• jodiperras

Minnie's Diary #15: Danced at Night. Had a Fine Time.



Monday, April 4 - Mr. Marchaterre’s boys arrived. Played violin.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


Minnie hadn’t seen Joe and Archie Marchaterre since she was an 11-year-old girl growing up in Champion. As the Marchaterres entered the Gamache home, with 8-year-old little brother Fred in tow, she let out a gasp.


“Oh my, the little Marchaterre boys have grown up!”


Joseph Henry Marchaterre Jr. gave Minnie a wide smile that extended to his bright, gray eyes. The smartest and cleverest of the Marchaterre boys, he had finished the requirements to graduate from Champion High School, the first of five students in the Class of 1904.

Joe carried himself confidently for a young man of only seventeen years.

Ma belle Minnie,” he said with an exaggerated bow and warm kisses on Minnie’s cheeks. “And you have grown more beautiful.”

Le flirteur! You flirt!”


Archibald Marcheterre, 15, stood by shyly. He was more comfortable playing his violin than talking to women.

Minnie and her brothers gave both Joe and Archie a warm hug, and they pinched the cheeks of little Fred, who hadn’t been born when the Gamaches left Champion in 1895.


Allô there, little man, are you ready to build a house tomorrow?” asked Papa Gamache.


Oui Monsieur Gamache! Look at my muscles. I’m as strong as two boys put together,” Fred replied.

The adults chuckled at tough little Fred. His papa would keep him busy fetching tools and carrying materials this week.


Ma and Minnie laid out bean soup, crusty bread, venison sausage, cheese and various preserves from the cellar. For dessert, they had cherry pie and fresh ice cream. The two women kept busy serving the eight men and boys, and cleaning the dishes afterward.


As the sun set over the rolling hills, they watched a small herd of deer in the field, eating the tiny green shoots coming out of the ground. Archie played some lively French songs dating back to Quebec’s earliest days.


Au bois, au bois, mesdames,

Au joli petit bois.

Qui est-ce qui se promène, mène,

Qui est-ce qui se promène là?


“C’est la bergère qui s’promène,

Qui se promène là.

Vois l’embrasserez pour vos peines.

Qui est-ce qui se promène là?”


To the woods, to the woods, my ladies,

To shaded woods so fair,

Who is it strolling in woods so shady?

Who is it that is a-strolling there?


“ ’Tis the shepherdess a-strolling.

’Tis she who’s strolling there.

Now then, embrace her, speak words cajoling,

Who is it that is a-strolling there?”


A Bois, Mesdames (To the Woods, My Ladies), from Folk Songs of Old Vincennes,

edited by Anna C. O’Flynn, 1973, H.T. FitzSimons Company, Inc., Chicago, IL.


The hard work of building the Marchaterres’ new house would begin tomorrow. On this Easter Monday, they celebrated. Alleluia!



A Letter to Pie-face



Tuesday, April 5 - Went to Mrs. Paquin to write a letter. Joe and Archie were over.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


Minnie sought some privacy to write a letter to Pie-face.


“When will you come to Hermansville again? Please stop to see me, or tell me where to meet you,” she wrote, sealing the note and dropping it in the Paquin’s mailbox for pickup.


Joe and Archie stopped by the Gamache home that night, after helping their Pa frame the new house. Minnie’s Pa and brothers had helped for part of the day, but Mr. Marchaterre liked to do most of the carpentry work himself. As a master carpenter, he had pride in his craft and a certain way of doing things.



Raising a Barn



Wednesday, April 6 - Rained this morning. Mr. Caron made his bee. Ironed all my clothes. Danced to Mr. Caron.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


Joe Caron, on the other hand, wanted lots of help to build his barn. Always eager to throw a good party, he invited the men to a barn-raising bee. They’d build the barn exterior in a day, fueled by good food and a half-keg of beer, followed by dancing and more food at night.


The men caught up on the news as they worked.

“Did William Warren show up to work this week?”


Non. No one’s seen him since he was released on bond.”


