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Minnie's Diary #28: Hot and Cold

Updated: Nov 9, 2021

Too Warm to Do Anything

Monday, July 18 - Didn’t do anything. It was to warm.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan

“Hammond, Ind., July 18 — Two deaths from heat were reported tonight. Fred Sobieski, 9 years old, succumbed while playing ball. Henry Knight, 13 years old, was prostrated while crossing a field. Several horses dropped dead.”

— “Two Deaths at Hammond, Ind.,” Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Mich., July 19, 1904

“It’s too hot for the horses to work in the yard, so they sent us home.”

Minnie’s brother, William, had arrived home early. He wouldn’t be clocking any hours for the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company today. The rest of the mill, though, was running 12-hour shifts to keep up with customer demand. Only a few workers had a reprieve from the heat.

“The Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. has received $20,000 more orders for lumber during the month of June than during the same month last year.”

— Menominee County Journal, Stephenson, Michigan, July 23, 1904

“The thermometer by the barn says it’s nearly 90 degrees,” Pa said. “I’m not taking our horses out today, either.”

Ma, Pa, Edmond, Willie and Freddie did what they could to keep cool. Pa and Freddie deep-cleaned the milk house, where temperatures were a little cooler due to the cold stream of water flowing through. Ma couldn’t escape the hot kitchen completely, but she prepared a dinner of smoked sausage, fresh-baked bread, cheese, fruit and salads from the garden.

Willie and Edmond played cards. Edmond was still nursing his severed finger but could manage to hold a cribbage hand. They wiped their sweaty brows and drank lemonade made with ice from the ice box.

“If I weren’t a lady, I’d be perspiring, too,” Minnie said as she walked by them.

Willie looked up at her with an incredulous look on his face, only to see Minnie smiling broadly as she wiped droplets of sweat from her neck.

Mon Dieu, Minnie. I thought you were off your rocker there for a minute.”

“Almost makes you wish for the cold days of February,” Ed said.

“Almost, but not quite,” replied Minnie.

“Bay City, Mich., July 18 — Extreme hot weather set in today, and coming so suddenly, it affected quite a number of outdoor workers. Masons and bricklayers this morning quit work for several hours, even the breeze blowing being heated to almost scorching temperature. The thermometer registers as high as 120 in the sun and 98 in the shade.”

— “Too Hot to Work,” Detroit Free Press, Detroit, Mich., July 19, 1904

The Cold Cream Treatment

Tuesday, July 19 - Went to see Mary Raiche. Had a good time.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan

“How are plans for the wedding, Mary?”

Mary Raiche glowed with anticipation for her upcoming wedding to Levi Lecoursier, who worked as a laborer at the flooring mill.

“I can’t wait, but I don’t know about Ma.”


“You can probably guess why."

“The children?”

Oui. She thought I would be the last child out of the house, but with Cecilia gone and Joseph at Newberry, she’s now taking care of seven children again.”

“How is Joseph?”

“Not well. We don’t get a lot of information, but we know his seizures are out of control."

Frank and Christine Raiche's daughter, Cecilia, succumbed to pneumonia in 1902. She left behind her husband, Joseph Carrier, and their seven young children. Under extreme stress, Joseph’s epileptic seizures had worsened. In the spring, he had been admitted to the Upper Peninsula Asylum for the Insane in Newberry. The children came to the Raiche farm to live.

The two oldest boys, 16-year-old Joseph John, 14-year-old Wilfred and 12-year-old Xavier, were put to work helping grand-père on the farm. That left Grand-mère Christine and Tante Mary with 13-year-old Eva, 10-year-old Rosa, 9-year-old Delore, 7-year-old Leo and 5-year-old Leona.

“Ma loves them all, but she’s tired,” Mary told Minnie. "She misses Cecilia so much."

Just then, Mary’s bedroom door opened and Leona peered around the doorway.

“What are you doing, Tante Mary?”

“We’re just about to try some of this Modjeska cold cream that Tante Minnie brought. It makes your skin nice and soft. Would you like to try some?”

