Joseph Noel Taillefer, part 3

Here is my last post about Joseph Noel Taillefer.  Having established that he arrived in Red River in October of 1872 as a member of the third contingent of the Red River Expeditionary Force,  I went looking for newspaper articles about his time here.

On the Manitobia website I found several articles that mention him, mostly in the French language newspaper Le Metis.

He appears to have been well regarded in the French community.  Bishop Tache performed the marriage ceremony on February 3, 1873 on the occasion of Joseph’s marriage to Mary Jane McDermot, daughter of Andrew McDermot, a wealthy and notable merchant in the city.  Didn’t take him long to find a soulmate, did it?

Zouavania says that Andrew McDermot disinherited his daughter for becoming a Catholic.  McDermot was an Irish Catholic who broke with the Church in later life. However, I have read his will at the Provincial Archives of Manitoba, and he did leave both money and land to his daughter Jane.The will was written February 19, 1873 after Jane had married.  Hmm… her married name is not used in the will, unlike her other married sisters.

Joseph and Jane had four children, all born in Manitoba:

Mary Jane who married Gabriel Belanger

Joseph who married Virginie Poitras

Alfred who died in 1890 at the age of 14

Henriette who married Francois Xavier Poitras

In December 1878, Joseph won the provincial election for St. Agathe by acclamation.  Sounds wonderful, except that result led to gunshots and a controversy!  Seems the returning officer declined the nominations for two people running against Joseph, for rather technical reasons.  Supporters of the opponents tracked down the returning officer the next day, a scuffle ensued, and shots were fired.  Joseph was shot in the thigh, and one of the supporters shot also.

St. Agathe election

Manitoba Free Press, December 13, 1878

By January 25, 1879 the Manitoba Gazette was reporting that new nominations were accepted for Taillefer, Mr. Kyne, Mr. John Grant and a Dr. Bedford.  Bedford withdrew before the election on January 29th, and Taillefer won. (I haven’t been able to determine whether this Grant was the John Francis Grant I wrote about here).

In the December 16, 1879 election, Taillefer again won election, this time for the Morris riding. He did not run in the 1883 election.  In 1884  he is listed as the Police Magistrate for Provencher.

Winnipeg Directory 1884

Winnipeg Directory 1884 page 354

Sometime before the 1891 census the family moved to the area of Broadview  in the Assiniboia area of the Northwest Territories (present day Saskatchewan).

The book Holiday rambles between Winnipeg and Victoria by George Bryce, published in 1888, locates Taillefer in the Qu’Appelle Valley:

“At one point of this part of the Qu’appelle is a settlement of French people, two of the settlers, Taillefer and De Cazes, being well-known in Winnipeg as having been in years gone by officers in the Provisional Battalion.”

When Andrew McDermot died in 1881, his daughter Jane was mentioned as Mrs. Taillefer  in the obituary in the Manitoba Free Press. She is also mentioned in the obituary of her sister Annie McDermot Bannatyne in May 1908.

However I believe I know where the story of a disinheritance comes from.

Joseph Taillefer died May 31, 1897.  Here’s his burial record from St Coeur de Marie, Marieval, Saskatchewan that I accessed on FamilySearch.

Taillefer Joseph b1828 burial

Burial record for Joseph Taillefer 3 Jun 1897, St Coeur de Marie, Marieval, Saskatchewan, Canada

On FamilySearch I also found his probate record, which for some reason was not filed until 1906.  It includes a copy of his will dated July 16, 1896, in which he provides for his wife and two of his children (one having already died).  Then he says this:

“My dear children, although your sister Mary Jane is excluded from this will, do not conclude I have cast her from my heart, in acting thus towards her, it has been her lot, freely taken.  Before God I forgave her the way she left me and her home, and I enjoin you in case she would knock at your door to receive her as your sister, and in case she would be left alone, to give her shelter and divide your bread with her.  Moreover you will give her a milking cow valued about twenty dollars.”

Why would Joseph have disinherited his daughter?  Mary Jane Taillefer had married Gabriel Belanger January 30, 1893 at St. Coeur de Marie.  Bishop Tache himself had given a dispensation for the reading of banns, and no impediments to the marriage had been found.

Mary Jane’s brother Joseph was godfather for her first child Marie Josephine.  Was it only her father from whom she was estranged?

Not to fear, family relations must have been restored after Joseph Senior’s death, as Mary Jane’s sister Henriette was godmother for Mary Jane’s son Albert in 1903.

Mary Jane’s brother Alfred who had died in 1890 had property in his own name.  A probate was conducted in 1910 and Mary Jane Taillefer Belanger was included in that arrangement.

