Old Settlers' Tales by F.F. Crevecoeur

Luis Constant Simon, popularly known, by his English speaking neighbors, as "One-eyed Simon", came to the United States, from Switzerland, the same time that Fred Bonjour did. He was married, in Indiana, and came here, with his wife, Louise, and mother, Mrs. Melanie Simon, in the spring of 1858. He settled on the place now owned by Paul Junod. His house was built in a location that was the exception to the general rule, it being built on the west side of the creek coming past Zelim Bonjour's house. His mother died here, in 1865, and he then moved to the L. Cosandier place, building the stone house in which Mr. Cosandier is living, about 1867. His children are: Lydia (Mrs. Marion Millard), Rachael, Mary, Elizabeth, and Sarah, all of Colorado. His wife died in Colorado, several years ago.

Charles Simon, a cousin to the above, came here in 1858, as has been mentioned, coming direct from Switzerland. His wife, Louise, and son, Louis, joined him the next year. He settled the farm now owned by B. Perrussel, and built the log house that is still standing in the field west of here Mr. Perrussel is now living. His wife died here, about 1863, and he then married Mrs. Mary Martin, of Turkey Creek, near Seneca, about a year thereafter. His wife came here with two children, J. C. Martin , and a girl, Minerva (Mrs. Swisher), who is living in the southern part of the state with her mother. Mr. Simon had three children by his first wife, after he came here, Emma, Annie, and Millie. Emma and Annie died when 10 or 12 years of age, his son, Louis, died about 1877, and Millie married John Morris. He had two boys by his second wife, Alcide and Frank, of near Seneca. Mr. Simon died about 1870, and his widow married Baptist Gilson, in 1875. She sold the farm to Ernest Descombes and Henry Morel, in 1870. Mr. Simon was the first Swiss to get a team of horses, he trading for them.

Henry Mouton and his wife, Catharine, and his son, August, and his son's wife, Sophie, a sister to Gustave, Alfred, and Charles Bonjour, came the spring of 1858. They settled on the farm belonging to John Chavanne, where they lived until 1869, when August bought Steve Lot's farm, the one where C. B. Bonjour is living. Here Grandma Catharine Mouton died June 24, 1876, and Grandpa Henry Mouton passed away in February, 1880. August Mouton had the following all born here: Eliza, who married Zelim Bonjour, in 1876, Ellen, Zelim Bonjour's present wife, Josephine (Mrs. C. B. Bonjour), Julius, Anna (Mrs. Julius Davin), and Lena (Mrs. Andrew Ladner). August Mouton died March 14, his daughter, Eliza, the 22nd, her infant the next day, and Sophia, August's wife, the 26th of the month, 1877, all with typhoid fever.

L. August Zurcher came here, as has already been noted, in July, 1857. He located the James Summerville place, and soon after, in company with Ami, Charles, and Gustave Bonjour, went to Leavenworth, where they cut hay on Stranger Creek, for the government. They did not possess mowing machines, so they used what is often termed the "Armstrong" machine - they each used a common scythe. As the grass was tall on the creek bottom, they made quite a success of their work.

After having lived here for three years, Mr. Zurcher went back to Leavenworth to live, then went to St. Louis, and then went to Illinois. When war broke out he enlisted in Co. G, 4th Missouri Cavalry, for three months. When he had served his time out he re- enlisted in Co. E. 12th Mo. Vol. Infantry, and served until the end of the war, when he found himself in Indiana. Here he married Mrs. Mary Dodds and came back to Neuchatel with his wife and her two sons, Milton and Newton, in the spring of 1867. The farm he located, before he went away, had been sold to others, as, on account of being in the army, he was not present when the government offered the land for sale. He then homesteaded the place south of Dave Labbe's, where he lived two years in a dug-out, when his means permitted him to build a log cabin on his place. Reuben Kelly once had occasion to pass Mr. Zurcher's place while the latter was living in the dug-out, and was surprised to see Mr. Zurcher apparently come out of the earth, as he issued from the abode. Mr. Zurcher tells us that when he went to Leavenworth, to cut hay, he saw the first mowing machine he had seen in the state. Of course the advent of mowers took the work away from those who used scythes.

