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Minnie's Diary #34: A New Horse

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“The selection and purchase of the new horse is a matter which very currently gives most people considerable concern. The matter is of especial importance to the farmers of the eastern states, who depend very largely for new horses upon animals brought from the West. To select an animal from a lot of a carload or more, and purchase him after seeing him travel perhaps a few hundred yards, is a feat none can accomplish without considerable risk.”

— “Buying a Horse,” Farm Journal, Wilmer Atkinson Company,

Philadelphia, Pa.,September 1904

Sunday, August 28 - L. Raiche & J.N. Raiche were over. Stayed for supper. Went to Mr. Marchaterre. Had a circus.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Michigan, 1904

Still hurting from losing his beloved horse Clem, Pa spent most of the day moping around the house and barn. Minnie didn’t. Know what to do. It wasn’t natural for Pa to be so glum.

“Thank heavens you’re here,” Ma greeted Leon Raiche and Joseph Raiche at the door. “Pierre is out behind the barn.”

The two men nodded quietly and went off to find Pa. They spent the afternoon sitting outside and telling stories, cheering Pa up and helping him decide his next steps.

“Are you going to buy a new horse from the company?”

“I’ve heard that Mador has a 2-year-old gelding for sale.”

“Is he broke in?”

“That I don’t know for sure.”

“It would be nice to get a good mare. Then you could breed her to a good stallion and sell the offspring.”

“I don’t have time to break in a new colt. And mares are too expensive. A good mare sells for five hundred dollars.”

“Sounds like you need a 3- or 4-year-old gelding. Percheron, I presume?”

Bien sûr,” Pa said. “Of course. I don’t want a dodgy Belgian horse. Le cheval français est superbe.”

“Indeed. The French horse is superb,” Leon said. “But you know, the Percheron is not only from France. The French captured Arabian war horses and Andalusian stallions from Spain many years ago, and bred them with their own horses to create the Percheron breed.”

Et alors? Je m'en fiche,” Pa said. “So what, I don’t care.”

“If you buy from the Company, Simeon can tell you which horses to avoid.”

Simeon Lavigne worked as a well-respected teamster for the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, which owned all the property and controlled most of the commercial dealings in Hermansville. Simeon spent the entire year working company horses at the mill yard and in the lumber camps.

“Ah, that's a good idea,” Pa said. “I’ll chat with Simeon before I make any decisions.”

“The Company will give you a fair deal, but make sure you don’t get some broken-down old nag.”

“It’s been a while since I bought a horse, but I haven’t forgotten everything,” Pa said. “I know a good horse from a nag.”

After supper, the whole family walked up the road where they found a grand party. The Marchaterres’ masterfully-built home was ready for all the music and dancing the French Canadians could give her.

While Minnie her brothers danced and laughed with friends, Pa found Simeon Lavigne in a corner and picked his brain about horses in the company barn that he might be able to buy the next day.

A Blue Ribbon Horse

Monday, August 29 - Bought our horse and brought in oats.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Michigan, 1904

Minnie accompanied Pa to the horse barn in Hermansville. Her English and math skills made Minnie a valuable companion in business transactions. The company had access to horse markets in Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan and other states. It could replace horses it sold within a day or two by shipping in new animals by rail. It also had men on the payroll who regularly searched out horses tough enough for pulling large sleighs in the winter and trams filled with logs or lumber from spring until fall.

“Observe the animal’s stall manners. Does it bite, threaten to kick or seem disturbed when attendant enters the stall? The condition of the stall may show marks of a stall pawer or stall kicker.”

— “Buying a Horse,” Farm Journal, Wilmer Atkinson Company,

Philadelphia, Pa., September 1904

John McIlroy, the barn boss, led Pa and Minnie toward a stall at the back of the barn.

“Here’s a Percheron 3-year-old. Good worker. Broke well.”

Pa watched the horse shy away and let out a low groan when McIlroy entered the stall.

Faites-le reculer,” Pa said.

“What’s that?”

“He wants you to move the horse out of the stall backwards,” Minnie said.

McIlroy frowned but turned the horse’s rear end toward the stall entrance. The horse fidgeted a bit, but backed out carefully and stepped into the barn aisle.

“Have the animal backed squarely out of the stall. Difficulty in backing a well-broken horse may indicate a form of brain trouble known as staggers. While backing observe any defect in gait, looking in particular for the spasmodic or ‘jerky’ elevation of hind feet, known as stringhalt.”

