Etienne Pepin and Isabelle Kwantlen
the Search for Etienne
In my search, I learned about the fur trade; some of the first non-Native people on the west coast of North America were with the fur trade. At the time, the only fur trade I knew of was the Hudson's Bay Company, so I did a search and found that the HBC had a web site. After poking round for a while, I left a query on the Hudson Bay Company web site, asking if they had any record of an employee named Louis Seymour Peppan or his father-in-law Alfred John Houston. They didn't.
However they did have two Pepin men who the archivist felt Seymour may have been connected with; one was Pierre Pepin dit Lachance -- the other was Etienne Pepin.
There was so much info on Pierre that I took a good long look at him first. After finding some information on Pierre that said he had settled down in Oregon, I turned to Etienne.
According to Etienne's employee record, he was in the right place at the right time, but as you can see from his employee record (reproduced below) it was woefully light on family information.
MGM/ek "Sept. 1988"
|The above is a reproduction of the original Hudson's Bay Company Archive's record for Etienne Pepin, and appears here with their kind permission.|
And back to my favorite search engine I went. I found information on a man named Etienne Pascal Pepin, and was contacted by a couple people descended from his family line. Church records from St-Michel, Yamaska, Quebec, showed that Etienne-Pascal Pepin married Luce Hebert in 1821. I got excited; I thought I had found my great great grandmother.
Though information I had said that my great great grandfather's wife's name was "Elizabeth", I figured it was possible to miss-hear "Luce Hebert" as a heavily accented "Elizabeth". However, Luce -- whose full name was Marguerite Luce Hebert -- was having Etienne-Pascal's children long after HBC's Etienne arrived at Fort Langley. And Luce re-married in 1856, because Etienne-Pascal Pepin had died -- in Quebec.
So . . . ?
Back to Square One and HBC's Etienne.
I found a web site for Fort Langley and emailed the webmaster, Gerry Borden. I wish I still had his reply, but it all boiled down to, "Yes, we had an Etienne Pepin who worked here. I think we may have some records here that can answer your questions."
With the help of a Canadian friend's Greater Vancouver telephone book, I complied a list of all the Pepins living in the area, sending letters to the two most likely Pepins on that list. One wrote back saying only that there was no relation, but the other -- Fred Pepin in Aldergrove -- sent me a nice long letter.
Included in that letter was a brief family tree, showing his family had come out to British Columbia from Arnprior, Ontario, in the 1880s. Fred is an historian and has, over time, been approached enough by folks asking about Fort Langley's Etienne Pepin, that he could tell me that there was only one Pepin in BC prior to his family's arrival, and that Pepin was the Hudson's Bay Company employee Etienne Pepin. (Thank you, Fred.)
I was a little disappointed at the time that Fred wasn't family, though his information let me know who the other Pepins listed in BC vital statistics were AND it told me that I have cousins out there who are doing family research. Now, after doing a good deal of research into the Pepin families of North America, that Fred's last name is PEPIN suggests to me that he's probably yet another of my far-flung distant cousins.
I was so excited, I couldn't stand myself. I had to go up to Canada and poke around. A friend offered to drive me up (Thanks a million, Bubba) and on Tuesday, August 24, 1999, I found myself in Canada (Thank you, Laurie, both for the use of your telephone book AND for putting up with my hyper-self for 6 days).
On Wednesday, August 25th, 1999, having prearranged the visit with Gerald Borden (One thousand blessings upon you and yours, Gerry Borden! Everyone was wonderful.), I went out to the Fort Langley National Historical Site of Canada in Langley, BC, to look at their records. It was a Golden Day, even if it took longer to get there than I had originally thought, and I got there later than I wanted to.
The entrance to Fort Langley
The first record I looked at was a pre-computer-typed, red leather bound transcript of the fort's handwritten journal, FORT LANGLEY JOURNAL 1827 - 1830, and therein, on page 42, I found the following:
And, as I continued, I found references to Etienne on pages 45, 67, 72, 79, 81--
The English language has not, does not, and will never, contain a single word that adequately describes how I felt in that one moment . . . though I can tell you it took a full day for me to calm down enough so I could think straight.
Friday August 27th, found me at the public library in downtown Vancouver, to follow up on what Fred had said about Etienne. It wasn't that I didn't believe Fred; double-checking information is just plain Good Genealogy.
