14 September 2013

Searching Cemeteries

There’s one nice thing about dead people. They’re not going anywhere.

Several of my mother's forbears are buried in the St. Philip Neri cemetery in Empire, Michigan. The parish still exists; they even have a website. The website even has a history page.
"The history of St. Philip Neri Church begins in the middle of the 19th century when the first Catholic settlers came to the Glen Lake/Empire area. Over 30 priests have served as regular pastors here, while the descendants of the first settlers have stayed to help build the parish.

"In the year 1855 Fr. Mrack traveled from Peshawbestown to attend to the settlers' spiritual needs.… Fr. Mrack continued to serve the people of this area until his appointment as Bishop of Marquette in 1869 to succeed Bishop Baraga. Following Fr. Mrack's appointment as Bishop. Fr. Herbstrit was assigned to Suttons Bay. Upon his departure, he was followed by Fr. Zom. Fr. Shackeltown succeeded Fr. Zom, and was then himself succeeded by Fr. Zussa. Fr. Zorn then returned and remained until 1877."
This list of pastors is starting to have the same effect on my attention as the lists of begats in the Bible.
"During this time the area was becoming more populated. Frank Payment sailed the Great Lakes and landed in Glen Haven."
Wait! Frank Payment? I know Frank Payment! (I'm using 'know', here, in the genealogical sense. Frank Payment is my mother's great granduncle.)
"Impressed with the area, he encouraged several people from his hometown of Ogdensburg, N.Y., to emigrate after the Civil War, and about the year 1867 they settled in East Empire."
Or something like that. For one thing, Ogdensburg, New York wasn't Frank Payment's hometown. Frank was baptized François Xavier Payment in 1842 in Ste-Geneviève-de-Pierrefonds, near Montréal. His three older siblings, and three (maybe four) of his six (maybe seven) younger sisters were also born there. Ogdensburg is on the St. Lawrence River, immediately across from Prescott, Ontario, and guessing from census records and where the youngest three girls were born it seems the family lived in this general area for some years, sometimes on one side of the river, sometimes the other. It's still a puzzle.

I know Frank was in Michigan when he registered for military service in 1863, but then he enlisted with the 76th New York Regiment and served with New York units for the duration of the war. After the war it's clear that somebody must have rounded up the in-laws and outlaws and herded them to Michigan, but I didn't know Frank was the instigator. I still don't know why they all left Canada, or why they left New York, or how Frank came to be in Michigan in the first place. But somehow, between 1865 and 1875, nine of Frank's 10 (maybe 11) siblings, and his parents, settled within a couple of miles of each other, east of Empire, Michigan.
"Soon Masses were being held in the homes of Pat Kams and Tom Deering."
(Tom Deering was Frank's brother-in-law.)
"During this time the only road of any sort was the Benzonia Trail. To arrive at the farms where Mass was being celebrated the early settlers blazed a trail through the forest. Often they remained overnight, returning home the next day so they would have the advantage of daylight to find their way.… In 1906 parishioners built a horse barn on the northeast comer of the property to keep the horses dry and warm. It could accommodate more than 20 teams. This was a necessity because Mass frequently would start two hours late because of the number of confessions."
Who knew a parish church website could be so darned entertaining?

Anyway, the reference to Ogdensburg as Frank Payment's home town sent me off to see if I could find anything more about the time the family spent in that area. No luck with birth or marriage or death or cemetery records, and no census records I didn't already know about. Then I stumbled onto an online archive of historical newspapers from northern New York State.

Newspapers were the Facebook of their day, full of items like:
"Alexander Poirier has returned to his home in DeKalb Junction from the Ogdensburg city hospital.

"Ms. Ella O'Leary of Ogdensburg is a guest of her mother, Mrs. Julia O'Leary, in Potsdam.

"A number of venturesome people have crossed the river between Brockville and Morristown on foot during the past few days, but they are taking long chances as the channel is very unsafe and the ferrymen frequently break through the thin ice covering where the current is strongest.

"John Hazen of Canton, a student at St. Lawrence University, is spending a few days with Harold Leonard.

"An unusual accident happened recently to one of Edwin Sweet's cows on his Massina farm…"
I don't usually think to check newspapers. What fun are they, if you can't read? Most of Frank's forbears, including his parents and several of his siblings, were illiterate. Frank could read, though, so maybe it was worth a look. In the St. Lawrence Republican, Wednesday, 5 January 1915, page 3, column 3, I found this:
"Mr. and Mrs. Frank Payment and Mrs. Matilda Scott of Empire Michigan, are visiting their sister, Miss Teresa Beau."
Virtual happy dance! Frank's wife was Louisa Bow, and her hometown was Ogdensburg, New York. Since Frank also had a sister-in-law and a brother-in-law in the Bow family (long story for another post), I've been trying to track these guys down for the best part of forever. Bow can be a tricky name. It can be Bow, or Beau. Or Bean. Or Boe, or Baye or Boh, or Boie, or Boye, or Bothe, or LeBeau, or Debow, or Vanderbow… They can come from France, via Canada or not, or Scotland, or Ireland, or Germany, or China… They might have changed the way they spelled it. In fact, they did.

"Miss Teresa Beau."

I'll find them. No rush. They're not going anywhere.


  1. I love reading about family (and friend) searches. You really did an excellent job here!

  2. Ok Zoom, I'm still pondering Peshawbestown. Great find! And, yes, I know that feeling when you've been crawling through loads of records and you find a name you know! I get pretty excited and have to tell Jake all about it.

    Newspaper finds are the best. I don't have a lot of luck with the larger sources like KCLS' Newspaper Archive or LOC's Chronicling America. It's been the little genealogy archives of local papers that are hit and miss but have some gems. My gr-grandmother was a kitchen "Matron" at two colleges run by the same church. Their archived newsletters opened up a whole family line by "Mrs. Minnie xxx had a visit from her brother-in-law L.O. xxx from Fort Worth this weekend." LO had been Oscar on the first census, L.O. on the next, and then Loyd Oscar.

    And, yeah, names. Not only did the last names change and vary a lot but it seems like folks kinda of went by different first, middle and nicknames on different censuses.

    Just call me Bianca today. It's sound so much more exotic than my given name.