top of page
  • jodiperras

Minnie's Diary #8: Went to Camp, Brought a Baby Home

Monday, 15 February, 1904 - Em went home. Ma & I went to the camp. Ed there. Brought Marie home. cold.

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

Inside the cook's camp house, the Menards were cooking the noon dinner and Aldia Duby was scrubbing the floor. 17-month-old Marilda Duby toddled around the dining room, hands reaching out for anything interesting she could put into her mouth. Minnie stopped her from picking up a discarded cigar and scooped her up for a hug.

The day started at 3 a.m. for the camp cooks. When the chore boy woke at 4 a.m., the Menards were already at work, baking cookies and getting beans in the oven. At 4:35 a.m., the chore boy blew the wakeup horn and the "jacks" would rise and pull on the same clothing and socks they had worn the day before. Laundry day was on Sunday.

Another blow of the horn called the lumber crews to breakfast at 5 a.m. The jacks dug into the stacks of flapjacks, baked beans, bacon and potatoes. They drank coffee and devoured cookies and cakes. No talking was allowed, other than a quiet request to pass a dish.

Logging camp mess hall. Source:

"Did you hear about that city dude who wouldn't shut his mouth on his first day here?" said Deleon Menard.

"Oh, yah. I remember that day," said his wife, Mary, a big smile on her face.

"What happened?" asked Minnie.

"First, he complained that the potatoes were burnt. Then he said the coffee had shoe polish in it. Next thing you know, Mary was standing over him with her long knife. 'What's that you said about the coffee, greenhorn?' The city feller took one look at Mary and said, 'I was just saying, the coffee has shoe polish in it, but that's just the way I like it!'"

Since they were nearing the season's end, the jacks working a mile away from the camp to get in the last logs. At 11 a.m., the Menards loaded stewed beef, beans and potatoes onto a sled along with gallons of hot coffee. The chore boy hauled the sled out to the lumberjacks and later took the dirty dishes back to camp.

Once one meal ended, the cooks had to clean up and prepare for the next. The Gamache women helped Aldia clean the cook house, keeping a close eye on Marie and catching up on gossip as they worked. They scrubbed hard and laughed harder, then ate a hearty meal of beef and potatoes for their own dinner.

"Let us take Marie home for the week," said Minnie, scooping the baby up in her arms. "She'll be safe and warm at our house,”

“Why, sure, that would be nice,” her mother said. "It's hard to keep her out of trouble here."

Aldia Duby's brother, Ed Paquin, strode into the cook house in mid-afternoon, bringing some supplies to the camp. He smiled when he saw Minnie holding his niece on her lap.

“My little sisters keep asking for you, ever since you visited last week,” Ed said, then raised his voice to a high pitch to imitate Jenny and Laura. “ ‘Where’s Minnie? When is Minnie coming back?’ I think you owe them another visit.”

“Oh, sure. Tell them I’ll stop by later this week with Marie,” Minnie said.

"They may be more happy to see you than the baby," Ed replied with a wink, then paused and rubbed his chin as though he was thinking. "Maybe you need to find yourself a husband and have your own little ones."

"Sure, sure. I just haven't found the right fellow yet. Let me know when he shows up," Minnie replied.

Tuesday, 16 February, 1904 - Made a dress for Marie. Del stopped on his way to the camp.

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

While Aurora played with Marie, Minnie found a dress pattern and cut pieces for a new dress, using some surplus blue fabric her mother had on hand. After stitching the dress together, she added a collar and some lace, and a bow around the waist.

“Such a pretty girl!” said Minnie. “Your mother won’t know you!”

Later in the evening, Minnie asked her father how to observe the Lenten fast.

"Fasting? The bishop says you don't have to fast until you're 21, Minnie," said Pierre Gamache.

"Je le sais. I know, but I want to," Minnie replied.

"OK. Most important, we don't eat meat on Wednesdays, Fridays or Sundays. And even on the days when we can eat meat, we have it only once, at dinnertime."

"What about breakfast and supper?"

"In the morning, you can have a little bread with a cup of tea, coffee, or milk. In the evening, we have a light supper with no meat, usually something with eggs, butter, cheese and milk."

"Sounds like crepes to me."

"Oui, Mama sometimes makes crepes. Or a quiche. Or omelette au fromage."

"Macaroni au fromage, too," Minnie said.

