Monday, January 19, 2009

Maurice Godon

This is Maurice Godon. He was born in St. Vincent in 1935. His parents were William (or Billy) and Florence (Thiefault, sometimes spelled Tefo) Godon. They lived just northeast of my grandparents' home uptown across the little alley. His Dad Billy worked for many years with my Dad at the Noyes depot.

I was recently contacted by Maurice's daughter Sara who came across the story of an infamous relative1 on this blog. I ended up calling her Dad, and we set up a meeting for last night at his home.

I brought along my presentation case which houses my larger photos and paper items like newspapers, to share with Maurice. We began in the living room but soon went to the dining room table where we could see things under better light. The photos were mostly of a time period before he was born so like me, they were new to him. As the evening wore on, he shared with me photos he had, as well as an amazing self-rendering of a map of St. Vincent as he knew it growing up in the 1940's and early 1950's. It is an amazing map, very recognizable even to me although 20 years earlier than my time. I will be sharing that map in another post to better serve it justice.

I'd like to say that I felt right at home with Maurice and his family. There is a common bond between us growing up in St. Vincent which was evident as soon as we met. I received a warm welcome from Maurice, his wife, and his daughter Sara, and greatly enjoyed reminiscing throughout the evening of our memories of our hometown...

1 - 1872: Gilbert Godon, a Metis from the Red Lake district of the Minnesota Territory, has gone down in history as Manitoba's first official outlaw when he killed Benjamin Marchand during a drinking brawl in 1872. Godon was in many fights and usually nothing serious happened until the night of October 10th 1872. Godon and a group of drinking buddies arrived at the Fort Dufferin home of A.J. Fawcett who was selling liquor illegally, when Fawcett refused to serve the new arrivals he was pushed and threatened by Benjamin Marchand. Godon, in defense of Fawcett, intervened and chased Marchand outside. Marchand's son (Benjamin Jr.) retaliated by grabbing a shovel and banging Godon on the head. The fight was then joined by Godon's father and brother and the Marchand's retreated to the backyard. They then attacked the Godon's for a second time and were again repelled. After the victory, Fawcett remembered that he did have some whiskey hidden, and began serving the victors of the fight. An hour later Gilbert went outside for fresh air and ran into young Benjamin in the yard. Fearing another attack, he grabbed Marchand and dragged him inside. Her then knocked him down several times and began striking him on the head with the back of an axe head. Before his family and friends could intervene, Godon struck Marchand in the head with what was to later prove to be a fatal blow from the blade. Fawcett then went to the nearby headquarters of the Boundary Commission (help at Fort Garry was 95 km. north). He returned with fifteen men led by Sergeant James Armstrong of the Royal Engineers. Benjamin died shortly after their arrival so they detained Godon. However, the officer in charge of the Boundary Commision refused to accept responsibility for him and he was released. He then fled across the border into Dakota Territory. Subsequently, a coroner's jury found Gilbert to be responsible for Marchand's death and on November 12, 1873, a grand jury brought a charge of murder against him and a warrant was issued for his arrest. Six months after arriving in North Dakota Godon was involved in another fight and jailed at Pembina. Manitoba's chief constable, Richard Powell, learned of this and traveled to Pembina to return Godon to Winnipeg. On June 19th, 1874, Godon appeared in court and plead not guilty. The following Monday, his trial was held, the jury deliberated for thirty minutes, found him guilty and he was sentenced to hang on August 26th. Godon, however, still had the sympathy of one man, bartender Dugald Sinclair, whose life Godon had saved in 1870. Sinclair began a campaign for clemency and in response to these petitions, the government commuted Godon?s sentence to 14 years imprisonment. He was then transferred to the provincial prison at Upper Fort Garry. On the morning of September 23, 1876, Godon bolted from the work gang he was on, grabbed a small boat and took off across the Red River. He then collected his wife and his horse and again fled to the Dakota Territory. He lived back and forth between Pembina and his brother's place at Emerson. In 1877, Bradley, the Justice of the Peace at Emerson sent a posse to pick Godon up at his brother's house. Godon met them with a revolver in each hand, then in the meelee caused by his mother and sister-in-law he again escaped. In February of 1880 he was again arrested for a brawl at Pembina, locked up again only to escape soon after with Frank La Rose. He and LaRose were reported to be in a Half-Breed camp on the Missouri River five months later. LaRose died shortly after their arrival of hunger and exposure. Gilbert Godon survived, never to be seen in Canada again. - From Metis Firsts in North America