Manitoba Historical Society
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Memorable Manitobans: Telesphore “Dad” Blais (c1832-1926)

Trader, trapper.

Born in Quebec, he lived at Montreal for many years before coming to western Canada in 1852, walking all the way from Ottawa to Fort Garry except for an occasional “lift” in a canoe. He lived near the Fort for many years, employed by the Hudson’s Bay Company. When the Canadian government started to build a railway from Port Arthur [Thunder Bay] to Winnipeg, he worked on a gang on a sub-contract along with Thomas Scott. It was Scott who changed Blais’ name to Blair, as “Dad” was universally known throughout the prairies.

During the Riel incident of 1870, Blais was captured while swimming in the Red River and imprisoned. He then served as a scout for General Strange. He was one of the first to reach Fort Pitt after the visit of Big Bear during the 1885 North West Rebellion. He was with General Middleton in his pursuit of Poundmaker. He hunted and trapped; he panned for gold during the Klondike Gold Rush; he carried mail over the Crows Nest Trail for the Hudson’s Bay Company, and he hunted wild buffalo and wild horses.

In his later year he was a janitor for a number of buildings at Edmonton, Alberta. He died there in early March 1926.

Sources:

“Early day trader and trapper dies, age 94” Newspaper clipping dated 9 March 1926. [Manitoba Legislative Library, Biographical Scrapbook B8]

Page revised: 25 May 2009

Memorable Manitobans

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