He also says the first houses built on French Creek had no glass in their windows, but were fitted with trap doors to shut out the cold and opened when the weather was fair to admit the light. For lamps they used a dish into which they put grease and used a rag for a wick. They also relied on fires in their backlog fireplaces to furnish light in the evening. As they seldom had matches they were careful not to let their fires go out, but when this did happen they would go to some neighbor's for fire to relight (sic) their own. When this failed they would load their guns with a heavy charge of powder, and, putting an armful of hay in the fireplace, they would fire into it, igniting the hay.

Louis and Ami Zurcher came here with their mother and sister, Louise (Mrs. Charles Bonjour), in 1858, and lived on their brother's place, on which the latter had put up a cabin. They had come direct from Switzerland. Louis married Mrs. Maria Smith, who had come from Wisconsin, November 26, 1865, Squire Alfred Bonjour performing the ceremony. He bought out John Cooper -the John Labbe place- and made that his home until 1871, when he sold out to S. T. Sampson, he intending to go to Wisconsin. He first moved to the Alfred Bonjour farm, west of Emile's, where he stayed a year, and then bought a farm on Coal Creek, where he lived a number of years. His children, the four oldest of whom were born at Neuchatel, are: Helen(Mrs. Cosandier), Edward, William, Laura, Nathalie, and Lena, all of Evansville, Ill., where Mr. Zurcher and his wife are also living. While he was living on the John Labbe farm, in 1867, there arose a heavy rainstorm, already mentioned in these notes on Rocky Scrabble. Desire Wery was living on the John Chavanne place at the time. Mr. Zurcher and his wife were on their knees commending their souls and those of their children to God, as they hardly expected to see another morning. While thus engaged they heard a fearful, pleading cry, "Louis! Louis!" and wondering what poor soul could be out in so frightful a time, the door was hastily opened, and there stood the Wery family, who were seeking refuge in Mr. Zurcher's house, thinking their own would be blown away and they would be killed.

Ami Zurcher settled on the Alcide Hammerly place. He married Gabrielle Leroux, in 1868.

He had the following children: Henry, Ulysses, Lucie, and Emma. When Mr. Leroux went to California, Mr. Zurcher went there also, and is now at Cloverdale, Sonoma county, California. Louis and Ami Zurcher's mother died in 1870.

