William Urban, 1986 

French Settlement in Canada

   The Dendurent family (also spelled Dandurand) originated in France. They emigrated to Canada in the seventeenth century, settling in the Quebec area about 1690, thirty years after the first settlers were brought across the sea by Louis XIV's minister of war.

  Although the French had sent explorers to the New World early in the seventeenth century, the kings had refused to allow more than a handful of priests and fur-traders to settle in the forts between Quebec and Montreal. One reason for this was to prevent Protestants from finding a refuge there as they sought to escape the terrible civil wars of France. English Puritans had done that in Massachusetts and same Huguenots had attempted to establish themselves in Florida, thereby provoking trouble with Spain. The king wished to avoid such problems. Another reason was to protect the Indians. If there were no settlers, there would be fewer disputes over land, less competition for the royal monopoly on fur trading, and fewer opportunities for the Indians to buy liquor. Behind both arguments stood the powerful Roman Catholic Church of France, which was effectively independent of Rome and in control of the royal government until 1661 , when the death of Cardinal Mazarin allowed Louis XIV an opportunity to take power into his own hands (The Three Musketeers is set in this moment). Also, the end of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) allowed Frenchmen to redirect their attention from military conflict in central Europe to the acquisition of a colonial empire abroad. When the "Company of 100 Associates" failed to move faster in exploiting the resources of North America, the king abolished their charter. At this end of their thirty years of governance in 1663, they had brought fewer than two thousand immigrants into Canada, and had scattered them along a long line of trading posts. Agriculture and fishing were almost unknown.

  Louis XIV, the Sun King, ruled from 1648 to 1715. During that period he sought in every way to wake France the leading country of Europe, and thus the foremost nation in the world. He built a model of royal power and splendor at Versailles, a palace that so impressed many rulers that they reflected about the wisdom of opposing even Louis most trivial wish. He supported industry and trade, encouraged artists, authors, and scholars, and appointed talented ministers who added to the national wealth and prestige. However, he also expelled Protestants from France, in violation of his promises to allow freedom of thought and belief. He invaded Holland and Germany, seizing border territories, burning towns, villages, and castles, and demanding the conversion of the Protestants as the price of surrender. This involved his nation in terrible wars that were expensive, bloody, and ultimately he went down to defeat. That frustrated his plans to extend the successful early efforts in sending the navy abroad to seek out new colonies and new trading partners. A mixture of benevolent governor and despot, he was every way the most memorable French monarch of all time--loved, hated, and feared.

  Louis' ambitions would cause all Europe to unite against him, so the first decades of the Dendurents' experience in America were marked by continual wars: the English, Austrians, Prussians, and Spanish united to resist their monarch. However these were not new wars for the handful of settlers in Canada, some of whose descendants would marry into the Dendurent family. Moreover, newcomers quickly learned that the events of their lives were determined by crown policies dating from the early sixteenth century.

Sixteenth-century European monarchs competed for supremacy--or survival, as the case may be. The French kings had long opposed the expansionist ambitions of the Holy Roman Emperors (Habsburg rulers who ruled Spain, Burgundy, and much of Italy, in addition to the richest parts of the New World and possessions in Asia; and were allied to the rulers of Austria, Bohemia, and other German states); they believed that the Habsburg coalition threatened the very existence of France. Louis XIV reversed the situation, threatening the very existence of the Habsburg empire. One aspect of the great struggle involved money--money for taxes, and opportunities for the taxpayers to earn the money to pay the taxes. The mercantilist policies of the era were designed to promote commerce, which would provide taxes to support the armies and navies; hence, the support of colonialism in the New World, to acquire sugar from the Caribbean and furs and wood products from the north. The Spanish fought to retain their monopolies and to prevent newcomers from establishing themselves in the Americas; but newcomers came anyway--the Dutch, the English, the Swedes and the Danes.

  The most important American participation in their monarch's wars involved the contest between the Huron Indians supported by the French and the Iroquois backed by the English and Dutch. The Hurons, who were Algonquins living in the St. Lawrence river valley, had tried to monopolize the fur trade throughout the Great Lake region and the almost uninhabited lands that extended into the Ohio river valley. That greatly benefited their French allies. The Dutch armed their ancient enemies, the Iroquois Confederation, and encouraged them to take over the Huron hunting grounds. The Iroquois won the early contests between 1642 and 1653, driving the Hurons as far west as Wisconsin; this gave the Dutch and English a near monopoly on North American furs; it was a triumph that would benefit Louis XIV's enemies too much for him to tolerate. Louis' Canadian governors made peace with the Iroquois, but not an alliance. It was not in their interest for one Indian power to become dominant, especially if that Indian power seemed to prefer an alliance with France's enemies.

  The Iroquois domination was assisted by the devastating impact that infectious disease had had on the Huron population. Even before the arrival of the French, English and Dutch in the Great Lake region epidemics had swept north from the Spanish territories. Measles, smallpox, and other diseases to which Europeans had little or no immunity struck native Americans more severely because their societies were unready to adjust to crises in which most of the population might be ill at the same moment; Indians, unable to hunt or forage for food, with no ruler to order relief supplies be sent, and no church to organize hospitals and charitable institutions, died in high numbers. Indian efforts to replenish the population by adopting prisoners-of-war were only temporarily successful. The Indian hold on the country, already loosened by population decline, slipped away in the course of wars among the tribes striving for domination of the hunting grounds.

  When the Iroquois offensive resumed in the early 166O's, Louis sent a crack French regiment, the Carignan-Salieres (about one thousand men), to Quebec in 1665. Swiftly that smell army penetrated south to the Iroquois settlements and smashed resistance. The Hurons were given a share of the Great Lakes hunting grounds once more, dividing them with Iroquois who had come over to the French.

  A wider war did not result. The Dutch no longer had colonies in North America, having lost them to the English in 1664. Moreover, the English king had just been restored to his throne after two decades of exile at Louis' court. He might not survive a war against his patron (who continued to supply him secretly with money so that he would not have to rely on Parliament), and he was eager to make a compromise settlement that would restore peace to the frontier. The English colonies, too, were divided, and alone each was too weak to fight the French and their Indian allies. On the other hand, the French were not confident of their ability to drive the English off the continent, and the Indians did not wish to see any European power dominant, for that would mean a practical end of their independence. The result was a stalemate that required the French to keep the regiment in Canada, ready for an unexpected outbreak of war.

