Old Settlers' Tales by F.F. Crevecoeur

Henry Labbe came here with his wife, Madelaine, and children , Cecilia (Mrs. John Labbe), and Samuel, from France to Wisconsin in 1856. He came here in company with August Seigneur, who is also a Frenchman, in the year of 1866. and they both took claims; Mr. Labbe taking 80 acres, which are the south half of the quarter section where Ike Summerville lives, and Mr. Seigneur took the eighty joining Ike Summerville on the north. They then went back to Wisconsin and returned the next fall to build houses on their claims. Mr. Labbe's family joined him the next spring. Besides his children, Cecilia and Samuel, who were twins, he had another son, Daniel, born in Wisconsin. Mr. Seigneur made his home with Mr. Labbe, Mrs. Labbe being an aunt of his.

Mr. Labbe built the frame house at Neuchatel, where his last years of life were spent, in 1870. He and his wife died within two days of each other about three years ago.

Mr. Labbe and Mr. Seigneur established one of the first sawmills run in this locality. They erected a platform on which the logs were raised. With a hand saw the men ripped out boards, one man standing above on the platform and the other stood below.

Peter Labbe, a brother of the above, came from France, with his wife, Marianne, to Wisconsin, in 1852, with his sons, Joseph and John, then came here with his children, David, and Mary (Mrs. Daniel Labbe), in the fall of 1872, and bought out August Seigneur, the farm lying across the road north of Ike Summerville's. Mr. Labbe died about fifteen years ago, at the age of 66 years, and his wife died in Oregon, where she had gone, in 1894.

Joseph Labbe, a son of the above, came here from Wisconsin, with his wife, Mary, and children, Lydia and Louise, the time that his father did. He made his home with his father, and was living on the Ike Summerville place when he went to Oregon, fifteen years ago. He had two children born here Julia and Peter.

John Labbe, another son of Peter Labbe, came to this locality in 1871, stayed a couple of weeks, and went back to Wisconsin, only to return the following spring. He made his home with his father, and married Cecilia Labbe on the 16th of June, 1873. His oldest children are: Lydia, who married Leon Besancon, and died in 1895; Julia (Mrs. Henry Mentha), and Edward.

Peter Lacour, also a native of France, and his wife came from Louisville, Ohio, in the spring of 1868. He had the following children when he came: Clemence (Mrs. Bruce Tyron, of Irving), August and Joseph. He homesteaded 80 acres of land in the northwest corner of the township. his wife, now dead, had a cancer which destroyed her sense of smell. His son, August, is in Oklahoma, and Joseph is in Idaho. The old gentleman died a number of years ago.

Peter Dockler, the French Doctor, who is a native of France, went first to Africa, then came here from New Orleans in the year 1840.

He then went to Cleveland, Ohio; next to Pittsburgh, Pa., from where he came to Neuchatel in 1862. the old gentleman has had a very checkered career, and was the most popular physician who came to this locality for many years.

Edward Mars and his wife, Emelie, were natives of France. They came here from Wisconsin, with their children, Cleophas, and Louise (Mrs. Samuel Labbe, of Ontario, Kan.), in the year 1868. Mr. Mars settled on a farm south of Neuchatel, in Mill Creek township. The 13th of August, 1873, he was digging sand with Gustave Bonjour, in a bank on Mrs. Julia Bonjour's farm, for the mill that was being built there, when the bank caved in and partly buried him. Mr. Bonjour ran and shouted for help, and while he was doing so another lot of sand fell, killing him instantly. He had the following children born to him after coming here: Edward, jr., George, and Clara (Mrs. Edward Paulin, who died in 1889).

Aime Chavanne came to the United States, from France, in 1851, when he was nineteen years of age. He came to Kansas in the late 50's and owned a farm near Seneca. Here he married Mary Ann Dennis. He then moved to Jackson county, and came to Neuchatel about 1863, where he bought 40 acres of land of Desire Wery, which is now owned by his son, John. His children whom he brought here are: Sarah, who died in 1880, and Laura (Mrs. Roberts), Matilda (Mrs. Henry Perrussel), and John, were born here. Mrs. Chavanne died the 18th of June, 1898.

Rev. Henry Marel, a native of France, and his wife, Adelaide, a native of Canada, came to Neuchatel in 1870, and lived in the Henry Labbe house for several years. He bought the farm where Andy Ladner lived last year, of Mrs. Charles Simon. He then bought the house where he died a couple of years ago, of Aime Bonjour, who had bought it of Charles Bonjour. He had a daughter, Tamar, by another wife, when he came here. She died about 1877. Mrs. Marel went back to Wisconsin after her husband's death.

