Memorable Manitobans: Joseph Octave Lemay (1829-1892)
Businessman, MLA (1870-1874), MLA (1874-1878).
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. In later life, he was Clerk and Reeve for the Municipality of Cartier and, at the time of his death, Reeve of St. Norbert. He was also President of the St. Norbert Agricultural Society and Clerk of the county court of D'Iberville.
On 28 January 1855, he married Marie Julie Camille Augé (1831-1919) at Mendota, Minnesota. Her grandfather was Joseph Augé, a North West Company clerk who worked at the Red River North fur trading post in 1799. The couple had seven children, including: George Lemay, Alfred Lemay, Wilfrid Lemay, Marie Lemay (1869-1942, wife of Arthur Beauregrand dit Champagne), and Joseph Lemay (1876-?). He was one of the founders of the Winnipeg Board of Trade, in 1873.
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.
1881 and 1891 Canada censuses, Library and Archives Canada.
“Joseph Lemay is dead,” Manitoba Free Press, 13 December 1892, page 5.
“The reportorial round,” Winnipeg Tribune, 13 December 1892, page 5.
We thank Richard Girouard and 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) and Gordon Goldsborough.
Page revised: 18 March 2022