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Minnie’s Diary #12: Life, Death ... and Murder

Monday, March 14 - sewed carpets. cow calfed. very cold.

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

Minnie saw two white, wet hooves emerging from Collette, their 4-year-old Holstein cow.

Lying down in the straw, Collette softly mooed. As she strained, the hooves came into view and then disappeared again. Within a few minutes, Minnie could see the calf’s nose starting to appear. A good sign. The calf was in the right position to make its way into the world.

Bonne fille. Good girl,” Minnie told her. “It won’t be long now.”

They hadn’t milked Collette for a couple of months now, letting her dry off and put energy into having a healthy calf. Over the weekend, Pa had noticed the tissue surrounding Collette’s upper tailbone becoming very soft, a sign she would freshen within a few days. He put the Holstein cow in a loose stall filled with sawdust and clean straw, and they’d checked on her every few hours.

Minnie had discovered the calf’s hooves emerging this afternoon and ran into the house to tell Pa.

“Just keep an eye her and let me know if she has any trouble,” he said.

As she waited, Minnie cleaned the barn and fed the pigs the leftovers from their noon meal. She never strayed far from Collette’s stall. As the calf’s nose emerged, Minnie stepped into the stall and positioned herself behind the tired cow. She grabbed hold of the hooves — they were slippery — and pulled as Collette pushed. The calf fell onto the straw with a swoosh, covered in slimy, wet amniotic fluid. Almost immediately, it raised its head to get its first look at the world.

Collette rose quickly to her feet, her udder hard and filled with colostrum, the first milk that provides the calf with important nutrition and antibodies. She mooed quiet greetings and started to lick the calf from head to toe. Within 15 minutes, the calf tried to stand. Its wobbly legs took several minutes to grow steady enough to raise up on all four feet.

Minnie looked between the calf’s hind legs and grinned. “It’s a heifer. Another cow to add to the herd.”

They would let the calf stay with Collette for a few weeks to nurse. Then they would move her to a calf pen and feed her skim milk from a pail for several more weeks before weaning her to water, cornmeal, and clover hay. Some experts were telling farmers to leave a calf with its mother while others said to take it away and feed it skim milk, saving the cream to sell at a profit.

Farm wives weren’t convinced.

“That’s a lot of extra work. How do I fit that into my day?” Aurora Gamache said.

“Minnie and the boys help feed the livestock,” Pa said. “Have them separate the cream and feed the calves.”

“And when they leave the farm? What then?”

Peter didn’t have a good answer for that.

“Extravagance in the feeding of the calf is pardonable —parsimoniousness, never! Extravagant feeding — it would be called by many — means milk fresh from the cow or new milk for at least three weeks after the birth of the calf, and the calf that is not worth what new milk it can consume during the first few weeks of its life is not worth the rearing. … [T]he first weeks of the calf’s existence ermine its value later on.”

— Racine Journal, Feb. 2, 1904

“We know that we can raise as good calves upon skim milk as upon the whole milk, for we have done it. We have taken the calf from the cow when a day old and fed her milk for a week or ten days, then began to mix skim milk with the new milk until at 3 weeks old it was using all skim milk in which was put a little cornmeal porridge or rule, taking care to always have it of the same temperature as the new milk.”

— American Cultivator, in the Earlville Leader, Nov. 22, 1901

Tuesday, March 15 - sewed carpets. had a note for Em.

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

Murder at Hermansville: William T. Warren, a blacksmith employed by the Hermansville Land & Lumber Co., of Hermansville, last Monday night in an angry passion struck Gerhardt Stulken, another man who had been employed by the company and killed him almost instantly.”

— The Iron Port, Escanaba, Mich., March 19, 1904

“Murder. In our little quiet town.”

As she sewed her rag carpet, Minnie wondered if her friend Pearl Wallette knew the victim. Like Mr. Stulken, Pearl was born in Germany. The nationalities didn’t mix much in Hermansville. Each kept to their own, except on Sunday morning, when immigrants from many countries filled St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and the Methodist Church.

