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Francois Xavier Vautrin Biography

Francois Xavier Vautrin

(by Jill Edwards and Laurel Katernick)

(First a note to explain that we are third cousins who met online researching Xavier Vautrin. We both descend from his daughter Amelie Vautrin; Jill descends from her first marriage and Laurel from her second marriage. We met in person for the first time in Victoria in October 2000 to do some family research together.)

He was born Francois Xavier Vautrin on May 10, 1815, in the Parish of St. Philippe, in Quebec. His parents were Pierre Vautrin dit Bienvenue and Agathe Baudin (or Baubin). His paternal grandfather was Charles Vautrin dit Bienvenue who was born in Lorraine, France and came over to New France with the Royal Rousillon Regiment in the 1750s. His mother, Agathe, was part Miami Indian from the Detroit River Region. We have been in contact with descendants of several of Xavier's siblings and at least one cousin, who have generously shared genealogy records, in one case dating back 14 generations from our own.

Xavier was recruited from the Parish of St. Edouard, Quebec and entered the HBC service in 1834, at about the same time as his brother Jean Baptiste Vautrin (born February 1, 1813.) Xavier and Jean Baptiste had at least nine siblings. As far as we know, these two brothers were the only family members who joined the Company.

According to a descendant of Jean Baptiste who searched through hundreds of hours of microfilm from the HBC archives, the brothers arrived at Fort Vancouver in 1834. Per records received from Bruce Watson, Xavier worked at Fort Vancouver as a middleman until 1835 at which time he was assigned to the Columbia Department. In 1837 he was sent to Fort Langley where he worked for the next fifteen years. In 1852 he went to Victoria where he joined his brother.

Jean Baptiste had gone from Fort Vancouver to New Caledonia and worked at various locations over the years until 1851 when he was assigned to Fort Victoria. Both brothers retired from the HBC around 1852 though they periodically carried on transactions with the company for some time after that.

While at Fort Langley Xavier took up, in the custom of the country, with a Quantlen woman. The earliest record we've found so far is reflected above, wherein a daughter Florence (about 3) was baptized by Modeste Demers on September 4, 1841. She is described as the illegitimate daughter of Francis Vautrin and Emilie, Kwoithe (probably a variation of Kwantlen/Quantlen). However, when he moved with his family to Victoria and had his relationship formalized in 1852 (apparently in a double wedding with his brother Jean Baptiste and his Songhee bride Elizabeth), his wife was referred to as Marie Quantlen. Together they acknowledged their children Emilie, age 11 years, Helene, age 6 years, and Catherine, age 3 years.

We don't know if Florence (about 14 by then) had married or possibly died. Nor do we know what happened to "Emilie, Kwoithe." Since the next eldest daughter also bears the same name Emilie (or Amelie), perhaps it is possible that "Emilie, Kwoithe" and Marie were the same woman, or were related. Another daughter, Rosalie, was born to Xavier and Marie after their move to Victoria in 1852, but she only lived 2 years. They also had a son Francois Xavier who may have died in 1857.

Xavier and Marie's daughters Helene and Catherine were both early pupils of the Sisters of St. Ann's at their two room convent school in Victoria. They enrolled there in November of 1858, about six months after the Sisters started the school.

We have found later records pertaining to Helene/Ellen Vautrin. She married Moise Plamondon, a son of Simon Plamondon, another HBC employee who had worked at Fort Langley. She died and was buried in Victoria in October 1864 at eighteen years of age.

As yet, we don't know what happened to Catherine Vautrin.

After the brothers left active service of the HBC, they settled on land in the Mill Bay area of southern Vancouver Island that they had apparently been visiting since the late 1830s according to oral history. In various local histories they are credited with being "the first white men" to settle in the Cowichan Valley. They eventually pre-empted the properties after the surveying had taken place. The south side of Xavier's 100 acres went approximately along what is today Kilmalu Road across the road from the St. Francis Xavier Church that still stands and the Island Highway now cuts across the west side. Jean Baptiste pre-empted a 100 acres that was southwest of Xavier's and hence the story is that they "settled next door to each other" and took up farming. Both brothers also worked for some time at a nearby mill.

We don't know for sure the fate of Francois Xavier Vautrin though we believe he died on the Island. We have read that local oral history says his remains are in a grave near the waterfront north of Mill Bay. There is a road near Section 6, Range 9 (near his pre-empted land) that is named Voutrait, one of the many variant spellings of the name. It is possible he rests near there.