Francois Clerget and his wife, Emelie, came from France to Illinois in 1864. From there they came here in the spring of 1871, with their children, Clarissa, Josephene, Adele, and Jules. They lived a year on the farm north of Ike Summerville's then went to Clear Fork. From there they moved to Edwards county in 1879, where Mr. Clerget died. His daughter, Adele, died in Seneca in 1875.

Joseph Paulin and his wife, Marianne, natives of France, and children, James, Edward, and Edmond, came here from Peoria, Ill., in the fall of 1870. Mr. Paulin homesteaded 40 acres of land east of Mr. Maelzer's, where he died about twenty years ago. His son, Edward, died in Mr. Pecheur's house , in Rocky Scrabble, about 1874, and James was found dead, hanging in a shed, by his parents, when they returned from a visit one Sunday. It was supposed to have been a case of suicide. This occurred in the late 70's.

John Lavigue, a Frenchman, came here in 1871 from Nebraska, went to Pennsylvania with John and Henry Reboul in 1872, and returned the same year; then went back to Nebraska in 1873.

Louis Kirsch, the French miller, his wife and son, Louis, came here from Seneca in 1872. He lived at the mill two or three years, and went away. He had a partner in the mill, by the name of Pinjou. We will refer you to Mr. Kirsch again when we give the history of the French Mill.

J. Higgins, a Canadian, came west, from Rochester, N.Y., and worked for a while at Atchison, then went to Circleville, in Jackson county, and from there he came here with his wife and a daughter, Belle, in 1870. He was a cabinet maker and put up a shop at Neuchatel where he worked at his trade for a number of years. Belle married in the 70's, and Mr. Higgins and his wife later moved to somewhere east.

Francis Gilson, a Belgian, came here from Wisconsin, in 1866, with his wife Therese, and children, Rosalie (Mrs. Armand Chatelrin), Desiree (Mrs. Tell Perrelet), and Alexander. He settled on the farm northwest of Neuchatel, now belonging to his son. His wife died in 1869, and passed away in the year 1893.

Baptist, a brother of the above, came here from the same place and at the same time as Francois. He married Mrs. Mary Simon, Charlie Simon's widow, in 1875. He died in Seneca in 1889.

Isidore, another brother of the above , also came when the others did. He is now in Butler county.

A brother-in-law of Gilson's, by the name of Bougeonville, came here when he did, with his wife and two or three children.

He made his home with the Gilsons. He lived here a couple of years, then went back to Wisconsin.

Desiree Wery, another Belgian, came here from Wisconsin in 1866, with his wife and several children. With him came his wife's father, Desire Pinchard, who died here. There also came with him his wife's brother-in-law, a Canadian.

Mr. Wery bought the Chavanne place of Mr. Mouton. He lived here but a couple of years, when he returned to Wisconsin. Mrs. Wery's brother-in-law, while living here, worked a year for Alfred Bonjour.

Florent Theys, who was a native of Belgium, came here from Wisconsin in 1866. He took a homestead in the north part of the township, and which was sold to Ed Smith a few years later. He worked a year for Alfred Bonjour; the next year for Fred Bonjour, and another year for Louis C. Simon. He married Louisa Vautravers in December, 1869. His oldest children are: Julia (Mrs. J. A. Bonjour), Pauline (Charles Bonjour's widow), and Mary (Mrs. Tom Kelly). Mr. Theys got killed in a runaway accident, 1n 1896. While driving a colt to a hay rake he fell off the rake and got his head caught between the spokes of the wheel and broke his neck.

A man by the name of Peter Hamilton was the first to own the Theys place. He was succeeded by a man by the name of Stickle, who also owned Aimes (sic) Bonjour's, farm, on which he lived, where Roland Bonjour is living. When he sold out to Aime Bonjour in 1857, he moved to the Theys farm, which he afterwards sold to Fred Bonjour, sr.

There was also a man who had located the B. Perrussel farm at an early day. He afterwards located on Coal creek, on the Pat Kline farm. Then Ezra and Steve Lot located the land opposite Ephraim Bonjour's. Mr. Vail made his home on the B. Perrussel farm; and a man by the name of Risson, a single man, took the farm which is now Zelin (sic) Bonjour's. These had all come early in 1856. The Lot boys and presumably Mr. Vail, who was a relative of the Lots, came from New York.

Mr. Risson stayed here but a short while, when he went to Ohio, where he died.

The Lot boys made a number of improvements on their farms. They set out a row of cottonwood trees along the road, some of which are living. L. A. Zurcher helped to set them. The trees consisted of cuttings, which were set in a furrow, plowed by the boys, by Mr. Zurcher, and another furrow was plowed, throwing the dirt to the base of the cuttings. We have no doubt that this was the first attempt at domestic forestry for miles around. The first year the boys were here they broke out a furrow from their place to the settlement at America City, so that they and others might find their way there. Steve went back to New York in 1859, where he died not long after. Erza went back in 1860.