Minnie sent a note off to Emily Gagnon at the Paquin farm.

“Emily, have you heard? Do you think Pearl knew Mr. Stulken? My brothers don’t remember him, but there are a lot of Germans working in the lumberyard. How horrifying.”

Wednesday, March 16 - went to call on Pearl, ma and I.

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

“There are so many stories flying around town,” Pearl said. “Yes, I knew him. George was a friendly old man. Quick with a smile or a joke. Loved to tell stories. I can’t imagine…”

“He died at the boarding house at the corner of Park and First Street?” Minnie asked.

“Yes. William and George both went to the saloon on Monday night. When they came back to the boarding house, something happened. They exchanged words. Then William hit George twice in the head. Three other men were there when it happened. They said George never got up.”

“Terrible,” said Aurora Gamache.

“It gets worse,” Pearl said. “When the deputy sheriff showed up, Mr. Radford told him to put George’s body in a jail cell and send William to his room in the boarding house.”

“What? Why?”

“I don’t know, but just imagine. George’s body lying on the floor of a jail cell while his killer is sleeping in his own bed.”

“But William is in jail in Menominee, right? Hasn’t he been charged with manslaughter?”

“Yes, that’s right.”

“I guess he’ll have to answer to Judge Stone soon enough.”

Thursday, March 17 - Mr. Raiche’s horse died. went over & see him. Mary D. over with babe.

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

Minnie found Joe Raiche in the kitchen, sitting on a stool and looking like he’d lost a good friend.

Le vieux cheval blanc. That old white horse,” he said, looking off into the distance. “They’re like family, aren’t they?”

“Oui, they are. Jacques was a good one.”

“And smart. Just the sound of my voice, and he would stop or start, go left or right. Our first horse on this farm.”

“He always seemed so proud pulling your cart, no matter the weather.”

“Yes, he was happy out in front of the cart, the plow, or the sleigh. Always in front, while we watched his behind,” Joe said, a smile finally showing on his face.

Il est mort sans voir le beau temps, qu’il avait donc du courage! Il est mort sans voir le printemps ni derrière ni devant.
He died without seeing fine weather; what a lot of courage he had! He died without seeing the spring either behind or in front.

— from Le Petit Cheval dans le Mauvais Temps (The Little Horse in Bad Weather), 1908,

by Paul Fort, 1872-1960

That afternoon, Mary Derocher and her nine-month-old son William stopped by the Gamache farm to say hello. A friend from Champion, Mary and her husband now lived in Escanaba, where Charles worked as a millwright. They shared horse stories and their hopes for spring weather. They talked about the financial loss facing the Raiche farm. They’d need to buy another horse to get them through that year’s planting and harvesting. That meant more debt they would owe to the company.

Friday, March 18 - went to Hville. Felix rode back with us. Went to sleep 12:30 a.m.

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

A cold wind caused everyone to tie their scarves tighter, but on Friday they could see signs of spring as the snow continued its slow melt. Minnie and her brothers went to Hermansville for George Stulken’s funeral. People of every nationality, mostly men, filled the little Catholic Church. Mr. Radford sat near the front row. An unusual quiet settled over the town. No whistles or machinery sounds came from the factory. They'd closed the mill for the afternoon to allow George’s coworkers to attend.

Father Glaser recited a simple Latin funeral mass over George’s casket, which was covered in a white burial shroud.

Father Glaser: Réquiem æternam dona ei, Dómine. (Eternal rest give unto him, O Lord,)

Congregation: Et lux perpétua lúceat ei. (And let perpetual light shine upon him.)

FG: Requiéscat in pace. (May he rest in peace.)

C: Amen.

FG: Anima ejus, et ánimæ ómnium fidélium defunctórum, per misericórdiam Dei requiéscant in pace. (May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace.)

C: Amen.

