Leon Harnois began his journey west from Rivière-du-Loup, Québec in 1873. His major stop along the way was in California where he joined many others in the search for gold. In St. Albert he settled on land on the south side of the river. (In more recent times this was approximately where Lorne Akins farmed). He had a second farm south on the Trail, land now occupied by Holy Cross Cemetery. He married Christine Lacombe, sister of St. Albert’s founding father and a pioneer in her own right. She was the first lay teacher in St. Albert, working with the Grey Nuns at the Mission. The Harnois’ lost all five of their children within a week during an epidemic of diphtheria in 1885. They successfully raised a second family.
Georges Gagnon came from Québec. Like most men of the time, he worked his way and arrived in St. Albert by indirect means. He worked his way across several US states and made a ‘stake’ in Montana. He actually arrived in St. Albert from Kamloops through the Yellowhead Trail at a time when the Trail meant travel on foot, by canoe and pack-horse – the hard way! He hauled his outfit across the flooded Athabasca and had to do the same thing when he reached the McLeod and the Pembina rivers. Just his luck, when he arrived in St. Albert the bridge across the Sturgeon was out and he had to repeat the raft-building and towing across even this modest stream. He farmed south of St. Albert on the Trail. In 1875 he married Nancy Cunningham in St. Albert. A man of great determination; he counted Bishop Grandin and Father Lacombe amongst his friends.
William Cust, born and raised in Ireland, came to St. Albert by a most indirect route. He, like many others of the time, tried his luck in the California Gold Rush. He made a small fortune there but lost it again. Undaunted, he set out for the new rush in the new gold rush in the Cariboo country. He was an astute and successful trader. An entrepreneur, he developed several very successful farming practices in the St. Albert area. He would be very happy in the present business circumstances in Alberta. He brought the first self-binder to Alberta. He enjoyed dressing well, as much perhaps as he enjoyed having good horses. He was a benefactor to both his church and the wider community of St. Albert. He lived actively until the age of eighty-five.
Lucie (Breland) Beaudry was born in St Boniface, in what is now Manitoba. She was a grand-daughter of Cuthbert Grant, one of the leaders of the Seven Oaks ‘affair’. Narcisse Beaudry, from Lac St Anne and St Albert, met Lucie in St Boniface during one of his Red River Brigade journeys there. They married there in 1868. They lived at Fort Qu’Appelle but came back to St Albert following the Riel Uprising of 1869-70. Times were made very difficult for the Métis at that time. They built a log home by the Mission and operated a trading store there. Later they moved to a farm at Egg Lake. They had a family of eleven children. Remarkably all of them were fluent in English, Cree and French!
Reprinted from The Echoes, Vol. XXV, No. 2, May, 2007; St. Albert Historical Society