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The LaPortes of Manitoba and their Roots in Quebec and France

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The LaPortes of Manitoba

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The LaPortes of Manitoba are descendants of Jacques de la Porte who was one of the early settlers from France who joined Paul de Chomeday Maissonneueve's mission in 1642 to build a new community upriver from Quebec City as a mission to make better reationships for the French colony with the native Indian population and to show them the value of a Christian faith.  (I'm using the terms and values of the times).  As such Jacques built the 16th house in the new settlement on Mount Royale on the farthest farm from their newly built Fort Ville Marie inside which Maissonneuve had his own house.  Jacques must have been in town on the day that their neighbours decided to rid themselves of these intruders and shot his neighbour, who had the second farthest farm from the fort, off his roof with arrows but were discouraged when they were met with gunfire from the fort.  As relations improved the village thrived and became Montreal which is much bigger now.  Maissonneuve performed a marriage ceremony for Jacques and one of the boat load of women which he had brought from France to help build the colony.  Jacques and Nicole would have 11 children including one, Pierre de le Porte who would be a paddler on Pierre Gaultier de Varennes et de La Vérendrye's (1685-1749) venture into the interior in 1738 to establish a fur trade with the plains Indians.  On this trip they reached present day Portage la Prairie where they built and wintered at Fort La Reine.
 
Their story is well told at
https://www.laporte-st-georges.org/en/jacques-de-laporte-dit-st-georges/
 
I take up the family story at the point where my branch of that early family left Quebec to settle in the new colony in Manitoba.

 

At the time of the 1871 Census of Canada, Joseph LaPorte, his wife Esther (Houle) and their 5 children were farming in the township of St. Norbert (Champlain), Quebec.  They owned 300 arpents (254 acres) of land on which they produced 59 bushels of spring wheat, 15 bushels of barley, 770 bushels of oats, 11 bushels of rye, 165 bushels of peas, 2 bushels of beans, 143 bushels buckwheat, 13 bushels Indian wheat, 352 bushels potatoes, 11 bushels beets, 13 bushels carrots, 6380 bales of hay, 17 bushels of millet and clover, 9 bushels of flax, 60 pounds of flax and hemp, 50 pounds of tobacco, 22 bushels of pears, plums or other fruit and 150 pounds of maple sugar – that year.  For stock they had 2 horses, 5 milk cows, 8 other cattle, 31 sheep, 14 pigs, 3 bee hives and had butchered 1 cow, 24 sheep and 4 pigs.  They also produced 600 pounds of butter, 50 pounds of honey, 75 wool products, 60 yards of linen and 45 cords of firewood.

 

It's hard to see why they would leave such an extensive farming operation to homestead an undeveloped strip of land in the West but in 1880 Joseph decided to follow the migration of settlers from his region that were moving to the new French settlements along the banks of the Red River.  Their daughter, Maria, was born in St. Norbert, Quebec in May 1879 but their last child, Marie Louise, was born in St. Norbert, Manitoba in August 1881.  

 

When the family first arrived in Manitoba, they spent their first year living in an abandoned Metis cabin on the Verrier farm.  Several of these log cabins remained in the St. Norbert area after Louis Riel’s Metis band withdrew to Saskatchewan after the rebellion in the 1870’s.  A photograph of this cabin still exists.   In 1881 or 1882, Joseph homesteaded at River Lot 72 south of St. Norbert about where the floodway gates are today.  He fulfilled his homestead requirements and obtained patent on his land on Feb. 28, 1888.  The 1891 Census of Canada has Joseph and Esther on their farm with their children Zachee, Zaida, Sylvio, Eliza, Maria and Marie Louise.  Several of their other children had passed away by this time.  Two of their children, Telesphore and Albina had married, had children and were living on their own farms in the area.
 

 

Joseph died on December 6, 1894 at age 57 while Esther lived on with a daughter, Marie Eliza Gagnon, in Montreal (St. Leonard de Port Maurice) until she died there on May 10, 1920 at age 84.  The photo shows Esther in St Leonard with her daughter Eliza, a Cure Houle (possibly her brother?) and two others who certainly look like they could be sisters of hers as well.  I have not looked into the Houle family.

 

The 1901 Census has their children, Telesphor, Zachee, Albina and Sylvio all married and living in St. Norbert with their families.  According to the same census, their daughter, Maria, was living in one room in the Laramee School in St. Adolphe, Manitoba.  She was probably the teacher but she is listed as speaking French only and being unable to read or write.  Their standards for teachers must not have been very high.