Frederick Vautravers came here from the Canton of Vaud, Switzerland, with his wife, Sophia, and children, Louisa (Mrs. Theys), Louis of Centralia. and Emma, who was married to Simon Armstrong, of Centralia, in 1876. They arrived at Delaware City, Leavenworth county, November 6, 1856, having been just two months on the way. The 6th of July, 1857, he came to Neuchatel, and pre-empted (sic) 160 acres of land where he is living. He built a house northeast of his present home, down near the timber, where he lived a number of years. Here his other children were born. They are: Charles, who died when nine months old, Fred, Bertha (Mrs. Dave Labbe), and Sarah (Mrs. Alva Gray). When Aime Bonjour moved out here, he brought Mr. Vautravers' family along, while Mr. Vautravers stayed behind, coming later, making his way by walking and catching an occasional ride. Ami, Charles, and Gustave Bonjour built a house for him, but, by mistake, they built it on Ami Bonjour's land, joining him on the north. The next year he built the house mentioned before. Fred Bonjour located his farm first, but as he got to buy out Mr. Stickel (the Roland Bonjour farm), he let Mr. Vautravers take the one he had first selected. The day for the sale of Mr. Vautravers' farm had been set by the government for the 6th day of August, and as he did not have the necessary funds to pay for it, Mr. Vautravers was at a loss as to how to acquire it. Fred Bonjour offered to advance the money for him if he would agree to sell him the 120 acres of it, and would still have 40 acres left for his trouble. Mr. Vautravers did not wish to do this, as he wanted the whole quarter for himself. So he consulted a man at Seneca, who offered to loan him the money, charging him only 60 percent interest for the use of it. He got the loan for one year, but at the expiration of the year he had no more with which to pay than he had the year before to buy it with. The matter dragged along for seven years, so he didn't know who owned the land, himself or the man who advanced him the money. In the meantime he homesteaded 80 acres of land and bought 40 acres more--that became the Gilson farm. On the homestead he commenced the erection of a house, on the east side of the creek, intending to move onto the place so he could hold it. When the walls of the house were up, he thought it would be a good idea to burn the grass around it, for the fear of prairie fires. There were plenty of dry chips around the house and those that took fire, and while he was on the other side, the chips on the other side blazed up again, communicating the flames to the walls, and the structure was soon burned down. The Gilson brothers coming soon after this , he sold his homestead claim to them for three hundred dollars, sold a yoke of oxen for ninety-five dollars, and with the proceeds of these sales he succeeded in paying the taxes on his land and the loan with which he bought it. In 1871, Mr. Vautravers built a frame house on the location of his present one, the old one being built up into the new structure in which he is now living. He had native lumber sawed with which to build his frame house, but not being able to use it immediately, he piled it up, and by the time he got ready to use it had rotted so much as to render it useless, and he had to buy considerable imported lumber to finish with, paying fifty dollars per thousand for it. Mr. Vautravers is a tailor by trade and the winter of 1856 and 1857, while living in Leavenworth, he followed his profession, paying $3.75 per week for board, yet he cleared a dollar a day, making pants and vests, receiving fifty cents each for making a pair of pants or a vest. From February until July, 1857, he stayed near Holton, where he had got a piece of Indian land. He built a small house on it, and sold his right for $220. He was present while much of the Indian land was being sold, and paid for, and he never, before or since, saw so much money as he did then. The table in the room where the sale was going on was covered a foot deep with twenty dollar gold pieces and bills. On New Years day, 1857, while living at Leavenworth, Mr. Vautravers had occasion to visit his brother-in-law, Aime Bonjour, who lived nine miles away. There had been a light fall of snow, and the weather was quite cold. He started before breakfast. He wore a pair of light boots and upon arriving at his brother-in-law's he found he had one of his toes frozen and it had swollen as big as an egg, and his boot had to be cut open in order to be removed. The flesh all dropped off and his leg swelled to the knee. Local doctors said he should go to St. Louis to have the limb amputated, but he went to Dr. J. P. Koontz, who treated his frozen member and saved his leg. In February following, while staying at his brother-in-law's, the latter, who had considerable dealings and experience with the Indians, left Mr. Vautravers at home while he went to look after a piece of land to pre-empt (sic). Mr. Vautravers sat on the edge of the bed nursing his sore foot, when two Delaware Indians came in. They addressed him, but he didn't know a word of English and failed to understand them. They had been in the habit of getting eatables from Mr. Bonjour, for which they always liberally repaid him, and it was supposed that they are now on a mission of this kind. The Indians sat down by the fire- place, and getting tired, ,perhaps, waiting for what they wanted and seeing no show of getting it, they commenced punching him with sticks taken from the fire-place. As long as they did not hurt him too much he did not say anything, but they got bolder and bolder and harder, and finally one of them stuck a fire-brand against his forehead. Not being able to stand it any longer, Mr. Vautravers jumped off the bed and grabbing the Indian that applied the fire to his forehead, he threw him into the fire-place, while the other he hurled onto a pile of wood that stood out doors beside the door. The Indian that had been thrown into the fire rushed at him with an open pocket knife, intending to stab him with it, but the one outdoors had got a stick of fire wood and struck Mr. Vautravers blow across the forehead, cutting a gash two inches long and an inch wide and an inch deep. In the scuffle one of the Indians stepped on his sore toe, rendering him helpless with the pain, so he crawled up to the bed and leaned with his head against it. While reclining in that position, they struck him another blow on the back of his head. Thinking him dead, they left him and went away. His wife was so badly scared at the sight of the Indians she could offer him no help. For a week, Mr. Vautravers was left without any care, except what his family could give to him, but at the end of that time Dr. Koontz was called and the wound sewed up. A big scar still remains to remind the owner of this experience. Finally, when Aime Bonjour started to come out here, the sore had started to bleeding again, so Mr. Vautravers had to stay to have it dressed, and where skilled hands could treat it, so no evil results would follow, as there would have been little chance for this on the way, or after he came here. Mrs. Vautravers died December 18, 1890. Mr. Vautravers bears the distinction, of those before 1860, of those still living, who came to the territory covered by this paper before 1860, of being the only one who has always made his home on the place on which he first settled.

