CAMPION, ÉTIENNE (baptized Étienne-Charle), fur-trader and merchant; b. 15 Jan. 1737 at Montreal, son of Étienne Campion, dit Labonté, an innkeeper, and Charlotte Pepin; m. there 23 Oct. 1773 Magdeleine Gaultier; m. secondly 17 Feb. 1794 Josette Maillet at Trois-Rivières; d. 23 Dec. 1795, probably at Montreal, and was buried there three days later.
Étienne Campion first went into the pays d’en haut in 1753. By 1761 he was well acquainted with the region and was recommended as a guide and assistant to Alexander Henry* the elder, who planned a trading voyage to Michilimackinac (Mackinaw City, Mich.). Campion’s knowledge and support proved invaluable when Henry arrived at the post before the British force of occupation and was in some danger from the local indigenous people [see Minweweh*]. Campion continued as his assistant until 1763 and behaved, according to Henry, “with honesty and fidelity.”
Although Campion’s residence was in Montreal, he was active in religious and community affairs at Michilimackinac from 1765 to 1794. He traded to the south and to the northwest as well as at Michilimackinac, and he sold merchandise to the Indian Department there. During the American revolution he occasionally went on missions for the department. In 1779 a group of Michilimackinac traders, including Campion, pooled their goods in a partnership known as the General Store. Disorder connected with the revolution complicated their business, however. They had merchandise and furs at Fort St Joseph (Niles, Mich.) when in the fall of 1780 it was pillaged by raiders from Illinois. With a force of local Potawatomis, Campion overtook the party at a place called Rivière-du-Chemin (Michigan City, Ind.) and recovered most of the plunder, but in 1781 an attack in his absence destroyed the St Joseph post.
Once peace had been restored, Campion resumed his southwestern trade on an extensive scale. There was a marked increase in trading generally in the region during the years after the revolution, and competition was destructive of profits. In 1785 Campion joined with a number of merchants at Michilimackinac (Mackinac Island, Mich.) in a partnership known as the General Company of Lake Superior and the South, or as the General Society, which concentrated on the trade south to the Illinois country and west to the headwaters of the Missouri. In that year also, Campion became one of the 19 founding members of the Beaver Club in Montreal. The General Society apparently dissolved in 1787. Campion, along with William Grant* of Montreal and some others, formed in 1791 Grant, Campion and Company, which moved towards the trade southwest of the Great Lakes and at Timiskaming. It became an important rival of the North West Company. Campion’s group was party to a 1792 arrangement by which Joseph Frobisher* of the North West Company secured agreement among a number of the opposing concerns to diminish the competition at the western posts. The same year it acquired one of 46 shares in the North West Company. Grant, Campion and Company continued to outfit wintering traders in the region between Lake Superior and the Mississippi, and to sell wholesale to small merchants at Michilimackinac; the company also became associated with James Grant in the Timiskaming trade.
Campion was involved in a murder at Michilimackinac in 1792. According to the commandant, Edward Charlton, an Ojibwa named Wawenesse attempted to stab a trader and two others. Overpowered, his hands tied behind him, he was being led to the authorities when he was attacked and killed by seven men, including Campion. The incident was considered by a grand jury at Detroit, but the resolution is not known.
Campion continued with his normal business activities. In November 1795, Grant, Campion and Company was dissolved. Campion was in poor health and died the following month.
ANQ-M, État civil, Catholiques, Notre-Dame de Montréal, 15 janv. 1737, 23 oct. 1773, 26 déc. 1795; Greffe de J.-B. Adhémar, 30 avril 1754; Greffe de J.-G. Delisle, 19 déc. 1795; Greffe de Pierre Panet, 22 nov. 1773; Testaments, Testaments olographes, Étienne Campion, 19 déc. 1795. PAC, MG 19, B3, p.4. Ste Ann’s Parish (Mackinac Island, Mich.), Registre des baptêmes, mariages et sépultures de Sainte-Anne-de-Michillimakinak. Correspondence of Lieut. Governor Simcoe (Cruikshank), I. Docs. relating to NWC (Wallace). Henry, Travels and adventures (Bain). Michigan Pioneer Coll ., IX (1886), X (1886), XI (1887), XIII (1888), XIX (1891), XXIII (1893), XXIV (1894). Lebœuf, Complément, 1re sér., 24. Lefebvre, “Engagements pour l’Ouest,” ANQ Rapport, 1946–47. C. W. Alvord, The Illinois country, 1673–1818 (Chicago, 1922; repr. 1965). Rich, History of HBC, II. W. S. Wallace, The pedlars from Quebec and other papers on the Nor’Westers (Toronto, 1954). W. E. Stevens, “Fur trading companies in the northwest, 1760–1816,” Mississippi Valley Hist. Assoc., Proc. (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), IX, pt.2 (1918), 283–91.
Revisions based on:
Bibliothèque et Arch. nationales du Québec, Centre d’arch. de la Mauricie et du Centre-du-Québec (Trois-Rivières, Québec), CE401-S48, 17 févr. 1794; Centre d’arch. du Vieux-Montréal, CN601-S29, 10 nov. 1791. Library and Arch. Can. (Ottawa), R11960-0-2, vol.11. La Gazette de Montréal, 28 déc. 1795. E. E. Rich, The fur trade and the northwest to 1857 (Toronto, 1967). W. E. Stevens, “The organization of the British fur trade,” Mississippi Valley Hist. Rev. ([Cedar Rapids, Iowa]), 3 (1916–17): 172–202. M. [E.] Wilkins Campbell, The North West Company ([rev. ed., Toronto, 1973]).