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Minnie's Diary #9: Pope Bans Women Singers, Northwoods Cold Lingers

Sunday, 21 February, 1904 - Went to Mass. Fred Belmore over. Fred Dubey. Del stopped. Fred B. never came back; good. Ha! Ha!

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

“You can’t disagree with the Pope! Isn’t that a sin?”

Minnie Gamache looked askance at 14-year-old Fred Belmore, her brother Freddie’s friend from school.

“I’m not saying I disagree with the Holy Father. I’m just saying I don’t understand why women and girls cannot sing in the choir at Mass. It doesn’t make sense.”

“Makes sense to me,” Fred Belmore said. “Who wants to listen to a bunch of women screeching anyway?” He tilted his head back and began singing in a high, off-tone pitch:

“Ave, Ave, Ave Mareeeee-ah!

“Ave, Ave Mar-eeeee-eeeee-yah!”

Béni soit Dieu. Blessed be God," said Minnie. "Stop your blasphemy, Frederick. Women have beautiful voices. Why can't we praise God with song, just like the men and boys?”

Minnie’s cousin, Fred Dubey, interrupted, trying to calm the situation. “Well, as Father Glaser said this morning, Pope Pius X has granted the American church more time. We can’t implement his order right away.”

“Yes, thank heavens,” Minnie said. “I don’t know how our little church can do it. We all know most of the men and boys are in the woods all winter long. When can they go to choir practice? Anyways, I like the hymns we've always sung.”

Minnie stood up, took a breath and started singing.

Holy God, we praise Thy Name;

Lord of all, we bow before Thee!

All on earth Thy scepter claim,

All in Heaven above adore Thee;

Infinite Thy vast domain,

Everlasting is Thy reign.

Infinite Thy vast domain,

Everlasting is Thy reign.

By the time Minnie reached the chorus, most of the men had joined in. Except Fred Belmore, who covered his ears and shook his head back and forth.

“I hear that enough every third Sunday at church,” he declared. “Arrêt! Stop!”

"If you don't like singing, you can leave," Minnie told him. "No one is making you stay."

With that, Fred Belmore headed out the door.

Pope Pius X Preferred Gregorian Chants

Not long after he became pontiff in 1903, Pope Pius X ordered a return to Gregorian chants at Mass, accompanied, if at all, by organ music. The Pope prohibited pianos, bands, string instruments and “also that of noisy or frivolous instruments, such as drums, cymbals, bells and the like.”

Of women he said, “Singers in church have a real liturgical office, and, therefore, women, being incapable of exercising such office, cannot be admitted to form any part of the choir of the musical chapel.” According to the Pope’s decree, boys should sing the soprano and alto parts.

“Well, I don’t care whether women sing or not,” Fred Dubey said.

Minnie looked around the room at Del, the two Freds, and her three brothers and realized she was outnumbered.

“The women will be busy making new choir robes,” said Minnie’s brother Ed, trying to help but not succeeding. “Father said the choir members have to wear robes with a tunic over it.”

“And they have to stand behind a grating,” Minnie added. “I guess the men will be busy, too, putting up a wall in the choir loft. A bunch of boys hiding behind a screen during Mass? What could possibly go wrong?”

That morning, Father Glaser also announced that the Pope had established a Jubilee to last three months.

“The Jubilee grants a special indulgence to the faithful,” Father Glaser said. “To earn the indulgence, you must visit the church three times to pray as the Holy Father tells us. And, you must go to confession, take Holy Communion and observe one extra day of fasting, eating only one small meal and no meat, eggs, milk or meat products. This is known as the ‘black fast.’”

Rev. Frederick Glaser.

Father Glaser read from the Pope’s letter, which emphasized prayer and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating 50 years since Pope Pius IX had proclaimed Mary sin-free from the moment she was conceived — a doctrine known as the Immaculate Conception.

“We earnestly cherish that through this extraordinary gift of Jubilee granted by Us under the auspices of the Immaculate Virgin, large numbers of those who are unhappily separated from Jesus Christ may return to Him, and that love of virtue and fervor of devision may flourish anew among the Christian people,” Pope Pius X wrote, encouraging the faithful to imitate the Virgin’s life and restore all things in Christ.

Minnie wondered how the church could venerate the Virgin Mary and yet be so afraid of allowing women to participate in the Holy Mass. But being a good Catholic, she mostly kept those thoughts to herself. It's surely a mystery, she thought.

Every Flake of Winter Snow Still With Us

Monday, 22 February, 1904 - Very cold.

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

“The police of Marinette and Menominee have been kept more than busy during the late cold weather in keeping the hobos on the move. These people avoid Green Bay, which has a workhouse with a good-sized stone pile conveniently at hand.”

Sturgeon Bay Advocate, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, February 20, 1904

-- Sturgeon Bay Advocate, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, February 27, 1904.

Tuesday, 23 February, 1904 - Sewed on quilts.

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

As her quilt came together, Minnie imagined putting it on her own bed in her own house.

“Some day,” she thought.

