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Antoine Gingras, Fur Trader

9/26/2005:

That’s a song written by Pierre Falcon in 1816 to memorialize the Battle of Seven Oaks, in which the French-Chippewa Métis fought and killed 23 Selkirk settlers. The battle was a defining moment for the Métis, cementing them as a separate and unique culture.

Falcon named his tune “La Chanson de la Grenouillere” or “The Ballad of Frog Plain.” One source states, “The ballad recaptures the spirit of the battle, highlights the events, celebrates the bravery of the Métis, and denounces the alleged treachery of their white opponents. The song became a kind of legend for the Métis, a symbol of their resistance to the encroachment of Les Anglais, and an oral record of an important incident in their history as a people. It was recognized as their ‘chant national’ and it swept along the fur trade routes ‘like prairie fire.’”1

The anthem became a favorite of Antoine Gingras, who some fifty years later sang it so often, one of his fellow travelers, Reverend Gilfillan, said it got on his nerves.

Antoine Gingras was born into the Métis culture in 1821 and, as an adult, was a Plains hunter and independent fur trader. When he was about 22, he established the Gingras Trading Post and, with Father Belcourt and several Métis families, co-founded the town of St. Joseph near Pembina. The area soon became one of the major Métis centers on the North American continent.

Gingras was described as fat and jolly and had dark twinkling eyes, black hair, and a wildly bushy beard. He also was a very shrewd businessman. He and his fellow Métis concentrated on buffalo – trading in hides, pemmican and tallow. Gingras operated under a Hudson’s Bay contract for a short time, but in 1851 he joined the Red River and Pembina Outfit, a coalition of free traders organized by Norman Kittson.

With posts in both St. Joseph and Pembina, Gingras transported goods to St. Paul with now-famous Red River Carts. Harper’s Magazine did a story on these carts in 1878, reporting: “It is simply a light box with a pair of shafts, mounted on an axle connecting two enormous wheels. There is no concession made to the aversion of the human frame to sudden violent changes of level; there is no weakness of luxury about this vehicle. The wheels are broad...so as not to cut through the prairie sod. They are long in the spokes, so as to pass safely through fords and mud holes. They are very much dished so that they can be strapped together and rawhide stretched over them to make a boat...there is not a bit of metal about it, so that, if anything breaks, the material to repair it is easily found. The axles are never greased and they furnish an incessant answer to the old conundrum: ‘What makes more noise than a pig in a poke?’”

When Antoine Gingras died on this date in 1877, he was wealthy, with stores in Winnipeg, Pembina and St. Joseph, and a trading post near the Souris River. His connections stretched from Winnipeg to St. Paul, and he also served on the MN Territorial Council. Gingras County was established in central North Dakota in 1874, but it was renamed Wells County ten years later.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired Gingras’s original house and 2-story log trading post in 1955. Each was restored. The log house was repainted its original colors, deep red with white trim, and the interior was also returned to its original color scheme – blue walls, yellow floors, pink ceilings, and green and brown trim.

The Gingras Trading Post is now a State Historic Site is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands just outside of St. Joseph – now known as Walhalla.

Source: The Bismarck Tribune | 1955-12-13

Jeff Blanchard, Site Supervisor, Pembina State Museum, Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site. May 24, 2005.

The Métis Nation of Ontario. <http://www.metisnation.org/news/05_aug_gingras1.html>

Genealogy: <http://www.geocities.com/~robnson/sgen/d0000/g0000014.html#I153>

General State History. <http://www.theus50.com/northdakota/>

St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba. <http://www.sfx125.ca/cim/330C2_4T230T5T261.dhtm#CT265>

Song, http://cnc.virtuelle.ca/chansons/colons/falcon.html#Anchor-Le%2019-20639

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm
That’s a song written by Pierre Falcon in 1816 to memorialize the Battle of Seven Oaks, in which the French-Chippewa Métis fought and killed 23 Selkirk settlers. The battle was a defining moment for the Métis, cementing them as a separate and unique culture.

Falcon named his tune “La Chanson de la Grenouillere” or “The Ballad of Frog Plain.” One source states, “The ballad recaptures the spirit of the battle, highlights the events, celebrates the bravery of the Métis, and denounces the alleged treachery of their white opponents. The song became a kind of legend for the Métis, a symbol of their resistance to the encroachment of Les Anglais, and an oral record of an important incident in their history as a people. It was recognized as their ‘chant national’ and it swept along the fur trade routes ‘like prairie fire.’”1

The anthem became a favorite of Antoine Gingras, who some fifty years later sang it so often, one of his fellow travelers, Reverend Gilfillan, said it got on his nerves.

Antoine Gingras was born into the Métis culture in 1821 and, as an adult, was a Plains hunter and independent fur trader. When he was about 22, he established the Gingras Trading Post and, with Father Belcourt and several Métis families, co-founded the town of St. Joseph near Pembina. The area soon became one of the major Métis centers on the North American continent.

Gingras was described as fat and jolly and had dark twinkling eyes, black hair, and a wildly bushy beard. He also was a very shrewd businessman. He and his fellow Métis concentrated on buffalo – trading in hides, pemmican and tallow. Gingras operated under a Hudson’s Bay contract for a short time, but in 1851 he joined the Red River and Pembina Outfit, a coalition of free traders organized by Norman Kittson.

With posts in both St. Joseph and Pembina, Gingras transported goods to St. Paul with now-famous Red River Carts. Harper’s Magazine did a story on these carts in 1878, reporting: “It is simply a light box with a pair of shafts, mounted on an axle connecting two enormous wheels. There is no concession made to the aversion of the human frame to sudden violent changes of level; there is no weakness of luxury about this vehicle. The wheels are broad...so as not to cut through the prairie sod. They are long in the spokes, so as to pass safely through fords and mud holes. They are very much dished so that they can be strapped together and rawhide stretched over them to make a boat...there is not a bit of metal about it, so that, if anything breaks, the material to repair it is easily found. The axles are never greased and they furnish an incessant answer to the old conundrum: ‘What makes more noise than a pig in a poke?’”

When Antoine Gingras died on this date in 1877, he was wealthy, with stores in Winnipeg, Pembina and St. Joseph, and a trading post near the Souris River. His connections stretched from Winnipeg to St. Paul, and he also served on the MN Territorial Council. Gingras County was established in central North Dakota in 1874, but it was renamed Wells County ten years later.

The State Historical Society of North Dakota acquired Gingras’s original house and 2-story log trading post in 1955. Each was restored. The log house was repainted its original colors, deep red with white trim, and the interior was also returned to its original color scheme – blue walls, yellow floors, pink ceilings, and green and brown trim.

The Gingras Trading Post is now a State Historic Site is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It stands just outside of St. Joseph – now known as Walhalla.

Source: The Bismarck Tribune | 1955-12-13

Jeff Blanchard, Site Supervisor, Pembina State Museum, Gingras Trading Post State Historic Site. May 24, 2005.

The Métis Nation of Ontario. <http://www.metisnation.org/news/05_aug_gingras1.html>

Genealogy: <http://www.geocities.com/~robnson/sgen/d0000/g0000014.html#I153>

General State History. <http://www.theus50.com/northdakota/>

St. Francois Xavier, Manitoba. <http://www.sfx125.ca/cim/330C2_4T230T5T261.dhtm#CT265>

Song, http://cnc.virtuelle.ca/chansons/colons/falcon.html#Anchor-Le%2019-20639

Dakota Datebook written by Merry Helm