Mary Ann Brule Vautrin

Elida Peers writes about the history of the Sooke region

Mary Ann Brule Vautrin

Probably not many women in the history of the west coast of North America could rival her, when it comes to generations of grandchildren.  Mary Ann was born at Marysville (Corvallis) in the Willamette Valley of Oregon in 1834.  Her parents were of Iroquois and Kalapuya blood; she was raised to age 15 at the Catholic Mission at St. Paul.

Early documents in our possession read “… I was married there to Joseph Brulé, a French Canadian and went to Cowlitz and later to Victoria, British Columbia.  Lived there till he died and had six children by him … only two are living now, Ellen and Cecile.  Two years after my husband died, I married Jean Baptist Vautrin, a Canadian … by Mr Vautrin I had nine children … ”

It was in 1850 that the wagon train of the Brulé and Poirier families reached Canada, after they decided to travel north to remain with the “Crown” rather than stay below the newly decided 49th parallel border after the Oregon Treaty was signed in 1846.

Ellen, the daughter Mary Ann mentions above, married Joseph Poirier, a voyageur from Quebec (the man for whom Ecolé Poirier is named) and raised a large family, in a cabin by the Sooke River and later a home on Grant Road.  Many of their youngsters became the nucleus of our early Sooke and Otter population, with names such as Poirier, Davidson, Robinson, Michelsen, Vowles, and Dilley.

Mary Ann refers to her second marriage in 1860, to J.B. Vautrin, and the nine children born to him. While Mary Ann was busy bearing children, she also helped with the family income, with some accounts speaking of her piling bark at the Muir sawmill. From this second family of children, it was Mary Ann’s daughter Mary Ann, who grew up to marry John Goudie, son of a Scots HBC trader, who also extended the Sooke and Otter population through the large Goudie clan.

The photo here of Mary Ann Vautrin was taken in 1917 at Grande Ronde, Oregon, after she had moved back to her original homeland in the Columbia Basin. She is posed at the home of her granddaughter Mildred Holmes, offspring of the daughter Cecile that had been born of her earlier marriage to Joseph Brulé.

Decades ago, when I was in Oregon visiting this family, great-grandson Merle Holmes gave us this photo to take back to the land where Mary Ann raised her children, in the valley over which our Mt. Brulé stands sentinel, named for Jean Baptiste Brulé, father of Joseph Brulé and father-in-law of Mary Ann.

Elida Peers,

Historian

Sooke Region Museum

 

(Note:  Brulé is correctly spelled with an accent over the e, and pronounced BRULAY)

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