Joseph Pierre Boisvert 1852-1912

Joseph Pierre Boisvert was born July 10, 1852 in St-Christophe d’ Arthabaska, Quebec. He was the son of Narcisse Boisvert and Marguerite Ouellet.

 

 

Around the world

The Crimean War between Russia and the allies (Britain, France, Ottoman Turks, joined by Sardinia – Piedmont began in 1853. Out of the Crimean War came Florence Nightengales theories in modern nursing. In 1857 India mutinies against British rule. The American Civil war begins in 1861.

In 1865, President Abraham Lincoln is assassinated and the United States abolish slavery. The United States buys Alaska from Russia in 1867. General Custer and his men are killed by Sioux Indians in 1876. Jack the Ripper murders six women in 1888. The Spanish American war took place in 1898.

Artists and philosophers of Josephs time were Herman Melville, Verdi, Walt Whitman, Karl Marks, Manet, Leo Tolstoy, Edward Degas, Lewis Carroll, Johann Strauss, Jules Verne, Mark Twain, Charles Darwin, Auguste Rodin, Dostojesvsky, Tchaikovsky, Vincent Van Gogh, Sir Conan Doyle, Rudyard Kipling, H.G. Wells, Puccini, Chekov, Sygmund Freud, Monet, Jack London, Cezanne, Upton Sinclair,  Frank Lloyd Wright and Picasso.

World advancements include: The modernization of small arms by S. Colt in 1853. The invention of the printing telegraph. The first practical combustible engine was built in 1860 by Lenoir. In 1862 Richard Gatling patents the machine gun. Louis Pasteur invents pasteurization (for wine).

Alfred Nobel invents dynamite in 1866. The first color photographs were developed in 1873. In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invents telephone, followed by the phonograph by Thomas Edison. The light bulb is invented in 1879. Nichola Tesla invents electric motor in 1888. Hertz identifies radio waves.

The Eiffel Tower is built in 1889. The first moving picture is shows in 1890. Henry Ford builds first car in 1893. In 1899, aspirin is first manufactured. The first flight by the Wright brothers in 1903. Ford Motor Company is established and Albert Einsteins Special Theory of Relativity is published in 1905.

 

Life in Danville, Quebec

Joseph Pierre Boisvert was 5th of 11 children for Narcisse and Marguerite. Though born in Arthabaska, which is about 60 kilometers south of Grondines, Quebec. By 1856, the family had moved to the town of Danville in Richmond Township.

Both Arthabaska and Danville are located in an area called The Eastern Townships. The region is famous across Canada and internationally for its scenic beauty and history.

Joseph grew up during the industrial revolution. The areas main city, Sherbrooke was part of this revolution. It had substantial mills and factories, not to mention the railroad (Grand Trunk Railway) which ran from to Montreal to Portland, Maine.

 

French Canadian Emigration to the U.S.A1

Between 1840 and 1930 roughly 900, 000 French Canadians left Canada to emigrate to the United States. This important migration, which has now been largely forgotten in Quebec’s collective memory, is certainly one of the major events in Canadian demographic history.

 

Causes of French Canadian Emigration

The costs associated with emigration are economical, emotional and cultural. When individuals leave, assets have to be liquidated, often at a loss. Many material possessions have to be left behind. Then there is the cost of transportation to their intended destination, and the cost of sustaining themselves during their travel. Lastly, there will be further costs of settlement, once the destination has been reached.

To migrate often means to leave behind beloved family and friends with whom long association have forged strong emotional ties If one immigrates from a region that has particular cultural characteristics, such as way of life, language, religion and traditions, that are quite different from the host society then one will have to adapt to a far greater extent.

The greater the costs, economical, emotional and cultural, the less likely one is to leave one’s country for another.

While some French Canadians emigrated to the United States for political reasons, an overwhelming percentage of emigrants left for economic reasons.

The fundamental underlying causes of French-Canadian emigration can be found in the unequal levels of industrial development, and thus of standards of living, between Quebec and New England.

