Manitoba Historical Society
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My Love Affair With Louis Riel: His old homestead now Louis Riel wouldn’t recognize

by Lillian Gibbons

Winnipeg Tribune, 21 February 1963

Rebel Louis Riel wouldn’t recognize his old home in St. Vital—St. Vital council has launched a campaign to have it preserved as a museum.

The three-room log house on River Road has been drastically renovated over the years since it was first built nearly 100 years ago. It has been raised on a basement and covered with siding. On a gatepost outside is a black and white enamel sign: Riel P.O.

But the house, now occupied by Mrs. Yvonne Riel, widow of Louis Riel’s nephew, was home for the rebel during a stormy period of his life when he returned to Manitoba in 1868 after receiving education in Montreal.

At this week’s meeting of St. Vital council, aldermen decided to ask the Manitoba Historical Society to preserve the house as a small museum.

Ald. Florence Pierce said: “I am scared the building will be found to be dilapidated and Metro will want to tear it down.

“Louis Riel was a historical figure and played an important part in early Manitoba life. In fact, I know many history teachers who take their students to visit the house to give them a better idea of our history.”

Mrs. Riel’s husband was killed in a traffic accident in 1947. The house has been a sub-post office since she married. She moved there in 1920.

Several Louis Riel relics had been in the house but Mrs. Riel said in an interview that she had loaned them all to the St. Boniface museum in the city hall. “I did not sell anything,” she said.

Asked if she would sell the house so it could become a museum, Mrs. Riel said: “If I got a good price. My two sons and two daughters have their own homes. What would become of it after me?”

One family treasure in the house is a sturdy oak armchair with a black leather seat. It was presented to the brother of Louis Riel, Joseph, after he had served 32 years on St. Vital council. He died in 1921.

The original coffin was left in the Riel house until the 1940s, when it was loaned to St. Boniface Historical Society. It is now in the city hall museum.

Page revised: 10 June 2021

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