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Some Notes on a Pioneer Family - The Larocques of San Clara

by Eva Durnin

Manitoba Pageant, Winter 1979, Volume 24, Number 2

This article was published originally in Manitoba Pageant by the Manitoba Historical Society on the above date. We make it available here as a free, public service.

Please direct inquiries to webmaster@mhs.mb.ca.

Note: The author, Mrs. Eva Durnin, taught at Walker School Division, San Clara and boarded with Rose and Thomas Wheeler from September, 1929 to July, 1930. San Clara and Boggy Creek are located north of Roblin and west of the Duck Mountain Provincial Forest.

Alex Larocque (1837-1913), a fur trader, married Rose Sayer (1858-1948) at his homestead in Portage la Prairie in 1872.

Every year Larocque and his wife, accompanied by Mr. and Mrs. Frank Langan and a Mr. and Mrs. St. Germaine travelled to a central location accessible for trade with a large number of Indians. At this site a log cabin was erected with a sod roof and plastered clay walls and floor. Windows were made of scraped buffalo hides transparent enough for light to filter through. Beds were bunks made of poles and logs, the mattresses stuffed with hay. The cabin was subdivided into three sections to accommodate the three families. Rose gave birth to her first infant in one of these shelters but the child died at four months of age. The men travelled by horseback to engage in fur trade with various Indian tribes. After trading had taken place a horse dragged a travois laden with furs back to the winter quarters.

In Spring the furs were packed into Red River carts and the families re-turned to their summer homes. The furs were delivered to Rose's paternal grandfather, Mr. Sayer, in St. Boniface. The Hudson's Bay Company paid Mr. Sayer for the furs in bills of small denomination which remained in a wooden chest until he reimbursed Alex Larocque and his helpers. (The wooden chest was passed down to Alex and Rose Larocque's daughter, Rose - Mrs. Thomas Wheeler - and subsequently to her son, Sandy Wheeler of Winnipeg.)

Alex and Rose moved to a homestead at St. John, North Dakota in 1882, but they returned to Manitoba with their family in 1906. Accompanied by the families of Frank Langan, Jack Bell and Mike Henry they travelled by wagon train a distance of about three hundred miles from St. John to San Clara, Manitoba. Three open hay racks carried all household effects. Rose Larocque and her three-year-old baby rode in a four-wheeled buggy with a waterproof top and removable side curtains. The daughter of Alex and Rose, Rose aged twenty-four and her cousin, "Besant Larocque" on horseback herded eighteen horses and forty cattle. Enroute the wagon train sojourned for two weeks to look over land prospects at Elphinstone, Manitoba.

In 1906 Alex and Rose took the homestead, fractional section 14, 29-29A in the unorganized territory of San Clara, Manitoba. There were only six families in this area at the time and the only roads were meandering trails. Alex practised mixed farming at this site until his death in 1913. Rose remained there until her death in 1948. Their daughter, Rose, married Thomas Wheeler in 1912. During their working years they farmed at Boggy Creek, San Clara and Happy Lake and for eighteen years they operated a post office and store at Boggy Creek. On their retirement they moved to a cottage at San Clara on the Larocque homestead. Rose died in 1969 and Thomas in 1972. Other descendents of the group who arrived in 1906 still live in the San Clara district.

Page revised: 20 July 2009

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