Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Images of Crown Point on Lake Champlain circa 1900

Dorothy Wills Mylott, who lived most of her life in the Hudson-Mohawk Industrial area, bought these photographs of Crown Point at an auction in 1990.  I wonder if she realized Crown Point was a central place in her family's history.  Her French Canadian ancestor, Joseph Payant sailed Lake Champlain from Fort St Frederic (later known as Crown Point) to Ile aux Noix.  Her French Canadian grandfather, Jacques Beauvais, fought in the Seven Years War to keep it in the French domain. Her Cornish grandfather worked many years in the mines of Port Henry over in the hills beyond the lake shore. 

The Mylott Brothers in World War II: Edgar, Milo and Arthur

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Summer 1959: California here we come! Part 2

Summer 1959 and the story of Bob Wills, Art Mylott and Al Rivet continues.....The household furnishings were all sold off in the neighborhood auction.  The job resignations were handed in.  While the families on the east coast tried to sell the real estate and live without tables and chairs, Art, Al and Bob were driving west on Route 66  into L.A.   Judging from their letters, they made good time and drove straight through with only a few rest stops....

Al Rivet and Art Mylott

and Art wrote to folks back home as soon as he got to California....

Art Mylott in California, July 1959
and tried to communicate the experience of California freeways....

They soon saw the coast....

Left to right: Al, Art and Bob
 and started looking for housing and jobs....

Art Mylott on the right with real estate agent in southern California

Art and Bob checking out the real estate

Art Mylott in front of rental apartment

By the second week of July, they had temporary quarters in Fullerton. Though it was stressful, they also shared some good times described by Al in the letter below....

The wonders and amazements of California seem to have made big impressions on them all but as the weeks went by Bob and Art became more disillusioned and less hopeful about getting jobs at the levels they hoped.  In August, Bob and Art were back in New York.  Al remained in Fullerton  with a job and the start of a new life. 

Al Rivet on the California beaches he loved
The friendship among Art, Bob and Al would continue on...

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

1959: California here we come! Part 1

Auction, Auction - Catch some Good Buys and Lighten our Load!
We're moving to California!
Wills, Rivets and Mylotts heading out for a new life!
Out with the Old; In with the New!

1959: I was too young to really understand everything but I got the basic message: we selling out and moving to California- all of us - the Wills family of Wyantskill, the Mylott and Rivet family now of Green Island.  Our families all moved out of Cohoes after Wold War II and now, together, we were moving to the west coast to take advantage of the jobs, the sunshine, newer housing, and "fun in the sun".  Yes, everything would be better in LA because, well, isn't that close to Disneyland where your dreams come true?   So goodbye old man winter, no more shoveling that snow, no more Hudson Valley grey skies.  We were a few of many because at that time it seemed all Americans were moving west to California and we were not going to be left behind.

So we sent the men first in an exploratory mission and they drove off in a Buick? or was it a Pontiac? Then in April, the big auction in the backyard and everything we owned was taken away by neighbors who hung over the fences around our yard to bid on my uncle's bench saw, electrical supplies, carpentry tools, and a canvas tent I remember so well. Was it army surplus? left over from WW2?  Away went our living room furniture, my best girlfriend's mother bought our coffee table.  There wasn't much left but we wouldn't need much while the men drove west once again to find housing and jobs.  It would just be a matter of weeks or months. So we put the house on the market in Green Island. The Wills sold their house in Wyantskill. Mom and I moved in next door with Pipere Rivet in the little upstairs flat with an iron cast stove for cooking. Then we waited for news.....and waited to move....

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Solyme Beauvais who Brought his Family Across the Border from Québec to Cohoes

Salim, Solyme Beauvais, 1821- 1902, was the father of at least nine children including my great grandmother, Celena Beauvais.  Originally from the Richelieu Valley, two of Solyme Beauvais' great grandfathers were soldiers in the Seven Years War (The French and Indian War in North America).  His paternal great grandfather was Joseph Xavier Beauvais who came from Champagnole, France to Québec to fight in the Regiment Languedoc.  His maternal great grandfather was Jean Jacques Dubord dit St Chaume, a member of the Regiment Guyenne, who died at the end of the conflict.