“I heard he’s blacksmithing in Menominee, at least until his trial next month.”


“Well, I’m glad he didn’t show his face here. Even if he didn’t mean to kill that old man, he’ll never find peace in this town.”

By the time the sun disappeared in the west, a small crowd gathered to admire the new barn. Joe and Mary Caron had moved the table out of their kitchen and placed chairs around the room. Archie sat in the sink and played his violin. They needed the entire kitchen floor for dancing.


It felt so incredibly good to dance again.


J'ai tant dansé, j'ai tant sauté

Dansons ma bergère, ô gai

J'en ai décousu mon soulier.


I’ve danced so much, so much I’ve skipped,

Come let’s dance, my sweetheart gay!

The sole, the sole from my shoe I’ve ripped.

-- J’ai tant dansé! (I’ve Danced so Much), from Folk Songs of Old Vincennes,

edited by Anna C. O’Flynn, 1973, H.T. FitzSimons Company, Inc., Chicago, IL.


Minnie danced with Henry Caron, Del Paquin, Charlie Arsenault, and other young men. But the man she looked forward to seeing the most, Ed Paquin Jr., hardly paid her any attention. Instead, he sat in the front room chatting with the farmers, with Maud Raiche sitting on the arm of his chair.


“She’s practically in his lap,” Minnie thought.


Minnie’s heart sank a little each time she saw them together, wondering what she’d done — or what Maud had said — to turn Ed away from her.



Had a Headache


Thursday, April 7 - Felt bummy. Del came for me but couldn’t go. Had a headache.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


Another dance tonight, but Minnie didn’t feel up to it.


“I’m sorry, Del. I’m just not feeling well enough. I’ve had a headache all day and nothing has helped.”


“What did you try?”


“Dr. Cole’s Syrup. Wine of Cardui. Cold compresses. My head is splitting. I just need to rest.”


Green Bay Press Gazette, Apr. 2, 1904
Crystal Falls Diamond Drill, Mar. 26, 1904




















Preparing for the Bee



Friday, April 8 - Prepared for the bee. Rained all afternoon.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


“I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow,” Ma said, watching the hard droplets pour from the sky, creating mud puddles in the dirt farmyard.


Pa and William moved furniture out of the front room and set up the wooden quilting frame. They placed chairs and benches around the frame, to seat a dozen women or so.


Minnie and her mother baked bread and cakes when the oven was hot and quick in the morning, and slow cooked some baked beans later in the day. Their guests would also be bringing food.


“No one will go home hungry, that’s for sure,” Ma said.


By evening, more than an inch of rain had fallen and the temperatures were dropping. The puddles were hardening and turning to ice. Ma worried about that, too.



Danced All Night



Saturday, April 9 - Made our bee. Mrs. Duby came and help us. Danced at night. Had a fine time.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


Mrs. Duby arrived early to help with preparations for the Gamaches' bee.


Mesdames Paquin, Raiche, Desjardines, Caron, Chenard, Ayotte, Alore, LaCosse and Zimmerman came up the hill after breakfast, bringing their needles, thread, scissors and thimbles. Some women carried sample quilt blocks they were working on, to be admired by the others. They brought food for a potluck lunch, and left instructions for their daughters to bring more food and desserts when they arrived later in the day.


The women admired Minnie’s quilt top, with its bright colors of red, orange, green and blue. Minnie and Ma had already basted a thin wool blanket between the quilt top and the backing, using loose, temporary stitches. Basting held the layers together as the women worked. Soon the women’s fingers were busy stitching, while they chatted, gossiped and told stories.


The husbands arrived after completing their morning chores. Pa organized a wood-chopping contest, testing who could split the most logs in twenty minutes. Not surprisingly, newcomer Joe Marchaterre Sr. took home that prize.


When they weren’t chopping wood, the men helped re-thread needles and roll the quilt on the frame as sections were completed. They even critiqued the women’s stitches, until the wives grabbed scissors to shoo them out of the room.

