The Pierre Gervais homestead story
We have long forgotten the pioneer struggles of our great
grandfathers in securing proper titles to their family farm
homesteads. Take the case of Pierre Gervais (1840-1930),
occupant of lot 82 at the head of Long Lake, which lot runs on the
Madawaska, Frenchville Town line.
On Jan 27, 1876 an eviction notice was filed reading in Part: "We,
Thomas N. Egery, Mary Ann Hinckley, Daniel B. Hinckley and
Frank Hinckley all of Bangor owners of Township Eighteen Range
Four, now Madawaska hereby give you Peter Jarvais notice of our
intention to contest your acquiring any right or easement in said
township by virtue of you having occupied or improved any part of
the same and hereby notify you to at once leave said township and
no longer occupy any part of the same...."
Pierre Gervais had married Marguerite Levesque (1840-1900) at
St. Basile September 19, 1864. The U.S. census of 1870 reported
the family presence as "Jarvis, Peter 26, Margaret 22, born Canada,
Vital 4, Philip 3, Zite 1 all born, Maine".
Perhaps the State of Maine sensed a controversy. In 1873 the Land
Commissioner had recorded the names of all the rear lot occupants.
The report notes: "East half Lot 82 begun in 1861 by J.B. Cyr on
which there is a house and barn The lot was deed to him by Simon
Beaulieu to Eloi Beaulieu who deeded it to Gervais".
When the bank crisis erupted in the mid 1870s, the European and
North American Railway Company defaulted on its bonds. Egery
and the Hinckleys, owners of an iron foundry in Bangor held titles
to some of those bonds. The only apparent way of recouping on
their investments lay through seizure of the railway's land assests.
In 1869 the State of Maine to encourage the capitalization of
railway construction had granted a million acres of unsettled lands
between the St. John and the Penobscot rivers. In 1876, 128 Valley
The Story of
Jean-Jacques Talbot dit Gervais
Talbot is an international name; it has representatives in France, England, the United States and Canada.
Albert Dauzat maintains that English immigrants brought this name to France in the fourteenth and
fifteenth centuries. M. Jean-Marie Talbot, from Chicoutimi, claims that the truth is something else.
L’Histoire de Falaise, in Normandy, reports that a tower called Tallebot was constructed there in 1028,
and that in 1207 one Robert Tallebot was living in the valley of Ante, and that in 1262 a certain Geoffroy
Tallebot was residing in the parish of Sainte-Trinité. The name Talbot or Taillebosq still exists in France.
In 1983, newspapers reported the details of a strike at the Talbot automobile factory in Poissy.
Jean-JacquesTalbot born about 1679 in Saint-Gervais, one of the 18 present-day parishes of Rouen,
whose church had been built on the ancient crypt of Saint Mellon and Saint Avitien. At the time of the
ancestor’s birth, Bishop Francois IV Rouxel de Médory presided over the affairs of the archdiocese of
Rouen, a city founded by the Celts, known to Caesar’s Romans, and Christianized since the first centuries
of the Church. The English occupied this capital of Normandy, today the capital of la Seine-Maritime,
from 1419 to 1449. This is why they could have burned a French girl, Jeanne D’Arc, in territory as French
as the heart of the city of Rouen.
Jean-Jacques Talbot, son of Nicolas and of Marie Duchesne, carried the surname of Gervais, that of his
parish. Witnesses at his marriage give us reason to suppose that he arrived in Canada before 1698.
Jean-Jacques was a tenant farmer for 16 years. He must have feared notaries like the plague. It was
only on 6 April 1716 that he resigned himself to obtain a land grant contract from Jean-Baptiste
Couillard, the Seigneur of a part of la Rivère du Sud. Notary Abel Michon wrote that our concessionaire
had owned this property “for several years.” The Talbot farm had 6 arpents of frontage on the river and
neighbored those of Michel Arbour and Mathurin Rousseau. Antoine Dandurand signed as witness to
the contract between the patron of l’Espinay and notary Michon.
