The 38 items in the Riopelle family papers span 1737-1894 and relate to several interconnected families of French-Canadian origin living in Montreal and Detroit. The collection contains 26 legal and military documents, 5 receipts, 3 letters, 2 newspaper clippings, and 2 small prints. Approximately one-third of the collection is in French.
The legal documents include a 1737 trading license for Jean Baptiste Cuillerier dit Beaubien allowing him to trade in the vicinity of Fort Detroit; it specifies his route, trading partners, and supplies. Most of the other legal documents are land deeds and title abstracts for land in southeast Michigan owned by various family members. President James Madison and Secretary of State James Monroe signed a land patent issued to "Ambroise Riopel" on April 20, 1811. A few items after Nicholas Gouin's death in 1813 relate to the bequest of his land near the Detroit River to his daughter Collette and son-in-law, Dominique Riopelle.
The collection's seven military documents include promotions, general orders, and commissions, issued between 1753 and 1805. One such item, signed by King Louis XV and dated August 16, 1766, commissions J.B.M. Quindre as sublieutenant of a Burgundy Regiment. Other military documents relate to the Beaubien brothers in Michigan. Also present is a copy of the terms of treaty between the United States and the Chippewa, signed at Michilimackinac (October 18, 1842).
The collection's three letters relate family matters, including the death of Dominique Riopelle's uncle (April 29, 1843) and news from a branch of the family in Chatham, Michigan (June 25, 1845). The undated items comprise a list tallying trading activities with Native Americans; two newspaper clippings (one concerning land near River Rouge and the other giving biographical information on William Gouin); and two small prints, one of Lewis Cass and one of Detroit in 1820.