilian), often flourished.  Gifts from the First Nation were a  very important source of provisions.  Gifts of Corn & other garden vegetables  became vital in the maintenance of the garrison, town, their cattle, horses,  swine & poultry.  These gifts would never have been possible were it not for  the master gardening skills of native women.

Totowin – Medicine Woman of the Wahpeton branch of the Santee Sioux  (Lakota).  Married Robert Dickson, superintendent of the Western Indian  Department & responsible for helping to establish the Alliance formed at Fort  St. Joseph.   During 1812 to 1813 Totowin & her husband traveled the Upper  Lakes & the Mississippi country delivering Wampum Belts to the tribes &  wining their support.