Talbot dit Gervais must have understood that notaries were men of our planet who ate through their
mouths like simple mortals. On the following 14 July, he decided to obtain another concession of 5
arpents and 8 perches of frontage between those of François Destrois-maisons and Denis Prou. JeanJacques
had to pay his seigneur, annually on All Saint’s Day, only twenty sols and one fat live capon, in
addition to another sol for the cens for each arpent of frontland. Couillard reserved for himself the right
to requisition all the wood that he wanted in order to build the future church and seigneurial manor
house, and a parcel of land for the construction of a common mill.
Thus, in the space of a few months, ancestor Talbot became a considerable land owner. He thought of
his children. On 18 May 1722, Jacques Moyen, husband of Jeanne Pellerin, a neighbor, sold an arpent of
frontage of his property to Talbot for the paltry sum of ten livres cash and thirty minots of wheat. The
buyer paid him with two arpents of land in seeding condition.
In the month of March 1714, the surveyor and notary, Bernard de la Rivière, was asked to determine the
boundaries of at least 28 pieces of land ceded on the Rivière du Sud, including that of Jacques Talbot.
The Sommereux-Talbot Family
Charlotte Sommereux presented her husband with six children, all born and baptized at Montmagny.
They survived except for the fifth, Anne-Françoise, who was baptized on 3 January 1706. She died the
following year and was buried on 8 April 1707.
Marie, the eldest, was married on 17 November 1720 to Jean Fournier, son of Simon and Catherine
Rousseau, grandson of Guillaume and of Françoise Hébert.
As for Marie-Charlotte, the god-daughter of the Poitevin Daniel Frégeau dit Laplanche and Marie Fiset,
she was baptized by the Récollet Laurent Vatier, a priest who was later massacred by the Sioux in
February 1713 at the age of 43. Marie-Charlotte signed her marriage contract with Joseph Asselin on 13
Three boys followed: Simon, Jacques and Jean. Simon, became the godson of Denis Prou on 28 October
1702, and married Marie-Barbe Isabel, daughter of Louis and of Barbe Prou, on 17 August 1730, if we
are to believe notary Michon. Marie-Barbe died at the beginning of married life, after having given to
posterity two children, Marie and Geneviève. Thérèse Allaire de Saint-Vallier took her place on 27 July
1734. She enriched the home with eleven children.
Father Rodolphe Dubus, Récollet, baptized Jacques Talbot, godson of Jacques Posé on 6 April 1704. At
the age of 22, Jacques joined his future life to that of Marie-Angélique Meunier at Sainte-Anne-de-
Beaupré, on 1 July 1726. François Richard, S. J., pastor of Saint-Pierre in Montmagny, then sent a notice
attesting to the good conduct and well being of Jacques Talbot, to Abbot Antoine Chabot, pastor of the
parish of Sainte-Anne. Ancestor Talbot took advantage of this recommendation to make his pilgrimage
at the same time. Eight of the ten Meunier-Talbot children were baptized at Berthier.
As for Jean Talbot, his baptismal act has not been found. Abbot Simon Foucault blessed his matrimonial
union to Barbe Fortin on 25 July 1726 at l’Islet. Jean and Barbe had 6 children. At Saint-Pierre in
Montmagny on 8 April 1715, Laurent Gaudin and Anne Guerin promised to sell 3 arpents of frontal land
for the sum of 110 livres and a gold pistole d’epingles to Jean Talbot. The promise to sell, signed by
pastor François Richard, indicates that the money had already been paid to the last penny by Jacques
Talbot, father of said contracting party. On the following 22 June, after sowing time, notary Michon
drew up the contract in proper form. This property neighbored that of Jacues Moyen and Laurent
Guadin. The question you would like to ask is undoubtedly “What is a pistol d’epingles?” In order to
indicate that a transaction, concluded by a husband in the presence of his spouse, was forever, the
buyer added an elegant present offered to the wife of the seller. A pistol was a gold coin worth ten
Charlotte Sommereux left her family at the age of 30, after only 10 years of marriage. She died on the
23rd of November 1708 and Abbot Mesnage presided at her funeral on the 25th . Jean-Jacques Talbot
went into mourning with his children for a year and a half. Finally, the children accepted another good
and devoted mother, one Catherine Lamarre, daughter of Pierre and of Marie Paulet, a 22 year old
native of the Ile d’Orléans. Catherine took over the Talbot home on the day of her marriage, 28 April
1710. She enriched the home with at least 4 new Talbots: Joseph, Marie-Catherine, Anne-Françoise and
Anne-Françoise, like her namesake of the first marriage, died after seven months, on 13 November
Marie-Catherine married Charles Rousseau at the beginning of 1734, and gave him 6 children.
