Oral History of Traders/Saugeen Territory

Métis are one of the Aboriginal peoples in Canada who trace their descent to mixed European and First Nations parentage, unions between our European traders and Indian women. Métis heritage is an inherited “richness” from the past, rooted in distinctive Métis practices, customs and traditions.

The Historic Saugeen Métis (HSM) are Lake Huron watershed Métis, with a unique history and culture who lived, fished, hunted, trapped, and harvested the lands and waters of the Bruce Peninsula, the Lake Huron proper shoreline and its watersheds, our traditional Métis territory.

The following information related to Pierre Piche, one of Saugeen’s first known traders, is found in the History of Bruce County by Norman Robertson. First published 1906 by William Briggs, Toronto, 18-19

The following facts about the early fur traders at Saugeen were given by Joseph Longe, Sen., to Joseph Normandin, an old voyageur, who removed to Penetanguishene in 1835, and then to Killarney. Normandin’s age is uncertain, except that he was born prior to 1820. He related these incidents to Fred Lamorandiere, the Indian interpreter at Cape Croker, to whom the author is indebted for them, and which are here given in a form but slightly changed from the recital as received:

One Pierre Piche, in the year 1818, came from Lower Canada to Mackinaw to take part in the adventures and profits of the fur trade. he engaged with one Dr. Mitchell, of the military post of Michilimackinaw, as it was then called. (The Indian name of that island was “Mishi Mikinac,” meaning a “great turtle.”) Having heard of the richness of the Saugeen country in furs he went there to establish a trading post. It was on the flat, on the south side of the Saugeen River, that he built for himself a house and store, and completed the establishment by taking to himself a wife from the tribe of Indians residing in that vicinity. He received his supply of goods for trading through Dr. Mitchell, and afterwards from his sons George and Andrew. The Mitchells resided first at Mackinaw, but when that was ceded to the United States, they moved to Drummond Island, and when that, too, became American territory, to Penetanguishene. Piche was a man of great strength and bravery, and on account of these qualities he succeeded in obtaining and keeping control of the best part of the fur trade in the vicinity of Saugeen. He had many competitors, however, who obtained their supplies from W. S. Gooding, of Goderich, Joseph Longe, Sen., who supplied these facts, being one of them. On Piche’s death, about 1828, his business was taken up by Edward Sayers; he in turn was succeeded by Achille Cadotte and Registe Loranger; the latter had been a clerk in Mitchell’s store at Penetanguishene. He came to the Saugeen trading post with his bride, Adelaide Lamorandiere, remaining there until the breaking out of the rebellion in 1837. The competition to purchase furs was keen, and many were the ‘ruses of guerre’ used by the traders to get ahead of a competitor; consequently men good for a long, fast tramp through the woods to visit the various Indian camps were in demand. Among those so employed were A. M. McGregor (afterward Capt. Achille Cadotte), Louis and Sam Thibeau, Thader Lamorandiere and Joseph Longe, Jun.”

Besides the traders mentioned by Mr. Lamorandiere in the above narrative, there were others who came later into the field, and were well-known by many settlers in Bruce. These men made Goderich their headquarters, from which point they visited, either by boat in summer or by dog-train in winter, the various Indian camps in Bruce or on the Manitoulin Island, returning with large quantities of furs, maple sugar, and other products of the forest and lake. Among the last of these traders were Hugh Johnston, of Goderich and William Rastall, who finally settled at Kincardine. For a number of years after taking up his residence at Kincardine, Mr. Rastall each fall visited the Indians at Saugeen, returning before the ice broke up in the spring, bringing his purchases with him, packed on tobaggans drawn by dogs.