Wednesday, 5 March 2014

de la Ronde - Newspaper Clippings

From the Nipigon Historical Museum Archives

A copy of the Newspaper clipping from Toronto Telegram of December 28, 1950

Article by Don de la Plante


Nipigon Dec. 28 - (1950)
Three Indians here, the blood of a French aristocrat in their veins, are seeking to establish themselves as heirs to his fortune, which they estimate to be worth at least $500,000 in addition to an estate in England.
The Indians are: 
 John Deschamp 77, former chief and counsellor of the Red Rock Chippewa Band and now almost blind.
Mrs. Louise Deperry crippled - woman, who hobbles about town with a homemade cane;
Joe de la Ronde, 54, shacker on the mud flats at the mouth of the Nipigon River.
Their own father was Louis Denys de la Ronde, French nobleman, who successfully managed the fur trading post here of the North West Fur Trading Company and the Hudson's Bay Company, when the latter took over in the middle 1800's.
A descendant of Pierre Denys de la Ronde, Count Thibaudiere,  Louis Denys de la Ronde died at Sault Ste. Marie August 23, 1868.  His son Henry became Count Thibaudiere, following the death of an uncle, also named Louis, who for a time was Commander of Isle d Madeleine, Lake Superior.  Shortly after taking over his post with the North West Company Louis de la Ronde married a Chippewa Indian woman by whom he had seven children; Henry, Alexander, Charles, Mary,Anne, Louise and Angelique.
When Henry, the oldest son, received the title of Count Thibaudiere, he became the first half-breed ever admitted to the French nobility.
John Deschamp sat by the wood stove in his little tarpaper shack at the north end of town.  Beside him was a sheaf of papers, including the WILL of his grandfather, a photograph of his grandfather's grave, correspondence with a Lakehead lawyer, a statement from the Hudson's Bay Co. and letters from a genealogist at Windsor, who has done research on the family tree.  He handled the cherished papers with infinite care as though they were the living substance of a dream.  Many cynical white residents here believe the trio's claim actually does constitute a dream.
"When my grandfather died, he left cash sums to each of his children and directed that the balance of his property be handled by two executors who were also employees of the Hudson's Bay Co. "  John said, his cataracted eyes seeking to penetrate the gloom of the sparsely furnished room.  Three-quarter Indian, he had the finely chiseled features of a handsome white man and pure white hair, rarely seen in pure Indians.  But his dark reddish skin showed the predominance of the native.
Beside him, tiny Mrs. Deperry sat silently.  She had jet black eyes and black hair.  Her skin was creased in a thousand wrinkles for the wind and sun. ...
John explained his grandfather had named a third trustee in case the two executors died before he did, which was what happened.  And control of the estate passed to this trustee in 1881, including a payment from the Hudson's Bay Co. of L 1,370 sterling which had been held in a special account.
He said he did not know exactly where the British family home was located, but that he had employed a lawyer to make a search for it and that the genealogist also was attempting to trace it.
The investigation had been going on for two years, he declared, and during that time definite proof of inheritance had been established, as well as search made in the archives of the Hudson's Bay Co. showing that the estate had been turned over to the third trustee.
John said he assumed that the third trustee was now dead too, but he was expecting word any day as to whether the trustee's heirs had been located and whether the estate could be recovered from them.
Count Henry de la Ronde lived in a large house here for many years and was an officer of the Hudson's Bay Co., till his death in 1918.  The old Indian, known throughout the district as "Johnny", was born here Feb. 1873, five years after the death of his aristocratic grandfather.  He recalls the community when it comprised only a Hudson's Bay Post and a few wigwams.  He was chief of the Red Rock Chippewa Band for nine years.
Even if the money never materializes the old man takes comfort from the fact that he now knows definitely that his family " was one of the noblest in France", he said.

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