Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Mylott in 19th Century Whitehall

Robert Millot, alternatively spelled  Mailot or  Maylotte and finally, Mylott can be found in the 1850 census of Whitehall, New York working as a farm laborer on the Rathburn farm on the outskirts of town. Exactly when he arrived from Québec, we do not know.  What attracted the young man to this town at the southern end of Lake Champlain? Looking around Whitehall today, it would be hard to tell.  What did Whitehall look like in 1850?  When Robert Millot came into Whitehall,  he found a town bursting with activity, jobs, commerce and crime but, at that time, only a few French Canadians.  For several decades the region was the farmland of New England descendants.  With the opening of the Champlain Canal, Whitehall quickly became the center of economic activity in the north county attracting many new immigrants because it offered many new opportunities.  It was so busy and bustling, it even became the center of a fictional story entitled Ship Fever Times.

Below are several stereoscopic views and a few panoramic scenes of Whitehall in the 19th century, helping us to imagine the Whitehall  Robert Millot saw when he arrived.

A viewer, typical of the ones used to view the images below

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Visit to Québec City circa 1949

Before the Eisenhower interstates were built, motor trips to Québec City from Cohoes took more than one day.  This trip recorded in the filmstrip below, sometime in 1949 or 1950, went through New Hampshire instead of along Route 9 and the Champlain Valley in New York to Montreal.  (there's more footage of that segment of the journey still to be posted).  Probably the family was more intent on making a religious pilgrimage to St Anne de Beaupré than visiting Montreal so the northeastern route through the White Mountains to St Anne was reasonable and more like a week long vacation.

Al Rivet probably held the Kodak camera, while his father Emile and stepmother Malvina Hamel enjoyed the cruise on the St Lawrence and the silhouette of the Hotel Frontenac, the tall dark building in the filmstrip.  The scene quickly changes form Quebec City to the Shrine of St Anne de Beaupré, the Scala Santa, the convent grounds and the busy parking lot!

Years later as a child, I would accompany these adults on this pilgrimage many times and follow the tradition of ascending the stairs of Santa Scala on my knees while praying the rosary - in English.


Thursday, November 22, 2012

Marie Louise Lacasse

This is the funeral card of Marie Louise LaCasse Rivet, biological mother of Marie Claire Rivet, Joseph Albert Rivet and Raymond Dedace Rivet.  Marie Louise was born in Saint-Côme, Joliette, Québec and dies in Cohoes, NY, USA.  Thank you to the widow of  Uncle Ray Rivet for sharing this card.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Margie, Jackie, Wayne and my mom

Cohoes, NY ....circa 1949 and a home movie.  My mother, married about four years and still childless, loved to pose with the children of her friends.  She manages to snuggle in, at the end of the clip, with her best friend's children for sweet little portraits of Margie, Jackie and Wayne.  Looks like it was Easter time. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Split Rock on Lake Champlain and the Treaty of Utrecht

In the colonial period, the border between the French colony of Québec and the English colony of New York was not clearly established.  Until the end of the French and Indian war, it was quite fluid.  Each colonial power tried to maintain a presence or "outpost" to intimidate and control the other. Hostile expeditions on the frontier or borderlands was ever ongoing: Champlain attacked Iroquois villages in the Mohawk Valley in 1615. The French Carignan Salieres regiments made expeditions as far as Schenectady in 1666.  In retaliation for the English colony's massacre at LaChine, Québec, French marines and allies attacked Schenectady in  1690. 

Then came the Treaty of Utrecht supposedly.....

At the dawn of the 18th century, European countries and dominions fought the War of Spanish Succession because they feared France and Spain might unite under Philippe IV to form one country much too powerful.  The war was also fought on three fronts in North America: Spanish  Florida and the English colony of Carolina,  the Atlantic Provinces of present day Canada AND  in the land now called New York, New England and Québec.  Indigenous peoples often fought the battles serving as proxies for the European powers.  When it was finished, all parties except the indigenous peoples signed a treaty together often called 'The Treaty of Utrecht".