We have limited but valuable information about Solyme Beauvais starting with his baptism record below:

Baptism Record
The baptism record is from St Joseph's Church in Chambly on July 1st, 1821.  The curé (priest) at St. Joseph's records his name Salim, the legitimate child of Jean Baptiste Beauvais and Geneviéve Benoit and he was born that morning.
In 1832, when he was only eleven, his mother, Geneviéve Benoit, died at the age of 32 years.  His father remarried later that year.
Then on January 25th,  1841 there is the marriage record of Solyme Beauvais to Adele Guais dit Castonquais at St Cesaire in Rouville.  It tells us that Solyme's mother, Geneviéve is deceased but his father Jean Baptiste is alive. Adele's parents are Jean Guais dit Castonguais and Mare Angelique Delmasse. The fathers of the bride and groom are "cultivateurs" or farmers.

Adele Guais dit Castonguais was also the great grandchild of a soldier who came from France to fight in the Seven Years War.  That soldier was Martin Delmasse who fought in the Guyenne Regiment. She was also the great-great-great-granddaughter of Joseph Payan dit St.Onge, L'Admital de Lac Champlain


Next is the 1851 census of lower Canada.  Something strange happens here that only human error can explain. Solyme Beauvais, his wife Adele Guais and their three children are captured twice in the 1851 census.

Here is one, followed by a closer view

the detail

Here is the other with a closer view

the detail

In the first image Solyme, Adele and their three girls: Mathilde 10, Cordelia 6, and Celenie are living with or in close proximity to Adele's parents Jean Guais/Guay and Angelique Delmasse. In the second larger image, Solyme and Adele with the same children are not in proximity to the Guais/Guay parents/grandparents.


Then  in September 1855, Soylme is listed as a witness at the funeral and burial for his mother in law Angelique Delmasse at St Cesaire, Rouville.

In 1861, the Canada Census finds Solyme and Adele in Rouville with seven children ranging from 1 year old to 18 yeas old.

the detail


On August 11th, 1862 Solyme and Adele's daughter Mathilde married Noel Tetreau in St.Cesaire. Solyme is present according to the church record.

Nine years later, the US Federal 1870 Census captures the family in Cohoes. It is an interesting example of an enumerator/census taker with English as his first language, listening and figuring out how to spell a name that sounds different than anything he has ever encountered.  He hears the French name "Beauvais" and writes "Boovah".  The spelling variations continued through to today, some of Solyme's descendants spell their surname Bova, Bovah, Bove, Bovee, Beauvais.  Solyme's given name turns into "Silliam".

the detail

We may safely conclude Solyme brought his family from Québec to Cohoes between the 1861 census of Canada and the 1870 US Federal Census.  Perhaps the family moved after the marriage of  Matilde in August 1962 but we cannot be certain. Solyme may have made the train ride north alone from Cohoes to St.Césaire for the wedding because the marriage document does not mention the presence of Adele, Mathilde's mother.  Perhaps Adele remained in Cohoes with the children.
The last child in the family group is "Adolphine" who was born in Quebec in 1863....probably  it was after Adolphine's birth when the family moved.

The Take Away....If you  believe "Silliam Beoovah" is indeed the one and same as "Solyme Beauvais",  you can believe the Solyme Beauvais family was established in Cohoes by the 1870 census.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Praying for the Japanese People; Remembering Andre LaChapelle from St Jacques de L'Achigan

The past week has sent waves of prayers and remembrances for the people of Japan dealing with an earthquake, tsunamis and nuclear radiation.

The paternal great grandmother of Paul Emile Rivet was Catherine Langlois dit LaChapelle.  She was the great-great-grand daughter of Honoré Langlois dit LaChapelle who was born in France in 1632 and emmigrated to Québec when he was 19 years old , in 1651.  Catherine was additionally the great-great-grand daughter of Marin Janot dit LaChapelle who emmigrated from France to Québec in 1655. There were several other LaChapelle lines that emigrated from France to Québec.

Another LaChapelle, from St Jacques de L'Achigan, lost his life last week, along with so many others in the tsunami that struck northern Japan...here is his story.

For fifty years, Rev. André Lachapelle dedicated his life to missionary work in Japan’s Miyagi region, teaching high school and writing religious books in Japanese for his students.  Most recently, he took up a post as parish priest in the coastal town of Shiogama and also ministered to prisoners, listening to their stories and hearing their confessions.

