RICHARD TENO for THE STORYKEEPERS PROJECT
It is difficult to convey the profound sense of attachment that many ‘descendants of Nouvelle-France’ have to the shorelines, rivers, forests, and islands of our cultural landscape. Just as Franco-Ontarians, French-Canadians, etc. might describe their genealogy by recounting the journeys of their ancestors, we also sometimes describe our sense of place through descriptions of the physical landscape and our relationship to it. In this essay, Richard Teno writes about his family’s long presence in the Windsor area, along the Detroit River in view of Pêche Isle. In so doing he helps to preserve an often obscured and little-known history of an area that is central to the experience of Great Lakes French, Métis, and First Nations people. —ed.
When I was around ten years old my father took me to St. Alphonse’s cemetery and we stood in front of this large stone monument. Charles Teno his grandfather was there and his Dad, Arthur Charles, and his brother Clarence Charles and his Uncle Joseph Charles Teno: their names were all chiseled into the granite. His grandmother Delina Ducharme Teno and his Aunt Rose St Louis Teno were beside their husbands. Dad said he was named after his father who died when he was just short of 5 years old in 1929. His brother Clarence took his Mother’s place beside his Dad. His Mother, Vina Lesperance Teno, was at someplace called St Anne’s cemetery, he said.
We left the cemetery and drove by his childhood home on Windermere Road in old Walkerville Ontario. From there we stopped where the Little River empties into the Detroit River. He pointed at Peche Island and told me that our family had owned that island with the Indians, and that they had lived on it for nearly 100 years. Unknowingly, he had set the hook on my family tree passion that day.
My grandfather and father were both named Arthur Charles Teno. My grandfather was born on the family farm in Sandwich East Township in 1884. The lot number was 132. It is located along the Little River directly across from Peche Island in the Detroit River. It has a history of hands and feet upon it. First it was the property of the Ottawa Indians, their village was just west of lot 132. They gifted this land to a Chippewa or Ojibwa First Nations woman called Tano. This is found in the Detroit Notarial Records and mentioned on page 328 in The Windsor Border Region by Ernest Lajeunesse.
This gift to her was no small event. The ceremony took place on June 13, 1776. Four Ottawa Chiefs were present and all their young braves. They assembled in the Council house of the Governor of Detroit, Henry Hamilton and the document was signed by John Hay, the appointed Indian agent of Detroit for King George the Third of Great Britain.
The Indians started giving their lands to friends and this was causing problems for the British hierarchy. To resolve this the Land Boards were established. The Land Boards did not recognize many of these gifts. The Land Boards were created in 1789 to oversee land matters, to facilitate settlement in the four districts and to grant certificates of location to the settlers. The Land Boards were abolished in 1794 when the land granting process was centralized through the Executive Council.
Antoine Louis Descompt dit Labadie married Angélique Campeau, daughter of Nicolas Campeau dit Niagara and Agathe Casse dite St Aubin, 26 February 1759 in Ste Anne church in Detroit. Following Angélique Campeau’s death, he had eight children by Marie, an Ojibwa/Chippewa woman. In a Land Board meeting held in Detroit Feb 8 1793 that was set to deal with the inhabitants of Assumption, Antoine Labadie was granted lot 117, which is the Ottawa Indian Village, and lot 132. He than had to swore an oath of allegiance to the King and Crown.
The land records of Essex County, Ontario, show that Antoine Labadie sold lot 132, which is 200 acres, to his daughter Thérèse Descompt dite Labadie and her husband Charles Bernier in 1807. Bernier sold it to Francois Letourneau in 1825 and on July 11, 1834, Jean Baptist LaForet alias Tano bought it from Francois Letourneau.
Jean Baptist was the son of Charles Tano and Ursula Soulliere. He married Basilisse Seguin dit Laderoute in 1826. He was born straight across from the Little River on Peche Island in 1801 where later, in 1857; the Chiefs and the principal men of the Chippewa tribes would sell Peche Island to the Crown.
Jean’s younger brother Antoine Tanoe was also born on the island, in 1811. As kids they could see this little river from the front door of their parents 16 by 32 foot log home. Many times they had paddled up the Little River to hunt and fish. Antoine Tanoe bought 28 arpents of lot 132 from his brother Jean in 1847. Eventually he would share the entire 200 acres with him. They would sell 1.6 acres of lot 132 to the Great Western RailWay Company and witness the first railway tracks being built in 1853.
In the 1851 Canada West Census of Essex County, in the Township of Sandwich the enumerator was Charles Labadie. He listed the family name of Jean Baptist and Antoine as Tanoe. All the Tanoe children of brothers Jean Baptist and Antoine were born on lot 132. Antoine and Theotize Duroseau had 3 children. Charles, the second son, was born in 1846.
Jean-Baptist Tanoe, by two wives, had fifteen children. Louis was born in 1854 to his second wife Fanny St Jean. Charles and Louis were each willed 100 acres of lot 132 from their fathers. They would live beside each other their entire lives.
Charles Teno, Antoine’s son, would give “in love and affection” his father’s land onto his children, Joseph Charles, Nellie Soulliere, Miranda Joinville, Arthur Charles, Harry Charles, Alice Souilliere, and Louise Mayrand in 1910. Miranda and her husband Edgar Joinville would take over the farming of her fathers and grandfathers land.
Louis Tino passed in 1946 and his wife Arthemise Julie Nantais passed in 1955. His wife was the granddaughter of Marie Descomps Dit Labadie. They had sold the surrounding farmland over time, but kept the original family home. They had six children. His daughter, Blanche, had a hairdressing shop there. Blanche never married and never left the place of her birth on lot 132 until her death in 1986 at the age of 87.
This was their home and native lands.