Historians of the North America colonial period usually discuss the impact of the terms of the treaty in regards to Acadia, Newfoundland, Hudson Bay and the Caribbean.  Probably because the treaty is quite specific about the terms impacting these commercially rich areas.  Here's a quote from a Wikipedia:

"In 1712, Britain and France declared an armistice, and a final peace agreement was signed the following year. Under terms of the 1713Treaty of Utrecht, Britain gained Acadia (which they renamed Nova Scotia), sovereignty over Newfoundland, the Hudson Bay region, and the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. France recognized British suzerainty over the Iroquois, and agreed that commerce with Native Americans further inland would be open to all nations. It retained all of the islands in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, including Cape Breton Island, and retained fishing rights in the area, including rights to dry fish on the northern shore of Newfoundland."
Accessed form Wikipedia on September 9th, 2012

The treaty does not have a specific item identifying the borderlands between Québec, New York and the New England  colonies.  As I read the English version of the treaty,  it would appear to postpone settling a border.  After describing the agreement regarding Hudson Bay, the last line of item IX states "The same commissaries shall also have orders to describe and settle, in like manner, the boundaries between the other British and French colonies in these parts."

Here is the English section IX of the treaty:

Add caption

and the French wording:

Of course, to the indigenous people, the total concept of a treaty written and signed in Holland to parcel up their lands and give certain entitlements to other powers must have been a gruel joke.

New York State history books usually state that the Treaty of Utrecht established a border south of which the French were not to settle and this borderline was known to be "Split Rock" on the western shores of Lake Champlain.  I cannot find that particular wording in the treaty.  I wonder if the French couldn't find it either.  It seems that the French had a vastly different interpretation of the terms because they later settled 25 miles south of Split Rock at Fort St Frederic (present day Crown Point, NY)  - 25 miles south. Then they built Fort Carillon (present day Ticonderoga) 16 miles south of St Frederic!!!

Until I can find the original source where Split Rock was designated the mark, I will continue to go with the New York State history books.  If anyone reading this can point me to the primary source and lines in the Treaty of Utrecht, I would be immensely grateful!  Thank you.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Home of Our Hessian Soldier: American cousin visits Sprabrucken, Germany

The following is a guest contribution from DC, a Wills/Bissonnette/Kaigle/ Göckel descendant who visited TB, a 5th+ cousin in Sprackbruken Germany in Spring 2012. These cousins  descended from the Göckel family in Sprabruken.   Anton Frederich Göckel, a Hessan soldier, fought for the British in the American Revolution and settled in Québec after the war where he fathered a large family.  Anton Göckel is the great great great great great grandfather of DC. Here is DC's story of his visit to Sprackbruken....

The cloud cover concealed the view until the final half minute of landing. I leaned over to see my first view of Germany, and I smiled immediately. I could see orderly, neat towns surrounded by green fields. By American standards, the villages and towns are packed in the country. After all, 80 million or so people are living in an area that an American might think suitable for 20 or 30 million!
I get off the plane, and two Polizei are waiting, checking passports. Man…I should not have trusted that website, is what I first thought! I was told it was an easy border. But, I walk up and before I say a word, he sees the American passport and waves me on. Just checking Turks, I guess.

The airport fulfills the stereotype of Germany. Neat, clean, automated and high tech. No low-wage Brooklynites to give me a cavity search like JFK. Nope…I walk through this automated scanner thing, with no personnel in sight (though I’m sure that if I came up positive for something, somebody would swarm me in short order.) The scan is basically done between the two automatic doors you walk through like in a grocery store, and you’re let in. Then, you wait in a line for a stamp in your passport, no one asks you why you’re there, how long you’ll be, etc. Then, finally, customs. I have nothing to declare, so I volunteer myself for the no-declare option, which is to walk past the inspecting police. What kind of hapless smuggler or drug dealer would volunteer himself for the declaration section, I do not know. Either way, I grab my luggage and make my way to the section where family awaits. I see a mustached German who seems to be looking for me, and he puts his arms out like a “long time, no see!” kind of way. It’s T.B., the long-lost cousin.
He quickly proves to have an affable sense of humor. His last email describing what he’d be wearing, he mentions a “peg-leg, hahaha.” Hm! There are no formalities related to the reunion, just some hellos, musings about Germany, the US, and the weather, of course. I notice how high tech even the parking garage is- automated arms that come down to block any route that leads to a full section of the garage. Gotta love it! Later on, I also see a feature of German cities as you enter them- an electronic sign, updated in real-time, telling you how many parking spaces are available, and in which parking lot. This country has some neat stuff, I tell you.