And it was while he was rushing to assist his parishioners in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude earthquake Friday that Father Lachapelle died, the first confirmed Canadian casualty of the disaster.

That afternoon, the 76-year-old was attending a meeting of the charismatic movement at the cathedral in Sendai when the quake struck. Uninjured by the tremor, he jumped in his car and headed to Shiogama, 17 kilometres away.
“His colleagues advised him to stay in Sendai and not to go,” said Florant Vincent, a fellow priest who worked with him for decades in Japan. “But he left anyway. He said ‘I have to be with the people there.’ “
With television and other communication networks knocked out, Father Lachapelle had no way of knowing a tsunami was imminent. It struck just as he arrived in Shiogama. His body was found outside the car, which has not been recovered. He was identified by his driver’s licence and passport.
Medical examiners determined that he suffered a heart attack, but it was unclear whether he had been hit by the wave.
Father Lachapelle was born June 1, 1934, in St. Jacques, a small town 65 kilometres north of Montreal and has several brothers in Joliette, Que. He had worked in Japan with the Society of Foreign Missions, an international Roman Catholic missionary organization, since 1961.
He taught courses in religion and French at a private high school for some 30 years and also served as school principal.

Accessed from The Toronto Globe and Mail 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cat and Mouse on Lake Champlain: "Admiral" Joseph Payant dit Saintonge & his role in the French and Indian War

Early 20th century postcard of Fort Lennox
Present Day site of Fort Lennox on Ile aux Noix
Parks Canada

Joseph Payant dit St Onge is called the Admiral of Lake Champlain  (L'Admiral du Lac Champlain) and he is a direct ancestor of many in Canada and the USA, including the Wills-Beauvais family of this blog.  If a Bissonnette/Bisnett of Cohoes was your grandparent, great grandparent, etc  (Joseph, Alfred, Elizabeth) then you are a descendant of Joseph Payant.  Thousands of people can claim "Admiral Joe" their ancestor!

Our line (Wills) is simply this:

  • Nine (9) Wills children (Celena, Julia, Anna, Johnny, Elizabeth, Dorothy, Etta, Larry, Robert) whose mother was
  • Elizabeth Bissonnette (1880-1936) who married John Wills, and was the daughter of
  • Celena Beauvais (1850-1942), the daughter
  • Adele Guais dit Castonguais (abt 1824-?), the daughter of
  • Marie Angelique Delmas (1792-1855), the daughter of
  • Marie Louise Allaire (1768-?), the daughter of
  • Marie Louise Payant dit St Onge (1747-?), daughter of
  • Dominique Payant (1724- 1778), son of
  • Joseph Payant dit St Onge (1700-1783), the "Admiral of Lake Champlain"

The early 20th century entrance to Fort Lennox

To understand the role of Joseph Payant on Lake Champlain and also in the French and Indian War, it's necessary to know about his background. He was born in Québec City in 1700. His mother died when he was ten years old but his father, a shoemaker, quickly remarried. Joseph was not left motherless. As a young man he learned to pilot and navigate on the St Lawrence River.  Married at 21,  he had a wife, family, home on Rue St Flavian in Québec and a blacksmith shop where he worked in winters.  In spring when the ice on the river opened up, Joseph kissed his wife and children "adieu" was off to the Champlain Valley where he piloted ships along the Richelieu and Champlain: Fort Frederic, Ile aux Noix, Fort Chambly and probably Fort Carillon too. The ships, built in St Jean, carried troops and supplies from Montreal and Chambly to the forts south and back again. When the Swedish naturalist, Pehr Kalm, traveled in Lake Champlain region, it was  Joseph Payant who escorted him.  It is said Joseph transported General Montcalm from Carillon to points north after Montcalm's victory becoming well acquainted.  Later, one of Joseph's grandsons was named Montcalm in honor of the general.  Dominique, Joseph's son and our ancestor, was listed as a sailor with his father on Lake Champlain and married Marie Louise Laporte in St Joseph's Church in Chambly.  Their marriage contract stated Dominique owned land on Lake Champlain in the area across from Ile aux Noix close to where Lake Champlain enters the Richelieu River.