— “Buying a Horse,” Farm Journal, Wilmer Atkinson Company,

Philadelphia, Pa., September 1904

McIlroy walked the horse down the aisle and into the barn yard where Pa could get a good look at him. Pa walked up to the horse’s head and peered into its nose. The horse flared his nostrils and stared back, blowing some snot on Pa’s hands. Pa leaned in to look at its teeth and smell its breath, giving a small nod of his head.

“Look into both nostrils, mucous membrane lining them should be of rosy color, free from any trace of discharge, except possibly a slight watery flow; the lining of nostrils should be sound and free of any trace of alteration. The breath should be devoid of odor. The respiration should take place about ten to twelve times per minute while an animal is at rest, and about three times as frequently while at work.”

— “Buying a Horse,” Farm Journal, Wilmer Atkinson Company,

Philadelphia, Pa., September 1904

Voyons-le trotter,” Pa said.

“He’d like to see him trot,” Minnie translated.

McIlroy trotted the animal away from Pa and Minnie and back again. Pa made a crosswise motion with his hand and McIlroy trotted the animal across the barnyard so they could see him in profile.

“Next, trot the animal directly toward the examiner, who notes the gait of fore limbs in particular, and lastly trot the animal by the examiner, who notices the gait as a whole.”

— “Buying a Horse,” Farm Journal, Wilmer Atkinson Company,

Philadelphia, Pa., September 1904

The examination continued on to the eyes, jaw, neck, shoulders, knees, hooves, chest, body and hind quarters.

Finally, Pa shook his head and told Minnie he couldn’t buy this horse.

“Why not?” McIlroy said.

“He says the horse has crooked feet. No good.”

“The hoof is most liable to be defective of any part of the animal. Observe: How are the feet set on? That is, are the toes pointed outward, inward or are they directly in front of the long axis of the leg as they should be? … Note the condition of the shoe as to wear. It should show even wear, and if toe of shoe is much thinned in proportion to rest of shoe, be slow to purchase.”

— “Buying a Horse,” Farm Journal, Wilmer Atkinson Company,

Philadelphia, Pa., October 1904

Pa looked at two more horses before McIlroy showed him one he liked. A four-year-old Percheron gelding with a broad chest and strong hindquarters. His coat was jet black with a white star on his forehead. He passed all of Pa’s examinations.

“He’s called Star,” McIlroy said. “He’s not purebred, but he comes from a great line. His grand-sire was Louis 6337, who won best stallion at the Wisconsin State Fair in 1892. His dam’s sire once belonged to Fred Pabst’s stock in Milwaukee. They are the best grade Percherons in Wisconsin. I can sell him for $200.”

“Two hundred dollars? For a grade gelding?”

“As I said, he comes from the finest stock.”

“One twenty-five,” Pa said.

“One seventy-five,” McIlroy said.

“One fifty,” said Pa.


Minnie helped Pa put Clem’s old halter on Star and they took the new horse home. Pa had a noticeable spring in his step that had been missing since Clem became ill.

“A Pabst horse. How about that?” Pa said.

Pa put Star right to work, hitching him and Beau to a wagon to bring in shocks of oats from the fields. The two horses had to get used to working together, no need to delay.

“Mr. Pabst and his family controlled the Pabst Brewing Co., of Milwaukee, and employed there and in branch establishments nearly 800 draft geldings. Experience had satisfied Fred Pabst that grade Percheron geldings were the most satisfactory for heavy draft work in the cities, and his superintendent, James G. Boyd, has long been recognized as one of the shrewdest judges of durable draft geldings. … Much credit is due the Pabst establishment for showing the geldings at leading shows and for the exhibits of this firm at the Wisconsin State Fair. Every effort was made to encourage and assist small breeders in obtaining a start in Percheron horses, and a large share of the credit for Percheron improvement in Wisconsin must go to the Pabsts, father and son.”

— Alvin Howard Sanders, Ed., A History of the Percheron Horse, Chicago Breeder’s Gazette, Sanders Publishing Co., 1917, accessed through the University of Pennsylvania Annenherg Rare Book and Manuscript Library via Internet Archive.

Harvesting Wheat and Oats

“The present high price of flour has led many of the farmers of this section to clean and grind their own wheat for family use. The wheat raised in this locality this year was of exceptionally good grade, and will help to tide over the high prices brought about by the northern rust.”

- Grant County Herald, Lancaster, Wisconsin, September 28, 1904, p. 1

Tuesday, August 30 - Brought in wheat and oats. Rained at night. Alice slept with me. Had a good time.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Michigan, 1904

Beau and Star had more time to work together today. Pa put Beau in the lead horse position, since he was older and more experienced. Pa talked gently but firmly to Star whenever he approached him, showing he was in charge and could also be trusted.

