Francis Janeaux, Founder of Lewistown by Nancy Watts

Francis Janeaux’s original name was Francis Avila Archambault. He was born in L’Assomtion, Quebec on April 26, 1839. He was French-Canadian and was married to Virginia Laverdure who was a Metis. He died in March,1888 in Lewistown, Montana. In 1879 he homesteaded on 160 acres of land at the present site of Lewistown. He built the Janeaux Trading Post in the vicinity of Main Street and 3rd Ave North to Broadway St. “All supplies for Janeaux’s Trad­ing Post were ordered from T.C. Power and Bro. in Fort Benton and were brought in mostly by bull teams from Judith Landing at the mouth of the Judith River.” (“Francis Janeaux” by Mueller, “News-Argus,” 12-20-1978). In 1883, Janeaux sold his mercantile business to T. C. Power.

Janeaux’s Trading Post (stockade), Janeaux’s Store and T.C. Power’s Store were all in the area of Main Street and 3rd Ave North extending towards Broadway St.

People who came through this area in the early 1880s were:

“William Culver (photographer) made his first visit to Lewistown (not then existing) in the fall of 1880. There was nothing here then except the Janeaux Trading store … Mr. Culver visited the Janeaux store, which was then surrounded by a loop-holed stockade. In 1883 Mr. Culver returned, and found that the stockade had disappeared.

“Furman Tullock came through the future Lewistown in May 1881..He did not stop at the Janeaux store, though he remembers the stockade, and describes it as about one hundred feet square, made of poles set into the ground… Mr. Tullock states that the Janeaux’s store was a log structure standing on the site of the present National Bank [Montana Building].

David Hilger’s story: “One bright summer day in August 1881, I rode down the hill into Lewistown.. I saw a lively and colorful picture ….a gathering of breeds and Indians… were riding and running and walking around the Janeaux stockade…Janeaux’s stockade was built on the present site of the Power’s store [302 W. Main]. It was an enclosure of four walls of logs set upright in the ground and within were some half dozen cabins, the cookhouse, the trade house, the warehouse, etc.

“Mr. L. W. Eldridge came through the future Lewistown first in June 1882. The only building on present Main Street then was the Janeaux store which Mr. Eldridge recalls as being located directly on Main Street but somewhat farther back.

“C.E. Richards came to Lewistown in June,1883. T. C. Power and Bros had… a log cabin storehouse and warehouse on the site of the present Montana building and Power Mercantile company. C. E. Richards built the original Power’s building on the corner of 3rd Ave and Main Street in 1884.” (“Lewistown 50 years ago by Perly Silloway,” “Democrat News” Dec. 20, 1936).

Later traces of the early buildings were found as new buildings were built in that same area.

“The Montana Hardware company will, as soon as the weather settles, build an addition to their store and put in a new front. The last improvement will necessitate the removal of the log store which was formerly occupied by the Lewistown Commercial company and at an earlier date used by Francis Janeaux, the founder of the city, as a trading post…” (“Fergus County Argus,” May 28, 1902).

“An old landmark gone: Montana Hardware company building replaces one built in 1882. Saturday last there were exposed to view and removed, the logs laid by Francis Janeaux in 1882 in the erection of his store.

“When the front had been torn out all save the old-timers were surprised to see exposed the log walls and the incident gave rise to discussion of some of the early history of Lewistown. According to Jacob Holzmer, one of the pioneers, Francis Janeaux erected the log store in 1882. Previous to that he had occupied his stockade which stood on the present site of the Power Mercantile company [302 W. Main].” (“Fergus County Argus,” July 16, 1902).

The Montana Hardware Co. at 224 W. Main. The smaller building to the right was the Lewistown Commercial Co. which was the log store used earlier by Francis Janeaux.
 Francis Janeaux, Founder of Lewistown 
T.C. Power’s store and warehouse probably where the Montana Building is now. This sketch is from the book “History of Montana 1739-1885 by Michael Leeson.
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