With two new books releasing at the beginning of this year, I hope you'll indulge me today as I share a bit from my author's note about my novel Song for the Hunter, a romantic and adventurous story set mostly on Lake Superior's Madeline Island (in the story called by it's earlier name, St. Michel's) in 1808.
Tragedy brought them together, but learning the truth might tear them apart.
Métis hunter Bemidii Marchal has never played his flute to court a maiden, but he considers the possibility at Fort William’s Great Rendezvous. However, when rescuing his sister causes an influential man’s death, the hunter becomes the hunted. Bemidii flees for refuge to Lake Superior’s Madeline Island and takes the name his French father called him, Benjamin.
Carrying a secret, Camilla Bonnet travels with her husband into the wilderness where tragedy awaits. Left alone, she fears “Benjamin” but is forced to trust him. As she does, their friendship grows and turns to deeper feelings. Then Bemidii discovers more about the man he killed. Now the secret he hides might turn Camilla’s heart away—and demand his life.
I appreciate everyone who has entered the world of the Lake Superior fur trade with me through my posts on CQ, via the world created in my previous novel Mist O'er the Voyageur, and now in the sequel Song for the Hunter. While the story of my hero Bemidii Marchal and heroine Camilla Bonnet is completely fictitious, there are a number of people mentioned in the story who did forge history, at least somewhat similarly to the way I showed them doing so in the story.
Michel and Madeleine (Equasayway) Cadotte, indeed, headed the most renowned fur trade family of the Apostle Islands and in northern Wisconsin, and their sons carried on in their stead. The largest of the Apostle Islands where their trading post was built is now called Madeline Island—named in her honor. The La Pointe post was built near the ruins of an old military fort that had been occupied at the southern end of the island during the French and Indian Wars. Today, visiting La Pointe by ferry, you are not only afforded the joy of basking in the windswept beauty of the island, still sitting like a gem in sparkling Lake Superior among the archipelago of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore, but you can also take in the lovely setting of historic Bayfield, Wisconsin, on the distant hills of the mainland.
Michel’s great-grandfather, Mathurin Cadot (changed later to Cadotte), was the first family member to arrive at Lake Superior in the 1600s. It was Michel’s father, Jean-Baptiste Sr. who, most critically, established fur-trading posts along the southern shore of the lake, all the way to Chequamegon Bay where this story takes place. Three of Michel and Madeleine’s sons continued the tradition, serving important roles in both the fur trade and the War of 1812. It was their son-in-law, Lyman Warren, who took over the post on Madeline Island after Michel retired. Under Lyman’s direction, the post became the American Fur Company’s primary trading post in the region.
Around the middle of the novel, Michel mentions that his stores at Lac Courte Oreille had been robbed the year before. That was an event that took place when the famed Indian called the Prophet, brother to the great Tecumseh, began preaching his religion that advocated banning the trade of whiskey. He also taught that the Indians should not furnish meat to the white traders unless it was boned. As his religion spread, some Indians took to harassing traders wherever they could, including breaking in and destroying stores, as happened to Cadotte at Lac Courte Oreilles, some seventy-five miles south of Chequamegon Bay. The Prophet was defeated in 1811 by Mad Anthony Wayne at Tippecanoe, and the death of Tecumseh followed in 1813.
The novel also mentions that the Americans would be coming soon to take over French trade in the area. As a matter of fact, there were plenty of American fur traders already in Wisconsin. In 1787, Congress passed the Northwest Ordinance, in which territories and states were formed around the Great Lakes. While Wisconsin was part of Indiana Territory, it was not much affected by United States laws until Jay’s Treaty of 1795, which contained a provision for British withdrawal from the region. If you read Brigitte and René’s story in my novel Mist O’er the Voyageur, you might recall how the French had withdrawn from Grand Portage, leaving it to the British, and now that, too, would fall under American jurisdiction.
Michel Cadotte, though a Frenchman, was an independent trader who plied his trade in whichever direction his interests were best served. He transitioned his work from Canada’s North West Company to John Jacob Astor’s American Fur Company shortly after the conclusion of this novel.
As to the presence of my heroine, Camilla Bonnet, history tells us that—but for the occasional company partner’s wife taking a summer trip with her husband into the Upper Country—there were only two white women who permanently resided in Wisconsin at this time. They were Mrs. Charles de Langlade at La Saye and Mrs. Jean Marie Cardinal at Prairie du Chien. Nevertheless, I felt it plausible that someone like Camilla might have arrived with her bourgeois husband Ambroise, and … let’s just say my imagination took over from there. Perhaps there actually was someone like Camilla living here in this vast Great Lakes country, and history simply lost track of her.
I hope you’ll read Song for the Hunter, and enjoy this glimpse into the rich history of America’s fur trading past as much as I did. Please leave an online review for Bemidii and Camilla’s story if you enjoy it!