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David Girouard and Emma LaBossière

December 29, 1902-1962

Thanks to Jim and Lucille LaBossière who sent me this picture
and the following article, taken from
"Memories of Lorne, Manitoba"

David Girouard's Famiy

Parents du/of
Somerset, MAN
Verdun, QC
William L
Somerset, MB
St-Boniface, MB
Donald Alfred
Clement A
Dunrae, MAN

Génération précédente

Previous generation

The following are excerpts taken from "My Personal Reminiscences" by Mrs. David Girouard, compiled by Vi Foster in 1963. Much of the information in the Somerset history also comes from this booklet.


Mrs. Girouard was smiling, her short grey hair was curled and done up neatly; her fresh yellow cotton-figured dress reflected youth to her face which belied Its seventy-eight years. On this cold January day she answered the bell of their high-glass panelled door, famous in its time for its elegance. I entered their three storey brick home, to have an interesting session of sharing her memories.

"I have many memories of Somerset and St. Leon," said Mrs. Girouard, as we sat in her spacious living room. A neat pile of loose diary pages lay on a large oak table. The soft light of the winter afternoon touched the family portraits which adorned the walls. "Mr. Girouard is over at the store," she exclaimed. "He spends many happy hours there, and this is his 68th year In the store business."

The business now under the "Solo Store" chain, is managed by their two sons, Lorenzo and Orlando. Their first store was built in 1896, by Mr. Swathfigger. As Mrs. Girouard thumbed through her handwritten pages of history she nodded towards their large east bay window to indicate on the opposite street, the oldest house in Somerset, this low two-storey frame structure had been moved from St. Leon by Mr. Clement Labossiere.

Mrs. Girouard was born Emma Labossiere, in St. Leon, on July 14, 1884. She was the only girl of a family of five. Her mother, Marie Chretien, and father Amedee Labossiere were both born in Woonsocket, Rhode Island, U.S.A. Mrs. Labossiere was one of the few who could speak English, therefore was the interpreter for the Labossiere families. Mr. Amedee Labossiere owned the Hotel in St. Leon, it was situated near the lake and sawmill, operated by Mr. Frank Messner. She remembers many amusing Incidents which she and her brothers experienced. One specific memory is that of her brother Ulric, slipping into the wet sawdust, seeing this had the same effect as quicksand It required a couple of men to pull him free. There was talk of the railway coming through Somerset, so the family decided to move. While the men started to move the building from St. Leon to Somerset, the Amedee family moved to the farm home of his father Mr. Gedeon Labossiere about 3 miles south of Somerset. From that distance, Mrs. Girouard recalls hearing the noise of the railway equipment being unloaded for the construction. She distinctly recalls the excitement of hearing the loud clangs made by the heavy steel rails, as they were being dropped in position. At this stage the children had not yet seen a train, from the distance all they could see above the bushy trees was a high cloud of smoke. Therefore It was left to their imagination as to what an engine looked like. They were anxious to actually see this "big black monster."

Mrs. Girouard's parents' first old home was located where the present Somerset Hotel now stands. This house has found its final "resting place," on the farm of Mr. and Mrs. C. D'Hoore, south of Somerset. It now serves as a granary to hold bushels of golden grain produced from the flourishing farm lands of the Somerset district.

Mr. David Girouard was born In Marlboro, U.S.A., on February 28, 1874. His mother was Angelique Sanderson and his father was Raymond Girouard. Raymond Girouard took homestead on the N.W. 18-4-8 in the spring of 1879, which at the time, was part of the Lorne municipality. David remembers that at the age of five, his parents and his brother Louis travelled west, first by train up to Emerson then by oxen and cart to St. Leon. Their first meal in St. Leon, recalls David, was a good pot of soup, cooked outdoors, made with fresh vegetables given by welcoming neighbors. David and Louis attended the New Haven Protestant School, northeast of Manitou, for the first years, then later the Manitou School, where they learned English. David then worked In what was called or known as "The Farmer's Store," where he got acquainted with the grocery business. Louis learned the tinsmith trade from a Mr. Dunn. They moved to Somerset in 1900, where their father established their business in a Joint building.

