John Francis Grant was a Métis rancher and entrepreneur, who was born on January 7, 1831 at Fort Edmonton. Shortly after his birth, Grant’s mother (Marie Ann Breland) died. Consequently, he and his siblings were sent to Quebec to be raised by their grandmother and aunt. When he was fourteen, he and his brother (Richard) left Quebec and journeyed to Fort Hall, Idaho, which is where their father (Richard Grant) was residing. After learning how to hunt and trap, Grant travelled to Fort Vancouver so he could learn the fur trade business. Once he returned to Fort Hall, Grant and his father established a trading business.
When Grant was 30 (1861), he built a ranch site at Cottonwood (Deer Lodge Valley, Montana) and he recruited many Métis trading families to join him at his ranch. During the winter months, Grant traded with neighboring Shoshone, Bannock, Blackfoot, and Flathead Indians. In the spring and summer months, Grant went up the Oregon Trail to trade cattle with the immigrants. As a result of his trading prosperity, Grant was able to establish several businesses, such as a saloon, a store, and a blacksmith shop.
Grant decided to make Manitoba his home in 1867. He bought real estate in Winnipeg and he bought land for a ranch in the Parish of St. Charles at Riviére aux Ilets-des-bois (near Carman, Manitoba). For his ranch, he bought several horses, wagons, and carts. Just as he had done in Montana, he surrounded himself with Métis employees and his closest friends and family.
In 1892, Grant moved to Bittern Lake, Alberta. He lived here for eight years and then he journeyed to Grande Prairie where he re-entered the fur trade. This move did not prove to be successful so Grant moved to Athabasca Landing and then to Deep Creek.
Shortly after, Grant became a spokesman for the children of the Manitoba Métis who had been disqualified from taking scrip because their parents had taken scrip earlier. His petition, however, proved to be unsuccessful.
By 1907, Grant was quite ill and he and his wife moved to Edmonton. He died there on May first of that year.
Grant had several children during the course of his life. There are still descendants of Grant’s who reside in Carman.
The Dufferin Historical Museum celebrates the life and times of John Francis Grant by dedicating a portion of the museum to this important historical figure. The display includes information and literature on Grant. Photos of Grant are also included in the display.
Written by Rachael Smith