My Corner Online
Boyer Info | Old Mines 2017 |
Mary L. Boyer (ancestors unknown) |
Rosine Elizabeth Boyer |
Jean Baptiste & Maria Boyer | Charles & Marie Madeleine Boyer | Nicolas III & Dorothee Boyer | Nicolas II & Louise Boyer | Nicolas I & Marguerite | Ettinne & Perinna Boyer |
Jean Baptiste Maurice dit Chatillon & Marie Jeanne Corset (parents of Marie Madeline, wife of Charles) |
Jean Baptiste Olivier & Marie Marthe Accica (parents of Dorothee, wife of Nicolas III) |
Pierre Payet dit Saint Amour & Louise Tessier (parents of Louise, wife of Nicolas II) |
Nicolas Maclin & Suzanne Larose (parents of Marguerite, wife of Nicolas I) |
I made my first trip to Old Mines for a seminar on April 1, 2017. The seminar was held at St. Michael's House in Fertile, Missouri.
The speakers were Rosemary Hyde Thomas and Charles Ray Brassieur. Rosemary's book is It's Good to Tell You, French Folktales from Missouri. Ray is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, Louisiana.
I wanted to put down in writing those things I took away from the seminar for my own memory, as well as to share. I mention this to note that the below may have some errors should I have heard or understood incorrectly. Never having been educated about the French culture, I was ready to soak up information to bring my ancestors to life. I will share photos first, so scroll to the bottom to see seminar notes.
SUPPORT THE HISTORICAL SOCIETY
I bought a lot of books from the Old Mines Historical Society and cringed at the cost until I saw later in the day the work the Society is putting into moving historic buildings to set up a village among the original mine trails (see photos below). The Association first bought the land. The books are proving to be priceless to me as I absorb the work of those before us in preserving the history of Old Mines and my ancestors. If you are wanting to contribute to the project, do not hesitate in purchasing their books.
THE WAX CYLINDER
A highlight of the seminar was the display of the original wax cylinder that was utilized by Joseph Médard Carrière
to recorder interviews of people of Old Mines in the 1930's. A copy of these recorders are in the National Archives, but this photo is of the original recordings.
I asked if these recordings were transcribed and in written format, but did not get a clear answer. These recordings were made in the 1930's. I did find a book by Joseph that can be read online, Tales from the French Folk-Lore of Missouri. (Edit. I received a copy of Rosemary's book which I ordered and I am delighted to own it! In reading the book, I understand that some or all of Rosemary's stories are from Mr. Carrière's recordings.)
These are the actual cylinders that hold the recordings of people of Old Mines. Each cylinder could record for four minutes.
There is a blue cylinder to the left of this photo that is original. This photo shows how the cylinder fit onto the player. I understood that this was both a recorder and a player. The horn in the first photo fits onto the piece at the top for playing. Underneath the piece on the top is the needle, much like the record player from my childhood.
FERTILE MISSOURI VILLAGE
There is a reconstructed village between the St. Michael's House and the old Maplewood School house and I took some time to walk around and photograph the buildings. The annual Fete de l'Automne is held here every Fall and I am hoping to go back this year to experience the Fete. I understand this will be the last year the Fete will be held at this location as they hope to have it at the new location (see below) in 2018. This first location in Fertile is owned by the St. Michael's House, but some of the buildings are owned by the Historical Society. I understand that the plans are to move all the buildings to the new location that belong to the Historical Society.
I understand that the buildings are all original to the area, but they are being donated, pulled apart, and reconstructed in the new locations. That is such effort, hard work, and such a worthy cause to support for many to benefit from in years to come.
This is the wall of the above building, put together with mud. I noticed the area has a lot of red clay as well.
I loved the stream that ran through the middle of the grounds and all the little bridges.
OLD MINES VILLAGE
This is the new village in Old Mines where they hope to hold the Fete in 2018. The Historical Society purchased this land where the Old Mines workers made these road for mining purposes. They would walk the roads and then surface mine for tiff. The mining was done in the areas around the roads.
This is a pavillion that has been constructed for use during the Fete.
The white on this rock is a tiff that they were mining. This rock also has a layer of black lead and a layer of crystal.
The white on this rock is also tiff.
The first house you see is the Mondey-Doyen home. The outside is complete, but the inside is being worked on.
A glimpse inside the Mondey-Doyen home. It is a two room home.
From the porch of the Mondey-Doyen home can be seen St. Joachim Church, which I have circled in red.
This is a zoomed in view from the front porch.
This is the Boyer-Robart House which is across from the above home.
A glimpse inside the Boyer-Robart home.