 

Joseph and Esther’s Children

 

Telesphore LaPorte (1863-1920)

Telesphore (their second born child; the first, also named Telesphore, was born in 1861 but only lived for one year) was 17 when the family moved to St. Norbert, MB in 1880.  There he married Hermina Bonin in 1884.  Hermina was the oldest of 15 children in the Francois Bonin family that had just arrived from Lanoraie, Quebec in 1883.  The 1891 census has them farming near St. Norbert with their 5 children, Ernest, Blanche, Anna, Georges and Augustine.  They gave up farming there after losing several crops to frost and moved to Kenora, Ontario around 1894 where Telesphore found work with a sawmill and Hermina ran a market garden.  The ground there is solid rock so Hermina and the children scraped up soil around the town to build up their garden and the children sold their vegetables door to door.  Telesphore gained a reputation as a strongman after he won a bet by carrying a railroad “frog” (a tool used to lever train cars back onto the track) for a certain distance.  Their daughter Corinne was born there in 1898.  By 1900, unable to pay their taxes on their house, they left it for the taxes and returned to St. Norbert.  Their situation must not have been very good as the May, 1901 Census shows them living with their 7 children in a 2 room house on his brother Sylvio’s farm (probably that farm lot’s homestead log cabin or the original Metis cabin).

 

In 1901 her grandfather, Telesphore LaPorte, worked on the construction of the Colonization Road extending it from Teulon past Norris Lake and on to the northwest.   When the summer’s work was done instead of heading back to his family as the rest of the workers did, Telesphore walked on another ½ mile from the point where the construction had ended.  He then dug a hole in the ground, covered it with branches and sod and lived there from Oct. 30 until Christmas when he returned to his family in St. Norbert.  In February he returned to his hole in the ground with his eldest sons Ernest and George and together they built a combined cabin and barn over the hole.  When the other settlers arrived that spring, the LaPortes were already there with their homestead already staked out and with a house built.  The farming community which would become centered on Inwood had been started.  Some of these other new settlers included Telesphor’s brother Leopold and three of Hermina’s brothers.  All of whom also homesteaded on nearby lots.  In 1904 when the first school board of trustees was formed to build the first school for the settlement, Telesphore was elected to the board.  In 1906 when the Municipality of Woodlands appointed the first Road Overseers who were responsible for the upkeep of the roads in various “zones” of the municipality, Telesphore was appointed overseer for Zone 43 that consisted of sections 1-5 and 8-17 of T18 1W.   In 1911 Telesphore and Hermina built a big stone house on their farm. Telesphore died in 1920 but his wife, Hermina, lived on after him until 1956 (age 96).

 

        Telesphore and Hermina’s Children

 

Ernest LaPorte (1885-1966)

Telesphore’s oldest son Ernest was 15 when they built the first log cabin at what would become Inwood.  He started farming but soon found that he did better in business.  He started by renting workhorses to the settlers that came to his parent’s Stopping Place and opened his own livery stable in 1910.  He owned the first car in town and when others arrived, he opened a garage across the street from his stable.  Soon he was the International Harvester farm implements dealer for the area and had a Ford dealership selling Model T’s.  He was also the local Manitoba Provincial Police constable from 1909 to 1914.  In 1907, with his future brother-in-law, Bill Cossette, he founded the Cossette School Division and was Chairman of the School Board when they built the first school in Inwood in 1909.  “Ernie” was a chief force in establishing Inwood as a town.  In 1910 he lead a group into Winnipeg to convince the railroad to run their proposed new line through their settlement.  When it was built, it ran right past his livery stable.  He became caretaker of the railway station and had a contract to deliver the mail around the district.  In 1913, he married Leah Cossette whose family had come up from Wild Rice, North Dakota to settle at Inwood.  They had four children Joseph (Ben), Hermina, Leah and Caroline.  After the Second World War he retired and passed his garage business on to his son Ben.

 

Ernie and Leah’s Children

 

Ben LaPorte (1914-1991)

Joseph Ulphie (Ben) LaPorte was actually born at his maternal grandfather’s home in Wild Rice, North Dakota but the family soon returned home to Inwood.  He grew up there but went to Winnipeg to get his business degree at the St. Boniface College.  When the Second World War started, he was not accepted for service due to his poor vision so he moved to Fort William (now Thunder Bay) where he worked building Hawker Hurricane fighter aircraft.  While there, he married Marion Bowles in 1942.  In 1946, they returned with their two children, John and Paul, to Inwood to take over his father’s garage which he continued to operate until his retirement in 1979.  A third son, Tom, was born in 1951.