George’s three children attended the funeral and took his body back to their home in Wisconsin, where he would be buried when the ground thawed.

“I can’t believe that people are blaming George,” Minnie said later, when they had returned home.

“What do you mean?” asked Felix Charlier. A farmer who lived east of Carney, Felix was invited to share dinner with the Gamache family and stay overnight, since there were no southbound trains until the next day.

“On Tuesday, everyone said both men had been drinking. But now they say only George was drunk,” Minnie said.

“The men from the boarding house say George wouldn’t stop pestering Willie. He was all broken up when he saw what he’d done,” said Minnie’s brother Edmond.

“He is broken in spirit and says he had no motive for striking Stulken other than to punish him for calling abusive names. He said, ‘I thought I struck him two light blows and I was terribly surprised to learn that he had died.’”

— The Iron Port, Escanaba, Mich., March 19, 1904

“Yes, so I guess the blacksmith doesn’t know his own strength,” said Peter, Minnie’s father, rolling his eyes. “Mon Dieu. He’s one of the strongest men in town and every man knows it. He’s a wicked good fighter. What did he think when he hit a 65-year-old man?”

“Well, I think we all know a blacksmith is worth more to the company than some old German who stacks lumber,” Felix said.

“Let the poor man rest in peace,” said Aurora Gamache, Minnie’s mother. “We shall see what the judge decides about Mr. Warren.”

Saturday, March 19 - entertained “pie-face.” made lace and pillow

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

“I’m sorry if I offended you, Minnie. You know, I don’t think men should have more than one wife.”

“Then why did you say so?” Minnie asked. “Words have meaning.”

The last time Minnie saw “Pie-Face,” he’d joked about having more than one wife, like the Mormons in Utah.

“I was just trying to get a laugh,” he said. “I meant nothing by it.”

“Well, what do you think of a woman’s role, then?”

“Pie-face” looked blankly at Minnie, with that doleful expression on his long face that always made him look a bit stupid. He tried to think of something to say, but no words came out.

“Well?” Minnie said, tired of waiting. “Is a woman of equal worth when compared to a man? Does she deserve equal rights to property? To education? To the vote?”

“Why are you asking me these questions?”

“I’m just trying to get to know who you are inside. To see if I want to continue to spend time with you, or not.”

“Can we just start over? I don’t want to argue with you. I want to get to know you better, too.”

After Pie-face left, Minnie crocheted some white lace for a pillow she planned to add to her bed, along with a new quilt. She enjoyed her domestic tasks, yet she wondered whether life in the 20th century might offer more.

“In our day and generation what woman would be satisfied to retrograde? The question is, who was the happier, the primitive woman who never dreamed of the club, the lawyer’s gown, the doctor’s prescription blank, or the woman’s suffrage, or she of the 20th century — restless, ambitious and forever reaching up after the unattainable?”

Woman’s Three Stages, by Countess de Montaigue, The Post-Crescent, Appleton Wisconsin, March 9, 1904

Sunday, March 20 - entertained “Felix” & Del stayed for supper. Emily went home to write letters.

-- Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904

“You know what they say about the blacksmith?” Felix said. “He’s the king of the mechanics.”

“Why is that?”

“It goes back to the building of Solomon’s temple -- the grandest and most expensive building ever built. When completed, King Solomon invited all the tradesmen to a banquet to thank them.”

“Kind of like the picnic the company throws every summer,” said Minnie’s brother Ed.

“Only the food was much better, I reckon,” said Pa.

“The King invited all the craftsmen to the dinner, except the blacksmith. When they pulled back the tapestry to reveal for the first time the King’s throne, there sat the blacksmith at the throne’s right hand."

"Uh oh," said Minnie.

“The people shouted at him. The guards rushed to remove him. But King Solomon said, ‘Let him speak.”

“You have invited all the craftsmen but me,” said the blacksmith. “But how could anyone raise this beautiful temple without the tools I made? The carpenter needs the hammer I made in my forge. The mason needs the trowel. The stonecutter needs the chisel. You can't weave this tapestry without tools to shear the sheep and a loom made with my tools.”