Minnie worked alongside Pa and Freddie as they brought in more wheat and oats. Soon, it would be threshing time, when they’d separate the grain from the straw. With the price of flour rising, they’d grind the wheat into flour for their own use. The oats would be ground to feed the cows and horses. The straw would provide clean bedding. Nothing would go to waste.

“What, oats, barley and rye are fully matured and mostly secured. Considerable threshing has been done in the southern and central counties. The yields are mainly satisfactory. In some sections the rust which developed on oats late in the season caused some damage.”

— “Hot weather helps corn,” Weekly Crop Bulletin, Appleton Post,

Appleton, Wis., August 25, 1904.

-- Green Bay Press-Gazette, Green Bay, Wisconsin, 31 Mar 1904, p. 1

In the evening, Alice Lacrosse and Minnie played cards and recalled their days as young girls in Champion, where their fathers worked in the iron mines.

“Remember when we imagined we’d run off with a railroad agent?” Alice asked.

“A railroad agent? I was going to be carried off to New York City by a mining tycoon,” Minnie replied.

“I doubt a tycoon is going to be riding down this country road anytime soon.”

“You’re right,” said Minnie. “I may need to move to Marquette to improve my chances, eh?”

“Oh, who wants an old railroad tycoon when you have your pick of all the farmers and lumberjacks here?”

“You’re right once again,” Minnie said. “Why would I want a fancy house in the city with servants to attend to my every need? Whatever would I do with myself?”

Goodbye to Alice

Wednesday, August 31 - Went to Hville with the new horse. All young folks over to see Alice and had good time. Slept with Minnie. Plenty kisses.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Michigan, 1904

Pa enjoyed showing off his “Pabst” horse in Hermansville. He made sure everyone knew Star came from impressive lines of fine Percherons in Wisconsin. Pa’s horse tale would grow and grow over the years. Before long, Star’s mother was not just a Pabst descendant, but a grand champion mare and Mr. Pabst’s favorite.

That evening, the Gamache family hosted a sendoff party for Alice, who was returning to Champion after a month-long visit to Hermansville. Some, including Henry Raiche’s wife, Minnie, slept overnight because they were enjoying the last days of summer and didn't want them to end.

Vacations Are Over

By Lalia Mitchell

Vacations are over and back to the school

With its manifold duties we go.

Vacations are over, the text book and rule,

Instead of the fields, we must know.

There are problems to solve, there are duties to do,

There are thorn-bordered pathways of toil to pursue,

And, spit of the pains, but a dastard would shirk,

For life’s greatest pleasure’s the pleasure of work.”

-Farm Journal, September 1904, p. 308

Thursday, September 1 - Alice went home to Champion.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Michigan, 1904

In the morning, Minnie drove Alice to the railroad station in the family’s buggy, pulled by Beau. She didn’t trust Star yet, especially near the train.

“Good luck with school,” Minnie said, wrapping Alice in a long hug. “Before long, you’ll be graduating and becoming a teacher yourself.”

“God willing,” Alice said, wiping a tear from her eye.

They exchanged more kisses and hugs as the train pulled into the station. Alice boarded quickly and found a seat near the window. Minnie waved and blew kisses until the train chugged out of sight.

Back to the Fields

“As a general rule, upper peninsula crops are this year promising large and profitable yields, and it is declared by experienced farmers that for ‘quick-growing weather’ this summer has never been surpassed.”

— The L’Anse Sentinel, L’Anse, Michigan, 27 Aug 1904, p. 1

Friday and Saturday, September 2-3 - Worked in the field.

— Minnie Gamache Diary, Hermansville, Michigan, 1904

While Minnie, Freddie and Pa worked the fields with Beau and Star, some of the Upper Peninsula’s top businessmen were creating a new Upper Peninsula Publicity Bureau, with a goal to increase investment and immigration in Michigan’s north country. While the U.P. population had grown from 260,000 in 1900 to an estimated 275,000 in 1904, lands further west were growing much faster and drawing people away.

The publicity bureau would share information about upper peninsula climate, crops and available land. It would encourage industrial development, as well. The promoters included J.M. Longyear, the Marquette timber and mining magnate; the Upper Peninsula Land Company; the Soo railroad; the Duluth, South Shore & Atlantic railroad; and the I. Stephenson Company of Wells, of which J.M. Wells, of Menominee, was manager, and Daniel Wells was land commissioner.

“No favoritism will be shown for any special lands by the proposed bureau,” reported the Hancock Journal. “Its promoters will not profit more than others, and a concerted effort will be made to get every northern business man interested in the general movement. Each of the five members of the bureau will contribute $100 per month to the promotion work, so that $6,000 a year will be available from the very start."

