THE STORYKEEPERS PROJECT #16: ORIGINS UNKNOWN

GLORIA BAUER ISHIDA for THE STORYKEEPERS PROJECT

In an age when so much information is available to us online, it can be frustrating to genealogists who encounter mysteries in seemingly simple affairs as the origins of a relatively recent ancestor. Gloria Bauer Ishida writes about one such mystery. Her story also illuminates an ‘intermarriage’ – between a French-Canadian blacksmith and an Alsatian immigrant and the challenges this may have presented, from language barriers to homesickness.—ed

Being on the younger end of the grandchildren of Edward and Anna Bauer, I only picked up bits and pieces of family information. I remember Grandma mentioning the name Lemay, but it was not until many years later that I discovered that Philippe Lemay was one of my great-great grandfathers. His daughter, Mary Rose, was my Grandma Anna’s own mother. He has long been a mystery to me and I wonder how much more my grandma or great grandma Mary Rose could have known, for Philippe had died at age thirty-six when Mary Rose was just two and half.

The story begins with Philippe’s wife, Angelique Bauer. Angelique arrived in Huron County, Ohio with her parents, Pierre and Angelique (Carabin) Bauer in the fall of 1828 from Phalsbourg, Lorraine, France. They had traveled together with the family of Joseph and Katherine Bauer Carabin. The two families, closely related, settled in a rural area of Bronson Township a few miles from Norwalk, Ohio.

Phillipe Lemay, whose origins are unknown, opened a blacksmith shop in Norwalk around this time. Not long after his arrival Angelique and Philippe became acquainted and fell in love. The question I have long had is, how did they meet? Did he visit the area to do some blacksmith work? Did Angelique ride into town with her family and attract Philippe’s attention?

Angelique’s native tongue was probably Moselle Franconian, but she may have spoken some basic French. Both were Catholic. Although there was not a Catholic church the settlers remained faithful. Occasionally circuit priests visited the community to preach and administer the Sacraments. Father John Henni, on such a circuit mission, performed the marriage of the young lovers. The Norwalk Reflector reported that they were married on October 22, 1829 by “Rev. Mr. Haney.”

The following year in April 1830, Philippe ended a blacksmith partnership in Norwalk and opened a new shop in Bronson, Ohio. However, in the records of St. Mary’s Parish in Monroe, Michigan not a year later, the baptism of Lucie Lemay is recorded: ‘Born December 13, 1830, daughter of Philippe Lemay et Angelique Bauer, baptized February 20, 1831.’ Angelique’s first cousin Father Peter Carabin had presided over the ceremony. When had they moved to Michigan, and why?

Another Lemay descendant has indicated there were two more siblings in addition to Lucie: John Philip born November 7, 1833 and Mary Ann born April 3, 1835 in Detroit. Detroit raises another question: did Philippe and Angelique move to be closer to the French Canadian community of Detroit? There were other Lemays living there at the time. Had “Frenchman” Philippe not fit into the German settlement of Ohio?

Or was it Angelique’s unhappiness in Detroit that brought them back to Ohio? Detroit was a growing town, but perhaps she missed her family, her home in the country, and her native language. A second son, Charles, was baptized April 14, 1837 and another daughter, my great-grandmother Mary Rose, was baptized September 8, 1839 at St. Alphonsus Church back in Bronson.

Winters in northern Ohio were harsh. Colds brought on pneumonia. This may have caused the death of toddler Charles who was buried November 11, 1839. Sadly, his father Philippe soon followed him as he was buried January 14, 1841. Angelique was now widowed with four small children. The probate record for Philippe’s estate listed 200 pounds of pork, two kettles, one clock, one stove, an axe, a hoe, a scythe, and “a lot of scrap iron.”

With little else and no livelihood, it is little wonder that Angelique remarried six months after Philippe’s death to Frederick Hoffner. They probably lived on a property adjoining her father’s, which was in Angelique’s name on an 1845 plat map. By 1850, the couple had moved to adjacent Erie County where they raised the Lemay children and three children of their own.

Back at St. Alphonsus, Philippe Lemay and little son Charles lie in unmarked graves. This is part of their story, and a hint at the mysteries that our ancestors leave behind. And for me, the question still remains, ‘Where were you from, Grandfather Philippe?’

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