Looking through the censuses back as far as they went, I could find no mention of Etienne, but I did find a reference to a book that was upstairs in Special Collections and got a couple of mildly disapproving looks from other library patrons at my overjoyed exclamation. I ignored them and trotted my happy little butt upstairs to Special Collections and was shortly thereafter holding a published version of the Fort Langley Journals in my hand.
I was >THAT< close to total sensory overload.
The published version is called FORT LANGLEY JOURNALS 1827- 30, edited by Morag MacLachlan, from UBC Press (ISBN 0-7748-0664-8) -- and in that one, the entry for 3 Jan 1828 reads:
I didn't think it could get better . . . but it did. There was a footnote for Etienne. It read:
The reference section of The Fort Langley Journals identified the Nelson and Morton as:
The Hudson's Bay Company Archives sent me a copy of the Morton biography for a very reasonable fee, a friend bought me my very own copy of The Fort Langley Journals (thank you, Carl Thames), and I made my own photocopy of the Nelson.
I looked and looked at that information and then got side tracked by a project that led me straight to the final pieces of my Peppan/Pepin puzzle.
The first of those final pieces were:
As I was digesting -- and translating -- these pieces, I got another chunk dropped into my cyber-lap by Dwight Hebert of Massachusetts: the marriage registry from St-Michel-d'Yamaska for Marguerite Pepin and Michel May. Marguerite and Michel are my great great great grandparents. (Thank you, Dwight, and thank you, Henry!)
And in the spring of 2004, a friend who volunteers at the Fort Vancouver National Historic Site emailed me to say she'd found a fellow named Etienne Pepen mentioned in Fort Vancouver's records, indicating that he was there prior to Fort Langley, and that he'd had a wife there. I've sent an email to the Hudson's Bay Company Archives to see if they have anything on the PEPEN spelling. The other stuff I got from them was for the PEPIN spelling. I'llput it here when I get it.
I read through everything just one more time and pieced together the following.
The Time: the late 1790s.
The Place: St-Michel-de-Yamaska, Quebec, Canada.
The Players: Michel May, son of Antoine May and Madeleine Lajeunesse; and Marguerite Pepin, youngest child of Louis-Etienne Pepin and Jeanne Maclure.
Michel and Marguerite were to be married -- soon. Being young, they got impatient and somewhere between 1797 and 1799, their impatience bore fruit in the form of a son. Though Michel May (also known as Michel LeMay and Michel Maie) still remains a mystery, I have Marguerite's line back to her great great great grandparents, Jean Pepin and Jeanne Dumont of Normandy.
In 1802, on May 3, Michel May and Marguerite Pepin married. On 19 April of the following year their first child, Michel-Etienne May, was baptized. No date of birth is included with his baptism record as it is for his nine younger brothers and sisters, who, incidentally, were all baptized with their surnames spelled MAIE. The conclusion: the son born between 1797 and 1799 was Michel-Etienne.
Yamaska wasn't very large yet and the circumstances surrounding his birth were probably no secret, so it may have been tough for Michel-Etienne -- and then again maybe not, after all his parents did marry. And he was The Big Brother. October 14, 1804, saw the baptism of his little brother Bejamin, little sister Archange was baptised on 17 March 1806.
In 1807, little brother François-Edouard was born and died in 1808. Sister Julie was born in 1809, followed by Marie in 1810, but Marie died in 1811. Then brother François-Edouard in 1812, brother Louis in 1814, and sister Angele in 1816. Then in 1818, brother Jean-Baptiste was born. One week after his 14 June 1818 baptism their mother was buried, followed a week after that by Jean-Baptiste. In February of the following year, their father re-married to Angélique Genereau.
Through his life, Michel-Etienne May was known as Etienne Pepin, Etienne Maillé, Etienne Magice, and Quit-Ta-Heel Peppin. Makes me wonder what else went on that he chose to use his mother's maiden name over his father's. Though is all fairness a friend pointed out that ii's possible that the MAGICE came about through a misreading of MAILLÉ (if there were crowded lines of handwritten names, it was just possible that letters from a name below Maillé got mixed in with it, making it look like MAGICE -- then proceeded to demonstrate. Possible, very possible. Thanks, Simon.) And MAILLÉ could have come about by way of a literate someone hearing Etienne *say* MAIE and hearing MAILLÉ; phonetically they are very very close.