  Since the troops had been sent to the New World without their families, it was necessary for Louis XIV to send over the families of those few soldiers who were married and to provide wives for those who were bachelors. The arrival of shiploads of young women mark the real beginnings of the French settlement in Canada.

  The French governor retained all authority. At the instructions of Louis XIV he saw that the soldiers obtained farmsteads, that no one was allowed to remain in French Canada unless he was a dedicated member of the state church, and that no opposition was allowed to royal orders. The only interest the governors had was to enrich the crown, which was best accomplished by emphasizing the fur trade--and therefore by following policies that discouraged either immigration or the expansion of the settlements already existing. The population, hit hard by the combination of epidemic disease, war, celibacy and poverty, grew very slowly.

  Freedom to buy and sell, to move about, to develop new industries was severely limited. In fact, life in French Canada was made deliberately unattractive so that emigration from France was discouraged. The few immigrants were replacement for those soldiers who retired from service and government officials. These late arrivals soon married daughters of the early settlers and established families.

  This meant that the French Canadiens were largely descended from a small group of men and women who retained the speech and habits of the seventeenth century. They did not keep up with new idioms of speech, with developments in political and religious thought, or even with new techniques of farming and industry. French Canadiens became provincial in the most extreme sense of that word. 

The Courier de Bois

  A handful of immigrants and their descendants did break away from this confining cultural and religious bondage. The "courier de bois" or "voyageurs," who were the most adventurous fur trappers of all time, not only escaped French Canada, they almost escaped western civilization. They lived with the Indians, wore Indian clothes, and mixed easily into other civilizations, even into the English and Spanish frontier societies. Riding their canoes deep into the interior of the continent, they opened up the Ohio and Mississippi river valleys and penetrated into the Rocky Mountains far ahead of other white settlers. They were found everywhere that French names survive today: New Orleans, St. Louis, Chicago.

  The governors were under orders to suppress the couriers de bois. The king wanted Canada to reflect France--orderly, obedient, moral The couriers were trading brandy for beaver pelts, thus undermining Indian sobriety; they formed laisons with native women, thus, in the eyes of the Church, living immorally; and they disregarded royal instructions, thus acting disorderly. The king decreed that unauthorized trading with Indians should be punished by whipping and branding for the first offense, then by death. The decree was ignored. Of the 10,000 people who made up French Canada, about 800 were couriers de bois--in effect, about four of every ten adult males not employed in the army or church left the settlements and went to live more or less permanently among the Indians, coming to the trading posts only to exchange their furs for new trade goods.

  The establishment of the diocese of Quebec in 1614m with Francois de Laval as first bishop, was important for the colony. Not only was religious life now closely regulated, but also a second source of authority was raised up against the absolute power of the governor. It was the bishops who saw to the establishment of schools, orphanages, and homes for the improvished and aged. The parish became the center of local government from the keeping of statistics to the raising of militia units. Even so, most inhabitants remained illiterate. There were no newspapers and few books. 

Daily Life and the Wars against the English

  Under the Comte de Frontenac, governor from 1672 to 1698, French Canadians beat back efforts by the Iroquois and English to destroy the colony. Outnumbered twenty to one by the English colonies in North America, the French nevertheless repulsed their attacks everywhere except in Nova Scotia and defeated their Indian enemies. Moreover, the voyageurs expended the French influence west and south, extending their line of forts and Indian alliances down the Mississippi.

  That was a bloody time. After one village near Montreal was struck by Iroquois in 1689, its two hundred inhabitants tortured to death in sight of the city walls; another nearby village was destroyed the next year. In reprisal, the French and Indian forces wiped out several English villages in New York and Massachusetts, inflicting gruesome tortures on those who were not carried off into slavery. This terrible conflict was interrupted by the European peace in 1697, but it resumed periodically. The frontier was never quiet or safe.

  There were only two towns of any size, Quebec and Montreal. Both remained small. Montreal had only 766 inhabitants in 1667, and it grew to only 3492 by 1711. Still, it was fortified with a wall and rampart in 1685, and in 1723 was surrounded by eighteen foot high stone walls. That secured the place against Indian attack and English incursions.

  The majority of French settlers lived in small villages along the St. Lawrence River. The Seignior11 dominated the village in every way, thanks to his ownership of most of the long, narrow fields that stretched inland from the waterfront. The seignior had been granted his holdings by the king as a reward for services in Europe, and he ruled in Canada much as his ancestors had done in the feudal past of the homeland.

  The center of the village was the parish church, with the mill and the few stores and the home of the seignior grouped around them. The farmer's homes were not far removed, because only Montreal and Quebec were large enough to be considered towns. Each farmer had his one big field with its waterfront, its marsh for pasture, its arable plot, and the inland forest that provided lumber and firewood. Fruit was a major crop in this cold, wet climate, as were maple syrup, honey, and lumber. Naturally, fur was the principal export crop, but fish was also important and wheat, too. Wheat yield was nine to fourteen bushels an acre, but so many acres were in cultivation that by the middle of the next century as much as 200,000 bushels could be sent out of the country. Hemp, flax, tobacco, and garden products were grown for local consumption.

  Each farmer held one hundred to four hundred acres of land. His annual tax (cens) was only a few sous, but he also had to present grain and fouls to the seignior on St. Martin's Day (November 11), and whenever passing the land on to anyone other than a descendent, he had to pay l~20th of the assessed value to the lord. Much more distressing were the dues for use of the mills and ovens, which were the seignior's monopoly. And each farmer had to give three to six days labor for the corvee in return for nominal wages. The result was that most farmers were land-rich and money-poor.

  The homes were generally small--two to three rooms, with a single door and few windows. The roof projected far out and low to the ground, and the outside walls were whitewashed annually. The houses stood near the road, without grass or bushes intervening, and in the rear were the stables, barn, and storehouses. Hay and straw were kept nearby in stacks. The living room was also the kitchen and dining room. Parents usually had a private bedroom downstairs, with the children sleeping in the attic. The simple furnishings were kept spotlessly clean

  Clothing was equally simple and plain. Many garments were made of animal skins--right to the moccasins that had replaced shoes. Good clothing was worn only Sundays, when the entire family attended mass.