Joseph took as his wives Madeleine Nolin and Marie-Josephine Patry and amassed 15 half-brothers and
sisters to assure his line.
Augustin Talbot conquered the heart of Geneviève Aubin-Mignau in September 1743. He died and was
buried at Montmagny on 9 December 1749 leaving 3 children. His widow was remarried to Charles
Marot on 13 July 1750.
Such is, briefly, the calendar in the life of the first Canadian Talbot family.
Just as we all must do one day, Jean-Jacques Talbot had to render an account of his profits and losses.
He appeared before his Great Patron on 5 November 1730, when about 51 years old.
Ancestor Talbot had been a humble, sincere and hard working man. We have found only one flaw, one
oversight in his public life. He had sold a piece of land to a 19-year old minor, one Jacques Duboct. An
order from the Intendant nullified this contract of sale on 25 March 1706.
Jean-Jacques, feeling his end approaching, settled the question of inheritance posed by the death of his
first wife. After 22 years, it was time! The event occurred on 22 March 1730, seven months before his
death. Then on 16 June 1731, clerk Louis Boisseau at Québec signed an act of guardianship for the
Talbot children at the request of son Jacques. This document informs us that Catherine Lamarre was
also dead. The act was recorded in the records of notary Michon.
On 28 June 1731, guardian Pierre Lamarre, Catherine’s brother, ordered an inventory of the property of
ancestor Talbot. This was quite an event but without any troublesome incidents. It is impossible to
summarize in a few lines the full 15 pages. Some hand-picked examples will give an idea of the property
existing on an average farm more than 250 years ago. Winnowing basket, spinning wheel, some tree
taps, a churn, coarse woolen jacket, pair of deerskin scarves, caribou hood, knife for skinning leather,
gun with powder-horn, sheath and deer skin were reported together. Two pairs of mittens, 2 quires of
paper and 4 empty urns followed. In the stable, 18 head of cattle were next to 3 horses. In the sheep
pen, 38 ovines did not seem disturbed by the 14 pigs in the sty, nor the male and female turkey, the 4
hens and the rooster in the hen-house. Let’s forget the 831 minots of wheat, the 8 of flour, the 350
pounds of bacon in the salting tub in order to cast an admiring glance on the 55 arpents of cultivated
land, the stone house 40 feet in length by 18 feet wide and the stable 40 feet ling. The witnesses to this
inventory have even stated having seen 101 livres in playing card money. Such is the brief, but very
positive account of ancestor Talbot’s properly after his death.
It cost 20 livres to bury our ancestor, but his soul entered Heaven without charge. Sixty-five years later,
on 24 November 1795, his mortal remains were exhumed and placed in the consecrated ground of the
new church of Montmagny.
His descendants have multiplied unto our day. Félix-Alonzo Talbot (1860-1915), born at Cacouna, was a
deputy in the National Assembly as a representative from the county of Témiscouata. AntonioTalbot
(1900-1980), native of the parish of Saint-Pierre, Montmagny, a lawyer, and Minister of Transportation.
His name was given to a road lining Québec to Chicoutimi. One descendant left a permanent mark in
the history of French-Canadian genealogy, Eloi-Gérard Talbot (1899-1976), a Marist Father. He has to
his credit, left 35 precious volumes of research to posterity.
