Judy Fortney as Suzanne Cayuse

June 3, 2023 at the Frenchtown Site
Suzanne Cayuse hasn’t visited the Frenchtown site since before the pandemic. Join us on June 3 at 10:00 am to hear her great granddaughter, Judith Fortney, tell the story of her life. Hear Suzanne’s story and see documents and artifacts, visit the cemetery and discover the Prince’s cabin.  
Judy Fortney as Suzanne Cayuse
A History minute: Suzanne Cayuse  (c.1824-1876)
Suzanne (right) and daughter Catherine

Suzanne was born in Oregon territory around 1824. Little is known about her including her original Indian name, other than that she was a full-blooded Cayuse woman. She married French-Canadian Mathieu Dauphin (c.1816-1867) in 1840. Mathieu was born in St. Louis, Missouri when it was still a mostly French fur trade town, and travelled to Frenchtown in 1838 with several trappers.
Between 1842 and 1861 Suzanne and Mathieu had eight children and lived in at least four different places — Fort Hall, Utah Territory, the California gold fields in the Yuba River area, Marion County and then the adjacent Wasco County, and finally Frenchtown, where their last two children were born.

Like many Indian wives of French-Canadian men, Suzanne converted to Catholicism, and all her children were baptized and confirmed. Mathieu stood as godfather for the baptism of the Cayuse Five, who were executed in connection with the 1847 Whitman Mission incident. Mathieu also served as interpreter and witness at the 1855 Treaty Council of Walla Walla.
Mathieu died in 1867. In 1870, the title of their homestead went to Suzanne, who was listed as “Suzanne Dofa, widow of Mathieu Dofa.” Although widows could inherit homestead claims, Suzanne would normally have been excluded as a full-blooded Cayuse woman, suggesting that the Land Office  in Vancouver was not aware of her race.

Suzanne lived on the land in Frenchtown until her death on June 17, 1876, and was buried in St. Rose Cemetery. Her children married into the Gagnon, Woodward, Pambrun, and Bonifer Frenchtown families. Several of the Dauphin children (now Duffy) received allotments on the Umatilla Reservation.

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