The industrial gap created an economic climate where thousands of French Canadians were pushed to emigrate in order to earn a living.

Throughout the 19th century, Quebec experienced very rapid population growth. However, by the 1830’s and 1840’s, Quebec’s most fertile farm land had been occupied, leaving marginal regions open to agricultural colonization. Between 1784 and 1844, Quebec’s population increased by about 400 %, while its total area of agricultural acreage rose only by 275 %, creating an important deficit of available farmland.

After the 1850’s, colonization began in several regions. Slowly, French-Canadians began to farm in the Laurentians, the Saguenay-Lake St-John, the Lower St. Lawrence and the Matapedia Valley, certain forested or unexploited areas of the Ottawa Valley and the Eastern Townships, and, eventually as far north as the Temiscaming. In the last quarter of the 19th century, French Canadians would also begin to emigrate to Eastern Ontario, and, in smaller numbers, to Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Alberta

The regions of Quebec that began to be actively colonized in the second half of the 19th century suffered either from a lack of fertility, a difficult access to major markets, a short growing season, or a combination of all three factors. For many, farming in these areas was only a part time activity. These farmers participated in an economy based on agriculture and forestry.

In the 19th century, and for a good part of the 20th, Quebec’s banking network was vastly deficient, largely concentrated in major cities, and overwhelmingly English. Banks that did have branches in rural parishes were few, frequently smaller French-Canadian institutions, regional in their scope, and had a smaller access to capital. They tended to lend money to the local elite and exluded the farmers. Farmers frequently had to turn to local usurers for credit, with all the problems which usury entails. The problem of indebtedness was related to the low productivity of the Quebec farms.

Thus, credit problems, and poverty were an important motivators for emigration. Farmers all over Quebec would have to migrate to big cities in order to find work either to pay off their debts, or after their farms had been foreclosed.

Farmers who left their land were naturally attracted to the factories of the United States. Most of these emigrants that left found more stable, higher paying work in the USA. For many farmers, industrial work represented a successful social gain. American life was, for many emigrants, especially in the 19th century, their first real contact with the wonders of electricity, running water, a steady paycheck, and annual holidays!

 

Where did the emigrants go?

Roughly from the 1840’s to the 1860’s, emigrants tended to head for Northern New York State, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. However, by the 1870’s and 1880’s, as industrialization progressed in New England and railway ties between Quebec and the North Eastern United States became more solid, emigration patterns shifted from the States of Northern New England to the textile towns of Massachusetts, Rhode Island and, to a lesser extent, Connecticut.

Family and parochial ties played an important role in stimulating and channelling emigration. Often, the emigration of an entire nuclear family would begin with the departure of a couple of its members who would sound out the general situation in a given town and then would send for the rest of their family. Cousins, uncles and nephews would often join the initial family before bringing their own relatives down, creating a pattern of settlement where family ties became the primary source of support and information in the United States. This pattern would often ensure that certain American towns would receive French-Canadian emigrants mostly from specific towns or parishes within Quebec.

 

Franco-Americans and the “Little Canadas”

While Quebec’s clerical elite condemned the factory and the dangers of urban life, Franco-Americans adapted themselves to it in their own way. As patterns of emigration began to fill certain American towns with French Canadians, neighbourhoods began to acquire a French flavour. These neighbourhoods were called “Little Canadas” and life in them was predominantly French and Catholic. Around their local church and school, life appeared much the same as it was in some parts of Quebec. In Little Canadas, Franco-Americans could often speak French to their priest, grocer or doctor. This was especially the case as the number of French priests, most of them sent from Quebec, rose substantially as time passed.

The French Canadian emigrant to New England was a factory worker, particularly in the huge cotton mills that dotted the area. Some of these textile mills had as many as 10,000 workers and employment was often readily available, as upwardly mobile English and Scots moved out of the area and were replaced by the Irish, French Canadians, Southern and Eastern Europeans.

