By Frances Pulscher
Alexis L'Esperance was born the 28 November 1796 in Saint-Michel d'Yamaska, Quebec. He was the son of Pierre Bonami dit Lesperance and Marguerite Aucoin. In June 1825 he married Marguerite Guernon at Red River. His obituary appeared in "Le Manitoba" (a St. Boniface newspaper) on Wednesday, 17 December 1890. The obituary stated that he had died the previous Thursday. In the obituary it states that he and Marguerite had eleven or twelve children who had married with his blessing. According to Carol Livermore (in her paper), they may have eventually had 18 children. In 1846 they were reported to have 8 daughters and 3 sons at home.
During the war of 1812 Alexis served under the command of Lieutenant Colonel James Cuthbert. Alexis came from a large family that was involved in the fur trade and many family members had been hired as voyageurs by Montreal based entrepreneurs. It is believed that he was first hired by the Hudson's Bay Company as a voyageur in 1816 at the age of 19 years. In 1826 he became a guide at Norway house. Alexis held an honoured position as a guide in the great canoe of Governor George Simpson in 1828 during his excursion down the Fraser River to the west coast. By 1834 Alexis had become the premier in command of northern waters. He became famous as the leader of the Portage la Loche brigade. At the end of May or early June as soon as the ice left the river the brigade under the direction of Alexis would leave and travel down the Red River and across Lake Winnipeg bound for Norway House where the crew deposited furs and supplies for the residence. They would then reload the York boats with provisions destined for the Mackenzie River. The brigade traveled the Saskatchewan River then portaged to the English River and then Lac la Loche. From Lac la Loche the crew "portaged" the supplies to the middle of the Methye Portage where the crew from the Mackenzie River would pick up the supplies and leave their cargo of furs. Alexis' crew would them backtrack to Norway House then down the Hayes River to York Factory. By this time it was the middle of August and the supply ship from Britain arrived with provisions for Norway House and the Red River. The brigade then returned to Norway House to deliver their provisions and carried the rest back to the Red River where they arrived between the middle and the end of October. The brigade traveled approximately 4000 miles on a tight schedule and through some dangerous and difficult waters but Alexis brought them through safely. He served the Hudson's Bay Company for half a century and earned a reputation as a great brigade leader. The Beaver magazine of December1943 featured an article on Alexis.