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Antoine Larocque 1805 Expedition to the Missouri1

Francois Antoine Larocque (b. 1784) was a French-Canadian fur trader who became the first person to give a recorded description of the Bighorn Canyon area. Through his uncle Laurent Leroux, who had established Fort Resolution (N.W.T.) in 1784, he joined the XY Company as a clerk, working in the region of the Assiniboine River from 1802 to 1804. When this company was absorbed by the North West Company in 1804, he continued to work as a clerk in the Upper Red River department. In the autumn of 1804 he left Fort Assiniboine, with Joseph Azure (guide), 2 Charles Mackenzie, Jean Baptiste Lafrance, William Morrison, Baptiste Turenne and Alexis McKay, to go to the Mandan villages on the banks of the Missouri. As an employee of the Northwest Company, his exploration of the region was a direct result of the Northwest Company and British interests being caught unawares by news of the United States purchase of the Louisiana Territory. He is the first well documented trader known to reach the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming. The ensuing Lewis and Clark expedition, exploring the region, directly threatened vital British interests that had thus far monopolized the Upper Missouri trade. Francois-Antoine Larocque later published the Journal of Larocque from the Assiniboine to the Yellowstone, 1805. He returned east to Montreal in 1806. He served in the militia during the War of 1812, later serving as a
1 Joseph Azure was an employee of the North West Company in 1804employed as a guide for the Red River District. In 1804-05, he accompanied Francois A. Larocque on his trip to the source of the Missouri River. He was a member of Francois Antoine Larocque's Missouri expedition to the Mandan villages which left Fort Assiniboine on November 11, 1804. They were sent out by NWC superiors to trade with that tribe. Five others accompanied them: Charles McKenzie, Baptiste LaFrance, William Morrison, Baptiste Turenne, and Alexis McKay. At the Mandan villages of the chiefs The Black Cat and The Grand, Azure and his companions met Captains Lewis and Clark and their Corps of Discovery, on November 25, 1804. Although the meeting of the two parties was almost casual, journals kept by Lewis and Clark, and by Larocque took note of it. (The Journal of Francois Larocque. Fairfield, Washington: Ye Galleon Press, c. 1981.)

Joseph Azure was put in charge of the NWC equipment at The Grand's village. By November 27th, he had traded the Mandans out of 250 skins. Francois Larocque returned to Fort Assiniboine in February of 1805, Joseph Azure is lost track of after that. The department that he worked in was the Upper Red River or Assiniboine Department, under the charge of Charles J.B. Chaboillez. While in the Upper Red River he served with others who may be ancestors: Antoine Azure (probably his brother), Francois Dagenais, Pierre Falcon, Francois Laririere, and Louis St. Pierre (probably the brother of Francois St. Pierre). He married a Chippewa Indian, the Turtle Mountain Agency Allotment Records state that some of his children's mother's name was Ma-na-e-cha, this is probably his wife. They had at least four children, and probably more: 1. Antoine: born about 1794; married Charlotte Peltier 2. Joseph: 1810; 1st Marguerite, 2ndJosette; 3. Agathe; Pierre Peltier; 4. Pierre: 1818 1st Marguerite Assiniboine 2ndMarie. Joseph Azure's St. Boniface burial record: S-26, Joseph Azure, buried 31 January1832, died suddenly day before yesterday, age 71 years, Present: Francois Lionais and Antoine Azure his son, J. N. Ev. de Juliopolis priest.

captain in the Chasseurs Canadiens. In October 1813, he was taken prisoner and released the following year. Expedition in Search of Lewis and Clark Larocque left Fort Montagne La Bosse on January 30, 1805, in what is today southwestern Manitoba. He traveled with trade goods to the Mandan villages on the upper Missouri. There he found Lewis and Clark at their winter quarters. He asked to accompany them on their expedition and was promptly denied permission. He then returned to Fort Montagne La Bosse, where he reported this information to his superiors. Larocque was then sent by the company to investigate the possibilities for opening trade with Indians of the Northern Rockies. Into the Crow Country Traveling back to the Mandan villages, Larocque arrived there in mid-June, 1805. He encountered some resistance from the Mandans who did not want him to travel into the Crow country. Heretofore, the Mandans had benefited as middleman for trade between the fur traders and the Crow. Nonetheless, following the arrival of 645 Crow at the villages in late June, Larocque spoke with their chiefs, stating that the chief of the White peoplewas desirous of making them his children and brethren. He was then allowed to accompany them west, to their homelands. Journey to Bighorn Canyon On June 29th Larocque left the Crow, heading slowly to the southwest. Passing through the watersheds of the Knife, Little Missouri and Powder Rivers the party made their way to the Tongue River by mid-August. Heading north through the Wolf Mountains, the party came upon the Little Bighorn and then headed west again, finally sighting the Bighorn River on August 30th. The party camped on Lime Kiln Creek that evening. On August 31st, Larocque gave the first recorded description of the Bighorn and its canyon. The river is broad deep and clear water, strong courrant, bed stone and gravel. Approximately one-half mile above the camp on Lime Kiln Creek, the Bighorn passed between two huge rocks and lost 2/3rds of its breadth but gains proportionally in depth. Larocque climbed the east wall of the canyon, where he observed, it is aweful to behold and makes one giddy to look down upon the river. Flowing with great rapidity immediately under our feet, so that I did not dare to look down (until) I could find a stone behind which I could keep and looking over itsee the foaming water without danger of falling in. Sighting the Yellowstone before Clark Larocque also learned from the Crow that the Bighorn Rivers headwaters were not in the Bighorn Mountains, but in another Rocky Mountain range, the Wind Rivers. On

September 4th, Larocque headed northwest. Over the next week he crossed the divide to Pryor Creek and on September 10th, sighted the Yellowstone. Larocque had found that great waterway, ten months before William Clark. A Series of Firsts His mission complete, Larocque took leave of the Crow, but not before promising that he would return the next year with trade goods to exchange for beaver and bear hides. He also had the Crow draw a map locating the sections of their country where they could be found depending upon the season. He reached the Missouri on September 30th and was back at Fort Montagne La Bosse by October 17th. Larocque had accomplished a considerable amount during his expedition. He had become the first white man to record descriptions of the Bighorn River and Canyon. He had also been the first to make contact with the Crows in their homelands and return with information on the rich fur resources there. Though he was in territory recently purchased by the United States, Larocque, a foreign merchant, had been the first to penetrate the region. In effect the Northwest Company, a British venture, investigated the areas resources, several years before an American firm would place a trading post in the region. Finally, his journal would be the first to give recorded descriptions of what is today southeastern Montana and northeastern Wyoming.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research Louis Riel Institute