LORIMIER, JEAN-BAPTISTE DE (known as Jean-Baptiste, Chevalier de Lorimier), interpreter, office holder, and jp; baptized 5 May 1786 in Caughnawaga (Kahnawake), Que., second son of Claude-Nicolas-Guillaume de Lorimier* and Louise Schuyler; m. 26 Nov. 1827 Marguerite Rousseau in Saint-Régis (Akwesasne); d. 4 Oct. 1845 in Montreal.
Jean-Baptiste de Lorimier was descended from a distinguished Canadian family with a long tradition of military service. The Patriote Chevalier de Lorimier belonged to another branch of the same family. Jean-Baptiste’s father, resident agent of the Indian Department in Caughnawaga since 1775, was probably instrumental in obtaining for his son a departmental post as an interpreter there in May 1810. His mother, Louise Schuyler, was an Iroquois from Caughnawaga, and so his ties with the community were close. Lorimier was subsequently appointed interpreter and lieutenant at Lac-des-Deux-Montagnes (Oka) effective 26 Sept. 1812. He was promoted captain and resident agent at Saint-Régis on 11 May 1813. Just over two weeks later he was one of the Indian Department officers ordered to the Niagara frontier with a detachment of warriors from Lower Canada for service in the conflict with the Americans.
Arriving in the Niagara peninsula early in June, Lorimier and about 300 Indians under the overall command of his brother-in-law Captain Dominique Ducharme* joined a group of some 100 Mohawks from the Grand River led by Captain William Johnson Kerr. They played the major role in the defeat of Lieutenant-Colonel Charles Boerstler’s expedition near Beaver Dams (Thorold) on 24 June [see James FitzGibbon*]. Lorimier commanded the Indians from Saint-Régis during this engagement.
Lorimier remained in the Niagara area for the next two months, as the Americans, operating from the captured Fort George (Niagara-on-the-Lake), continued to clash with British troops and Canadian militiamen. On 17 August American soldiers, accompanied by a few Iroquois from New York, overwhelmed a small picket-guard he commanded. Seriously wounded, he spent the remainder of 1813 as a prisoner of war. By the time he was exchanged at the beginning of 1814, his treatment at the hands of his captors had become the subject of some controversy between the British and American commands. Major-General Francis de Rottenburg* had referred in a dispatch of 8 Sept. 1813 to the “ignominious treatment inflicted upon Capt Lorimier.” Lorimier’s wounds and imprisonment were to affect his health for the rest of his life.
On 8 Aug. 1814 Lorimier was made captain in the newly established Embodied Indian Warriors, of which his father was deputy superintendent. He spent the remainder of that year in the canoe guards which protected the flotillas travelling to British posts on the upper Great Lakes, his knowledge of various Indian dialects making him especially useful. At the end of the war he returned to his duties at Saint-Régis, where in June 1815 he sat on a commission investigating the community’s grievances concerning property disputes on the reserves and their charges that they had been cheated by local whites.
The following year Lorimier was seconded for service in the expedition to the Red River led by Lord Selkirk [Douglas*]. He was present when Selkirk captured the North West Company’s Fort William (Thunder Bay, Ont.) in August 1816. Sent east with some of the NWC partners who were to face trial in Upper Canada, he narrowly escaped drowning when a sudden storm on Lake Superior overturned his canoe, killing Kenneth MacKenzie* and eight others. On 18 July 1817 he and Métis interpreter Louis Nolin were two of the six witnesses at the signing of a treaty at the Red River settlement (Man.) between Selkirk and five Cree and Saulteaux chiefs, including Peguis*. Selkirk thought highly of Lorimier and in the spring of 1818 recommended him to escort Roman Catholic missionaries Joseph-Norbert Provencher* and Sévère Dumoulin* to the settlement. Provencher described his escort as a “gay, pleasant, polite and honest man.” Sir John Johnson*, superintendent general of the Indian Department, noted that Lorimier’s experience made him well suited for the task and arranged for his duties in the department to be temporarily assumed by others.
Lorimier became involved in the escalating conflict between the NWC and the Hudson’s Bay Company. In July 1817 government officials inquired into whether he had acted improperly during the Selkirk expedition. Although Lorimier denied any direct association with either of the companies, in March 1819 he was indicted with several others on charges that they had conspired to ruin the NWC’s Indian trade. No doubt inspired by the bitterness created at the time of Selkirk’s expedition, these charges were apparently dropped. They had no effect on Lorimier’s subsequent career. He continued in his Indian Department post until his retirement in 1832. He had been made a justice of the peace for the district of Montreal in October 1821.
Jean-Baptiste de Lorimier spent the last part of his life quietly and respectably. He left an estate evaluated at approximately 6,000 livres. His career was not a spectacular one, but it was significant. He was representative of a group of Canadians of mixed-blood ancestry who ably served the Indian Department in a variety of capacities in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. His personal courage and linguistic versatility led to a career of some distinction, even though his initial postings were clearly obtained through family influence.
ANQ-M, CE1-25, 5 mai 1786; CE1-51, 26 nov. 1827, 7 oct. 1845. PAC, RG 8, I (C ser.), 230, 256–58, 363, 679, 688B, 692, 1168, 1170–71, 1203 1/2A, 1218, 1224; RG 10, A3, 488–91, 497; A6, 627, 633. Documents relating to northwest missions, 1815–1827, ed. G. L. Nute (St Paul, Minn., 1942). Alexander Morris, The treaties of Canada with the Indians of Manitoba and the North-West Territories, including the negotiations on which they were based, and other information relating thereto (Toronto, 1880; repr. 1971). Quebec Gazette, 11 March 1819, 25 Oct. 1821. Morice, Dict. hist. des Canadiens et des Métis. Officers of British forces in Canada (Irving). E. J. Devine, Historic Caughnawaga (Montreal, 1922). Rich, Fur trade (1967). Sulte, Hist. de la milice. É.-Z. Massicotte, “La famille de Lorimier: notes généalogiques et historiques,” BRH, 21 (1915): 10–16, 33–45.
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