|June 8, 2001
Amable du Fond lived in area which carries his name
Just past the old CNR stop at Coristine a bridge crosses the Amable
du Fond river, and the CNR line entered Kiosk. This is the first
of several articles on the area. Today we look at Amable du Fond,
the Algonquin Native who gave the river its name, and his family.
The Amable du Fond River is the only one of the five major rivers draining
the high lands of Algonquin Parks to flow to the north. It enters
the Samuel de Champlain Park and flows into the Mattawa River after a long
trip draining the north west corner of the park.
There were Native people in the Ottawa-Mattawa Amable du Fond River
areas for hundreds of years after the last ice age when Amable du Fond
came to Mattawa in the early 1800s looking for hunting and trapping grounds.
There were various Native groups with various names throughout this area,
but all were considered Algonquins, as indicated by the choice of that
name for the park. The early Native people traveled widely throughout
the area and established winter campsites from which the men hunted, fished
Amable du Fond lived in his early years in what was to become Mattawa
in the 1850s. He built a log house, which remains today as one of
Mattawa’s oldest buildings. It became a Mission House (Maison Amable
du Fond) for the Oblate Fathers in the late 1860s, and later was an infirmary
before it became the home of the Lamont family.
Amable and his sons hunted, trapped and fished on the river that was
named after him and along into Cedar Lake to the east. Colin Rankin,
the Hudson’s Bay Post Factor in Mattawa, bought furs from the du Fonds.
In his diary he recorded his trips for furs, and showed his respect for
the family when he noted (December 30, 1849): “Lady du Fond and servant
arrived to spend New Years Day with us.” Explorer Alexander Sherreff
visited Cedar lake in 1829 and wrote about a Native hunter “Map di Fong”
(Amable du Fond). Amable’s family eventually settled on the south
west shore of Lake Kioshkokwi, where surveyor Duncan Sinclair noted on
his 1848 survey map “Amable du Fond’s sugar bush.”
|This is a current photo of the original house of Amable
du Fond on Timmins Street in Mattawa. The huge tree was planted many years
ago by Annie Lamont who currently resides at the Algonquin Nursing Home.-Doug
The family history of the du Fonds, like many histories of the time,
is poorly recorded. Various censuses of the time record numerous
children and extended families. The Antoine First Nation has an extensive
geneaology of various Algonquin families, including the du Fonds, many
of which are interrelated. The 1871 census lists Amable du Fond (age
70), his wife Elizabeth (60) and Catherine (100). One of the children,
Francis (50), lived in the house along with five other men including another
Francis (30) who appear to be his children. Another listing shows
Ignace, a twin brother of Francis who had a family of his own. The
du Fond brothers, Francis and Ignace, established the camp mentioned above
on lake Kioshkokwi, and later moved to the north end of Lake Manitou (lot
25, concession 12 in Wilkes Township). In this new location they
established a farm that flourished when the loggers came to the area in
the late 1800s. The du Fonds and the loggers developed the trail
that later became highway 630 along the east side of the river.
The Manitou property was officially owned by the du Fonds in 1888, five
years before the park was established. When the park decided that
it did not want any permanent residents, it compensated the du Fonds and
they eventually moved away, after twenty-eight years there, in 1916. By
then Ignace had died, and his wife Susanne was staying with Francis.
Audrey Saunders provides details of this period in her book The Algonquin
Saunders also tells the story of Pinonique, one of the many adopted
children of Ignace and his wife Susanne who lived on Manitou farm.
According to the story (repeated in Leo Morel’s book) Pinonique ran away
with Alex Baptiste who worked on the farm. They lived in Mattawa
and had several children, including Joe who lives in Chapleau. He
told me recently that the Saunders story of Susanne and Pinonique not getting
along is incorrect. He visited the farm on Manitou, and Susanne visited
the Baptiste family in Mattawa regularly. He recalled taking Susanne
to the hospital on a sleigh when she was ill on one occasion. The
Native display in the Mattawa Museum has photos of Pinonique and some of
her family, including Joe mentioned above.
Another Baptiste brother George lives on the Dokis reserve. Another
brother Sam Baptiste (deceased) who had twelve children, including Nelson
in North Bay and Alice (Maxwell) in Eau Claire. Alice’s son Daniel
is the well-known potter and municipal councillor in Calvin, where he lives
with his family near the Amable du Fond river in Eau Claire, extending
the du Fond connection through his children from the early 1800s to the
Emma du Fond, another one of the du Fond children, reported on her life
with the family on Manitou in an interview partly reported in the Calvin
Township History Book. She recalled that Susanne was a hard-working
and skilled woman who was a midwife, made maple syrup, dispensed herbal
medicines, tanned hides, made mitts and moccasins, and was very generous
to everyone she met.
In her later life, after she left the farm, Suzanne lived in Mattawa
and in Clavin Township. Staff at the Eau Claire store near where
she lived recalled her generous gifts of mitts and moccasins at Christmas.
She smoked a curved pipe and wore a long dress and large hat. Joe
Baptiste, mentioned above, recalled her affection for “high wine.”
She was a remarkable character and was fittingly remembered when the road
she lived on near Eau Claire was officially named Old Suzanne Road.
There is no doubt that the du Fonds played an important role in the
life of the area and through their numerous descendents continue to do
so to this day. The river that bears their name is a fitting tribute
to this long standing family.
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