French Island, Wisconsin
The Lacrosse Tribune and Leader Press, August 4, 1935

Reprinted with permission of the LaCrosse Tribune and Leader-Press
Author:
    Moses Octavius Jolivette
    Born 1823
    Married January 10, l843
    Died April 6, 1865

       The Histories of the Goyettes and the Jolivettes Interwoven into that of French Island; Xavier Goyette arrived here in 1849.
     Xavier Goyette, then probably in his early twenties, stood on the east bank of the Black river and surveyed the promising greenness of the land that stretched as far as the eye could reach on the distant side of the then broad river.
     The time was 1849. LaCrosse, then a village, was but in its infancy. Lumbering and logging was the chief industry, though a number of hardy settlers were already clearing the virgin coulee-land that now makes up LaCrosse county.
     It was the "promised-land" for young Xavier. Tired after his long and arduous trek from the distant Montreal, the young French-Canadian stared with wonderment at the island refuge ahead of him. Many long weary miles had he traveled-by lake boat and overland--and many wondrous sights had he seen on his westward trip. But, for some reason unknown to his many descendants, the island, lying between the Black and Mississippi rivers, was "home" to him.
     Thus was started the French settlement on the nearby island, the settlement that eventually caused the land to be known as French Island.
     Xavier Goyette was the first of the French to arrive although he found when he had paddled across the Black River to his future home that two other white persons had preceded him and already settled there.
     Charles Sears, whose little log home still stands on the bank of the slough now known as French slough, is reputed to have been the first white man to settle on the island. As to his antecedents and descendants, nothing is known. The name of the second settler has become lost in the shuffle of history, but is thought to be Canna.
     Goyette had spent his early life in Montreal and came west by way of the great lakes to Chicago, thence overland to Dubuque. He stayed at Dubuque some time, and then, undoubtedly hearing of the thriving little lumber town upriver, he came to LaCrosse to investigate and eventually make his home.
     The history of French island began with the arrival of Goyette, but it was not until after the arrival of Moses Jolivette, grandfather of present Jolivette men, that the island began to make progress as a community. Moses Jolivette arrived at the island in 1852, three years after Xavier Goyette first settled there. He, too, came from Montreal.
     Moses bought his farmland from Goyette rather than spend time in clearing his own land and today, Cornelius, familiarly known as Neal Jolivette, farms the same land. Neal is a grandson of Moses.
     The Goyette and Jolivette family histories are so closely intertwined with that of French island that in relating one, the history of the island is told. Its history dates from long before the French arrived. it was a history of a peaceful, enterprising Indian people who made frequent use of the island as a camping and hunting ground.
     (In l935, the oldest person on the Island was Mrs. Elizabeth Jolivette, widow of Frank Jolivette and daughter of Xavier Goyette.)
     French Island is about five miles long and from one-half to two and one-half miles wide. When the Sears, Goyettes and the Jolivettes came to the island, more than half of it was covered with forests. The early homes were all built of logs and most of the grandchildren of Moses Jolivette were born in the original log home built on the land acquired by Grandfather Moses when he arrived in l852.
     The only means of crossing the river to the mainland was by boat, and sturdy home-made boats and canoes were fashioned by these early settlers. The first bridge to connect North LaCrosse with the island was built in about l884. About l870, John Dressen, son of Jacob Dressen, operated a ferry line across the Black River, running both a skiff ferry and team ferry. The team ferry was operated by means of pike poles.
     The Indians who camped about there at that time had a way of their own to cross the river. They placed two canoes six feet apart and lashed small poles to the canoes to form a platform, and boards were laid atop these. Then a pony was led on and the Indians' horses were ferried across one at a time.
     Moses Jolivette settled down to farm life of peaceful contentment and proceeded to raise a family of 10 children, while his neighbor Xavier Goyette raised a family of nine. Jolivette gave a tract of his land to the community for use as a cemetery and his own daughter was the first to be buried there in l854.
     Moses, Fred, John, Jerry, Frank, Peter and Theophile were Jolivettes's seven sons and Delphine Lenore and Delila were the daughters. Frank, Peter and Theophile remained on the island throughout their lives. Descendants of Moses still reside there and in the LaCrosse area.
     Fred, Henry, Joseph, Alexander, Lucinda, Mary, Elizabeth, Philmene and Arilla were the children of Xavier Goyette.
     Sears, Canna, Goyette and Jolivette were the first white settlers on the island in the order names, but others followed, and most of them were French-Canadians from Montreal who had been informed of this verdant country. Among the earliest to follow Goyette and Jolivette were La Belle, Brucseau, Reaubain Bisansout, Vardont, Morrain, Clemont, Rabbideau, Grinnee, Lambert, and Lenniville.
     In later years the Richmonds, Asselins, Martelles, La Fleurs, Marcous, Valiquettes and others came from the same territory.
     The first road on the island was merely a path and followed the eastern edge of French slough and French lake. The houses of the early settlers were all built to face upon this body of water, but all vestiges of the old road have entirely disappeared. French Island was primarily a farming community but for years after its settlement it was a somewhat important logging center also with 3 saw mills.
 


article thanks to:
Dianne Seyler
Page created 3/3/98

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