Rev. Eugene Laporte, a French missionary, was sent from Wisconsin, to Labor in the Lord's vineyard at Neuchatel, in 1862. He went back late in 1865 or early in 1866. It was through him that Henry Labbe, August Seigneur, the Gilson brothers, Casmir Steinnon, and Desire Wery were induced to come here. Mr. Laporte came back again a year or two later, and returned to Green Bay, Wisconsin, about 1869.

August Sandoz came here from Switzerland about 1868, coming here from Illinois, where he had stopped a couple of years. He married Adele, a daughter of Fred Bonjour about 1881 He owned the place where Charles Keuhl is living, in Mill Creek township, but lived on the Fred Bonjour farm, now Mrs. Theys. He went to California in 1875, where he is now living.

Henry Sandoz, a brother of the above, was a pedagogue in Switzerland, and came to Illinois, leaving his family there. He then came to this locality, about 1870 or the year following, and was joined by his family after he came to Neuchatel. This consisted of his wife and children, Aline, Henry, John, Jeanne, and perhaps Paul, though the last may have been born here. He bought the Charles Kuehl farm of his brother, where he lived until 1875, when he went to California, where his family joined him the following spring. He had one of the best libraries in this part of the country and it was a pleasure to the writer to look through his varied assortment of books and borrow the most instructive ones.

Mr. Jeanjaquet, who was a watch maker, came here from Switzerland, in 1869, with his wife, who was a German lady, and five children, two boys and three girls among whom were Lena and Theodore. He bought Louis Savageot's claim, the Mat Gurtler place, where he lived perhaps a year, and then went to Illinois.

August Simon, a brother to Charles, and a cousin to Louis C., came here from Illinois, with his wife, Sarah, a sister to Benjamin Benton, and children, Margaret, who married Norris Herrick, in 1872, Edward, Frank, Rebecca (Mrs. Tom Peattie), Fred, and Louis, in February, 1869. He lived on the Alfred Bonjour farm a few years, where Emile lives, then he homesteaded the north half of the Otto E. Teske farm, in Mill Creek township. He built a house on the west side of the slough on his claim, where he lived a couple of years. His son, Louis, died there. He then moved over to the east side of the slough, building almost opposite Henry Cross'. Frank went to Illinois with his uncle, Mr. Benton, in 1874. Mr. Simon sold out to L. J. Glover in 1875, and moved back to Illinois. His sons Ed and Frank, came back to this locality, in 1877, stayed a year, and then went back to Illinois and stayed that winter, and the next spring they came back to Kansas, with their parents and their brother, Fred. Margaret and her husband lived on the Teske place, where her two children, Frank and Sarah, were born. Margaret died at Neuchatel, in 1881, and her daughter died there the same year. Mr. Simon died in 1881, while living on the A. Linderman farm, near August Kolterman's. Edward died in the southwest part of the state, five or six years ago. Mrs. Simon died, southwest of Onaga, last spring. Mr. Simon was a broom maker, and made the article at odd moments while he was living on the Teske place.

