Daniel Joncaire's Memoire
AKA: Sieur de Chabert et de Clausonne
By John Fagant

On this page below:




The name of “Joncaire” was quite prominent during the time of the French presence in the Niagara region.  Causing some confusion, Joncaire actually refers to three individuals; the father and two of his sons. They were known throughout Canada, New York and the Ohio Valley dating from the 1690’s to 1759 and the fall of France in North America.

Father:  Thomas Louis de Joncaire (1670 – 1739)

AKA:  Sieur de Chabert

Oldest Son:  Phillippe Thomas de Joncaire (1707 – c. 1766)
AKA: Sieur de Joncaire et Chabert
AKA: Captain Joncaire

Youngest Son:  Daniel de Joncaire (c. 1716 – late 1700’s)
AKA: Sieur de Chabert et de Clausonne
AKA: Chabert
AKA: Joncaire-Chabert
AKA: Clausonne

Father:  Thomas Louis de Joncaire

Born around 1670 in France, Thomas Louis de Joncaire moved to North America in 1687. He was soon after captured by the Seneca Indians of the Iroquois nation. Tortured by his captors, he showed bravery in the face of death. His admiring torturers, respecting his courage, saved him from death and instead adopted him into the tribe. For the next several decades, Joncaire served as mediator, trader, advisor and interpreter for the French and Iroquois nations. He was instrumental in procuring approval from the Seneca for the building of a permanent post on the Niagara Frontier, now known as the French Castle (1726) in Fort Niagara.  When he died in 1739, two of his sons ably replaced him. They served in a similar capacity until the end of the French and Indian War (1759).

Oldest Son:  Phillippe Thomas

Phillippe Thomas, the eldest son of Joncaire, spent several years of his youth living among the Seneca Nation and, like his father, was adopted into the tribe. Upon his father’s death, he ascended to the role that his father had; that is, of trader, interpreter, advisor and even a military command when needed. Although his role in WNY history is generally overlooked, at least in comparison to his younger brother (see below), Joncaire was well known and highly regarded among his contemporaries, including the British who at one point placed a bounty on him, dead or alive.

Late in the year of 1753, Captain Joncaire and his men were building a fort in Venango County, Pennsylvania. A 21 year old Virginian named George Washington arrived from the wilderness to issue a formal complaint of French trespassing on Virginian soil. The Captain politely accepted the presence of the young man and then sent him on to Fort Le Boeuf, a few miles further on, to officially present Virginia’s protest.

In 1759, Joncaire, along with many other French soldiers, surrendered at the siege of Fort Niagara. He spent his remaining days in France.

Youngest Son:  Daniel de Joncaire

Daniel de Joncaire was at least seven years younger than his older brother. Like his father and brother before him, he also spent several years of his youth living among the Senecas. He also was adopted into the tribe. The ceremony of adoption was a serious one that involved a lifelong acceptance of one into the new family. The adoption was key for Chabert to carry on with his duties for the French government - that of interpreter, trader, keeper of the peace between the Native Americans and the French and also as an agitator of relations with the British. Chabert spent his time between the French posts, including Fort Niagara, and the Seneca villages. He estimated that by 1738, he had made some 40 such journeys into the wilderness living with his adopted brethren for months at a time.

By 1751, he was the commandant of Little Fort Niagara, located on the upper river. In 1758, Chabert was ordered to take men and supplies to the Riviere aux Chevaux (now the Buffalo River) and form a settlement. The significance of this event on local history is that he was the first non Native American to attempt a permanent settlement on land that later became the city of Buffalo.  Chabert’s settlement, located where General Mills is now present on Ganson street, lasted only a year and a half before it was destroyed due to the British takeover of Fort Niagara.

At the conclusion of the French and Indian War, the French government prosecuted many of the North American French who participated in the war on charges of corruption and abuse of privileges for private gain. Joncaire-Chabert was arrested and sent to prison in France at the Bastille where he awaited his trial.

The Memoir

Daniel Joncaire wrote his memoirs while in prison at the Bastille as a way to defend himself against the charges laid upon him by the French government. The memoirs can be read with this in mind. However, they also should be viewed as an extremely valuable source of French history on the Niagara Frontier during the last three decades of their presence - the 1730’s, 40’s and 50’s. Along with descriptions of Chabert’s journeys through the region, specific events are also described. These include a meeting with a Seneca leader of the seasonal village of La Petite Rapide, located in present day Buffalo on the Niagara River. However, it is the description of the 1758 settlement within the borders of present day Buffalo that is of importance to local history.

Chabert was eventually exonerated of the charges against him. His name was cleared and he was allowed to return to North America. He and his family settled in the Detroit region where he died many years later.


 Introductory text 2004 John Fagant
Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2014

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