After a heated battle between Edmonton and Calgary, the town of Strathcona, home of Premier Rutherford, won the honour of hosting Alberta's first university. The land on which the institution was built was originally owned by businessman Laurent Garneau.
A native of Manitoba, Garneau had fought with Louis Riel in 1870 to protect the rights of the Métis people. He arrived in Strathcona a few years later with his wife and eleven children, when Edmonton had only about 100 inhabitants. Garneau made a fortune in the fur trade, ranching, land speculation and coal. A talented fiddler, Garneau was one of the leaders of Francophone cultural life in Strathcona and Edmonton.
On the land of the future university, Garneau built his farm and planted a Manitoba maple tree. Garneau moved to St. Paul at the end of the nineteenth century, sold his land for the construction of the university, but the tree was spared. It remained standing at the corner of One Hundred and Tenth Street and Ninetieth Avenue, the only witness to a bygone era.
It was not until 143 years later, in 2017, that the tree died. On September 15 of that year, a ceremony was held in honor of Laurent and his wife Eleanor. The people present celebrated their memory, shared stories about the couple and, it goes without saying, let fiddlers remember them many traditional songs.