How did the nearly 300 Metis, voyageurs, and others who quite suddenly populated Penetanguishene in the early 19th Century get there? Where did they come from?
When the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States ended in 1814, Drummond Island in the St. Mary’s River was returned to the U.S. So Britain had to vacate its garrison and inhabitants from the island. A small military establishment had been started at Penetanguishene before and during the war, so that was where the Drummond Islanders were urged to re-settle.
Moving the garrison was one thing, accomplished in sailing ships (though one was wrecked), but how to move the large population of voyageurs, their families and possessions more than 400 kilometres across the water? Thanks to a fascinating blog by one of their descendants, Art Duval, that story is now being told.
Pipesmoke Of The Past reveals stories of the inhabitants making the journey around 1828 in large bateaux through the North Channel, across northern Georgian Bay, and south among the islands of the east shore, to finally enter Penetang harbour. Explore the Pipesmoke blog to read more of this little known aspect of Georgian Bay history.
Who is Art Duval?
“I grew up in Penetang in a house we believe may have come from the military establishments and on a lot that our ancestor Louis Beausoleil settled on after the War of 1812.
“We always discussed history in my family, from the Drummond Islanders to the lumber industry, to the work of my Dad and Grandfather at the reconstruction of Ste. Marie Among The Hurons (at Midland) and Military Establishments at Penetang, under Wilfrid Jury.
“These childhood stories morphed into an adult hobby of researching the family stories. This led, not to disappointment, but to a fascinating colourful history of our area.
“I have unleashed the ancestors, and their stories need to be told. Some are larger and hopefully are going to be a book someday, but today I tell them through my blog. I hope people enjoy it as much as I do. — Art Duval”
What were bateaux?
Bateaux were long, often narrow, flat-bottomed boats that could be easily, if roughly, built of local timber. Like canoes, they were the buses and trucks of the North American wilderness, traversing the lakes and rivers long before road transportation was developed.
Their designs were varied, depending on the use. They could be sailed, rowed, paddled or poled. They could be pointed fore and aft (as most were) or with a transom stern. They could be beamy for greater load capacity, or narrow for speed.
The logging industry in Canada had what they called “pointers”, long narrow craft pointed at both ends. In the late 1940s, I believe, Andrew MacLean at his Go Home Bay cottage had a pointer fitted with an outboard motor, of which he seemed quite proud.
No doubt the bateaux used to transport the Drunnond Islanders to Penetang were outfitted to serve the purpose — perhaps bulkheads to separate animals from humans or offer a modicum of privacy, cooking and eating sections, even a canopy like a covered wagon for limited protection from the elements. Their versatility was considerable.
In other areas like the lakes and rivers of the West, bateaux were built to be hauled across portages, probably on rollers, which depending on weight might have lessened the amount of cargo portaged by hand.
The name bateau or batteau is “boat” in French, which is appropriate as the concept is traced back to the early colonial times when Europeans brought the tools with which to saw timber to North America. They also brought experience with the basic design, and how to adapt it to their needs here.