After signing a two year contract with the Hudson's Bay Company, he traveled up/down the Ottawa River -- also known as Rivière des Outaouais -- across to Georgian Bay to the head of the Lakes in the Winnipeg area, up the Saskatchewan River, over the mountains, through Alberta (there's a lake name on my notes but I can't read my own handwriting), to the headwaters of the Columbia River, and down to Fort Vancouver.
He worked at Fort Vancouver for a while as a labourer, took a local woman as a country wife (who was she, did they have any children?)
Then in late 1827, he headed north to Fort Langley, overland up to the southern end of the Puget Sound, and travelled by canoe/boat via the inner water ways to the mouth of the Fraser. (Thank you, Bruce Watson)
Says George Barnston in the Fort Langley Journal entry for 24 December 1827:
Etienne was one of those four men. Two others were Alexander McKenzie, and Louis Ossin. In time I may know who the other two were, but for now it's a mystery. The already quoted Jan 3rd entry is the first time Etienne is mentioned by name; more often than not, Etienne is mentioned as "the blacksmith".
On January 14, 1830, Etienne re-engaged with Hudson's Bay for two years at Fort Langley, and was thus then qualified to "take a woman". If the woman he got together with wasn't Isabelle, it was the mother of his two elder children Marie and François.
Etienne and an unnamed wife were included in a report sent to HBC headquarters, dated 25 Feb 1830. He's number 14, last name "Papin".
List of Gentlemen and men Attached to Fraser's River, with the Capacity and Family of each as follows, vizt.
|The above is courtesy of The Fort Langley Journals: 1827-30 ed. Morag MacLachlan, UBC Press|
|Etienne was an
in-your-face kinda guy.
Evidence: the Journal entry for 7 May 1830.
What are "Small Ullachans"? It's how they described small eulachon, or candlefish.
Also ulikon, ulicon, ulken; and oolakan, -chan, etc. [ad. Chinook jargon ulâkân.] A small fish of the northwestern parts of North America, ascending the rivers in immense numbers to spawn; the candle-fish (sourceOED).
The ulikon or oulachan, Thaleichthys pacificus, has long been an ichthyological curiosity. It is a small silvery fish, averaging about fourteen inches long, and in general appearance much resembling a smelt. (source 1885 Simmonds Animal Food Resources ix. 318)
The candlefish, or eulachon, of America's north Pacific coast is prized by Indians as food and for its oil. (source: 1955 Sci. News Let. 8 Jan. 32/1 -- Thank you, Alan H. Hartley)
Unfortunately, that oil raises merry hell with some peoples' digestive systems and Etienne Pepin was one of those people.
The fellow who wrote the 7 May 1830 journal entry was Archibald McDonald, the Guy in Charge.
Archibald started keeping the journal on 9 October 1828, and the first indication that he wasn't fond of Etienne appears in the following journal entry dated 4 November 1828:
Though I'm pretty sure Etienne's later experience with eulachon certainly didn't help matters, the above journal entries suggests that Archibald and Etienne just plain rubbed each other the wrong way from the very beginning. There are other comments throughout The Journal to support this supposition, and I can just imagine the not-so-subtle French imprecations muttered over the anvil as Etienne worked.
Etienne had a country wife at Fort Vancouver, her name and nation as of yet unknown. Children, if any, remain a mystery.
Catholic Church records of the Pacific Northwest: Vancouver, Volumes I and II, and Stellamaris Mission show that Etienne had a daughter named Marie born in 1835, and son, François, born in 1838.
Both children were baptized 4 September 1841, by Modeste Demers, priest. Entry 60 -- the first for that day -- reads:
Marie married widower and Hudson Bay employee Simon Gill, whose previous wife was Marie, a member of the Chehalis peoples of what is now Southwestern Washington state.
Says the marriage record from the Catholic Church records of the Pacific Northwest: Vancouver, Volumes I and II, and Stellamaris Mission (Thanks again, Anne!), on p 102, M 1, Simon GILL and Marie PEPIN, it says, and I quote verbatim:
Other research has revealed that, for whatever reason, Marie never had children of her own, but was step-mother to Simon's son, Simon.
Can you imagine Marie's step-son trying to explain his family history . . . ? His dad's name is Simon, and his mother's name was Marie, but she died so he got a stepmom -- named Marie. And when this confused little lad got to be about 10 years old, he also got himself an uncle named Simon.
|If you have Hudson Bay Company employee Simon Gill in your family tree, email me. I'd like to learn more about the Gills, pre- and post-Simon.|
I do not yet know what happened to Etienne's elder son François. I would very much like to find out.