Adolph Henry and his sister, Albertine, came here from Switzerland, about 1869. He was a brother to Mrs. Louis C. Simon, and a tinner by trade. He put up a shop at Neuchatel, where he followed his trade. In 1872, he married Mrs. Louise Miguery, a native of France, who had just come here from Nebraska, with her two youngest sons, Emile and Willie. After he was married he went to Nebraska, after his wife's two oldest children, Henry and Louise (Mrs. Xavier Dulac). To him were born here three children, Ida (Mrs. Edward Paulin, of Missouri), Adolph, and Marcellus. He went, with his family, to Nebraska in the spring of 1876, where he died in 1884. His widow is now Mrs. Alfred Bonjour.

Henry Ballou, his wife, two sons, and a daughter came from Switzerland to Pennsylvania, and the came to Neuchatel about the year 1868. He bought a piece of school land, west of where Fritz Barbier is living. His father came with him and died at the end of a year or so. He lived here but a few years, and went back to Pennsylvania. He sold his farm to a brother of George Syler.

Charles Gauchet came here, from Switzerland, in 1869. He stayed here until about 1877, when he went to Nebraska, where he died.

Ernest Descombres came to the United States, from Switzerland, in 1867, and came to Neuchatel in 1870. He lived on the Charles Simon place, which he bought of Mr. Simon's widow. He married Miss Henry, a niece of Adolph Henry, the tinner. He went to Colorado in 1874 or 1875.

Henry Mentha and wife, Francoise, came here, from Switzerland, with their oldest children, Jane (Mrs. Rush Burdett) and Rose (Mrs. Jade Keeney), about 1870. Mr. Mentha bought the claim (the Mat Gurtler farm) of Mr. Jeanjaquet. He lived on the place, where his two next oldest children, Henry and Emile, were born, several years, when he went to Coal creek.

Caesar Surdez came here, from Illinois, in the fall of 1871, and bought some railroad land, where his widow is now living. He married Clarissa Clerget, in 1874. His oldest child, Joseph, was born in 1876. He built a frame house on his farm.

Zelim Bonjour came to Neuchatel, in 1873. He married Eliza Mouton, in 1876. He in company with Alfred and Aime Bonjour, and Charles Gouchat went on a visit to their old home in Switzerland in the fall of the same year. The party returned the next spring, getting back about the first of April, or a couple of weeks after Zelim's wife and child had died.

Paul Junod and his wife, Bertha, came direct from Switzerland, in 1877. He had three children when he came, Henry, Maurice, and Paul. He lived a year where C. B. Bonjour lives, then bought the place where Zelim Bonjour is making his home.

Alexander Junod, who is a relative of the above only by marriage, came to Neuchatel, from Switzerland, with his wife, Julie, and children, Lina (Mrs. A. A. Bonjour) Bertha (Mrs. Edward Henry, of Denver, Colo.), and Eugenie, who died in 1888. In April, 1877, he and his family formed a party on the same ship with Alfred, Aime, and Zelim Bonjour, and Paul Junod, who were returning from their visit to their native land. Fritz Barbier also came over at the same time. Mr. Junod lived with Aime Bonjour two years after coming here.

The Swiss people are noted for their religious fervor, and the colony had not been here long until a stir was made to organize a church in their new home. Their first religious services were held in 1862, in Alfred Bonjour's house, the missionary, Rev. Laporte, conducting the services. After the old school house was built, near Tom Kelly's the services were held in it. When Rev. Henry Morel came here, in 1870, he started a movement to have a church building erected, which was accordingly done the first year after his arrival. Rev. Morel became pastor of the church (Presbyterian), a position he held until 1888. They had a Christmas tree in the church, in 1874, the first that had been gotten up for the benefit of many children, who had never gazed on such a scene before, for many miles around.

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