In these factories, wages were low, although higher than in Quebec, and work related accidents were frequent. The heat created by the machines, and the proper lack of ventilation, was stiffening; the noise of dozens of machines all working at the same time was deafening and could be heard hundreds of meters away from the factories; cotton dust was everywhere and coated the workers’ lungs. Working hours were long, from 10-12 hours a day, up to six days a week, and much of it was spent standing while keeping an eye on several machines. These conditions were commonplace at the time and not restricted to New England.

The newcomers were frequently victims of discrimination, as immigrants with a different language and religion often were at the time. They were called “frogs”, pea-soupers” or Canucks. In this case, the national antipathy was compounded by the fact that French Canadians worked for lower wages, and sometimes were used as strike-breakers. They were blamed for keeping wages low and for resisting naturalization. The classic pronouncement on this issue was in 1881, by Carroll D. Wright, Head of the Bureau of Statistics of Labor for Massachusetts who wrote that French Canadians were “the Chinese of the Eastern States” who had no interest in the American social and political institutions.

The comparison with the Chinese, when one understands the very unfavorable view that North Americans had of them at the time, greatly offended leaders of the French Canadian community. Intermarriage with people of other nationalities was not frequent, at least until the third generation.

The living conditions and the socio-economic status of the inhabitants of the Little Canadas were very poor. French rarely owned property, lived in tenements that are described as lacking comfort and amenities, and usually far too small and overcrowded. Built around the most uninteresting part of the town, in shabby surroundings, the Little Canadas had a considerable population density, among the highest in the United States. Thus, one should not be surprised that health conditions were also poor. For example, in 1886 a diphtheria epidemic in Brunswick, Maine, killed 74 French Canadians, most of them children.

Another study of wages paid in the cotton mills in 1908 shows that French Canadian mill workers earned $10.09 a week on average. This amount was between 5-25% lower that the wage earned by Irish, English or Scottish mill workers. Yet, what should be remembered is that, despite these miserable conditions, French Canadians continued to come to the United States until 1930. That fact is  testimony to the miserable socio-economic conditions that prevailed over French-speaking Quebec at the time.

 

The legacy of French Canadian immigration to the United States

French Canadian emigration has left an enduring mark upon French Canada and New England. Historians have yet to accurately measure the cultural and economic impact of the repatriation of those who chose to return to Quebec. Aside from stimulating the economy by returning with their savings, these emigrants also carried a certain cultural baggage. They introduced new anglicisms like facterie (factory/usine) into the French Canadian language, and new dishes like the pâté chinois (shepherd’s pie, called chinois because it had been encountered in China, Maine) into the French Canadian diet. The emigrant became one of the prime vessels of transmission for American culture within French Canada. They also helped project a very positive image of the United States in Quebec, in sharp contrast to the anti-Americanism that sometimes characterized English-speaking Canada. To this day this positive image has remained.

 

Coming to America

In 1872, at the age of twenty, Joseph Pierre Boisvert left Danville for the United States. Joseph’s decision to leave Danville was probably influenced by fellow Danville citizens that had already made the journey to America and had come back to report. One familar family already living in Lewiston was Pierre Marcotte and his daughters. They could have been the reason Joseph picked Lewiston over other New England textile towns such as Manchester, New Hampshire or Lowell, Massachusetts. Joseph weighed his options, and hopped on the Grand Trunk Rail to America.

 

The Grand Trunk Railway of Canada

The railroad was important to our ancestors and, in it’s early beginnings as the Canadian National Railway and the Grand Trunk Railroad, a line from Montreal to Portland was built. Many of our ancestors used this route to find their way to Lewiston. A five mile spur connected the Lincoln Street Station to the main line. It started to function in 1872 and the last train arrived in 1956.

The route connected Montreal to Portland through towns like Richmond (Canada), Island Pond (Vermont), Berlin (New Hampshire), and South Paris (Maine). The Grand Trunk was built when large-scale industry began to be developed in southern Maine.

