Approaching the settlement. [photo by Paul Benninghoff]


Re-enactors reveal life of French voyageurs

The year is 1750. Swamps and woods dominate the landscape, and clusters of sand dunes form Lake Michigan’s ancient shoreline. French voyageurs—fur trappers and traders—trek across the local Indian trails and sail the lake and waterways. A garrison stands guard at a small settlement near the lake that lies enshrouded by dunes and forest.

This bit of history would be lost if it were not for Les Habitants du Les Petit Fort, a group of local re-enactors who portray life on French-occupied land destined to become Northwest Indiana.

The log cabin at the settlement is a source of mystery. It possibly served as a small trading post, but there is no documentation from French, British or American military forces that reveals who built it. A handful of papers do refer to it.

One document speaks of a Revolutionary War skirmish erupting near the site in December 1780. A group of Americans waged an attack on the British-occupied Fort St. Joseph near Niles, Mich., and the Yanks used the frozen lakefront to make a quick escape.

Unfortunately, the redcoats caught up to them near the small fort, which was abandoned at the time, and the Battle of the Dunes raged. The Americans lost the battle, but as we know they didn’t lose the war.

Sadly, the cabin is long gone, but its story lives on. Today, the 11 re-enactors who form Les Habitants Du Petit Fort offer a vibrant glimpse of what life was like during the time of the French voyageurs. Although the personalities they portray are fictitious, the dress and manners of living are historically accurate. They participate at several events throughout The Region. You can see them at Maple Syrup Time at Deep River County Park in Hobart, the Voyageur Rendezvous at Grand Kankakee Marsh County Park in Hebron and the Buckley Homestead Fall Festival in Lowell.

For more information or to contact the re-enactors, you can visit their website at