The Life Story of Louis Emile Bourquin

by Henri Bourquin

These are the events in the life of my Dad as told to me on one of our visits home. Some events and dates may sound a little contradictory, but are as my Dad told them to me. For interest, I have shown the Christian names of the wives, and in brackets the birth and death dates.
I was born in France on November 22, 1894 in the town of Valentigney, Doubsí county. My fatherís name was Louis Alfred, but was known in Canada as by Louis R. Bourquin due to a mistake on his passport papers. He was born in France on February 18, 1871 and died in Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada on June 23, 1930, suffering from a ruptured appendix.

Dadís motherís maiden name was Julie Rose Rigoulet, born January 6, 1862 and who also died in Estevan, November 18, 1929. Dad had one older brother, Emile (April 3, 1873 - March 18, 1958).

I was the oldest of a family of three sisters and one brother; namely:


In 1905, a family friend, Louise Rigoulet who later was to become my Aunt (Motherís sister) had gone to Philadelphia, USA to work as a maid. She was so excited about this New World in the States that she wrote home encouraging our family to come there too.

There was another family of Bourquins (2nd cousins) whom she was also encouraging to immigrate. They were:

Adelaide Grillon (Mother July 31, 1860 - August 19 1951). This was her second husband, having lost her first (Pere Routier)

Five Brothers:

Two Sisters:


Louis Pierre (my Uncle) at the age of 22 decided to go to Canada instead of the U.S.A. and in the fall of 1906 he became a "working" passenger aboard the ship Corinthians." Upon his arrival at the port, he was told to go west and he traveled on to the village of Estevan, Saskatchewan where workers were wanted. He worked for the Eureka Coal Mine just out of town.


In 1907, Louis sent for his wife, Louise Jolly and his mother Adelaide Grilon (July 31, 1860 Ė August ?, 1951) and the rest of the family (Lucy, George, Marie and John)." They also sailed on the Corinthian. Louise died the first year in Canada.


At the age of 14, I was working in the office of Peugeot Freres, a bicycle factory where I earned twenty (20) cents per day. Through correspondence, Uncle Louis (Louis P.) convinced my Dad to come to Canada instead of the U.S.A.


On April 10, 1910 we were on the ship Pommeranion with my father, Mother (Julie Rose) and brother and sisters (Helene, Jenny, Anna and Paul). Once in Canada, we left for Estevan and arrived there on May 13 at 8:30 P.M. and then had a five-mile wagon ride to what was to be home. When we arrived, we asked where the home was that we had been told about, and we were shown a small log and sod building, one room about 16 foot square, a stone stove in a little lean-to, dirt floor and a thatched roof. (Photo)

Helene did not stay with us but went on to Atlanta with Louise Rigoulet where they worked as maids.

Uncle Louis was working at the brickyard, just out of Estevan, at this time and got a job for Dad right away. They walked five miles to and from work each day. They worked ten hours for twenty (20) cents per hour. (This was their routine from 5:00 A.M. to 7:0 P.M. each day) I was deligated to stay at home and build a room for us to live in. Winter, which came early that year, began with a big snowstorm on November 5th and the snow stayed with us for five months. The brickyard had closed down October 1st, which meant no more money coming in. We had lots of rabbits and prairie chickens to keep us in meat until spring.

Helene, who had gone on to Atlanta, got very lonesome and homesick, so she and Louise came back to Estevan in the fall. It was love at first sight for Louise and my cousin Louis, and so a romance stared.


Uncle Louis was the clay pit boss at the brickyard, and to get more recognition, he told the supervisor that if they could get bigger shovels, he would get more work out of his men. This they did.

It was at this time that I started to work at the brick plant and was put under his command. I was making good money, 20 cents and hour as compared to 20 cents per day in France. My job was hauling clay by the wheelbarrow from the pit to the bins, which was then loaded on to horse drawn cars that then went on to the plant.

We rented 80 acres of land with a two-story house (16 foot square) from the Burlinguettes just Ĺ mile from the plant. We later bought this and it would become the site of our future coal mine.

We could buy meals at the plant bunkhouse for 25 cent, but we usually brought our own, just occasionally buying hot soup on real cold days. Because of overwork, poor working conditions, poor water and that soup, we were all suffering from dysentery, so I was very thin and couldnít keep up with the rest so I was fired from his crew. I was rehired by another foreman at the plant and was given the job of hauling brick with a wheelbarrow, 100 bricks per load, from the kiln to the stockpile. One day, some time later, while going up a long ramp, I spilled my load and was fired on the spot. Later I was taken on again as a driver for the horse-drawn train of cars from the pit to the plant. This is where I learned about putting sprags in the wheels of moving cars, and removing them while still moving. Many men got injured on this job, but I was lucky.

Due to family problems, John, George and their mother moved to a house built into the side of a hill on the road allowance right near the plant.

During the summer, I got an unexpected cheque from my work place in France for $35.00." With this, I bought a cow-in calf and so the farming started.

Winter came early again so we were kept busy cutting dry trees from the Souris river to have firewood for our kitchen stove, which was our only source of heat in the house." Usually the water pail was frozen in the morning even though it was kept near the stove.

Cousin Louis and Louise got married on September 11. Helene got a job as a maid at the Matte Hotel in Estevan. My cow had a calf and I bought a few chickens, and some rabbits. It was a long winter.


Early in the spring, the plant opened and we were glad to have some money coming in again. John and George built a house near the river on 10 acres of land they bought from Prairie Nursery.