 

Ben and Marion’s Children

 

John born 1943, his wife Gloria (Wityshyn) and their children Derek and Nicole.  John had worked as an electronic technician until his retirement from Atomic Energy Canada Ltd.

 

Paul born 1944, his wife Mette (Olsen) and their children Nicholas and Signe.  Paul had been a teacher in rural Manitoba, then in Denmark for several years and finally at a Winnipeg High School until his retirement.

 

Tom born 1951, his wife Bev (Motoska) and their children Leah and Kristie.  Tom had a varied career alternating between working as a computer analyst and being a political staffer until his retirement in 2016 and is the family historian.

 

(Note: the family histories for current generations will not be included here for privacy reasons)

Hermina (Toupie) LaPorte (1916-1984)

 

Leah LaPorte (1917-1934)

 

Caroline (Carrie) LaPorte (1920-2013)

 

 

Blanche LaPorte (1886-1967)

Anna LaPorte (1887- ?)

 

Georges LaPorte (1889- ?)

 

Augustine LaPorte (1890-1899)

 

Leopold LaPorte (1891-1985)

 

Yvonne LaPorte (1893-

Died young

 

Corinne LaPorte (1898-1995)

 

Rene LaPorte (1903-1999)

 

 

Hercule-Ignace (1863-before the 1871 census)

He probably died as an infant.

 

Eugene LaPorte (1865- ?)

 

Very little is known so far except that he did not marry.  I have found no record of him living in Manitoba.  He is listed in the 1871 Census of Quebec at age 6.

 

Zachee LaPorte (1866-1953)

Zachee was 14 in 1880 when the family moved to Manitoba.  Later he liked to tell the story that on the trip from Quebec he was responsible for the chair with the hole in it (the potty chair).  On February 9, 1892 he married Marie Schwartz who had come to St. Norbert around 1889 from Montreal to join two of her brothers and a sister who had moved there in 1888.  They farmed there until sometime in the mid-1890’s when he bought the blacksmith shop in St. Norbert from his brother-in-law, Tancred Schwartz.  Their third child, Alida, was born in their living area over the shop in 1899.  About 1902 he also built a two story house on their farm.  In about 1903, he opened the LaPorte Grocery store next door to his blacksmith shop.  He was the first merchant in St. Norbert to install a gasoline pump.  In 1920 with his business thriving he bought a town lot (now 49 rue Campeau) and had the house moved from the farm into the town.  That same year he had a very difficult tonsillitis operation from which he had a hard time recovering so he sold his business and retired.  The store later burned down on the new owner in 1924.  Late in his life Zachee took up wood carving, producing many of the French Canadian style figures of people and animals.

 

                Zachee and Marie’s Children

 

             Three children (Lucienne Beatrice, Napoleon Sylvio and Celestine Beatrice) who died in infancy

 

                Alice LaPorte (1892-1989)

 

                Napoleon LaPorte (1894-1981)

  

             Alida LaPorte (1899-2001)

 

 

Diana LaPorte (1867-?)

 

Albina LaPorte (1868-1897)

 

Ovilla LaPorte (1869-1871)

She is mentioned in the 1871 Census (May) but died on June 11 of that year.

 

Esther Feida LaPorte (1871-?)

 

Zaida LaPorte (1872-1955)

 

Sylvio LaPorte (1873-1943)

Sylvio was only 7 when his family moved from Quebec to Manitoba.  In 1896 he married Celestine Leclair and they farmed at lots 91 and 92 just north of St. Norbert.  (In 1898, Sylvio’s sister, Marie Louise married Celestine’s brother Cyrille.)  Pictures of Sylvio’s brother Zachee’s blacksmith shop and grocery store taken about 1903 show Sylvio sitting on his wagon in front of the buildings.  One day he was on the bank of the Red River filling up a water barrel on a sledge pulled by horses.   When he was fastening a chain around the barrel it slipped and cut off the end of one of his fingers.  After that he was nick-named “Ti Pouce” (Thumb) because he had two of them on one hand.

 

Eliza LaPorte (1876-1984)

Maria LaPorte (1879-1945)

Marie Louise LaPorte (1881-1966)

Marie Louise was the only child born after the family arrived in Manitoba.  In 1898 she married Cyrille Leclair (her brother Sylvio’s brother-in-law) and they operated a very fine restaurant in St. Norbert for many years. 

 
 
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This site was last updated 10/17/21