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BEACH, THOMAS BILLIS – Volume XII (1891-1900)

b. 26 Sept. 1841 in Colchester, England


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GILL, JOSEPH-LOUIS, known also as Magouaouidombaouit, meaning friend of the Iroquois, a principal chief of the Abenakis of Saint-François; b. 1719 at the Saint-François-de-Sales mission (Odanak, Que.); d. there 5 May 1798.

Joseph-Louis Gill was the most notable of the children of Samuel Gill and his wife Rosalie (née James?), who had both been captured by Abenakis on the New England coast. Around 1740 he married Marie-Jeanne Nanamaghemet, daughter of a principal chief of the Abenakis of Saint-François. Some time before 1749 Gill was elected a principal chief; in that year he and the four other principal chiefs signed the letter to the canons of the cathedral of Chartres, France, renewing the Abenakis’ vow to Our Lady of Chartres [see Atecouando* (Jérôme)].

Although Gill spent his life among the Indians as had his parents, he did not totally adopt the Abenaki way of life, preferring farming and business, which brought him a comfortable living, to hunting. Mrs Susanna Johnson, a captive whom he had bought and who was living in his home in 1754, wrote: “He kept a store of goods and lived in a style far above the majority of his tribe.” The Gills had two sons, Xavier and Antoine; the latter has been identified by Abbé Joseph-Pierre-Anselme Maurault* as the Sabatis mentioned by Mrs Johnson. Gill escaped the massacre perpetrated by Major Robert Rogers, who destroyed the Abenakis’ village in October 1759, but his wife and two children were taken captive and only Antoine survived.

On several occasions after the conquest Gill was the tribe’s spokesman to the British authorities. Thus on 24 Nov. 1763 he went to meet the new military governor of Trois-Rivières, Frederick Haldimand, to assure him that the Indians of Saint-François had no dealings with those in the pays den haut who had been incited to revolt by Pontiac* and to request that the Jesuit Jean-Baptiste de La Brosse replace Father Pierre-Joseph-Antoine Roubaud as missionary. In February 1764 he met Haldimand again, to complain of encroachments by the whites on Abenaki hunting grounds.

Gill’s loyalty to the British crown was questioned during the American revolution. In the summer of 1778 five Americans who had escaped from prison in Quebec were recaptured by Abenaki scouts ten leagues from the village of Saint-François-de-Sales. They had in their possession a map of the Rivière Saint-François which Gill had drawn to guide them to New England. Upon learning of their capture, Gill fled and was not seen again for two years. In 1780, to win over his supporters in the tribe, the superintendent of Indian affairs in Montreal, Lieutenant-Colonel John Campbell, proposed sending to Cohoes (Newbury, Vt) for him, since he was known to be living there, and promising him a pardon. At the end of August Gill gave himself up to Captain Luke Schmid, whom he met at the blockhouse at Saint-Hyacinthe on the Yamaska River. Haldimand, now governor of the province, granted him a pardon and administered the oath of allegiance. To prove his loyalty to the government and to dispel the other Abenakis’ prejudices against him, Gill went off towards Cohoes in May 1781 to take a prisoner. Through a trick he succeeded in capturing Major Benjamin Whitcomb, but his prisoner escaped when they were a few leagues from Saint-François-de-Sales. Some Abenakis accused Gill of having let him escape because Whitcomb was supposed to have promised him that he would spare the village if the Bostonnais succeeded in taking Canada. This charge was probably unjustified, for it was learned the following year that Whitcomb was planning to come to capture Gill and burn his house as well as the rest of the village.

Towards the end of his life Gill was made prayer leader. In this capacity he was the most important person in the church after the missionary, and in the latter’s absence he led the daily communal prayers. This role also made him a sort of prefect responsible for religious discipline. He died on 5 May 1798 and was buried in the Abenaki church.

On 2 Nov. 1763, at Baie-du-Febvre (Baieville, Que.), he had remarried; he and his wife Suzanne, daughter of the militia captain Antoine Gamelin, dit Châteauvieux, had six sons and two daughters, from whom are descended the best known representatives of the Gill family, including Ignace*, member of the assembly for Yamaska during the Union.

Thomas-M. Charland

BL, Add. mss 21662, ff.23, 24, 27, 33; 21669, ff.23, 24; 21722, f.322; 21771, ff.54, 55, 57; 21772, ff.3–7, 9; 21773, ff.6–9, 31, 36, 42, 58, 110, 120, 121; 21777; 21794, ff.11, 12, 54; 21795, f.186; 21796, f.64; 21841, ff.186, 187; 21844, f.47; 21865, f.186 (copies at PAC). PAC, RG 10, A6, 1833, pp.339–41. Johnson papers (Sullivan et al.), XIII, 430, 619, 717. [Susannah Willard], A narrative of the captivity of Mrs. Johnson, containing an account of her sufferings, during four years, with the Indians and French (Walpole, N.H., 1796; [new ed.], New York, 1841). T.-M. Charland, Hist. des Abénakis. C. [-I.] Gill, Notes historiques sur lorigine de la famille Gill et histoire de ma propre famille (Montréal, 1887), 35, 49. J. [-P.]-A. Maurault, Histoire des Abénakis, depuis 1605 jusquà nos jours ([Sorel, Qué.], 1886), 349–50, 422–23, 501, 507. J. C. Huden, “The white chief of the St. Francis Abnakis – some aspects of border warfare: 1690–1790,” Vermont History (Montpelier), new set., XXIV (1956), 199–210, 337–55.

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Thomas-M. Charland, “GILL, JOSEPH-LOUIS, Magouaouidombaouit,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed September 26, 2023, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gill_joseph_louis_4E.html.

The citation above shows the format for footnotes and endnotes according to the Chicago manual of style (16th edition). Information to be used in other citation formats:

Permalink:   http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/gill_joseph_louis_4E.html
Author of Article:   Thomas-M. Charland
Title of Article:   GILL, JOSEPH-LOUIS, Magouaouidombaouit
Publication Name:   Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher:   University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication:   1979
Year of revision:   1979
Access Date:   September 26, 2023