The river delta that Golden sits on was known by the first tappers, traders, surveyors and miners as Kicking Horse Flats. As more Europeans moved into the area they became aware of the old log supply cache that had been built for the surveyors and began referring to it as the cache. Trappers and natives made dates to meet at the place where “The Cache” was, on say – when the moon was full in October.
As a result of its favorable location at the confluence of the Kicking Horse and Columbia Rivers it became a popular spot for such meetings and soon a few rough log buildings were built.
Packers and traders began bringing supplies into the area. It became more than the meeting of two rivers, it was also a gathering place for people of all kinds.
It was in 1882 that Baptiste Morigeau and his sister Sophie Morigeau, came to the area to trade. Baptiste opened the first store in Golden, having brought in a pack trail of horses with supplies to get him started. Just as the supplies started to run out Sophie arrived with a pack train to restock the store. She stayed a time, probably selling her supplies while her brother went back to replenish his.
Baptiste, was born in 1842 to Francois and Isabella Taylor and was a remarkable man. A metis man, whose father was born to a mixed marriage, Baptiste’s first wife was Colette (Koolate) Kinbasket, daughter of Chief Pierre Kinbasket. He had several children with Colette. Although I have no definitive proof at this time, I think she may have died after the birth of one of the children.
On April 18, 1881, Baptiste married Therese Kaiuse (aka Cai, Coy, Cain), a woman of mixed blood, and they had a dozen children together. Therese was with Baptiste when he came to Golden.
I think people generally assume that settlers to this country came and stayed but one of the things that I have learned over the years is that people moved all over the place. Baptiste and his family was no exception. Over the course of his years he lived in Golden, Rocky Mountain House, Windermere, Colville Washington but travelled as far as Minneapolis to pick up supplies.
Sophie Morigeau has to be one of the most interesting characters I have ever studied. Here parentage is still in question. I was believed that her father was Patrick Finley but its also possible that Francois was actually her father. At any rate her baptism certificate says Sophie she was Sophie Finley but from the time her mother started to live with Baptiste she became a Morigeau.
From her birth she realised that she would have to fit into two really different lives. While her father, Francois was a man of mixed blood himself, he insisted that all of his children be baptised in the Catholic faith and learned the ways of other Europeans. They were sent to school when it was possible and learned how to sew in the European style. On the other hand she could easily adapt to the native side of her family, and learning several languages and dialects which was useful in her trading business.
Sophie was encouraged to be independent but at the ripe old age of 16 she married Jean Baptiste Chabotte in Washington. She didn’t enjoy the married life at all and after 8 years of marriage the two separated.
Sophie was a clever business woman, who was respected for her skill. She eventually settled in the area near Eureka, Montana, running a store. She had a large tract of land and kept horses and cows.
One of my favorite stories about her is that after an accident with a horse Sophie, whose rib was broken and protruding through the skin, used her hunting knife and performed surgery on herself to remove the broken rib – which she kept on display in her home until her death.
As she advanced in age she travelled less, and was more vulnerable. Each winter Sophie took in men to help her but come spring she would shoo them on their way.
Those who didn’t have the good sense to leave when asked were evicted – more or less! One who refused was shot, another she sent to the barn for something and while he was inside she set a big bear trap outside the door and left for supplies. When she came back three weeks later she found him frozen stiff in the trap.
Look for new exhibits coming to the Golden Museum on the life of these early traders.