#585 – Dick Bernard: Visiting History

Some months ago a cousin I’d never met in person, JoAnn (Wentz) Beale, wrote from California, suggesting that we get together when she came to an event in her home town of Grafton ND. It was a great idea. Her grandmother, Elize Collette Wentz, and my grandmother, Josephine Collette Bernard, were siblings, raised on the home farm, still owned by Maurice D. and Isabell Collette, just west of Sacred Heart Church in Oakwood. Maurice is the son of Elize and Josephine’s youngest sibling, Alcide.
JoAnn and I spent the better part of an afternoon and early evening visiting the sites of our Collette family history.
It was a most enriching day.
Maurice D showed us around, and JoAnn posed on the site of the Collette home which was occupied from about 1885 till 1978, when Collette’s built a new home just to the south. Here’s JoAnn, June 25, 2012, on the site of the old house. (click to enlarge)

JoAnn Beale on the site of the Octave and Clotilde Collette home, Oakwood ND June 25, 2012

I found a few earlier photos from that same farm yard a few years earlier:

1954 photo, Unlabelled photo summer lunch in the farmyard just to the south of the old house. Apparent identities as known. Isabel Collette probably took the photograph. At right: Bonnie and Maurice Collette; at the end Margaret (Krier) and Alcidas Corriveau; (couple in between not known); at left Beatrice and Alcide Collette; at end of the table Josephine and Henry Bernard. The other persons are not known, and the photo is not labelled.

Alcide and Beatrice Collette with Donald David, in the farmhouse, probably in 1956.

Photo old Maurice D Collette house with new house in background. Photo taken in 1979, looking southeast; new house was built in 1977-78. Old house was torn down about 1981.

JoAnn and I spent time, of course, in and around the magnificent Sacred Heart Church, which is due to be closed within the next two years. I’ve put together a small Facebook album of photographs taken on June 25 here. That’s Maurice D. Collette with JoAnn in one of the photos in front of the church. (The entire Centennial History of the parish, from 1981, can be accessed here.)
I’ve been to Oakwood many times, but until June 25 had never actively sought out the site of the old St. Aloysius School, and found it, at least as represented in the driveway and the flagpole, and the lumber used to build two homes on the site, about a block north of the church. Across the street remains the Grotto. All these are in the Facebook album.
We had a cool drink with Maurice in the tavern across the street from the Church, then took a little tour and back to Grafton.
Before dinner, I took a solitary drive to see the little house at 738 Cooper, the only place I ever knew as my grandparent Bernard’s home.
This time, for the first time in my life, there was no house there.

former 739 Cooper Avenue, Grafton ND, June 25, 2012

It caused me to think back to other photos of other times at that little house down the block from the Court House in Grafton.

Henry and Josephine at 738 Cooper Ave, Grafton, probably early in the 1940s

Grandpa and Grandma on the front porch, probably late 1940s. Here's where they watched the world go by, at least on Cooper Avenue.

Grandma Bernard "myself in the kitchen" at 738 Cooper.

Undated photo of a meal in the living room at 738 Cooper. Note photo of their son Frank Bernard on the wall behind them.

In the last photo, I can’t help but think of the time, at Thanksgiving I think, where Grandpa, among other occupations an old lumberjack, taught we kids how to clean our plates…by licking his own plate clean. My guess is that Grandma Josephine had a bit of advice for him later, but the memory was cemented in our mind. Ah the memories….
Grandpa had an immense amount of pride in his service in the Spanish-American War in the Philippines, 1898-99. Down the block from 738 Cooper was the monument to his unit in that War. Five of his comrades died in a battle at Paete P.I., and apparently two more died shortly after returning home. They are reflected on the monument, which was raised in 1900.
Here is one photo of the monument. A few others are here, on Facebook.

Spanish-American War monument at the Walsh County Court House, June 25, 2012. In front of the monument is a smaller monument to those who served in other wars. Let us work for Peace.

There is a necessary postnote to this post on a family history.

We cannot escape the reality of getting older. The wonderful lady who really helped give me much impetus to begin this family history years ago is very near going into a nursing home at age 92. I visited her on this trip. When I began this journey 32 years ago, she was a huge resource. Now she is completely vulnerable, confused, cannot live alone, and is obviously scared of what is a necessary change for her.
Others who helped with the history have died; still others are very ill.
This trip, and the great meeting with my cousin from California, remind me that if there is work to be done on family matters, now, not tomorrow or next month or next year, is the time to do it. We just don’t know when it will be too late.
Thanks, JoAnn, for the idea of (as my Dad liked to say) “a face-off”!

Winding down after a most enriching day travelling the "roots road": center is JoAnn (Wentz) Beale, at right, Dick Bernard, at left JoAnn's cousin Kasey (Kouba) Ponds. At the Market Place on 8th in Grafton, June 25, 2012

#449 – Dick Bernard: Heritage: The Tin Types

Related posts here and here.

On my father’s death in 1997, I became custodian of our family photos.
While he came from an ordinary North Dakota family of French-Canadian descent, the family had an inclination to take pictures documenting important events, such as weddings, new births and such.
Within the box of photos was a May 7, 1954 Social Security envelope, and inside the envelope were seven most unusual photographs, very dark, on varied size pieces of tin.
They were of a genre called “tin types“, photography as practiced before photographic film.
The oldest – I can speak with some certainty as to its ID – is a photo of my great grandparents, Octave Collette and Clotilde Blondeau, who married in St. Anthony (later Minneapolis MN) in July 1869. While the photo was, like the others, unlabelled, there is no question, comparing with later photos, that it showed Octave and Clotilde, likely about the time of their marriage. The photo is below.
(click on all photos to enlarge).

The remaining six photos are also unlabelled, but most of them show a young Henry Bernard (born 1872), and were likely taken in the late 1880s and early 1890s, probably in Quebec, most likely as keepsakes for him to take along on his trip west to remember the folks back home. The album with the remaining photos is at the end of this post.
The photos vary in size: the smallest is of Octave and Clotilde (1 7/8″ x 3 1/8″); the largest of the two men (2 5/8″ x 3 1/2″). As can be noted on the above photo, the tin pieces were probably snipped out, rather than of a standard consistent size.
The tintypes obviously endured plenty of wear over the years. It is remarkable that they survived as long as they did, probably stuck in a trunk or dresser or such for as much as over 140 years. But they were meaningful enough to not be thrown out.
Four of the photos appear to have been taken by the same photographer at the same time. The evidence is a slight rosy tint to portions of the photos (note the cheeks), likely hand administered. Until I scanned the photos (at 800 dpi), I wasn’t aware of these rosy cheeks etc. on the four photos.
Precisely the who, where, when and why of the photos will likely remain mysteries except for the certainty that most include my grandfather Henry, and the other is of his future wife’s – my grandmothers – parents.
My best guess: the large group photo, with a young Henry Bernard in front, is probably of his family circle in Quebec, including the Parish Priest. Ditto for the photo of three men and three women. And the others are similarly related, in some ways to his family in Quebec (or so I believe).
The four photos with the rose tint were probably taken at Thetford Mines, Quebec, where young Henry was a miner, where a sister and family lived, and from which place he most likely embarked for then-booming Grafton ND in the early 1890s.
Family history mysteries: they fascinate, and they exasperate.
Consider labeling your present day photos, so that someone down histories road knows who is in the image.

Most likely Henry (Honore) Bernard in front center, his brother Joseph to his left. Perhaps taken in Quebec in late 1880s.

Most likely young Honore (Henry) Bernard