Family Name Variations
Talbot: Gervais, Talbeaut and Thalbaut
Gervais: Beaudoin, Beausejour, Gervaise, Gevais, Houde, Houle, Jarvais, Jarvah, Jearnes, Jervia, Jervis,
Parisien, Servais, Sigervase and Talbot.
Record of Bernard de la Riviére, March 1714
Record of Fleuricourt, August 1698.
Records of Michon, 22 June 1715; 6 April 1716; 14 July 1716; 18 May 1722; 22 March 1730; 16 June
1731; 28 June 1731.
Dauzat, Albert., DENF&PF (1951), p.561.
Dumas, Silvio., LFRNF (1972), p.336.
German, Paul., Histoire de Falaise, p.105.
Jetté, René., DGFQ (1983), p.1061.
Roy, P.-G., IOINF (1919), Vol.1, p.12.
Talbot, Eloi-Gérard., Généalogie des Familles originaires des comtés de Montmagny, l”Islet,
Bellechasse. Vol.15, p.179
Talbot, Jean-Marie., personal notes (Chicoutimi).
Vaillancourt, Emile., La Conquête du Canada par les Normands (1930), p.239
BRH, Vol.28, p.343.
DBC, Vol.2, pp. 477-478.
Encyclopedia Britannica (1947), Vol.21, pp.761-762.
RPQ 1867-1978 (1980), p.544.
The New Funk & Wagnalls Encyclopedia (1942),
I recall as a young girl in November 1947 when my Pepere Henri Gervais died.. During those days, relatives were
exposed in their family’s living rooms until the funeral, when they were either buried in the parish cemetery or placed in
the “chaumiere” for burial when the ground thawed out in May.
It was a time of quiet and mourning and praying for the repose of their soul. A black wreath was placed on the front
door as a sign that a family was in mourning and that a body was in the house. We were told to only speak in whispers
in respect for our dead Pepere until he was buried. After the large wooden box was procured, one person would offer to
wash him groom him and dress him with his best suit of clothes. That was an honor and a demonstrance of caring and
not everyone volunteered for that job. After he was prepared and a rosary was put in his folded hands, people would
come in to pay their last respects, and bring food for the family. The rosary was said several times a day by different
persons and the smell of candles permeated the whole house.
The body was never left alone and all night, family, neighbors and close friends would stay for a length of time to keep
vigil with the loved one and other members of the family. The wake was usually 3-4 days, as relatives living far away
needed time to travel to pay their last respects.
Many quiet stories were related about his life at that time. My grandfather (Pepere Henri Gervais) had been a
blacksmith, he was a tall, very strong and quiet man. He shoed horses, made wagon wheels, and anything out of metal
that had to be fired and shaped with hammers and other implements. It was very hard work and from what my father
told me, not very profitable. The poor farmers that lived all around needed to get their machinery fixed and horses
shoed in order to work their farms and harvest crops. Pepere would tell them to pay him when the crops were sold and
sometimes they did and sometimes they didn’t.
He died of Alzheimer’s Disease at the State Mental Hospital in Bangor, Maine. Six months earlier my father and Uncle
Leo Parent had brought him there and committed him. Pepere had been retreating into himself for several years before
but otherwise, healthy.
The last memory I have of Pepere was when my sister Simone was a baby. He was visiting at our home one afternoon.
Mom and I were on the floor and she was cutting a pattern out of newspaper for a sewing project. Back and forth he
walked silently, from one end of the house to the other and he would spit on the floor. One of his spits landed on my
young sister who was crawling around us and another on the pattern. Mom looked up with a disgusted look on her face
and picked up Simone and wiped her off, without saying a word.
Memere and Pepere were living in the apartment above Uncle Denis Ouellette’s family, in town, for about 5 years and
as usual, he was very silent, and walked back and forth all day long. His job there was to milk the cow and my Aunt
Mathilda told me that each morning he came down with the milkpail and looked into their window. She would open the
door as ask “Pepere what are you looking for? And he’d say “where is the cow?” “she’s in back in the shed Pepere”
then he’d turn around and go milk her. One day, he did not recognize Memere anymore and thinking she was a robber,
chased her around the house with a knife and might have killed her if she hadn’t locked herself in the bedroom.
