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


If Sitting Bull, Jean-Louis Legare and Father St.Germain have illustrated Willow Bunch history, there is another character who made the headlines in our country’s newspapers at the beginning of this century.

I am speaking of Joseph-Edouard Beaupre, better known as "Geant Beaupre or the "Willow Bunch Giant".

When Father St. Germain came to Willow Bunch at the end of 1880, he was far from guessing that the firstchild he would inscribe in the baptismal records of the parish was to be known one day as Geant Beaupre. Edouard Beaupre, the first child of Gaspard Beaupre and Florestine Piche, was born in Willow Bunch on January 9, 1881. The family was to reach a number of 20 children, of whom several died as infants Edouard was baptized on his birthday and the illustrious Jean-Louis Legare was his god-father. It is on this day that Father St. Germain started the parish records, previous baptisms in the locality from 1870 to 1880 having been inscribed in Lebret’s registers.

At his birth Edouard weighed 14 pounds. It was quite a remarkable weight, but nothing to worry about since his brothers and sisters of the future would also weigh from 8 to 10 pounds at birth. Up to the age of seven, Edouard’s growth was

normal, but between seven and fourteen he grew to an extraordinary tall stature, so much so that at eleven years old his

dad’s clothes were to small for him. At seven he started his schooling. Three years later, his school education was over. At his confirmation, when he was eleven, Bishop Tache noticed that queer child who now had overpassed six feet in stature and declared that he would be a giant. The prediction was realized because Joseph Edouard was to reach 8 feet, 2 1/2 inches tall. His weight was in proportion to his height. He tipped the scale to 396 pounds. His shoe size was 24. The stores, naturally, had o size in clothes that fitted the giant. All had to be bought to order. His strength was also extraordinary. While still a child, he already wrestled against fully built men and he was always victorious. Following one of these friendly contest, Jean Chartrand, on of the giant’s victims, made this remark: "How sad it is to be outdone by a child! Beaupre was an excellent horse rider and could throw the lasso with great dexterity. He was to let go very early the pleasure of horse riding or cowboy, for him too long legs trailed on the ground, especially when riding a galloping horse. It is on one of these unfortunate horse falls that his face was slashed on one side. Later on, when he became renowned and people photographed him, he was mostly taken on profile in order to hide the deformed side of his face. Giant Beaupre was rather shy but had the reputation of being witty. He had a sound philosophy of life and did not seem to feel miserable because of his queer conditions. He often said: " Today is today tomorrow it will be another day." He spoke French and English fluently besides two Indian languages: the Cree and the Sioux. When he came back home after his wandering across the country, he spent, in a very short time, all the money he had earned, and then would go back to fill his pocketbook. Let us not forget, through, that he helped his family financially.

He was only seventeen years old when he began his nomadic life across the country and in the neighboring republic. Andre Gaudry was the first friend to bring him to Winnipeg. Associated with Joseph Patenaude, they appeared in front of the public during a few months. They went as far as Montreal, where the Geant Beaupre became known rapidly and made a good impression. In very little time, he became famous and attracted crowds of people. He measured himself against Eugene Tremblay, the then world champion in free wrestling. After a month spent with his family, he leaves for a tour in the large American cities accompanied by J. Patenaude and J. Hebert. This journey was successful enough on the financial point of view that another trip was organized very soon after. This time he reached California with Patenaude, Bernardin and J. Piche as partners. They were gone for about a year. He was well paid for his shows, but Beaupre was robbed of his money. This misfortune calmed his pleasure to exhibit himself in public, because after that he did not move away from Willow Bunch for a whole year. When he undertook his next round, it was with his father, with Jean-Louis Legare and Prudent Lapointe. And this time he exhibits his stature and his feats in Providence and Buffalo, U.S.A. Again, he is cheated by a swindler who pays him his dues with a false cheque. In 1902, he returns to Montreal where he meets the former champion of heavyweights, Horace Barre and the still more famous Louis Cyr. Beaupre measured his strength in a wrestling match in which he was outdone by Cyr. Already, he had been touched by a fatal sickness which was wearing out his strength gradually. It was during this same sojourn that he accomplished many times the exploit of lifting a 600 pound horse along a telegraph pole. The reporters of the time entertained the public by relating all kinds of funny anecdotes about the giant" To be so exceptional was not always interesting.

There were many drawbacks to it. No door was high enough for him to go through. What about beds that had to put side by side so that he could lie across them. Here is the report of a visit to the doctor. It was about a consolation for a growth on the right side of his face, near the nose. After having wriggled (taken literally) to get in the doctor office, it was impossible for the disciple of Esculape to find a seat into which this phenomenal creature could sit comfortably. Used to pain and injury, the giant did not complain against the easy-chair even though in his sitting position his knees were level to his head. In the fall of 1903, Beaupre began to show symptoms of fatal sickness: tuberculosis. It was also mentioned that he suffered from bone decay and that his legs showed signs of weaknesses. In the course of the following winter, his health had been very poor. In the spring, as he was talking about anther tour, his parents tried to dissuade him from going. Spurred by the idea that he could help his family by earning a little more money, he starts another journey with a business man from Winnipeg, Aime Benard. He is employed by the Barnum Circus and on July 1, 1904, he begins his exhibitions at St. Louis Exposition. For the first two days everything went well. On the second evening while smoking quietly in his room, he stoops to retrieve a object that had fallen and experiences a very acute pain which caused him deep anxiety. The doctor and the priest were called. He was carried at emergency hospital on the Exhibition grounds where he died a few hours later from a pulmonary hemorrhage, on July 3, at the age of 23. Apparently the Circus obtained from his parents permission to embalm the corpse and to continue the exposition in the bier. The dead body was then to be delivered back to Willow Bunch by the manager of the circus, William Burke. But later on he refused to defray the expenses. The Beaupre family was too poor to bear the cost of bringing home the corpse of their son. The Circus continued its round across the country and abandoned the giant’s dead body. It was left in possession of the funeral undertakers, Eberle and Keyer. After a time the undertakers decided to get a profit out of the giant’s corpse. It was exposed in a store showcase. This macabre exhibition was soon denounced as a vulgar display and the police gave orders to have the corpse removed. The same stratagem was tried in another part of the city and again the police intervened.

