Joseph Bourgeault

Joseph Bourgeault
Joseph Bourgeault, Minnesota Capitol construction stonecutting supervisor, is one of the French Canadians the joint research project is studying.
Photo from Canadian Who's Who and Why, 1914
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1900 St. Paul City Directory and Census. (In 1898 and 1899 Joseph and his family lived at 684 Wabasha.) Joseph Bourgeault supervised the stone cutting for the Capitol. He was born in 1849 in Montreal and came to the U.S. in 1880. Two of his sons also worked on the Capitol. Albert, born 1883, was a stonecutter and Joseph Henry was a foreman.

When Joseph Bourgeault, the supervisor for the stonecutting on the Capitol, had moved to St. Paul in the early 1880s he found a well-established community of his compatriots. French Canadians, who were involved in the fur trade, had been coming to Minnesota since the 1600s and the city of St. Paul's origins are traced to Pierre, "Pig's Eye" Parrant's early settlement. One of the Twin City's two French language newspapers, Le Canadien, was published in the city, and the fraternal society, Woodmen of the World, had a French chapter in St. Paul of which Bourgeault was a founding member. The center of the French speaking community was St. Louis Roman Catholic Church, his first stop when he first came to town, and his children were schooled at the Ecole St. Louis next to the church where classes were taught in French even up to the 1960s.

In a memoir written in 1942 at the age of 91 Bourgeault remembered the Capitol job as being "...the most complicated and the finest work..."of his long career. Hired by Butler-Ryan during the bidding process to help with the estimate for their winning bid, he recalled that he spent one hour of each day in the stonecutting shed, and one on the construction site, while eight hours were spent in the office figuring the cutting of the stone. "I made working drawings and lists for stonecutters, a tag for every stone. I had a young man helping me making the tags." This would have been a memory tinged with sadness as Bourgeault's son, Louis, worked in the Butler-Ryan office in 1898 and died that year in October at the age of 17.

He was a well-known figure in the Minnesota cut stone industry and his name appears in The Stonecutters Journal as well as other trade publications. Yet he had always felt that his American business ventures were hampered by his limited English, and the entire Bourgeault clan moved back to Manitoba, Canada, where they were living at the time of the 1906 Canadian census. He was involved in several successful cut stone and quarrying businesses and was able to spend the rest of his life in the industry.

Included here is a brief memoir by Joseph Bourgeault. Please click here to view.

Bourgeault is also one of the artisans profiled in project researcher John Sielaff's Minnesota History Magazine article, "The Stonecutters" below.

PDF icon "The Stonecutters," Minnesota History Magazine.pdfArticle by John T. Sielaff, Who Built Our Capitol Project Researcher
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Notice about Bourgeault's Michigan stone quarry lease and work with Gotfried Lenzer, who worked in the Butler Brothers' office.
Stone: An Illustrated Magazine, July 1900, Vol. 21, p. 59