Saturday, March 26, 2011

Godon: The REST of the Story

Adz:  The murder weapon

Gilbert Godon has appeared in this blog before - the first time, as a character in a novel based on fact; the second time, referred to by a descendant relation when discussing our shared history in and around St. Vincent.

Now, I have found him referred to in a book of recollections by a soldier who served in our area; it fills out the tale we already knew about Gilbert.

It's always fascinating to find out more than just the bare facts...
Breaking barracks was an offense that would happen at times.  A loyal Canadian named Sinclair opened a canteen in a log house, near the Boundary Line [a competitor for the Halfway House! - Trish], on the road to Pembina, and a few hundred yards south of the post.  Its location was in disputed territory.  During the day it was patronized by Volunteers.  The bugle calls, which by now had become generally known to others, gave notice of the presence (or otherwise) of Volunteers - they knew when it was sounded the roll call.  A gang of half-breeds entered the canteen one night, and found three or four Volunteers who had over-stayed their pass to Pembina and were feeling in "good spirits."  A mix-up occurred.  In the melee Sinclair was fired upon and might have been killed, but for a loyal French half-breed named Gilbert Godon, who threw his arms around Sinclair and received the ball intended for Sinclair in his own right arm.  The alarm was sounded at the Fort, but already a number of Volunteers were over the palisades, for the gates were closed.  The re-enforcements ended the fights and drove their battered opponents, hell for leather, on the run to Pembina.  The canteen was a complete wreck.  Sinclair and Godon were admitted to the Fort and Godon's wound received attention.  Godon was a good fellow, but inclined to be wild.  Unfortunately in a fight with another French half-breed in the fall of 1873, he killed his opponent with an adz, was arrested, tried for murder and sentenced to death.  Sinclair, whose life Godon saved in 1870, worked hard to save him from the gallows.  A petition was forwarded to Ottawa and the sentence was changed to life imprisonment.  Lower Fort Garry was then used as the Penitentiary.  Godon broke jail from there and was never recaptured.
The big fight at the canteen caused a number of the boys next morning to answer the defaulter's call, generally known as the Angel's whisper1, and they were entertained for the next two weeks with pack drill in heavy marching order.

From:  Rough Times 1870-1920 by Bugler Joseph F. Tennant (A Souvenir of the 50th Anniversary of the Red River Expedition and the Formation of the Province of Manitoba)

Another recollection of this event, on a family genealogy website, provides even more insight; it is also recounted in a collection of stories.

1 - "Angel's Whisper" is army slang for the bugle call for defaulters' drill, or fatigues...