Pa didn’t think too much about big-city promoters. He just knew he loved this 80-acre piece of property. He was thinking about buying another 40 acres to the west. The unplanned purchase of a horse this week would set that goal back a bit, but now he had the horsepower to plow up land that had been deforested by the Company.

He might need to act soon, if the UP promoters were successful, someone else might come in and buy the neighboring forty.

Pa looked to the west, where the sun set earlier and earlier each day. A fall chill was in the air. The Gamaches worked sunup to sundown in the fields, harvesting oats and wheat and getting ready for threshing time.

Summer languishes at noon

‘Neath the restful shade;

Smiles again when silvery moon

Lights the dewy glade.

On her breast are lilies white,

Found within the lake

Where she bathes, in pure delight,

‘Till the robins wake,

Singing matins at the dawn

With their voices clear,

Summer joys will soon be gone;

Autumn draweth near.

— Farm Journal, September 1904, p. 310

Notes and Further Reading

Note to Readers: Minnie's Diary is part history and part fiction, based on notes written in a 1904 daybook by Minnie Gamache. While my great-grandmother's diary entries and the news clippings are real, the rest comes from my imagination and research into life in 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.

Come See Me: The Upper Peninsula Digital Network (UPLINK) will host a two-day event at the Menominee County Library in Stephenson, Michigan, on August 12-13. I’m honored to be a featured speaker at 11 a.m. on August 12, where I’ll be talking about Minnie’s Diary and the importance of preserving local history. UPLINK is a collaborative, regional digital preservation network that shares historic digital records on their website. UPLINK is inviting local community members to digitize their family memorabilia, photographs, and cassette audio recordings to be included in this treasure trove of U.P. history. Event staff will also be available to digitally record community members’ stories and memories of life in the Upper Peninsula. The event will include mobile digitization units, a morning workshop on digital preservation and the importance of community archiving, and oral history recording booths. The event is made possible with a grant from the Michigan Humanities Council (MHC). Bring your family photos, diaries and unique records to be scanned and digitized so future generations can access our history.

Website "Forum" Deleted: When I created this website, I set up a members-only forum with the idea that we could have conversations about Menominee County history and share information. Unfortunately, I've had to take the forum down. It never achieved my original vision and I've now begun getting membership requests from people or bots with no connection to the site. If you've subscribed to the blog, this shouldn't affect you in any way. Please contact me if you have problems getting notifications of new blog posts.


A few new characters make appearances in this week’s diary. This is the first mention of “L. Raiche” and “J.N. Raiche,” and Minnie says goodbye to her friend Alice Lacrosse.

Leon Raiche, like Minnie and her parents, was born in Le Bic, a village near Rimouski in east Quebec. Leon was born to Frank and Mary Christine (Duby) Raiche in 1875 and immigrated to the United States in 1887. Since Minnie’s mother was also a Duby, they were somehow related. The 1900 U.S. Census finds Leon as a 24-year-old farmer, living near Hermansville with his wife, Mary (formerly Mary Duby), 30, along with her father, John, and 19-year-old brother, Alfred Duby. Their son, Leon Raiche Jr. was 2 and baby Delena was just two months old when the census taker called in 1900. By 1910, Leon worked as a sawyer in the lumber mill and they had added a son, Louis. Mary died in 1920 and Leon married his second wife, Demerise, in Quebec in February 1922. Based on records, it appears Leon and Demerise were first cousins. Leon’s father, Francois-Xavier Raiche, was an older brother of Demerise’s father, Antoine Raiche. Leon and Demerise had a son, Joseph Roland, who died of a cerebral hemorrhage in December 1922, six days after he was born. They also had two daughters, Gloria Marie (b. ~1926) and Muriel (or Mary) (b. ~1928). Tragically, Demerise also passed away prematurely, at age 49 in 1936. For a time, Leon and his young daughters lived with his son, Louis, on First Street in Hermansville.

In 1946, he married a third time, taking Mildred Smears Hannigan, a 50-year old widow, as his wife at age 70. Mildred, who grew up in Gladstone, Mich., had “surprised all her friends” in 1917 when she married 62-year-old James Hannigan at age 26. According to records at Find a Grave, which are not always reliable, Mildred was Hannigan’s fourth wife. Hannigan died in 1936 at age 80 and Mildred supported herself as a seamstress before marrying Leon. According to his obituary, Leon was a justice of the peace and served on the Hermansville board of education. He died in 1953 at age 81. His funeral drew quite a crowd, based on the number of out-of-town guests who attended, including Minnie’s brother, Ed Gamache.