  Food was coarse, but wholesome and sufficient. Home-ground grain was often baked in the home-oven behind the house (the seignior was interested in the tax for his monopoly, then did not care what happened), Pea soup was universal, as were sour milk and brandy as drinks; almost everyone smoked the home-grown tobacco.

  Winters were spent in indoors, but there was a tradition of visiting and entertaining. Folk music was popular, and everyone sang lustily. There were many holidays--the church tradition--and most people eagerly seized each opportunity to enjoy a break from the hard toil of daily existence.

  Men usually married at eighteen or nineteen, girls about four years earlier. Dowries were expected, but were rarely large. Families were numerous--eight to eighteen. This meant that almost all families of a parish were soon related by blood or marriage. 

Dandurants and Dendurents

  The earliest mention of Dendurent family comes from the early eighteenth century, from the detailed marriage records kept in the parish churches. The present spelling of the name came from the nasaled "a" that sounds so strange to English ears. Thus, the original spelling was undoubtedly Dandurand or Dandurant. The name meant De Andirand--a person from the region of Lot-et-Garonne in southern France. The Canada parish records demonstrate the presence of only one Dandurand, from whom presumably all Canadian and American Dandurants and Dendurents are descended.

  The founder of the family was probably Antoine Dandurant. a native of the Il-de-France (the region around Paris), born in 1663, who married Marie Veneul at Ste-Familie on February 29, 1696. He was a soldier of Monrou, son of Jean Dandurant and Marguerite Labeauce (Labosse) , who lived in St-Gervais in Paris; he was a direct descendent of Joseph Duquet, a somewhat prominent figure in the homeland. Marie' parents, Nicolas Verieul and Marguerite Hyardin, settled in a farming community about forty miles north of Montreal.

  Nicolas Verieul (Veilleux) was the son of Nicolas Veilleux and Perrette Roussel, born in Saint-Jacques parish near Dieppe in France. He arrived in Canada in 1658, and the following year signed as a sailor, being paid 27 livre a month for four months of hauling cargo up and down the St. Lawrence River. In 1660 he established a farm before returning to France. On October 5, 1665, he signed a marriage contract with Marguerite in Quebec. She was the daughter of Rene and Jeanne Serre of the parish of Saint-Sulpice in Paris and was among the "king's daughters" who were brought to Canada at royal expense to marry the soldiers there. The marriage took place in December and was blessed with nine children, six of whom lived to adulthood. Nicolas lived to be eighty, dying October 11, 1714: his wife survived another six years. Their daughter Marie married Antoine Dandurand in the parish church at Sainte-Familie, where Nicolas had moved in 1676.

  Records show that Antoine and Marie Dandurand had a bountiful family. The sons established themselves in the communities downstream from Quebec and north of Montreal, becoming so numerous that one son changed his narne to Marchaterre (probably to avoid confusion). Some events, such as the epidemic of 1755, left clear impressions on the family records. For three generations Dandurands lived in the Montreal region. The history of the family then becomes obscure for two generations between 1740 and 1800. Canada became a part of the British empire in 1763 and the continuity of record-keeping was interrupted. Canada becomes an English Dominion.

  The French, having lost three successive wars (the War of the Spanish Succession, 1700-1715; the War of the Austrian Succession, 1740-1745; and the French and Indian War, 1756-1763), had surrendered first outlying parts of Canada and then lost what remained. The last war, better known in American history than the others, was a desperate encounter that undoubtedly involved the Dandurants personally. The French commander, the Marquis de Montcalm, was a brilliant leader of men who almost saved Canada single-handedly. When war was declared in 1756, he was heavily outnumbered, both in terms of regular troops and provincial militia. Nevertheless, he went on the offensive, striking into New York and capturing Fort Oswego and Fort William (The Last of the Mohicans), thereby opening the Mohawk Valley of New York to some of the worst Indian raids of all time. That frustrated English plans to advance on Canada for almost two years (Drums Along the Mohawk). Montcalm, however, was a believer in European style warfare and did not use his militia units effectively; consequently, when General Wolfe brought 18,000 British regulars to Quebec by sea in 1760, Montcalm chose to assemble all his own regulars and militia units into a body of 15,000 men that could defend the high bluffs on the St. Lawrence and prevent the enemy from advancing to an assault until the arrival of winter would force them to retreat. he watched impassively from his fortifications as the English burned 1400 homes along the river. After a long stalement General Wolfe slipped 4500 redcoats across the river and up an incredibly steep cliff to the Plains of Abraham. Montcalm decided to attack immediately, rushing forth with about an equal number of regulars and militia, not waiting for the arrival of 3000 French regulars. Unfortunately for him, the militia units were unready for pitched combat. Whereas they fired at the English lines as fast as they could load their muskets, the redcoats fired in devastating volleys, then advanced with bayonets. The French militia, blown apart by the concentrated fire and not equipped with bayonets, fled. Both Montcalm and Wolfe fell in the desperate fighting, but Canada passed into English hands.

  There were only about 65,000 French Canadiens at that time. A little over 8000 lived in Montreal. They were thenceforth part of a British empire that had two million citizens in the North American colonies alone. The impact of this on French Canadiens was important, though slow to manifest itself. The English permitted all citizens freedom of occupation, freedom to move to the frontier, and freedom to change religions.

  There were conflicts with the Americans, particularly during the American Revolution 1776-17S3). Americans had assumed that the Canadians would welcome the opportunity to rebel from British rule, especially when Americans had a de facto alliance with the French king. On this assumption Ethan Allan led a force to Montreal in early 1775, but had to retreat when he received no help from the French inhabitants. When General Montgomery brought another, larger force north in November, he captured the city without a struggle, but he lacked the men to hold off any counterattack. Until June of 1776 the Americans held Montreal, all the time trying to persuade the French to join them., but they were unable to convince anyone that they would either be successful or that life would be better outside the British empire. Therefore, the Americans made no effort to defend the city when the British forces returned.