Jean Baptiste Vautrin's wife Elizabeth of the Songhees died in 1857. In 1860 he married Marie Anne Brule, the widow of Joseph Brule. In the late 1880s it appears that Jean Baptiste and Marie Anne moved to the Grande Ronde area of Oregon, near where Marie Anne was from. Church records indicate that a man named Jean Baptiste Vautrin died there on February 18, 1893.

We do have quite a bit of information on Jean Baptiste Vautrin and are in contact with direct descendants of his who have significantly more. Should any of his other descendants read this, we would be happy to direct you toward same.

Amelie Vautrin

Xavier's eldest surviving daughter we know about was Amelie who became our great great grandmother. She was born in 1840 or 1841 at Fort Langley. She was married first to Pierre Legace and we believe had four children with him prior to his death in 1865. We know for sure that two of their daughters survived infancy and grew up to marry and have children of their own. Amelie's second marriage was to Samuel Wesley Handy, with whom she had at least six more children.

Amelie spoke only French and Sam Handy apparently spoke mostly French at home also. Accordingly their children knew little English so had to learn it at school. Amelie taught at least one of her grandchildren, Mary Rivers, some French swear words that she would get in trouble for repeating to her mother at home. Amelie died on December 7, 1891 and was the first person buried at St. Francis Xavier Church in Mill Bay on Vancouver Island.

Amelie Vautrin--first marriage

(by Jill Edwards)

Amelie's first husband was Pierre Legace who was born in 1840 at Fort Simpson, today's Port Simpson, BC. His mother was a Tshimsian Indian named Lisette.

His father, also named Pierre Legace, was the son of Emme, a Native woman (Nez Perce, Spokane or Flathead depending upon the source) and "a wandering French Canadian fur trapper" who according to oral tradition was also named Pierre Legace. His father's sister, Josette Legace, married John Work, a well-known HBC employee who eventually became a Chief Factor.

The middle Pierre Legace was himself an HBC employee from 1832 to 1855. His longest stint in one place was at Fort Simpson from 1837 to 1853. From there he went to Fort Nisqually where his sons Pierre and Charles joined him and also worked.

The younger Pierre Legace married Amelie Vautrin in the late 1850s in Victoria. Both Pierres (Peters), Amelie (Mile), and Charles are included on the 1860 census of Pierce County, Washington Territory. Also included on that census were Amelie and the younger Pierre's children: Rosalie, aged 2, and Susan, aged 2 months. Amelie and Pierre later had two more children, a daughter Amelia Ellen born in 1864 in Moodyville (in today's British Columbia) and a son whose name we don't know.

We don't know what happened to their oldest daughter Rosalie Legace though it would appear that she did not survive childhood.

Their next daughter Susan (Susette) Legace, born in 1859 at Steilacoom in Washington Territory, grew up and married John Greig on August 11, 1878. John's parents were John Greig, Sr. and Margaret Goudie. Both the elder John Greig and Margaret's father were HBC employees. The children of Susette and John Greig were Rosalie, Amelia (Toosey), Catherine, Robert, Emilia, Mary Ellen (Min), John, Thomas, Clarence, Ernest, and George.

Their youngest daughter Amelia Ellen Legace grew up and married William Albert Rivers on April 21, 1884. William Rivers was born in 1860 in Oswestry, Shropshire, England. He came out to Vancouver Island when he was about fifteen, in the company of his older brother Henry. William and Amelia homesteaded near Shawnigan Lake, a few miles west from Xavier's pre-empted land. Their property included the land which is today William Rivers Community Park. They had eight children, the eldest being Mary Amelia Rivers (called "Mim" or "Mimmie") who was my maternal grandmother. Their other children were Gertrude, Elizabeth (Helen), William, Ethel, Mabel, Charles and Albert.

We believe that the younger Pierre Legace drowned in the Fraser River, along with his young son, in about 1865. His widow, Amelie Vautrin Legace, later remarried as Laurel describes below.

If our sources are correct, descendants of this line can count members of at least four different First Nations groups among their ancestors and in some cases more. This is a wonderful forum for capturing and sharing these particular facets of our family histories before they are lost to time. I would be happy to hear from other descendants to share information.Jill Edwards

Amelie Vautrin--second marriage

(by Laurel Katernick)

After the death of her first husband, Amelie Vautrin married Samuel Wesley Handy on January-15-1866 in New Westminster, B.C., Canada. Amelie entered into this marriage with two children from her first marriage to Pierre LeGace, their daughters Susette and Amelia. We are somewhat curious as to what Amelie was doing in New Westminster at the time of her second marriage. Her father and Uncle were both residing on Vancouver Island with their families. At the time of the marriage Sam was in New Westminster working on a lightship at the mouth of the Fraser River.

