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François Deschamps, Jr.

(1806-1836)

François was the son of François Deschamps Sr. and. François, although barely into
his teens, was with his father and Cuthbert Grant at the Battle of Seven Oaks in 1816 on
Frog Plain. The family moved to the upper Missouri River in 1827. In 1832, he was
employed with Prince Maximilian of Weid’s expedition to the Old Northwest. The Prince
noted that François was brave in combat and an excellent marksman. In 1833,
Deschamps was an interpreter at Fort William on the upper Missouri and in 1835 was
working in the same capacity at Fort Union. By all reports the family was involved in
robberies and other violent activity. The family had an ongoing feud with Jean-Baptiste
Gardepie, his father’s killer. In revenge for this they killed Jack Rem whose son they had
killed earlier in a drunken brawl. As a result in 1836, the resident’s of Fort Union
resolved to rid themselves of this problem family. 1 The Deschamps were holed up in the
Fort, Mrs. Deschamps came out with a peace pipe to negotiate and was immediately shot
through the heart. The populace then killed her eight children, one of whom was only ten
years old.

François Deschamps Sr. was a well-known NWC enforcer during the Pemmican Wars. He was
involved in the capture of John McLeod and his interpreter Jack Rem Kipling at Turtle River (in
what is now North Dakota) on February 9 and 10, 1815. In March 1815 François and his son
Joseph robbed HBC employee Pat Quinn of his musket and ammunition. On May 14, 1815,
Deschamps and others captured and robbed James Bird and James Sutherland in the Qu’Appelle
Valley. In the summer of 1815 on June 28, Deschamps was with the group of 60 Norwester’s who
burned the Red River Colony. His sons, Joseph and François Jr. were also there.

François Sr. is first listed by the NWC working at Rocky Mountain House and Fort des
Prairies in 1799. His brother Quonet Deschamps was also well known in the fur trade. In
1804, he is listed as an interpreter at Fort des Prairies. Amongst the persons particularly
mentioned in the depositions, as having participated in the more lurid deaths, is François
Deschamps, a Canadien, who had three sons, (Half-Breeds) present with him in the
battle, François, Joseph commonly called Grossetête, and the youngest whose name is not
mentioned; but is likely Charles Deschamps. He was accused of finishing off Semple.
Charles Bellegrade stated that he saw some of Governor Semple’s clothes in the
possession of François Deschamps, the son.2 A Canadien employed near the Rocky
Mountains in the late 1800s; by 1804 he had taken an Indian wife and was the interpreter
at Fort des Prairies. The family finally moved to Pembina then to the Upper Missouri
River at Fort Union.

Joseph Pelletier dit Assiniboine stated positively, that during the Battle of Seven
Oaks he saw the father kill one of the wounded, and plunder the body of
Governor Semple; he also mentions having seen the clothes of the others in the
possession of the sons.3

1
2
Ibid.
3
Ibid.

1
In 1834 at Fort Union, Deschamps sons got drunk and smashed in the head of Jack Rem’s
19 year-old son, killing him. In revenge Rem’s family and Jean Baptiste Gardiepy
decided to kill Francois and his son of the same name. They killed the father and gravely
wounded his son on July 23, 1835.4

Reference:
Thomson, Robert W. “This Wicked Family.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History, Winter 2004: 2-
15.

Compiled by Lawrence Barkwell


Coordinator of Metis Heritage and History Research
Louis Riel Institute

4
Robert W. Thomson. “This Wicked Family.” Montana: The Magazine of Western History,
Winter 2004: 2-15.