Born in Michigan in 1840, Laurent Garneau came from a family
of fur traders.1
His father was in charge of a North West Company (NWC) post at
Sault-Ste-Marie before the amalgamation of the NWC into the
Hudson’s Bay Company, and is said to be a descendant of the
Garneau family of Saint-Pierre-de-Montmagny of Quebec. His
mother was a Sioux who had been captured by the Ojibwa and was
ransomed by her future husband, who had her sent to a convent
where she learned French.
In 1869, Garneau set out from Sault Ste-Marie with two
companions to trade for furs on the Missouri River, but was
forced by the Sioux to seek refuge in Canada, where they met
Métis hunters and made their way to Red River. During his time
in the Red River region Garneau met Eleanor Thomas, a descendant
of the Selkirk settlers, who had come to the settlement in 1812.
She spoke no French and he spoke no English .
Garneau was a volunteer in the brigade to push back the
Fenian invaders and was a soldier for Riel during the Red River
insurrection of 1869-1870. He came west in 1874 and settled in Strathcona, where a subdivision on the south side of the river
took his name. He made charcoal for the HBC. He was arrested in
1885 as a sympathiser for Riel, was condemned to death and to be
shot at Fort Edmonton; but Father Lacombe intervened and his
life was spared.
A conflict over land ownership with John Walters took Garneau
to the Privy Council of London, where he lost his case, souring
him on life in Edmonton.2
He moved with his family to the newly established
Saint-Paul-des-Métis where he had ranched on Crown land, keeping
500-600 head of cattle and hundreds of horses.
Garneau built the first store and blacksmith shop in the town
and donated the lumber for the construction of the first church.
He helped destitute Métis and eventually owned huge amounts of
land, most of which were reclaimed for back taxes. He died in
1918 and was buried in St. Paul.
One of his daughters, Victoria, married land agent James
Brady, who became the parents of Métis activist James Brady.
Another daughter, Archange Brady, became a nun with the Sisters
of Charity of Montreal, the Grey Nuns, and spent a good portion
of her life in Fort Chipewyan.