Demand for shoes and clothes during the Civil War, at a time when Maine’s population was lowered by war enlistements and out-migration, led to a demand for more workers. Many came from Canada. For example, the Grand Trunk Railway brought workers along a spur line to Lewiston, where they readily found work in the area’s textile mills and developed one of the largest centers of French-Canadian culture in Maine.

By boarding this train Joseph Pierre left behind six  generations of farming and traditional rural society with strong family ties. He entered an industrial world, alien to him in lifestyle, language and religion

 

Spouse: Emilie Marcotte

Joseph Pierre Boisvert married Emilie Marcotte on July, 21 1873 in the parish of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul on Bartlett St. in Lewiston, Maine. The witnesses were Emilies sister Mathilde Marcotte and a Pierre La Roche. She is the daughter of Pierre Marcotte and Louise Pothier. Emilie, born in 1851 in Quebec, was the second youngest of seven children.

 

Lewiston, Maine

Lewiston sits on the banks of the Androscoggin river. This river was the key to the industrial growth of Lewiston. Manufacturing began in 1836 with a cotton mill. Business men invested in Lewiston and more large mills were built.

In the 1850s, Irish immigrants began arriving. The Irish were generally unskilled refugees from the potato famine. They came to Lewiston for a job and a better life. The men dug canals, mill and house foundations, while the women served as maids and housekeepers. The Irish immigrants also did much of the unpleasant work at the Bleachery and gas works.

The Irish refugees did not have money for housing, so they built shacks close together at the bottom of Bleachery Hill. There in the “patches”, diseases and sickness spread. The Irish were often mistreated because of their different religion and customs but as the French Canadian immigrants began to arrive, the Irish were gradually accepted. Unlike the Irish Immigrants that had come to Lewiston seeking jobs, mill agents recruited French-Canadians. The French-Canadians had reputations of being skilled hard workers.

Similar to other New England towns, Lewistons French Getto or “Little Canada” were very poor. French Canadian rarely owned property, they lived in tenements that are described as lacking comfort and amenities, and usually far too small and overcrowded. Built around the most uninteresting part of the town, in shabby surroundings, the “Little Canadas” had a considerable population density, among the highest in the United States. Thus, one should not be surprised that health conditions were also poor. For example, in 1886 a diphtheria epidemic in Brunswick, Maine, killed 74 French Canadians, most of them children. A study conducted on the French Canadian population of Lowell, in 1875, indicates that about 52% were in very difficult economic circumstances. Another study of wages paid in the cotton mills in 1908 shows that French Canadian mill workers earned $10.09 a week on average. This amount was between 5-25% lower that the wage earned by Irish, English or Scottish mill workers. Lewiston was no different, as most Canadian immigrants settled in the area between Lisbon Street and the river, many in blocks built by the mills.

Both Joseph and Emilie worked in these mills before they were married. The 1870 census shows Emilie along with her sisters all working  in the mills along the Androscoggin River.

In the summer of 1873, Joseph Pierre Boisvert married Emilie Marcotte. Eleven months later, their first son Joseph Pierre, was born. The date was May 3, 1874. He was baptized in the parish of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul in Lewiston.

Their second son, Joseph Narcisse Felix Boisvert (our direct ancestor) was born on September 6, 1875 and baptized in the parish of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul in Lewiston.

Joseph was an operative, working at one of the mills in 1876. He, Emilie and the two boys lived on Mill St. just off Main St. in Lewiston.

 

Emilies Death

In 1876, Emilie died in Lewston, Maine on April 8th from easons unknown. Three days later, on April 11th, she was buried in Danville, Quebec, at Ste. Anne Parish. Husband Joseph Pierre and Father Pierre Marcotte were witnesses.

