Marie Elizabeth Louise Dubois: Who is She?
She was born in 1748 in Montreal, Quebec. She was baptized Roman Catholic at St. Laurent Catholic Church. It is likely that she grew up in Montreal. She is noted in many places as being French-Canadian,
During this time 22,000 people lived in what we call Old Montreal, once the land of St. Lawrence Iroquoians. According to Wikipedia, Indigenous peoples had lived in the area for over 8,000 years. The French set up a trading post and decided to establish a colony there. By the mid-1700s, Montreal had about the same amount of people as Cobourg (my town) does today. Montreal was a well-established fur-trade French colony and was heavily influenced by the Catholic Church; they initially named the colony Ville Marie in honour of the Virgin Mary. Most of the population was Indigenous or French in the beginning but as Montreal grew, the population became more diverse.
Who were Dubois’ parents? When did they arrive in Montreal?
There was one source that suggested Dubois was from Penetanguishene… Was her family involved in the fur trade? Then, would Solomon be known to them? Did she choose to marry Solomon?
1760: Montreal shifts from French to British Rule
In 1760, when Dubois was 12, French colonial rule ended in Montreal and the British took over. The Treaty of Paris in 1763 marked a turning point in Montreal’s history. I wonder if the changes in Montreal and the emergence of Protestants and Anglicans as Dubois was coming of age influenced her ability to marry Ezekiel Solomon.
How likely was an inter-faith marriage at this time? And why did she keep her name after marriage? She is usually noted as Louise Dubois, not Solomon.
Solomon was a man of faith. There is no indication that Solomon was a ladies’ man. The only woman he is ever connected to in anything that I have read is Dubois. After being released from capture by Pontiac at Fort Michilimackinac, Solomon was ransomed in Montreal. Soon after he opened up and ran a general store in Montreal.
Did Dubois meet Solomon at his store?
Did their value of faith and spirituality bring them together, even though their religions differed?
Solomon continued to work between Montreal and Mackinac for the rest of his life. He did not have a wife in the Montreal (the city) and another “country wife” in Mackinac like other traders. Rather, it seems that Dubois was present in and connected to both his communities.
1768: Inter-faith Marriage
In 1768, Solomon was part of 12 families who founded the Shearith Israel, the Sephardic congregation of Montreal.
In 1769, Dubois married Ezekiel Solomon at Christ Anglican Church. During this time, Anglican services were held in the chapels of Catholic Churches in Montreal. Christ Church wouldn’t have its own space until 1789, a church given to them by the Jesuits.
When I looked at a map showing St. Laurent Catholic Church and Shearith Israel it was interesting so see that they were within 5 kms of each other. This general area of Montreal might be where Dubois was born and where she lived with Solomon.
After the marriage, Dubois and Solomon followed their own religions. Later records show that Dubois was the witness at many baptisms by the Jesuits in Mackinac (1794-1807). Solomon gave money to help bring Jesuit priests to Mackinac while also providing funds to Shearith Israel.
Dubois and Solomon had six children–all born in Montreal between 1773 and 1778. The children were baptized Roman Catholic.
I found a record in Solomon’s name for the deed for the sale of a slave: April 16, 1776. I wonder about the nature of this. Was this an Indigenous person as was common in Montreal at the time? Was it connected to domestic service or his business? In 1803, Solomon would be selected by King George to sit on an inquiry to look into the slave trade at Michilimackinac. What did they think about all this?
1780: Moving to Mackinac
Sometime between 1780 and 1794, the family moved to Mackinac and stayed. Fort Mackinac was built in 1780 by the British to protect from attack by the Americans and/or indigenous peoples.
Given that Solomon had survived the attack by Pontiac on Fort Michilimackinac in 1763, I wonder if the building of the new fort on the island influenced the decision to move the family out of Montreal. Did it provide a sense of safety?
Another theory is that there was a reversal in his business fortunes that caused the move in 1780.
Some of the information I’m using in this post is from comments that people have left on some of my other blog posts.
“I came across information that stated Ezekiel and his then business partner William Grant each provided £50 for the maintenance of Roman Catholic clergy at St. Anne’s church on Mackinac Island, probably as an act of good will to the voyageurs and local FN and Metis community, but also, no doubt, to keep Loiuse happy. As you mention, Louise’s name frequently appears as a baptismal witness in St. Anne’s records, records which also document the FN/ Metis heritage of those of us descended from William and Agibicocona through their daughter Sophie, born in 1796 and baptized the following year, as the priest was itinerant from 1765 (the year of the British suppression of the Jesuits in North America) until a permanent priest took up duties in 1830” (Brendan O’Gorman).