  The British rewarded the Canadiens for their loyalty by allowing them to retain their language and local culture relatively undisturbed. Montreal subsequently became the leading city of Canada, especially after 1809, when steam power and the opening of canals made it possible for ships to move from the St. Lawrence onto the Great Lakes.

  English-speaking inhabitants represented about a quarter of the population, thanks to the massive resettlement of American loyalists to Canada after 1775, and in 1789 and 1791 they organized the first Anglican and Presbyterian churches in Montreal. 

Fur Trading in the Far West

  Scottish businessmen took over control of the fur trade soon after the end of the French and Indian War. Eventually Simon McTavish established a virtual monopoly of the beaver trade and made the owners of McTavish, Frobisher and Company into millionaires. They employed fifty clerks, seventy-one interpreters, eleven hundred and twenty canoeists, and thirty five guides in sending woolen and cotton cloth, blankets, arms and ammunition, tobacco, thread, kettles, knives, axes, hats, and shoes west to exchange for furs. They sought short, sturdy men who could carry the delicate thirty-five to forty foot long birchbark canoes on portages and paddle them laden so heavily that almost no freeboard remained. Each spring they sent out the convoys on canoes with goods, and each fall they filled their warehouses with furs. Under their guidance Canadians dominated the fur trade until France sold the Louisiana Territory to the Americans in 1803. And it alas only in 1809 that a group of St. Louis merchants organized effective competition in the Missouri Company. They send out two hundred and fifty traders, mostly French-speaking trappers, to penetrate into the Rocky Mountains.

  It was this type of competition, together with Indian anxiety about the American surge of westward settlement, that provoked the last armed conflict between Canada and the United States.  

The War of 1812 (1812-1815) was a minor inconvenience for Canadians, but it was not without its frightening moments. At the outbreak of war there were almost no British troops to protect the frontier from the Americans, who expected to occupy Canada easily. The British army and fleet had been fully engaged with Napoleon. American armies moved toward Quebec and Montreal before they fell apart from political Quarrels and incompetent leadership; American militia units refused to serve outside their states, eventually making it practically impossible for the tiny US Army even to defend American territory. Nevertheless, Canadiens had been frightened when the Americans burned the Canadian capital at York near Ontario and pressed within forty-five miles of Montreal. After the Americans retreated, they never again came near the French-speaking settlements. British professionals arrived late in 1812 and were reinforced in 1814. The major combats were in the region of the Great Lakes, and were decided in the battle of Lake Erie and the battle of the Thames (Plattsburg), both won by the Americans. As a result, the Canadian access to Rocky Mountain fur was limited.

  The final blow to Montreal's fur market came in 1817. Alexander MacKenzie established the Red River settlement, closer to the Indian market. Thus the Hudson's Bay Company could undersell the Scottish merchants. Those couriers who tried to remain independent and were called "Free Canadians" took their Indian wives and children onto the Greet Plains. Many ended up in the United States, where the fur trade remained important until the late 1830's.

  The War of 1812 was largely forgotten in the decades that followed the peace, and the success of the treaty in forbidding either nation to build fortifications or maintain navies along the boundary made the Canadian and American border the easiest to cross in the entire world. Montrea1 grew in population rapidly as railroads tied the city to New York and Chicago. By this time the Dandurands were probably culturally assimilated into the English-speaking world and were ready to move away from the domination of the seignior in search of great opportunity. 

Canadian Dandurands

  Some Dandurands remained in Montreal, resisting the general trend toward emigration. These were undoubtedly the families that were better off financially. U. H. Dandurand owned the first automobile in the city, displaying it on November 22, l899. He set the fashion for costume, wearing a leather cap, pea jacket, goggles, and a cotton duster. Managing director of Queen's Park Association, he later bought the first electric car and the first trailer of the area.

  An even more distinguished Dandurand was Raoul, born in 1861, dying in 1942. He was a leader of the Liberal Party, ejected to the Senate in 1898, Speaker of the Senate 1905-1909, privy counselor and cabinet minister, Canadian representative to the League of Nations, and president of the Sixth League Assembly (1925). He was a strong voice for Canadian participation in World War One, organizing volunteers for service in France.

  Distantly related was Leo Dandurand, who returned to Montreal from his birthplace in Kankakee, Illinois. He made a fortune in racing, ultimately owning seventeen tracks, and from 1919 to 1935 was one of the owners of the Montreal Canadiens hockey team.  

Dendurants emigrate into the United States

  Dandurands began to cross into America in the 1830's, one family going into Vermont, then into New York near Albany, and finally moving to St. Louis, Missouri. Another family crossed into Illinois about 1850, then moved via St. Louis; another settled in St. Joseph, Missouri.

  The entry point for the Dendurents, as they began to spell the name, was probably Kankakee country of Illinois. Courier du bois had been trading for generations with the Pottawatamie Indians, a branch of the Algonquin tribe that lived around Green Bay before 1721 and then spread southward to dominate the western Great Lakes. In the late 1700's they had their principal village at Shawanassee in what is now Kankakee county, Illinois. This beautiful rolling country was filled with fur-bearing animals, trapped by the Indians and exchanged for French Canadian products. The Pottawatamie fought alongside the French in every major contest with the Americans through the War of 1812, after which they became resigned to their inability to stop the advance of the Americans into their lands.

  Despite the close relationship of the Indians to the French Canadians, it was only relatively late that they allowed the couriers to settle among them and intermarry. This occurred in the early 1800's, with Francois Bourbonnais being the first white man to live among their permanently. In 1822 Garden Hubbard established a trading post of the American Fur Company (owned by Jacob Astor) there and hired Noel Vasseur to be the clerk and principal trader. Vasseur was a genial genius who spoke English, French, German, and eight or ten Indian dialects. Under his leadership, the Pottawatamie escaped the fate of other Indian tribes in this era, despite their acknowledged enthusiasm for horse theft. In January of 1833, on his advice, the chiefs signed the Treaty of Camp Tippecanoe--which gave lands in Kankakee for the offspring of mixed parents and moved the rest of the tribe to Council Bluffs, Iowa. The removal of the tribe in 1836, amidst weeping and mixed regrets, opened the territory for a swift settlement by Americans.

