The Canadian Family
Canadian Archives passenger records show the following Belgians arriving on board the "SS Mount Temple" on March 8, 1911. (Reported as recorded) (Now you know one of the ways names get changed.)
The story of two brothers
While it is true that Jean Pierre Perreaux came to Canada, it was his two sons, Prosper Joseph and Leon Alcide that were the fathers of the Canadian Family.
**Perreaux was misspelled by the registrar upon boarding the ship.
THE LIFE OF LEON PERREAUX & EVA BERTHE MARTIN
As told by John Perreaux, Bellegarde, Saskatchewan
The chronology of the Leon Alcide Perreaux family may not be as complete and as accurate as one would like it to be, but when you depend on memory and hand down word of mouth, history tends to get a little sketchy and not too reliable. In our case we have just enough information to reconstruct the journey of noble and simple immigrants whose dreams and aspirations were to be surpassed only by the rigor and frustration of pioneering on the prairies.
Father was born October 15, 1882, to Jean Pierre Perreaux and Marie Dieudonnee Moreau, in the village of Orgeo, in Belgiium. He had two brothers, Prosper and Jules and one sister, Felicite. His profession was that of a wheelwright, a trade which was to be of some benefit in the years to come, because many were the rebuilding jobs done on rickety old buggy and wagon wheels.
Mother, Eva Berthe Martin, was born March 9, 1888, in the village of St. Michel, Aisne, France, daughter of Rene Alcide Martin and Marie Appoline Cohidon. This is where our parents were married, April 16, 1907 and at the time of her marriage, mother was employed in a small bolt factory as a threading machine operator.
The first Perreaux to immigrate to Canada was Uncle Prosper, who came in 1907, and worked as a farm hand for three years in Bellegarde district. In 1910, he and a friend named Joseph Antoine sailed back to Belgium and had the misfortune of having their ship sink in the north Atlantic and spending three days in a lifeboat before being rescued. It is not known at this time what caused the sinking or if any lives were lost.
In April of 1911, our parents, who by then had a family made up of Gilbert and Gilberte, aged three and two respectively, accompanied the whole Perreaux family, led by Prosper, (who by then had married) back to Canada to make their new home.
It is sad that so little specific information is available for the years that followed their arrival in Canada. What is known is that their first home was a small, cabin type house, one-half mile south of Bellegarde, commonly referred to as the Webster place and for the next two years, father Leon worked as a farmhand, all the while trying to obtain for himself a homestead quarter. But since these were pretty well all taken up already in this , his search took him to Grande Clairiere, Manitoba with his family in 1913 and then on to the Plum Lake district in May of 1916 where he had been able to acquire one.
During the next four years, two more children were born: Henry, in October 1916 and Lucienne, in January 1920.
It was also during this period that, to our great disappointment, it became evident that this land was better suited to the raising of ducks and geese than grain and cattle, as about half the acreage would flood out on a heavy spring run off. But despite this setback, it was possible to establish a herd of twenty cows. It was here that our second setback was to happen. In this case, it was the loss of twenty calves at birth, so if this was not the determining factor, it probably helped in making the decision to try our luck somewhere else.
If hardship was part of our lives during the depression years, years that are well remembered, how much more difficult could those first years have been, starting from square one with all the odds against you. One can only imagine that the good life on the homestead did not materialise as had been hoped for. It also became evident that the minimum degree of education, which a child could receive at that time, was not to be had at our present location. Added to this was our parent's firm belief that, literally speaking, one can have a better rapport with his Maker if you are within sight of the church spire.
The autumn of 1920 saw our family make the first of several moves that were to eventually take us back to our original district of Bellegarde, more commonly referred to as St Maurice by the pioneers.
It was on a farm owned by a cousin, named Leon Moreau, that we moved to. It was situated about a mile from school and church, at Grande Clairiere. It was here that Leon had settled several years previously and was well established, his parents having arrived at St Maurice in 1893 via Grande Clairier, as almost all the immigrants coming from Belgium and France had done.
