Jule Remy's Memories of Early Life in the French Settlement

Reprinted with permission of The Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin, March 18, 1945

Jule Remy was born in the village of St. Germain, County of Leure, France in 1862. There were at one time 32 French families who settled within a radius of about five square miles in Dane County. Two other families, those of August Tourdot and Francis LaRoque settled in Exeter, Green County, and John Roy (Jean Roy) settled on a farm near Reedsburg. Roy used to raise hops and every fall he would come and get some of the French settlers to help him pick the hops.

Olamp Genin and Ferdinand DuBay made a trip back to France. They brought back only one young lad by the name of Albert Germain. After the War of 1871 between France and Germany, Delphine Francois and Francis LaRoque went back and brought back Joseph Henry and family, Joseph Menigoz, Joseph Frelin, Albert Marshnough, Phil Pernot, Julian Colney and George Grojean (a man over 80 years old for whom Mr. Francois had to sign papers that he would take care of him when he got to the United States). Louis Colney, Eugene Fleury, and Jimmy Genin came afterward. Julian Gerard and Julian Bavery, settled in Illinois but drove up to French Town a few years later in covered wagons. Quite a few from the French settlement took trips back to France.

Quite a few of these families came to the United States in the 1850's. When the Civil War started, three of them enlisted: Olamp Genin, August Francois, and Xavier Garvoille. Garvoille and Francois went back to France after they were discharged to get their families. August Francois' sister, Josephine Francois, was Jule Remy's mother. Delphine Francois, another of the Francois clan (a brother) joined them. The three of them bought 240 acres of land - 80 acres for each one after it was paid for. August Francois was a carpenter in the old country. As some of the French settlers died, he would make caskets for them as there were no undertakers in those days.

August Tisserand was one of the first French settlers. Others included Felician Piller, Ferdinand DuBay, Louis Genin (a blacksmith in the old country), and his eldest son, Aristide Genin; Eugene Fleury, grandfather of L.C. and Fred Fleury of the 3-F Laundry in Madison; Eugene Pernot, Francis Faivre, Joseph Lamboley, Ferdinand Begey, August Viney, Francis Carteron, Joseph Francois, Alexander Menigoz, Olamp Frelin, Francis LeClerc, Francis Perin, Louis Durand, Joseph Clergey, Henry Grillot, and Celestin Petito.

Celestin Petitot, along with the Genin's, drove a team from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The men walked along side the wagon as they had a load of baggage, and the women rode on top. The driver of the team ran over a stump, throwing Mrs. Petitot off the wagon. She suffered a broken neck, and died the next day. She was the first French woman buried in the Belleville Cemetery.

-- The Capital Times, Sunday, March 18, 1945

Belleville Cemetery Represents A Bit of France in Dane County

Story of Pioneer Families Recalled

Reprinted by permission of The Capital Times (1962)

Although Norwegian and German headstones are common in Dane County cemeteries, few persons are aware that the county also has an all-French cemetery near Belleville, where some of the inscriptions on the stones are carved in French. The cemetery is for the persons of French descent who settled in a five-mile-square area near Belleville beginning circa 1850. By 1900 the French colony's original 32 families had increased until the pioneers and their descendants numbered between 400 and 500 persons. Neat and well-kept on its hillside slope, the cemetery is on Frenchtown Road, about two miles north of Belleville and a mile east of Highway 69. It is known locally as "the Frenchtown cemetery," rather than by its official name of St. Raphael's cemetery. The cemetery is one of the places listed in the Dane County Historical Society's folder on spots of scenic and historic interest in the county. Many of the headstones bear the proud words "Born in France" and some have all or most of the inscription in French. One in both English and French, for instance, begins in English, "Ermas, Daughter of Francois Laroque and Jule Carteret, Born July 25, 1859, Died Aug 30, 1882." And then adds this plea in French: "Jesus pardonnez à vos serviteurs pour lequels Marie la devine patronne implore la clémence du père éternel au pied du tribunal de votre miséricorde." This could be translated "Jesus, pardon Thy servants, for whom Mary, the divine patroness, implores clemency from the Eternal Father, at the tribunal of your compassion." Many of the family monuments have names long familiar in the Belleville area, such as Garvoille, Lamboley, Genin, Germain, Leclerc, Grillot, Faivre, Laroque, and Francois -- now pronounced in Belleville as if it were spelled Francis.

