I Have a New Theory about Joseph Deraque

Here’s what we absolutely know about Joseph–1. He came from Canada. 2. He worked for Andre Fagot.

Based on those two things, there are some things we can feel are reasonably certain. 1. He didn’t come from Canada alone. He had some kinship ties here. 2. He had to be somewhere where he could run into Andre Fagot in order to begin working for him–either St. Louis, Ste. Genevieve, or Kaskaskia–the three towns Fagot is associated with. 3. ‘Deraque’ is an Anglicanized version of his name, because there aren’t any Deraques in Ste. Genevieve or Kaskaskia (I couldn’t find a census for St. Louis, but I’m feeling pretty confident about it.). In Ste. Genevieve, there are Durochers, who sometimes spell it DuRoche. By the 1830s, some of them are Durards and some are Deraques.

So, what we’re looking for is a family who came down from Canada and settled along the Mississippi. We might expect them to be in the fur trading business, which would explain why the Demonbreuns, through Fagot, would make business ties with them. Do the DuRochers fit the bill?

Piece of evidence one: A “Jauseph DuRoche” signs the loyalty oath in Vincennes at the same time Demonbreun does. No DuRoche is listed in the 1783 census, though, suggesting DuRoche did not live in Vincennes. (See page 57).

Piece of evidence two: Laurent DuRocher (b. 1749). He has exactly the kind of life we would expect someone in Joseph’s family to have. He came to St. Louis from Quebec as a fur trader and he married into a prominent family in Kaskaskia. His parents, Jean-Baptiste and Genevieve Durocher, also had a son named Joseph, born in 1760.

There’s one more interesting DuRocher–Auguste. (See page 155). Born in 1779, he’s a fur trader out of St. Louis who goes up the Missouri River. He does not appear to be the son of Laurent. But he does have sons named Louis and Joseph, which, as you recall, are also the names of two of our Joseph’s sons.

One might ask herself what Joseph was doing between 1760 (if that is indeed him) and 1791, when he shows up in Nashville. Thirty is awfully old for a French guy not to be married (though it appears Fagot never married. [I think it's not cool to laugh at the obvious insinuation, but no one will hold it against you if you do and just don't tell anyone.]). Maybe it’s too easy–giving Joseph Auguste, but I’m tempted.

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6 thoughts on “I Have a New Theory about Joseph Deraque

  1. The only drawback to this theory is that some family sources have that Joseph Durocher dying in 1761, as a baby. Those same sources, though, don’t have Laurent as one of Joseph’s brothers.

  2. Interesting. When I get a minute, I’ll see if I can raise him from my records, but I would not infer too much from his presence or absence in a 1783 Vincennes census. That one missed a lot of people who were out in country. Also, there were many Francophone guys not from Vincennes who made their mark on that oath of loyalty who were just along for the ride with Clark…they had done this drill with a couple of different empires and knew when to line up and kiss the cross to prove they were very loyal citizens.

  3. Yeah, I’m just operating under the assumption that he wouldn’t have been down here alone (in non-Canada). So, even if I can’t find him, I feel like I should be able to find people who are plausibly his family. That’s why I’m intrigued by the St. Louis/Ste. Genevieve/Kaskaska Durochers.

  4. But I’m really curious if you find anything at all. I kind of wish Fagot had left papers or something. He apparently ends up being important for Arkansas history. Too bad he didn’t leave behind a diary of his early years.

  5. Fagot’s widow wound up with a trunkful of his papers (along with many of the territorial records of early Arkansas Post) — but as for where they wound up, who knows? Some historians think they survived the Civil War, while others think they were destroyed during the war.

  6. Fagot had a widow?! I swear, he is the biggest unknown of my whole research. Like he is the point at which I always run into the “I’m just not hitting the right sources” wall, every damn time. Andre Fagot, you stand at the outer limit of my everyday person scholarship!

    Which is frustrating, because it sure seems like what there is to be known of Joseph’s pre-Nashville life would be among the facts of Fagot’s life.

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