So, anyways, the cousin and I drive off on the autobahn for his home. We get off the autobahn and we start going down these perfectly paved, thin country roads. Not a crack or pothole in sight, and perfectly painted lines. It’s getting to feel like a movie at this point, wondering when the special effects are supposed to stop. We roll through towns much like what I saw in the descent- orderly, perfect little houses with red clay tile roofs, small gardens with no weeds. As I said, the towns are packed tight, so you can go through a Cambridge or Eagle Bridge-sized place, and after another mile or two, find another. Between the towns are fields larger than at home, believe it or not. 

It’s rolling hills here, and the crops seem to be mostly wheat, some rye, and sugar beets. Not to rant, rave, or otherwise seem obsessive, but the rows of all the crops are done perfectly, and you really wonder who’d go to such great lengths to have acres upon acres of perfectly parallel rows. Why, a German of course! It is really nice though, and in a way you get caught up in the atmosphere. A few times, I have wanted to spit, but couldn't, because my spit would be the first thing out of place in the whole region for miles! Okay, an exaggeration. But really, the towns are perfectly neat. Not cookie-cutter straight like an American suburb, but winding and crooked, yet always neat with well-paved and painted roads, well-signaged. It’s a place of order.

Thomas and I arrive to his house, which he described as a “fixer-upper.” Damn…hate to see what his reaction would be to an American fixer-upper! He tours me around, showing me the beer/wine cellar (hell yes), his carpenter’s shop (immaculate), where he makes his own window frames, door frames, et cetera for fixing up the place. Then the machine shop where he manufactures his own replacement parts for some vehicle projects. Again, a perfectly organized little shop, and he shows me a hundred year old tooling machine his grandfather gave him, still well-oiled and working to this day. Impressive. Seriously. And neither of those were his profession, he was in phone lines, telecom. He retired early with an injury and now lives on a pension and plays with the house project as he feels like it, restoring the building to more original architecture.

He gives me a tour of the interior of the house, and on the second floor I notice the family photographs. I see old, mustached men in Prussian military uniforms, and I ask him what period they were. 1870s, an ancestor of his, therefore another cousin to me, generations removed, had served in the Franco-Prussian war of 1870. I ask further, and it turns out that my/our Anton Göckel was no black sheep in the family, it was in fact an old soldiering family in Hessian tradition. Whatever the cause, Göckels were to be found in the ranks, and the history shows this from the 1700s onward. In World War I, of four Göckels in the family, four served, and those, three are killed or injured. No males were alive or available for World War Two, and the Göckel name died when one of the World War One vets produced only two daughters.

In the coming days, I learn further of Anton Göckel in detail. Thomas had documents he had prepared, but they were in German and he had not passed them on yet. I feel like an explorer as I first lay eyes on them and translate, and more details come out. Anton Göckel was a citizen of Hessen-Darmstadt, yet served in the army of Hessen-Hanau, how was this? First, a quick note- the different “Hessen”s had once been one princedom, but were split to two heirs once. One part was split yet again, a generation later, leaving a total of three separate political entities named “Hessen.” Anyways, it turns out Anton Göckel fled from his Hessen-Darmstadt because the pay for Hessen-Hanau soldiers was three times as much. The Hanau Jäger’s monthly pay was equivalent to an average man’s six months of wages. Our guy was a true mercenary, down to the core. I read the documents further- his profession before the war, he was a professional hunter, and known in the region for being a particularly good shot. That is likely how he was allowed to serve with the Hessen-Hanau regiment even though he was not a native.

Church where Anton Göckel was baptized in 1760

The terms of service for the Hessen-Hanau Jägerkorps were generous, as they were the elite of the elite. Pay three times better than most, six times better than a civilian’s average, plus the right to settle in the New World if they wished, after the war. The only stipulations- the Jägerkorps was not allowed to dig trenches. It was actually in the contract! They were to keep moving, always on the offensive.

With that in mind, we know already that Anton Göckel fought at the Battle of Oriskany in mid-upstate New York, less than an hour west of Albany. A force of American rebel militia with Mohawk allies was ambushed by a small company of Redcoats, a single company of Hessian Jäger’s, a few hundred loyalist militia and, loyalist Mohawks. Not counting the British and Germans, it was a vicious civil war, neighbor versus neighbor, as both the rebel and loyalist militias were drawn from the same part of New York. And of course, the Mohawks were divided. You can imagine that Anton Göckel witnessed much savagery, as the battle was one of the bloodiest of the entire American Revolution (as measured by percentage of combatants injured or killed, where it stood at around 50%). Civil wars, wars of neighbors, are always the most brutal, as the fights were often personal. The Anglo-Hessian-Loyalist force prevailed in the course of the battle, but the long-term results fell in favor of the colonists when they were forced to cede the ground gained a few weeks later.