  Between 1847 and 1852 numerous French Canadians came to settle in Kankakee, establishing churches and communities that reflected their Montreal heritage. Several Dendurent families, all related closely, came there in 1847. The spelling of the name varied widely--Dendurand in the 1850 census, Dandurand in the county history--but subsequently most have agreed upon Dendurent. The spelling is not important. Most were illiterate, and spoke French, so that the census-takers and county officials had a difficult time understanding their names. It is likely that some of them moved on quickly into Missouri and Kansas.

  Most Dendurants were farmers in Boubonnais township of Kankakee county. Present in bewildering numbers, they have been difficult to sort out because the names repeat themselves so often, because they give differing dates of birth to census takers, and because they rented land rather than purchased it. They did not join into political life, sent but two volunteers to the Union Army during the Civil War, and lived a very quiet, private existence for generations.

  The Dendurents seem to have come to Missouri in the 1820's, perhaps by way of Illinois. They were apparently courier du bois who 1ived by trapping and manual labor. They joined with the Absentee Shawnee tribe that had broken away from the main Shawnee band during the wanderings of the previous century; the tribe had migrated to practically every part of the American east, to South Carolina and Pennsylvania; later, fleeing from Americans pressing west, to Ohio and Canada. The Dendurents probably joined them during their northern stay, although Frenchmen were known to be living with the tribe during the period when Canadians sought to extend their system of alliances over the entire interior of the continent.

The Shawnees reunited in the 1750's and for forty years fought the Americans in a series of bloody frontier wars. Throughout that period they found aid and shelter with the Canadians. After 1793. a part of the tribe withdrew into Spanish territory, settling in Missouri with the Delaware around Cape Girardeau. The majority stayed in Ohio under the leadership of Tecumseh and fought until defeated by the Americans in the War of 1812. In 1825 the Missouri Shawnee sold their lands and moved just over the border into Kansas at Shawnee Mission, where they were joined by other bards. In 1845 a large part of the tribe moved to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) and settled on the Canadian River. These "Absentee Shawnee" were joined to the Cherokee nation in 1869. The Shawnee related to the Dendurents continued to live in Missouri along the Swan River in Christian County. Culturally and economically, they were accustomed to look toward St. Louis, which was then the gateway to the West. Two families of Dandurants lived in the city then--Wilfred and John B. Dandurant, who were saddlers and printers

St. Louis in 1850 was the third largest American port city, shipping vast amounts of wheat and pork. Nineteen flour mills ground the grain brought in by fleets of riverboats, rafts and barges, and by the newly built Pacific Railroad Road (later Mopac) that was stretching out to the southwest. The seventy-seven thousand citizens were a colorful mix: the original French, 30,000 Germans, several thousand Black slaves, and Americans from all parts of the frontier, including periodic influxes of Indians and fur-traders from the Rocky Mountains. The city was strongly Roman Catholic, with beer gardens, German bands, and a lively downtown district. Although the city lay six and a half-miles along the river, and spread inland three to four miles, the heart was a business district without many sidewalks or paved roads, with no sewer and an inadequate fresh water supply. Privies and horse manure gave the town a strong odor.

  The riverboat culture permeated the city. Stephen Foster and Mark Twain were equally represented, with more than a bit of Huck Finn. Within a decade the city grew to 160,000 people, with four railroads, a terrible smog problem from the soft coal used for heating, and a political schism that reflected the slavery issue. The Know-Nothing Party was strong, having been organized in the early 1850's on an anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic platform; it had strong overtones of the slavery question, since most immigrants in St. Louis were free-soilers, opposing the spread of human slavery. The Dred Scott case had been raised in St. Louis, and in 1857 had been decided by the Supreme Court in a manner than gave rise to entirely new contravenes.

  The outbreak of the Civil War found Missouri in a divided condition. The governor called together the militia in St. Louis, with the intent of taking the state into the Confederacy. The people of St. Louis, however, were strongly pro-Union; organized as "Wide Awakes," they seized the arsenal and dispersed the militia. Pursuing the few concentrations of Confederations to the southwest, they kept Missouri in the Union. As guerrilla war broke out later, with immigrants being murdered right and left by Quantrell's men, 40,000 refuges flooded into St. Louis. The city became the headquarters of the Union army in the West, with Jefferson Barracks as a training ground and depot; and General Halleck used the telegraph facilities to coordinate all the western campaigns.

  John B. Dandurant

  It was apparently at the end of this period that John Dandurant moved to St. Joseph. St. Joe had been an important frontier settlement before Kansas City was founded fifty-five miles to the south. The Oregon Trail began there, and in 1860 it was the eastern terminus of the Pony Express. The people had been divided during the Civil War, but the town had remained in Union hands. Now railroads came: the Burlington, Missouri Pacific, Rock Island, Santa Fe, Union Pacific, anc six siraller lines. The town boomed. From 8900 in 1860. the population swelled to 19,500 in 1870 and to 77,400 in 1910. The city stood on bluffs two hundred feet above the Missouri River flood plain. It was known as "Porkopolis" very early (in 1872 there were 92,000 hogs processed), and also as the milk capital of America (the largest milk processing Plant in the world was in the city, and consumption was very much above the national average). In proportion to population, it was the richest city in America, thanks to its extensive wholesale trade: St. Joe firms supplies retailers throughout the west. Four large drygoods firms were based there, and Wyeth company supplied tinware and saddlery for many states and Mexico. With such wealth, the citizens enjoyed one of the best school Systems in the country.

  The city also had some notoriety. Jesse James lived there between train robberies, and was murdered by a member of his gang in 1862.

  The St. Joseph family was composed of two households: John S. Dandurant, who had been born in 1807, apparently with the name Jean-Baptiste. Records are contradictory, some saying that he came frorn France, others indicating that he was Canadian. In 1860 he was a stonemason living at the corner of Frederick Avenue and Seminary; and his son, Jessie, a leather-worker, who boarded at the German home and worked for saddler A.C. Berry. By 1873 they lived together, boarding at a house on the north side of Frederick Avenue between 15th and 16th streets. Also at that same address was John's son, Darnas Francis Xavier Dandurant. Living a block away was a young boy who later became infamous in Kansas City history as "boss" Pendergast. Doubtless the Dandurant children knew him well. Records are scanty in the years that follow.

