New Year’s Day Levée

levee

On New Year’s Day my husband and I attended the Lieutenant Governor’s New Year Levée, held at the Manitoba Legislative Building. I knew it was an annual event, one of those things I told myself that we should attend…someday.  Since 2017 is a special year, the celebration of 150 years since Confederation, I decided that this would be the year.

According to news reports, about 1300 people attended this year’s celebration, and judging by the number of cars parked in the area, that seems about right.

I stood in line to shake Lieutenant Governor Janice Filmon’s hand, as well as other dignitaries. Fruitcake, cookies and punch were served.  Musical entertainment was provided. I came away with a Canada 150 flag and pin, as pictured above.

A levée is a reception held “to mark the advent of another year and to provide an opportunity for the public to pay their respects.” You can read more about the levée here.

The tradition of a New Year Levée has a long history in Canada. The first recorded one was hosted in 1646 by the Governor of New France, Charles Huault de Montmagny, in the Château St. Louis in Quebec City.

chateau_saint-louis

Château St. Louis From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository

 

We have many ancestors that were in the Quebec City area in 1646 and may have attended the Levée.  There is no way to know for sure, but perhaps these ancestors  paid their respects to the Governor: Abraham Martin, Olivier le Tardif, Jean Guyon , Zacharie Cloutier, Robert Drouin. You’ll notice that these are all men, as women were not ALLOWED to attend until World War II, when female members of the Armed Forces were permitted to join the event!

On the wonderful website Manitobia, I found a description of the Manitoba Levée of 1873.

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Again, we can’t know if any of our ancestors and relations were in attendance.  However, the Mr. Beauchemin, MPP (Member of the Provincial Parliament) who is mentioned, would have been Andre Beauchemin, uncle of Jean Baptiste Beauchemin who was married to my great-grandmother Philomene McMillan’s sister Marguerite.

During the time of the fur trade, a New Year’s celebration was the custom at the various forts. These seem to have been less subdued occasions. In the book Making the Voyageur World: Travelers and Traders in the North American Fur Trade by Carolyn Podruchny, excerpts of which are available on Google Books here, we learn:

“Feasting, drinking, and levees, or paying courtesy calls on masters (particularly on New Year’s Day), were characteristic of celebrations in fur trade society.”

Undoubtedly James McMillan, John Warren Dease and Amable Hogue would have partaken in these festivities.

I seem to remember my Mother mentioning that in La Salle, it was the custom for families to visit the grandfathers on New Year’s Day.

I enjoyed attending the Lieutenant Governor’s New Year Levée of 2017, and it resulted in a brief moment of “fame”.  That evening on Global News as we watched their coverage of the event, my husband and I walked into the frame!

 

An update for “the elusive Elizabeth”

Recently I blogged about my search to find out more about Elizabeth Hogue, daughter of Amable Hogue and Marguerite Taylor (see here).  I have now received her death certificate from North Dakota.

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Interestingly, it lists her father as having been born in France, and her mother in England!  The informant for this information was her daughter-in-law, Emma Campagna nee Boucher.

Given that Emma herself was a great granddaughter of Amable and Marguerite as shown here,

Amable to Emma Boucher

I have to wonder was Emma herself unaware of her roots, or was this just another case of hiding Metis identity? Unfortunately that was not an uncommon situation.

In 1941 Emma returned to St. Louis, Saskatchewan for a family reunion, according to this newspaper article.

The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) · Fri, Aug 29, 1941 · Page 8

The Bismarck Tribune (Bismarck, North Dakota) · Fri, Aug 29, 1941 · Page 8

It seems unlikely that she didn’t know her family history.

Marguerite and Amable

When Margaret Taylor married Amable Hogue she became known by the French name of Marguerite. So what do we know about Marguerite and Amable’s life? After their marriage in 1831,  Amable worked as a mason on the building of Lower Fort Garry (where Governor George Simpson was going to live with his wife). As Christine Welsh noted in her essay Voices of the Grandmothers: Reclaiming a Metis Heritage published in the journal Canadian Literature, Issue #131, Winter 1991:

From her vantage point in the Metis labourers’ camp just outside the walls, Margaret would have been able to watch the Governor and his bride take up residence in their magnificent new home.

What feelings Marguerite had at this turn in her fortunes we will never know, but we do know that she and Amable made a life for themselves in the Red River Colony and raised nine children. In 1835 Amable was given a land grant consisting of Parish Lot 51 of St. James Parish which is basically where Clifton Street in Winnipeg is now. Lots were typically narrow, about 250 yards wide, and extended two miles back, plus another two miles that was called “hay privilege”. The narrow lots gave everyone water access. They later moved to Lot 56 St. James Parish which is around Sprague and Greenwood streets.

