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THE LEMIEUX SAGA


Jacque Lemieux was the mayor of Boulogne. He held that position at the discretion of the King of France. Louis the XVI was of the Bourbon family and had been the Monarch since 1770. He married the Austrian Princess, Marie Antoinette, in 1780. Jacque had some minimum influence with friends that served on the king’s court and was able to gain the mayoral appointment. As he observed what was happening in France he was becoming more disillusioned with the actions of the royalty. Jacque had acquaintance with many of the leading citizens of France that were not part of the royal court. Conversations and written communication were rife with disgust at the excesses of the royal court. People were starving and the royal family was wanting for nothing. The final straw was when it was related that when told the people were hungry because they had no bread, Marie Antoinette responded “let them eat cake”. More and more groups were revolting against the excesses of the monarchs.

Jacque Lemieux was at the center of the people that cared about the bourgeois and was not hesitant about letting his feelings be known. Jacque had underestimated the royals and the animosity they felt towards officials that did not support them. One night at midnight a group of men broke down the door of the Lemieux home. They drug Jacque from his bed and threw him in a carriage to be transported to Paris. The trial was held the day they arrived in Paris and the judge sentenced Jacque to ten years for sedition. The trial lasted twenty minutes. Jacque was immediately transported to the Bastille to serve the sentence. This was the judicial system of Monarchist France. The King decided guilt and innocence. This was a huge problem for the people and one of the reasons they were becoming increasingly disenchanted with the Monarchy.

Claude Lemieux was the oldest child of Jacque and the only son. Claude was 25 years old and had a young child when Jacque was arrested. When Claude learned that his Father was arrested he immediately left for Paris. He talked to his Father’s friends in the Bourbon court. He was told there was nothing that they could do for Jacque. The King was adamant that his enemies be put away where they could cause no trouble. Claude went to the Bastille to see his father but was denied entrance. No one was allowed to see the prisoners. Claude visited some of the other discontented citizens to advise them of what had happened. They told Claude that plans were being made and to be prepared to help when the time came. Claude returned to Boulogne and bided his time. The news from Paris was that crowds were taking to the streets. The same thing was happening in other major cities like Bordeaux and Lyon and Marseille. The people were just fed up and were ready to do away with 500 years of Bourbon rule.

The crowds in Paris were getting larger every day and the troops were unable to control the crowds. Many of the soldiers and their officers were defecting to the side of the rebels. The turmoil continued for a year and in the year 1790 the crowds won. The monarchy was deposed. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette were beheaded in front of cheering crowds. The mob stormed the Bastille and released the prisoners. Claude was among those that stormed the Bastille and went looking for his father. He learned that his father had been tortured and killed by his jailors just days earlier. Claude lost his father to the revolution and he missed him. Claude stayed in Paris for a brief time to watch the beheading of other Dukes and Counts. The days of the royalty were over. Claude went home to his wife and child with a sense of foreboding.

The royals were gone but France was in serious trouble. After so many years of rule by royal decree there were no leaders with experience. Just rabble and mob rule. France was being governed by anarchists and the situation was worsening every day. Crime and murder were rampant in the large cities. Anyone that had a grudge against a person would say they were a royalist and they were usually beheaded. Things in Boulogne were not as bad as in the large cities. The people of the towns and villages took care of each other as most had grown up together and knew each other well. France was barely surviving as a society. A puppet king was hired and put in place and things settled down. After many years of being a civilized society and one of the strongest countries in the world, France had degenerated into a third rate country.

Francois Lemieux, the only son of Claude, had just turned eighteen years old when things changed again. A colonel in the French army accomplished a coup d’etat and deposed the hired king and became the leader of France. This Corsican colonel, Napoleon Bonaparte, established himself as emperor for life. As his first act he announced that he would conscript every able bodied man in France to serve in the army. Claude knew what was coming and did not want Francois to be a part of the waging of war. Bonaparte was going to try and restore the glory of France by going to war with the rest of Europe. No one was allowed to leave France without permission and it would only be a short time before they would come to make Francois into cannon fodder for Napoleon’s ambitions. Claude had been teaching the English language to Francois for the past ten years as a precaution. Francois did not want to leave his family and leave France but finally acceded to his father’s plan. Claude had some friends that were supposed to be fishermen. In reality they were smugglers. Their fishing boats had many hidden compartments for hiding contraband and Francois fit nicely into one of the compartments. When the officials searched the boat they had no clue that Francois was aboard. The boat crossed the English Channel and put Francois on a remote beach close to Dover. Claude had furnished Francois with an adequate amount of money to survive for a period of time.

When Francois got to the nearest town he noticed he was getting a lot strange looks. A lot of young Frenchmen were leaving France and Francois had been warned that there were some Englishmen that captured the men and returned them to France for a bounty. Francois did not stay by the coast for long. He made his way to London. When people asked his name he said it was Frank Limon. He did not want to appear to be French. When Francois got to London he learned of a company that was hiring people to go to Canada and work in the wheat fields of the Great Plains. Francois wanted to be out of England and further from France. He found these men and signed on for three years of work. The boat would leave in one week.

