Article by Lorraine Freeman
Edouard Beaupré was the son of Gaspard Beaupré, a French Canadian and Florestine Piché, a Metis woman. Florestine and her family arrived in Willow Bunch, SK in 1870. Edouard was born January 9, 1881 in Willow Bunch (Talles des Saules). He weighed 14 lbs. at birth. Edouard was baptized by Father St. Germain; his godfather was Jean Louis Legary; his baptism was the first recorded in the church register. At the age of seven he started growing quite rapidly and by the age of eleven he was taller than his father. Edouard was an excellent hunter and horseman, with great dexterity when using his lasso, but he soon had to give up riding because his legs would drag on the ground. He could also speak four different languages; English, Sioux, Cree and French.
Edouard became involved with side shows and began touring Canada and the US, to earn extra money to help support his poor family. He returned home from his travels once and worked as a collection agent. Edouard would sometimes pick people up under their armpits to entice them to pay their debts.
The "GIANT" returned to side shows, travelling to places like Winnipeg, Montreal and throughout the US. During his travels, doors were never tall enough and beds were never big enough. In 1902, when he toured to Montreal, he made the acquaintance of the strong man Horse Barre and the famous Louis Cyr. A competitive fight took place between them but Edouard lost the competition.
In 1903, he began to show signs of tuberculosis. One story told during this time; Edouard had to go to the pharmacy to get medicine for his illness. When he got there he could not get through the building's entrance, he was just too big and had to get down on his knees to get through the doors. Although against his parents wishes, he wanted to go back on tour, even though his health was failing. His manager at the time was Amy Bernard of Winnipeg, who was a member of the Canadian Senate. On July 1st, 1904, he was on exhibit at the World's Fair in New York. Two days later he fell ill and was in need of a doctor. Sadly the Giant died shortly afterwards on July 4th at the age of 24. At the time of his death he was 8' 3" tall and weighed 375 lbs.
The Beaupré family was very poor and could not afford to have Edouard's body brought home. The Barnum and Bailey Circus continued to exhibit Edouard's body across the States until it came into possession of Eberle & Keyes who decided as well to make some money by exhibiting his corpse in front of department store windows. Area residents were appalled by this and denounced it as bad taste. Rumour has it that his corpse later came into possession of Pascal Bonneau who moved him to Montreal, where he was exhibited in a museum.
In 1907, Edouard's body was discovered by some children playing in a shed in Bellerive, Quebec. It was then sent to the University of Montreal's Department of Anatomy for study. The university kept his body for 82 years.
Finally on September 29th, 1989, eighty-six years after his death, his body finally came to rest. Edouard's body was cremated and his ashes were returned home to Willow Bunch, Saskatchewan, his final resting place.
Photo courtesy of St. Boniface Historical Society