[Home page] [Who is Past Forward ] [Contact Us] [Publications]

Past Forward is now on Facebook "LIKE" us to keep in touch


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 and trapped.  

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 Mackey Photo

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 Story.  

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 present day.

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.       

Heritage Perspective Home Page


Past Forward Heritage Limited: 

330 Sumach St. #41, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3K7   Tel. (416)-925-8412


Copyright © Past Forward Heritage Limited