Plowing Through Life

52ancestors-2015Amy Johnson Crow at No Story Too Small gave us a new 52 Ancestors challenge for 2015. Each week, we have a different theme about which to write. It’s quite the challenge, but I love meeting it and reading how everyone interprets each week. Week five is “plowing through”. 

My 3rd great grandmother, Veronique Voirol, was born in Geneva, Switzerland on August 18, 1829. She is my favorite family history brick wall to research … and share. I love sharing every tidbit I find because it TAKES SO LONG to find things about this woman! I love sharing her story because it is a fascinating tale of love, marriage, children and Indian wars. We’re both plowing through, just in different ways!

I first “met” Veronique when I was a sophomore in high school and had to create a family tree project for my French class. Daddy unearthed the family bible and we thumbed through pages of records kept in the back of the bible. The first entry, as I recall, was Veronique and Joseph LeMaitre. I was enthralled with the information and, quite frankly, kind of flabbergasted that my family had these records.

Veronique Voirol LeMaitre

Daddy called the woman in this portrait “the Indian woman”. I think this is Veronique Voirol.             I’d be happy to prove or disprove that thought!

The French Fur Trapper and the Indian Woman

Ever since, Veronique and Joseph have always been the beginning of my dad’s family in America. As the story goes, Joseph came to America from France in the early 1800s. He was a fur trapper and lived among the Blackfoot Sioux. He fell in love with a young Blackfoot woman, whisked her away back to France to be educated, then returned years later … from this union came my dad’s people.

Tall Tale.

So, what really happened?

Veronique was not a member of the Blackfoot Sioux tribe. Rather the daughter of Claire Celestine Geradian and Louis Voirol, both born in Switzerland. The couple married on May 23, 1827 in Switzerland. Sometime thereafter, they arrived in America with a pastel of children.

The Allen County, Indiana naturalization records indicate a Joseph Voirol, possibly a son, arrived in New York from Liverpool via ship Asia on July 15, 1852. Another records shows Louis arriving on the same date in 1854. I have found no record of a ship arriving on this date in 1854, so will surmise Louis arrived with Joseph. But, I don’t know who Joseph Voirol is.

Joseph and Veronique were married on December 24, 1852. If she arrived with Louis in July of that year, she made quick work of marriage! Eventually, I’ll piece all of this together. I have, at least, broken through a bit of my brick wall and pinned down her parents.

The French Fur Trapper who was also an Indian Scout

The more truthful part of the LeMaitre story is that of Joseph. He was born in France on January 28, 1831. I have no idea who his parents are, if he had siblings, or how/when he arrived in America. He lived in the Minnesota Territory and was recognized as an Indian Scout on his gravestone. I’m unaware of many White men who were Indian Scouts … so, I imagine he lived among the Sioux in some capacity.

There are a lot of missing pieces and empty spaces in the lives of Veronique and Joseph. After they were married in Indiana, and after the birth of their first three (maybe four) children, Joseph moved the family back to Minnesota. They lived in a relatively unpopulated portion of the territory … with the Dakota Sioux pretty close by.

Veronique gave birth to four more children in Minnesota … one of whom was my great-great grandmother, Isabell.

The family lived in Minnesota during the Great Sioux Uprising of 1862. Joseph was a member of the Hutchinson, Minnesota, Guard from August to November of that year and was one of the nine men who set out to retrieve Nathan Lamson on the evening he killed Chief Little Crow.

Homestead Act

The Homestead Act of 1862 allowed American citizens (or those who intended on becoming so) to claim 160 acres of government surveyed land. The trade off was that the land had to be cultivated and the claimant had to build a home on the land. After five years, the property belonged to the claimant … the only payment was a small registration fee.

Joseph claimed his land in a part of Minnesota where most families didn’t make it for the required five years … it was just too hard … and land was left abandoned.

Joseph died in 1870 … before his five years counted down. For three years, Veronique and her children plowed through … literally and figuratively … and on March 20, 1873, 120 acres of land in McLeod, Minnesota was transferred to the widow of Joseph LeMaitre.

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