DAUPHIN DE LA FOREST, FRANÇOIS, employee of Cavelier* de La Salle at Fort Frontenac (Cataracoui, now Kingston, Ont.), holder of the trading concession of Saint-Louis-des-Illinois, captain, manager, and commandant at Detroit; b. c. 1649 in Paris, son of Gabriel de La Forest, lieutenant of the provost of Île-de-France, and of Jeanne Noreau; d. 15 Oct. 1714 at Quebec.
According to the Cavelier family, La Forest had not been born a nobleman, and it was simply as a clerk that La Salle is believed to have brought him to Canada in 1675 to manage Fort Frontenac or Cataracoui (now Kingston), which had just been granted to La Salle. While on his travels, he left La Forest to act as his attorney and to assume command with the title of garrison adjutant. La Forest went regularly to Montreal, about five days’ journey from Cataracoui, to buy merchandise and hire men. In September 1682 he brought to Montreal the Onondaga chief Teganissorens, the representative sent by the Five Nations to the governor. The profits from the fur-trading at Cataracoui were security for the loans contracted by La Salle; consequently La Forest’s management was closely watched and even criticized by the Sieur François Plet (Pellet), a cousin and principal creditor of La Salle, as well as by the merchants of the colony who had advanced funds. The merchants gained the day, and in 1683 La Barre [Le Febvre*] seized La Salle’s two trading concessions, namely Cataracoui and Fort Saint-Louis-des-Illinois, in order to hand them over to the merchants. The following year, however, the king ordered the governor to return these properties and to give his full protection to M. de La Forest, who after accompanying La Salle to France returned to take command at Cataracoui.
But now that the Iroquois were taking their furs to the English, the post was ruined. Therefore when, in 1685, Denonville [Brisay] set up a garrison there, La Forest, having no news of his employer, went up the lakes to join Henri Tonty at Saint-Louis-des-Illinois, where the fur trade was more profitable and there was less competition. As La Salle had disappeared and Tonty had set off in search of him, La Forest took over command at Fort Saint-Louis and managed everything himself, making the fur-trading contracts and purchasing goods. To comply with the governor’s orders, he had in addition to raise parties of Illinois to harry the English fur-traders and the Iroquois.
In 1689, setting forth these services rendered to the colony, La Forest asked for the trading concession at Saint-Louis-des-Illinois for himself and for Tonty. This was granted to them the following year, but the undertaking was to prove onerous in the long run. Indeed, in exchange for the exclusive right to the fur trade throughout the territory, the court demanded an ever increasing participation in the war against the Iroquois. The repeated levying of men, the cost of which devolved upon the trading concessionaires, was a charge against the revenues which they could get from trade. In 1684, as governor of the Illinois country, La Salle had granted La Forest a captain’s commission, but it was not until 1691 that the latter was entered on the list of officers maintained in the colony. Obviously, the emoluments from this appointment alone were not enough to enable La Forest to exploit his trading concession. Consequently, when in 1696 the king decided to close all the posts in the west except for Saint-Louis, but on condition that no fur-trading be carried on there, Frontenac [Buade*] was able to reply that the measure meant abandoning the grant. Despite the governor’s reiterated protests, the court maintained its prohibition. The decision no longer affected Tonty, who had made his share over to his brother before going down to Mobile. As for La Forest, he managed to stay on at Saint-Louis-des-Illinois until 1702, when the governor ordered him to come back east if he wanted to enjoy the commission as a captain on the active list at Placentia (Plaisance), which had just been granted to him.
In the autumn of that same year La Forest was installed in command of his company, but he refused to go to Placentia, and seems to have spent at most 18 months in garrison at Trois-Rivières before receiving in 1705 an order to serve at Fort Pontchartrain (Detroit); this was due to the recommendation of Laumet, dit de Lamothe Cadillac. In 1710 the latter was appointed governor of Louisiana, and the minister gave “the command of Detroit to the Sieur de La Forest, a second-rate individual, with the undeclared intention of letting this establishment, which is a bad one, drop, without abandoning it publicly after having supported it for so long.” At the same time, while giving compensation to Lamothe, La Forest had agreed to run the post with the profits from the seigneury and a fur-trading licence limited to 20,000 livres for beaver. But this new undertaking was to be still more difficult than the one at Saint-Louis-des-Illinois, in view of the high costs required to maintain the garrison. Involved in a lawsuit with Lamothe after being similarly involved with the Tonty brothers, vainly endeavouring to get the heirs of La Salle to recognize a promissory note which the latter was said to have signed for him, caught up in the stormy affairs of Charlotte-Françoise Juchereau de Saint-Denis, whom he had married in 1702, La Forest died at Quebec in 1714. He left a complicated inheritance, which his family in France finally rejected.
AE, Mém. et doc., Amérique, 3. AN, Col., B, 15, 16, 22, 27, 29, 32–37; C11A, 5, 7, 8, 20, 21, 29, 32–34; C11E, 15; C13C, 3, f.151; D2D, carton 1; E, 246 (dossier de La Forest); F3, 2, 4–6. BN, MS, NAF 9279, f.105; 9290, 9293, 9304 (Margry). “Correspondance de Frontenac (1689–99),” APQ Rapport, 1927–28, 1928–29. “Estat des employs vaquans ausquels Monsieur le comte de Frontenac . . . a pourvue en l’année 1691 en attendant les commissions de sa majesté,” BRH, XIII (1907), 339. Jug. et délib., I. Le Blant, Histoire de la N.-F., 270n. A. Roy, Inv. greffes not., V, 92, 122, 142, 184–85; XVIII, XIX, XX. Charland, “Notre-Dame de Québec: le nécrologe de la crypte,” 174. Le Jeune, Dictionnaire. Gabriel Gravier, Cavelier de La Salle de Rouen (Paris, 1871); Découvertes et établissements de Cavelier de La Salle, de Rouen, dans l’Amérique du Nord . . . (Paris, 1870). “Notes sur les seigneuries du district de Rimouski,” BRH, XVII (1911), 313.