Etienne's younger son Simon was born in 1855. Says the church registry:
When I started this, my own French was not good, however it is steadily improving with the use of on online translation site (ImTranslator - Free Translation at http://freetranslation.imtranslator.com/) which translates the above as:
And from those same church records, I also have the marriage entry:
As I have mentioned before, spelling was not a priority and Father Lootens' spelling is a text book example. However, with a little creative thinking, the translation should look a lot like this:
In 1858, Etienne was the senior representative of the non-Scottish tradesmen at Fort Langley, and records indicate that Etienne retired in 1860, but I couldn't find him in any post-1872 British Columbia death records. But I wasn't looking in the right place -- again.
Etienne Pepin aka Etienne Magice aka Etienne Maillé died in 1874.
The Fort Langley Centennial Museum has an album of press clippings and one of those clippings states that Etienne died in 1874 and it is presumed that he was buried in the cemetery on the grounds of St. George's Anglican Church, at the corner or Church and Mary Streets, in Fort Langley, which was originally the southwest corner of the HBC Fort property and where they buried their dead. A number of Etienne's co-workers are also buried there. (Thank you, Bob and Sheila Puls.)
I was intrigued by the Mascoyennes [Maskagonné] woman mentioned in Marie's marriage registry, so I looked in my Encyclopedia Britannica.
The closest I could find to either Mascoyennes or Maskagonné, was Maskegon, a First Nations band out of eastern Canada, who were were also known as the Woodland or Swampy Cree.
Then I checked with the good folks on the QUEBEC and METIS mailing lists (Thanks, guys!), it was brought to my attention that there was also a band of First Nations folk living quite near Fort Langley, whose name sounded very similar to "Mascoyennes/Maskagonné" -- the Musqueam.
The Musqueam, along with the Kwantlen and Katzie all belonged to the same dialect group of the Halkomelem language, which is the Central branch of the Salishan language family; they were also neighbours.
Spelling was not a high priority back then
The Fort Langley Journals keepers were spelling "Skagit" S C A D G A T, so it's quite likely that Mascoyennes was a reference to the Musqueam. The common thread here is that ESPECIALLY with Native names, there are a million and twelve spelling variations, ergo, they were spelled phonetically. One of the Journal keepers couldn't even be consistent with spelling of his own surname.
In the biography written by Jamie Morton for the Hudson Bay Company, he says Etienne claimed to be the illegitimate son of a Marguerite "Peipan" and he used the names Etienne Maillé, Etienne Magice, and occasionally Etienne Magice [Pepin]. The biography also theorizes that as Etienne Pepin was the only man named Etienne at Fort Langley during the time certain records show an Etienne Maillé in the area, that Maillé, Magice, and Pepin are all one in the same. It also says that Etienne spent some time at "The Cowlitz".
Fort Nisqually, which is quite near The Cowlitz, shows records of a man named Etienne Guace/Quace, but recent research by a descendant of this other Etienne revealed that Guace/Quace was a fellow named Etienne Legace. So perhaps Etienne Pepin went down that way for his daughter's wedding and then hung out for awhile to visit with some of his Fort Langley buddies who'd moved down that way before returning to Fort Langley.
However, the other above quoted records do tie together all of Etienne's assorted names.
They also link together the (Papin) Quyslen woman and Isabelle the Keitose woman, and I think the Elizabeth referred to on Simon's certificate of marriage is simply the "English" way of writing Isabelle.
Though the Mascoyennes [Maskagonné] woman still remains a mystery, with a little digging in the old church records I'm hoping I can at least shed some light on her.
|Thank you, Roger Newman and Tannis Pond for getting me in touch with Darlene Heal. Thank you, Darlene Heal for your helpful hints.|
|Thanks, Guys, bunches and bunches and bunches!|
|Tannis's ancestor Narcisse Falardeau was one of the witnesses at Etienne and Isabelle's wedding.|
The Morton biography theorizes that the three Native women Etienne associated with between 1830 and 1856 were all Isabelle, a woman of the Kwantlen people.
I would very much like to contact members of Etienne's or Isabelle's families to help me find answers to the questions:
The really hard part about these questions is that I know that, from a First Nations point of view, some of the above questions are rude, but I must know. Any information died with my father and his two siblings. I apologize most sincerely for my rudeness, but not for my desire To Know.