By early afternoon, Minnie’s quilt was done. The women put Ma’s quilt on the frame and started to stitch. Soon Minnie’s friends began to appear. Minnie entertained the younger crowd while the older women worked on Ma’s quilt.


“Welcome to the ‘yes and no’ contest," said Minnie, handing out ten dry beans to each of her guests.

“When I say ‘go,’ find a partner and ask them a question. If they answer saying ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ they have to give you a bean. Then they ask you a question. Keep rotating to new partners. When I say ‘stop,’ whoever has the most beans is the winner. Got it?”

“Do we have a choice on playing this game?” asked Del.


“No,” said Minnie.

“You owe me one of your beans,” Del replied.


Minnie laughed and gave Del a bean.


At Minnie’s word, the game began. The questions quickly became ridiculous. And the answers became more and more creative.

“Do you like apple pie?”

“I prefer cherry pie.”


“Is the Pope Catholic?”

“What's a Catholic?”


“Will you give me a kiss?”

“I might give you a kiss, but I’ll never give you one of my beans.”


“Can I have one of your beans?”

“No! … Ah, merde. I guess that means yes.”


Charlie held eighteen beans when Minnie called ‘stop,” claiming first prize.


Minnie put the men to work in a sewing contest while the women wrote poetry. The women judged who had sewn the best quilt square; the men judged the best poem.


“There was a young farmer from Hermansville Who planted a big field with daffodils. A damsel walked by, And showed him her thigh, He'd have had her, but feared she was fertile.”

Jennie Desjardines earned the poetry prize for her baudy limerick. The sewing prize went to Henry Caron, who could sew a surprisingly straight seam.


The farmers and their sons walked home to do the milking at about three o’clock. They returned to the party after evening chores, this time with fresh shirts, clean trousers and boots.

By then, the women had finished Ma’s quilt and taken down the quilting frame in the front room, creating a dance floor. Archie arrived with his violin and a local accordion player he'd met. They filled the house with old French songs late into the night.


J’etais hier au soir, belle, à ta porte

Pour te parler du secret de l’amour.

Belle, aime donc un amant qui t’aime.

A quoi sert-il de le fair’ tant languir?

A quoi sert-il de le fair’ tant languir?


Last night, I waited alone at your door,

To speak to you of this secret of mine,

Why love not a lover who loves you more,

Why should you leave him in anguish to pine?

Why should you leave him in anguish to pine?

— La Déclaration d’Amour (Declaration of Love) from Folk Songs of Old Vincennes,

edited by Anna C. O’Flynn, 1973, H.T. FitzSimons Company, Inc., Chicago, IL.


Minnie looked around for Ed Paquin, but didn’t see him or Maud.


“No need to pine,” she said. “There’s fun to be had without them.”



"I'll Go to See Her Sunday"



Sunday, April 10 - Entertained Del in the evening.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Mich., 1904


The Gamache family needed rest on Sunday, but chores beckoned. Cows needed to be milked and livestock needed to be fed. Minnie helped her mother clean dishes and put the house back together, while Pa and the boys took care of the animals and mended some fences near the barn. They worked with tired, satisfied smiles on their faces.


Del came to see Minnie that evening, his puppy dog eyes searching hers for signs that she shared his feelings.


“Minnie, you know how I feel about you. I think about you all the time. I can’t imagine a future without you. Will you be mine forever?”


Minnie didn’t know what to say. It wasn’t a question she could answer with a “yes” or a “no.”


J’ai fait une maîtresse, ya pas long-temps,

J’ai fait une maîtresse, ya pas long-temps,

J’irai la voir dimanche, dimanche, j’irai!

Je ferai la demande à ma bien aimée.


I found a maiden fair, not long ago,

I found a maiden fair, not long ago,

I'll go see her Sunday, Sunday, I'll go!

And ask her to be mine, yes, my own sweetheart.

J’ai fait une maîtresse (I’ve Found a Maiden) from Folk Songs of Old Vincennes,

edited by Anna C. O’Flynn, 1973, H.T. FitzSimons Company, Inc., Chicago, IL.