Mr. Vail had a wife and several children. He built a house on his farm, north of where Mr. Perrussel is living. He carried the mail from Atchison to Irving for some time.

James Cooper and his wife came from Indiana in the early 60's. He was a cripple. He lived where William Westlake resides. John, a brother to the above, came here with his wife and a daughter, Jane. He lived on the John Labbe place.

There came with Coopers [sic] a man by the name of Knous. A man by the name of Conant lived on the Dan Labbe place when the Coopers were here. Coopers went to Nebraska from here.

S. T. Sampson came here with his wife and mother from Michigan, about 1871, and bought the John Labbe farm of Louis Zurcher. He had a stone house built in the fall of 1872. George and Bill Young, of Rocky Scrabble done the mason work. He had two boys born to him here. His wife died in 1876 or 1877, after which he sold out and moved away.

Joseph Milliard, his wife Susan, and two sons, Marion and Loren, and daughter, Mrs. Melissa Taylor, came to Neuchatel from Michigan, in 875. Mr. Milliard lived on the farm now owned by Julius Mouton. He went to Arkansas several years ago, where Mrs. Milliard died in 1899. His children are with him in Arkansas.

A man by the name of Hartzfelt occupied the French Mill a year or two after it ceased to run.

Ami (Bach) Bonjour came to the United States to Indiana, from Switzerland in 1852. In 1855 he came with others to near Leavenworth, where he stayed two years. In the spring of 1857, he with his brother, Charles, came here, arriving on the 18th day of May. The government surveyors were just through surveying this territory and were at work in Pleasant Valley when the boys arrived here. He and his brother had first intended to settle at the mouth of Coal Creek, in Grant Township, and erected markers to denote their claims. They thought they would look a little further to see if they could find anything that could suit them better, and finally decided to locate on French Creek. Ami located the farm now belonging to Mrs. Jere Miller, and his brother selected land now belonging to James Summerville, but he made his home with his brother. In August, 1860, he drove through to Colorado, where there he seemed to have success in the mines. After having lived there for three years word was received from there from a friend of Mr. Bonjour's, stating that he had died, and it was the last ever heard of him or his friend.

The two brothers, Ami and Charles Bonjour, were the first French speaking persons to come to Neuchatel, and it was through their influence that others were induced to come to the community.

The next to come were: Frederic H. Bonjour, a brother to the two mentioned above; Gustave Bonjour and L. August Zurcher, who came in July, 1857.

Fred Bonjour had come from Switzerland in the early 50's, to Buffalo, N.Y., where he married Julia Simon, a sister to Louis C. Simon. He then went to New Orleans, from there Indiana, and then came to near Leavenworth, where he took a claim in common with his brothers and others. He sold this and moved to what was then Grasshopper Falls, the present Valley Falls, where he also got a claim, which he sold and then came here. He had three children then, Adele, Julia, and Fred H. He bought the Mrs. Theys place of Mr. Stickle, and made that his home until 1868, when he moved to where William Westlake is now living. Mr. Bonjour had a farm in Indiana, which he traded for a farm in Iowa, and this was in turn traded for a farm on Coal Creek, which he sold to Pat Kline. In 1858 he had a cow among his other belongings, and had $500 due him in Indiana. He knew that he had no show of collecting this, unless he called for it in person. So he sold his cow, that his family should have something to live on while he should be gone, and went back to Indiana, walking all the way. In 1860, the year of the drouth (sic), he had in about 12 acres of corn on the bottom land, and the whole crop was gathered and held in a 30 gallon camp kettle. About this time, or soon after, he had a bunch of hogs, which he butchered and dressed and loaded them in a wagon, which made a load for two yoke of oxen, and hauled them to Leavenworth, where two cents per pound was realized. The first house he built, a log one, of course, had not a bit of iron about it. The shingles or clapboards were fastened down with wooden pegs, and the hinges were made of wood. It had only one window. The wagon he used when he done his trading, all of which was done for several years at Leavenworth and Atchison, was a linch-pin one; and they did not have thimble skeins then and it was remarkable for the noise it made. As he lived on the west side of the creek, this had to be crossed on his trips to the market, and, when on his way home, the children heard the wagon squawking when still a mile away, they would hurry to meet him. When he went to Leavenworth he would collect what boot tops he could find, as he was a shoemaker, and would make shoes with wooden soles, the uppers being from old boot tops; and his children fared better than their neighbors in the matter of footgear.

In those early days, we are told, the prairies were covered with a scant, sparse growth of grass, and it grew in remote clumps, from between which the wind blew away the soil, leaving the grass clumps much higher than the rest of soil; and it was a past time for children, when getting home the cows, to walk only on these clumps of grass, when these were not far apart so their short legs could reach them, just like walking on bogs in a swamp.

