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The name of Madame Montour first appears in the Minutes of the Provincial Council on July 3, 1727, when she served as the interpreter for Deputy Governor Patrick Gordon, in office from 1726 to 1736, who met with various chiefs of the Cayuga, Conestoga, and Conoy tribes assembled at Philadelphia. The Cayuga had requested the meeting with Gordon on behalf of the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy to discuss land purchases and limiting white settlements on the Susquehanna River. They also complained about the rum trade in the backcountry.

Elisabeth/Isabelle Couc dit Lafleur/Montour, generally known as Madame Montour, was born about 1667 in Trois-Riviere, the daughter of a Frenchman, Pierre Couc dit Lafleur, and his Algonquin-speaking wife, Mitouamegoukoue, who resided in Quebec. She was first married in the Catholic faith to Joachim Germaneau of Limoges, France, in 1684. Little more than ten years later, she was apparently captured by an Iroquois war party about 1695 and, after being ransomed, moved to Mich- ilimackinac where she served as an interpreter. By 1704, she had married Pierre Tichenet who was killed two years later during the Ottawa/Miami war at Fort Pontchartrain in 1706. She subsequently accompanied her brother, Louis Couc Montour, from Detroit to New York where she married an Oneida chief, Carandawana, who died in a war against the Catawbas in 1729. From 1737 to 1742, Madame Montour resided at Ostanwaken, near present-day Montoursville in northcentral Pennsylvania. She later lived near Sunbury.

Her valued services as an Indian interpreter earned her status as an honored guest at the Treaty of Lancaster in 1744. Historians believe she died somewhere along the Susquehanna River between 1748 and 1753. Although she had been married in the Catholic faith and had frequent contact with Native Americans in the Susquehanna River basin who had been converted by Quaker missionaries, she shared somewhat bizarre beliefs with Moravian missionary David Zeisberger (1721– 1808). On June 21, 1745, she revealed to Zeisberger that she believed Bethlehem was located in France and that Jesus Christ had been crucified by the English.

The Minutes of the Provincial Council in the Records of the Proprietary Government (Record Group 21) at the Pennsylvania State Archives provide important insight into colonial/native relations during the colonial period. These have been printed in sixteen volumes as Minutes of the Provincial Council of Pennsylvania (Harrisburg: 1836–1860).


Willis L. Shirk, Jr. is an archivist at the Pennsylvania State Archives.