Larkin Company, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Oui, s'il vous plait.

They boiled water in the kitchen and carried hot towels to Mary’s room. After wrapping their faces in the towels (using a warm towel for little Leona), Minnie showed them how to slather the cold cream thickly over their warm skin.

"Ooh, it's cold!" shrieked Leona.

Drawn by their laughter, Eva, Rosa, Delore and Leo soon joined them. Minnie put cold cream on all their faces, even the boys. Then she used a clean towel to show them how to wipe it off.

“My face feels so smooth!” Mary said, touching her skin.

“Mine, too,” said little Leona.

“Yours was already baby soft,” Minnie told her. “But now you’re positively glowing.”

-- "Face and Neck," The Diamond Drill, Crystal Falls, Michigan, July 23, 1904

Confiture de Framboise

Wednesday, July 20 - Washed and went picking raspberries.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan

Minnie scrubbed and scrubbed to get the perspiration stains out of her shirtwaists and the rest of the family’s clothing. It seemed no amount of bluing would eliminate the unsightly yellow stains on the armpits and collars.

“I’ll need to make a new shirtwaist after this summer,” she thought, swirling the bluing stick through the tub filled with white shirts.

As the clothing dried on the line, Minnie grabbed a clean pail and headed west onto her father's property. The raspberries were growing thickly this year, producing an abundant crop.

It was a crop sent seemingly from heaven. After the lumberjacks cleared the trees, farmers who settled on the stump lands didn’t need to plant raspberries, blueberries or blackberries. The birds took care of that. Walking through the acres where Pa hadn’t yet cleared the stumps, Minnie gathered raspberries in a large bowl. The most delicate of all the berries, raspberries needed to be handled carefully and picked at the peak of ripeness.

When she returned home, she and Ma turned the raspberries into jam using an old recipe dating back to early days in Quebec.

Pick over raspberries. Mash a few in the bottom of a preserving kettle, using a wooden potato masher, and so continue until the fruit is used. Heat slowly to boiling point, and add gradually an equal quantity of heated sugar. Cook slowly forty-five minutes. Put in a stone jar or tumblers.

-- Raspberry Jam, from the 1896 Boston Cooking School Cook Book

Thursday, July 21 - Ironed and pick berries.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan

-- The L'Anse Sentinel, L'Anse, Michigan, 23 Jul 1904

“Reports from the blueberry marshes indicate a big crop this year. Berrying parties have been organized here during the week and they have met with good success.”

— Menominee County Journal, July 23, 1904

Toil of Country Life

Friday, July 22 - Went and picked berries. Mrs. Paquin called.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan

Minnie and her mother were making more raspberry jam and some raspberry tarts for supper when Armelia Paquin’s visit took them by surprise, but it was a welcome one.

“I just wanted to take a little break and enjoy some tea,” Mrs. Paquin said.

“I'll put some water on to boil. We can have some biscuits with our confiture de framboise,” Ma said.

As they drank hot tea and ate their biscuits with raspberry jam, the three women caught up on the news. Mrs. Paquin said lumberjacks had finally broken up a huge log jam on the Menominee River.

“Ed said over seven million feet of logs were jammed last week near Holmes landing,” Mrs. Paquin said. “Logs were stacked up for three-quarters of a mile, some of them fifteen and twenty feet high.”

“I heard that when the logs broke, the cracking sound could be heard a mile away,” Minnie said.

Dieu merci, none of the jacks were hurt,” Ma said.

Oui. That’s dangerous work,” Mrs. Paquin said.

In Chicago and eight other cities, 80,000 meat packers remained on strike and meat prices were rising out of sight. Riots had broken out in Chicago and New York, with workers injured by police wielding batons. The Chicago stockyards were full of cattle but didn't have enough workers to butcher them and package the meat.

