A Fur Buyers Legacy

Pipestone Flyer

 

 

Ben Slaughter built a home and a fur warehouse in an area that would become known as the Town of Millet. Ben’s establishment drew a number of fur buyers to the area. 

One of the fur buyers was an individual whom his friends called “Gus”. In addition to buying furs, Gus also supplied horses to the Northwest Mounted Police (NWMP). While living in Fort Saskatchewan Gus came in contact with the NWMP detachment and made an agreement to supply them horses. The NWMP had a need for a large number of horses and August Millet knew were to find them. 

Millet was an adventurer who came west to follow the fur trade. He started by working for the Hudson Bay Company before branching out on his own. As a fur buyer Gus had developed a knowledge of the rivers. 

This came in handy when Father Lacombe approached him to assist in Father Lacombe’s travel needs throughout the province. Throughout the 1880’s Gus and Father Lacombe canoed the rivers from Edmonton to Calgary as Father Lacombe established his relationships with First Nation peoples and worked on the development of First Nation missions and churches. Gus became an ideal travelling companion and they spent many hours on the trail swapping stories and laughs.

In 1891 Father Lacombe went back east to secure funding for a medical clinic on the Blood Reserve. During one of his meetings with potential donors he met with Sir William Van Horne the president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. Over the years Van Horne had become a friend of Father Lacombe. During their conversation Van Horne asked Father Lacombe if he could help the railway by coming up with a list of names for the new stations that were being built along the Calgary-Edmonton line.

Father Lacombe was more than happy to supply a list. Many of the names Father Lacombe provided were of fellow missionaries who had worked in Alberta like Father Legal, Father Leduc, and Father Vegreville, but he also included names of associates that he had met and who had contributed to the success of the Oblate Mission. Among the names was August Millet and in 1891 Van Horne submitted Millet’s name to Lieutenant Governor Dewdney for approval.  Lieutenant Governor Dewdney accepted the recommendation. When it came time, in 1903, to establish the community as a village the name Millet was proclaimed as a Village by  an Order –in Council.

Gus Millet continued to ply his trade until his untimely death. He lost his life while on a trip west of Red Deer. In an attempt to cross a flooded Red Deer River he swamped his canoe and drowned in the river. His burial site has been lost over time but is believed to be in the vicinity of the old Red Deer River crossing west of present day Red Deer.

Most of the names of early fur buyers that first explored the west have been forgotten or lost in time. However, August Millet was fortunate to have known and worked for one of the giants in the formation of Alberta. That association led to Millet’s name becoming part of the legacy of Alberta.

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