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Contact:bl.gif (1311 octets)Michel.Lopez@univ-lemans.fr

Alexandre "Catchou" McGillis, of whom is written about in this chapter was the uncle of my father. My wife, Winona, typed this from the book, "History of Willow Bunch" Melvin Beaudry

("Montagne de Bois" (mon-tain- dah- bwah) means, Wood Mountain , in the French language. mdb)

Figures From The Past;

If Jean -Louie Legard, Father Lestanc and Sitting Bull have illustrated the history of Willow Bunch, there are others who deserve a special place in this volume, either because of the part they played in the local history or because of the headlines they made in the newspaper columns.

("Catchou" was a brother to my grandmother, Marie(McGillis) Beaudry, their grandfather, who was also named Alexandre was the father in law of Cuthbert Grant. He being the same person written of in the book "Cuthbert Grant of Grantown",

Melvin D. Beaudry


There is a typical figure who, without really belonging to Willow Bunch, has not failed to illustrate in a certain way, the lives of the people of the valley of la Montagne de Bois. He belongs to St. Victor parish, where he spent the major part of his life, but there is not one spot of the vast territory of la Montagne de Bois and even a large part of southern Saskatchewan and adjoining northern States that has not been marked with his footprints.

He belongs to this race which occupied first and permanently la Montagne de Bois and which built the first chapels in the region. This figure is Angus Alenandre McGillis, nicknamed "Catchou". which means "small man" in the Cree Indian, language.

Catchou may not have accomplished remarkable actions, nor did he astonish his fellow-citizens by his scholarly speeches or by his qualities of leadership, but he has the credit of being among the first pioneers to arrive in the valley and the honor of having stayed longer than any of the others. He was just two years short of a hundred years of dwelling in the region. He well deserves to have his name inscribed in our local history, for it is not very often that a citizen can boast of the title "centenarian". Moreover, if it were only to pay our respect, in his person, to the Metis nation, this would already be a sufficient reason to engrave his name in history, for Catchou McGillis embodied several of the fine qualities of heart and soul of the first occupants of the valley: honesty, sincerity, respect for the clergy, piety.....

Angus Alexandre McGillis was born at St. Francis Xavier in November , 1863. He was baptized in the same village on December 23 . He was the son of Angus McGillis and Isabelle Fagnant, both being Metis. His grandfather was Scotch and his grandmother on his father's side belonged to the Saulteux tribe . His grandmother on his mother’s side was Cree. The Saulteux and the Crees formed, at that time, a very large part of the population of St. Francis Xavier mission, better known as Mission of the Cheval Blanc.(White-Horse).

In 1870, when Manitoba entered Confederation, the government, after having purchased immense territories from the Hudson's Bay Co., sent agents to take possession of these lands, these commissioners paid no attention to the property rights of the residents.

Troubles resulting from this state of things hastened the departure of several half-breed families, thus it is that the McGillis family joined the caravan which took the road for the West never to return again to the place that they had been the original founders. The Red River Insurrection headed by Louis Riel was to start a very short time after. Alexandre McGillis was then only 7 years old when the 75 families from St. Joseph of Pembina and from St. Francis Xavier arrived at la Montagne de Bois. Contrarily to most of the other Metis families, the one of Angus McGillis was not nomadic it settled permanently in 1872, on a farm near the actual St. Victor village. Our hero grew up in the valley of la Montagne de Bois, but stayed small in stature, reaching only five feet, six inches. At 14 years of age. he had already to his credit the high honor of having shot two buffaloes. He was soon employed by the cattle breeders of the region and especially by Jean-Louis Legare and Pascal Bonneau, but in 1888, he himself becomes owner of a ranch and raised cattle on a large scale. The very rigorous winter of 1904 nearly annihilated his ranch. At the end of the season, he had only about 100 head of cattle left, having lost more than 300 during the severe blizzards. He used more of his time helping other ranchers who came to him for advice and using his fine gifts of ability, perspicacity, tenacity, sense of observation, etc..... He had the reputation of being an adept cowboy, handling the rifle and the lasso with great dexterity. People around still remember the feats of this dauntless horse rider of yore. At his father’s death in 1881, Catchou became the supporter of his mother till her death in 1933 at the venerable old of 96 years. Mrs. McGillis had been one of the Gray Nun’s students in St.Francis Xavier and she had learned singing and music from Sr. Marie Eulalie Lagrave, one of the founders of the The Gray Nuns in the Canadian West, more precisely in St.Boniface. Mrs. McGillis was a member of the Metis choral that sang Father Lestanc’s masses at the Coulee Chapelle in 1870. It is from her that Catchou had learned to play the violin ?

Courageous woman, pious, sufficiently educated, she was the only teacher of her six children: Napoleon, Tobie, Jean-Marie, Alexandare, Therese(Lafournaise) and Marie(Beaudry) Catchou never knew any other school, except for the "catechisms" of the kind Father Lestanc. He never learned English. His usual language was French, although he knew the Saulteux and Cree. After his mother’s death, Alexandre continued to shelter his sister Marie and his nephew Antoine Beaudry. In 1951, after his brother Tobie’s death, he took with him his nephews Joseph and Magloire, Catchou never married.

Our hero was a model citizen, man of great virtue, always helping his fellow-men. His dwelling, so humble as it was, was always open. When he was out, he tied the latch with a small string as if to tell the passers-by: "If you are in need, walk in".

His glory is not in, never having hoarded wealth of this world: he distributed it in good deeds. The site of St. Victor’s church and rectory was a gift from Catchou to the parish.

He had the glory of having reached the good old age of 105 years, of which 98 were lived in the region where he was one of the first residents. One hundreds years of living and in such critical times, it is all the history of the country west of the Red River. He was part of the events that distressed those of his race.

He served his country at the time of Riel’s uprising; he lived fully the great buffalo hunts; he met and knew Sitting Bull. He saw the vast plains covered with buffaloes and he witnessed their extinction to make room for large ranches. Finally, he had seen and lived the intensive farming of these immense prairies which were once the undisputed realm of the buffaloes. Starting from the ox-cart of earlier days to jet of today, he witnessed incredible progress in all its phases. Alexandre McGillis is getting old but has not lost his clarity of mind, ascertained all those who cane in touch with him. For some of the winters near the end of his life, he took refuge in Old Folks’ Homes either in St. Hubert or at the Providence in Moose Jaw. But a few years before his hundredth birthday, he changed his routine and in 1963, on his 100 anniversary, it had already been six years that he had not left the parish and his property. The old dwelling that dated from 1888 was destroyed by fire in the fall of 1962. This house was the typical habitation constructed with available materials: poplar poles, clay and prairie hay. In 1963, the parish and the Board of Trade of St.Victor joined in the celebration of 100 birthday of our hero. After having congratulated the hero of the day and offered him gifts, a museum was inaugurated on the very property of Catchou. The old house which is sheltered in the museum has been built in 1890 from the materials available at the time. His Honour W. J. Patterson, former Lieutenant-Governor and also ex-Premier of the province, presided the opening of the museum and heaped praise on the venerable citizen.

Soon after this memorable event, Alexandre McGillis definitely took refuge at St. Antoine Old Folk’s Home in Moose Jaw and it is there that Death paid her visit to the old man on the eve of his 105 Th. anniversary. His mortal remains were transported to his beloved parish of St. Victior, where he sleeps his last sleep, buried in the patch of ground that was once his property and of which he gifted the parish.

(At one time there was a family that lived in Glasgow, Montana. Their surname was Lajimodiere, Mrs. Lajimodiere of this family was one one of the sisters of Joseph-Edouard Beaupre. Melvin D.Beaudry )

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