Sunday, February 5, 2012

My Auger line: From Canada to the U.S.

Today I want to go back a little further on my branch to talk about my Auger ancestors that emigrated to the U.S. from Canada.

Joseph Mathias Auger was born on February 13, 1818 to Pierre Auger and Marguerite Chicoine in St. Jean Baptiste de Rouville in Quebec Province. St. Jean Baptiste is a small picturesque village located east of Montreal on the Huron River in the shadow of Mont St. Hilliare.

1864 map showing St. Jean Baptiste area (St. Jean Baptiste is in upper portion of map, just under the "B" in "Brome").

The Auger family had been in the St Jean Baptiste/Beloeil area since at least 1779. Prior to that our Auger ancestors had lived in the Neuville area just west of Quebec City since 1680 or earlier, and prior to that came to the New World from the Poitou area of France. More on that later...

Mathias’ wife was Marie Marine Desmarais the daughter of Jean Baptiste Desmarais and Magdeleine Lacasse, born on May 13, 1817 in St Jean Baptiste.

No known pictures exist of Mathias or Marine, however they were described in great detail in 1947 by their grandson Alphonse W. Auger in his wonderful story about Mathias and Marine and their journey to the U.S. from Canada: “La Vie de Grand-Pere Auger” (which was generously transcribed from the French to English for me by Jennifer Gendron Carleton!).

“Grandpere was handsome and had a wonderful voice. Since he could sing naturally, and also had an extraordinary memory, he knew by heart all the beautiful popular songs of his time. Add this ability to his rare personality – it made him very popular.

In the winter during carnival time folks came to get him for evening fun from miles around by sleigh. He would sing with Grandmere and bring fun to gatherings of family and neighbors. They were the souls of the events.
Grandmere was well educated for that time. She had been a teacher in school before marrying Grandpere, and she was “kind as a fly” “as sweet as could be” to use Papa’s expression. She was good natured and knew when to put her foot down. Of a gentle nature and well likeable, she could be firm when needed. She was beautiful, short and petite, barely weighed 100 lbs. She had the courage of lion though, and once she’d made up her mind about something she’d stop at nothing until she got her way.

Apparently not content with St Jean Baptiste and being of a “gypsy-like” nature, Mathias and Marine moved with their six young children; Marine, Leocadie, Pierre Jean-Baptiste, Alphonse Toussaint, Louis Theophile and Marie Octavie to the village of Wotton further east in 1856. Wotton was in the process of being colonized and there was ample opportunity for Mathias to clear a forested tract of land to convert it to farmland similar to what he had done in St Jean Baptiste. Another possible reason for the move eastward could have been that Mathias’ father died in 1828 and his mother in 1841, giving him no immediate family ties in St Jean Baptiste any longer.

Most of their belongings were sold, two horses and wagons were obtained and the family moved eastward. After almost getting robbed en route to Wotton, they settled in and began a life of great toil. All eight family members, including the youngest children, worked constantly to clear new farmland and to simply survive. Despite their efforts, the family almost starved during the winters and by 1860 Marine, having heard of work opportunities in Biddeford, Maine, convinced Mathias to take the train from Danville to the United States.

They arrived with nothing except for the clothes on their backs and Marine and the five oldest children immediately found work in the mills. Mathias did not want to work in the mill, but found work as a printer.

Louis Theophile Auger was the youngest of the three boys in the family. While Pierre (also known as John or JP)and Alphonse worked in the grocery business, bought and sold real estate and became wealthy men in Lewiston, Louis was drawn, like his father before him and generations before, to the life of a farmer. Like the rest of the family, he moved from Biddeford to Lewiston in 1865. Soon after he married Virginie Laflamme, who similarly to Louis, had arrived in Lewiston during the same time period. Family oral history has it that as she arrived in the U.S. the train conductor announced that President Lincoln had been assassinated, although this has not been proven.

Virginie Laflamme Auger

Louis became a US Citizen in March of 1876, however later in September of the same year his mother Marine passed away in Lewiston at the age of 60. Mathias died of an apparent heart attack in 1885 while loading hay bales into the barn at his son Alphonse’s house on Third St in what would eventually become New Auburn.

Mathias and Marine are buried at St. Peter’s Cemetery in Lewiston in the large family plot marked by a prominent monument near the current administrative office.

According to an article found in the Sun Journal, Marine was the first adult buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery, which was apparently known as St John the Baptist Cemetery at the time. I’ve since located information that may indicate there were other burials in the cemetery prior, although they may have occurred before the cemetery was named St. Peter's. More research needs to be done…

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