Mr. Bonjour had the following children born to him after he came to Neuchatel: Charles A., the first white child born in Neuchatel township, born Sept. 20, 1857; Ulysses, Paul, Anna (Mrs. William Burdette), Heloise, (Mrs. Lem Burdette), Edgar, Lucy, and Zalina (Mrs. Charles Westlake). Of these and the three who were brought here, Adele married August Sandoz, and is now in Caliornia [sic]; Julia is at Los Angeles, Cal., Charles A. died in Wabaunsee county a couple of years ago. (It is remarkable that the three young men who were the first children born in their respective neighborhoods, viz., Henry Randall, of America City, Leason Cory, of Pleasant Valley, and Charles A. Bonjour, of Neuchatel, should all be dead, and all died within a short time of each other).

Ulysses died in 1875. Paul is in Montana. Edgar died when two or three months old; and Lucy married Will Robson, of Westmoreland, and died in California, several years ago. It was said of Mr. Bonjour that he had eighty acres of land for each of his children, making eleven eighties in all. Mr. Bonjour died about 1880.

Gustave Bonjour and his wife, Eugenie, who was a sister to Fred and Ami Bonjour, came here with his brother-in-law, Fred Bonjour, in 1857. He located the place now Mat Gurtler's, where he lived several years. In the winter of 1868 or 1869, Mrs. Bonjour moved from her home, with her children, to a cave that stood on her brother's farm, west of the Vautraver school house. It appears the roof was covered with grass, and a high wind was blowing one day and the roof caught fire, causing her to vacate, so she moved to Neuchatel. It seems that Mr. Bonjour was off somewhere at work while this was occurring. He then settled and made his home on the farm where his son A. G., is living. Mr. Bonjour passed away several years ago.

Aime Bonjour had come to Missouri, about the fall of 1856, where he married Miss Sophie Bonjour, another sister of Ami and Fred Bonjour. The fall of 1857, he came to this locality, and bought his farm, now his son, Richard's, of Mr. Stickel. He had three sons born to him, Charles, who went away in 1875, to San Francisco, and is now in Washington, J. Aime, and Roland J. In the fall of 1866. Mr. Bonjour built the first frame house in the township. Lumber was hauled from Leavenworth and Atchison, the flooring, which was purchased at the latter city, costing $90 per thousand. Mr. Bonjour died quite a number of years ago, and his wife died in 1895.

A Mr. Savoyard came out here with Aime Bonjour. He was a carpenter, and located on the farm and went to Topeka, where he met Mr. Frezieres, telling him of the French settlement at this place.

In the spring of 1858, our pioneers, Ami, Fred, and Gustave Bonjour, hitched up and went to Leavenworth after more recruits for the colony. These were Alfred and Charles Bonjour, Louis and Ami Zurcher, Louis and Charles Simon, and August Mouton, who had come from Indiana to Leavenworth by boat.

Alfred Bonjour, a brother to Gustave, came here with his wife, Melanie , who was a sister to Mrs. Fred Bonjour. He settled on the farm now occupied by his son, Emile, living down near the creek, west of Emile's. In the 60's he moved to where his son, Ephraim, is making his home. He was commissioned a notary public at an early date, which commission he is still holding. He was elected to the office of trustee for quite a number of years. He was also elected to justice of the peace in the early 60's. About 1869, he bought out Mr. Schneider and moved to the house vacated by him. In 1872 he built the stone house where Ephraim, his son, is living. He had thirteen children born to him, including one set of triplets. With the exception of his sons, Alfred A., Emile, Alcide, and Ephriam [sic], his children all died in infancy. His wife died on December 4, 1890.

Charles Bonjour, a brother to Gustave and Alfred, came here in the spring of 1858, as has already been noted. He took the quarter of land on which Neuchatel is built. The first year he was here, while living with his brother, Alfred, he was induced to start a grocery store, and invested 100 dollars in the business, which was kept where he was living, west of Emile Bonjour's. The groceries were purchased in Leavenworth. Not finding the business as lucrative as he wished at the end of a year or two, he moved to Leavenworth, where he engaged as a cook in a restaurant, which occupation he followed for a couple of years. He then returned to this locality and married Louise Zurcher, in 1864. He lived in the place that Rev. Morel did when he died, near B. Perrussel's. and then, selling that to Aime Bonjour, he moved to the small house lately occupied by August Scheve. About 1877, he bought an organ, the second one in the territory covered by this paper, and the first brought to Neuchatel. He paid $150 for it. His house then became the meeting place, of Sunday evenings, for the young people in the locality, who would spend many happy hours in singing hymns to the accompaniment of the organ.

Mr. Bonjour's children are: Matilda (Mrs. Leon Besancon, of Corning), Eugene, who lived but a year, Charles, who was accidentally shot, on Christmas, two years ago, Pauline (Mrs. Julius Perrussel), and Silas, who died at the age of two months, in 1873.

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