Mr. and Mrs. David Girouard first met in Somerset, when Mrs. Girouard worked as a clerk in David's store. They were married in St. Leon on December 29, 1902. Their family consisted of six girls and four boys: Alice (Mrs. Benoiton), Berthe (Mrs. Mardon), Dora (Mrs. Dawe), Lillian, Lorenzo, Donald (Sgt. Observer, R.C.A.F. killed in September, 1942, during flying operations, over England), Melba (Mrs. Stone), Roland (died in childhood), Viola (Mrs. Moreau), and Orlando.

September 30th, 1389, when the first train came through, was a red letter day In the annals of the Village of Somerset. The first station house was built shortly after, on the north side of the track. The last passenger train came through on June 30, 1959.

The first building to be erected in Somerset was the Decosse store, in the summer of 1889, before the railway came through. Mr. Amedee Labossiere, (Mrs. Girouard's father) was the contractor for this building. He was a capable carpenter and furniture maker. At this point Mrs. Girouard remembered many things her father used to make, she could still vision him over the cook stove with his piece of wood soaking in the warm boiler of water, preparing to make rockers for chairs or sleigh runners.

At this time, Somerset was still in the "planning stage". The main street was situated between two farms; that of Mr. Charlie Clark on the west and Mr. F. Lachance on the east. The sale of lots quickly increased when it became known that a railway was to be built. Many families moved from St. Leon, among them were Mr. Clement Labossiere, blacksmith, who had his shop where the Lafreniere Garage is. Mr. Tony Messner, also blacksmith, located his shop where the Chanel Garage is. Mr. Garneau, a storekeeper, moved his store piece by piece and erected it where McLeods Store presently is. Mr. Garneau's store burnt down a few years later, and Mrs. Girouard remembers that it was a big fire.

The first hotel was moved from St. Leon to the location where the present hotel stands. Mr. Leon Roy built another hotel south of the tracks. There was a sawmill built in 1895 which was operated by a huge steam boiler. Logs for lumber were brought in from quite a distance. "One day," relates Mrs. Girouard, "I was in the kitchen with Mrs. Jean Gaudet, who was cook for the mill hands, when the boss rushed in and warned us to leave as quickly as we could as there was danger of the boiler exploding. We picked up Mrs. Gaudet's two children and fled to the station for safety. However, the boiler remained silent and the only damage done during this episode was that the mill hands had helped themselves to Mrs. Gaudet's fresh made pies."

Mr. George Longbottom built a brick yard one mile east of town. Bricks from here were used to build Decosse's Store, the Somerset Hotel, and the homes of David Girouard and Rod. Lussier, which are still standing. Mr. Edouard Labossiere operated a small grain grinder, and also a meat market. Mr. Charlie Clark was the first posmaster, with mail coming in 1880. The first school was built in 1903 on land donated by Mr. Alf. Richard. Before this the children went to Theodald school.

"I remember when a bag of flour sold for $1.10 at Decosse's store, three pounds of lard sold for 25c. We children would use gopher tails as money to buy goods. On Saturdays, my brothers, the Clouston boys and myself would take our lunches and go out trapping gophers. We would walk many miles in a day. A good day's catch would be as many as thirty-five tails. These rodents were plentiful; we enjoyed listening to their whistling noise which sounded like a song across the grassy fields. My mother would not allow us to buy candy with our earnings. One tail was worth 1(; I could buy myself a straw hat for 6 cents." Mrs. Girouard laughed and continued, "No wonder I was such a tomboy. When father died, in 1893, I was only seven and a half years old; I followed my brothers and joined In all their boyish games."

