COTTÉ (Côté), GABRIEL, merchant and furtrader; baptized 12 June 1742 at Saint-Louis-de-Kamouraska (Kamouraska, Que.), son of Nicolas Cotté and Marie-Claude Levasseur; d. 5 Feb. 1795 at Montreal.
Gabriel Cotté first went to the pays d’en haut in 1760 and for the next 35 years, in varied capacities, he was to remain there. On 17 Aug. 1765 at Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.), he married Agathe Roy-Desjardins by mutual consent before a number of witnesses, as was the custom in the absence of a priest. Their first child, Marianne, was born in 1767 and baptized on 25 July 1768 by Vicar-General Pierre Gibault*, who on this same date blessed the parents’ marriage.
By 1772 Cotté had begun his activities as a merchant-trader, engaging voyageurs to transport merchandise from Montreal to Michilimackinac. A few years later he was granted a licence “for Michilimackinac and beyond to Neppigon [Nipigon, near the mouth of the Nipigon River] . . . for trading between 13 April and 4 June 1778.” On 23 July 1778 Cotté signed a petition of ten Michilimackinac merchants to Governor Sir Guy Carleton* requesting a resident missionary, and two days later he subscribed to the fund for the maintenance of such a person. In 1779 he became associated with two merchant-traders, Maurice-Régis Blondeau*, whose sister Angélique he was to marry on 29 Dec. 1783, and John Grant. This partnership, established to trade in the Lake Superior region, continued until 1785. In 1783 Cotté led an expedition into that country, where he found the Indians dying of hunger and where he lost four of his own men. Cotté was a founding member of the Beaver Club of Montreal in 1785.
During the years 1786 and 1787 he signed documents at Michilimackinac (which had been relocated on Mackinac Island) relating to protection for the Indian trade and the maintenance of the church of which he was a warden. Letters from Pierre Grignon, a business connection in La Baye (Green Bay, Wis.), reveal that Cotté intended to leave the west permanently in the fall of 1792 and return to Montreal for reasons of health. His signature as justice of the peace at Michilimackinac, a position he had held since about 1780, demonstrates his presence at the post again on 24 Aug. 1794. Several years earlier Cotté had apparently become a captain of militia in Montreal. His name with that title appears on several documents, but it could have been that of another Gabriel Cotté.
Cotté’s son Pierre-Gabriel, who had been born in 1775, probably at Michilimackinac, continued in business there after his father’s retirement and death and held office as justice of the peace. He moved to St Joseph’s Island (Ont.) in 1800 when the status of Michilimackinac was in doubt, but there is no further record of him. Cotté’s second wife bore three daughters, Lucie-Angélique, who became the mother of Judge Maurice Laframboise*, Marie-Josephte, who married Jules-Maurice Quesnel*, and Marie-Catherine-Émilie, who married François-Antoine Larocque*. After Cotté’s death his widow founded the Orphelinat Catholique de Montréal and thus carried on the religious and public service which had long been a part of her husband’s life.
ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 10 nov. 1777; Greffe de P.-F. Mézière, 29 déc. 1783. PAC, MG 19, B3, p.4. Ste Ann’s Parish (Mackinac Island, Mich.), Registre des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures de Sainte-Anne-de-Michillimakinak, 25 juill. 1768, 22, 23 juill. 1787, 24 août 1794, 20 avril 1800, 16 juin 1804 (mfm. at Dept. of State, Lansing, Mich.). [This document, which covers the years 1695–1821, was published with notes as “The Mackinac register” in Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., XVIII (1908), 469–513; XIX (1910), 1–162; certain errors are found in this version. r.r.j.] Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace), 451, 460. “Fur-trade on the Upper Lakes, 1778–1815,” ed. R. G. Thwaites, Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., XIX (1910), 270–71. Michigan Pioneer Coll., IX (1886), 650; X (1886), 286–87, 290; XI (1887), 485, 488; XX (1892), 671–72. Quebec Gazette, 16 June, 3 Nov. 1785, 11 Oct. 1787, 22 Jan. 1789. Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1932–33, 299–300; 1942–43, 265–392. Morice, Dict. historique des Canadiens et Métis, 71. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, III, 145, 149. Benoît Brouillette, La pénétration du continent américain par les Canadiens français, 1763–1846; traitants, explorateurs, missionnaires (Montréal, 1939), 85, 161. M.-C. Daveluy, L’Orphelinat catholique de Montréal (1832–1932) (Montréal, 1933), 294ff. Morton, History of Canadian west, 260. É.-Z. Massicotte, “Quelques rues et faubourgs du vieux Montréal,” Cahiers des Dix, 1 (1936), 127–28.