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Jean Nicolet


Ancestor on the Clement, Madore and Pitt lines.



One of the founders of New France.


Commis et interprete.  Jean Nicolet de Belle-Borne.  Sieur de Belleborne.


The only “princess” I found so far was the first wife (no catholic ceremony) of Jean Nicollet, the famous explorer and diplomat amongst the Indians of the Great Lakes. There are a number of short biographies about him and he is mentioned in every “History of Canada”. Here is a brief resume. Jean Nicollet, born circa 1598, probably at Cherbourg (Normandy), came to Canada in 1618, drowned at Quebec, 27 October 1642. Was contracted to Canada to live amongst the Indians, learn their languages and way of life. At the time it was the main policy of the French to create a new society in the new world composed of mixed bloods, rather than colonize with “imported” French people. A large percentage of the few that came before 1633 were employed in this fashion to speed up the integration of the next ones to come with the Indians. 


Champlain sent him first to the Algonquins from 1618 to 1620. In 1620 he was sent further west to the Nippissings where he lived for nine years.  This is where he got together with our ancestor a Nippissing “princess”, otherwise totally anonymous, and they had a baby girl baptized Madeleine, probably in 1628-1629. It was to be their only child and our ancestor.


In 1629 the Kirke brothers ransacked the little colony at Quebec. Nicollet, rather then going back to France with most of the others, went to live with the Hurons. In 1633, at the return of Champlain and the French to Quebec, he was asked to go on a major peace mission to all the Indian tribes by Champlain, and by the way “try to find the passage to the sea of China at the same time”. He went all the way west to the Fox River and south to the Illinois River, setting peace agreements and making diplomacy in between tribes. He is famous among other things for the big powhow he set up at Green Bay, with the Winnebago, Sioux etc... dressed in a chinese damask robe, which he had brought along in case in found himself in China eventually.


In 1637, he settled on a grant of 160 acres of wooded land at Trois-Rivieres (Quebec), got married to Marguerite Couillard a French-Canadian born in Canada by whom he had a son and a daughter.


The noteworthy services he rendered to the colony, his knowledge of Indian customs and languages,and the geography of Canada and the american Northwest in general earned him the respect of everyone, French and Indians.


In 1642, while temporarily at Quebec he was asked to go with all speed to Trois-Rivieres to save an Iroquois prisoner of the Hurons who were preparing to torture him. His shallop was overturned by a strong gust and he drowned.


A good short biography with bibliography is in Vol I of the Canadian Dictionary of Biographies, p.516-518. We are a descendant of Madeleine, who married Jean Leblanc.

Email by Michel Robert <lapommeraie@MSN.COM>


From “The Makers of Canada: Index and Dictionary of Canadian History”:

Nicolet, Jean (1598-1642) Born at Cherbourg, Normandy. Came to Canada, 1618, and the same year was sent to the Algonquians of Allumette Island, on the Ottawa, to learn their language.  Remained with the tribe two years, and afterwards spent eight or nine years with the Nipissings, gaining so much of their confidence that he was made a member of the tribe and took part in their councils.  His memoirs on this tribe, furnished to Father Le Jeune, were embodied in the “Jesuit Relations”. Returned to Quebec, 1633, after an absence of 15 years.  There met Champlain, who sent him west once more in 1634.  Reached Green Bay the same year and ascended Fox River to the Wisconsin portage. The following year returned to Quebec, and employed as commissary of the fur trade, and interpreter at Three Rivers, till his death.


And Jean Nicolet is also known to have married on 7 Oct. 1637 in Quebec Marguerite Couillard. (daughter of Guillaume Couillard and Guillemette Hebert) Supposidly, one daughter was born of this marriage.