A few years ago I picked up the book A Son of the fur trade: The Memoirs of Johnny Grant, edited by Gerhard J. Ens, with genealogical charts by Anita Steele.
I read the book simply because I am interested in fur trade history, but was delighted to find four family connections! The book is an oral history, dictated to his wife before he died in Edmonton, Alberta in 1907. You can read a review of the book here.
John Francis Grant was a very colourful character. He was born at Fort Edmonton to HBC clerk Richard Grant (later to become a Chief Trader) and Marie Anne Breland, but raised in Trois-Rivières by his paternal grandmother after the death of his mother. As Anita Steele explains on her excellent website William Grant of Trois Rivieres:
Johnny Grant -as he was known in the U.S.- remained in the U.S. for twenty years. During that time, he was one of Montana’s earliest settlers, a trader, a cattle and horse rancher, owner of a store, a saloon, a dance hall, a grist mill and a blacksmith shop. His enterprises took him west and south as far as Fort Vancouver, WA,, and Sacrament, CA; and as far east, south and north as St. Louis, MO, Trois Rivieres, PQ, and the Red River Settlement of MB, and to many locations between.
Johnny’s Montana ranch is now a National Historic Site. You can read more about the ranch here.
John F. Grant had several wives and many children. After selling his Montana ranch in 1866 he brought his family to Red River. He established a ranch near present day Carman, Manitoba, as well as a home on the banks of Sturgeon Creek. There is a historical mural in Carman that includes Johnny Grant and his wife Clotilde Bruneau. You can see it here.
So what is our connection to John Francis Grant? It’s that three of John’s children married into the Hogue, Dease and Bernardin families.
In A Son of the fur trade there are references to these marriages. On page 234, Johnny reminisces about having a party in 1870:
“As usual, we sent invitations to all the elites of Winnipeg and nearly every one of the two parishes that were fit to invite and some outsiders. We had sixty-two couples besides the family and that was twelve counting my son-in-law, William Dease. That was quite a few for a country dance, but they were all welcome and everyone enjoyed themselves thoroughly. We had a jolly good time. We dance[d] in three rooms, three and more violins going at the same time, all the liquor they wanted of different kinds. But I am proud to say not one was worst of liquor and the table, well you can imagine. I had plenty of money those days and we were not stingy.”
The William Dease referred to is William Dease Jr., son of William Dease, Sr. whom I wrote about here. William Dease Jr. married John’s daughter, Mary Agnes Grant, whose mother was Louise Serpante, a Shoshone woman. Mary Agnes was born in 1851 and she married William in 1869.
Here’s a chart showing the relationship to Pépère.
William and Mary Agnes did not have any children, but they appear to have led an adventurous life! They lived in Red River, Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and California. From the Montana Historical Society I obtained a biographical sketch, and copies of two letters William wrote to his father.
Biographical sketch by A.E. Dease, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives
Transcript of letter, December 4, 1876, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives
Transcript of letter, June 19, 1886, William Dease papers, 1876-1886, SC 612, Folder 1, Montana Historical Society Research Center, Archives
I have been unable to find out exactly when or where William and Mary Agnes died.
As I mentioned, John Francis Grant had a ranch near present day Carman, Manitoba, the same time the Girardin and Bernardin families were homesteading there. This leads to our second family connection. On page 274 of the book we learn:
“Among the French families that had come from the states, there was one who had rather a grown up family: 3 sons, big enough to work, and three daughters. My son Billy was often at the Ranch that winter. There was attraction out there [between him and] the oldest of the girls. The consequence was that in June of 1878 their Wedding was coming on.
She was a good girl. If he had searched the country over he could not have found a better person better suited to him. She was so patient.’
The family he is talking about is that of Joseph Bernardin and his wife Marie Peloquin. The daughter is Oxilia. And Billy is William Grant, born in 1856 to John Francis Grant and Quarra, another Shoshone woman. Here’s a chart showing the relationship between Oxilia and Mémère:
On Anita Steele’s website there is this photograph.
Labels on the back of this tintype were not totally clear, but have been analyzed as:
(R) Billy Grant, son of John F. Grant
(C) First name: Louis. Surname looks like Bernasdene. Perhaps Bernardin(e)
(L) First name: Napolian. Surname looks like Geradine. Perhaps Germain(e)
It seems quite likely that the Louis in the picture is Oxilia’s brother Louis Bernardin, making him brother-in-law to William Grant.
And it also seems likely that the Napoleon is Oxilia’s cousin Napoleon Girardin, Mémère’s father.
Here’s a side by side comparison of Napoleon’s wedding picture from 1873 with the picture above.
And here’s a comparison of a picture of a picture of Louis Bernardin taken from the book Treasures of Time: The Rural Municipality of Cartier 1914-1984, with the picture above.
Tragically, William and Oxilia’s marriage was a short one, as William died in 1886. They had at least two daughters, and perhaps one son. The only child I’ve been able to track is Anna Grant, who married Edouard Roy. Co-incidentally, Edouard was the widower of Eva Rheault, whose mother was Marie Rouleau whose second marriage was to Napoleon Girardin. Are we confused yet?
I don’t know where William Grant is buried, but Oxilia is buried in Holy Sacrament Cemetery in Elie, Manitoba, near her father Joseph.
I’ll continue writing about the Grant connections in my next post.