“The effect of the strike was keenly felt in the east, where the advanced prices and the scarcity in the fresh meat supply make it a luxury to the poorer classes. … The increased demand for poultry, eggs and vegetables resulted in a general advance in prices, and the hotels and restaurants were charging more. Many of the butcher shops in the poorer sections of the city were forced to close, owing to inability to get supplies.”

—“The Meat Industry Strike,” The L’Anse Sentinel, L’Anse, Michigan, July 23, 1904

“I’m glad we’re on a farm with our own meat, eggs and chickens,” Ma said.

Oui. I don’t know how people survive in those cities,” Mrs. Paquin said.

“I don't know about city life,” said Minnie, “but I wouldn’t mind living in town and having enough money to shop at the store for my food, and not have to work all day on a farm.”

“Well, you’ll need to marry someone other than a farmer, then,” said Mrs. Paquin, with a wink. “Does Del know about these plans?”

Minnie glanced at Mrs. Paquin, Del’s mother. She loved Mrs. Paquin like a second mother. She’d spent many hours in the Paquin kitchen, visiting, enjoying a meal or helping out when her neighbor didn't feel well. She’d love to have Mrs. Paquin for a mother-in-law, but she knew she would never marry Del.

“Del has little use for my ideas,” Minnie said, looking downward.

“That’s just how men are,” Ma said. “As long as you have food on the table at dinner time, and the children are quiet and well-dressed, they’re content.”

“But don’t expect them to ask for your opinion,” Mrs. Paquin said.

“Opinions? We’re allowed to have opinions?” Ma replied, laughing.

“See, that’s just the problem,” Minnie said. “That’s just the problem.”

-- A Song of Toil, by Effa Harry, Sturgeon Bay Advocate, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, July 9, 1904

Minnie Cuts Del Off Cold

Saturday, July 23 - Had a letter from “pie face.” Went to dance to Mrs. Alore with Del. It was his last time. Quit going with Del tonight.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, 1904, Hermansville, Michigan

Minnie’s heart skipped a beat when she saw the letter from “Pie Face.” She hadn’t heard from him or seen him in several weeks.

“You have been on my mind,” he wrote. “I wish work didn’t keep me away. There aren’t enough farmhands to take a day off from milking, gathering hay, and all the other chores on the company farm.

“But I dream of you. I remember the meal we shared, the sound of your laugh, and the beauty of your blue eyes. I wish I weren’t working as a farmhand and could offer you a better life. I had a dream that you and I lived in town and ran a small hotel. Dare I dream it?

“The other day I read a Booth Tarkington story in the newspaper and thought of you. I can’t ask you today to be mine forever. But I pray that you will wait until I can provide you with a proper home.”

Minnie felt her stomach turn over. Her breath quickened. Was he asking her to marry her some day?

She turned to the newspaper clipping and found the passage he’d circled.

“At no other time is a man’s feeling of companionship with a woman so strong as when he sits at table with her, not at a ‘decorated’ and be-eatered and be-waitered table, but at a homely appetizing, wholesome home table like old Judge Briscoe’s. The very essence of the thing is domesticity, and the implication is utter confidence and liking. There are few greater dangers for a bachelor. An insinuating imp perches on his shoulder and, softly tickling the bachelor’s ear with the feathers of an arrow shaft, whispers: ‘Pretty gay, isn’t it, eh? Rather pleasant to have that girl sitting there, don’t you think? Enjoy having her notice your butter plate was empty? Think it exhilarating to hand her those rolls? Looks nice, doesn’t she? Says “Thank you” rather prettily? Makes your lonely breakfast seem mighty dull, doesn’t it? How would you like to have her pour your coffee for you tomorrow, my boy? How would it seem to have such pleasant company all the rest of your life? Pretty cheerful, eh? It’s my conviction that your one need in life is to pick her up in your arms and run away with her, not anywhere in particular, but just run and run and run away.’”

-- From The Gentleman from Indiana, by Booth Tarkington,

Sault Ste Marie Evening News, May 24, 1904, Sault Ste Marie, Michigan

Minnie clutched the letter to her chest. She felt a little faint, knowing Del would be arriving that evening to take her to the dance. She made up her mind that tonight would be the last night she'd carry conflicting feelings inside her heart.