Solomon said, “He speaks the truth. The seat is his. All honor to the Iron-Worker.”

Sartain, John, Engraver, Christian Schussele, and Joseph Harrison. The iron worker and King Solomon / the original painted by Prof. C. Schussele,; engraved by John Sartain, Phila. Jerusalem, ca. 1889. New York: Published by The Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company. Photograph.


At supper that night, they talked about the mysteries of life and death. Collette’s 6-day-old calf was healthy and growing quickly on her mother’s milk. The Raiches had replaced Jacques with a young Percheron. The new gelding was strong and full of energy but still had much to learn.

And they prayed that God would shine his perpetual light upon George Stulken, and grant forgiveness to William Warren, sitting in a jail cell in Menominee, awaiting his fate.

Notes and Further Reading

Disclaimer: These diary entries above are real, but the stories I've created to illustrate Minnie's life are fictional. While I've tried to research the history of the time and the characters, any account of actions or dialogue comes from my imagination. I welcome your corrections and alternate interpretations.

-- Jodi Perras, Minnie's Great-Granddaughter

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New Characters

Strangely, Minnie doesn’t mention the murder in Hermansville in her diary at all, but she does make two trips into town this week, which is unusual. I’ve discovered two different versions in the historical records of what happened to George Stulken on the night of March 14, 1904. I’ve requested a copy of the court records and other newspaper sources, so stay tuned to find out what happened to his assailant, William T. Warren. I won’t give it away before the trial.

In the Iron Port account of the killing, the victim’s name is Gerhardt Stulken, but in other versions sent on the newswires around the country, he is called “George Stalken.” I found a “Geo. Stalken” in the 1900 U.S. Census living in the Hermansville boarding house on Park Street, where he later died. A 65-year-old German immigrant and widower, he worked in the lumber yard. I haven’t been able to find where he was buried, or any reliable records of his life before 1900. I’ve found men with similar names, but determined they weren’t the same George Stulken.

The Iron Port, Escanaba, MI, March 19, 1904

Edwin P. Radford

In 1900, William Warren, 28, worked as a carriage blacksmith in Albion, Michigan, and boarding with an attorney named Frederick Wheelock (1833-1902) and his wife, Frances (1847-1928). Another carriage blacksmith, Robert Atkinson, 40, rented a room in the same home. In 1930, William was a 59-year-old widower living in Houghton County with his 22-year-old son, Ernest. William didn't have a job, but he owned his $1,400 home (and a radio). His son worked as a general store bookkeeper. I haven’t found William in the 1910 or 1920 U.S. census records.

Charles M. Case relates in his 1925 history of Hermansville that company general superintendent Edwin P. Radford ordered the blacksmith sent to his boarding house room and the body of his victim locked in the jail overnight. Everyone in Hermansville turned to Radford to make tough decisions. In 1904, Radford chaired the Menominee County Board of Supervisors, which oversaw county roads, public safety and other county government matters. First elected Meyer Township Supervisor in 1893, Radford held that position for many years. He also served as Justice of the Peace in Meyer Township. Since the company was the only taxpayer in Hermansville and many residents were non-voting immigrants, it's not surprising that company men also controlled public offices.

In those days, a single judge heard all criminal and non-probate cases in Michigan’s 25th Circuit, covering Menominee, Dickinson, Delta, Iron and Marquette counties. Judge John W. Stone lived in Marquette and traveled to Menominee about four times a year to hear cases.

