MOREL DE LA DURANTAYE, OLIVIER, esquire, captain, commandant, councillor, seigneur; b. 17 Feb. 1640 at Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, near Nantes, son of Thomas Morel, Sieur de La Durantaye, and of Alliette Du Houssaye; d. 28 Sept. 1716.
Morel de La Durantaye arrived in Canada in June 1665 as a captain in the Carignan-Salières regiment, although his commission dated only from 10 Dec. 1665. He worked with his company on the building of Fort Sainte-Anne, and in September 1666 he took part in Prouville* de Tracy’s expedition against the Mohawks. He returned to France in 1668, and on 25 March 1669 he contracted to raise a company of 50 men; in August 1670 he was back in Canada. On 14 September, at Quebec, he married Françoise Duquet, the surgeon Jean Madry*’s widow, who was fairly well off and who owned the arriere-fief of Grandpré in the seigneury of Notre-Dame-des-Anges. They were to have 10 children, who were all baptized, from 1671 to 1685, at Quebec.
From 1670 to 1683 Morel de La Durantaye was attached to the Quebec garrison, where he commanded one of the six companies of colonial regular troops. Fur-trading was also one of his occupations, since for eight years he owned a fur-trading site at Montreal.
On 29 Oct. 1672 he obtained from Talon* the seigneury of La Durantaye, which was to be enlarged in 1693 and 1696; on 15 July 1674 Buade* de Frontenac granted him the seigneury of Kamouraska, which he was to sell in 1680 to Charles Aubert de La Chesnaye, after having vainly tried to fish there.
On 10 Oct. 1682 Morel de La Durantaye took part in a meeting of religious and lay notables held at Quebec by Le Febvre* de La Barre to discuss the best course of action to follow in face of the Iroquois peril. The following spring, at the governor’s request and accompanied by Louis-Henri de Baugy, he went to the Great Lakes region and the Illinois country to put a stop to the corrupt practices of the coureurs de bois, who were trading in furs without licences. He was also instructed to invite the Indians of this region to come to Montreal to trade their furs and meet the new governor; finally, he received orders to inquire into the activities of Cavelier* de La Salle, as there was a likelihood that the latter would lose the authority which he held over the forts in that area. In July 1683 Morel de La Durantaye took over the command of Michilimackinac, a position that he was to occupy until 1690, and in August of the same year Baugy replaced Henri Tonty as commandant of Fort Saint-Louis.
On 19 July 1684 Morel de La Durantaye left the fort, at the head of a party of 500 men laboriously mustered with the help of Daniel Greysolon Dulhut and Nicolas Perrot, to join La Barre’s expedition against the Iroquois. They were supposed to meet at Niagara. On the way, Durantaye was informed by a messenger of the conclusion of the unfavourable peace signed at Anse de La Famine (Mexico Bay, near Oswego, N.Y.). On 6 June 1686 he was instructed to set up a post at Detroit and another at the “Toronto portage.” It was not possible to establish the latter, which was to bear the name Fort Rouillé (Toronto), until 1750. On 7 June 1687, acting on Brisay de Denonville’s instructions, he went to the south of Lake Erie “to repeat the formal taking over the said posts” which had first been done by La Salle. On 10 July, with Dulhut and Henri Tonty, he joined up with Denonville’s army to the south of Lake Ontario; he was at the head of a party composed of 160 Frenchmen, 400 allies, and 60 prisoners. A few days later he helped to burn down and destroy the Seneca villages.
In 1690 he persuaded 400 or 500 Indians to go to trade in furs at Montreal, and according to Bochart de Champigny he marshalled 100 canoes for this purpose. The same year he was relieved of his post as commandant of Michilimackinac and replaced by La Porte de Louvigny, because he had apparently been too well disposed towards the Jesuits. The following year he obtained permission to trade in furs in the west, and signed an agreement with Jean Fafard. In 1694 he was again at the head of a company with instructions to clear the neighbourhood of Montreal of Iroquois; at that time he was promoted captain on the active list. The king granted him a gratuity of 1,500 livres in 1700, and on 18 May 1701 a pension of 600 livres with permission to leave the service.
In 1702 François de Beauharnois* de La Chaussaye recommended him for appointment to the Conseil. Souverain. The appointment was made on 16 June 1703; he received his commission on 29 October and was installed on 26 Nov. 1703. He had already sat on the council on 8 October, because of a shortage of judges. Late in the autumn of 1704 he went to France. As he had not returned by 1706, his wife claimed separate maintenance, because her own assets had been seized to pay her husband’s debts. The separation was granted in 1713. In 1708 Morel returned to sit on the council, and except for being absent twice in the winters of 1710 and 1711 he sat until 31 Aug. 1716, when he presided over the assembly and signed the minutes.
Morel de La Durantaye died on 28 Sept. 1716, after giving his son Joseph-François half of his La Durantaye seigneury. He was buried on 30 September in the church of Saint-Philippe, now Saint-Vallier.
Governors, intendants, and Jesuits had spoken of him in very flattering terms. High praise was given to his tact in dealing with the Indians, his uprightness, and his loyalty to the king.
AQ, Seigneuries, Notre-Dame-des-Anges. Jug. et délib. “Mémoire de la dépense faite par le sieur de La Durantaye aux Outaouais . . . ,” BRH, XXX (1924), 49. P.-G. Roy, Inv. coll. pièces jud. et not., I, 112, 197; Inv. concessions, I, 22. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire, II, 22–26. É.-Z. Massicotte et Régis Roy, Armorial du Canada français (2e série, Montréal, 1918), 82. Antoine d’Eschambault, “La vie aventureuse de Daniel Greysolon, sieur Dulhut,” RHAF, V (1951–52), 334–37. P.-G. Roy, “Olivier Morel de La Durantaye, capitaine au régiment de Carignan,” BRH, XXVIII (1922), 97–107, 129–36.