Emilie’s death left Joseph Pierre scrambling.  Thier two young boys were ages 6 months and 11/2 years old. Family lore has Joseph Pierre and the boys moving back to Canada to remarry. The idea of Joseph Pierre bringing a French Canadian bride back to Lewiston, though typical, didn’t happen.  Joseph did marry again in 1880, but he didn’t find his bride in Quebec.  His second wife, Delphine Lemieux had established family living in Lewiston. Her father Charles was a mason and he owned a house on Lincoln, near Cedar in 1880.

Joseph Pierre took his family back to Canada for a few years, living with the families he left back in 1872. From the years 1876-1879, Joseph Pierre was no longer present in Lewiston and most likely resided in Danville, Quebec.

Whatever the circumstances, by June of 1880, Joseph Pierre, Joseph, and Felix were living in Lewiston. They were with Emilie’s family on Park St. Among those in the household were Emilies father Pierre, sisters Julia, and Mathilda. Also living with them was a Mary Louise Descoteau who was the granddaughter of Pierre and daughter of  Louise and Oliver Descoteau. The reason why she was living with her Grandfather is unknown. Joseph Pierre was working as a grocers clerk at T. R. Herbest which was located at 159 Lisbon, in Lewiston. He worked with a James Jordon and Perry Herbest.

 

Spouse: Delphine Lemieux

On November 25, 1880 Joseph Pierre Boisvert, 28, married for the second time to Delphine Lemieux, 23, in the parish of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul on Bartlett St. in Lewiston Maine. Delphine is the daughter of Claude Lemieux and Esther Beaudry. The witnesses were Zessorini Alphonse Boisvert and Appoline Levineisse. She never had children but raised Joseph and Felix as her own.

Local Influences

Joseph Pierre would reside in Lewiston, Maine for the next 28 years. During that time, he moved frequently and he would never own property, He would work various jobs as a day laborer often with his sons.

By 1883, life had seemed to settle a little for Joseph and his family. He was back working as an operative at a mill. They were now living at the address 12 Lincoln, Lewiston. In 1885, Joseph Pierres occupation was laborer, and their new residence was 7 Railroad Alley.  Felix and Joseph started working with their father as second hands. Working as second hands could increase Joseph Pierres income by as much as one dollar a week. Their new address was within 100 ft. of their previous home. By this time, Joseph (14) and Felix (12) were starting to work. In 1887, Joseph Pierre was working at a mill as a weaver. Felix had also started working at the cotton mills, probably with his father.

The year 1893, Joseph Pierre was working at the Lewiston Bleachery and Dye Works which was located off of Lisbon and Adams. The Bleachery provided finishing operations for associated Lewiston mills. Joseph, now 19 was working in the dry room at the Bates Mill over on Canal St. Bates Mill, a textile mill, was founded in 1850 by Benjamin Bates.  This textile mill contributed largely in the transformation of a small agricultural village to a large industrial city.  In less than ten years, this had become one of the largest textile producers in New England.  The first bedspread woven by Bates was in 1858. Both Joseph Pierre and Joseph were living at 97 Pierce St, Lewiston. By this time  Felix, 17 was working as a lumberjack in Northern Maine.

By 1896, Joseph Pierre was working as a laborer, living at 58 Birch St., Lewiston. Joseph was no longer shown as working. Joseph was losing his battle with Tuberculosis.

A man of many trades – some illegal

Grandpa Joseph was strictly countrified-back woods.  Woodscutter, part time farmer, handy man, a superior teamster and a first class smuggler. American products into Canada and Canadian products – mostly whisky into Maine.– Bernard Boisvert  1984

Maine was at the forefront of the temperance movement that culminated with the 1920 ban of alcohol throughout the United States. Starting in the 1820’s, Maines liquor laws gradually strengthened, and brewing, drinking, and selling were outlawed in the State Constitution in 1885.  Even this step did little to dry up those who wished to imbibe.

Opposition existed. Recent immigrants brought new drinking customs to the state and nation, as a way of preserving their native culture through traditional beer or wine making. College students continued to see social drinking as a rite of passage.