Louis Girouard was the first Ford dealer in Somerset; his brother David, owned the first car in the summer of 1909. Mrs. Girouard soon learned to drive and therefore was the first "woman driver". The first Reo car in Somerset was owned by Mr. Jean DeGroment. "In those days," mused Mrs. Girouard, "My husband and I took a trip once a year. We would travel as far as Elie and Winnipeg. We would start at 6 a.m. as it would take all day to reach Winnipeg. The roads were poor and full of deep ruts, we would take the Roseisle-St. Claude route. Our speed was about 15 to 20 miles per hour, on a good day we would reach Winnipeg around 4 p.m. We planned our trips in the autumn, as the summer rains would make the roads too treacherous. The first cars were doorless, so we had to use extreme caution, especially on the hairpin curves. One trip In particular, is clearly remembered. It was in November, we were on our way to Elie, and Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Girouard (my in-laws), were with us. While rounding a rough curve, we lost our balance and we womenfolk fell out, and rolled in the sand alongside the road. We were well bundled up in heavy blankets and big winter coats, topped with our gray heavy chapeau, and fortunately we were not seriously hurt. We looked back on this event later on, and had a good laugh over it, we must have looked like two bears rolling on the side of the road.

"We often played with our little Indian friends, as a lot of Indians from the Indian Springs Reserve, would camp around town. These playmates would supply us with bow and arrows, which we would try to master." Mrs. Girouard continued, "I remember their chief, he was Kitcheneca, and his costume was a colorful blanket with a fringed coat and feathered headdress. My father made many sleighs for the Indians, as they travelled a lot in the winter, transporting and selling goods."

The first Anglican Clergyman was Rev. Tansey who came in 1895. The first resident Catholic Priest was Father L. Belanger. Mr. Alex Perreault arrived in 1906. The first child born in Somerset was Antonio (Tony) DeCosse. Mr. Thomas Trottier had a cheese factory. Dr. JOS. Rocan, beloved doctor of the "Horse and Buggy" days served this community from the year 1898 until 1926. Mrs. Girouard recalls shaking hands with Sir Wilfred Laurier, the Liberal leader, when he came to Somerset in 1906.

When folk talk over the "good old times" they had on the outdoor rink In Somerset, situated near Weicker's residence, Mrs. Girouard's name is sure to come up as the artist on blades. Mrs. Girouard has many pleasant memories of her skating years. She was popular for taking first prize at Carnivals, her mother designed and made all her costumes. One year she obtained first place for her replica of Queen Victoria. Mr. Girouard and his brother Louis were the speed skaters and "barrel jumpers". The first skating rink was outdoors and Mr. Wilfred Allaire had a concession stand in the small "waiting room". We enjoyed cups of piping hot "Toddy", and a glass of fresh oysters, which at that time cost 10 cents a glass, after the skating sessions. Mrs. Girouard hung up her skates for the last time in 1953, at the age of 68.


"We cannot retrace our steps to any milestone, memory blanks the books each night before we sleep. Bravo to old Canadians, who with their brains and bodies toiled to make the wideflung deforested fields and roads, and who hammered up the villages, towns, and cities. The older we grow the more we realize that "life is worth living." Today, yes today is better than yesterday."

Mr. and Mrs. David Girouard celebrated their 60th Wedding Anniversary on December 29, 1962. A family dinner was held in the Somerset Hotel dining room. The family was present except Dora of Toronto. Mrs. Girouard's brothers were present. A grandchild, Leo Benoiton, was master of ceremonies. After the delicious French-Style dinner was served, by Mrs. Albert Ronceray, an interesting program of speeches and piano selections, prepared by grandchildren, were replayed on tape. An amusing afternoon of old-time fiddling and sing-song was spent in the rumpus room of the hotel. Despite his 88 years, Mr. Girouard amused everyone with a few dance steps and sang his favorite song "Little Brown Jug."

Raymond Girouard died on May 4, 1921 at the age of 75. His wife, Angelique died on May 10, 1933 at the age of 85.

David Girouard died on November 15, 1967 at the age of 93, and his wife, Emma died on August 2, 1966 at the age of 82.

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