Logging While the Ice and Snow Remain

Wednesday, 24 February, 1904 - Men went up the camp.

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

“It’s cold now, but it’s pert near spring,” said Peter Gamache. “We need to help get the last logs out.”

“Yah, soon it will be too warm for the sprinkler,” said Edmund Gamache.

“Well, aren’t you the experienced lumberjack,” Minnie said with a smile. Although her oldest brother was only 16, this year marked his fifth winter in the lumber camp. He left school after fourth grade to help on the farm and in the woods, bringing in extra money to support the family.

Ed worked in the crews that trimmed the branches off felled trees and cut them into logs. They loaded the logs onto a sled, and oxen or draft horses pulled the loads either to the mill via iced roads or to a railroad siding. This time of year, they needed extra crews and extra horses to get all the logs out.

“I’m just happy I’m not on the sprinkler sled anymore,” Ed said. “That’s a cold and thankless job.”

“It’s not thankless,” said Pa. “The horses and Teamsters give thanks for you every morning.”

The sprinkler men worked all night long to create an icy, two-track path. The crews also sanded the downhill grades so the logging sleds wouldn’t run away from the teamsters and smash into the horses. As spring approached, they counted on cold weather at night to keep the roads icy enough so logs wouldn't get stranded in the woods.

Best Thing the Government Has Done Yet

Thursday, 25 February, 1904 - Wrote to A.F. Had a note from Emily.

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

With the men gone to camp, Minnie found a quiet place to write a letter to her childhood friend, Arthur Frechette, a 23-year-old laborer working at F.W. Read sawmill in Michigamme, Michigan. Arthur and Minnie had kept in touch through regular letters, even though the Gamache family had moved away nine years ago.

“It’s quiet here with the men gone to camp,” Minnie wrote. “Just me and Ma to take care of the farm. Freddie’s finishing up the 9th grade this year, but taking a break to help with the logging this week. He can't wait to be done with school and work in the woods next winter with all the men."

Papa had finally installed a mailbox, giving the Gamaches rural free mail delivery at last. After several years of local experiments, the postal service expanded rural delivery across the country in July 1902. But every home had to install a mailbox that met postal requirements.

-- Sturgeon Bay Advocate, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, February 27, 1904.

“I think your Pa liked to go to Hermansville to get the mail,” Aurora Gamache said. “He said he liked stopping there for coffee.”

“Oh sure,” Minnie said with a laugh. “Coffee made with corn and malt? I guess the cold weather finally made him change his mind.”

When the mail arrived, Minnie found a note from Emily Gagnon.

“Let’s go to Hermansville Friday,” Emily wrote. “The children have a day off, so I’m free from school for the day.”

A Friday Trip to Hermansville

Friday, 26 February, 1904 - Went to Hville. Went to Mrs. Paquin’s. She was sick

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

Emily and Minnie had a fine day in town, visiting the library, the general store and stopping by the Lavigne house to gossip with Mamie and Anna.

“I don’t know how much more I can take at that school,” Emily told them. “Every other day it seems like they’re sending someone by to check on me, usually someone connected to the school board.”

“Are parents still complaining about the classroom?” Mamie asked.

“Not that I know of,” Emily said. “I keep everything shipshape. I just don’t like the feeling I’m being watched, and one wrong move could boot me out.”

On their way home, Minnie stopped by the Paquin house to say hello but they found Mrs. Paquin was sick in bed. After making sure she didn't need anything, Minnie left early, saying a prayer that Mrs. Paquin would feel better soon.

"Dearth of Amusements" Since Lent Began

Sunday, 28 February, 1904 - Fred & Del stopped. Chas. & Jack here.

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

“There’s nothing to do around here these days,” Minnie's cousin, Charlie Arsenault, complained, to no one in particular. “No dances. No shows. Nothin’.”

“What do you expect? It’s Lent,” replied Minnie. "And we do live in Hermansville, after all. If you want excitement, you might be able to find it in Escanaba or Powers."

"Oh, not even there," lamented Charlie. "No fun allowed this time of year."

-- Sturgeon Bay Advocate, February 27, 1904, Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

“My mother would kill me if she saw me in a saloon during Lent,” said Jack Massie, “but she thinks it’s wonderful that I’m calling on ‘that pretty Gamache girl.’”

“If she only knew you were just here for the beer,” said Del Paquin, putting his arm around Minnie to make sure Jack knew he claimed her.

Minnie shrugged Del off and stood up to refresh everyone’s drinks, enjoying the attention.

“It’s OK to drink beer on Sundays during Lent. Sundays are a day for rejoicing. That’s what my Pa says,” said Minnie.

Just then, Peter Gamache came in from the barn. He furrowed his brows and looked sternly at his three sons and the four visitors, making themselves at home in his kitchen. “You boys planning to drink my house dry?”

“Uh, I’m just having one, Mr. Gamache,” said Del, with an alarmed glance toward Minnie, as if to say, “you sure we can drink your Pa’s beer?”

“He’s just teasing, boys. Who wants another one?” said Minnie, and the stern face fell off of Peter Gamache as he laughed and joined them for a drink.


