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Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Octave Lemay (1829-1892)

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Joseph Octave Lemay
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Businessman, MLA (1871-1874), MLA (1875-1878).

Born at St.-Louis-de-Lotbiniere, Quebec on 18 March 1829, descended from a long line of voyageurs and fur traders, his third great-grandfather, Ignace Lemay dit Poudrier, made a trip out west as a commissioned voyageur in June 1704. His grandfather was Jean-Baptiste Ignace Lemay who married Cecille Maillot in 1783, and worked for the North West Company (NWC) at Ile-a-la-Crosse, Saskatchewan in 1804. Joseph’s father was Joseph Isaie Lemay, a navigator from Gentilly, Quebec who came to Minnesota in September 1853 and died at Little Canada, Minnesota on 15 February 1863.

For a number of years, he lived in the USA and became an American citizen. In 1855, he was elected as a Member of the Minnesota Territorial House of Representatives, Second District. He was put in charge of US Customs in the frontier town of Pembina, Dakota Territory [now North Dakota], from which he escaped from a Sioux attack and went to Upper Fort Garry and then to St. Norbert. He remained there for the rest of his life, owning a steam mill and speculating in land. He was elected in the general election in December 1870 for St. Norbert North and again in December 1874 for St. Vital. He was a heavy man who took two seats to sit down in the Manitoba Legislature. He was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, in 1873.

On 28 January 1855, he married Marie Julie Camille Auger (1831-?) at Mendota, Minnesota. Her grandfather was Joseph Auger, a NWC clerk who worked at the Red River North fur trading post in 1799. The couple had two children: Marie Lemay (1870-1942, wife of Beauregard Arthur) and Joseph Lemay (1876-?).

He died on 12 December 1892 and his property in St. Norbert was donated to the local church which, in turn, later donated it for use as an orphanage.

See also:

Historic Sites of Manitoba: Aisle Ritchot / Ritchot Orphanage (3514 Pembina Highway, Winnipeg)


1891 Canada census, Library and Archives Canada.

We thank Oliver Bernuetz (Legislative Library of Manitoba) for providing additional information used here.

This page was prepared by Robert Harrison, whose wife is the great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Lemay.

Page revised: 15 January 2021

Memorable Manitobans

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