Home Town or Home Community:
The Rural Municipality of Willow Bunch No. 42 consists of approximately 12 townships with a taxable assessment of $ 33,871,665.00 in 2004. The administration office is in the Town of Willow Bunch and is composed of a reeve, six councillors and a full-time administrator. The R.M. employs a full-time foreman and three seasonal workers for the maintenance of the municipality .
The R.M.’s focus is on road maintenance, garbage disposal, library services, landfill services, providing safe drinking water in hamlets and fire protection.
Many immigrants settled in the Willow Bunch area, and new parishes were established. As new needs developed, it was apparent that some type of organization was required. A Local Improvement District was formed and the first meeting of the LID was held on January 4, 1910 at Philip Legare’s Hotel chaired by Pascal Bonneau Jr.
The first members present and elected for the year 1910 were: Pascal Bonneau Jr., Dr. Arsene Godin, Alphonse Dauphinais, Amedee Beaubien, W. Ineson, James Hazlett and A. Saunier. Pascal Bonneau Jr., who passed away on the 29th of January, 1910 was replaced by Amedee Beaubien as president. E.P. De Laforest was hired as secretary treasurer for 1910 and was replaced by Alex P. Beausoleil on January 3, 1911.
Late in 1911, the Province agreed to change the LID to the Rural Municipality of Willow Bunch No. 42 effective January 1, 1912 .
Elections for the first council of the Rural Municipality of Willow Bunch No. 42 took place in December 1911 with the following results: Reeve Treffle Bonneau and councillors O.A. Hainstock, B. Lowman, Alphonse Dauphinais, Peter Kabrud, Joseph Lapointe and Alfred Lalonde.
The council of the day worked hard to establish new roads due to the granting of homesteads. The municipality is 30 x 18 miles. It included the parishes of Willow Bunch and St. Victor and the missions of Little Woody and Kantenville. The first R.M. office was built in 1927 and was administered by Leopold Sylvestre until 1958. A new office was built in 1986. It was designed by Dennis Thorhaug of Willow Bunch and it was built by Phillipon Construction of Willow Bunch.
The R.M. of Willow Bunch No. 42 now includes the organized hamlets of Lisieux and Scout Lake and the Hamlets of Willow Bunch and St. Victor.
A history book of R.M. 42, including Willow Bunch, St Victor, Scout Lake and Lisieux was published in April, 1998. It is a two volume set consisting of approximately 900 family stories, over 1600 photos and 100 various articles of history about organizations, churches, schools, cemeteries, war veterans, etc.
History of the Community of Willow Bunch
On a provincial scale, Willow Bunch is enormously rich in history. It all began
in 1870 when the Metis came to Willow Bunch to settle with their families. At that time the little Saskatchewan town was called “Talle -de-Saules” in honour of the bark from the abundant willow trees in the area used for smoking.
Months later, it was Jean Louis Legare’s turn, an important fur trader in the region, to arrive in Willow Bunch . The French Canadian erected a building which served as both a house and general store. We now recognize him as the Willow Bunch founder because he had a strong leadership in the community and also succeeded in uniting people from Quebec, New England and Europe under a common spirit.
Legare ‘s first experience in fur trading was in the area between Wood Mountain and Willow Bunch, a distance of approximately 40 miles known as La Montagne de Bois. Jean Louis Legare was hired by his Metis employer, Ouellette, at a salary of $25.00 a month to establish a business in this area. He organized a camp at Little Woody which is approximately 15 miles south of Willow Bunch and spent the winter of 1870-1871 collecting furs. In the spring he travelled to Pembina to sell the furs he had collected over the winter months. He continued on to St Francois-Xavier, Manitoba, where he became a partner with George Fisher, who had previously been interested in establishing a post in the Willow Bunch Area. Fisher provided the merchandis, the horses and carts, two men, and promised Legare one third of the profits. Legare and his party arrived to establish a trading post in the area 3 miles east of the Police Post at Wood Mountain. He remained there for 9 years.
During the fall of 1879, a vast prairie fire destroyed all of the grazing area in a considerable portion of La Montagne de Bois, resulting in many of the Metis moving east and setting up camp in the St. Victor and Willow Bunch areas. In 1880 Legare constructed a temporary building (a store and adjoining house ), the first wooden house in Willow Bunch. A private water line existed to the Legare Home. Legare’s efforts resulted in many settlers coming to this area.
In 1884, Legare drove one hundred horses to Manitoba and received forty five head of domesticated cattle in return. This began the establishment of ranches in the Willow Bunch area and served as a viable means of livelihood for some of the Metis there.