Here’s a map showing the relevant streets in today’s Winnipeg.

Google map

Google map

One of their children, in later years, claimed that he grew up on the property that, in 1906, became an amusement park known as Happyland. In fact the Happyland property would have been nearby, but not specifically on the Hogue land.

As a sidenote, you can read about Happyland here and here.

In the 1835 Census of the Red River Settlement (which only names the head of the household), Amable is listed with a wife, 1 daughter and 3 sons. I believe that two of these were Simpson’s sons, George and John. Marguerite and Amable’s children were:

Marie Hogue born January 18, 1831 and married to William Bremner
Amable Hogue born May 6, 1833 and married to Elizabeth Morissette
Joseph Hogue born December 30, 1835 and married to Pelagie Turcotte
Marguerite Hogue born in 1838 and married to Andre Robillard
Thomas Hogue born November 10, 1840 and married to Philomene McMillan
Antoine Hogue born December 24, 1844 and married to Crawford Brown
Louis Hogue born in 1846 and married to Julie Turcotte
Elizabeth Hogue born October 20, 1848 and married to Frank Aymond
Mary Anne Hogue born in 1850 and married to Francois Welsh

In the 1835 Census, Amable and Marguerite had 1 house, 1 stable, 1 mare, 3 oxen, 3 cows, 1 calf, 5 pigs, 1 plough, 1 harrow, 1 cart and cultivated 6 acres. By the 1849 Census, they have 1 house, 3 stables, 1 barn, 1 horse, 2 mares, 3 oxen, 6 cows, 2 calves, 3 pigs, 2 ploughs, 1 harrow, 6 carts, 1 canoe and cultivated 20 acres. The carts would have been the famous Red River carts, the ownership of which suggests that Amable was involved in trade as well as the buffalo hunt.

Amable died on February 26, 1858. Unfortunately, his place of burial is not known.
Marguerite would have several children still at home at this time.  By the time of the 1870 Census of the Red River Settlement, she is living with her son Thomas (my great-grandfather) and his family.

1870 Census of Manitoba Source: Library and Archives Canada

1870 Census of Manitoba
Source: Library and Archives Canada

In the 1881 census, she is with her daughter Mary Ann and son-in-law Francois Welsh.

Newspaper articles that feature some of the children of Amable and Marguerite give us a glimpse into their lives. Joseph Hogue and his wife Pelagie Turcotte were the subject of a Manitoba Free Press article on January 12, 1915 on the occasion of their 56th wedding anniversary. Some quotes:

“In his fancy Joseph drifted back to the winter evenings when, as a boy, he sat before the roaring logs in the old cabin on the farm, part of which is now known as Happyland, and listened to his father tell stories. His father’s name was Aimable (sic) Hogue. He was born in Montreal in 1791. He came west with Governor Simpson about 1824, and for 20 years travelled with that gentleman inspecting trading posts belonging to the Hudson’s Bay company. The travelling was done principally in hand-propelled boats and Aimable (sic) Hogue did the rowing. He was injured in the boat one trip and was then retired on a pension. A grant of 200 acres of land, six chains wide, along the Assiniboine river, and extending for four miles north, was given him.”

On January 11, 1919 their 60th wedding anniversary prompted another long, but not completely accurate, article in the Manitoba Free Press. Some quotes:

“He recalls when his mother, a sturdy Scotswoman (an original Taylor) who used to follow in the wake of her buffalo-hunting spouse Amable, and prepare the flesh of freshly-killed buffalo for pemmican.”
Talking of his father’s farm, he says “We raised barley, oats, potatoes, peas, poultry, sheep, horses and cattle. We had wooden plows and no machinery at all.”
When asked if his father raised horses, he replies “Yes, animals specially adapted for buffalo hunting, swift as the wind, true as steel, real, rollicking animals which had more the nature of their Indian developers than horse nature as we understand it today.”
Talking about himself, Joseph “launched into stories of how he used to ride across the Dakota and Southern Manitoba prairies killing buffalo in competition with the fierce and murderous Sioux Indians who, at that time, hunted merely with bow and arrow.”

In the past, having learned of my Metis heritage, I often wondered where my ancestors stood in relationship to the issues around Louis Riel. It seems we had people on both sides. In this same newspaper article, Joseph indicates his feelings:

“Riel Rebellion days, certainly, the family lived all through it. Mr. Hogue was a member of the government forces which held old Fort Garry against the rebels, and the son of a soldier, he takes pride in having helped put down the malcontents.”

