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Armand Trochu and the Ninetieth Anniversary of the Founding of Trochu: A Speech

by Jacques Bence

Page 1  |  

In 1985, Lorene Anne Frere was asked to contribute a history of Ste. Anne Ranch to the local Trochu history book. Her research led her to the correspondence, held in the Glenbow Archives, between Armand Trochu and his family and relatives, dated from 1903. The letterhead had the address "La Venauderie, Saint-Clementin."

In January 1988, an envelope addressed to "Armand Trochu Descendants" arrived at La Venauderie, sent by Lorene Anne, asking permission to visit and speak with the "Descendants." Jacques Bence, Armand Trochu s grandnephew, immediately phoned Lorene Anne, expressing his delight and extending his friendship and support to this work. The collaboration has established new sources of knowledge and understanding about the "Frenchmen who founded a city."

On July 26, 1995, Jacques Bence gave the following address at the Ninetieth Anniversary of the founding of Trochu, standing in the vale where his great uncle established Ste. Anne Ranch:

Reflections on his granduncle's departure from La Venauderie: Jacques Bence, Ste. Anne Ranch Anniversary Celebration.As I was flying above the North Atlantic and the boundless areas of Canada, your diverse and beautiful country, I was trying to imagine what could have been the thoughts of those who dared to cross the ocean 94 years ago, drawn towards the big Western Canadian prairie. Many studies have been printed in McGill University. Consequently, I shall not comment further on the various milestones marking how Trochu was created with a few horses, axes and dollars, the only tools the founders had; most of you know those historical facts.

On the other hand, I prefer to take an interest, as a Frenchman and member of Armand Trochu's family, in the type of mind and thoughts that pushed men like de Beaudrap, Butruille, de Cathelineau, de Chauny, Devilder, Eckenfelder, Papillard, de Preault, Sculier, de Seilhac, de Torquat, Trochu, de Vautibault, and many others whose names I apologize for not mentioning here, far away from their roots, and in what made them stay here. I live in France, in the village and the country home of my granduncle, Armand Trochu, which has not changed much in the last 100 years, so I often wonder, simply by looking around me, what sort of courage or sheer thoughtlessness was necessary in order to leave the comfort of that middle-class mansion, the quiet village or vibrant cities.

Most of them certainly had only a vague idea of the enormous size of the country, or of its extreme climatic conditions and the difficulties, types of sickness, isolation and dramatic events that they were going to encounter. Nothing in France is comparable or could have prepared them, except maybe horse riding. In France, the first village or community of some importance was at their doorsteps. Their comfortable residences and way of life reflected the old aristocratic conditions of the late 18th century, which were still quietly alive.

La Venauderie, where Armand Trochu lived, was a family country home supported by the revenues from a few farms with some tens of hectares of cattle and wheat. They had a small stable for three horses, a cowshed, poultry, a nice vegetable garden, water at will, and even an oven to bake bread. The climate was, as today, very mild, even if the winter temperature did reach 5 C below zero! In short, life was not difficult. There were receptions, garden parties, weddings, and other social events among neighbours at the same social level. Old photos that we own give evidence of this easy life. I suppose that the other members of the future French settlement must have had a similar, if not better life, especially in the cities. Consequently, there should have been no strong incentive for any of these young "aristocrats," as they were called in Calgary, abruptly to leave their douce France which they all loved.

Banner of Ste. Anne, Mother of Mary, July 1995 'Bonne Ste. Anne Priez Pour Nous': The patron saint of Trochu's early settlers in the trials of geography, climate, sickness and isolation. Now that I have read some of the private correspondence of Armand Trochu and spoken with his nephew, my father-in-law, who knew Armand Trochu and his family well, it seems that the so-called difficulties he may have had as a stockbroken in Vannes are minor compared to his strong desire to prove to his father and his relatives that he had the ability to achieve something by himself. To better understand his desire, it is important to remember that his uncle, Jules Eugene Trochu, had been governor of Paris and president of the Ministers Council of France; his father, Armand Trochu, with whom he had an often strained relationship, was General Inspector for Agriculture and a personality of Belle-Ile-en-Mer, in Britanny; his grandfather, Jean-Louis Trochu, had been General County Councillor for Morbihan; and other eminent members within the Trochu family tree occupied honorable positions in the society of Britanny.

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