LUDGAR AND MADELEINE GAREAU
Imagine bringing your new bride home to begin your lives together-just to find your community a recent war zone¬-and your dream home is a pile of ashes and nails. Do you rebuild on site? Or do you find a more peaceful place to live. That’s what faced Ludger and Madeline DeLorme Gareau in the spring of 1885.
Ludger Euchere Gareau was born in 1855 at St. Jacques de La Chigant, Quebec on a family farm where he attended a boarding school in winter months, and in spring, helped harvest maple sugar from the family orchard. As Gareau grew to manhood, he moved to Winnipeg in 1878 by way of St. Paul, Minnesota. He pushed further west, shuttling Red River carts for Metis freighter Mose Ouillette between Winnipeg and the growing Metis community of Batoche, where the Carlton Trail connecting Winnipeg with Fort Edmonton crossed the South Saskatchewan River.
Ludger’s work consisted of driving oxen-pulled wagons that took merchandise from Winnipeg to sell and exchange with the First Nations and Metis for valuable furs. The freight consisted of thirty to forty sacks of flour, cases of tea, sugar, Hudson’s Bay Co. blankets, garments andtobacco. Ludger first arrived to Batoche in Aug 1878 after a 35-day trek.
After helping to harvest crops, Gareau took to the trade of carpentry in Batoche, where he constructed stores for merchants Boisier and Champagne and other businessmen, warehouses and a home for Métis merchant Xavier Letendre. He also built the prominent St. Antoine-De-Padoue church and the rectory (that still remain at Batoche National Historic Site.)
Before the church was complete, Ludger Gareau used it to marry Madeline Delorme, Sep 16 1884, and built his home on an acre of mission property. Madeline was born in St. Boniface, Manitoba in 1868, and was sister to Marie Rose Delorme Smith. In Feb 1885, Ludger and Madeline took their honeymoon in Montreal.
Before they’d left, Ludger had become acquainted with a newcomer to Batoche-one with deep ties to Metis activism and a turbulent career: his name was Louis Riel. In their absence, the presence of Riel led to open resistance to government surveys. Open conflict began with the Battle of Duck Lake on Mar 26, 1885.
The Ludgers, still on honeymoon, were shocked to see troops being drilled in Montreal, to be sent to the West–when they’d left, all was peaceful. The Gareaus started for home, where on arriving at Winnipeg, carloads of troops were passing daily, to be deployed at various points along the CP railway.
The Gareaus were counseled to remain in Winnipeg due to the war activity at Batoche, where Madeline’s brother was looking after their house and property. Four months passed before word came that their house and belongings had been burned to the ground in the fighting that took place between Metis defenders and the Canadian militia.
They returned to Batoche to find their property in ruins, burned to the ground during the four-day standoff. Many of his neighbors had been arrested, several were killed in the Batoche battle, a few were fugitives, and of course, Louis Riel was tried and hung in Nov 1885. As Batoche rebuilt amid the tragedy, the Gareau’s were invited to stay in Xavier Letendre’s shot-battered house, which Ludger repaired in preparation for their first child, who born in the winter of 1885-86.
In the spring, three Métis families decided to relocate to Pincher Creek, and Ludger and Madeline were among the migrants. The party started out on June 1 1886, with their wagon caravans, herding fifty head of cattle alongside. The days were hot and at times the cattle could hardly walk between watering holes. The Gareaus arrived to Pincher Creek, on July 1, 1886, after exactly thirty days on the trail.
Gareau acquired a quarter-section of land under Metis Scrip, near relatives Charlie and Marie Rose Smith, where Ludger and Madeline built a large house and outbuildings on the Pincher Creek and ranched cattle and horses.
Ludger Gareau continued to ply his carpentry trade, and built the house of NWMP Surgeon, Dr. George Kennedy in Fort Macleod. Furniture construction was his lasting legacies. Kootenai Brown Pioneer Village exhibit his many planes and woodworking tools, as well as a handcrafted wood bureau, sideboard and wardrobe, and a leather and wood davenport.
The Gareau children included three girls lost in infancy, four sons (Wilfred, Napoleon, Albert, and George) and five daughters (Emma, Florestine, Eliza, Ida and Josephine). All were raised in the Metis and French cultures and language, and attended St. Agnes School, Beauvais Lake School and St. Michael’s School in Pincher Creek, boarding at Kermaria Convent.
Ludger and Madeline retired to town in 1922, buying the stone George Dore house on Kettles Street, where they raised a large vegetable garden and both lived to celebrate sixty-nine years of marriage in 1953. Ludger died Jan 8 1954 at the age of 98. He had a sharp memory right up to the end, noted for his truthful, vivid recollections–many of which were published in the Pincher Creek Echo. Madeline died in 1958 at the age of 91.