Some Destinations of Pilon voyageurs

Throughout the XVIIIth century and during the first part of the XIXth century, Pilons, descendants of Antoine and Marie-Anne, joined crews of voyageurs hauling trade goods to distant posts located hundred of kilometres from their homes and families left behind on the Island of Montreal. On the return trips, which were not always made the same year because of the great distances involved, their birchbark crafts were burdened with heavy bails of furs.

Most of the time, the positions they occupied in the canoe was as simple paddlers, but occasionally some of them played more important rolls at the ends of the canoes or as guides. Whatever the case, the taste for adventure and distant lands attracted Pilons for well over a century. During the French Régime they were "in the employ of the King" or they worked for merchants and traders such as Monsieur Rigault de Vaudreuil, Louis D'ailleboust or Monsieur Chevalier de Repentigny. Following the signing of the Treaty of Paris they found themselves in the employ of many of the partners of the Northwest Company such as McTavish Frobisher & Co. and William & John Kay.

The destinations mentioned in the contracts that the voyageurs would sign are often quite exotic sounding like Témiscamingque, Michilimakinac and la baie des Puants or they may have been only vague indications such as in the North or in the Upper Country (les pays d'en haut).

The maps below allow you to learn a bit about some of these destinations in order to better appreciate the distances travelled and the work that these trips represented for our ancestors. Click on any of the blocks on the map to see an enlargement of that section. In fact, you have a choice between a 1755 vintage map (Partie occidentale de la Nouvelle France ou du Canada by Bellin) which presents a wealth of place-names which would have been quite familiar to our Pilons or a slightly later representation dating to 1787 (Partie occidentale du Canada, contenant les cinq Grands Lacs, avec les pays circonvoisins by Bonne) which contains fewer place-names but a higher degree of geographical accuracy. Compare for yourselves.

Partie occidentale du Canada, contenant les cinq Grands Lacs, avec les pays circonvoisins, M. Bonne 1787

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