The Last Dance

At Mrs. Alore’s dance, every time another young man asked her to dance, Minnie could feel Del’s jealous eyes watching her. When a woman talked to her about how much she enjoyed her Larkin soap, Del changed the subject. Minnie crossed her arms and frowned.

Del noticed how Minnie distanced herself. He asked what was wrong, but she held her tongue.

When Del took her home, Minnie broke the news. They had no future together, she said. Deep down in their hearts, she said, they both knew it.

Del objected. He protested. He denied they had any problems whatsoever.

“You’re the one I love,” he said. “I am only happy when I am with you.”

But eventually, he saw her mind was made up. He accepted her decision and left Minnie on her doorstep. Her white cotton dress swayed in the warm summer breeze as she watched him walk away. In her mind, Minnie could hear the melody of Ma Brune (My Dark-Haired One), the last song that played when they danced together.

Quand je vous vois, je vois celle que j’aime;

Mon cœur n’a pas de moments plus heureux.

Mais éloigné de vous, je ne suis plus le même.

Je suis heureux quand je regarde vos doux yeux.

Belle, si vous doutez que je vous aime,

Informez-vous aux échos d’alentour.

Ruisseaux, rivières, fontaines et rochers mêmes,

Vous diront que je vous aime toujours.

Petits oiseaux, hâtez0vous d’aller dire

A ma mie combine je suis malheureux.

Vous qui citez quand mon cœur soupire,

Ayez donc pitié d’un pauvre amoureux.

When I see you, I see the one I love;

My heart has no happier times.

But far from you, I am no longer the same.

I am happy when I look at your sweet eyes.

Beautiful, if you doubt that I love you,

Ask the echoes that around you start.

Streams, rivers, fountains and even rocks,

Will tell you that I am still your sweetheart.

Little birds, hurry up and say

By the way, I am unhappy.

Sing, and sing, as long as my heart pines so,

And have pity, pity on a poor lover.

Ma Brune (My Dark-Haired One), from Folk Songs of Old Vincennes,

H.T. FitzSimons Company, Inc., 1973, by Cecilia Ray Berry

Notes & Further Reading

Note to Readers: Last week, I attended the funeral of one of Minnie's granddaughters. Delores "Dee" Piche Birkebile, nee Bichel, was 82 years old. Dee was the daughter of my Great-Aunt Bernice "Bunny" Perras and Spencer Bichel. Dee was a fun-loving, faith-filled, shining light of a woman, who spread "joy and sunshine" wherever she went. I imagine Minnie's personality was a lot like Dee's. I'm dedicating this week's blog to Cousin Dee and sending greetings to her children and grandchildren, with whom I enjoyed spending time last week.

As always, Minnie's Diary is part history and part fiction. While my great-grandmother's diary entries and the news clippings are real, the rest comes from my imagination and research into life in 1904 Hermansville, a company-owned lumber town in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. For more about Minnie and her family, read this introductory page elsewhere on this website.

Remember to subscribe to my blog at the bottom of the page if you want to make sure you see every installment of Minnie's Diary. I'll send you an email each time I publish a new post. I will never sell or share your contact information with other individuals or companies.

-- Jodi Perras, Minnie's Great-Granddaughter

Characters: Minnie doesn't mention any new characters this week in her diary, but I've introduced Joseph and Cecilia [Cecile] Carrier and their children. Cecilia Raiche married Joseph in 1887. In the 1900 census, however, Cecilia and seven of her eight children were living with Frank and Christine Raiche on their farm outside Hermansville. Cecilia was still married, but her husband was not living with her. Cecilia died in April 1902 in Champion. She was 33. Her husband died in 1906. His barely legible death certificate (below) shows he died on July 2, 1906, in Luce County, where the Newberry Asylum had opened in 1896. The cause of death was "status epilepticus" and he'd been a patient there for more than two years, meaning he moved there sometime in 1904.

