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Joseph and Maria Gratton

Wedding picture of Joseph and Maria Gratton, 1909

Joseph Gratton was born on February 26, 1879, at St. Agathe des Monts, in the Laurentian Mountains of Québec. He was the eldest of a family of nine, of which were seven boys and two girls. As a young man he worked with his father on a small rocky farm or in the lumber camps.

In 1908, he heard about the opening of the West. Newspapers carried ads that read: "Wide open plains to be purchased for next to nothing. One hundred and sixty acres to be cleared and broken and a few conditions to be met."

The offer was very enticing for the Gratton brothers, so they boarded a train that took them West. They were Joseph, Delphis, Anesphat, Albert, Adelard and Ernest. Each took up land in or around St. Vincent. Land was cleared and shacks went up. Joseph was happy so he returned to Québec the following year to bring back his fiancée.

Joseph and Maria Lecompte were married in St. Jerome on August 3, 1909. A few weeks later the couple left for the West on their honeymoon and to make their home. This voyage was not exactly as pleasant as Maria had anticipated. Seated on hard wooden benches with their heads resting on a pillow, the trip seemed endless. In Vegreville, they could finally stretch their legs. As there were no hotels, large buildings were left to the travellers' dispensation to sleep. Each found a corner to spread out his bed clothes. Joseph and Maria had to follow suit and pretty soon, the whole floor was covered with tired travellers who fell asleep and snored. Maria had not slept too well on her first night in the West.

The next day, the couple arrived in St. Paul at Mr. Brunelle's place. Later arriving in St. Vincent, they spent the night at Mr. and Mrs. Olivier St. Arnaults. Finally on September 24, Joseph and Maria moved into their new home.

Maria, who had always worked in a paper factory in St. Jerome, found her new life quite trying. She was very lonesome, being so young and so far away from her family.

Mrs. Olivier St. Arnault was a good friend and also a counsellor in matters of cooking. There was rabbit, prairie chicken and partridge to cook. Meals consisted of what ever ingredients were on hand so one had to be inventive in order to prepare good food. Apparently, Maria learned well enough as she was known as one of the excellent cooks in the area.

Joseph worked long hours to clear the 10 acres (4 hecatares) of land a year as required by the government. To add to his income, Joseph did some breaking for the neighbors with his three bulls. One of them 'Ti-Boul' was pretty stubborn and when the mosquitoes and heat overtook him, 'Ti-Boul' took to the bushes, plow and all. Joseph usually pulled him out back to the breaking with a lot of time and patience.

In 1926, Joseph bought Mr. Camille Gauthier's farm. Joseph and Maria left their shack and moved into the Gauthier house, which was more comfortable and spacious. However, it was very inconvenient to have to cross the road to go do the chores.

Joseph was a carpenter and a good lumberman. Many a winter he would spend up north at Marcoux's sawmill to make the lumber he needed. In 1933, Joseph managed to build a house on his homestead and again they moved back to their original place. The new house had a special convenience, not common in those days. It had a cistern to collect rainwater.

Joseph always had innovative ideas. One of them was his hog-barn with an attached granary to make feeding pigs easier.

In January 1949, Joseph turned his farm over to his son, Rolland. Joseph and Maria retired into a house which he and his son Leonard built in the St. Vincent hamlet on the corner of his land. Every day, he would take a walk back to his farm a half a mile away to chat with his daughter-in-law or to help Rolland repair around the place. He could never completely stay away after 40 years of putting all his life and soul into it.

At the age of 75, Grandpa decided to move a granary next to his house in which to do wood work. He would spend long hours and entire days in there, doing what he liked best.

In 1959, Joseph and Maria celebrated their golden wedding anniversary and in 1969 their diamond wedding anniversary.

In 1965, they retired in St. Paul, with their daughter Germaine.

On June 15, 1971, at the age of 92, Joseph went to his final resting place. His wife passed away on November 3, 1972 at the age of 85.

Their children: Yvonne, married to Leon Brousseau on November 22, 1928. She passed away on October 27, 1961.

Germaine, married to Leo Martin on January 30, 1940. They have resided in St. Paul since 1965.

Rolland, married to Germaine Piquette on July 14, 1940. They have resided in St. Paul since 1972.

Leonard, married to Helene Bouchard on December 29, 1952. They live in Thérien.

Juliette, married to Rolland St. Arnault on November 14, 1944. They lived for nine years in St. Vincent then moved to Mallaig in 1953.

  • Reprinted with permission of the Saint Vincent Historical Society
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