Papa told me it was a very sad situation when they had to drive him 5 hours to the mental hospital. When they got there
and filled out all the papers, two men came in and put a straight jacket on him. As they forced him down the hallway, he
tried to get away and yelled out “ let me go, what did I ever do to you?” Those were the last words his son and stepson
ever heard him say. Six months later he died. I often think of what those last months were like for him, there alone.
Alzheimer’s is prevalent in the Gervais family. I know two of Pepere’s brothers died of it and his youngest sister, Alice,
had early onset of this disease . In her 60’s, she and her husband Uncle Eddie O’Clair would visit us often. She wouldn’
t recognize anybody and was completely lost and silent. Papa always thought he’d inherit that disease and that we, as
his children, would be prone to it also.
Subject: THE CLIFTON ILLINOIS ADVOCATE
This is our group of Talbot's and other families that traveled with and married into.
The following article was written by Norma Meir of Clifton, Illinois.
She is a well respected genealogist for the Kankakee and Iroquois
Counties of Illinois. It brings to light many of the challenges the
ancestors in this book encountered:
THE CLIFTON ILLINOIS ADVOCATE
November 13, 1980
Written by NORMA MEIR
ONCE UPON A TIME... French Canadians sought their fortunes in Kansas
Once Upon A Time ... the townspeople of L'Erable shouted "Adieu!
Adieu!" to the two departing wagons heading west toward Ashkum. The
date was September 9, 1880. Peter Ponton and David Lagesse were going
to Kansas to join their fellow countrymen in the settlement of
French-Canadians in Cloud and Clay Counties.
They were ten years behind the first of their countrymen who sought
their fortune on the prairies of northern Kansas. They were several
years ahead of their friends and relatives who followed by train. Peter
and David's trek west differs in that written notes of their journey exist.
These early pioneers who settled at Concordia, Clyde, Aurora and St.
Joseph, Kansas, had three common bonds - they were Roman Catholics
devoted to their church, they or their parents before them were once the
habitants of Quebec Province just southeast of Montreal, and they had
first emigrated to Illinois. Straggling down from Canada by wagon or
coming by boat across the lakes, the French-Canadian farmers sought new
land in Illinois. In 1850, many stopped first at Aurora, then filtered
south to populate Bourbonnais, Beaverville, L'Erable, Irwin, Manteno,
St. Anne and St. George.
Following the civil war, stories of Kansas lands available for
homesteading begin to filter back to pioneers here. Forerunners of
these Kansas-bound pioneers were area families who settled in the flint
hills of eastern Kansas. Jeanne Baptiste Chevalier Dessery left the
L'Erable area for Tonganoxie, Kansas, in 1867. Jeanne was a native of
France and widow of Jacques Dessery. She traveled in covered wagons
with eight of her children and when they arrived in Leavenworth County,
they built a stone house in the side of a limestone canyon. When the
Indians invaded her house, she chased them out with a kettle of boiling
David Regnier and his family, perhaps from Beaverville, left for Kansas
about the same time, but he settled a bit further west in Pottawatomie
County. Joining him was Louis Regnier from Irwin, who arrived at Wamego
The first French-Canadians to arrive in Cloud County, Kansas were
Hillaire Lanoue, Joseph and Fred LaRocque, Noel Delude, J. N. LeCuyer,
Celestin Guilbert, Henry Demers and Nicholas Lagesse. All were from
Kankakee County and the year was 1870. Nicholas had left his farm at
Irwin to take up blacksmithing out west. "They all wrote such glowing
accounts of the new country back to their friends and relatives at
Kankakee, Illinois, their former home, that soon a stream of French
settlers began to trickle into the county. Most of these settled in the
country south of Clyde." Father Mollier visited Cloud County in 1871,
established a parish at St. Joseph and sent the word for more
French-Canadians to come westward.