I have been able to track Mary Jane and her husband Gabriel Belanger in the 1901, 1906, and 1911 census records.  They are enumerated on the Crooked Lake Indian Reserve in Saskatchewan.  Could this have been a factor in the disinheritance?  I can’t find them in the 1916 census, except for a Gabriel Belanger who is a prisoner.  But that may not be the same man. I’d love to know what happened to them and their children, but that’s a research project for another day.

As for Joseph Noel Taillefer’s widow, Jane McDermot, the last documentation I have  found for her is in the 1921 census, when she is living in St. Boniface, Manitoba with her son Joseph and family. Some public trees have her death listed as 1927, but I have not been able, so far, to verify that date.

So there you have the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer, born in Quebec, died in the Northwest Territories. A lawyer, a Papal Zouave, a soldier, a politician, a farmer…and an extremely interesting person to research.


Joseph Noel Taillefer, part 2

I’m continuing the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer, first cousin of my great-great grandmother Marie Louise Bernardin.

Drolet’s Zouaviana, about the Papal Zouaves, does not give a date for Taillefer’s joining the Red River Expeditionary Force that came to Manitoba. However at least two sources state that he came in 1870. The MHS Memorable Manitobans site states:

“Coming to the Red River Settlement with the Wolseley Expedition, he stayed behind at the conclusion of the engagement, took up farming, and married Mary Jane McDermot, daughter of merchant Andrew McDermot.

The second source was the Dictionnaire historique des Canadiens et des métis français de l’Ouest

Now I was confused! The Wolseley Expedition was sent to Red River to keep the peace after the Riel Resistance.  It was headed by Colonel Garnet Wolseley  who led a force of 1200 men across the Dawson trail, some 600 miles, arriving at Fort Garry on August 24, 1870. However, if the Zouaves didn’t return until November of 1870, how could Taillefer have been part of a force that arrived in Red River in August of that same year?

Also, why would he join the Wolseley Expedition?  It was, by most accounts, quite a virulent anti-Catholic, anti-French contingent, with many Ontario members seeking revenge for the murder of Thomas Scott.  The Papal Zouaves were staunchly conservative Catholics.  Why would Joseph join this?

So, I set out to learn more about the Wolseley Expedition.  On Google Books I found an excerpt to the book Toil & Trouble: Military Expeditions to Red River by George F.G. Stanley.  The Winnipeg Public Library has the book, so I borrowed it.  It had two references to Ensign Joseph Taillefer  “a former Papal Zouave”.

It turns out that the Red River Expeditionary Force was made up of more than just the contingent commanded by Wolseley in 1870.  Joseph Noel Taillefer was one of the officers in charge of  the Provisional Battalion of Rifles that came in 1872, the third contingent to come to Red River.

Footnotes in Toil & Trouble led me to search out two specific sources.  One was an article entitled “Dawson Route Military Expedition”, published in the Manitoban in 1872.  Luckily I found it online at the OurRoots website.

It includes a humorous incident involving Taillefer.  He had forbidden the men to race their boats, but having his boat “passed” by a boat made up of Ontario men, he

hurls a diminutive Frenchman from the oar and taking his seat at it –a Hercules in strength and size – gave one tremendous stroke and breaking the thwart pin, went on his back with heels in the air with the momentum of a battering ram.”

The second reference was to “The Journal of the Provisional Battalion of Rifles at Fort Garry” (PAM, MG6, B5) in the Province of Manitoba Archives.  A visit to the Archives allowed me to read this for myself.

Further research on the Red River Expeditionary Force led me to the website The Canadian Military Heritage Project  where I learned that Fred J. Shore had written a PhD Thesis at the University of Manitoba in 1991  entitled “The Canadians and the Metis: The Re-Creation of Manitoba, 1858-1872.” I was able to access this thesis online through the University of Manitoba Libraries.  This, in turn, led me to Library and Archives Canada documents from the Department of Militia and Defence: Register of service, Red River Rebellion, 1870–1877. I found Taillefer here.

All of the above confirmed that Joseph Leon Taillefer did not arrive in Fort Garry until October of 1872, and that he resigned on the 24th of July 1874. His joining the militia in 1872 makes more sense to me, as by that point it may have seemed just a career choice, or a chance to homestead, or perhaps just an adventure.

Just for good measure I looked to see if I could find him in the 1871 Census.  Not only did I find him in Ste Martine, Châteauguay, Quebec, where he was an “avocet” (lawyer) and living with his widowed mother and his brother Alfred, but I discovered he was the enumerator for the census which was taken in April 1871!

Taillefer 1871

1871 Census, Ste Martine, Châteauguay, Quebec; Roll: C-10055; Page: 29


On the 3rd of September 1871 his mother Angelique died, and Joseph signed the burial record.

Desormiers Angelique death

Québec, registres paroissiaux catholiques, 1621-1979,” FamilySearch Sainte-Martine > Sainte-Martine > Baptêmes, mariages, sépultures 1860-1876 > image 295 of 442

So far, I’ve confirmed that Joseph Noel Taillefer was related to our family, that he was a Papal Zouave, and that he came west with the Red River Expeditionary Force in 1872.