Grandma (Adele Nardin) had stayed in France but got so lonesome without us that she decided to come to Estevan too. She could neither read nor write, knew no English at all, but in early spring with just her passport and a note stating her destination, she arrived with no difficulty.

In August, we bought the 80 acres (Ĺ N.E. 1228) and the house we were living in for $1,200.00. Grandma lent us $200.00 for the down payment; the balance was a note at 8 percent. We also rented 3 acres from Mr. Magnan (Derosiers father), which we planted in garden and potatoes. We had a bumper crop that year and harvested 600 bushels of potatoes, besides the vegetables. We were able to put a good payment on our investment that first year. This land was just west of the farm we were to purchase later.

We bought a horse and a democrat buggy to be able to haul our potatoes home and to town. By the time winter set in we had 2 horses, 2 cows, chickens and many rabbits. Itís during this Grandma showed us how to kill a pig and then make sausage and hams.


Dad and I started at the plant again in the spring, but in early summer, I quit and went full time farming, joining a threshing team at harvest time.

In the spring Uncle Emile and Marcel came to Canada and worked at the brick plant until fall, when they went harvesting with me. We had lots of fun.

Helene married Henry Gillis (September 27) and moved to the George Parkinson mine site where he and his brother, Louis, were working.

In the fall, I started to dig a root cellar into the side of the hill where I noticed that gophers were throwing out coal dust from their burrows. I found coal just a short ways in, so all at once I made up my mind, "Iím going to start a coal mine of my own!" They all laughed at me, but, with a pick, a shovel, and a wheelbarrow, I dug in to prove that I could do it.

As I was now reaching a fairly good seam of coal, we started using it for fuel, only to be stopped by the government inspector who informed me that we had to have a permit for the coal rights in our own land. As I was not yet 21 years of age, I was too young to apply, so my Dad got the permit for me."- After three month of hard work, the coal was getting better, and what started at about a one-foot seam of coal was now about six feet thick. I made a coal cars on wheels, and with 2/4 wood tracks, I was ready for business.

It was New Years day when my first customer arrived. A Metis came and told me that he had no coal left for heat and wanted just enough coal to carry him over the holidays. I went and got him Ĺ ton only to be told that he had no money but would pay me later on. I never did get it.Poor start!, BUT I was in business.


HENRY Gillis called my mine the White Hope Mine because of all the white clay around the hole I hoped to get the coal from so we stared advertising the ďWhite Hope Mine. Mother went to town to get the orders, Dad and Paul delivered the coal, and I was the miner.

By fall we had a producing coal mine, 3 horses, 1 colt, 2 cows, 2 pigs, chickens, more rabbits, (and a partridge on a pear tree). We had a good crop of oats and lots of hay that we got from the farm.

Emileís wife, Catherine, along with Margueite came to Canada this spring.(Catherine died in (?) and Emile later married Della Ruttan).

War was declared and the French Consulate from Vancouver sent notices to all of military age to report for duty in France. As Dad had got his naturalization papers, we all ignored this notice. Several of our cousins from other parts reported but George was the only one that went from the Estevan area. We lost an Uncle and two cousins in the war, with several others being wounded.


In the spring of 1915, I started a new mine a little to the east where I found a better seam of coal with less clay above it. Here we ran into water, but with a windmill pumping water from the pit I dug below the coal seam, we were able to mine. By fall coal was selling good and we hired 5 miners and 2 teamsters. We had built a bunkhouse for the men, and our front room became a boarding house.


John and Jenny got married on April 22nd.

I bought the farm from Burlinggette and in the spring the valley flooded. My hay was in the water, and the crop was later ruined by black rust and only useable as chicken feed.

We started the mine early and we had good farm trade with wagons lining up early in the morning for coal.

On December 23rd, I married Marie and we lived in a little lean-to I had built on to Dadís house. "The room was about 10 feet by 12 feet, one ply boards with tar paper on the outside and lined with cardboard inside. "Not too warm I tell you".

Our wedding day was a very nice Saturday so we were able to go to town in our buggy. "Later we had a big celebration at home with all the family there.

Henry speaking again:
At this point in time Dad and I were called for supper and I never did get the rest of the story. The next morning my wife, Esther, and I left for our home in White Rock, British Columbia. My next visit with Dad was in the hospital in Regina.

These dates and stories were told to me by Dad in September 1984."

Dad left a small note with these dates, which I suppose were to help him on his story." I hope someone can help fill in the rest of the history of our family."

1917 - built 2 houses, one for men

1918 - Annette born. Built Grandma's house

1919 - Louis born. Built a room

1920 - Build

1921 - Henry born, move house from farm

1925 - Opened slope mine, new tipple, electric power Ėlights and winch for mine

1930 -Sold to Truax, opened to new entry and tipple south

My next visit home was in March 1985 for my Fatherís funeral. As I was not living in Estevan, at the time, I cannot give any details as to my Dadís failing health, but I do know that his last days were very depressing, but we all rejoice that we know Dad is now enjoying his heavenly reward.

Dad was very active in the Estevan Salvation Army and on September 25, 1971, was honored in the celebration led by top-ranking officers for his forty years of dedicated service. "In these years he was the corps. treasurer and later served as the local Sergeant Major until his death."

(Dadís 77th Birthday newspaper clipping)

I would like to know a lot more about the following things:


Photo Pages:

1. The Bourquin Children

2. Bourquin Family Photo 1

3. Bourquin Family Photo 2

4. Bourquin Family Photo 3

5 . Flower Power

6. Great Grandma & Grandpa Louis Bourquin


If you can help me with any information please contact me

This page was last updated on
September 05, 2001

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