It was after a three-year stay here and the birth of John on December 31, 1922, that we loaded our belongings on hay racks and grain wagons. These were the moving vans of the era. We struck out cross country in August of 1923 towards the Antler district to a farm, owned by Mrs Eugene (Josephine) Monin, situated two miles west, one mile south of Antler, on the East 1/2 of 5-7-30 W1. This, we were told, was an all day journey, provided you were able to coax the old nags to give you a burst of a bonejarring trot now and again. The boys herded down livestock on horseback and machines were drawn by horses driven by relatives and neighbours. Imagine how enjoyable this must have been on steel wheels! The next ten years turned out to be our longest stay at any one place. The fruits of our labour here were probably no different than that of anyone else, except that when one rents on crop share basis, you tend to struggle a bit more. But if no land is available for purchase where you want to be, you must accept the next best thing. It was here that the last member of our family, Germaine, was born, November 13, 1925.
Our grain farming operation, which was done with two hitches of horses, meant that there would be some idle hand thereabout, so it was not uncommon for father to seek and do some carpentry work in the surrounding districts, as he had brought with home some knowledge of the woodworking trade. More will be said about this later.
Our grain income was by now being supplemented by several milk cows of probably as many breeds or mixtures thereof. However they did supply the family with sufficient beef and dairy products, as did the few hogs that would grace our farmyard over the years.
It was in the later part of the twenties and early thirties that some of the older boys ventured away from home and joined the farm labour force. It was also at this time that the first automobile, a 1927 Ford Touring, purchased from Ed George, agent at Antler, entered our lives. Our stylish mode of transportation until now had been the two seater democrat, with dished and wobbly wheels, and meant to be drawn by a team of prancing drivers (a term commonly used by the younger generation) but what you saw most often was a couple of old plugs pulled off the plow or binder to serve the purpose. You could also find in the yard, the subcompact, which was a one seater with cargo space in back. This was the one horsepower type. It was used to haul the can of cream and eggs to the railway station, picking up groceries and mail, or taking kids to school where they were at times used as race chariots if two or more happened to be travelling down the same route.
Father never did learn to drive because to put this machine into motion, it appeared to him that you had to have a hand on the spark lever, one hand on the brake lever and the feet on top of three pedals located on the firewall. All this proved too much for him to master so he stayed with the buggy.
The spring of 1934 saw us on the move again because the landlord would not renew or lease. So it was on to a three-quarter-section farm. N1/2 25-8-30 W1(one quarter being in Manitoba), owned by a Mr. Jos. Wood, a distance of none miles from Antler. Our stay here lasted until October of 1936, for a Mr. Armand Boulanger, a storekeeper from Alida, had that summer purchased section 8-7-30 W1 from Henry Copet and needing someone to rent this land to, asked us if we would kindly oblige. Needless to say we readily accepted. He also required someone to build a house and barn, etc. as there were no buildings on this section, so father spent most of the summer doing this while living in a caboose on the site.. This new house was not a very fancy home, but adequate at that time. The walls ceiling and floor were all bare northern poplar or aspen. This definitely had to be the first and only dwelling with the knotty pine look, both inside and out, as the siding was also knotty, which required the application of a shellac primer to each board before painting. The inside was eventually covered with ten-test, which gave things a cosy look.
For this Perreaux family, 1937 was undoubtedly the bleakest year of all during the dirty thirties as far as the writer can remember. Our whole crop that year was so light and infested with Russian thistle that it could not be stooked. So it was hauled in and stacked at one location and threshed later in the fall when as outfit could be had cheaply. Needless to say the bins were not bulging that year.
Things started to look up a bit the following year, and sensing that the mechanical power trend was on it was now time to acquire our first tractor, a John Deer AR from Ed George. It was not an overly powerful machine, a three-plow size, as they used to say, but compared to what you have today one could say it was an oversized garden tractor.
Mechanisation having taken over, saw a gradual decline in father's farming activities, performing only those chores that could be done with old faithful dobbin, looking after livestock and farmyard in general, the field work now being done by the oldest and youngest sons who remained at home at that time.