The Allains and the Soucies both left from St. Anne for Kansas. Antoine
Allain, Jr., forded the Mississippi River and after seven weeks arrived
in Clay County in 1872 where he homesteaded. Until the late 1870's,
farmers, cattlemen and railroaders were endangered by Indian raiding
parties in Kansas. It was a land of cowtowns - a land where farmers
fenced the range to keep out buffalo - and land seeking homesteaders.
In the French-Canadian settlement at Irwin in Otto Township, Kankakee
County, Jean Baptiste Lapolice loaded his wagon and set out for Aurora,
Kansas, in 1871. Louis Lafleche left Irwin for St. Joseph in 1872.
Gregoire, Joseph and Marcel Balthazar left Irwin in 1873, arriving by
covered wagons in Clyde. They were followed by an exodus of
French-Canadians from Otto Township, for in 1876, a wagon train of 15
families was made up in Irwin. Among them were Pierre Lagesse, Laurent
Charbonneau, Francois Begnoche, Octave Souligny, Pierre Provost, Charlot
Fortin, the Bechard, Bachand and Racette families. They settled at
Clyde, Aurora, St. Joseph and Concordia, with the majority in Shirley
Township in Cloud County. Shirley Township was bounded on the north by
the Republican River and on the east by Clay County.
Ambroise Patenaude left Irwin in 1878 and settled near the Regniers at
Wamego. The migration to Cloud County continued. Frank Landrie, Joseph
Morissette, Joseph Denault, Narcisse Gervais, George Bachant, Edmond
Brosseau, Joseph Dumas Sr. and Matthias Tremblay left from the Irwin
area. Edward Valcour, Joseph Lagacy and the Dallen family left from
Kankakee. Joseph Fortier and Louis Dion probably left from L'Erable.
Possibly the first French-Canadians to leave L'Erable for Cloud County
were John Baptiste Cote, his wife, Marcelline Lagesse, and their
children. J. Emile Michaud and his new wife, Ozilda Lagesse, left for
Kansas following their marriage in L'Erable early in 1880. A brother
of L'Erable's physician, Emile was a druggist and opened a drugstore in
St. Joseph when he arrived.
In the late summer of 1880, David Lagesse III, his wife, Sophia Valcour,
his brother-in-law, Peter Ponton, and Peter's wife, Amelia Lagesse, had
made their decision to try their luck in Kansas. David's account book
gives a neat listing of supplies needed for the trip west and for
survival through the coming winter, "pare shoe $1.00, pare shoe $2.25,
15 yard print $1.20, cotton flanel 25 cents, sack flour $1.50, 1 dry
goods box 50 cents, roap 8 cents, 1 pockit book 25 cents, 1#nails 5
cents, peging shoe 5 cents. " He paid his blacksmith bill of $1.25 and
was ready to go.
Another page in David's account book is headed, "L'Erable, Ills. Sept 9
1880 bound for Kansas David Lagesse and Petter Ponton, name of places
has follow: Sept 9 Ashkum, Sept 10 Piper City, Sept 11 Chatwerd
(Chatsworth)" ... and the list continues, naming each town they drove
through across Illinois, Missouri and Kansas. They crossed the
Mississippi at Keokuk, Iowa, on September 20th, eleven days after
leaving L'Erable. Early fall days found the wagons crossing northern
Missouri. There were the bad days when the wagons covered only six or
seven miles. There were good days, too, when they shortened the road by
30 miles. They reached St. Joseph, Missouri, by October 1st and their
wagon tracks deepened the ruts still to be found on the outskirts of
that town famous as a gathering point for wagon trains. Their
destination was Clifton, Kansas, in Clay County, and they arrived there
on October 12th, 34 days after leaving L'Erable.
