Thibaudeau

Because Scarboro Was I Am

Because Scarboro Was I Am is a chapter in Thibaudeau Family Genealogy written for the grandchildren of Emil Thibaudeau by May Murphy Thibaudeau in honor of his son, Raymond Joseph, to whom this effort is dedicated.

The French-Canadian historian, Benjamin Sulté, said, "The memory of man is incapable of conveying, beyond two or three generations, certain impressive or secondary details. And as for consistency, whatever, it is necessary to consider the slightest detail. The account on paper is indispensible. It is the only thing that lives. Without it, nothing is preserved, nothing remains with us of the history of our ancestors, at all. Men disappear, their children remember them, but grandsons, never."

Filled with urgency on reading the words of Sulté, I am putting into readable form the material I have on the Thibaudeau family and hope at a future date to make it more complete.

The "Commemorative Record" published in 1895 states that, Simon Thibaudeau was born 6 January, 1830, in the Three Rivers District in the Province of Quebec, Canada, the son of Alexander H. and Margaret Dupri Thibaudeau and grandson of Frank Thibaudeau, all French Canadians by birth. He was one of nine children: Margaret. Maxim, Torsul, Matilda, Louise, JeanBaptiste, Adelle and one who died in infancy. From this one can infer there were Thibaudeaus living in Canada between seventy and eighty years before.

A story greatly lacking in detail, says that dissension in a parish in Three Rivers caused a goodly number of people to leave there and in company of their priest came to Kewaunee County, Wisconsin in the middle 1800's.

We do know that in 1856 Simon Thibaudeau bought one hundred sixty acres in the township of Luxemburg, Kewaunee County. With him was his younger brother Jean Baptiste. Land adjoining his was owned by Felix Verboncuer and his wife Adelle Thibaudeau. Maxim Thibaudeau and his wife Angeline, were also in the area. It is easily believable that these young people were part of the larger group from Three Rivers.

The Annapee Indians had a favorite hunting and fishing area in what is now called the Township of Luxemberg in Kewaunee County. Watered by two creeks, one that widened into a small lake surrounded by marshes, it was the habitat of wild fowl and trout. On the upland side was a large stand of sugar maple trees, to which the Indians came for sugar making in the spring.

After the Black Hawk War, the last effort of the Indians to retain their land, Wisconsin was granted independent territorial status. Besides immigrants eager to buy land there were land speculators who roamed the territory, determined to locate in the most advantageous spots and make a living in an easier manner than clearing the land bit by bit with an ox team. They were usually from communities along the eastern coast well established before the Revolutionary War.

Such a man was Edward Decker, who on seeing the lake and creeks recognized the power possibilities. He named the place Scarboro Valley for Scarboro, Maine. The sawmill built there served as a lumber mill, a shingle mill and later flour and grist mills were erected. The village of Scarboro grew around the mills.

While Scarboro was developing another settlement, Robinsonville, in Brown County was struggling to exist. Not many years before a farmer in Belgium, the only man in his village who could read, walked fifteen miles to Brussels. While there he read a notice which told of land and freedom for those who came to America. The vision of owning land of his own, to work as he chose, without the supervision of the land owner obsessed him. His neighbors who believed the man, joined him and overcoming terrific hardship they make their way to Brown County to start a settlement.

It was from this settlement of Belgium people that the wife Simon Thibaudeau: Adelle Fontaine, one of the thirteen children of Raymond and Elizabeth Van Des Ras Fontaine came. Her brothers and sisters were: August, Alphonse, Theresa, Virginia, Hubert, Victoire, Cordelia, Apuline, Leopold, Benjamin, Anthony and Delia. Simon and Adelle were married 13 September 1857.

The Commemorative Record describes the activities of Simon Thibaudeau. He established a lumber camp on his land employing as many as thirty men at one time. From lumbering and erecting his own buildings he went to farming and clearing land. The land was wonderfully productive. He recorded the first yield was thirty two bushels of wheat to an acre. He cut it with a cradle and threshed it with a flarl. The Scarboro mill was not yet in operation so Simon and his brothers made the trip to DePere to the nearest flour mill with an ox team. They made a road through the bush to the town line as they went. He continued to farm and clear land with the aid of employee year round help. Eventually he owned three hundred acres, two hundred of which was under cultivation.

JeanBaptiste, the younger Thibaudeau brother, was spoken of as expert woodsman and hunter. He made the trip back to Three Rivers more than once and may have been out of the country during the Civil War. Simon hired a substitute, a practice allowed at that time, by the draft laws. The man was killed in battle. Simon erected a house for the widow on his farm, kept her supplied with whatever food was produced on the farm. She lived out a long life as a member of the Scarboro community.

The desolateness of the land at that time is illustrated by this story told by Simon in later years; to get needed supplies for his large family he butchered and prepared a load of meat to trade in Green Bay. On the way he was followed by a pack of wolves. In desperation he threw pieces of the meat from his load to distract and satisfy them. It saved him and his oxen from attack but greatly lessened his profits.