1783: Life in the Fur Trade
In 1781 his house in Fort Michilimackinac is destroyed by a fire. Does this prompt a fresh start for the family on Mackinac island?
By 1783, Solomon’s business was booming. He was a big competitor for Hudson’s Bay Company. Perhaps it was this success that drew them north.
There is evidence that Dubois helped with the family business.
“Dubois was active in the fur trade when she lived in Mackinac. She is recorded at least once as the “Merchant Company” who engaged voyageur Alexandre Petis on 26 March 1783 to carry merchandise, victuals and skins on the route from Montreal to Michilimackinac and return” (Paul King).
“How much Louise helped him is concealed from us, in part because we don’t have the Montreal shipping records for most of the years. [The Voyageur Data Base] That she shows up once as a bourgeois in charge of shipping goods and outfitting a voyageur makes it very tempting to speculate that this was not a one-time operation. This is reinforced by her aggressive missionary activity in the area of baptisms at Michilimackinac – she was a strong-willed woman” (Paul King).
“Louise probably ran the business a good part of the time whenever Ezekiel was away or ill. She would likely have taken an active role in the business from early on in the marriage, would have been thoroughly familiar with both European and FN traders who did business at Michillimackinac, and, I’m willing to bet, she would have known of their approach long before they got there, perhaps giving her an edge over the competition” (Brendan O’Gorman).
1802: Influence in Mackinac
Solomon and Dubois had influence in Mackinac.
“The Rev. David Bacon, from Connecticut, attempted to start the first Protestant mission to the Indians on Mackinac Island starting in approximately the summer of 1802. His efforts did not succeed. The main reasons his efforts failed was that Rev. Bacon and his wife failed to learn the Indian language despite living several years on Mackinac Island. They had to rely on interpreters, who for some odd reason, insisted on being paid. Decades later his son wrote a short history of the attempt. I believe the memoir clearly mentions Ezekiel Solomon, his wife Louise, and one of their sons in this account of Rev. Bacon canceling a planned trip from Mackinac Island to L’Arbrecroche in NW lower Michigan in 1802: “The want of access to the Indians was still more discouraging. Without a competent interpreter, there would be no hope of gaining anything from a visit to Arbrecroche. The interpreter with whom he had corresponded through a friend, and whom he had so often hoped to obtain, had again disappointed him. Finding another man who could speak both Indian and English, he had attempted to obtain his help in the expedition; but that man’s father and mother—the one a Jew and the other a Papist — were unwilling that he should fulfil his engagement” Bacon, Rev. Leonard D.D. A Sketch of the Life of Rev. David Bacon. 1876. Reprint. Boston, Massachusetts: Congregational Publishing Society, Alfred Mudge & Son, n.d.. Digital images. http://books.google.com/books?id=R5UNAQAAIAAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false : .” (A. Dembinski).
Okimabinesikoue means Chief Bird Woman
I’ve always wondered why Dubois had an Ojibway name.
“Many have tried to discover why (or even if) Elizabeth Dubois has been assigned a First Nations name; it may just be because descendants wanted to associate such with her, it may be because she was highly thought of in the FN community on Mackinac Island and therefore granted a FN name. We’ll probably never know.” (Deborah Crawford).
“My research has brought me to the conclusion that she was half French and half Anishnaabe. The Bird clan are the spiritual leaders of the people. Hate to bring up the cruder aspects of eighteenth century imperialism, but marriage into influential indigenous families by traders was by then a time honoured recipe for good business. You also need to understand that during this time Mackinac was no backwater; it was the commercial hub of the fur trade in central North America. Pre-1760 it was the middle of New France, linking the Mississippi with the Great Lakes, the Prairies, and the St. Lawrence. To marry a woman with family ties in both Quebec and among indigenous peoples in the heart of the continent would have been of incalculable value to Ezekiel, and he most certainly would have known it. His documented success in the fur trade is proof of it; so too, unfortunately, was the destruction of indigenous culture at that time. However, it is extremely important to also note that Ezekiel and Louise are among the fathers and mothers of the Metis nation in North America, and whether or not we choose to take the political action of self-identifying as Metis, one of the three indigenous peoples of Canada, if we are their descendants, we are Metis” (Brendan O’Gorman).
1813: Death in Mackinaw
Ezekiel Solomon dies in 1808. Dubois puts in a claim to the Treasury Department to be given Solomon’s land (see the image below).
In 1813, Marie Elizabeth Louise Dubois Solomon dies. This is during the War of 1812. Was she a casualty of the war?
On July 18, 1812 the Americans attacked Fort Mackinac but the British held strong. In 1813, the Americans cut the British supply lines to the post so food became scarce. Soldiers were given half rations. It would have been a difficult winter. She was 65 years old when she died.