LARGILLIER (Langelier, Angilliers), JACQUES, known as Le Castor, trader in furs, settler, a donné of the Society of Jesus, companion of Father Jacques Marquette*; b. c. 1644 in France, perhaps in the village of Quierzy, in Picardy; d. 4 Nov. 1714 at the post of Kaskaskia, in the Illinois country.
Around 1664 Largillier came to join his uncle Raymond Pagé, dit Carcy, who had settled at Quebec, then at Beaupré. Largillier’s name is found for the first time in an act of the notary Jacques de La Tousche recorded at Cap-de-la-Madeleine on 20 April 1666, when he made a contract with Adrien Jolliet and Denis Guyon whereby he would undertake a “journey to the Ottawas.” The following year he obtained from Jean Bourdon*, seigneur of Dombourg, a land grant which he made over to his cousin Guillaume Pagé on 11 Aug. 1669. He then set out on another journey to the pays d’en haut, probably with Adrien Jolliet and Jean Peré*, who had been sent by Talon* “to go and reconnoitre to see whether the copper mine situated to the north of Lake Ontario . . . is rich and of easy extraction.” On 4 June 1671, at Sault Ste Marie, he was one of the signatories to the act whereby Daumont* de Saint-Lusson took possession of the territories of the West.
Among the records of the period which testify to Largillier’s skill as a fur-trader, whence his nickname “Le Castor,” must be mentioned the contract entered into on 1 Oct. 1672 before the notary Gilles Rageot* by Louis Jolliet*, several other partners, and himself, to “make together the journey to the Ottawa Indians [and to] trade in furs with the Indians.” Largillier probably took part in Jolliet’s expedition to the Mississippi in 1673; the explorer definitely had a high opinion of Largillier’s worth as a “canoe man” to include him with his own companions in this way. In 1674 Largillier went with Father Marquette to the Illinois country. In July 1675 he was back in Quebec, with a rich cargo of furs. It is probable that he brought with him at the same time the last writings of Father Marquette, who had died on 18 May, and that he informed Father Claude Dablon* by word of mouth about the illness and death of the missionary, to whom he had given constant and attentive care.
During the following months he disposed of his material possessions to place himself, from 1676 on, at the service of the Jesuits, probably as a donné. He does not seem to have taken the usual vows, although he made his solemn promises; he wore lay dress to be freer during his numerous journeys. In 1681 a census records his presence in the Ottawa mission. He accompanied and assisted the missionaries Allouez*, Aveneau, Albanel*, Nouvel, and Gravier in their trips. From then on his name ceases to appear in notarial acts.
He spent the last years of his life at the Kaskaskia mission in the Illinois country, and the missionaries praised his untiring devotion. Old, infirm, and almost helpless, he was given devoted care by the priests of the mission, who were happy to serve one who had served them so well. Largillier did not survive the epidemic of quartan fever which ravaged this region in 1714, and he died on 4 November, a few weeks after his superior, Father Pierre-Gaibriel Marest.
AJQ, Greffe de Romain Becquet, 30 juillet 1675; Greffe de Pierre Duquet, 17 mars 1673; Greffe de Gilles Rageot, 1 oct. 1672, 19 oct. 1675. ASJCF, Fonds Rochemonteix, 4025, 10; 4026. JR (Thwaites), LXIV, LXVI, LIX, LXXI. Jug. et délib., I. 864. N. M. Belting, Kaskaskia under the French régime (University of Illinois studies in the social sciences, XXIX, no.3, Urbana, 1948). Sister Mary Borgias Palm, Jesuit Missions of the Illinois Country, 1673–1763 (n.p., 1933). Raymond Douville, “Jacques Largillier dit ‘le castor,’ coureur des bois et ‘frère donné’,” Cahiers des Dix, XXIX (1964), 47–63.