Joseph Zenoble Raiche, 57, and his wife Emelia Garon, 53, lived on the farm directly east of the Gamache farm. Their former houses still face each other across Vega Road. Like Minnie and her parents, Joe and “Emeline” were born in Rimouski in French Canada and lived in Champion before moving to Hermansville in the 1890s. In the 1900 census, they had five children living in their home: Henry, 21, a farmhand; Bert, 17, a knot sawyer at the mill; Eva, 14; Maud, 12; and Aleck, 7, at school. Eva married Wiliam Rochon in 1902, so she had left home by 1904 to start her adult life. Maud, who was 15 in 1904, has already appeared several times in Minnie’s diary. Joe’s oldest brother Frank Raiche, 61, who was married to Christina Duby, 55, also lived nearby, as shown on the map below. Frank and Christina immigrated to Champion in 1887 and moved to Hermansville sometime the early 1900s. Frank’s son Leo, 29, had a 40-acre farm with his wife, Mary Duby Raiche, 34. Yes, that apparently means Leo’s mother and wife were both Dubys from the Rimouski region.

I’m not certain about the identity of “Mary D.” Hermansville census records show no women of child-bearing age with that name in 1900 or 1910. I settled on Mary Jane Beland, who was born in 1882 in Champion and possibly one of Minnie's childhood friends. Mary married Charles Philip Derocher about 1899 and they had three young sons by 1904. William, the youngest, had been born in June 1903. Sometime between 1900 and 1907, the family moved to Escanaba, where Charles worked as a millwright. It’s possible they lived in Hermansville briefly before moving to Escanaba. Or, Mary might have taken a train to Hermansville to visit friends from Champion and took her son along. By 1920, her husband lived in a boarding house in Flint and worked as a carpenter in an auto factory while Mary stayed in Escanaba with the kids. By 1922, the family joined him in Flint.

Hermansville census records don’t include any men named “Felix” in 1900 or 1910. But the back of Minnie’s diary has an entry in which “Felix Charlier” paid $1 for boar service On Dec. 2. Frankly, she may have made that entry some years later, after she moved to Nadeau. She might have nicknamed some other fellow “Felix” in her diary. Felix Charlier, 40, owned a farm east of Carney in 1912 with his wife, Victorine, 37. He was born in Belgium, and immigrated to America in 1871 with his mother. The Charlier name can still be found in the Carney-Nadeau area.

Minnie Gamache diary, 1904

Farming and Blacksmithing

Blacksmiths: Blacksmiths were indispensible in a town like Hermansville at the turn of the century. In addition to shoeing horses and making tools, they kept trains, carriages and machinery running. The story of King Solomon and the blacksmith dates back to ancient Jewish history. The 1889 engraving of The iron worker and King Solomon above is by John Sartain. The original painting is by Prof. C. Schussele. The engraving was published by The Macoy Publishing and Masonic Supply Company of New York. Accessed at the Library of Congress at

Dairy Calves: When I worked on my uncle Jerry Benson's dairy farm around 1980, we took calves away from their mothers soon after birth and taught to drink from a pail. Calf formula smells a lot like human baby formula, but comes in a 50-pound paper bag. I remember carrying a pail of hot water to the calf pens, mixing it in pails with cold water and formula. In 1904, farmers didn't have access to affordable calf formula. University researchers were studying the benefits of feeding calves skim milk instead of leaving them with their mothers. The Wisconsin newspapers from 1904 have a lot of varying advice for dairy farmers along those lines.

The Kickapoo Scout (Soldiers Grove, Wis.) · 3 Feb 1904

Farm Horses: For a touching rendition of Paul Horn’s poem, Le Petit Cheval, set to music, visit this YouTube video featuring Georges Brassens. The Raiche horse probably wasn’t a “little horse.” Farms needed large draft horses to plow the fields and pull wagons, carts and sleighs. My Swedish-American grandfather, Andrew Benson, owned Belgian draft horses, but I suspect that the French side of my family were partial to the Percheron breed, which originated in France. Both breeds can still be found among horse hobbyists in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Percheron can be black, dapple gray or blue roan, and some eventually turn white.

Percheron mare and foal. Photo Credit: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information Black-and-White Negatives.

If you're still with me, thanks for reading this week's long post to the end. Stay healthy.


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