Samuel Wesley Handy was from Parsonstown, Kings County, Ireland. Recent research has uncovered this was possibly Sam’s second marriage also. Sam was in California with his father from approximately 1853-1858. It should be noted Sam’s father's name is also Samuel Wesley Handy. Likewise Sam also had a son named Samuel Wesley Handy. As mentioned above, recent research has hinted at the possibility that Amelie was not Samuel Wesley Handy’s biological mother. His death registration lists place of birth as California in approximately 1856. This would have been about ten years prior to Sam and Amelie’s marriage date. I have uncovered no solid evidence to confirm the above.

In 1873 Sam took a liking to the Cobble Hill and Mill Bay area on Vancouver Island, B.C, Canada. There he bought 160 acres and settled with Amelie. This property was located a few miles east of Amelie's father's property. It bordered the waterfront in Mill Bay and is believed to have been adjacent to Handy Road. Together they raised 8 children, Susette, Amelia, Samuel, Mary, Ellen, Rebekah, Walter and Florence. There are also listed in records two other children; Henry born in 1874 and Susan born in 1876. I have not been able to confirm these last two children with any backup documentation.

Jill has listed whom Susette and Amelia married. Now to deal with the others.

Samuel married Sarah Emily Bullock in 1903. This was Sarah’s second marriage as she was left a widow upon the death of her first husband. Sarah entered into this marriage with one child, a son, named Dave Brown. Bullock is Sarah’s maiden name and her family was also from Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. The couple settled in Grand Forks, B.C., Canada and spent their lives there. It is unknown whether or not Sam and Sarah had any children of their own.

Mary Elizabeth Handy married Francois Xavier LaFortune in 1887. They were the first couple to be married in St. Francis Xavier Church in Mill Bay on Vancouver Island. Together this couple raised 6 children. Mary and Francois’ first 2 sons were born in Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. Sometime between 1891 and 1895 they family moved to Beaver Hills, NWT which is now Alberta. Once in Alberta the couple had 4 more children, 3 boys and one girl. The third child born to them is my maternal grandfather Albert Joseph LaFortune. Mary died in Alberta in 1899 upon the birth of her last child.

Ellen Handy married James Dykes in 1902 in Vancouver where they both resided until their deaths in the 1970s. Ellen Handy lived close to where I grew up in Vancouver and my mother and I used to visit her for afternoon tea. We do not todate have much information on this family other than 2 daughters.

Rebekah Cecelia Handy married Hank Robertson in 1893. Together they raised 6 children, 2 sons and 4 daughters. This family resided at Shawnigan Lake on Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. Records indicate that at some point Rebekah remarried to another man named Werner Carlson. Records indicate that Hank Robertson was killed in a logging accident. We are not aware of any children born of the marriage to Werner Carlson. My mother as a young girl spent summers out at Shawnigan Lake with her "Aunt Bek" and cousins. Rebekah passed away in 1961 in Victoria.

Walter Xavier Handy was born in 1879. We have not been able to confirm his place of birth although we do believe it to be on Vancouver Island. Nothing is known about Walter’s life other than he died in Prince George, B.C., Canada in 1947.

Florence Estelle Handy was born in 1882 in Cobble Hill, Vancouver Island, B.C., Canada. She was twice married, first to man with the last name Cox and second to a man named Frank Porter. Little is know about Florence’s life other than my maternal grandfather came across her once in Tacoma. No record of the birth of any children born to her in B.C. has been discovered yet nor any death registration.

We do have extensive information on most of the above mentioned individuals. This includes ancestors as well as descendants for the most part. Should any of the surnames be related to research you are conducting please contact us using the e-mail link at the bottom of the page.


We wish to express our sincere gratitude and appreciation to Jean Barman, Bruce Watson and our newly found cousins who have been most generous in sharing information with us. We also must extend our thanks to the kind people at the Sooke Region Museum, the Saanich Pioneer Museum, and the St. Francis Xavier Church in Mill Bay. (Note: Any errors in the narrative are ours, and we would appreciate having them pointed out to us.)

*Please note this biography is also posted onThe Children of Fort Langley site.

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UPDATED January-01-2003
Copyright 2001 Laurel Katernick