If you have a relative named Etienne Pepin who worked for the Hudson's Bay Company (1827-1860) OR was the senior representative of the non-Scottish tradesmen at Fort Langley OR was the overseer for the Fort Langley Farm (1858-1860), drop me some email, Cuz, I'd love to swap stories, photos, family trees . . .
And perhaps you're saying to yourself, "Yeah, I was told my great great granddaddy worked at Fort Langley. So?"
Drop me some email. I'm sorta kinda curious to see where all the Children of Fort Langley wound up.
Curious enough that I started poking around and found a handful of others whose ancestors worked with Etienne. There's 24 of us now.
Curious enough that I created a web site devoted to the descendants of all the men who worked at Fort Langley.
|I cordially invite you to visit The Children of Fort Langley|
Between 1827 and 1874, 108 men worked at Fort Langley: Orkneymen, Sandwich Islanders, Irishmen, Metis, and Scotsmen. A great many of these men had children while at the fort. The mothers of most of these children were members of the Kwantlen Nation, a band of First Nations people whose descendants still live on the MacMillan Island Reserve, across the Fraser River from the Fort Langley National Historical Site, some were from other neighbouring bands, and yet others from down on the Columbia River, near Fort Vancouver. We, the "Children", are pooling our knowledge, not only to help each other out, but to help any unknown cousins we may have out there in the great wide world. Our ancestors were there, making history at what later came to be The Birth Place of British Columbia.
Since its debut 22 March 2000, we have seen that the men witnessed each other weddings, and were godparents for each others children, and that some of those children married each other. I strongly suspect that as time goes on, not only will we find that many of us are related through those marriages, some of us may also find we were related before any of those marriages took place.
Could you be a Child of Fort Langley?
Do you have family stories about someone working in some place called the "Columbia District"? The Columbia District was the Hudson Bay Company's name for what is now British Columbia (and parts of Washington state, Oregon and Idaho).
Stop by the Children of Fort Langley there.
If you are curious about your Fort Langley ancestor, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Morag MacLachlan's Fort Langley Journals: 1827-30 -- you owe it to yourself. If your local book store doesn't have it, I think you can order directly from UBC -- on the 4th page of my paperback copy, it gives UBC's physical/mailing address, a phone number, a fax number, e-mail and URL (though as of 1 August 2002 a different distributor is handling book order for UBC; see the below link to UBC Press for more details). Available in hard cover (ISBN 0-7748-0664-8) or paperback (ISBN 0-7748-0665-6), from UBC (University of British Columbia)Press.
|For more information about FORT LANGLEY, see their web site|
|Oh, and before you go. . .
There were at least three Pepin men who worked for the Hudson Bay Company out on The Coast: Etienne Pepin, Pierre Pepin dit LaChance, and Antoine Pepin. If you think you might be descended from any of them, drop them some e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please see the note below under the link to the HBC archives regarding how to go about wording your query. Then drop *ME* some email.
IMPORTANT THANK YOUs
|FORT LANGLEY and HUDSON's BAY RELATED LINKS|
THE CHILDREN OF FORT LANGLEY 108 men worked at Fort Langley between 1827 and 1894; the Children of Fort Langley is the descendants of some of those men.
Fort Langley's Brigade Days celebration is held every year over the long August weekend (the first weekend of August), and is a probably the best time to visit if you are a Child of Fort Langley. Until a suitable venue can be found, the annual descendants' reunion is being put on hold.
If you have an ancestor who worked at Fort Langley, check it out -- you'll probably find cousins.
The hours of operation for Fort Langley National Historic Site of Canada are:
Hours of operation and pricing can change without notice, please see their website for current hours and pricing.
The people here are wonderful ... and not just because they had information about my great great grandfather, Etienne Pepin.
When you inquire about an ancestor, make your query short and sweet. As a subject line use "Employee Query" and then type in your ancestor's name. In the body of the message type his name in again, what part of the country you think he worked, and when you think he worked there; as he will be filed under his name, family pedigrees won't help the folks at the archives find him any faster. Same goes for sending in a long list of people and asking, "What can you tell me about these guys?"
And please be patient; the Hudson's Bay Company -- now doing business as The Bay -- has had a LOT of employees since they opened for business in the 1600s and some of the older records may take time to find -- especially if you're the first person inquiring about a certain employee.
Disclaimer: The above is my own opinion and is not meant to imply OR quote OR dictate Hudson Bay Company policy regarding archival research. -- lmp
Please note: the Pepin Links have been moved to the Pepin page.
This page updated 11 Sept 2004