Joseph Pierre Boisvert was a drinker, which made him in opposition to Maine prohibition.  Along with the multitude of jobs he had in his life, he also ran alcohol from Canada.  There were two routes, over land to Canada or on water, going north around Maine, to Canada. Family lore mentions his aptitude with horses, and the 1908-1916 Lewiston/Lisbon Business Directory has Joseph listed as working at a livery stable and living at a boarding house. Its possible that he was running the horses on some after dark trips up north.

 

Life in Lisbon

Between 1908 and 1910, Joseph and Delphine moved on to Falls Rd, in Lisbon, Maine. Lisbon is about 7 miles from Lewiston. Reason reason behind the move after over 30 years is unknown.

 

Joseph Pierre Boisvert II

It is unclear how long Joseph battled with Tuberculosis. He did work when healthy, usually as a laborer or in the mills. He was not working by the end of the century.  Lewiston, Maine did not have a sanitarium to house Tuberculosis patients, and it wasn’t until 1902 that Saint Marys General Hospital was built to attend to those patients. Joseph was either cared for at Central Main Medical Center, or was at home with Delphine assisting.

Tuberculosis was called the “White Plague” or the “Peoples Plague”, it reached epidemic proportions in the 1870’s and‘80s. Also called Consumption, a person would start coughing, at first intermittently, then constantly, coughing up phlegm, or blood streaked sputum, until he hemorrhaged and coughed up pure blood. His lungs were actually dissolving. He would develop a daily fever, tire easily and lose weight.

Often he would experience chest pain as the membranes around the lungs were affected. If untreated, tuberculosis could spread to other parts of the body, to the bloodstream, the intestines or the bones and joints. Eventually, he died from lack of food, water, or by drowning in his own body fluids.

There were many treatments tried over time. Rest, living underground, drinking fresh milk. Some advised inactivity, some exercise. Some advocated sea air, mountain air, cold air, warm air or sunlight. Arsenic, creosote, gold and copper salts were all prescribed for patients. While some managed to recover, countless others continued to die.

Tuberculosis became identified with the poor, especially those living crowded together in cities where air and water were tainted, ventilation poor, buildings neglected by landlords and living conditions generally unsanitary. Tuberculosis, a contagious, airborne disease thrived in the immigrant neighborhoods of American cities, and it was well into the 20th century before science had caught up to the disease.

On February 17, 1901, Joseph Pierre Boisvert II died at the age of 26 years, 8 months and 26 days. He knew that he was not going to live long and wrote these words to be said at his funeral in the parish of Saint Pierre et Saint Paul in Lewiston, Maine.

– My dear parents, and you my brother Bienaimé, as well as all those who knew me, I ask you not mourn the one whom he chose, it is that you remember me in your prayers. –Joseph Pierre Boisvert II

His eulogy is continued by the priest:
The just man who dies from a premature death, will find rest. He pleased God and he was loved, and God removed him of the environment of the injustice.
The noble feelings of his heart were worth to him, the respect of all; his friendship was a treasure.

 

Children of Joseph Pierre and Emilie

Joseph Pierre Boisvert
Joseph Pierre died in Lewiston, Androscoggin, Maine, USA, on 17 Feb 1901; he was 26. Born on 3 May 1874 in Lewiston, Androscoggin, Maine, USA.

Felix Narcisse Joseph Boisvert
Born on 26 Sep 1875 in Saint Pierre and Saint Paul, Lewiston, Maine, USA. Felix Narcisse Joseph died in Traverse City, Michigan, USA, on 23 Jul 1955; he was 79. Buried in Jul 1955 in Mt. Olivet Cemetery.

 

The Death Joseph Pierre Boisvert

Joseph Pierre died of acute dysentery in Bowdoin, Androscoggin, Maine, USA, on 27 Jul 27, 1912.  The record of death lists age as 60 years, 17 days and his occupation as Farmer.

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