David's first entries in his account book after reaching Clifton,
Kansas, surely explain themselves, "Oct 13 Whiskey 45 cents, Oct 14
Whiskey 50 cents, Oct 18 gaugle 25 cents, Oct 19 pare shoe $1.00 and 3
yd mold skin cloth $2.00, Oct 24 Whiskey 10 cents, 1 fine saw $1.50, 1
hames $1.00, Oct 27 5 bu. corn 85 cents, Nov 5 bought one horse $40.00,
Nov 13 postage 10 cents, Nov 26 1 tub 75 cents, 4 bar soap 25 cents, Dec
1 1 sack flour $1.25, 1 galion Syrup 60 cents, 8 # beef 40 cents, thread
Other L'Erable families began planning a migration westward; some were
to make the journey by train, the railroad lines finally reaching into
Cloud County in 1878. Some were to fail, give up the fight against
drought and grasshoppers and return to their former homes in Kankakee
and Iroquois Counties.
In 1884, John Baptiste Simoneau, his wife, Mary Rosseant, his brother,
Peter Simoneau and Peter's wife, Delphine Bechard, left the Clifton area
for Kansas. The brothers went by train, accompanied by their stock, and
they were to homestead in Rooks County at Damar, 100 miles west of
Concordia. Peter Simoneau's daughter, 90-year old Sister Mary Edmund of
the Sisters of St. Joseph, spoke about those days in an interview at the
motherhouse in Concordia this summer. "My father came with his brother,
they came by train. He had his horses with him. My mother didn't come
right away. He told my mother, 'If I like it, I'll send for you.' She
had five children by then. My uncle went back, but my father
homesteaded there. He built a soddy. There were several people from
Illinois who homesteaded there ... Balthazars and LaPlantes. My father
came in the early '80's."
John Baptiste Hubert and his wife, Josephine Ducat, sold their land in
Iroquois County for $1,200 in the early 1880's and went by wagons, with
others from the area, to Damar, Kansas. Their daughter, the late
Eugenia Hubert Boudreau, recalled in an interview in 1978 when she was
91 years old, "They lived in a dugout house in Kansas. There was no
crop in the seven years they were in Kansas, the heat and wind burned up
the crops. They held a sale and the only thing that sold was their dog,
and it brought $7, a lot of money! Enough to buy their train fare back
to Illinois, and they settled at Clifton."
It was Eugenia who recalled the true reason why so many gave up and
returned to Illinois. Drought, heat, and wind. Not to mention
grasshoppers! The obituary of Joseph F. Dessery, who was only ten years
old when he went by wagon to Kansas, tells: "He often related
interesting stories of the grasshopper invasion: how the insects came in
swarms, obscuring the sun and destroying the green vegetation and of
remembering seeing them piled five feet deep against a rock fence west
Some of those who came back to the Kankakee area were Frank Landrie,
Joseph Denault, Joseph Boudreau and some of the children of Pierre
Lagesse. John Baptiste Simoneau returned with his family to Clifton.
In an interview with Jon A. Simoneau he recalls, "My grandfather (John
D. Simoneau) was about 12 years old when he came back from Kansas.
While he was in Kansas, he remembered going out in the morning and he
would sit in the grassland watching the cattle and when night came
they'd bring the cattle back home. We used to ask him where he was
from. He always said he came from Kansas - my great-grandparents and my
grandfather. He came back here in an ox cart with his parents."
(Note: I have hesitated to write briefly on this topic and in these
lines have only managed a summary of fascinating and bookworthy
subjects. The names mentioned here are only a few of the many
French-Canadian names which were to appear in those Kansas counties. It
is a fact that the names in the Cloud County phone book nearly match the
names in the Clifton phone book. The oldest photographs treasured by
these Kansas families often bear the imprint "Kankakee, Illinois", just
as the families here find photographs bearing the imprint of "Clyde" or
And, although some of the pioneer surnames mentioned in this article
have long since faded from our area their family lines live on in
countless hundreds of descendants and relatives living here today.
Incredible, but true, some of those families separated by 100 years and
600 miles still maintain contact. There is an ever-growing movement to
records as much history as possible about the migration of
French-Canadians from the Montreal area to Illinois, the groups who went
on to settle in Indiana and Minnesota, and the major migration from
Illinois to Kansas.)