This is looking back up the road to the Mondey-Doyen home. To the right behind the tree is the Boyer-Robart home. These roads were created by the tiff miners of old mines. The homes have been moved here from other locations.
Turning to the right, this is the road to the Portell home.
This is the Portell home.
Turning to the left, this is the road to the Declue_Pashai home.
The first building is the kitchen to the Declue_Pashai home.
This is the foundation of the Declue_Pashai home as it is in the initial stages of reconstruction.
This is the driving road in and out.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM ROSEMARY
Rosemary met with people in Old Mines beginning in the late 70's and published her book in 1981. The people of Old Mines shared with her verbal folk stories that has been passed down through the generations. However, the French dialect spoken was different than the French Rosemary had learned. Regions of French speaking people in the United States where isolated from each other and had developed various dialects. The people sharing the folk stories would sit together with Mary and decide together the English meaning of the words they were speaking. While doing this work, Mary learned the dialect of the French in Old Mines and preserved it in her book. The book includes the French version of a story and the transcribed English version of our ancestors. It is such a delight to read the stories that my ancestors had sat around telling as entertainment long before the distraction of television.
Rosemary spoke about the "lessons" which is a book she wrote called "Basic French Conversations I & II: Lessons 1-8: Old Mines, Missouri." I understood that Rosemary had meetings to teach the lessons.
Rosemary shared that we all carry the seeds of the language we have heard when we were kids. The people of Old Mines had passed on what they heard because they had never learned to read or write until schooling in English was required in about 1906. Then came the preacher of Old Mines who was not French who forced the children to learn English in the Catholic school.
During Rosemary's second seminar, she spoke about personal remembrances while doing the field work from about 1978 to 1982 in Old Mines. The people she interviewed were mostly in their 80's having been born a little before or after the year 1900. These were the people who began life with the French language who transitioned into English during their childhood. Therefore, their parents only spoke French, so they learned the Old Mines French dialect well.
I heard several times during the day that it is commonly known that the people were "lazy" and knew how to relax and party. A comment was made, "Those French workers don't know how to work, they party all the time." This was once refuted because everyone knows how hard it is to mine. I was in agreement with this statement until later in the day when I learned that their mining for tiff was "surface mining." The men went out during the day and used a shovel and pick to gather tiff that was on the surface of the land. In the 30's they began using loading equipment to haul off the rock to a location where it was processed. I could picture in my mind these men sitting on the ground working with a pick by hand for a while and then taking a break to look up at the countryside. The word, "laissez-faire" comes to mind, which makes one first think of "lazy," but rather means non interference into other's affairs (particularly a government policy) and an attitude of letting things take their own course, without interfering. It generally translates into "let go."
I prefer to think that the French knew well that balance we are always trying to achieve today between work and play. In today's society we have information overload and a strive to always get things done and to advance. The word "drama" comes to mind as people meddle in other's affairs and make it their own business to fix. What I took from the discussions were that the French were content. It was said that the men went out to work and finished around 3 o'clock when the parties began. Rather than working themselves for financial gain, they were content and had learned how to love life. It was said that the people of Old Mines were unaffected by the depression because they did not need much money to live. They had built their houses, had their farms for food, and were party of a community that stuck together.
The people of Old Mines knew how to have a good time. Because farming and outdoor work was not conducive to the climate in Missouri between December and March, there was a party every week, moving from one house to the next.
There were three types of parties. First, there were the weekly house parties, complete with fiddles, French harps, and banjos and lots of dancing. There might be a vignette, that being a little play, to entertain.
Second, there were the "hen" parties where the women who had no transportation and had become lifelong friends would sit around and tell stories. Some of these stories were the "old stories" collected by Rosemary. The women liked to "talk about food, but then again, they were French." It could be that the women gathered for a card game party. Rosemary shared that in the 1970's card game parties were common as people played Euchre & High Five & Spades.
The third type of party was the La Guiannée. Men would gather into a group and go from house to house, stomping on the porch to surprise those inside and to sing a song called La Guignolée. During part of the song, the oldest daughter of the house was invited to dance, which was an intimidating little moment. At the end of the seminar Rosemary sang this song and it was such a joy to listen.
Rosemary also shared that in the 70's in Old Mines the Continental Telephone 8 party lines were in use whereby everyone could hear about each other and gossip spread fast. People would speak French on the phone so others would not know what they were talking about, but this attempt was often futile.
WHAT I LEARNED FROM RAY
Ray spoke also about the language issue as well sharing that, "the sounds of the language are precious as well as the contents of that language." The French dialect becomes encoded in the language of the people who speak it.