Rather interesting, as by the time Joseph was giving this interview, one of his daughters, Philomene, was married to William Beauchemin, whose father Jean Baptiste Beauchemin was a member of Louis Riel’s provisional government!

Marguerite died on December 16, 1885 and is buried in St. Charles cemetery.

St. Charles Cemetery Winnipeg, Manitoba

St. Charles Cemetery
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Margaret Taylor

So who was Margaret Taylor, and why is her name in so many history books? The answer is that she was the “country wife” of Sir George Simpson, governor of the Hudson’s Bay Company. This was the fact I discovered when I found her name in the book in the gift shop. It was common practice for men in the fur trade to take a native or Metis woman as a “country wife” or marry “à la facon du pays” (in the custom of the country). Sometimes these relationships were long-lasting, with provisions made for any children of the union. Sometimes, if a man was transferred to another post, he made provisions to “turn off” his partner, meaning he would arrange a marriage for her to someone else, and perhaps make some financial provisions.Although “love” may or may not have been a consideration, the relationship was often  beneficial to both parties.

As Sylvia Van Kirk says in her book Many Tender Ties:

“The Indian viewed marriage in an integrated social and economic context; a marital alliance created a reciprocal social bond which served to consolidate his economic relationship with a stranger. Thus, through marriage, the trader was drawn into the Indian’s kinship circle. And in return for giving the traders sexual and domestic rights to their women, the Indians expected reciprocal privileges such as free access to the posts and provisions.”

From the point of view of the fur trader, he gained not only companionship and important social ties to trading partners, but a wife who was skilled in the many practical skills necessary to his occupation, such as making snowshoes, moccasins and pemmican.

Margaret  Taylor was born around 1805 at the Polar Sea (York Factory) to George Taylor, an English sloopmaster and Jane, a native woman. Simpson apparently had many liaisons with Metis women, and around 1825 began a relationship with Margaret.   Simpson was known to have acknowledged Margaret’s brother Tom, who was his personal servant, as his “brother-in-law”. One of Margaret’s descendants, Christine Welsh, has a National Film Board movie called “Women in the Shadows” which explores her Metis roots.

Margaret bore Governor Simpson two sons. Their first son, George Stewart Simpson, was born February 11, 1827. (He would join HBC as a 13-year-old apprentice and eventually become a Chief Trader.) In July, 1828 Margaret accompanied Simpson on a canoe trip from York Factory to New Caledonia (what is now British Columbia).   Amable Hogue was part of the crew of this trip. During this voyage, Margaret became pregnant again with Simpson’s child.   James Raffan states in Emperor of the North:

“In fact, she had re-crossed through the April snows of the treacherous Athabasca Pass when well into her second trimester. Ninety miles on foot or on horseback slogging over her beloved governor’s muddy winter road between Fort Assiniboine and the North Saskatchewan likely did nothing to improve her feeling of well-being.”

Simpson left her at Fort Edmonton with instructions to Chief Factor John Rowand to arrange for her to go to Fort Alexander. This was done and Simpson’s second son, John Mckenzie Simpson, was born August 29, 1829. (John stayed in Manitoba.) Chief Factor John Stuart’s letter to Simpson, of February 1, 1830, praised Margaret :

“…it is but common justice to remark that in her comportment she is both decent and modest far beyond anything I could expect or ever witnessed in any of her country women. She appears to be as content as is possible for one of her sex to be in the absence of their lord and natural protector and as a mother she is most kind and attentive to her children whom she keeps very clean.”

There was a great deal of surprise then, when in May of 1830 Sir Simpson returned from a trip to England with a new wife in tow, his cousin Frances! Colleagues were shocked at Simpson’s cruel and dismissive treatment of Margaret. Simpson’s marriage to Frances is considered by historians to be a turning point in the social customs of the fur trade. Whereas native and Metis wives were at one time considered invaluable for their skills and connections, only European women were now  “civilized” enough for the expanding settlement. Years later, one of Margaret and Amable’s sons would refer to his mother as a “sturdy Scotswoman”. The denial of Metis roots had begun.

Governor Simpson belatedly arranged to have Margaret married off to Amable Hogue. They were married March 24, 1831 by Rev. David Jones at the Red River church, witnessed by Pierre Leblanc and William Bruce. Amable worked as a mason on the building of Lower Fort Garry, where Simpson and Frances were going to live…how ironic!