Certain journalists reported that later on the giant’s body was transported to Montreal by Pascal Bonneau. For six months he was exposed in a sealed glass container at the Eden Museum. The large number of spectators caused so much jostling and disorder that municipal authorities put an end to the visits and looked for a much more reserved spot. In the spring of 1907, the body of Beaupre is found in a shed of the Bellerive Park, by children playing around there. Apparently, the Circus that used the body as an exhibit became bankrupt and abandoned it. A physician of the town informed Dr. Delorme, professor at Montreal University, of the presence of the giant’s body. The professor had it transferred to the anatomy department. There it was mummified. Just as the mummies of the ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, the mummy of Giant Beaupre is preserved at the university. Two conflagrations have damaged the university building but Giant Beaupre’s mummy is still intact. During Beaupre’s tours to the United States, the journalists in search of publicity and sensational news imagined a romance between the giant and a giant girl of seven feet, four inches, named Ella Ewing. She was of no interest to Beaupre. In fact, this was only a journalist’s invention, just as his imaginary marriage that was being published every two or three months. The autopsy performed at St. Louis, on July 3, revealed the following facts about Beaupre: his weight,375 pounds; his height, 8 feet 3 inches. Black hair and brown eyes. The post-mortem shows clots of blood in the bronchial tubes and in the two superior pulmonary lobes. In the left lobe appear to two hollows. One shows in its inner surface an ulcerated arterial vessel which explains the cause of the fatal hemorrhage. The stomach is filled with swallowed blood. Cause of death: Hemoptysis (spitting of blood) following pulmonary tuberculosis. The giant’s mother died in 1915 and his father in 1927, at the age of 74. At the time of the preparation of the Willow Bunch centennial, only one sister of the giant is still living, Sister Germaine Beaupre, of the Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd in Windsor, Ontario. Another of his sisters, Josephine, married to Alexis Lesperance, has numerous descendants in the region of Willow Bunch.

 Father St. Germain;

Reverend Father St.Germain, O.M.I., was one of the most remarkable figures of the early Willow Bunch history. He was born at St. Phillippe de Laprairie, in the province of Quebec, on May 1,1832, of the union of Francois St. Germain and Elisabeth King. His mother was English and had been converted to Catholicism in the States by Mgr. Cheverus, bishop of Boston, who afterwards died while archbishop of Bordeaux, France, and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.The future missionary attended for a few years St.Mary’s College, Montreal. He did not complete his college education but served as clerk in the Hudson's Bay Co. Bishop Grandin met him in one of the trading posts and directed him to the religious life. On November 1,1868, the Oblate novice was received as an Oblate Father at St. Boniface, Manitoba. On January 6,1875, Bishop Tache ordained him priest. As a priest, Father St. Germain was sent to Qu’Appelle, where he spent the best years of his missionary life; from there he visited the surrounding missions. In 1881, he was named to reside at Willow Bunch, at that time known as la Montagne de Bois. In 1883, he was the first to offer the Holy Sacrifice on the banks of Wascana River, at the present site of the metropolitan city of Regina. In 1884, he is sent to Fort Ellice, but next year Bishop Tache and Governor Dewdney sent him back to la Montagne de Bois to prevent the Metis of the locality from joining Riel’s revolutionary movement. He succeeded completely. He was esteemed by all. His kindness, zeal, generosity won him the affection of his flock. His dignified and polite manners won him their respect. Instead of joining the ranks of the protesters, the Metis of, la Montagne de Bois became some of the best scouts in the Canadian army. Father St.Germain is considered as first parish priest of, la Montagne de Bois. Reverend Fathers Les-tanc, Decorby, and Hugonard, O.M.I.,for a period of ten years, had been missionaries on the adjoining territory residing sometimes at Willow Bunch, sometimes at Wood Mountain. In 1880, Father St. Germain came in Willow Bunch valley with the intention to fix his abode there. Having arrived at the end of the year, he opened the register for the parish now known as St. Ignace des Saules, at the beginning of 1881. Not counting a short absence to Fort Ellice, we can say that Father St. Germain remained at Willow Bunch till 1893. At this date, he is replaced by another priest, Father Albert Leuret. When the latter leaves Willow Bunch in 1896, and the parish is left without a priest, Father St. Germain comes back among his beloved people. He stayed till 1898, time at which Father Emanuel Garon was named parish priest of Willow Bunch. Two years later, when Bishop Langevin called Father Garon to take charge of Wolseley parish, Father St.Germain (who seems, to have the specialty to fill the gaps) comes back for the third time to Willow Bunch. But Father is getting old; and Bishop Langevin exercises pressure on the parish to build a new church on the patch of land given by Jean Louis Legare. The old priest does not feel equal to that task and begs as a favor to resign the direction of the parish. In 1902

Father C.J. Passaplan, a Swiss priest from France replaces Father St. Germain, who was to die on June 4, 1917, at 85 years old, and was buried at Fort Alexander. In the last years of his life, his conversations and desires pivoted around St. Ignace des Saules, which he yearned to revisit.

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