The most interesting part of what I took away from Ray's seminar was that the people of Louisiana were connected to our ancestors in Old Mines, not just in trade, but in the genes. Ray has traced the genealogy of people in Louisiana to being born in Kaskaskia, Illinois, where our Old Mines ancestors also originally settled.
Ray spoke of the Missouri Creole and the Louisiana Creole. He further explained the localized dialect which Rosemary had spoke. A Creole is a mixture of ethnic groups and cultures. The French often lived among African Americans or Native Americans. This mixture changed their dialect, identity, and culture. The word "Creole" was a French word initially used to distinguish between those born in Europe and those born in America. For instance, the pioneer settlers learned about medicinal plants from the Indians.
Ray shared an often repeated phrase, "St. Louis is a suburb of Old Mines." He also told another story that illuminated the pride of the Old Mines descendants as told by a man in the area (I didn't catch his name). Old Mines people found out they had a Lead Smelter in Herculaneum; They would go to Herculaneum, come back to Old Mines, and would never go back to Herculaneum. They would tell someone else they needed work in Herculaneum to trick them to go, and so on. A Foreman had a dream that he had died and went to heaven. St. Peter was there and he got through the pearly white gates. He saw a bunch of people tied to a rope. The Foreman asked St. Peter why he recognized the people tied together with a rope. St Peter replied, "they are from Old Mines. If we don't tie them up they would go back!" People loved Old Mines that much.
Ray shared that a French Palimpsest is a very old document that by the time you find it, it has notes scribbled on as layers of information. Each bit of information must be peeled back to interpret the layers to understand why they were put there.
Ray shared with us some cool old maps that indicated how important Old Mines were to the English, mostly because the lead for bullets for the revolutionary war came from here. There was an English Map of 1755 by Emanuel Bowen with Old Mines on map. There were marks on the map about the Mississippi Bubble Scheme, as well as a big "V" for "Virginia." At this time France still owned Louisiana. The Mississippi Bible Scheme was that someone planted silver claiming there was a silver mine. People came from far away only to have their bubble burst finding only lead here.
He showed a 1775 British map by Mitchell that still had Old Mines because they remembered that part about being tricked.
St. Joachim Church
I stopped by to visit St. Joachim Church in Old Mines where my ancestors attended worship.
When I arrived, the church bells were sounding and it seemed as if they went on for 5 or 10 minutes as I walked around the ground. The parking lot was full, so I could not go inside to take photos during a worship service.
From the parking lot, I could see across a field to a row of houses. On the other side of the street appears to be an old cemetery.
At the end of the parking lot was another cemetery.
This is the little village as seen in the above photo. I understand that there is an educational event, Annual La Fete a Renault, held here every year. I believe in May. I was told that during the concessions, most of the people remained living in a small area down from the church and I wonder if this is the area in which they lived. Most of the 31 families did not live on the land they were granted. La Vieille Mine is French for "Old Mines."
I love the stream across the road from the houses. In the distance is the cemetery.
It was late in the day and I did not have time to walk about the cemeteries, but took a quick photo. I will have more exploring to do the next time I come back. I wondered where my ancestors were buried. Someone had mentioned about the cemetery having been moved and I wondered about that as well.
Since my ancestor Rosine Elizabeth Boyer was born in French Village, but had come to Old Mines at a young age and her baptism record is in Old Mines, I wanted to see French Village.
Before I arrived at the city limit sign, there was a French Village Tower, but I did not take a photo of it as it had a gate blocking it. I want to explore that later. It seemed to be at the top of a hillside with an amazing view. There was not much to the city but some houses and some beautiful countryside.
There is a Catholic Church in French Village and I wondered if my ancestors had attended here and if there are any records to be found.
I could not stay because the day was running late and I did not want to be in a rural unfamiliar place when it got dark.
I quickly looked at my GMS map on my phone and was delighted to see that if I kept going forward on the road that it would put me out on I-55 at Bloomsdale, just a few miles north of Ste. Genevieve! How awesome was it that I had just traveled the back roads from Old Mines to French Village and on to Ste. Genevieve! I could visualize a possible route my ancestors took from Old Mines to Ste. Genevieve to sell the tiff that they had mined. That would make sense why Rosine's parents may have been in French Village when she was born because this was the route commonly taken to Ste. Genevieve. Plus, both towns are French and both towns are Catholic. I also read that many people kept a second home in Ste. Genevieve, so it could have also been a second home in French Village.
I rerouted the above map to match the route I actually took. I believe because I was already headed north on 21 when I looked up the directions, it took me through Fertile. I remember there being an Old School Road, as well as just two miles on 67. The time is very similar, so one is no faster than the other. There may be even other back roads routes. If it takes over an hour in a car, I wonder how long it took them to travel.