The boat carried one hundred and fifty men. It would land at Quebec and the men would be transported to Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The men were loaded on two smaller boats to be taken up the St. Lawrence River and onto Lake Ontario. They were off loaded at the city of Toronto and taken by wagons to Lake Huron and onto Lake Superior. This was a tiring trip that took about a month. They were again off loaded at Thunder Bay and now would proceed by wagon. It was now June and they were anxious to get the men to the wheat fields in time for the harvest. By early July they were in Manitoba and groups of men were dropped off at various locations along the route. Francois changed his name back to the proper name. Francois was left with a group of twenty men at the village of Regina in Saskatchewan province. They were given quarters and were sent immediately into the fields with scythes to start the harvesting of the wheat. This was arduous work. The men swung the scythes from sunup to sundown. Since they had been travelling the men were not in very good shape for the work. Several of the men passed out from the heat and the strenuous work.

After a few weeks of this labor the men were better able to tolerate the work and the work started going swiftly. Ten men were able to clear a sixty acre field in less than a week. The other ten men were used to gather the cut wheat and tie it into sheaves for transport to the sheds where the wheat was threshed to separate the wheat kernels from the stalk. After the threshing the straw was baled and stored for winter feed for animals.

The work was strenuous but rewarding. The men now had about four weeks off before it would be time to break ground for the next year’s crop. Francois was enervated with the experience. It was the first time in his life that he had exerted himself with hard work and he loved it. He felt good about himself and what he had been able to accomplish. Francois had found a nice boarding house in Regina and took a room. Five of his co-workers also had rooms in the same boarding house. They were still obligated to work in the fields for the three years but were able to find other employment for the time when there was no work to be done in the fields.

Francois loved Regina. It was similar to Boulogne except the sea was of grass and wheat instead of water. The people were friendly and appreciated the men that came to work the fields as it was good for the economy. Adding twenty hard working men to Regina was a good thing.

The house next door to the boarding house had a very nice family. The man of the family was the local banker. He had a very nice 18 year old daughter that caught the eye of Francois. Francois talked with her at every opportunity and soon they were often seen together. Francois told Penelope of his past and told of his leaving France to avoid fighting in Napoleon’s War. He told her he wasn’t a coward but did not believe that the war was for the right cause. France did not have the right to subjugate other people from other cultures. He told of his Father and how he had worked for the revolution and helped him to leave France. He told of his Grandfather and how he had died in the Bastille for opposing the corrupt rule of Louis XVI. Penelope told her father all that Francois had told her. Penelope’s father was enthralled with the story. His family had moved to Canada from England because they did not like being ruled by a king and wanted to be as far from the King as possible. Walter Baker invited Francois to dinner and everyone had a very enjoyable time. After dinner Walter invited Francois into his study and they talked together well into the night. When Francois finally left, Penelope was already asleep.

Francois and Penelope continued to see each other and Francois had many dinners at the Baker house. Walter offered Francois a job at the bank. Francois agreed to take the job as long as it was understood that he was obligated to do the field work for his three year agreement. Walter opined that they could probably buy him out of that obligation but Francois would not do that. An agreement was an agreement and the company had been very good to him and he felt a debt. This stance by Francois only served to impress Walter even more.

Francois and Penelope were madly in love. Francois asked for permission to marry Penelope and the permission was quickly granted. The wedding would take place in the winter when there was no field work to be done. The happy couple moved into a house down the street from the Baker house. Penelope was soon expecting their first child.

The three years were up and Francois had fulfilled his obligation. The company was sorry to lose him as he was the hardest worker on his team. Walter needed him in the bank to continue to learn that business as he would need to take over the bank someday and Francois needed to be prepared. The business at the bank grew as the town of Regina grew. Walter and Francois were able to buy a bank in Saskatoon and changed the name of both banks to Bank of Saskatchewan. They bought several smaller banks in the province and now had five banks. Walter decided that Francois could run the banks better than he could and decided to retire and play with his four grandchildren.

Francois was missing his family. Things were still not good in France. Francois wrote to Claude to sell everything and come to Regina. There were better opportunities and a chance for his two sisters and his Mother to have a better life. Claude wrote back that they were on the way. Now life was complete for Francois. He had everything he needed. He had a wife that he adored and four fabulous children. He had an excellent relationship with Penelope’s family. Now his family would be in Regina. Francois had many friends in Regina and was respected by the people. He thought back that he was reluctant to leave Boulogne but was glad that things had worked out so perfectly.

The curious part of the story is that the same wheat farmers that brought Frank to Saskatchewan to work in their fields now went to Francois to borrow money to get their crops in. They became good friends.

Life was good.





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