Saturday, March 10, 2012

French-Canadian in Minnesota – Francis (François) Labree

B. 15 Jan 1828 in St-Joseph de la Pointe-Lévy, Quebec
M. 23 Jan 1854 in St. Paul, Minnesota
Wife: Eliza Furlong
D. 27 Dec 1909 in Minneapolis, Minnesota
Emigrated: about 1848

Francis Labree was born as François La Brie on January 15, 1828 in St-Joseph de la Pointe-Lévy, Quebec. His parents were Joseph Migneau dit La Brie and Marie-Charlotte Dubois, and he was one of eleven children. Little is known of Francis' early years, but his education must have been minimal because he was illiterate.

Francis moved to St. Paul in what is now Minnesota in around 1848. He had several brothers and sisters who also migrated to the U.S. around the same time or later. One sister named Adeline married in St. Paul in 1853, then moved to Yreka, California, raising a large family there. Around 1853, Francis met a young woman from Ireland named Eliza Furlong. They were married in St. Paul on January 23, 1854. The marriage was witnessed by Francis' brother Jean-Baptiste.

Marriage record of Francis Labree and Eliza Furlong

Francis and Eliza settled in the township of Inver Grove, which was just south of St. Paul, where they rented a home. During their marriage, they had ten children, but only three would survive their early years. One who lived to adulthood was his son, Alex, born in 1856. When Alex was 5 years-old, he traveled with his father back to visit the family in Quebec. This suggested that Francis still had some ties to his family in Canada, although it isn’t known if he had the opportunity to visit there again in his life.

Around 1860, the Labree family moved to West St. Paul. On the 1860 census, Francis was listed as a laborer, and was the only head of household on the page to not have any “value of personal estate” indicated. They didn’t stay there long; by 1862, the family moved to Mendota.

In August of 1862, Sioux Indians began attacking and killing white settlers, and for several weeks terrorized much of southern Minnesota. There was evidence that Francis had some contact with the Sioux maybe even before the uprising — Alex, as an adult, told of learning their language as a child. When the possibility of violence spread to Mendota, Francis and his family took shelter with others in a local schoolhouse. The situation with the Sioux brought many settlers together, united against the threat. It was said that Francis was present at the hanging of 38 of the rebels in December at Mankato, Minnesota.

Francis decided to enlist in the U.S. Army, presumably to fight in the Civil War. The records show that he signed up in St. Paul on February 10, 1864. He was described as being five foot ten inches tall, with dark hair, blue eyes, and fair complexion. His occupation was farming and his residence was Cottage Grove in Washington County.

Francis' entire service in the army was spent in Minnesota. After leaving Ft. Snelling in St. Paul, he was sent to a camp in the town of Kasota. On April 1, he suffered a rupture of his viscera trying to lift a barrel of water off of a wagon. Francis spent the next three or four months in an Army hospital at Ft. Ridgley and didn't participate in any further active service. After the war ended, he was discharged on May 16, 1865. For the rest of his life, he would have to wear a pack truss.

After Francis was discharged from the the army, a daughter Ellen was born, then the family moved to Barron County, Wisconsin, to a farm adjacent to Francis' brothers Jean-Baptiste and Edward. One more child, a son Louis, was born in 1868. The family returned to Minnesota in 1872, and Francis purchased a farm in Wright County in the town of Marysville (later called Waverly).

In 1888, Francis applied for a veteran’s pension and it was granted within a year. On the form he claimed to be “half-disabled” from his injury. Within a few months, money started coming in from the government. In 1897, Francis became an American citizen. His naturalization took place on his 69th birthday at the district court in Buffalo, Minnesota. What prompted him to do this isn’t known; at that point he had been living in the U.S. nearly 50 years.

Francis made a claim for full disability in 1899. He now described having a double rupture in the viscera, and was totally deaf in the right ear and almost totally deaf in the left. With this new claim, he was put into a nursing home — the National House in Milwaukee. His wife Eliza didn't go with him to Milwaukee, staying with married daughter Ellen in Minneapolis as son Alex took over the farm.

Francis was transferred to several veterans' homes during his final years. From 1899 to 1901, he was in Milwaukee. For much of the next two years, he was in Danville, Illinois. Then he got transferred to Leavenworth, Kansas for about 9 months. After that, he went back to Danville in 1904 until 1906, when he was transferred to Sawtelle, all the way out in Los Angeles.

A photograph exists of Francis taken amongst a group standing in front of the veterans’ home at Sawtelle. He's slightly out-of-focus and the photo has a water stain over his body. The source of who took this photo is not known, and neither is the identity of the other people in the picture.

Photo of Francis taken at Sawtelle in about 1906

By 1907, Francis’ health declined severely and he was transferred one last time to the Minnesota Soldiers' Home in Minneapolis. Eliza was able to live with him there. On December 27, 1909, he died from peritonitis, possibly related to his war injury. He was buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Minneapolis. Eliza died in 1912.

1.  Eliza Labree – B. about 1855, Minnesota; D. before 1865

2. Alexander Labree – B. 1 Nov 1856, Pine Bend, Minnesota; D. 4 Oct 1939, Wright County, Minnesota; M. Leador Labelle (1869-1947), 1 Jan 1885, Waverly, Minnesota

3. Edward Labree – B. 1850s; D. before 1860

4. John J. Labree – B. Jan 1860, Minnesota; D. before 1865

5. Ellen M. Labree – B. 27 Dec 1865, Wisconsin; D. 10 Dec 1935, Minneapolis, Minnesota; M. Francis Chatelain (1857-1917), 27 Oct 1884, Waverly, Minnesota

6. Louis Martin La Brie – B. 3 Feb 1868, Barron County, Wisconsin; D. 4 Mar 1911, St. Paul, Minnesota; M. Julia A. McGuire (1871-1922), 1 Jun 1891, Minneapolis

Birth record of François La Brie, St-Joseph de la Pointe-Lévy, Quebec, 15 Jan 1828
1860, 1870, 1880, and 1900 U.S. Cenuses, Minnesota and Wisconsin
1857 Minnesota Territorial Census
1865 and 1885 Minnesota State Census
Marriage record of Francis Labree and Eliza Furlong, St. Paul, Minnesota, 23 Jan 1854
Military records of Francis Labree, 1864-1865
Military pension file of Francis Labree, 1888-1910
Francis Labree hospital records 1899-1907
Death certificate of Francis Labree, Minneapolis, Minnesota, 27 Dec 1909
"Labree History," Wright-Way Shopper, Monticello, Minnesota, 2 Oct 1980
Letters of Hazel Swenson to Laura Mitchell, 1977-1978
"Labree Helped Bring Log Cabin Transition," Wright County Journal Press, 12 Oct 1939
Minnesota death index, 1908-2002
Wright County, Minnesota marriage index
World War I draft registration database
Minnesota deaths and burials, 1835-1990
Death certificate of Louis La Brie, 6 Mar 1911, St. Paul, Minnesota
Marriage record of Louis La Brie and Julia McGuire, 2 Jun 1891, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Death certificate of Julia La Brie, 19 May 1922, St. Paul, Minnesota
Birth certificate of Julia McGuire, 23 Jun 1871, Washington Lake, Minnesota

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