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Grignon, Lawe and Porlier papers, 1712-1884 (bulk 1820-1840)

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  • COLLECTION STORED, ALL or IN-PART, AT ARC: Collection can be requested for transfer through the Area Research Center (ARC) Network, consult Reading Room Staff.


  • Primarily the business, personal, and official correspondence of three families, early residents of Green Bay, Wisconsin, whose members traded individually or in groups or served as agents of fur trading companies on the shore of Lake Michigan and as far as the Dakotas and Missouri.
  • The correspondence is from 1800 to 1884, about two-thirds of them are for the years 1820-1840, with most of the letters in French.
  • There are about 175 letters dating up to the end of the War of 1812, divided about equally among those of members of the three families--Jacob Franks and his nephew and successor in the trade, John Lawe; Augustin, Louis, and Pierre Grignon; and Jacques Porlier; a few concerning the Robert Dickson Company; a number from Montreal outfitters; and a few bearing directly on the war.
  • Beginning about 1820, there are numerous letters from Robert Stuart of the American Fur Company, and occasional ones from Ramsay Crooks, Gabriel Franchère, Samuel Abbott, William B. Astor, and others. Letters written from many posts report on the conditions of the trade; those from Menominee River, the Kakalin, Butte des Morts, and Milwaukee are most numerous. The writers include Thomas G. Anderson of Drummond Island, Michael Dousman, Laurent Fily, Amable, Alexander, and Charles A. Grignon, Jean B. Jacobs, Solomon Juneau, Peter and William Powell, and many others.
  • There are allusions to Indians in connection with the trade, to treaties, to annuity payments to Winnebago and Menominee, and to the uprisings of 1827 and 1832. Brief and scattered information on the establishment of American civil and military jurisdiction is found in such forms as orders dealing with the liquor traffic, complaints on the regulating of the trade, petitions and declarations regarding citizenship, and correspondence of military officers and Indian agents. There are references to land claims and land speculation at Green Bay, Milwaukee, and elsewhere.
  • Prospectuses and subscription lists of the local schools, and series of letters received from sons and daughters attending schools and academies at Montreal, Lowville in New York, Somerset in Ohio, and elsewhere, contain information on the education of Green Bay youths. There are a number of letters from Catholic priests to their parishioners, and a lesser number from Episcopalian missionaries at Green Bay.
  • Several series of letters not properly a part of the Grignon, Lawe, or Porlier families papers are filed in the collection: a group of letters, 1807-1818, to Charles Reaume dealing with his duties as justice of the peace; several letters addressed to George Boyd and some drafts of his own letters; a collection of family letters of Ebenezer Childs, including several written by him from the territorial legislature at the end of the thirties; and a number addressed to Andrew J. Vieau of Milwaukee and Two Rivers, 1836-1846, mainly from his father-in-law, John Lawe, concerning the trade and the operation of a saw and grist mill. Largely after 1840, there are several letters from pioneer settlers in Fond du Lac, Oconto, Oshkosh, Poygan Lake, Peshtigo Mills, and elsewhere in Wisconsin.
  • Other correspondents represented in the collection include James Abbott, Henry S. Baird, Florimond Bonduel, Richard Cadle, Antoine Dequindre, William Dickson, James Doty, Alexander Irwin, Charles Trowbridge, Eleazer Williams, Austin Wing, William Woodbridge, and others.
  • Also included are eleven volumes of legal papers from 1712 to 1873 containing certificates of marriage, apprenticeship bonds, trade licenses and agreements, citizenship papers, assessment rolls, poll tax lists, deeds, proclamations, lists of jurors, and other miscellaneous papers.
  • Also includes visual materials from the late 19th century and early 20th century consisting of portraits and snapshots of the Grignon family and friends. The majority were collected by Edith Acker Grignon and her husband Rossiter Grignon and depict relatives and events of their generation (the late 19th century and early 20th century) rather than the earlier generations documented in the papers. Also included are pictures of hunting in northern Wisconsin and snapshots of farming in Northern Wisconsin.


  • A copy of the microfilm is at the Green Bay ARC.
  • This collection is also available on microfilm.
  • The master negative of Reel 13 was water damaged. A copy negative is available as Micro 542.
  • In French and English.
  • Selections and translations from these papers have been published in Wisconsin Historical Collections, 10:90-141, passim; 11:271-315, passim; 12:453-65; 14:162-205, 450-511, passim; 15:3-20, passim; 19:275-487, passim; and 20:42-391, passim.
  • Portions presented by Ursula Grignon, David H. Grignon, Sarah J. Grignon, Charles de Langlade Grignon, Mrs. Frank S. Brunette, Andrew J. Vieau, James M. Boyd, Paul DuCharme, and George W. Lawe. Photographs presented by William F. Wolf, 1967.
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