Des Groseilliers probably came to Canada in 1641. In 1645-46 he worked for the Jesuits at Ste Marie in Huronia. The latter phase of the IROQUOIS WARS (1648-53) cut the St Lawrence colonies off from their fur suppliers, but a peace made with the Iroquois early in 1654 and the arrival of a contingent of Ottawa-Huron gave Des Groseilliers the opportunity to explore west of Lake Huron. He left 6 August 1654 and returned August 1656 with 250 natives in 50 canoes from the Green Bay (Wisconsin) area and the southwestern shore of Lake Superior, bearing a fortune in furs. During this trip he learned of the rich fur country north and northwest of Lake Superior which, he was told, was only 7 days by canoe from Hudson Bay.
In August 1659 Des Groseilliers, this time accompanied by his brother-in-law Radisson, undertook a second voyage to the south shore of Lake Superior to Chequamegon, Mille Lacs area of Wisconsin, and in the spring of 1660, to the north shore of Lake Superior near Pigeon River. Upon their return to Trois-Rivières on 24 August 1660, with 60 canoes and another fortune in furs, they were arrested for illegal trading and their furs were confiscated. Further frustrations with French officials took the pair to Boston in 1662 to solicit English help in a venture directly to Hudson Bay.
After an abortive New England expedition Des Groseilliers was persuaded to take his plans to England (1665). Three years later (1668), with the backing of Prince Rupert and London merchants, Groseilliers sailed from London to the mouth of the Rupert R in the 45-t ketch NONSUCH, commanded by Zachariah Gillam, where the crew wintered and traded for furs. The following year the Nonsuch returned to England, proving that it was possible, as Groseilliers had predicted, to exploit the fur trade from Hudson Bay. The successful conclusion of this voyage led to the founding of the HBC on 2 May 1670.
Over the next 5 years he was busy setting up company posts on James Bay. Persuaded by Father ALBANEL to rejoin the French, he returned to Canada in 1676. In 1682 he entered the COMPAGNIE DU NORD and built a French post at the mouth of the Hayes River. English complaints of the destruction of their posts by Des Groseilliers and his companions as well as evasion of the French tax on furs again led him into trouble. After pleading his case in Paris (1684) he returned to New France and seems to have retired.
Author C.E. HEIDENREICH
Links to Other Sites
Exploration, the Fur Trade and Hudson's Bay Company
This nicely illustrated website chronicles the turbulent early years of Canada’s fledgling fur trade. Features stories about European explorers, Aboriginal communities, the North West Company, and the Hudson’s Bay Company. Also includes online maps, teacher materials, and links to primary sources in the Early Canadiana Online database.
Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers
This site documents the role of Médard Chouart Des Groseilliers in establishing the fur trade in Canada. From the Virtual Museum of New France.
Hudson's Bay Company: Heritage
This colourful HBC website documents over 300 years of company history. Features illustrated biographies of prominent personalities, an online art collection, e-books, historical games, timelines, interactive maps, and much more.
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