"Oui, and I'll bring home fish, so Mama can make fresh fish, fish cakes, or fish stew for dinnertime."

"Ice fishing! I don't know how you can stand to be out on the ice like that," Minnie replied.

"You know what they say," said Pierre. "Give a man a fish, you'll feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, you'll get rid of him for a whole week-end!"


Wednesday, 17 February, 1904 (Ash Wednesday) - washed

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

Ash Wednesday, one of the church’s solemn holy days, required a day-long fast. Each time Minnie's stomach growled, she remembered the 40 days Jesus spent fasting in the desert.

While keeping an eye on Marie, Minnie and Aurora washed the family’s clothing by hand, along with bedsheets and towels. They wrung the clothing and sheets as dry as they could and hung them on lines stretched around the kitchen and dining room.

Minnie played “peek-a-boo” with Marie from behind the hanging sheets, sending the baby into fits of laughter.

Thursday, 18 February, 1904 - Ed stopped on his way. went to Mrs. Paquin with the babe.

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

Ed Paquin surprised Minnie when he called on his way to the camp. He carried a message from Mrs. Paquin, asking to see her granddaughter. Ed stepped close to Minnie, who was holding Marie, and made faces to make the baby laugh. Or, was he flirting with Minnie?

Ed stayed to visit for a while before heading off to the camp.

“He just came to deliver a message and nothing else,” Minnie thought, but inside her, she'd noticed that a warm glow emerged whenever Ed came near.

"What am I doing?" she thought.

Although she was dating Ed’s brother, she couldn’t help noticing the difference between 17-year-old Del and his 27-year-old older brother. One naive and foolish, the other smart and mature. One searching, the other settling down. One a teen, the other a man.

At the Paquin house that afternoon, the women and girls took turns spoiling Marie. Jennie and Laura especially enjoyed having their little niece in the house. They held Marie and brushed her hair. They sang Alouette over and over again, teaching Marie hand motions to learn words for head, beak, eyes and other body parts.

Alouette, gentille alouette,

Alouette, je te plumerai.

Je te plumerai la tête

Je te plumerai la tête

Et la tête!

Et la tête!




That night, Minnie sang the Frère Jacques lullaby to help Marie go to sleep, then tucked her tightly into bed and gave her a kiss on the forehead.

Frère Jacques, frère Jacques

Dormez-vous ? Dormez-vous ?

Sonnez les matines, sonnez les matines

Ding, dang, dong ! Ding, dang, dong !


Brother Jacques, Brother Jacques

Are you sleeping? Are you sleeping?

Ring the morning bells, ring the morning bells

Ding, ding, dong ! Ding, ding, dong !

Friday, 19 February, 1904 - went to bring baby home. Permel came back with us

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

Permelia Paquin, 13, was helping her sister Aldia with camp cleanup when the Gamache women arrived with Marie. Aldia oohed and aahed over her daughter's new dress. After saying a good-bye to the baby, Minnie and Aurora gave Perm a ride back home, inviting her to join them Saturday on a trip to Hermansville.

"We're walking the Chemin de la Croix," Aurora said, making a solemn sign of the cross.

Saturday, 20 February, 1904 - went to Hville. Em, Permelia, ma and I

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

Inside St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Aurora, Minnie, Emily and Permelia joined with other Catholic faithful to walk the fourteen Stations of the Cross (Chemin de la Croix). The stations visually represented the story of the crucifixion, from Pontius Pilate sentencing Jesus to death to the moment Joseph of Arimethea placed his body in a tomb.

Le Notre Père (The Our Father)

Notre Père qui es aux cieux:

que ton nom soit sanctifié;

que ton règne vienne;

que ta volonté soit faite…

Because many immigrants in Hermansville, including Aurora Gamache, were illiterate, they could not read the Bible or printed materials with Lenten devotions. They needed something else. Walking the Chemin de la Croix brought them visually and spiritually into Jesus’s suffering. The women silently prayed the rosary as they walked, pausing at each of the 14 plaques hanging in St. Mary’s Church. They began with the sign of the cross and the Apostles Creed; the Our Father; three Hail Marys for faith, hope and charity; then the Glory Be. Minnie announced the first station, "Jesus is condemned to death." They silently said an Our Father and 10 Hail Marys while meditating on the station, then walked on to the second station. And so they continued around the church.

