Her story is unique and different. As the first physician, before medical doctors arrived in the community, she contributed to many people's lives with her herbal and folk remedy healing.
The most dramatic was the rescue and healing of her granddaughter who, as a baby, was scalped and left for dead during what eastern newspapers called the Red Bird Massacre.
Her family was attacked by the native Red Bird and his cohorts who were seeking revenge for tribal deaths. This happened just south of Prairie du Chien, where Walmart now has a parking lot.
Mrs. Gagnier and her son escaped after her husband and a friend were killed, and her baby, Mary Louisa Gagnier, was scalped and left for dead.
Aunt Mary Ann took the baby, who was still alive, and applied a silver plate to the wound (silver is an antibiotic) and nursed her tenderly with herbs and loving care. The baby lived to be 67 years old and always wore a ribbon in her hair to cover her scar
.Aunt Mary Ann LaBuche, like many settlers in this area, was of mixed heritage, part French,part Sioux, and part African American.
While I was modeling the first image of her, which is shown on our website, I emphasized her African heritage by the features on her face. Recently, I met some of her descendants who have researched her life and showed me a photograph of Mary Louisa Charrier (the baby in the story), taken when she was an adult. I have remodeled the features of the Aunt Mary Ann LaBuche to reflect a more accurate family portrait. It makes me feel like I am participating in this amazing family history.
Artist, Florence Bird