2006-10-07 / News

Dedication to LaFramboise Highlights Falling Leaves Moon Festival

By Ryan Schlehuber

Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau's Heather Bazineau, dressed in Native American regalia, poses in front of Madame LaFramboise's tomb at Ste. Anne's Church. The Tourism Bureau is raising money to construct a bronze statue of the fur trading icon. The proposed life-size statue is estimated to cost $50,000. Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau's Heather Bazineau, dressed in Native American regalia, poses in front of Madame LaFramboise's tomb at Ste. Anne's Church. The Tourism Bureau is raising money to construct a bronze statue of the fur trading icon. The proposed life-size statue is estimated to cost $50,000. One of Mackinac Island's more prominent historical figures, Madame Magdelaine LaFramboise, was given her due recognition during the inaugural Festival of Falling Leaves Moon Friday, September 22, through Sunday, September 24.

Two plaques are now displayed on the Island recognizing Mdme. LaFramboise for her part in the Island's fur trading business in the late 1700s and early 1800s. One plaque is displayed at her former home on Main Street, now called Harbor Inn, owned by Jane and Dr. Michael Bacon. The other plaque stands over Madame LaFramboise's tomb in the churchyard of Ste. Anne's Catholic Church.

The plaques were presented Sunday at both locations by a dozen members of the Steven Preston Chapter of United States Daughters of 1812 of Grand Rapids.

The weekend-long festival, which featured reenacting encampments of military, voyageur, Native American, and working women's groups, concluded with a mass at Ste. Anne's Church Sunday, September 24. Afterwards, the plaques were dedicated, and Indian ceremonies, lead by Ojibwa spiritual leader Paul Yarnell of Stalwart, were held at Harbor Inn and Ste. Anne's Church, respectively. The military encampment later retired its flag colors to officially end the encampment weekend.

Two voyageur reenacting groups, Rabbit River Brigade and White River Brigade, participated in the Festival of Falling Leaves Moon. The men and women of the group encamped at the shore of Lake Huron, just north of the school playground. Pictured are (back row, from left) Larry Horrigan of Allegan, Lewis and Steve Lorenz of Rothbury, and Brian Holmblade of Whitehall; (in front) Tim Rogers of Lowell. Two voyageur reenacting groups, Rabbit River Brigade and White River Brigade, participated in the Festival of Falling Leaves Moon. The men and women of the group encamped at the shore of Lake Huron, just north of the school playground. Pictured are (back row, from left) Larry Horrigan of Allegan, Lewis and Steve Lorenz of Rothbury, and Brian Holmblade of Whitehall; (in front) Tim Rogers of Lowell. Attending the weekend festival were descendants of Madame LaFramboise, Janice Collins, and her daughter, Marisa, of Mendon, Lisa Longacre of White Pigeon, and Karen LaFramboise of St. Michaels, Minnesota.

"This was very intense, very beautiful, and very meaningful to us," said Mrs. Collins of the festival.

Fourth-generation descendants of Madame Magdelaine LaFramboise, who participated in the Island's weekend festival, stand in front of her former home, which is now Harbor Inn, owned by Dr. Michael and Jane Bacon. Pictured are (front, from left) Janice Collins of Mendon, and Lisa Longacre of White Pigeon; (back) Karen LaFramboise of St. Michaels, Minnesota, and Marisa Collins of Mendon. Fourth-generation descendants of Madame Magdelaine LaFramboise, who participated in the Island's weekend festival, stand in front of her former home, which is now Harbor Inn, owned by Dr. Michael and Jane Bacon. Pictured are (front, from left) Janice Collins of Mendon, and Lisa Longacre of White Pigeon; (back) Karen LaFramboise of St. Michaels, Minnesota, and Marisa Collins of Mendon. This is the first time the LaFramboise descendants have visited the Island since February 2004, when Mrs. Collins' mother, Marie Isabella LaFramboise, died.

"This is a reason to come here every year now," she said of Mdme. LaFramboise's dedication. "When we come, we always stay at her house and we go to Ste. Anne's for church."

The festival was presented by Mackinac Island Tourism Bureau. Encampments were set up at Windermere Point, next to the playground of Mackinac Island Public School, and at the beach, down the road from the school. Several events were set up throughout the weekend, including a fashion show of 18th and 19th century French and English fashions and 21st century furs, held at Grand Hotel's Gatehouse restaurant.

The fashion show is the first of many fundraisers the Tourism Bureau will be holding to raise roughly $50,000 for the construction of a bronze statue of Mdme. LaFramboise, which may be displayed at Harbor Inn.

A reenactment of a battle during the War of 1812 was canceled Saturday evening, owing to inclement weather. The voyageurs braved the cold, windy waters of Lake Huron and made a voyage in their canoe from their camp on the beach to the Native Americans' camp at Windermere Point Friday afternoon.

Afew reenactors participated in the full experience as their characters, sleeping in pitched tents during the weekend. Most of them, however, were lodged in hotel rooms throughout the Island.

The festival, said Mrs. Slevin, will be held every other year.

The History of Madame

LaFramboise Madame Magdelaine La- Framboise was the daughter of a French-Canadian fur trader, Jean Baptiste Marcot, and an Ottawa Indian, Marie Neskech, and, at the age of 14, married Joseph LaFramboise, a prominent fur trader among the Native Americans. She and her husband built a successful fur trading business and traveled between their post on Mackinac Island and the Grand River, near what is today known as Grand Haven.

When her husband was killed in 1806 by an Indian who was refused liquor by Mr. LaFramboise, Madame La- Framboise not only continued their fur trading business but expanded it into the western and northern areas of the territory. She was a key component of communications among traders and Native Americans in the area, as she was fluent in English, French, and Odawa, even though she did not learn how to read or write until after she retired.

In 1818, she merged her operations with John Jacob Astor's American Fur Company and subsequently retired to Mackinac Island, where she became a leading citizen.

After retiring to the Island, her daughter, Josette, married Captain Benjamin Pierce, who was commandant of Fort Mackinac at the time. He was also the brother of Franklin Pierce, who became President of the United States in 1852.

Mdme. LaFramboise's paid her son-in-law to build her Island home, which overlooks Haldimand Bay. She welcomed many guests to her home, including Indian Agent Henry Schoolcraft and French aristocrat Alexis De Tocqueville.

Mdme. LaFramboise enjoyed teaching children reading, writing, and the Roman Catholic religion from her home during retirement. She also donated some of her land for the building of Ste. Anne's Church, and asked that she be buried there in exchange.

When she died in April 1846, at the age of 66, Mdme. LaFramboise was buried underneath the altar of Ste. Anne's Church. Her remains and those of her daughter, Josette, were exhumed in the mid-1980s when the church's front stairs were renovated and they were reburied at the present location in the churchyard.

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