Nevertheless, many Metis remained in half starving condition owing to the collapse of the trade in buffalo skins. Many Metis moved northward and set up camps in the Moose Jaw area. The citizens of that little town became perturbed. In response Lieutenant -Governor Dewdney came to Moose Jaw and telegraphed Jean Louis Legare to come from Willow Bunch to induce these Metis to return south. Legare told the Metis that he wanted them to take something back to Willow Bunch and that it was top secret. Of course, they were not happy when they reached Willow Bunch and found out that they had been brought here under false pretenses.
Legare was able to settle them down by hiring forty men, which represented all Metis families in the area, at $2.00 a day as scouts. Legare scattered these families around at such a distance apart as to render them harmless.
In 1891 Legare bartered some of his horses for dairy cattle with the idea of starting a dairy herd. He also constructed a cheese factory which failed due to distant markets and economics of the time. After losing 350 cows from his dairy herd in the winter of 1893-1894, he sold the remaining 1,125 and puchased 2100 head of horses.This was also a disaster because of a long cold and stormy winter.
Legare became the first postmaster in 1898. He held this position for 20 years until he passed away on February 1, 1918 at the age of seventy-six. Jean Louis Legare was buried in Willow Bunch’s first cemetary (located within the town). A regional park has been named after this gentleman for his great contributions to this community.
THE WILLOW BUNCH GIANT
On January 9, 1881, Edouard Beaupre was baptized and was the first child to have his name in the church register. Edourad Beaupre grew to be eight feet three inches tall and became famous for his height. People used to call him the “Giant Beaupre“. He was the eldest of twenty children born to Gaspard and Florestine (nee Piche) Beaupre. That same day he was baptized in the newly established parish of East Willow Bunch (St. Ignatius Roman Catholic Church ) by Father St Germain. At age 9, Edouard was six feet tall and by seventeen he was 7’1″. At the peak of his growth, Edouard’s height was recorded at 8′ 2.5”. Because of his families’ poverty, Edouard, at the age of seventeen, decided to exhibit his Herculean size and strength to help his family financially. Mr. Beaupre fell severely ill while performing in the Barnum and Bailey Circus at the St. Louis World’s Fair. He passed away July 3, 1904 from a pulmonary hemorrhage at age twenty three. Many of his personnel items are housed in the Willow Bunch Musuem in a room referred to as “The Giants Bedroom “. There is his nine foot bed, his shirt, ring, collar, cuff-links and bottle opener.
Slowly, Willow Bunch developed. At that time, the economic stability was based mostly on ranching, being that the buffalo had disappeared almost completely from this area. Cattle were introduced and then in about 1915 the tilling of soil and the growing of agricultural crops became the way of life. History shows us that it wasn’t easy because of drought, prairie fires, severe winters and rustlers.
The Jean Louis Legare Regional Park is a beautiful park nestled in the natural coulees of the Willow Bunch Valley. One can visit the surroundings where the first Metis settlers stayed and enjoy the services of electrified sites, tent camping, showers, flush toilets and sewage dump. The park has beautiful walking trails and a children’s playground.
THE WILLOW BUNCH GOLF COURSE
The Willow Bunch Golf Course is located 2km SW of town in the Jean Louis Legare Regional Park. It is situated in a long wide deep ravine with elevation changes up to 250 feet between the fairways and the surrounding hills that were formed by the last ice age. The fairways are lined with 40-50 foot trees of White Poplar, Ash, Maple,and American Elm which are all native to the valley. The course has a par of 36 and a length of 2980 yards.
Our museum is located in the former convent school built by the Sisters of the Cross in 1914. The Giant’s ” footprints” on the sidewalk lead to his life size replica and a display of his photographs and personal belongings. Born in Willow Bunch in 1881 Giant Edouard Beaupre grew to a height of 8’3″. He died in St. Louis, Missouri at age 23 while touring with a circus. His ashes are buried on the museum grounds. You can learn about our first settlers: the Metis who established wintering sites in our coulees in 1870 and Jean Louis Legare who established a fur trading post in 1880. You can relive the story of Sitting Bull and his famous return to the United States in 1881, accompanied by Metis scouts and Jean Louis Legare.
SYLVAN VALLEY REGIONAL PARK AND THE ST. VICTOR PETROGLYPHS
Sylvan Valley Regional Park and St. Victor Petroglyphs are near St. Victor . Residents of this area have long enjoyed this beautiful regional park and a committee was formed named the “Friends of the Petroglyphs” who work to preserve and promote this very interesting area of prehistoric life depicted by rock carvings.