Their son Joseph Xavier also died in 1906. By 1910, six of their children were living on their own in Hermansville, supported by 21-year-old Joseph John Carrier Jr. and 20-year-old Wilfred, who both worked at the lumber mill. Eva and Rosanna were keeping house and 14-year-old Delore worked as a hotel chore boy while also going to school. (Minnie and my great-grandfather were running a hotel in Hermansville in 1910. Do you think Delore was working for them, perhaps?) Also living under the same roof was Leo, 13, who was attending school in Hermansville in 1910. And what of Leona, the youngest? In 1910 she showed up back in Champion, where she had been adopted by George and Philamon Dishnow (sometimes Dishno or Dishneau). They also had a 16-year-old adopted son, August.

Epilepsy: By the early 1900s, science's understanding of epilepsy was starting to improve, the first EEGs to diagnose epilepsy would be available until the 1920s and '30s. People with uncontrolled seizures, like Joseph Carrier, would often be institutionalized. For information on how epilepsy was diagnosed at the turn of the last century, visit this link. For more information on the "Newberry Asylum," later known as the Newberry State Hospital, visit the Luce County site on Genealogy Trails.

Bluing: Before modern laundry detergents, families used bluing to help household linens look white. For a little history of bluing, visit the website "Old and Interesting," where you'll find all kinds of information on how families used to live.

Raspberries: Parks Canada has a raspberry compote recipe you might like to try the next time you go out picking raspberries or buy from a farmer's market. You can also watch videos showing how pioneer women made raspberry jam, marmalade and other treats.

Log Jams: It's hard to imagine how thousands of logs used to flow down the Menominee River to the lumber mills in Menominee and Marinette. The photograph below shows how families would go on an outing to see log jams on the river.

Log jam near either the Upper or Lower Quinnesec Falls of the Menominee River. Pictured are Maude Gee, Jamie Gee, Jeffie Whitehead and John Bush. Source: Upper Peninsula Regional Digitization Center, Public Domain.

Stockyard Strike: Most newspapers I've been reading from the summer of 1904 mention the urban meat shortage and the stockyard strikes. A journalist named Upton Sinclair posed as a stockyard worker in Chicago in 1904 and interviewed striking workers, sending his reports to a Socialist magazine he worked for. His reporting provided the basis for his 1906 book, The Jungle, which helped secure passage of the Pure Food and Drugs Act. The 1904 strike was not successful in raising wages for the mostly immigrant stockyard workers. The meat packing companies imported other workers to break the union. More than 100 years later, immigrants still make up most of the food industry, often working in very difficult conditions. In 1904, the food industry's immigrants were from Eastern European countries. Today, they come from Mexico and Central America. The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Other News of the Day: Here are some more news snippets that I couldn't fit into the blog this week, but that I found amusing. Automobiles hadn't yet arrived in Hermansville or other small villages, so it was newsworthy when a couple from Menominee drove their horseless carriage from Menominee to Stephenson.

“Mr. and Mrs. Amos Lemieux of Menominee passed through the village on their automobile Wednesday.”

-- Menominee County Journal, Stephenson, Michigan, July 23, 1904

I remember my Uncle Jerry Benson putting a cow's tail behind his knee when he would squat down to wash her udder or milk her, thus keeping the cow from hitting him in the face. I'd never heard of a farmer tying a cow's tail to his leg, and the story below shows why.

“A Wisconsin farmer tied the tail of one of his cows to his leg, and was dragged around by the fractious animal until he had two ribs fractured. Flies were bothering the cow and the cow’s tail was bothering the farmer while he was milking, and thereby hangs a tale. How often men are broken up by tying themselves to a female that objects to having any flies on her.”

-- Menominee County Journal, Stephenson, Michigan, July 23, 1904

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Nov 09, 2021

Enjoy your stories of those old days. Sorry to hear that Dee has passed away.

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