The Man Who Walked 1,800 Miles

By George Siamandas

You have heard of the road named Lagimodiere but did you know that the man after whom it was named literally walked 1,800 miles or 3,000 km to deliver a message to Lord Selkirk? Jean Baptiste Lagimodiere, Manitoba's most famous traveller completed his trip to Montreal 184 years ago on Mar 10, 1816.

The son of a farmer, Jean Baptiste Lagimodiere, AKA Lagimoniere and Lavimodiere, was born On Christmas Day 1778 in St Antoine sur Richilieu, Quebec. In 1800 JB went west, joined the fur trade and found work in the grand Portage area of Minnesota. He married an Indian woman and they had three daughters. In 1805 he returned home and married Marie Anne Gaboury. They returned to work in the north-west travelling around what would become Alberta and Saskatchewan.

In 1811 he set out for the Forks because he had heard that settlers would be coming to the area and he offered his services to the HBC. He was hired by the HBC on a one-year contract paying £30. JB was a great hunter who could keep their hunting parties supplied with food. Lagimodiere was independent minded and didn't automatically side with the Metis on political issues which explains his work with the HBC.


In 1812, Lagimodiere settled in what is now St James where for the next three years Marie Anne would have no neighbour. While they enjoyed peace in St James, 6 miles east in Fort Douglas, what is now Point Douglas, there were a series of violent clashes between the HBC and the NWC. During these difficult times Lagimodiere helped supply the settlers with food. But the Selkirk settlers were evicted from Red River.

HBC agent Colin Robertson asked Lagimodiere to take letters to Lord Selkirk in Montreal, telling of their plight and requesting aid. He set out October 17, 1815 travelling part of the way on horse. A man named Benoni Mairier and an Indian guide initially accompanied him. But later on he was entirely on his own. He carried no food and had to find everything he ate on the way.

The return was even more difficult. Lagimodiere carried back Selkirk's reply to the settlement. The NWC was determined not to let him through. Amongst his various tribulations including delays, he was robbed at Duluth by Indians and a Negro called Bonga. The rivalry between the HBC and the NWC was at a peak and Lagimodiere feared for Marie Anne's life. He would return to find the family safely sheltered by an Indian family.

Lagimodiere would continue to serve as a guide and courier. He received a land grant north of Seine along the east side of the Red River. Here he brought up his family of four boys and four girls. Lagimodiere was the first to permanently settle in the northwest. His wife Marie Anne Gaboury would be the first white woman to permanently settle in the west.


In 1844 daughter Julie would marry neighbour Louis Riel Sr. and give birth to the Louis Riel that would make Manitoba history.



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