A detail emerged as I read, though. Something I hadn't read or heard anywhere. Four Hessians were captured by the retreating Americans. Anton Göckel was one of them. Of the four, two of them ended up courting and marrying American women during their imprisonment. Anton Göckel and a companion, however, had no desire to clock out at that point. The two of them escaped from their prison near the Syracuse area, and they fled through the hundreds of miles of the Adirondack forest to make their way to Montreal. They signed back up and were assigned to a new unit, and they served the rest of their time as garrison soldiers protecting Quebec from the threat of American invasion. In the course of that time, Anton took a liking to a French Canadian girl there (TB theorizes it may be the daughter of the family with whom he was quartered) and married her (Marie Anne Maquet dit LaJoie)  upon the end of the war. Their marriage was in Montréal on June 27, 1783. 

And for relatives in American who are reading this, just think.....if Anton had not survived the battle, the capture, the escape, would you or any of us be here? I guess not. We are the result of one guy with a serious will to live. Amazing.

Over the course of the stay, we drove around to various points of interest in the area. TB lives in Habitzheim, a village 4 kilometers from Spachbrücken, where Anton Göckel was from. So, we of course went there, and I took pictures of the church he had been baptized in. He was Protestant, in a volatile region in Germany where the Catholic South and Protestant North meet and partially intermingle. TB amusingly points out that the battle still goes on today, though less violent- the two village churches in Habitzheim have dueling bells on Sunday. Not a bad way to channel religious aggression I’d say.

We also went to an artificial lake built by one of our mutual ancestors in the 1600s as a fish farm, now a protected bird habitat. Along with us went Thomas’s beagle, Karl. What an excellent name for a beagle. Karl needed to be walked a lot, and plenty of bathroom breaks for him, and so I had a very unexpected pleasure of spending a lot of time walking in forests and parks. Every few hours between villages, we took Karl for his duties and I got yet another excuse to see forest. An added bonus was that many of them were the very forests where Anton Göckel would have hunted before he joined the Jägerkorps. The forests seemed to me to be steeped in potential history. It was the border region of the Roman Empire once, and I can imagine the Germanic and Celtic tribes living here, resisting the Romans. Or, massacres and reprisals during the Reformation as Protestant and Catholic towns butchered each other. And, my World War Two history is a bit hazy, but I imagine the Allies came through this area, as it’s so close to the French border (two hours). The forests contain a weight that I don’t feel at home. At home, you feel like you may be one of the few witnesses of the more obscure forests. You may imagine Native Americans having walked through, or you may picture a European trapper wandering through, but you feel the forest’s untouched aspect. In Germany, nothing is untouched, it seems. The human hand is always visible, even if it’s just the neat little path winding through, or the occasional hunter’s stand peering over a clearing.

A great big "thank you" to DC for this interesting contribution to our family history!

Friday, June 1, 2012

J'aime New York, 2nd Edition

J'aime New York, 2nd Edition:

Most people think of the Statue of Liberty when asked about French Heritage in New York State but there are those out there who quickly turn to upstate and the borderlands...thinking of Clinton County, the St Lawrence Seaway, Fort Ticonderoga (think Fort Carillon), Lake Champlain , Lake George (Lac du Sacré Sacrément), Au Sable Chasm and many more places.  So I am sending off for a copy of the 2nd Edition of J'aime New York  from SUNY Press.  I hope not to be disappointed but will post more as soon as I get my hands on a copy! I can't wait.....

'via Blog this'

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Champlain Canal at Comstock

The Champlain canal parallels Wood Creek in Washington County.  North of Comstock,  ancestors in the Mylott family farmed lands along Wood Creek and made a decent livelihood due to their proximity to the canal lanes.
maps of the old canal contrast with the photos of the present day canal and the locks at Comstock

Looking North

Entering the locks
Emptying the tub

Motorist heading back to Canada in the Champlain Canal

The locker tender's abode