Encyclopedia Of Detroit

Cadillac, Madame Marie Thérèse

Wife of Detroit founder Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac, Madame Marie Thérèse Guyon Cadillac was born in Quebec in 1671 to Denis and Elizabeth Guyon. The Cadillacs were married on June 25, 1687 and the couple lived in what is now known as Nova Scotia.

In 1698, Cadillac petitioned King Louis XIV for authorization to establish an outpost along the waterway connecting Lakes Erie and Huron – “le détroit,” or, “the strait.” The King granted his approval, and Cadillac set out from Montreal with a crew of over 100 Frenchmen and Native Americans. It cost 1,500 livres, the equivalent of $300, to establish the settlement.

Madame Cadillac received word that her husband and his party had successfully and safely made the journey to le Détroit. Cadillac wanted his wife and child to join him to prove that the settlement was a suitable place for family life. Despite some protest, in September 1701 Madame Cadillac boldly set off from Montreal in a canoe, along with her nine-year-old son and Madame de Tonty, the wife of Cadillac’s Lieutenant.

The group arrived at Fort Pontchartrain in October 1701. They are supposedly the first European women to set foot in Michigan. Upon their arrival, they were warmly received by many of the Native Americans and the fort’s inhabitants. At the settlement Madame Cadillac took on many responsibilities and administrative duties for the settlement - she hired voyagers, signed contracts, and served as a doctor to the two hundred habitants and neighboring Native Americans. Her husband was recalled twice to Quebec, and during his absences she would maintain interests in his stead.

While at the fort, the Cadillacs had several more children. They had a total of 13 children, many of whom died at a very early age. She remained in Detroit until 1710, when her husband was removed from command and sent to Louisiana. She then returned to France where she lived until her death in 1746. At the time of her death she was survived by 3 living children.



 Postcard depicting the "Arrival of Madame Cadillac"

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