Manitoba Historical Society
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My Love Affair with Louis Riel: Writer advocates Riel home purchase as historical site

by Lillian Gibbons

Winnipeg Tribune, 17 July 1958

For and against Riel: another attempt to purchase his house, now designated 330 River Rd., St. Vital.

“Of course I am for Louis Riel, I stayed in his home as a child. My family, the Goulets, were involved in the uprising. My grandfather, Elzear Goulet, was stoned by Wolseley’s soldiers. His body was carried home to my pregnant grandmother. One month later their son was born, “named Elzear naturally.”

So sums up Therese Goulet Courchaine, Masson St., writer, broadcaster, school teacher, till she lost her sight seven years ago, who “lives in her mind” because her body is confined to a wheelchair.

“Now this Manitoba Historical Society wants to buy the Riel homestead, to preserve it. Some doubt this is the right house. Let me say, it is, I know. As a vacationing child I stayed with Honore, owner of the house, right there on the river road. It was a log house covered over
with siding, and deep in bushes and trees. Now it’s been raised up and the land cleared and people do not believe it is the same place. It was Louis’ brother Joseph’s house, after their mother died. It was Louis’s home in ‘69-70.”

“Where was Louis born? One assumes in the Seine River house of the miller, Louis Pere. But we don’t know,” Mrs. Courchaine says honestly. “In the Red River house near the St. Boniface Sanitorium, I remember the reverence of using the parlor only on state occasions—the kitchen was where the family lived.”

Why the silence of the parlor? “Because there in the cupboard stood the coffin Riel was brought in from his hanging in Regina.”

“Camille Teillet married Riel’s young niece Sarah; he was a Frenchman from Vendee, France. My parents were godparents to their son Roger, who became an MP like Louis and even a cabinet minister. There was no church in St. Vital. Every Sunday, rain or shine, the Teillets attended the cathedral and came home to dinner with us on Dumoulin St. They spoke many hours about Les Grands Troubles,” says Therese Courchaine.

Roger Goulet was the young mail carrier, paid 25 a year, when William Ross was appointed first postmaster of Assiniboia, 1855. In ‘69 his brother Elzear was the mail transporter, riding horseback. When he saw four horses tied up outside the Central Hotel, and heard the rider exclaim, “Here’s one of Riel’s men,” he ran.

He was no coward, but they were mounted, he on foot. A rock hit him on the head as he dived into the river ... He was buried in the cathedral cemetery, a few feet from Riel.

The historian remembers her aunt, Mme Elenor Goulet, 103, who said of Louis’ cathedral grave : “His name is there but he is not there, it would not be safe to leave him there.”

The first Goulet came from Le Perche, France, 1645, to Three Rivers, Que. Famous now is Robert Goulet the actor ... Bernard Goulet was a CBC governor.

Mrs. Courchaine’s vibrant spirit expresses itself in poetry. In the local French. press “entirely in the street names of St. Boniface” a poem honors the 150th anniversary of French settlement.

Page revised: 10 June 2021

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