Apparently the first French native to arrive in the Belleville area for permanent settlement was John Roy, who came in 1850. Roy had been in New York state since 1835 and served in the Mexican War in 1848. Returning from the war, he reached the Belleville region in 1850, and decided to stay. By that time he had already Anglicized his given name (Jean Roi). Roy wrote to his former neighbors and friends in France, in the Haute-Saone area, and told them about the cheap land available around Belleville. An account of his settlement was given by August Roden, who did a series of articles on Dane County farming for the State Journal. The references to the French at Belleville were in a story printed on April 24, 1902. Within a few years after Roy's arrival, there were a score of families, totaling perhaps 100 people. Roden estimated that there were 400-500 persons of French descent in 1902, because they had large families, with 10 or 12 children in each family.

One of the earliest settlers was still living in 1902. He was Auguste Tisserand, who arrived in Belleville in 1853 at the age of 15. "Most of us came with nothing," he recalls. His own parents landed in New York with just $12, he said. The new arrivals had been used to small farms of 20 acres or less, and were delighted when they found themselves with 80-acre farms. They continued to raise the same sort of small grains, such as barley and oats, which they had raised in France. Few of the wives who came from France ever bothered to learn English, Tisserand recalled. However, although children of the pioneering families could speak and understand French, very few of the present generation can do so. Many of the French descendants intermarried with other nationalities.

At least three of the French natives served in the Civil War. They were Olymp Genin, Auguste Francois, and Xavier Gavoille. Tisserand recalled in 1902 that he went to Janesville, Wisconsin with the men to interpret for them when they got a draft notice. When a clerk ignored the group, Tisserand said, he spoke in a loud voice that it certainly was strange to find no one interested in three men who wanted to enlist. In a jiffy the three men were rushed to another room, given a physical examination, and found themselves in the Army before they really knew what had happened, said Tisserand. And he himself walked out with $45, representing $15 apiece for the recruits he had presumably brought in.

Another old-timer of the settlement is Jule A. Remy, who was born in France in 1862, and is now 100 years old. Remy recalled in a story printed in the Capital Times March 18, 1945, giving his recollections, that John Roy later settled near Reedsburg, where he used to raise hops. Every fall he would come down to the Belleville area to get some of the French to help him pick hops. Early settlers recalled by Remy were Felician Piller, Ferdinand Duberg, Lewis Genin, Aristide Genin, Eugene Fleury, Eugene Pernott, Francis Faivre, Joseph Lamboley, Ferdinand Begey, August Viney, Francis Carteron, Joseph Francois, Alexander Menigoz, Olymp Frelin, Francis Leclerc, Francis Perin, Lewis Durand, Joseph Clergey, Henry Grillot and Celestin Petitot.

The cemetery was organized in 1925 on a perpetual care basis, and Julian C. Francois, president of the cemetery association, reports that income is more than adequate to maintain the cemetery in good condition.

The first French woman to be buried in the French cemetery died in an accident before she even got to the Belleville area, and is commemorated with this headstone. She was Felicite Petitot, wife of Celestin Petitot, and died December 27, 1856, at age 55. She and her husband, and members of the Lewis Genin family were coming from Milwaukee to Belleville, with the woman riding on top of a wagon pulled by a team of horses, while the men walked along side.When the wagon hit a stump, Mrs. Petitot was thrown off, suffering a broken neck. She died the next day.

-- Herb Jacobs, Capital Times Staff Writer (1962)

[Return to Library]