"Blessed words would be necessary to praise the memory of those brave ancestors who have brought us from France the inspired hills, pilgrimages, and places for meditation, who generously loved their country, their humble dwelling in the shade of the little church where they assembled weekly and the feast days chimed, the beautifully adorned sky and the other invisible sky to which their profound faith aspired, the horizon of the forest bounding the sown fields which they contemplated in the evening, in the drowsing countryside, this fertile land bathed with their sweat where they went to sleep at the end of their noble course and which is filled with their imperishable memory."
-------Violette Allaire

The church that served many families in the Scarboro Valley was some distance from the village. Not-too-clear deeds in the Bishop's office show that this mission church erected on Thibaudeau property was named: Sacred Heart, by Father Daems who blessed it in 1875. The general populace referred to it as the 'French Church' since the greater number of the parishioners were Canadian French with a few German, Bohemain and Irish families. The Peot family lived across the road from the church and the Peot sons served as altar boys for many years. Mrs. Peot led the congregation in saying the rosary every Saturday in May as part of May devotions. As a result the church was also called the 'Peot Church'.

The children of the surrounding area attended the Scarboro School. It was located a mile west of the mills on a piece of land for which John Novak received one dollar from the government which does not accept free grants. The first school, built in the middle 1800's, was described as a log building, a little red school house, and by one who attended as too small and too crowded'. This last was undoubtedly true since large families were the rule in those days. It was replaced by a brick building in 1897. In 1937 that building was destroyed by fire. A new frame building served until consolidation took the children into Casco-Luxemberg school system.

Felix Verboncuer and his wife Adele Thibaudeau Verboncuer set aside a hillside on their property a half mile east of the church for a cemetery. Perhaps this was done out of sympathy for her brother, Simon,and his wife, Adele for their two year old son, Alex Thibaudeau was the first to be buried there in 1863.

Simon Thibaudeau and his wife, Adele Fontaine Thibaudeau were the parents of fifteen children: Raphael 28 October, 1858; Simon 31 December, 1859; Alexander 6 November, 1861; Mary 2 October, 1863; Oswald 9 August, 1865; Joseph 21 March, 1867; Cordelia 30 October, 1868; Emil 11 October, 1870; Theophile 10 December, 1872; Albina 7 September, 1874; Joseph R.14 October 1876; Ella 24 December, 1878; Alert and Angelina (twins) 5 May,1881; Leo 1 May, 1884.

During the years this family was growing Scarboro was serving the surrounding farming area with: grist and flour mills, general store, blacksmith shop, salon, cheese factory, ice house and race track. As the village grew the log houses near the mill gave way to frame houses, one boasted an eagle in a cage in the front yard. Martin Kumbera moved into the locality and engaged in cigar making. Later he built a salon, cheese factory, dance hall and store.

Just after the turn of the century Scarboro became a popular racing center. Harness racing attracted men and their horses from all over the state. The track was a circular half miler with a large barn divided into stalls for entrants. The Racing Association advertised Scarboro races with such terms as "speed to burn", Purses ranged upward to $250. Local entries commanded a purse of $50. Among the entries were August Spitzer's Uncas Lad, Billy Trudell's Queen Oakley, Doc Webb's Roy Gentry, Elmer Thibaudeau's King and Frank Novak's Irene Lockhart.

Racing was not confined to summer. January 1910 there was a contest down the Main Street in Luxemberg. That was followed by scraping the ice on Scarboro Lake and whenever ice harvesting, which supplied ice to creameries, salons and meat markets, was not in progress throngs of spectators enjoyed horse racing.

The early settlers found sugar maples on their farms. Such landowners as Thibaudeaus, Verboncuers, Peots, Veesers and Kremas tapped trees and boiled syrup for their own families. The largest operation was reported in 1915 when the Menahan family tapped 1500 trees in a wooded area where they maintained a summer home near the Kewanee River. This place was later purchased by Milton Thibaudeau. He modernized the procedure and developed a seasonal business.

Of the fifteen children born to Simon and Adelle Fontaine Thibaudeau four died in childhood and Theophile at age twenty three. They were buried in the hillside cemetery near their home.

For the ten Thibaudeaus who attained adulthood, the Scarboro environment seemed to have provided adequately for their development. They and their descendants are a vigorous element of the present day Wisconsin population.

"It is with respect that we view an old chateau which is well preserved, or again a venerable old tree which is healthy and perfectly conserved. How much more interesting still to find an old family which has resisted during the centuries the ravages of time". -----Bacon

Emil Thibaudeau used and passed on to his family the skills developed during his growing years on the large farm of his parents at Scarboro. The Thibaudeau-Fontaine families were people of large strong stature. Emil followed this trend, enhancing it by hard physical work all of his life. He learned the blacksmith trade, which included wagon and sleigh building at Hoffman Blacksmiths in Green Bay, Wisconsin. For several years he worked in shops owned by others in the area.

