DUCHARME, LAURENT, fur-trader; baptized 10 Aug. 1723 at Montreal (Que.), son of Louis Ducharme and Marie Picard; m. 26 Nov. 1753 Marguerite Métivier in Montreal, and they had at least three children; d. after 1787.
Laurent Ducharme was born into a Montreal family that had extensive experience in the western fur trade, and in 1754 he embarked on a modest fur-trading career around the western lakes. By 1758 Ducharme had moved his wife to the small, fortified, fur-trading village of Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.). His family lived in a house on Rue du Diable where a slave girl, Madeleine, assisted with the housekeeping.
In 1761 British soldiers came to garrison Michilimackinac, but they never gained the friendship of the local Ojibwas. In the spring of 1763 Ducharme learned of Indian intentions to attack the garrison at Michilimackinac, but when he warned Captain George Etherington of their plans, the commandant berated him and also threatened to send prisoner to Detroit the next person to tell such a tale. On 2 June 1763 Ducharme watched in horror as the Ojibwas, organized by Minweweh*, surprised the garrison and killed or captured all the soldiers. Ducharme and the other French inhabitants were not harmed.
As a result of the uprising, trade in the Upper Lakes region was severely disrupted, but when peace returned Ducharme once again became an active participant. During the late 1760s and early 1770s he was licensed to take trade goods from Montreal to the interior. Most of his business centred at Michilimackinac, but in 1769 he traded at Milouaqui (Milwaukee, Wis.) and in 1772 at both La Baye (Green Bay) and Milouaqui.
When the American revolution began to trouble the Upper Lakes in 1777, Ducharme served as an informer at Milouaqui for Captain Arent Schuyler De Peyster, commanding officer at Michilimackinac. On 15 May he sent the alarming message that the Spanish were attempting to get the Potawatomi chief, Siginakee (called Letourneau or Blackbird), to incite the Indians in the upper Mississippi valley against the British. This is Ducharme’s only recorded involvement in the war.
Concerned about the “profaneness and impiety” at Michilimackinac during these unsettled times, Ducharme joined with a number of other merchants in 1778 in petitioning Sir Guy Carleton* to send a missionary to Michilimackinac. No regular missionary had resided there for nearly ten years. Many merchants pledged their financial support. Ducharme promised £18 per year, a modest sum indicating that he was not one of the wealthier traders.
Economic conditions were also unstable. To combat the uncertainty a number of merchants, including Étienne-Charles Campion and Ducharme, pooled their resources and in 1779 set up a general store at Michilimackinac for one year. Ducharme invested half a canoe load, worth £7,500, again a comparatively modest sum. At this time he is listed as a resident of Montreal. Apparently he lived there only part of the year and, like many other small traders, wintered among the Indians to obtain furs at better prices. One of his posts was on the Fond du Lac River in Wisconsin where he traded with the Winnebagos.
In 1787 Ducharme witnessed an election of church wardens to serve the church of Sainte-Anne which had been moved, along with the fort and town, to Mackinac Island in 1780. Here the record of Laurent Ducharme ends. The date and place of his death are not known.
BL, Add. mss 21758, ff.33–35, 37–38. Clements Library, Thomas Gage papers, supplementary accounts, A state of houses and lands at Michilimackinac. Wis., State Hist. Soc. (Madison), Canadian archives, Abstracts of Indian trade licences in Canadian archives, 1767–76, 27 July 1769, 17 May, 12 July 1770, 13 May 1773, 17 July 1774. Augustin Grignon, “Seventy-two years’ recollections of Wisconsin,” Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., III (1857), 233, 250–51. Henry, Travels and adventures (Bain). “Langlade papers – 1737–1800,” Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., VIII (1879), 217–19. “Langlade’s movements in 1777,” Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., VII (1876), 406. Michigan Pioneer Coll., IX (1886), 658; X (1886), 275–76, 286–90, 305, 307; XIII (1888), 69–70. Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” ANQ Rapport, 1951–53, 471. Massicotte, “Répertoire des engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1931–32, 277, 281–83, 351, 356–58; 1932–33, 285, 287–89, 291, 294–99, 301–2. Tanguay, Dictionnaire, III, 491–92. L. P. Kellogg, The British regime in Wisconsin and the northwest (Madison, Wis., 1935), 47, 95, 146; The French regime in Wisconsin and the northwest (Madison, 1925; repr. New York, 1968), 295. R. G. Carroon, “Milwaukee and the American revolution,” Milwaukee County Hist. Soc., Hist. Messenger (Milwaukee, Wis.), XXIX (1973), no.4, 118–44. Charles Lart, “Fur trade returns, 1767,” CHR, III (1922), 351–58.