DAGNEAU DOUVILLE, ALEXANDRE, officer in the colonial regular troops, interpreter, and fur-trader; b. in April or May 1698 at Sorel (Que.), son of Michel Dagneau Douville and Marie Lamy; d. 1774 at Verchères (Que.).
At the age of 18 Alexandre Dagneau Douville entered the fur trade, and for the next 15 years, while serving as a cadet in the colonial regulars, he traded heavily among the Miamis, with some side trips to Fort des Sables (Irondequoit, N.Y.), to Baie-des-Puants (Green Bay, Wis.), and to Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.). At Montreal on 7 Aug. 1730 he allied himself with an important trading family when he married Marie, daughter of Nicolas-Antoine Coulon* de Villiers Sr. Three years later he was in a confrontation with the Sauks and Foxes near Baie-des-Puants and witnessed the death of his father-in-law and other relatives [see Nicolas-Antoine Coulon* de Villiers Jr].
It was intended that Dagneau be promoted second ensign in 1734, but the ministry of Marine confused him with his brother Philippe Dagneau Douville de La Saussaye, and a correct commission was not issued until 1736. In that year Dagneau served as an officer and interpreter at Fort Frontenac (Kingston, Ont.), and in 1739 he was in charge of taking presents to Detroit for the Ottawas. Two years later he was promoted first ensign. After serving again at Fort Frontenac in 1743, Dagneau was sent to Fort des Miamis (probably at or near Fort Wayne, Ind.) in the spring of 1746 to escort Miami representatives to Montreal. The threat of a general Indian uprising in the west [see Orontony*] and word of a Mohawk war party at the Niagara pottage kept him from bringing the delegation farther than Detroit, and in his absence Miamis pillaged Fort des Miamis. Intendant Bigot later obtained for him 300 livres for the goods he lost.
At a major conference in Quebec in November 1748 Dagneau served as an interpreter between French authorities and some Iroquois chiefs. He became a lieutenant in 1750 and commanded at Sault-Saint-Louis (Caughnawaga, Que.). In June 1754 he replaced Jacques-François Legardeur de Courtemanche in charge of Fort de la Presqu’île (Erie, Pa). This was a key post, the first in a line of forts being built into the Ohio valley by which the French hoped to block British expansion, and Dagneau commanded about 100 regulars and militia. The following year he was replaced by Antoine-Gabriel-François Benoist. Then on 17 March 1756 he retired as a captain on half pay and thereafter lived on family lands at Verchères. Dagneau’s military career had been solid, if undistinguished. He was engaged in no major battles but made his contribution through his familiarity with Indian customs and languages, especially those of the Iroquois and Miamis.
In 1763 Dagneau was one of the 55 accused of misconduct in connection with the affaire du Canada. Although summoned to Paris to appear before the Châtelet, he did not go. The court decided to await fuller information about him and the outcome of the case is not certain. Any misconduct was no doubt little different from that of other officers serving on the frontier; their military positions gave them an opportunity to engage in trade, much of it illicit. The Dagneau Douville trade network was one of the most important in New France. Louis-Césaire Dagneau* Douville de Quindre, Guillaume Dagneau Douville de Lamothe, and Philippe Dagneau Douville de La Saussaye were also prominent traders in the west and, like their brother, married into families with similar pursuits.
Alexandre had at least five children, two of whom were killed in the Seven Years’ War. A third son, Alexandre-René, spent his career as an officer in the West Indies and at his death in 1789 was a retired lieutenant-colonel of infantry and a knight of the order of Saint-Louis.
AN, Col., D2C, 57, p.167; 59, p.63; 61, p.26; E, 103 (dossier Dagneau Douville) (copies at PAC). ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal., 16 févr. 1734, 13 sept. 1740, 12 nov. 1744, 15 août 1748. [G.-J. Chaussegros de Léry], “Journal de Joseph-Gaspard Chaussegros de Léry, lieutenant des troupes, 1754–1755,” ANQ Rapport, 1927–28, 366, 376. “The French regime in Wisconsin – II,” ed. R. G. Thwaites, Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., XVII (1906), 188–89, 278–87, 432. NYCD (O’Callaghan and Fernow), X. PAC Rapport, 1904, app.K, 215, 228. Papiers Contrecœur (Grenier). Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” ANQ Rapport, 1951–53, 466. Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1929–30, 218, 245, 257, 298. P.-G. Roy et al., Inv. greffes not., XVI, 99. Tanguay, Dictionnaire. [The author is wrong in indicating that Alexandre Dagneau Douville married a second time, to Marie Legardeur de Courtemanche; all of Dagneau’s children were from his marriage to Marie Coulon de Villiers in 1730. d.c.] Hunter, Forts on Pa. frontier, 70–89, 122–23. Cameron Nish, Les bourgeois-gentilshommes de la Nouvelle-France, 1729–1748 (Montréal et Paris, 1968), 87, 161–62. P. J. Robinson, Toronto during the French régime . . . (2nd ed., Toronto, 1965). P.-G. Roy, Bigot et sa bande, 225–26. R. de Hertel, “Michel d’Agneau d’Ouville et sa famille,” Nova Francia (Paris), IV (1929), 218–19. “Une conférence de M. de la Galissonnière avec les chefs iroquois,” BRH, XII (1916), 347–49.