Antoine Cadillac founded Detroit as a settled trading post and military fort in July, 1701. Shortly after, the Ottawa tribe settled directly across from Detroit close to the location of this historical marker. I do not know if the Indians lived here all year round or just visited this place regularly when they were trading with the French merchants in Detroit. The missionaries who accompanied Cadillac hoped that the Indians would settle near the French outpost so that they could provide religious instruction, enlightenment and teach them French. I believe that the Huron tribe established a settlement south of the point where this marker stands, close to the current Canadian entrance to the Ambassador Bridge. In 1728, Jesuit priest, Father Armand de la Richardie, established The Mission of Our Lady of the Assumption to serve the Huron Indians. That parish continues to the present, but is now known as Assumption Parish with its large church located at 350 Huron in Windsor.
In 1748, the first French settlers established themselves just opposite Detroit on the south bank of the river. As the marker indicates, their location was about 6.5 kilometers to the south in the neighborhood now known as Sandwich. Originally, they called their settlement Le Petite Côte, but they found that the sandy soil near the river was not at all productive. Soon enough the settlement had the sobriquet, La Côte de Misère. The first real church was built by the Jesuit missionaries in 1765 to serve the Huron Indians and about 60 French families. In 1767, under the leadership of Father Pierre Potier, an official parish was canonically established. This is the oldest continuously operating religion congregation in Canada west of Montréal. The cornerstone for the current Assumption Church was laid down in 1842.
I presume that the crown’s authorities in Detroit also made land grants on the south shore. And I presume that the same system of ribbon farms, that is, farms that had access to the river but were long and very narrow. Perhaps some of the street names in Windsor: Goyeau, Lauzon, Ouellettte, Pelissier and Marentette report the names of original families. As the marker tells us, the French who settled here were not originally from Detroit, but rather from the St. Lawrence Valley in Quebec. This early arrival of French settlers here makes this area the oldest French settlement in Canada west of Montréal meaning that Windsor has had a francophone community for more than two and one-half centuries. The powerful radio station CDEF, broadcasting from Windsor, is currently the only French language station in metropolitan Detroit.
Photograph: Ren Farley, October 29, 2008
Description prepared: December, 2008
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