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“Count” Isidore Versepuech of the Gaspard ranch

Isidore Versepuech (1830-1898) was born in the hamlet of Gaspard, near Saint-Hippolyte, Aveyron, in south central France.

Large wooden wheel in forest

Ruins of Gaspard grist mill at Dog Creek, circa 2010s

As a young man, he worked as a packer in the California gold fields, hauling food to miners. In 1860, he made his way north into the Cariboo. At Dog Creek, he began to profitably grow several strains of wheat at his new Gaspard ranch. He also opened a flour mill, signalling the importance of the local cultivation of grain.

In 1882, Isidore Versepuech married Mootla (1846-?), baptised Marguerite), of the Dog Creek Band, now known as the Stswecem’c Xgat’em First Nation. They had eleven children, and sent their daughter Matilda back to France for her education – a rarity among ranchers’ daughters.

Family of 9 standing & sitting before building

Versepuech family, circa 1893. Seated, from left: Isidore, Isidore Jr., Mootla, Édouard. Standing, from left: Prosper, Matilda, Félix, François, Alfred. Missing are Victor, Julia, Sylvie and Agnès


Woman and child walking to house before hill

The Versepuech house in the 1930s with the distinctive arid hills of the Dog Creek area behind

Legend has it that “Count” Isidore carried his family’s elaborate tricorne hat and blue satin jacket from the French Court on his journey to Canada, and that once in the Cariboo, he traded them to Chief Alexis of the Tsilhqot’in Nation for a band of strong horses. Isidore’s father, Antoine Versepuech, was Saint-Hippolyte’s mayor and a Royal notary, but these respected positions conferred no other title. Although Chief Alexis did indeed wear an impressive French uniform, its link to Versepuech remains unproven.

The family name has since evolved to Versepeuch, but most of Isidore’s descendants take the name Gaspard, easier than Versepuech. Gaspard Lake, bordering the family ranch, still bears that name.