Frank Robert, my father, was born at St. Laurent, Canada, about July 2, 1829. Shortly afterwards, he, with his parents, moved to La Chime, Canada. Aunty Dubeau stated she had a hard time learning him his prayers and his Catechism for his First Communion. However, she pulled him through. As a young man he learned the painter's trade. After learning it he went to N. Y. City. Finding no work in his line, he got employment in a restaurant. [
] Here he learned to eat his meat raw, and his wild game tainted and green with age; and the gamier he liked it. Mother refused to cook his game or prepare his turtle soup, and she frequently called "Cochon" (Pig). After remaining in N. Y. City he went to Chicago Ill. There he boarded with a French family. While there he got smallpox. He was rushed to the Pest House, built out on the lake. Louis A. Normandin, his companion, took care of him until Uncle Theophile came from Montreal. Father claimed he got the smallpox from a Dutchman who slept in his bed during his absence. After that he never had any time for a Dutchman. Aunty said he was a fine looking young man, well built, black hair, mustachio, and rosy cheeks, and a great favorite with the ladies.
He was so pox-marked he could hold his face
up in the rain and catch a bucket of water
. In 1853 he came to St. Paul. Finding no work here, he and his friend, Petit Joe Forest, went to Lake Michigan and worked in the fisheries. He returned to St. Paul in 1855 taking up his trade. In 1856 he married. In 1862 times hard, work scarce, both Indian and Civil Wars on, a new discovery of gold made and several outfits preparing to go. (
Mother said he was evading the draft
) Among those preparing to go were two Italians who outfitted with covered wagon and 4 mules which they were unable to manage. Father hired out to them as mule whacker. They were off to:
......................................................... California or Bust
The outfit bunched with the Big Caravan at Omaha and proceeded on their way along the trail through Nebraska, Black Hills, Humbolt Sink, Utah to Nevada. One morning part of the caravan was delayed having their horses, mules and oxen shod and repairs made to their wagons and harnesses (Father was one of those). Suddenly, those delayed and back of the main caravan were attacked by Indians. One of the leaders of father's wagon was shot causing the wagon to swerve to the side. Father jumped and ran as fast as he could crying "Indians, Indians" and giving the alarm to the main train. Orders were given to circle and corral. Capt. Kennedy, the head guide, standing on a box giving instructions for a defense, received an arrow through the neck and died in a few minutes. Texas Jack, asst to the guide, then took charge and soon a small army of volunteers went back to the rescue of those attacked. When he reached his wagon he found one of the Italians siting in the wagon with an arrow through his neck and the other Italian back of the wagon with an arrow in his back and not yet dead. Both were scalped. The mules were cut from the harness, gone, all of father's personal effects, his silver watch, clothes, gun, ammunition, tobacco and blankets. All he saved was his flannel shirt and overalls. His hat he lost in his run giving the alarm, and was 700 or 800 miles from his destination. In a wagon in back of father's was a New Englander who had a stock of grey campaign hats he was taking as a novelty. Men, women and children laid dead and all scalped. For many weeks afterwards, every now and then an Indian could be seen on the distant hills ready again to attack the tail-enders. He followed the outfit in bare feet, his shoes used out. Finally, arriving in Virginia City, Nevada, finding work in the mills, getting out timber for the mines, taking care of the mill owner's horse, washing miner's clothes, and picking all the loose change he could. He remained away 3 years and came back by way of Panama, thence to N. Y. City, Montreal, there bought mother a silk dress. On arriving home he took off his gold belt with $1100.00 in gold eagles. Mother had saved $1300 he had sent her while away. On entering he kissed mother and me and brother Willie, gave us a quarter, sent us out to play. Next day he bought me a drum and Willie a flute. (I cannot make sense of the next sentence. It appears to say, "While away we two bothers, Charles and Willie, dying of Whooping Cough.") It took father 4 months and 10 days to make the trip overland. Before father left, Aunty Dubeau made and pinned on his shirt a little garlic. She always claimed it saved father from all harm. Father's intention was to return with his family west, but it was not in the cards. He formed a partnership with Edwin Beck. In 1874 he went to Crookston , afterwards to North Yakima , and there on Feb 22, 1910, at the age of 80 years, he died. Mother died Dec. 18, 1925. They had 11 children, 2 girls and 9 boys, of which I am the eldest.
Trip Made by My Father to California
[Editor's note]: This is Pip's note.
He was so pox-marked he could hold up his face in the rain and catch a bucket of water: I know of no photographs of Pip's father.
(Mother said he was evading the draft): Not unlikely. As a native of Canada, he may have believed that the war was not his quarrel. I note that he didn't return until 1865, the year the war ended.
Crookston: In northwestern Minnesota. Elsewhere, Pip says "My father, Frank Robert went to Crookston in the summer of 1876. He bought the Bill Davis farm, lying between the Tom Bradshaw farm on the East and the Louie Johnson farm on the West, near the dam made necessary on the Red River to divert the water so navigation could be made possible from Fisher's Landing to Crookston, in the early spring when the water was higher." Crookston is not actually on the Red River but on a tributary named Red Lake River. From Pip's description, it ought to be possible, using old land maps possibly maintained in the Polk County Tax Assessor's office in Crookston, to identify the specific site of Frank Robert's farm.
North Yakima: Modern Yakima, Washington.
Please e-mail me with any additions, corrections, and comments
This site created by Harry E. Connors III
Music is Wait for the Wagons sequenced by Lesley Nelson .
This page last modified on Wednesday, November 21, 2007