Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac 1657-1730 by Agnes Laut was published by The Ryerson Press in 1930 and belongs to the Ryerson Canadian History Readers series.
The intent of the Canadian History Readers series was to portray many of the colourful personalities and events that shaped the early history of New France and eventually North America. These included the lives of indigenous men and women, European explorers and adventurers as well as depictions of many of the institutions that were created during the 17th and 18th centuries as well as the wars that were waged and battles that were fought, won and lost.
The series is written in a narrative style with contributions from many of the prominent Canadian writers of the 1920s and ‘30s, many with illustrations by C.W. Jeffries.
Lorne Pierce, editor of the Ryerson Press from 1922 to 1960, was determined to provide young readers with readable, historical references of the many characters and events that dot the pages of Canadian history. These paperback editions were usually no more than 32 pages in length and sold for ten cents. An interesting note on many covers indicate that these books were “Endorsed by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire and The Provincial Departments of Education.”
The Toronto Globe in an early review of the Series reads in part: “A large number of these popular little books have made their appearance…They make absorbing reading for any one wishing to get a brief insight into the romantic life surrounding the important personalities in Canadian history.”
Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac was one such adventurer. He was born in 1658 in Saint Nicholas de la Grave, France, in the province of Gascony near the Pyrenees. He was educated in law and biology at a Jesuit institution. After a short military stint, la Mothe left for New France in 1683. Historians have found no record of his name on any passenger list leaving from France. La Mothe took this opportunity to create a new identity for himself.
He landed at Port Royal, Acadia, and spent the next several years exploring the eastern seaboard as far south as the Carolinas working as a trader. In 1687 he married Marie-Therese Guyon and together they had 13 children.
In 1688, La Mothe was introduced to the governor of New France, Louis de Frontenac, who sent him on a mission to explore the coast of New England but he was forced to return to France due to bad weather. While in Paris, la Mothe was made officer of marine troops by Louis Pontchartrain. When la Mothe returned to Port Royal, he discovered that the fort had been seized by the British and his wife and family held prisoner. But by 1691, la Mothe had again returned to Quebec and continued his chart-making and in 1692 he had become a Lieutenant Commander.
In this role la Mothe held several positions including commander of Fort du Buade (now St. Ignace, MI). In 1701 he founded Fort Pontchartrain du Detroit (now the city of Detroit) and a few years later he was appointed Governor of Louisiana from 1710-1716.
The founders of the Cadillac Motor Company adopted his name and coat of arms in 1902.
There are many towns and locations named after Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac. However, later historians citing his dubious past and years of trading in alcohol and furs branded him a “soldier of fortune” and not “one of the great early heroes.” In fact, some would go so far as to brand him “one of the worst scoundrels to set foot in New France.”*
La Mothe returned to France and after a brief stint in the Bastille, eventually cleared his name and was appointed governor and mayor of Castlesarrasin, a town in the south of France near his birthplace. Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac died October 16, 1730 at the age of 72.
Agnes Christina Laut was born in Stanley Township, Huron County, Ontario February 11, 1871. She was the daughter of John and Eliza Laut. The family moved to Manitoba when she was five. Laut was educated at University of Manitoba and began a journalistic career with the Manitoba Free Press. She travelled extensively across the continent and moved to the United States in 1900 where she resided for most of her life. Laut continued to write about Canada and many of her titles were published by The Ryerson Press including, Lords of the North, 1900, The Story of the Trapper, 1902, Pathfinders of the West, 1904, Canada The Empire of the North, 1909, Heralds of Empire, 1913, Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac 1930, John Tanner, 1930, Marquette, 1930. Agnes Laut died in Wassaic, New York in 1936.
*Yves F. Zoltvany, (University of Western Ontario), Wikipedia