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GABOURY, MARIE-ANNE (Lagemodière), first white woman resident in the west, grandmother of Louis Riel*; b. 2 Aug. 1780 in Maskinongé, diocese of Trois-Rivières, Que., fifth child of Charles Gaboury (Gabourie) and Marie-Anne Tessier (Thésié); d.14 Dec. 1875 at Saint-Boniface, Man.
Following the death of her father on 7 Dec. 1792, Marie-Anne Gaboury went into domestic service as the assistant housekeeper to the parish priest of Maskinongé. She remained there until her marriage, on 21 April 1806, to Jean-Baptiste Lagemodière (sometimes written Lagimonière, Lajimodière, and Lagimodière), a fur-trader from the Hudson’s Bay Company territories, formerly from Maskinongé.
Immediately following her marriage she travelled with her husband by canoe from Montreal to Fort Gibraltar, at the junction of the Red and Assiniboine rivers in present-day Winnipeg. It was a long and arduous journey for a young woman and did not end until her arrival at a Métis encampment on the Pembina River in the autumn. At Fort Daer (Pembina, N.D.), on 6 Jan. 1807, her first child was born. The date being the church festival of the Epiphany, the baby girl was named Reine in honour of the Magi.
In the following spring the Lagemodières left Fort Daer for the Saskatchewan valley. At Cumberland House, Marie-Anne and her daughter were welcomed as the first white females to have penetrated thus far into the interior of the company’s territories. Finally, at the end of August, they found themselves in the North Saskatchewan region, where they remained from 1807 until 1811. In 1810 Alexander Henry Jr met Lagemodière with his family at Paint Creek (Vermilion River). During these years Marie-Anne accompanied her husband on the many hunting expeditions which were the way of life of the free-trader in the west, thus experiencing to the full the hardships and privations that were the lot of the pioneer woman. Several more children were born to them.
When news arrived that a permanent colony was to be started under the initiative of Lord Selkirk [Douglas*] along the Red and Assiniboine rivers, Lagemodière and his family returned to Red River. They reached Red River towards the end of August, before the colony had really got under way, and continued their journey to Fort Daer. In the spring they returned to the newly established Red River Settlement. The North West Company, looking upon the establishment of the settlement as a scheme on the part of the HBC to cripple its trade, undertook to destroy the colony. Marie-Anne and her husband witnessed but took no part in the struggle between the Nor’Westers and the Selkirk settlers. However, in October 1815 Colin Robertson*, the HBC representative in the region, anxious to communicate with Lord Selkirk, employed Jean-Baptiste Lagemodière to carry dispatches to the earl in Montreal. He made the journey during the winter of 1815–16, on foot and unaccompanied, travelling over 1,800 miles and successfully completing his mission. On the return journey, however, he was taken prisoner by Indians acting in the interests of the North West Company. He was imprisoned in Fort William and remained there until August 1816, when he was released following the capture of the fort by Lord Selkirk.
Meanwhile Marie-Anne had been compelled to take refuge with the Indians. On the arrival of Selkirk, she was once more reunited with her husband in September 1816. For his services to the earl, Lagemodière was rewarded with a grant of land lying between the east bank of the Red River and the Seine in the vicinity of present-day Winnipeg. Here he built a frame house in which he, Marie-Anne, and their expanding family lived for many years. To the children already mentioned, the Lagemodières added five others, one of whom, Julie (b. 1822), became the mother of Louis Riel.
On 7 Sept. 1855 Marie-Anne’s husband died. She, however, lived to the advanced age of 95. Deprived though she so often was of comforts and necessities, her life had been one of selflessness and devotion, and she survived long enough to see the settlement of the west grow in strength and numbers, and her grandson become the father of the province of Manitoba.
AJTR, Registre d’état civil. Archives de l’archevêché de Saint-Boniface (Man.). Archives de la Société historique de Saint-Boniface (Man.). L’Écho de Louiseville, 4 févr. 1970. HBRS, II (Rich and Fleming), 229. Morice, Dict. hist. Can. et Métis, 116–17. J. M. Gray, Lord Selkirk of Red River (Toronto, 1963), 124–26, 136, 170, 273, 284. Georges Dugas, La première Canadienne du Nord-Ouest ou biographie de Marie-Anne Gaboury, arrivée au Nord-Ouest en 1806, et décédée à Saint-Boniface à l’âge de 96 ans (Montréal, ).