  Jessie's family grew, too. Living at 301 W. Robidoux were Edward, Jesse, and John (who all worked at Wyeth Hardware Manufacturing Company), Gertrude and Harry (who both worked at the Som-R factory), and Julia. Jesse was identified as a collar-maker, John was a machinist. There is no evidence that this family was related to the Dendurents, but it is intriguing to note that Joseph William Dendurent came to this part of Missouri after the Civil War. 

Joseph William Dendurent

  Joseph William Dendurent was long a mysterious figure. His birthdate was uncertain, either 1820 or 1824, and his birthplace either Missouri or Canada. What is known is that he was a mixture of French Canadian and Indian ancestry and that about 1850 he married a Shawnee Indian woman named Maria Arborgas and settled down in Linden, Missouri, to live among the Absentee Shawnee along the Swan River. Linden was a hamlet: in 1860 there were three stores, three doctors, two blacksmiths1 two rril1ers, one carpenter, a school and a Methodist church. Most of the inhabitants came from Tennessee, North Carolina, and Missouri. To judge by the census records, the white populace of the township was small, only a small fraction of the larger township of the county; but it is difficult to judge how many people lived there, because Indians, not being taxed or counted for representation in congress, were noted listed by census takers. Joseph was a trapper, wagon maker, and carpenter. This was interesting because that corner of Missouri was a starting point for travel over the Santa Fe Trail and into Indian Territory. Joseph had three children by Maria and was prosperous enough to have a fine daguerotype picture made of her in contemporary American clothing just before her death about 1856. From this we can determine that their style of life was more in conformity with what contemporaries would consider American rather than Indian practices.

  In short, they were probably not like the family at Shawnee Mission described in 1848 by Philip Ferguson, a soldier on his way west to fight in the Mexican War: 

Other Shawnee and Delaware bands lived throughout the Ozarks, moving away from their original homes near St. Louis. Already by the early 183O's visitors were noting their abandoned log villages in the midst of the beautiful but untarned mountains. The Absentee Shawnee were a small band. In the 1860's they numbered 720 and were administered as part of the Sac and Fox Agency. Later they were part of the Pottawatamie reservation. Government officials noted in 1891 that "a large number of whites of French descent have intermarried into the tribe, whose work and influence for good are perceptible on the Indians. Many of these white men, married to Indian women years ago, have large families, making the number of mixed bloods in the tribe quite large and in a sense improving the condition of the Indians." In 1891 the Oklahoma group of Absentee Shawnee numbered only 640, divided into two bands--White Turkey's progessives and Big Jim's conservatives. The progressives farmed on a small scale and worked livestock, lived in log houses, sent their children to school, and dressed in American clothes. The conservatives refused to work except at "hunting and stealing" and did not send their children to school. In that year a new treaty arranged for the sale of the tribal lands so that the territory could be opened to American settlement. Thenceforth, individual Indians were permitted to sell their private holdings.

  The Civil War was a terrible affair in Missouri. There had been a long period of trouble between Missourians and Kansans over the slavery issue, and when the war began the Jayhawkers from Kansas occupied southeastern Missouri. The Union victories in the opening battles were not accepted as final by the pro-slavery population, and a fierce guerrilla war began, with the worst atrocity of the war being later committed in 1863, when Quantrill's band destroyed Lawrence, Kansas. In retaliation the Jayhawkers removed much of the rural population from Southwestern Missouri and burned their crops and barns, hoping thereby to deny food and shelter to the guerrillas. The Indian nations, meanwhile, had been divided by the war. Those Indians favorable to the Union fled into Kansas and Missouri, those favorable to the South into Texas. Oklahoma became a no-man's land of guerrilla warfare. The Dendurents lived with relatives in Neosho, Missouri, throughout this tire. Joseph's daughter, Laura, remembered well the hardships of the exile from the home on Swan River.

  After the war Joseph Dendurent did not return to southwestern Missouri, but moved to Achison county in 1866, to the extreme northwestern part of the state. There or nearby his daughter Laura married George Libring. About the same time Joseph married Emma. B.


In 1869 the Dendurents and Librings moved to Iowa. After a short stay they moved south into Kansas, the Dendurents to Hamlin and the Librings to Marysville. What is interesting is that the Kickapoo Reservation was located in Brown County, too, and the Kickapoo were associated with the Pottawatomie and Absentee Shawnee in Oklahoma. Whether these ties were important to Joseph is unknown at this time. More to the point is that he was soon left a widow with three children.

  The death of Emma Dendurent was reported in the Hiawatha Dispatch on Sept. 25, 1873: 


 Dendurent--On Saturday Sept. 20, 1873, of consumption, Mrs. Emma Dendurent, of this city, aged 28 years. Mr. Dendurent came here from Iowa last February, the deceased became his wife some six years ago, in Missouri. She was a member of the Baptist Church and the good members of that church, especially some of the sisters devotedly administered to her wants and those of her family, during the latter part of her illness, with a care, Christian feeling and kindly spirit that is worthy of notice and emulation. The funeral sermon was preached on Sunday by Rev. Gates, the pastor of the church, in an appropriate and feeling manner, from Heb. 9:27-28. The church was full, and the occasion was one of solemnity, and few were the tearless eyes there. The coffin was a handsome one, and a wreath of evergreen and flowers on top. Messrs. Gaskill, Mahan, Hodge and Atm were the pall bearers.

Joseph was unable to care for the children, only two of whom survived, and he put them out with neighbor families to rear. He worked as a carpenter, but perhaps was itinerant as he did not appear in the 1880 Census.

  As a result of this disaster to the family, Murney Dendurent grew up without knowing his mother at all and rarely seeing his father. In fact, he referred to them so seldom that his children believed that he had been orphaned at birth and did not even know who they were: it was known that he had a sister, Cate, from whom he was so separated that nobody remembered much about her. He reported in the census of 1900 that his father's place of birth was Canada and the mother's was Missouri. He never mentioned his half-brothers and half-sister at all. It is notably that Brown County, Kansas, was populated surprisingly heavily by Dandurants. We may suppose that this was no accident, but we cannot be certain that they were aware of their possible relationship. It may be that settlement patterns simply drew them in the same direction.