In the midst of the French and Indian War, after the French abandoned Fort Frederic to the English, Joseph Payant continued to pilot a schooner with eight cannons named La Vigilante on the waters of Champlain.   Payant was not the commander of the French fleet on the lake, that honor was held by Joannis-Galand d'Olabaratz, a commissioned naval officer. The English fleet was commanded by Captain Joshua Loring.  For several weeks that autumn, while Amherst was rebuilding and enlarging the  fort at Crown Point the English and French fleets played deadly serious games of chase on the lake.

Russel Bellico on page 100 of Sails and Steam in the Mountains (revised edition 2001: Purple Mountain Press) writes about a particular event on October 12th, 1759...
"On the first night, Loring with the brig and sloop had sailed past the three French sloops at Four Brothers Islands, commanded by Joannis Galand d'Olabaratz. The schooner La Vigilante , commanded by Joseph Payant St. Onge, was stationed further north on the lake near Grand Isle.  At daybreak on October 12th, Loring observed the French schooner apparently moving toward the two British ships.  The Vigilante fired and the Cumberland and Boscawen (the English boats) gave chase, whereupon the French schooner  maneuvered into the shallow water between the Sisters Islands (Bixby and Young Island) on the west side of South Hero Island.  The experienced French pilot (Payant) had drawn the British vessels into a trap, with both British ships running aground.  The Boscawen got off the shoal easily but the Cumberland was forced to take eight canon and all the troops off to lighten the vessel.  By the time the British were free of the shoal, the Vigilante was long gone."

After the British recovered they did force d'Olabaratz to scuttle and abandon three importance French vessels.  Over nine days, the French naval crew hike overland back to the fort on Ile aux Noix where they met an infuriated commander Bourlamague.  Bellico goes on to describe what happened next:
"La Vigilante, at the same time, had hidden in the lee of Isle La Motte.  The old lake pilot (Payant) brought his vessel into Bourlamaque's headquarters on October 16 to the wonder of the garrison, whose men thought the ship had been captured."
The area where Payant set the trap is a blue shaded triangle on the Google map below....

View Bixby & Young Islands in a larger map

and also here

For the winter and spring, the French maintained control of the fort at Ile aux Noix, while in Quebec, St Lawrence Valley and forts west, the French colony was being overwhelmed by the British. In spring, Amherst sent Robert Rogers and his rangers to raid Fort St. Jean and Fort Chambly on the Richelieu, the source of French supplies.  In the summer of 1760, the naval war games on the lake resumed until finally in August the final actions occurred in the shallow waters around Ile aux Noix.  The British forces under Brigadier General Haviland set up an offensive position on the shores southeast of Ile aux Noix erecting cannons and mortars.  Bellico describes on the morning of August 17th, a terrible scene where English crew had their legs blown off and the captain died. Then there were more casualties.  Robert Rogers dragged a howitzer and a cannon to the shore  northwest of the island.  The French ships, including  the Vigilante were separated from the French fort. Cannons fired upon the remaining French fleet with Rogers pushing forward to prevent the Vigilante from reaching open waters eventually causing the Payant's schooner to run aground in the shallow waters.  It signaled the end of the French in the Champlain Valley.

Ile aux Noix in the middle of the Richelieu River
Just a few miles north of the the Québec-New York Border

Joseph Payant dit St Onge survived the battles on Lake Champlain retiring to Chambly in the aftermath of the war.  His children and grandchildren flourished in the Richelieu Valley and many of his descendants emigrated to the lands south of the lake he once bravely sailed and defended.

click on image to enlarge and read

The calm waters around Ile aux Noix, September 2010


Joseph Payant dit Saintonge: THE ADMIRAL OF LAKE CHAMPLAIN. Manchester, New Hamphire: American Candian Genelaogogical Society. ACGS bulletin, #108, Volume 32, Number 2, 2006, ISSN 1076-3902.

Sails and Steam in the Mountains. Russell Bellico. Fleischmans, NY: Purple Mountain Press. 2001.

Journey's Taken. William Kane .  Tempe, Arizona: Crownest Press. 2002.

Chroniques du Haut-Richelieu III, L'Admiral du Lac Champlain. Phillippe Demers. Montreal: G. Ducharme. 1929.

"Echos de la Nouvelle France. L'Admiral du Lac Champlain". Pierre Biron.