AMIOT, JEAN-BAPTISTE, blacksmith; m. Marie-Anne, a Sauk Indian, at Michilimackinac about 1720; d. after 1763 at La Baye (Green Bay, Wis.).
Sometime before 1724 Jean-Baptiste Amiot came to Michilimackinac, where he was employed as a blacksmith by the Jesuit priest. About 1737 he had a serious disagreement with the priest then in charge, probably Pierre Du Jaunay*, who consequently fired him, took all his tools, and hired another blacksmith. A broken gun could mean disaster in the west, and Pierre-Joseph Céloron de Blainville, the commandant, realizing that two smiths were needed for the rapidly growing community and the neighbouring Ottawas and Ojibwas, advanced Amiot the funds to continue working. The priest, citing the monopoly of blacksmithing granted to the mission by the king, insisted that Amiot pay him half his profits. Thus Amiot worked under the watchful eye of the priest in a shop adjoining the rectory.
Although he was training his oldest son Augustin in his craft, Amiot was barely able to eke out an existence on the profits he was allowed to keep. By 1742, with a family of eight children, he was reduced to begging at the lodges of the local Ottawas, and he was seriously considering moving to the Illinois country. The Ottawas complained of Amiot’s plight to the governor, Charles de Beauharnois, and as a result of their intercession Amiot was permitted to retain all his profits.
Amiot did a considerable amount of work at the fort during the late 1740s, fixing guns, making axes, tomahawks, and picks, and doing other iron work. Apparently he practised his trade at Michilimackinac during the busy summer trading season and occasionally spent the winter with hunting Indian bands.
In 1758 his wife was buried in the cemetery at Michilimackinac. He continued working with the help of a slave or two and was residing at Michilimackinac when the English assumed control in 1761. Inspired by Pontiac, the local Ojibwas attacked the fort and massacred most of the garrison on 2 June 1763. The commandant, George Etherington, who was ransomed by the Ottawas, rewarded them by having Amiot repair their guns [see Gorrell].
Amiot apparently moved to La Baye sometime after 1763. There he quarrelled with an Indian named Ishquaketa, who had left an axe to be repaired. When Amiot seized the Indian with a pair of hot tongs, the Indian knocked him senseless with the axe. While Amiot was recovering, another Indian paid him a visit and stabbed him to death as he lay in bed. The exact date of Amiot’s death is unknown for the interment records of La Baye have not survived.
During his lifetime Amiot’s skills as a blacksmith had contributed substantially to the local economy and the necessary maintenance of relations with the Indians.
[Amiot’s parentage is obscure. Information in Tanguay, Dictionnaire, is contradictory, and Godbout, “Nos ancêtres,” APQ Rapport, 1951–53, and the Dictionnaire national des Canadiens français (1608–1760) (3v., Montréal, 1965), I, perpetuate the confusion. d.a.a.]
AN, Col., C11A, 72, ff.125, 213; 117, ff.321–23, 329, 425, 448–9; 118, f.117; 119, ff.178, 278. Clements Library, Thomas Gage papers, Supplementary accounts, A state of houses and lands at Michilimackinac. Newberry Library (Chicago), mss collection, George Etherington to Charles Langlade, 21 June 1763. French regime in Wis., 1727–48 (Thwaites), 372–73, 375–76, 410, 423–24. Augustin Grignon, “Seventy-two years’ recollections of Wisconsin,” Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., III (1857), 202–3. “Mackinac register of baptisms and interments – 1695–1821,” ed. R. G. Thwaites, Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., XIX (1910), 2–6, 17, 22, 26, 31, 36, 40, 47–49, 64, 66, 153, 155. “The Mackinac register of marriages – 1725–1821,” ed. R. G. Thwaites, Wis. State Hist. Soc. Coll., XVIII (1908), 482–83. L. M. Stone, “Archaeological research at Fort Michilimackinac, an eighteenth century historic site in Emmet County, Michigan: 1959–1966 excavations” (unpublished phd thesis, 2v., Michigan State University, East Lansing, Mich., 1970).