John and Samuel Cunningham
John was the eldest son of Patrick Cunningham, an Irish adventurer who arrived at York Factory in 1812, and joined the employ of the Hudson’s Bay Company. John was also employed by the HBC as a scout, hunter and guide. HBC records place him with James Sinclair at the time of the discovery of Radium Hot Springs. John married Rosalie L’Hirondelle at Devil’s Lake in 1846 and shortly thereafter settled HBC scrip land at Big Lake.
Samuel was John and Rosalie’s second of eleven children and their eldest son. Sam became a leader among the Métis of the area and, in 1885, was elected to the North West Territorial Council. During the Riel Rebellion, Sam was captain of the St. Albert Mounted Rifles. Married twice, Sam had a total of sixteen children.
Louis and Victor Laurence
Victor’s father, Louis, was the son of Bazile Laurence and Agathe, an Iroquois woman. Victor married Olive Bellerose (daughter of Olvier Bellerose) in Edmonton in 1860 but died shortly after the birth of his son. Victor’s mother married a second time to Joseph Benoit Sr. and they settled at St. Albert on River Lot 34. The Smallpox epidemic claimed Olive’s second husband and in 1880 she married William Cust, a “49er” who had emigrated from Ireland. Having had success at mining and business, William purchased several tracts of land in the St. Albert Settlement.
Victor farmed in the area and worked as a freighter on the Athabasca Trail. He was a member of the St. Albert Mounted Rifles. Victor married Catherine Bruneau of St. Albert and together they had eight children.
Joseph Benoit Jr.
Son of Joseph Sr. and Olive Laurence (Bellerose), Joseph Jr. benefited from the value that his parents placed on education. Speaking and reading both French and English, he was often called upon to interpret and translate.
Marrying Rosalie Petit, Joseph farmed in the area and worked at various jobs. Joseph and Rosalie had six children, one of whom, a son also named Joseph, became the first man born in St. Albert to play hockey in the NHL. A gifted athlete, Joe Benoit excelled locally before playing for the Trail Smoke Eater and being signed to play with the Montreal Canadiens.
Born in France, Adolphe stowed away on a ship bound for Canada to follow his hero, a young priest coming as a missionary. Little is known about Adolphe’s early years and education in Canada, possibly in Montreal or Quebec City. In 1868, he was one of 14 young men to accompany Bishop Vital Grandin to St. Albert. Here, Adolphe worked as an Oblate Lay Brother at the Mission.
In 1871, Adophe married Julie Berard and they settled on River Lot 16 to raise a family of twelve. In addition to farming, Adolphe also worked as a carpenter at the Mission. He was a principal worker in the construction of the basement of the current church on the Mission Hill.
George Hodgson was born in 1818 in the Peace River area, son of Englishman Thomas Hodgson and a Salteaux woman. George was a freighter, hunter, trader and carpenter. He married Marie Rowland at Ile-a-la Crosse in 1845 and shortly thereafter settled at St. Albert. From this union came ten children. After Marie died, George married Louise Boucher, a widow with one surviving child out of seven. George is known to have worked on the Father Lacombe Chapel and the Bishop’s Residence.
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXIV, No. 3, December, 2006; St. Albert Historical Society