On the French Frontier 1700-1800
Teachers Level Two
  1. Learning Goals and Objectives--Grades 6 - 8
  2. Voices and Choices--Nicholas Chassin
  3. Voices and Choices--Olivier Daniel
  4. The Convoy Simulation
  5. Side by Side Activity
Note: It is a good idea to print this section for easy reference.

Voices and Choices--Nicholas Chassin

Nicholas Chassin is a successful government official who is eager to find a wife. Because of the scarcity of women in the colonies, Nicholas' choices are limited. He must decide whether to wait for the Company of the Indies to send women over from Paris, to find a widow who will marry him, or to marry Agnes, the daughter of an Indian chief and a French farmer.


These themes can be explored with either a social studies or language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other cultures, students' own lives.


Think Use these questions to start class discussions.

In what ways did Nicholas Chassin represent royal authority in Illinois?

Nicholas Chassin worked for the Company of the Indies. The Company had been granted a monopoly over Illinois by the French royal government. Company men were representatives of the French royal government in the colonies. As royal storekeeper, Nicholas assisted with trade between the colonies and New Orleans, the capitol of French Louisiana and the Illinois country.

Why did Nicholas need a wife?

In a letter to his friend, Father Bobe, Nicholas wrote that he needed a wife in order to establish a home. Women were responsible for managing the household, raising the children, and sharing in the work of running the family farm (see information behind picture on page 3).

Why does Nicholas refer to his future wife as a "certain article of furniture"?

Although women were integral to the success of the frontier community, they were considered inferior to men. In Nicholas' mind, women were so synonomous with the running of a household that they were as essential as furniture. Ask your students to consider the tone of Nicholas' letter. Is he joking with Father Bobe? Does he feel awkward refering to such a personal decision as marriage? Is he afraid of the comittment of marriage?

How were women viewed in the 1700s?

Women were valuable to the survival of frontier communities. A man knew that his success depended upon having a wife who could share the work of running a household and farm. However, women were given no political power and were dependent on a husband to define their role in society (see information behind picture on page 3).

What kind of power did women hold in French colonial society? Do you think their position was affected by the scarcity of women in the colonies?

The French laws governing inheritance allowed a woman an equal share in her husband's estate. Because of the scarcity of women on the frontier and the wealth they could bring to a marriage, widows were in demand as brides. Remarriage brought a widow saftey and economic stability. Life was so difficult on the frontier that men and women married and died very young. A healthy woman could outlive two to three husbands in her lifetime (see information behind picture on page 5).

In what ways was marriage an economic agreement between a man and a woman?

At the time of marriage, men and women signed an official contract that set the economic terms of the marriage. The signing of the marriage contract took place before the religious ceremony, illustrating that marriage was considered an economic agreement first and foremost.

Agnes was Catholic, why do you think that was important to Nicholas Chassin?

Agnes' acceptance of the Catholic faith revealed to what extent she had become assimilated into the French community. As the wife of the royal storekeeper, she would have been expected to attend mass with him on Sundays and all church-related activities.


Activities for suggested activities.

1. Social Studies Report

Write a report comparing the roles of men and women on the French frontier. How was power divided between them?

2. Write A Dialogue

Imagine the dialogue that took place between Nicholas Chassin and Michel Philippe, father of Agnes, when Nicholas asked for her hand in marriage.

3. Prepare a Skit

In groups of four, develop a skit based on your dialogues between Agnes and her mother and between Philippe and Nicholas.

In preparation for presenting your skit to the class, you might want to paint a backdrop, such as an interior setting of a French colonial house.


Voices and Choices--Ollivier Danielle

Ollivier Danielle is a young man, in his 20s, who has arrived in Illinois from Canada. He needs to find work for himself and must choose among a variety of occupations.


These themes can be explored with either a social studies or language arts curriculum. Use these themes to tie in other resources to your class discussion, i.e., other books, other cultures, students' own lives.


Think Use these questions to start class discussions.

Where did Ollivier come from and how did he get to Illinois?

Ollivier Daniel came from Quebec, Canada. He would have travelled by canoe and on foot (during portages) from the Great Lakes and down the Illinois and Kaskaskia Rivers to the Illinois Country.

Why do you think he came to Illinois?

He came to Illinois to find work. Once French settlements were established in Illinois, many young men migrated from Canada to Illinois. They were attracted by the promise of adventure, cheap land, and job opportunities.

What kind of jobs did Ollivier consider doing?

Ollivier considered working as a fur trader, a lead miner, and as an apprentice to the locksmith.

Why did he decide to work for Sieur Becquet?

Ollivier was offered French shoes if he would sign the contract to work for Sieur Becquet for the year. Becquet also offered Ollivier lodging in his home for the duration of the contract.

In his new job when will he be paid?

Ollivier will be payed at the end of the year. Discuss with your students today's expectations of an hourly pay rate and standardized work conditions. How is the notion of work today different from that in Ollivier Daniel's time?


Activities for suggested activities.

1. Letter Writing

Pretend that you are Ollivier and write a letter to your family in Quebec describing your new life in Illinois. In your letter include a map you have drawn that shows your trip from Quebec to Illinois in 1725.

2. Oral Interviews

Imagine that you lived in Illinois at the same time as Ollivier Daniel. What kind of work would you have choosen to do? Why?

3. Understanding Locks

Bring in a padlock and pass it around the class. Ask students to think about:


The Convoy Simulation


The Convoy: involves students in a simulation of daily life in the French colonies centered around the convoy of 1752. Students have a chance to role-play one of six characters from the village of Kaskaskia. Some of the characters join the convoy of bateaux heading to New Orleans to trade. Some of the characters stay in the village of Kaskaskia. Students collaborate on finding solutions to a series of crises that take place in the village and on the Mississippi River.

Lesson Plan

Convoy Click here for the teacher's lesson plan for The Convoy simulation.


Side by Side Activity


Students use Side by Side as a model for categorizing information about themselves, their classmates, and their community.

Lesson Plan

Click here for the teacher's lesson plan for the Side by Side activity.


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