-- The Escanaba Daily Press, Escanaba, Michigan, 11 Jun 1953, Page 3

Leon’s brother, Joseph Napoleon Raiche, was born in 1877 in Le Bic. Joseph Napoleon worked as a clerk in the department store in Hermansville. By 1904, Joe and his wife, Alida Paquin, had already lost two children in infancy — a son in 1901 and daughter in 1902. Their son Joseph Charles Raiche turned six months old on September 3, 1904. J.N.’s wife Alida died in 1921 when she was pregnant with their twelfth child. She left behind seven children, but I’m not sure what happened to them. By 1930, J.N. was managing the clothing department at a department store in Escanaba and renting a room there. None of his children were living with him, though at least three of them would have been younger than 18. When he died, Minnie's brother William served as a pallbearer.

-- The Escanaba Daily Press, 11 June 1953

-- The Escanaba Daily Press, 15 June 1953

Note: Another “Joe” Raiche — Leon and Joseph’s uncle — is a recurring character in Minnie’s Diary. He owned the farm across the road from the Gamache farm.

Alice Lacrosse (sometimes Lacroix) was 17 years old in 1904. The 1910 census shows her living with her parents in Champion with the occupation of “schoolteacher.” Newspaper stories identify an Alice Lacrosse teaching from 1909-11 in the L’anse school district in Baraga County, in the northwestern Upper Peninsula, not far from Champion. After that, I haven't been able to find her in online records.

Replacing Clem

Buying a Horse: In researching this blog entry, I read several Wisconsin and Michigan newspaper accounts of horse sales to determine the going price for a "grade" gelding. A grade horse is one whose lineage, registration and parentage is unknown. Purebred livestock are registered by their respective breed associations and can trace their lineage through those records. A purebred Percheron or Belgian stallion in 1904 might have sold for $1,000 to $3,000. A grade gelding -- a male horse who's been neutered -- would bring $150 to $200 if he was young, healthy and already trained to pull. According to one article, 2,624 horses were imported into the United States for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1904, valued at $1,090,596 -- an average of $414 each. The average Percheron imported for breeding cost $483. I'm supposing that Pierre wasn't looking for a purebred breeding horse, so he likely paid much less.

The Philadelphia-based Farm Journal carried a three-part series on buying a horse from September to November 1904. If you’re in the market for a horse, you might want to check out their timeless advice at these links:

Blue Ribbon Percherons

-- The Inter Ocean, Chicago, Ill., Dec. 24, 1905, p. 12

Pabst Percherons: It's not likely that Pierre Gamache purchased a Pabst horse descendent, but it's possible, given the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company's origins in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. By 1895, Pabst was marketing its prize-winning "Blue Ribbon Beer" -- so called because they tied blue satin ribbons around the bottle neck from 1882 to 1916. Pabst became the first brewer in the United States to sell more than a million barrels of beer in a year. In those days, it was common for horses to pull beer delivery wagons through city streets, and the Pabst Percherons in Milwaukee pre-dated the Budweiser Clydesdales. In November 1904, Professor C.F. Curtiss of Ames, Iowa, was summoned to the Chicago Horse Show when the judges couldn’t agree whether the Pabst Brewing Company Percherons from Milwaukee or the Chicago-based Morris & Co. stock yard Clydesdales should be crowned the champion six-horse team. Read the Des Moines Register article below to find out who won this dramatic contest.

-- The Des Moines Register, Des Moines, Iowa, 20 Nov 1906, p. 4

Promoting the U.P. for Farming

UP Publicity Bureau Formed: The clip below from The L’anse Sentinel describes the formation of the Upper Peninsula Publicity Bureau in 1904. The Upper Peninsula “Boom” never happened. Folks quickly found that the harsh climate and sandy U.P. soils supported trees better than farming. Farmers in my family still made a go of it in Menominee County, the U.P.’s southern-most county, where soils and climate are better. They raised dairy cattle and sold milk to the local cheese factory. Many of the county’s family farms are gone now, replaced by corporate-owned farms that harvest hay and grain to feed to cattle living in huge Wisconsin factory farms. Menominee County’s population peaked at 33,639 in the 1890 census, when the lumber industry was booming. By 2020, it had dropped to 23,502. The Upper Peninsula’s population as a whole also declined from a peak of 332,000 in 1920 to 301,000 in 2020. With the mining and logging industries mostly gone and agriculture not viable, tourism has become the U.P.’s main industry.

"The Fragrance of Heaped-Up Mows"

The Letter from Mother: I'll end with this poem from The L’anse Sentinel to remind you of home and simpler times, if you were lucky enough to grow up in the country or, even better, the U.P.

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Jul 13, 2022

Much appreciated... Great work.

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