On 18 May, 1897 Emil Thibaudeau married Minnie (Whilemina) Leaps. Father John Kaster performed the ceremony with Frank Hoffman and Anna Banta as witnesses. The new Mrs. Thibaudeau was the daughter of John and Mary Klosterman Leaps of the township of Hartland, Shawano County. Her father had come from Mecklenberg, Germany at the age of fifteen. Her mother had come as a child with her family from Oldenberg, Germany. Minnie spoke German as a second language and Emil spoke French. Neither ever made an effort to learn the language of the other, consequently English was the language of their home.

After living in Clintonville for a year and eight months they bought two acres of land in the little city of Gillett, Wisconsin in Oconto County. They built a frame house, then moved an abandoned school house to the land. The first floor was used as a blacksmith shop. In 1905 the roof of the school was raised to provide a paint and storage shop for wagons and sleighs. The bell tower of the school was removed and made into a 'playhouse' for the children: Della, Gordon, and Raymond.

The blacksmith shop was a busy place employing as many as five workmen and apprentices, all to be housed and fed. On an icy day nearly two hundred shoes were put on farm horses.

In the early 1920's Emil and Minnie bought lots at Berry Lake, built a summer cottage there. They added to the original house they had built, making it much more comfortable.

The lessons learned in the Scarboro school seemed to have prepared Emil for a place in community life. He served as village treasurer for five years, as director of the Citizens State Bank for twenty years and always held an office in St. John's Catholic Church.

Comments from persons who knew him combine to show Emil as kindly, compassionate and trusting to a fault. The latter trait was an element leading to hardship for himself and his family in later years. As automobiles became more prevalent his business decreased, most of his savings were in the bank of which he was a director. The depression of the late twenties and thirties caused bank losses and was particularly hard on farmers who were still coming to him for work. To help he extended credit to them. Many farmers were unable to pay him while some who could made no effort. A muscle ailment in his arms and hands due to prolonged over use made the last ten years of his life very difficult.

The patient loving care given to him by his family was an inspiring experience to witness. On Monday 16 June, 1941 Emil's youngest son, Raymond, was married. Bedridden, Emil did not attend. The young couple came to say good-bye before starting a honeymoon trip. The son fed his father wedding cake while he described humorously the elaborate ceremony in a convent chapel, he kissed his father and left. Emil passed away on the following Saturday night. Minnie died two years later. They are buried at the Union Cemetery in Gillett.

The home and blacksmith shop were razed and a Lutheran parsonage built on the grounds. The summer cottage still stands at Berry Lake but is owned by strangers.

Quote from Luc Lacourciere Titular of the Chair of Folklore at Laval University, Quebec: "Let us convince ourselves of the interest, from every point of view, there will be for each of us to study without pride or prejudice the life of these humble people to whom we are, very often unknown to us, indebted to for so much---"

Simon Thibaudeau had died and was buried in the French Cemetery in 1895 two years before Emil married. Adele Fontaine Thibaudeau lived until 1916 and was the last person buried in the little hillside graveyard, where over the years sixty two people had been laid to rest, eleven by the name of Thibaudeau and four called Verboncuer (which had been changed to Bunker).

In 1910 the mission church was discontinued. The parishioners joined nearby parishes which were easily reached by automobile on smooth roads. Eventually the building was torn down.

For awhile the cemetery was cared for but gradually it became an untended weed and brush filled eyesore.

The village of Scarboro, too, experienced a series of disasters. In 1910 the mills were owned by Novak and Kalforfer. Kalforfer left the company presumably his health had been impaired by work in the mill. In October the same year the flume went out due to pressure on weakened parts. On July 12, 1912 the grist mill was struck by lightning. Fire completely destroyed the building plus a large quantity of grain. There was very little insurance coverage. On July 26th the same year the dam broke spilling Scarboro Lake onto the valley below. People made their way to higher ground and were glad to be alive.

The dam was rebuilt in 1913 and for some years a saw mill operated but with the cutting of the forests the mill closed. No part of it remains but the dam is still visible. The supports for the store and dance hall undermined by the flood but the latter was rebuilt and in the 1 920's when country dances were in their heyday it was a popular place. Later it was destroyed by fire and never rebuilt.

In 1970 Milton and Earnest Thibaudeau, grandsons of Simon, Victor Krema and Father Ron Kumbera, great grandson of the early cigar maker gathered a crew of men who removed the underbrush and trees in the "French Cemetery". They moved the stones to the edge of the cemetery, plowed the ground with the intention to return the next spring, sowed the land, replaced the stones and put the cemetery in 'shape'.

Father Ron Kunbera was moved from the locality, Milton Thibaudeau passed away. Ernest learned that he had a dread disease and he too passed away. The little cemetery is again a mass of tall grass and the stones with names of Thibaudeau and Verboncuer lay in disarray along the fence line.

In March 1972 the Department of Natural Resources set up Little Scarboro Wildlife Area with the intent to buy 3500 acres. This would include woodland and marshes. After serving as a home community for families seeking to establish themselves in a new land, Scarboro Valley is reverting to the beautiful wild area the Indians knew and loved.


Acknowledgements I acknowledge with gratitude the following sources:

The children of Emil Thibaudeau were: Adele Marie, Gordon John and Raymond Joseph.