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Obituary for Noel LeVasseur

Obituary from the WATSEKA REPUBLICAN

Noel Le Vasseur -- Incidents of His Life.

Noel Le Vasseur died at his residence in Bourbonnais Grove on Friday Night at ten o'clock.

The biography of this venerable honored man is the history of the growth of the great northwest. When he came to the west there was no settlement in Indiana north of Vincennes. No white man had penetrated into Illinois north of Madison and St. Clair counties. Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa, and the great northwest was a vast terra incognita. During the period of one man's business career, has seen the wilderness transformed into the garden and granary of the world, and the territory that furnished support for one man in 1816, now furnishes labor and support for 13 million when that one man has passed away. Noel Le Vasseur lived to see this vast territory pass through wonderful change. He lived to see a single city of Illinois, then unknown, situated on Lake Michigan "at the mouth of Kiago Creek, containing "10 houses", the metropolis of the west with half a million people.

He lived to see a growth and prosperity that no man could have prophesied would occur; but it is a growth and prosperity quite insignificant, as compared with what will occur during the same period in the future.

Mr. Le Vasseur was born at the little village of St. Michael d'Yamaska, toward the close of the last century. He left Montreal in 1816, in the employ of M. de Rocheblare, a large fur trader of those days, in company with 80 men who were directed to build a trading post for Rocheblare at "Michillimakinac," which was the Indian method of saying Mackinac. His adventuresome spirit led him and three companions to start west, following Lake Michigan until Green Bay led them to a narrow point and they could go no further. They left their boat and followed an Indian trail through the pineries until the reached the head waters of the Wisconsin river. Here they constructed a raft, and followed the river to the present site of Fond Du Lac, where they found an Indian village, "S'yconstruisit une grossiere cabane," and wintered there. They were kindly treated by the newly discovered natives, who had never seen a pale face before. On the return of spring, he returned to "Michillimackinac." In the spring of 1818, Le Vasseur landed in Illinois, near where Waukegan now stands. The trail from the Lake to the Des Plaines river, a distance of about ten miles, was called "The Portage". He carried his boat across the portage, and followed this stream in company with Gurdon S Hubbard, down to its confluence with the Kankakee; thence they came up the river to the Iroquois and followed this river to a village of the Iroquois Indians, and he and Hubbard built a wigwam on the south side of the river near where the bridge is now built, at the village of Bunkum. During the old settlers' reunion last fall at Bunkum, he pointed out the place to the writer hereof.

John Jacob Astor furnished Mr. Le Vasseur with a stock of goods worth $6,000, which he used in trading with the Indians for furs. This Indian village was a centre for trade. There was one trail which led from about where Onarga now stands to this place. One came from where Danville is now; another one across the Kankakee river, about 1/2 mile above the present site of Momence, and one came from Rock Creek, crossing the river where the bridge is built in this city, and following the Iroquois. All trails led to this village. Le Vasseur gained the confidence of the Indians and never had any trouble with them.

In 1823 he married Watseka -- a beautiful, intelligent and petite squaw, with whom he lived until after the treaty of Camp Tippecanoe, in 1832, when the Indians removed west. Watseka went to near Council Bluffs, Iowa, where she died in 1878. She was 18 years old when married to Mr. Le Vasseur.

In 1835, he came to Bourbonnais Grove and built a log house, where the late Capt. Sequin lived.

In 1837, he was married to Miss Ruth Bull, the niece of W C Russell, receiver of the land office at Danville.

He had seven children, the issue of this marriage, all of whom are dead except Mrs. Dr. Monast, and Frederick who clerks in this city.

Mrs. Ruth Le Vasseur died in 1860.

In 1861, he married Miss Eleonora Franchere, a sister of Mrs. Dr. Letourneaux, who now survives him.

Mr. Le Vasseur was a most remarkable man. He passed unarmed amount the "savages", as he termed them, and was never harmed. He learned the "Poutouatomies" language which he retained until his death.

The "Poutouatomies" chief and head men took him into councils, and profited by his advise. Through his repreentations of the wealth of our soil and the beauty of the climate he induced the first Canadian emigration to the Kankakee valley, which has added so largely to the population of this and Iroquois County.,

He was baptized in the Catholic Church, and remained a member thereof until his death, and was buried yesterday, near by where he had lived so long.

In politics he was a Republican; he had no patience with the defenders of the slave power.

The latch string was always out at his door. His hospitality was unbounded. During his long and eventful life no one ever spoke ill of Noel Le Vasseur..

"Avec lui disparaitr l'un des plus courageux pionniers de l'Ouest" (With him will disappear one of the most courageous pioneers of the West).

[Copied from the WATSEKA REPUBLICAN, December 25, 1879, page six, columns 1 and 2.]

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