Conditions had gradually improved these last few years. Gilbert's pending marriage during the summer of 1943, it was again time for our parents to pull up roots and proceed on to a much deserved retirement to their newly built home in the hamlet of Bellegarde, having gone full circle since that memorable day in April 1911.
If their dreams when they came to Canada were of an easy and bountiful life, one would have to say that theirs must have been a great disappointment, but then on the other hand , they knew that nothing but hard work and sacrifices would suffice. I recall the times when mother, after milking chores and breakfast were out of the way would take a team and wagon to the field with us younger kids to pick stones, haul in hay, or go out and stook at harvest time. And yet, she was able to have her meals on the table in time. It would have been so nice if she would have had some of today's conveniences. We will remember our water well being used as cooler for dairy products and fresh meat, which was all right as long as you did not spill the stuff into the water. Our most up to date cooler was a 8' X 10' excavation several feet deep that was filled with ice blocks in the winter and covered over with sawdust. This hole was covered over with a roof of poles and flax straw, if available, or sod. Such a setup would keep you "on rocks" until about August. This is only one example of the luxuries of that time, and though they may sound a bit primitive, they did make life a bit more pleasant at that. In her spare time, Mother enjoyed knitting and reading. Her retirement years were marred in 1948 when she suffered a stroke that left here partially paralysed. She spent some time the following winter in Winnipeg taking therapy treatments, which restored some use of her left leg and speech but very little use of here left had. Yet she managed to keep up her household work, walk to the store and attend mass on Sundays until sickness, recurring from an operation in the early 40's saw her enter the hospital in Janurary for the last time. She passed away on May 17, 1953 and was laid to rest in Bellegarde.
As for father, well, it is safe to say that he never had an idle day. Although he was not mechanically inclined, there was not much that he could not do with his hands. As previously mentioned, his trade as a wheelwright also required a certain amount of blacksmithing, so it follows that this was put to good use in sharpening plough shares and general repairs and fabricating in his shop. It is here that I first saw forge welding using flux. His wood working skills were also of some considerable value, for he eventually erected two homes for his family. He was also quite capable of working with leather. Many were the winter days spent repairing and making ready the whole assortment of harness, etc., for spring work.
His favourite pastimes leisure wise were reading, playing cards, horseshoe pitching and bowling(in summer). In later years when curling made its appearance at Bellegarde, each day would see him at the rink, either as a participant in a game or as a spectator. He also dabbled in music and owned and played the accordion. He was a member of the St. Maurice brass band, playing the snare drum and as well was a member of the church choir, often rendering his favourite Christmas carol at Midnight Mass. Still enjoying good health after retiring, he built a few houses and various other buildings, but he was more at home in his workshop in later hears where the work was not so strenuous. His widowed years were spent caring for his grandson Johnny, who had been living with the grandparents since his mother's death on April 3, 1949.
His physique of 5'7" and 150 lbs. had withstood the rigors of life exceptionally well. His only health problem that can be remembered was a bout with an ulcer in 1938 but after a few visits to Dr. Mather at Antler who urged him to have his teeth extracted, his problem disappeared. It was now the end of 1954 and a visit to the doctor, which had, as in many cases with senior citizens, been delayed too long, revealed that surgery was required immediately, Its results were not very encouraging, but there was hope as his check-up reports were good during the summer of 1955. As fate would have it, there was a sudden deterioration in January of 1956. After several weeks of treatments in Regina, with no hope of cure, he was transferred back to Redvers where, with full knowledge of the inevitable and the resignation of one at peace with the world and his Maker, he peacefully passed on at 3:00pm April 24 1956.
A posthumous expression of sincere gratitude and thanks is extended to our grandparents, relatives, and our dear parents for having dreams of a promising future in far away lands, leaving their loved ones behind and having the fortitude to make this dream come trough, not only for themselves, but for their children and their children's children. We cannot help but be deeply touched as we reminisce over these many years of sacrifices, which we failed to really appreciate. It is therefore to their memory that we humbly submit this family history to the Antler and District Historical Book for the benefit of the present and future generations.