Notes and Further Reading


Disclaimer: Minnie's Diary is part history, part fiction. It's based on my own research into the history of the time and the characters. Anything not in the diary or documented from original sources comes from my imagination. I welcome your corrections and alternate interpretations.

-- Jodi Perras, Minnie's Great-Granddaughter

Subscribe to Minnie's Diary: If you don't want to miss a post, subscribe to my blog in the form at the bottom of each page. You'll receive an email every time I post a new blog entry, typically once a week. I promise I won't sell your information to anyone else.


Characters: New characters this week are the Marchaterre boys: Joe Jr., Archie and Fred. Their mother and sisters will arrive in Hermansville next month. It's possible that Fred stayed behind with his mother, since he was only eight. Boys took on responsibilities early in those days, so I'm guessing he made the trip with his dad and older brothers. The men likely worked to clear land and build a house before the women arrived. All the Marchaterre children were born in Champion, Michigan, where their dad worked for Champion Mining Co. along with Minnie’s father, Peter.


Joseph Henry Marchaterre Jr. was born in August 1886. According to the 1910 census, at age 23 he was already working as a foreman in the Hermansville flooring mill. By 33, he'd been promoted to assistant sales manager for the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. In 1921, he moved to Marinette, Wisconsin, to become a bookkeeper for the Sawyer Goodman company. Unfortunately, he died in 1923 after suffering a heart attack at work. He was only 37.



-- Escanaba Daily Press, August 3, 1923


Archibald “Archie” Marchaterre, born in October 1888, didn't graduate from high school and worked on his dad's farm, according to 1910 and 1920 census records. After Joe Sr. died in 1929, Archie lived on the farm and worked for his younger brother, Fred. In 1913, Archie and Henry Zimmerman pleaded guilty to violating Michigan game laws by hunting with artificial lights. Apparently, he never married. Archie died in 1960, a few days before his 73rd birthday.


-- Sault Ste. Marie Evening News, Oct. 4, 1913


Fred Marchaterre, WWI Navy photo

Fred Marchaterre, born in January 1896, served in the Navy as a first class signalman during World War I. He enlisted on May 31, 1918, less than six months before the war ended. His ship was damaged at sea in 1918, but later landed at St. Nazaire on the coast of France. He was released from service in January 1919.

According to the 1940 census, Archie completed 10th grade and Fred reached the eighth grade before leaving school. Hermansville schools did not go past 10th grade in 1904.


Readers may remember Joe and Mary Caron from late January-early February. A Joseph Philippe Caron was baptized in 1953 in Rimouski, Canada -- the same town where Minnie and her parents were born. Census records from 1900 place the Carons in Champion, Michigan. According to the 1903 Champion city directory, the Carons had moved to Hermansville. However, both Joe and Mary are buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Champion. Mary died of heart disease in 1905. Joe died from cirrhosis of the liver in 1907. They had five children, including Minnie's friend Henry, who was 20 in 1904.


Busy Bees: Since Mr. Caron hosted “his bee” on April 6, I assumed it was some kind of building bee, while the Gamache bee on April 8 was likely a quilting bee. Here are a few resources on community-based working bees that I found online:


Old French Songs: Based on Minnie's Easter Monday entry, I assume one of the Marchaterre boys played the violin, and guessed it was Archie. Of course, it could have been Joe or some other violin player. Anyone know?


Cecilia Ray Berry’s well-researched 1946 booklet, Folk Songs of Old Vincennes, captures dozens of French language songs from the French settlement in Vincennes, Indiana. Published by H.T. FitzSimons Company, Inc., in Chicago, IL, you can still find it in libraries and occasionally online bookstores. I purchased a 1973 paperback version, updated and edited by Anna C. O'Flynn.


Some of the songbook's lyrics are unique to Vincennes, which was an isolated French outpost for many years. Its music contained both Quebecois and Creole influences. Because Minnie went to so many dances at neighboring French-speaking farms, I imagine they primarily danced to old French songs similar to these.


Thanks for reading, and have a good week!


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