Chesterton Tribune

'Joseph Bailly' visits Duneland Historical Society

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Since 911 we have been living in transition and transformation that try the souls of men, much like the Revolutionary War impacted on this country and the life of Joseph Bailly, said Valparaiso University Professor Charles Rivers, who gave a recent presentation to the Duneland Historical Society.

In Rivers’ presentation, he first took his audience back on a brief history trip, showing how the world has lived in many tumultuous times: Dark Ages, Crusades, Black Death Plague and Revolutionary War. He also reminded his audience that Corydon had been the Capitol of Indiana prior to Joseph Bailly’s coming to Porter County,

Rivers, who, for many years has been studying the life of the first European settler of Porter County, donned the garb of a French Voyager and for an hour and a half, took the audience back to the 1800s and the life Joseph Bailly. (He said the claim that Bailly was the first white settler is open to controversy, but did not explain it further.)

As Bailly, he wore a red cap with two feathers, showing his rank as a leader, a white long-sleeved chemise tied with a colorful belt and rainbow colored vest. His pantaloons were tied with garters to both keep up his stockings and to protect his legs from the wind. A large wooden cross hung from his neck, showing he was a Christian.

“I am a businessman and proud of my ancestors,” Bailly began.

The first ancestor he recalled was Dr. Robert Giffard, a physician and apothecary who came from France to Quebec, Canada in 1628, captured by the English, taken to England, then returned to Quebec.

A second ancestor, Jumonville de Villiers, Bailly’s great uncle, was the French Commander in 1754 to which Lt. Col. George Washington was sent summoning the French to withdraw from Ohio. His great uncle was killed in battle.

“My father was Michael Bailly, an elegant spendthrift,” Bailly said. “When he died, the money was all gone, leaving my mother, brother and sister and me with nothing.”

“I was born in 1774, two years before the Revolution,” he continued, adding that at the death of his father, he took care of his mother, while his brother joined the army and his sister became a maid to a governor in Canada.

He finished his schooling in 1792 and went to Macinac to become a fur trader for the Northwest Company - a rival of the Hudson Bay Company.

In 1796, the United States took possession of Macinac. Bailly married Angelique, a grand niece of Chief Pontiac.

“I did not know when we married that she was a member of a Snake Cult,” he said. “Angelique would not leave the cult. We had a child, Alexis. Sadly, I had to leave Angelique,” he continued.

Later, Bailly heard stories about a woman referred to as “Lilly of the Lake,” whom he later married. Her name was Marie. They were married in 1810 and stayed married until he died.

“Marie was the mother of my children, and she believed in the One of the Cross,” he said.

But he digressed. He reminded his audience that in 1801 he was an active trader with 62 Voyagers under his employ. He traveled the then super (water) highways in canoes.

The canoes were of several sizes. The Canoe of the North was a 26-foot long, 250 pound canoe that carried eight men plus 2 1/2 tons of cargo.

“She is the baby,” he said about the canoe.

The Master Canoe, was a 40-foot long, 400 pound canoe with a capacity for a dozen men and a payload of four tons.

“The big canoe is carried by four men to portage. Each man carries from 90-100 pounds, taking three trips back and forth for the portage,” he said.

“Canoes are preferably made of Birch bark, but in Porter County, Voyagers use Elm trees because the property of the Elm swells up when it is wet. Fibrous roots of the Spruce tree is used for thread to weave the wood together and pitch of pine trees is used to make them waterproof,” he said.

“Our days begin with breakfast. Then we paddle, paddle and paddle for 15-18 hours a day and we stop when the moon comes up. Then we eat.

“I got my first view of Porter County in 1804,” he said. “I was transporting materials from Macinac to Ft. Dearborn in canoes.

“I am accosted by United States Soldiers, with Marie and John Baptist Courtier. They take me to prison and leave Marie. John Baptist flees, and I am worried about Marie. But after we leave, John Baptist comes back for her and asks her for her jewels to be traded for clothing. They dress in Indian clothing and darken their faces with walnut skins.

“She becomes ill from walking westward and delivers our child in deep winter. The child died, but they (Indians) gave her an Indian baby, not telling her the child was not hers...”

Bailly was imprisoned and later released.

“It is the 15 of March 1814, and I will read the paper I carry...It is a passport that I may go with protection of not being arrested...

“In 1815, Bailly petitioned the British for 1,500 pounds for losses he suffered for being wrongfully incarcerated on charges of being a spy. (In 1825 Indianapolis became the Capitol of Indiana.)

“Marie and I were married twice. As is the custom of our time, when two people want to be married and there is no church close by, a couple gathers friends to witness a man and woman pledge their love - and they are married. The second time, we were married in the church. So I am twice-married to the same woman.

“I am the proud father of lovely daughters. My daughters are very well educated, schooled in Detroit where they learned literature, great politicians...They can describe the merits of Andrew Jackson and Henry Clay...Jackson was elected President in 1827 and reelected in 1832.)”

Unfortunately, time ran out and Rivers had to end his presentation.


Posted 11/26/2002