  In 1870 Brown County, Kansas, had just experienced a population boom . Some settlers had been attracted earlier by the homestead law; now, with the arrival of the railroad came a influx of people into northeastern Kansas, so that by the time the census was taken, the village of Hiawatha had six hundred and eighty inhabitants. The Grand Island Railroad, however, was not the only means of transportation, and the county history duly notes that "at this period there was a succession of covered wagons moving westward thru Hiawathai a majority of them from Missouri." Kickapoo Indians had a sizable reservation--and a formidable reputation as the most ferocious warriors on the frontier. Nearby Fort Leavenworth was evidence of the earlier need to protect the frontier settlements from hostile redmen. By this time, however, there were no dangerous Indians within two hundred miles.

  Roads were little more than mud tracks, so impassible that farmers consulted almanacs before setting out to town. There were so few trees that Kansas became known as the sunflower state from the practice of planting sunflowers for use as firewood: when dried, the stalks burned well, especially in the special stoves designed for them; previously, sunflowers were almost unknown in the region.

  The immigrants were counting on a continuation of the agricultural boom. They were almost universally disappointed. With new lands being opened everywhere, prices fell. Also, they underestimated the costs of transportation. Wheat that sold for $1.25 a bushel in New York could fetch on $.50 in Kansas. The rest went to the railroads. The prices varied greatly from year to year: for corn the price increased till 1881 to sixty-three cents a bushel, then fell rapidly to thirty-one cents, had a rebound to eighty-three cents, but stood at twenty-one cents in 1896. It was much better to put corn into hogs and cattle. The railroads then had charges for short-hauls that were much higher per true than for longer hauls. Moreover, the railroads owned the elevators and charged very high storage rates; the farmers had no choice about the use of elevators until the Supreme Court in Munn vs. Illinois broke their monopoly in 1876 by ruling that states had the authority to regulate such industries. Even so, the "beef trust" controlled the packing industry until Theodore Roosevelt forced through anti-trust laws thirty years later.

Farmers had physical difficulties. Blizzards, floods, and ice-storms were matched by droughts and prairie fires. Breaking sod was an expensive business, requiring a special team and plow. But the biggest problem was borrowing money. There were few banks, and the banks did not consider farmers good risks. They loaned money at 3% in the East, but 12% in Kansas; also, they discounted greenbacks at 40% and required payment in gold or silver. Farmers who were paid in greenbacks were unhappy about being required to pay themselves in gold. When farmers did badly, so did carpenters like Joseph Dendurent.

  Life was not easy for the immigrants, who lived in sod houses and ate inadequate diets. The depression of 1873, moreover, reduced the prices of their crops: "It was in the year of 1873 that crop shortage, combined with the general money panic, or crisis, had worried the people, especially the farmers, into a frenzy of unrest, resentfulness and vituperation, never before seen." Moreover, Grasshoppers began destroying the crops each summer, and the plague grew worse each year from 1874 to 1876. It was not until the 1880's that the economic situation improved. The arrival of the Missouri Pacific railroad in 1880 was a boost to the depressed economy of Brown County, and the rains returned. By 1884 rents had reached $1.50 an acre, and efforts were made to tap deep reservoirs of water.

  The Dendurents were not a close-knit family. Circumstances did not permit that. Joseph was a carpenter until his retirement about 1890, when he came to live with the Librings in Hiawatha. Young Joseph was working as a laborer for Jesse Wallace in 1880: he later moved to Iowa. When he died, the Brown County World reported only this: 


 Joseph Dendurent, formerly a resident of Hamlin, Ks.died Friday Jan. 1, 1904, in Lorimer, town, at the age of 47. His brother, Murney Dendurent, of Robinson went to Iowa to attend the funeral.

Cate had been sent to live with Thomas and Cordelia Eglon, a farming family that had come from New York to Illinois and thence to Kansas. In 1880 both were in the late fifties, with one son, Nathan, then twenty-two. Cate had not attended school the past year, but it is highly likely that she was literate, as 97% of the county inhabitants over the age of fourteen could read and write. She later married T. F. Grover of Hiawatha and had a son named Ellsworth. After the Librings moved to Arkansas, she took in her aged father.

  None of the Dendurents were in any condition to profit from the temporary improvement in local economic opportunity during the l880's. By the end of the decade the opportunities had begun to disappear. Elsewhere, farmers were simply abandoning farms that could not be worked profitably: there were 11,000 foreclosures in 1889-1893. In many areas Grangers were forming organizations to work politically for farm relief and favorable legislation. The Farmers' Alliance became strong in Kansas (130,000 members by 1890), and with the rise of the Populist Party came some memorable politicians: Mary Elisabeth Lease, who said that farmers "should raise less corn and more hell," and "Sockless Jerry" Simpson.

  Murney did not seem to be greatly affected by this. Apparently he lived in the town, sharing the Republican sentiments of the many Union veterans who believed in the gold standard; in that Democratic President Cleveland agreed with his successor, President McKinley. And since prosperity slowly returned by 1900, the Republicans came again to dominate Kansas politics

  In October 1887 a new Dendurent, James Sr., appears in the county as a member of the central committee for Hamlin township for the Prohibition Party Convention. Four years later, on September 11, 1891, he ran for public office on that party's ticket, but his effort to be elected county commissioner failed--he got only eleven votes out of the twelve hundred cast. Later that year, on November 17, his steam thresher caught fire and burned. That was undoubtedly a major catastrophe for him. Steam threshers were huge, expensive machines, and extremely dangerous. They had to be stoked to a high pressure, and a mistake could result in many deaths. Therefore, when the fire got out of control, the hands ran for their lives, expecting the boiler to explode. made a total loss of the new thresher, three hundred bushels of wheat, and one hundred tons of hay. Since the engine it self was saved, James must have rescued it personally from the flames.

  Murney's childhood is largely unknown to us. He would have been twenty-one when a mob lynched two colored boys for having killed a local man, and that same year he probably saw the famous midget, Torn Thumb, who came to Hiawatha with the circus. Without much question, most of the 2486 inhabitants of the town and thousand of rural residents paid admission to the show. Two year3 later, when the railroad reduced wages from $1.15 a day to $1.10, the workers struck; more than a few men from town joined Coxey's Army in a march that tried and failed to obtain government support for their needs.

