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McCARTY (McCarthy), RICHARD, military officer, lawyer, and fur-trader; b. in Hartford County, Connecticut; m. January 1765 Ursule Benoit, probably at Trois-Rivières (Que.); d. May or June 1781 in the Ohio valley.

Richard McCarty was probably the man of that name who served as a private in the Connecticut militia in August 1757 when Fort William Henry (also called Fort George; now Lake George, N.Y.) was lost to Montcalm*. McCarty may have been a commissary with the Connecticut militia in William Haviland’s advance against Montreal in 1760. On 7 Nov. 1765 he was recorded on a list of Protestants in the Montreal district as a former commissary (whether with the army or the fur trade is not indicated) who had become a freeholder and notary at Chambly. He was commissioned a barrister and attorney-at-law in 1768. Two years later, on 11 April, he was issued a trading licence to depart from Montreal for Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.) with goods worth £100, for which he assumed the bond himself. He may have been acting in conjunction with François Baby*, his uncle by marriage. During the next few years McCarty apparently traded between Michilimackinac and the Illinois country, and he may have developed connections at Cahokia (East St Louis, Ill.) quite soon. In 1775 he began to lay off land on the east bank of the Mississippi near Cahokia at a place he named St Ursule’s, where he later built a water-mill. He apparently continued to trade from Michilimackinac. A map in his hand of the country around present Lake Winnipeg, the Saskatchewan River, and the upper Churchill was probably copied when Alexander Henry* the elder passed through Michilimackinac during the summer of 1776, returning from his only visit to that part of the interior. There is no evidence that McCarty participated in the expedition.

On 7 June 1778 McCarty wrote from St Ursule’s with intelligence for the military commander at Michilimackinac concerning Indian and rebel activities in Illinois. The information was apparently both valid and important, but later that year McCarty supplied goods and services to the Illinois-Virginia forces. This acceptance of a commercial opportunity, for which his earlier experience as a commissary made him well qualified, may merely have reflected a neutral position. Early in the following year, however, he captained a small group of mainly French speaking volunteers from Cahokia which participated in the rebel attack on Fort Sackville (Vincennes, Ind.) in which Henry Hamilton was taken prisoner. Thereafter McCarty was appointed captain in the regular forces of the state of Virginia (within which Illinois had been incorporated as a county). To his wife in Montreal he explained his change of allegiance as an attempt to establish a fortune for their children and a pension for herself in the event of his death.

As military commander at Cahokia from August 1779 McCarty soon mellowed his initially autocratic attitude towards the civilians and by October he was criticizing the Virginians’ treatment of them. For this or some other reason he was arrested for treason, but whether he was tried is not known. In May 1781 he departed from Kaskaskia to present a petition from the civilians of that place to the Virginia legislature, complaining of their mistreatment by Virginian officials. A few days later he is believed to have been killed by Indians. Joseph-François Perrault*, who married McCarty’s daughter Ursule in Montreal, eventually succeeded in obtaining on behalf of McCarty’s heirs 400 acres of the land to which they laid claim in the United States.

Richard McCarty would seem to have been an opportunist whose aspirations exceeded his abilities. He probably married above his social status and may have abandoned the legal profession for the fur trade in the hope of building a fortune. The commander at Michilimackinac after 1774, Arent Schuyler De Peyster, must have known him reasonably well. On learning that McCarty had deserted to the Virginians he wrote “so poor a creature never entered into any service before – yet he was a very principal actor at Fort Sackville.”

G. Malcolm Lewis

BL, Add. mss 21757, ff.7, 47, 106–7v; 21842, ff.24–25. Clements Library, Harmar papers, 12, f. 122a. Conn. State Library (Hartford), Connecticut archives, Colonial War, ser.1, no.21a. Ill. State Archives (Springfield), J. Nick Perrin coll., Cahokia records, notarized statement, 11 Jan. 1774. Ind. Hist. Soc. Library (Indianapolis), Armstrong papers. PAC, MG 24, L3, pp.2888–90, 3177–79. PRO, CO 42/5, ff.30–31. Wis., State Hist. Soc. (Madison), Canadian archives, abstracts of Indian trade licences in Canadian archives, 1767–76. Cahokia records, 1778–1790, ed. C. W. Alvord (Springfield, Ill., 1907). George Rogers Clark papers . . . [1771–84], ed. J. A. James (2v., Springfield, 1912–26). Kaskaskia records, 1778–1790, ed. C. W. Alvord (Springfield, 1909). PAC Report, 1910, 17, 23. The papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. J. P. Boyd et al. (19v. to date, Princeton, N.J., 1950– ), IV, 207–8, 442; V, 494, 574. The StClair papers . . . , ed. W. H. Smith (2v., Cincinnati, Ohio, 1882). Guide to the manuscript maps in the William LClements Library, comp. Christian Brun (Ann Arbor, Mich., 1959). [P.-]P.-B. Casgrain, La vie de Joseph-François Perrault, surnommé le père de léducation du peuple canadien (Québec, 1898).

General Bibliography

Cite This Article

G. Malcolm Lewis, “McCARTY, RICHARD,” in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4, University of Toronto/Université Laval, 2003–, accessed August 1, 2014, http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccarty_richard_4E.html.

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Permalink: http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/mccarty_richard_4E.html
Author of Article: G. Malcolm Lewis
Title of Article: McCARTY, RICHARD
Publication Name: Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 4
Publisher: University of Toronto/Université Laval
Year of publication: 1979
Year of revision: 1979
Access Date: August 1, 2014