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SIOUX CITY | Heading into Sioux City’s Morningside neighborhood, nestled within the city’s South Ravine Park, is a memorial to Roselie Menard Leonais, better known as the First Bride’s Grave.
Erected in 1938 by the Woodbury County Pioneer Club, the monument was designed to honor the woman believed to be the first bride of a non-Native American resident of the area.
Born in 1838, she was the daughter of a French-Canadian pioneer named Louis Menard and his Native American wife, Klanhaywin. The couple bore two more daughters and four sons.
Around 1852, Menard’s family moved into a plot of land that would later become Sioux City.
Situated near Perry Creek and the Missouri River, the Menard family met another French-Canadian pioneer named Joseph Leonais who also happened to live in the area.
Still in her teens, Roselie married Leonais, who was about 29, in 1853. The ceremony was performed by a traveling Catholic priest.
For a time, the Leonais family lived in a cabin near Perry Creek. Later they moved to a farm near the Floyd River.
Roselie and Joseph had four children together. Their names were Joseph II, Josephine, Roselie and William.
Shortly after William’s birth in 1865, Roselie died at age 27.
Her distinction as Sioux City's first white bride is not universally accepted. Another white woman, Mary Ann Lapora, was a Sioux City bride eight years earlier than Roselie, according to other reports. Lapora, who was widowed, married Charles Sangster in 1845. Sangster operated one of Sioux City's first general stores.
Incidentally, Lapora was Menard's sister-in-law. According to a story in the Centennial edition of the Sioux City Journal, Lapora moved to Sioux City on Dec. 3, 1854, from Canada.
Roselie's first white bride's status also is questioned by those who point out she was half Native American.