St. Mary's Church. Photo credit: Lynda Kae Gurgall

Le Je Vous Salue, Marie (Hail Mary)

Je vous salue, Marie, pleine de grâces, le Seigneur est avec vous;

vous ętes bénie entre toutes les femmes, et Jésus le fruit de vos entrailles, est béni.

Sainte Marie, Mčre de Dieu, priez pour nous pécheurs,

maintenant, et ŕ l'heure de notre mort. Amen.

When they’d finished the 14th station, where Jesus is laid in the tomb, they prayed the Glory Be and the Hail Holy Queen.

Gloire au Pére (Glory Be)

Photo credit: Lynda Kae Gurgall

Gloire au Pére, et au Fils, et

au Saint-Esprit.

Comme Il état au commencement,

maintenant et toujours,

pour les siècles des siècles. Amen.

Glory be to the Father,

and to the Son,

and to the Holy Spirit.

As it was in the beginning, is now,

and ever shall be,

world without end. Amen.

Notes & Further Reading

Disclaimer: While the diary entries above are real, 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

Subscribe to Minnie's Diary: If you don’t want to miss an update to Minnie’s Diary, subscribe to my blog by clicking on the link at the bottom of the page. I won’t share or sell your contact information to others. I will send you an email each time I post a new blog entry.

Characters: The baby "Marie" makes her first appearance in the diary this week. Marie was a bit of a mystery. Based on Minnie’s diary entries, she was very young girl living at camp in 1904. I searched census records to find a French Canadian girl born between 1900 and 1903 named Marie or Mary living in Hermansville, with no luck. I also searched in neighboring communities and in Champion. Although I found several possibilities, I decided that "Marie" was most likely Marilda Duby, the 17-month-old daughter of Louis and Aldia (Paquin) Duby. Louis Joseph Dube was born in Rimouski in 1861 or 1862, and likely related somehow to Minnie's mother, Aurora (Dubé) Gamache. He made an earlier appearance in the diary when he gave Minnie a ride from Hermansville on a bitter cold day. Louis's wife, Aldia Paquin, was also Ed and Del's sister. Later in the year, the Dubys leave all their children in Minnie's care for a few days. In addition to being a farmer, Louis also worked in logging camps and Aldia later worked as a school janitor, so it makes sense for them to be working at the logging camp.

Another new character this week is Permelia Paquin, 13, another Paquin offspring. She is the younger sister of Aldia, Ed, Fred and Del Paquin and older sister of Jennie and Laura. The Paquins also had a 10-year-old son, Albert.

Logging History: The Dickinson County Library in Iron Mountain, Michigan, has some great on-line resources about the early history of the area, including this slide presentation filled with stories and photos of logging camps. Another resource is the 1952 book, When Pine Was King, by Lewis C. Reimann. Reimann's book details how Michigan's logging boom was poorly managed and enriched the timber barons, but left the lumberjacks and lumber towns with little wealth and no long-term prosperity. His book includes this poem by Rev. Lloyd Frank Merrell, a preacher and one of the earliest conservation advocates in Michigan.

The Pine Tree

I might have seen the pine tree

Securely clasp the loam

to poise a harp of emerald

And crotch a squirrel-home.

I might have seen her jewels

At autumn's auction sale,

But I was blind computing

The lumber it would scale.

French Folk Songs: At our family reunions, Minnie's grandchildren and great-grandchildren sometimes sing Allouette, usually with comical results. (You all know what I'm talking about.) I’m not sure what other songs Minnie would have sung to little Marie, but I know that our family loves to sing and French Canadians are generally known for their love of song. Visit the Smithsonian’s Folkways recordings website to hear snippets of folk songs from French Canada's early days.

Lent or Carême: Ash Wednesday begins the 46-day journey of Lent (Carême in French). I was curious about how Roman Catholics in 1904 celebrated Lent and found the article below from a Boston newspaper, the Sacred Heart Review of February 13, 1904. The stations of the cross are traditionally walked on Fridays, but I decided to offer them at St. Mary’s on a Saturday. Minnie, her mother and her friends might have gone to Hermansville for some other reason that day, such as to visit or shop. Thanks to Lynda Kay Gurgall for current photos of the interior of St. Mary's Church. The church was built in 1902 but fire gutted the interior in March 1949, and another remodeling took place in 1987. The current stations of the cross are new, but meant to closely match the ones they replaced.

445 views0 comments


bottom of page