I’ll continue Joseph’s story in my next post.



Joseph Noel Taillefer, a research adventure

Recently a distant cousin made contact on this blog. He is the son of Professor Charles W. Bernardin who wrote extensively on the Bernardin family.  I wrote about the Professor’s research here.

This cousin very generously shared research from his Father’s notes.  There were many interesting pieces of information, and one that was completely new to me, was the story of Joseph Noel Taillefer.  Oh, oh…someone new to research, yeah!  I have had so much fun learning about Taillefer, I decided in this blog post I would not only explain what I discovered, but also how I researched. It has been a fascinating journey for me, and I hope my readers will feel the same.

To begin with, Joseph Noel Taillefer  was mentioned in a family memoir written by of one of Jean Baptiste Bernardin’s  granddaughters, Marie Louise Therrien.    The memoir states that Joseph was the nephew of Jean Baptiste Bernardin’s wife, Marie Charlotte Taillefer.

Secondly, Professor Bernardin had translated into English, an excerpt about Taillefer from the book Zouaviana by Gustave Adolphe Drolet . The book in French is online at the Internet Archive here.

Of course, I googled Joseph and found that The Manitoba Historical Society  has a brief biographical entry for Taillefer on its Memorable Manitobans site.

The basic information I had about Taillefer was this:

1) He was a Papal Zouave. ???????

2) He came to Manitoba with the Wolseley Expedition of 1870.

3) He married a daughter of Andrew McDermot.

4) He eventually moved to the Qu’Appelle Valley in Saskatchewan where he died.

Of course, the first thing I had to do was find documentation to confirm the relationship to our family.  Using the Drouin church records on Ancestry, as well as records from PRDH (Programme de recherche en démographie historique) and LaFrance, I was able to find birth and marriage records that confirm the relationship.

Joseph Noel Taillefer was born on Christmas day in 1828 in Montreal, and baptized the same day at Notre Dame.

Taillefer Joseph b1828 baptism

Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968 for Joseph Noel Taillefer ,Montréal, Basilique Notre-Dame, 1828, accessed on Ancestry

Here’s a chart showing his relationship to Mémère.

Taillefer chart

Joseph came from a family of 8 children, 3 of whom died before the 1851 census. I can track Joseph in the 1851 and 1861 census records in Ste Martine, Canada East (Quebec) living with other family members.

The Manitoba Historical Society’s entry states:

“In 1868, he led a regiment of Pontifical Zouaves to Rome to defend Pope Pius IX against Garibaldi, returning to Canada in 1870.”

The term “Zouave” originally referred to a French light infantry troop, recruited in Algeria. But who were the Pontifical (aka Papal) Zouaves, and why did the Pope need defending? I set out to discover the answer.

Without going into a long overview of Italian history, I’ll just say that the Pope, at this point, was the political leader of the Papal States, which included Rome.  Other people, including Garibaldi, had been attempting to unify Italy for some time. This involved the usual intrigues of foreign alliances (think France) and various separate Italian kingdoms. However, Pope Pius IX did not want to cede control of the Papal States to a national government.  Thus, a call went out for Catholics to aid the Pope, by establishing a fighting force of volunteers. (You can read more about the Zouaves here and here).

The Zouaves came from many different countries. The departure of the Quebec contingent from Montreal, and then New York, was accompanied by great fanfare, as you can see in these newspaper articles that I found on

Zouaves leave Montreal

Janesville Daily Gazette, 20 Feb 1868


Zouaves 1868

The Charleston Daily News, 26 Feb 1868


They had the most unusual military uniforms.  Here’s a picture I first found in an article God’s Own Devils by Frank Mackey in Horizon Canada. The picture was originally from Zouaviana.



Professor Bernardin’s translation of Drolet’s Zouaviana tells us many interesting things about Joseph.  He was a big man, over 6 feet tall (you can certainly see that in his picture!). In Montreal he was for a time in a seminary, but decided he was not called to be a priest. When in Marseille, he dealt quickly and physically with a person who insulted the Zouave flag. When the Zouaves were camped in Italy at a spot once the site of Hannibal’s army, Taillefer organized the men into lacrosse teams.

Alas, the Zouaves were not able to achieve their goal. The final result was that on September 20, 1870, the Italian army marched into Rome and Pope Pius IX ordered his army to lay down their weapons. The Pope retreated to the Vatican.

The return home of the Zouaves in November of 1870 was the subject of newspaper articles. Joseph Taillefer is specifically mentioned in this one concerning the reception that greeted them in New York.

Zouaves return

The New York Times, 6 Nov 1870

What was next in this most intriguing man’s story?  Stay tuned.