  One hundred men from Brown County joined the army in 1896 to fight Spain, but Murney was not among them. He had a store in town and specialized as a jeweler and watchmaker; he livea alone and apparently minded his own business. He does not appear in any government records other than the 'census of 1900. That changed soon. His marriage to One Mellott in April of 1905 soon provided him with a family and responsibilities.

  The Mellott family had been among the early settlers of the county. Samuel had been one of the organizers of the Bryn Zion Baptist Church in September of 1868. Born in 1833 in Mt. Gilead, Ohio, he and his wife, Mary, had raised five children on the prairie. "Ora," as the census listed her (Orie Bell was more accurate), and her twin brother, Otis, were born in 1875. They lived in Robinson township, northwest of Hiawatha, and may have met at the rural United Brethren Church there. The town of Robinson did not exist in 1890, but by 1900 it had a population of 493.

  Homes in 1900 still rarely had bathtubs or indoor water pumps. Drilled wells had become common after 1890, but the water was seldom brought directly into the house. Privies remained in common use, of course, into the 1940's. The frame hares had pictures and wallpaper, but were not always of the best design for either winter or summer--lacking both ventilation and insulation. Slowly the older buildings were being torn down. The large homes built as early as 1875 remain occupied a century later, and that style of construction slowly became dominant as the old houses were removed. Kerosene lamps and large stoves were universal. Most families could afford a servant or laborer, but schooling was still hit and miss. Four to five months of school annually was a good average, but the school building was in year around use as a community center and even as a church.

  It was at this time that Joseph Dendurent passed away. The Brown County World reported with its usual brevity:


Joseph had made e long train trip the previous year to Rogers, Arkansas, to visit his daughter, Laura. It was their last reunion, and probably the first time he had seen his son, Thomas, in many years. This visit was probably important for the preservation of the family history, because the young people he met at this time were the ones to maintain the oral tradition that survived.

  By 1910 Brown County's population had grown to 22,000. Hiawatha grew to 2974 people, but Robinson lost one person from the earlier census. Most men were farmers owning fifty to two hundred and fifty acres, many raising dairy cattle for the St. Joseph market. The first tractor had appeared, and within two years there would be over five hundred automobiles. Murney apparently adjusted to this new opportunity, probably working on the steam tractors and automobiles earlier, and now switching to the internal combustion engine. Was it his ability to work with watches and jewelry that attracted him to the intricacies of the motors? He attended school in Kansas City to learn auto mechanics.

  Murney probably assumed increased responsibilities in November of 1911, when his father-in-law died. Mrs. Mellott had lost her father, David Iler, many years ago, in 1877, and her mother, Bithynia (Trux) in 1900. Being aged now, she presumably became the care of her children.

  The drought of 1913 brought financial disaster to many farmers, but those who survived wade great profits after 1914, when the World War caused grain prices to skyrocket. Everyone in the farming communities prospered during those years. Murney doubtlessly did, too.

  There is a picture of Murney's "Gem Shop" from these years. He is well-dressed, standing behind an impressive display case, with the walls covered by clocks and plates for sale. In 1920 Laura's daughter wrote him that she was graduating from high school in Arkansas. Although he had never seen her, he sent her a necklace that became one of her favorite treasures.

  In 1921, just as the boom began to go out of farming, Murney moved his family to Goodland, Kansas, where a job was waiting. It may be that he moved for health reasons, since about that time he suffered a bout with tuberculosis. The west country was being opened up by the Union Pacific railroad. South of the town stretched a semi-arid desert-like region, but north was good farmland that could be worked by the dry-farming techniques introduced in the 1880's by H.W. Campbell, which emphasized the preservation of such rainfall as came--for example, plowing under wet ground as quickly as possible to save the moisture from evaporating. Goodland was mainly a railroad town, well-known also for its weather station that uniformly reported the coldest temperature in Kansas each winter day and the warmest each summer afternoon. There Murney worked for a while as an automobile mechanic, then opened a jewelry shop and resumed his earlier career as a watchmaker. One of his clocks is still in the family possession. He owned his home and reared his family there.

  The lands that were plowed for the first time after the war and put into wheat produced good crops for a decade, but as the weather cycle went into a dry period, the result was dust. The first drought came in 1930, and was followed by a severe blizzard the next winter. The farmers worried, but were reassured when 1931 produced the largest wheat crop ever--which caused prices to fall to $0.25 a bushel. Then began a cycle of floods and droughts. The water washed away topsoil and seed, then the heat killed the crop that survived. Average yield in 1932 was five bushels per acre. In 1933 wind erosion became noticeable, and from 1935 to 1931 the county was part of the notorious dust bowl.

  1940 Census statistics showed the extent of the economic disaster. 6421 people lived in Sherman county, 3306 in Goodland City proper. All but one were white, and there were no Blacks at all. Of the approximately one thousand homes in the county, one-third had no private bath, one half needed major repairs or renovation. On the other hand, so many people had left that there was no crowding. Rent was seventeen dollars a month on the average; and half the houses were owned, one-quarter mortgage free. But there were only thirteen college graduates in the entire county, and the average education was through the eighth grade. The biggest employer outside agriculture (826 farmers) was the railroad (117 men); sixty-five men were in construction, sixty-four in service stations and another thirty-one in motor vehicle repair; nineteen men and twenty-eight women were in food service, and eighty-seven men and thirty-two women in retail trade. Thus, it was a small enough community that everyone knew everyone. Only three people had government relief jobs, and twelve were seeking work. Thus, it was an egalitarian community where nobody had great wealth, but where everyone seemed to be making it, more or less. Naturally, opportunities were limited, and young people tended to leave in search of work elsewhere.

  Murney kept busy , but he had time for his family. As Pauline related much later, wondering if he had chosen February 14 as a birthday because "he was quite a romancer. I can still see the twinkle in his dark eyes and little smile on his lips when he knew something we didn't."

  When Murney died in 1948, his wife went to live with their son in Wamego. She died there in 1953. The children had long since left Goodland to seek employment.

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