MARCOT, MARGUERITE-MAGDELAINE (La Framboise), fur trader; b. February 1780, daughter of Jean-Baptiste Marcot and Marie Neskech; d. 4 April 1846 on Mackinac Island, Mich.
Marguerite-Magdelaine Marcot’s father was a fur trader in the upper Great Lakes country from the 1740s, and her mother was the daughter of an Ottawa chief. Where Magdelaine was born is uncertain, though in June 1780 the family was residing at Fort St Joseph (Niles, Mich.). The American revolution forced them to move to British-held Mackinac Island. Magdelaine was only three when her father was killed and her mother returned to her native village near the mouth of the Grand River (Mich.). The family was devoutly Roman Catholic and on 1 Aug. 1786 Magdelaine was baptized at Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island) by a visiting priest. When she was about 14 she married by the custom of the country Joseph La Framboise, a trader. On 11 July 1804 they solemnized their marriage before a missionary at Michilimackinac.
Magdelaine’s family ties and her participation in his business helped Joseph and they became prosperous. Their trade centred on the Grand River though Joseph apparently had connections with both Montreal and Milwaukee (Wis.). Magdelaine, who became known as Mme La Framboise, a designation that was to remain with her for life, was with him in the autumn of 1806 when an enraged Indian killed him as he knelt in prayer at their camp on Lake Michigan. His murderer was later brought to her for vengeance. Instead, she forgave him. Having accumulated the winter’s furs, she returned undaunted to Michilimackinac and then pressed on to Montreal. There she worked with her husband’s relatives to settle his estate. She subsequently became one of the leading traders in the Upper Lakes region.
Mme La Framboise held a prominent place in society at Michilimackinac. She was away in 1816 when her daughter, Josette, who had been educated in Montreal, married in a civil ceremony American army captain Benjamin Kendrick Pierce, the commandant of Fort Michilimackinac. When she returned, a second lavish ceremony and party were held in the home of her close friend Elizabeth, also an Ottawa and a trader, and the wife of David Mitchell*. Mme La Framboise wore full Indian dress, her regular attire. Pierce, whose brother later became president of the United States, built a fine home for his mother-in-law and family which still stands.
By this time Madame was considering giving up the Indian trade. The American Fur Company’s powers were growing and she had resisted as an independent trader; in 1818 her refusal to follow the AFC’s practice of restricting the trade of liquor to the Indians drew harsh complaints from Ramsay Crooks*, an AFC agent. She finally joined the company later in 1818, a move which took her enterprises as far afield as the Big Sioux River (S.Dak./Iowa) in the competition with the Columbia Fur Company and other interests. In 1822 she gave up business and sold her trading post on the Grand River. The Indians in that area expressed their love for her by presenting her with a section of land the following year.
Now retired and wealthy, she devoted herself to the education of young people and to her church. When the Reverend William Ferry came to Michilimackinac in 1823 to begin a school for Indian children, she opened her home to him even though he was a Protestant. Later a Catholic school operating in her home served as a rival to his enterprises. She took in many children and hired teachers to train and catechize them. In the process, she learned to read and write in both French and English. When, in 1827, Ste Anne’s Church was moved, she donated a lot for its new location.
During the 1830s and 1840s Mme La Framboise’s door was frequently opened to passing notables. Among others, Alexis de Tocqueville and Sarah Margaret Fuller, the American woman of letters, stopped to call and were amazed at this remarkable person. She was described by Juliette Augusta Kinzie as “a woman of a vast deal of energy and enterprise – of a tall and commanding figure, and most dignified deportment.” As Mme La Framboise grew old her health failed, but she still travelled frequently to Montreal to visit her son, Joseph, who had become a merchant. Mackinac Island remained her home, however, and it was there that she died on 4 April 1846.
Arch. paroissiales, Sainte-Anne-de-Michillimakinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.), Financial record-book, 1828–38; Liber defunctorum missionis S. Anna, Mackinac, 1825–26; 1844–91: 89; Reg. des baptêmes, 1823–89. Bayliss Public Library (Sault Ste Marie, Mich.), Port Mackinac, records, 19 June [1811 or 1819]. DPL, Burton Hist. Coll., American Fur Company, ledger, 5 Nov. 1804, 25 May 1805; James Henry, Mackinac Store journal, 1802–4; Claude Laframboise to John Kinzie, 11 June 1807; George Schindler to Solomon Sibley, 9 July 1807. Mackinac County Courthouse (St Ignace, Mich.), Reg. of the post of Michilimackinac, 99–100. Mich., Dept. of Natural Resources, Lands Division (Lansing), Private claims, nos.710–11. National Arch. (Washington), RG 75, Records of the Office of the Secretary of War relating to Indian affairs, letters received, abstract of licences to trade in Indian country, 1 Sept. 1821–31 Aug. 1822. Wis., State Hist. Soc., H. S. Baird papers. American Missionary Reg. (New York), 5 (1824), no.3: 89–90. Mich. Pioneer Coll., 10 (1886): 405–7, 599; 11 (1887): 193, 350; 13 (1888): 58; 17 (1890): 325–26. H. R. Schoolcraft, Personal memoirs of a residence of thirty years with the Indian tribes on the American frontiers, with brief notices of passing events, facts and opinions, A.D. 1812 to A.D. 1842 (Philadelphia, 1851; repr. New York, 1975), 478, 569. Wis., State Hist. Soc., Coll., 9 (1882): 144; 11 (1888): 164, 373–74, 376; 12 (1892): 162–63; 14 (1898): 36–47; 18 (1908): 484–85, 507–9; 19 (1910): 44, 59, 65, 77, 86, 109, 133, 140, 146, 150. “Calendar of the American Fur Company’s papers, part II: 1841–1849,” American Hist. Assoc., Annual report (Washington), 1944, 3: 1599, 1638. L. H. Burbey, Our worthy commander; the life and times of Benjamin K. Pierce (Fort Pierce, Fla., 1976), 21–32. G. S. Hubbard, The autobiography of Gurdon Saltonstall Hubbard: Pa-pa-ma-ta-be, “the swift walker”, intro. C. M. McIlvaine (Chicago, 1911), 22–23, 133. I. A. Johnson, The Michigan fur trade (Lansing, 1919), 129–33. D. [S.] Lavender, The fist in the wilderness (Garden City, N.Y., 1964), 264–65, 288. [J. A. Magill] Mrs J. H. Kinzie, Wau-bun, the “early day” in the northwest . . . , ed. and intro. Louise Phelps Kellogg (Menasha, Wis., 1948). P. C. Phillips, The fur trade (2v., Norman, Okla., 1961), 2: 368, 378. M. M. Quaife, Lake Michigan (New York, 1944), 201–3, 207. E. O. Wood, Historic Mackinac; the historical, picturesque and legendary features of the Mackinac country . . . (2v., New York, 1918), 2: 125–33. M. E. Evans, “The missing footnote or, the curé who wasn’t there,” American Catholic Hist. Soc. of Philadelphia, Records, 84 (1973): 199. J. E. McDowell, “Madame La Framboise,” Mich. Hist. (Lansing), 56 (1972): 271–86; “Therese Schindler of Mackinac: upward mobility in the Great Lakes fur trade,” Wis. Magazine of Hist. (Madison), 61 (1977–78): 125–43. Mich. Hist. Magazine (Lansing), 10 (1926): 639–41; 11 (1927): 311, 490–92; 12 (1928): 154–56, 615; 13 (1929): 143–46. V. L. Moore, “A Pocahontas of Michigan,” Mich. Hist. Magazine, 15 (1931): 71–79.