Notes and 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: Thanks to everyone who has reached out to say you've enjoyed reading my blog and learning about Minnie and the history of Hermansville. 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 will never share or sell your contact information to others. I will send you an email each time I post a new blog entry.

Characters: New characters appearing in Minnie’s diary this week are A.F. (Arthur Frechette), Fred Dubey, John (Jack) Massey Jr. and Fred Belmore (Bellmore).

Arthur Frechette, 23, of Michigamme, regularly corresponds with Minnie throughout the year, but never visits Hermansville. He was likely working six days a week at the F.W. Read & Co. sawmill in Michigamme. You can read more about the company in the ebook "Marquette in 1900." Arthur's father Adolphus, an immigrant from the Trois-Rivières region of Quebec, was just 53 when he died in May 1901. His mother, Emma Baril Frechette, was left with three adult children and six minors, including twin 4-year-old boys. She never remarried, living with her children until she died in 1941 at the age of 82. Arthur also remained single throughout his short life. He died in 1925 from a heart condition. He was 44.

Marquette County, Mich., in early 1900s, showing Michigamme and Champion at far west end.

Fred Dubey, 23, was the younger brother of Louis Dubey, who has appeared in previous blog posts. Born in French Canada in 1880, he lived in Menominee County in the early 1900s. I haven’t been able to trace his life story past the 1920 census, when he was working as a laborer in the Hermansville flooring factory and living with Louis's daughter, Clara, and her husband.

John (Jack) Massey Jr., 19, was the son of John and Jane Massey. Like the Gamache family, the Masseys lived in Champion before moving to Hermansville. Jack was working with his father in the iron mines there as early as age 15, according to the 1900 census. Jack worked for the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Co. in Hermansville in various positions during the years, including night watchman in 1917.

I had a hard time writing about Fred Belmore, one of the few people that Minnie clearly did not like. He was about 14 years old in 1904, so perhaps he had stopped by to visit with Minnie’s brother and somehow annoyed the older crowd. Fred Belmore had a difficult life. In 1907, his father was struck by lightning and became an invalid, spending the end of his life at the state asylum in Newberry, Michigan. As the oldest son, Fred helped his mother, Mary Belmore, to manage the family farm. He was single and living with his mother until September 1934, when, at age 43, he finally married a woman with a young child. Three months later, Fred killed himself in the barn. The death certificate blamed “temporary insanity.” I don’t know what demons Fred B. struggled with or why Minnie didn’t care for him. It’s a reminder to be kind and reach out to people when they’re in trouble.

Women’s Voices in Catholic Church Choirs: The Roman Catholic church played a central role in family life in those days. Pope Leo VIII died in July 1903 and his successor, Giuseppe Melchiorre Sarto, AKA Pope Pius X, was a bit of a surprise choice to be the new pope. Pius X wasted no time in issuing orders, including forbidding women to sing in church choirs and requiring Gregorian chants to replace more modern hymns. By early February, the Pope granted the American church more time to substitute men and boys for women.

Although boys’ choirs have been around for many centuries, the Pope’s order led to the formation of a number of famous choirs, including the choir immortalized in the film the “Bells of St. Mary’s.” I'd like to do more research to see if rural Catholic churches in the Upper Peninsula had male-only choirs during this time. If anyone has any old church programs from 1904-1914, let me know.

Wood County Reporter (Grand Rapids, Wisconsin) · 5 Feb 1904.

Typical Hymns in 1904: I wondered what music choirs might have sung in those days. They include several old hymns that the ladies loved to sing when I was a girl growing up at St. Bruno’s church in nearby Nadeau. Here are a few hymns predating 1904 that my Catholic readers will surely recognize:

Holy God, we praise Thy Name

Holy God, we praise Thy Name;

Lord of all, we bow before Thee!

All on earth Thy scepter claim,

All in Heaven above adore Thee;

Infinite Thy vast domain,

Everlasting is Thy reign.

Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty!

Holy, holy, holy! Lord God Almighty!

Early in the morning our song shall rise to Thee.

Holy, holy, holy! Merciful and mighty,

God in three Persons, blessed Trinity!

Faith of Our Fathers

Faith of our Fathers! living still

In spite of dungeon, fire, and sword:

Oh, how our hearts beat high with joy

Whene'er we hear that glorious word.

Faith of our Fathers! Holy Faith!

We will be true to thee till death.

Immaculate Mary

Immaculate Mary!

Our hearts are on fire;

That title so wondrous

Fills all our desire!

Ave, Ave, Ave Maria!

Ave, Ave Maria!

1 Comment

Paula Pepin Prewett
Paula Pepin Prewett
Feb 27, 2021

Thank you! I love reading about the French Canadian ways of life. My Pepin and Jacques family came from Trois Riviers to Manchester NH in 1884 and then were living in Los Angeles CA in 1904. Very little of the old French culture, and even if there was some in my family I would not have known that was what it was. But all the grandparents and great uncles spoke French when they were together, as I observed as a child in the 1960's.

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