Biography Alphonse-Joseph Parent

Biography Alphonse-Joseph Parent

From 1840 to 1940, nearly 900,000 residents of Québec emigrated to the United States, typically to escape the crushing poverty of farm life there.

A copy Lila P. Bringhurst's family group sheet shows that all the children were sealed to Alphonse Joseph PARENT and Josephine Lavoie on either 4 Nov 1955 or 11 Nov 1968 in the Salt Lake temple.

(1860-1932) and his wife JOSÉPHINE LAVOIE (1861-1947)
by his son, Joseph A. Parent

It has always been a source of deep regret that our parent history, so fa r as I know, has been so poorly kept. Many times I have wondered just who our forefathers were, what their occupations were, and what their families were like. I have therefore decided to write a brief sketch of my father, Alphonse Joseph Parent, and what little I know of his people. As fa r as I have been able to determine, most of my ancestors were tillers of the soil. My great grand father was named Pierre Parent and his wife' s maiden name was Louise Bédard. To this union the following children were born: Pierre Jr., Louis, Charles, Ferdinand, Louise, and Ollie. Charles was my paternal grand father and was born about 1833 at Beauport, Montmorency, Charlevoix, Québec, Canada. His wife, Emily Lapoint, was born about 1834 in Québec Province- I am not sure which town. Their children were : Charles, George, Octave, Alphonse, Joseph, Melvina, Alfred, Ferndinand , Tudule, Louis, Josephine, John Baptist, and Thomas.

My Grandfather, Charles, was a stone mason by trade and he did quite well for those days. His wage was $1.50 per day for at least 12 hours labor . This is probably equivalent to at least $24.00 per day for a stone mason now. Because of promise of better opportunities for his large family of boys, and at the suggestion of the priest, grandfather decided to move to a new region, Lake St. John. He expected to clear timber and make farms for his sons. They homesteaded in Roberval, Lake St. John's district , around the year 1869, but failed to investigate conditions before they moved.

The venture was a disappointment to them because it was so difficult to clear the heavily timbered land and prepare it for farming. They used crude hand ploughs and seeded their grain by hand. The growing season was very short and the frost came early because they were so far north.

In that region education was very poor. I remember my father saying that one year there were 80 students in one room. The teacher was only 18 years old. Younger than some of his pupils. The chief form of amusement in the evenings was card playing. It was a real treat when a stranger came to stay overnight and spend the evening telling many stories. The child ren would sit in awe and silence, marveling at the experiences recounted.

My father, Alphonse Joseph Parent, was born April 8, 1860 at Beauport, Montmorency, Charlevoix, Québec, Canada. When he was 21 he married my mother, Josephine Lavoie on January 11, 1881. She was born February 22, 1861 , the daughter of Theophile Lavoie (a sea captain) and Elizabeth Simard . Her mother died when she was two years old and her father married Carol ine Bredeau. When she was in her teens, mother lived with her sister, Marian Villenueve. Her brother-in-law, Sam, often traded work with his neigh bors. One time he owed a man two days work, so he sent mother to substitute for him. She was a hard worker and couldn't stand anyone to be ahead of her-she led the field all day harvesting grain with a hand sickle. At t he end of the day the neighbor said she needn't come back the second day- he was exhausted from trying to match her pace. The debt was paid. Father and his brothers had been trained early to swing an ax and work from dawn until dark in pursuance of a livelihood.

After his marriage, father settled on a 40 acre farm which was part of the original homestead. Things did not work out very satisfactorily, accord ing to my parent's statements, because grandfather retired at the age of fifty and went to live with his eldest son, Charles Jr., who was give n the major part of the farm. Father's parents expected their sons to support them. This amounted to around $250.00 per year each, to be paid in produce or cash. Mother recalls that when she and father butchered a pig , one half had to be turned over for the support of my grandparents. Father was barely able to eke out an existence. Three children, Millie, Charl es, and Mary Louise Elizabeth, created the incentive to venture to a new land of opportunity, the United States.

Father went to Minneapolis, Minn. when he met his brother, Fedinand, who had proceeded him there. For a time he hired out as a common laborer and helped with the building of the Pillsbury flour mills. After his work on the mill was completed, it was very difficult for him to obtain further employment. he was at last successful in securing a job from a farmer who was established south of Minneapolis. He must have worked there all winter.

The following spring, he traveled 350 miles north to Grand Forks, North Dakota, where he was able to get employment as a farm hand. He also worked part of the time at Mallory, Minn. which is eight miles east of Grand Forks. It was during his stay here that he inspected various localities with the view of establishing a home for his family. The spot which took his eye was a timbered section which was fertile. It was located in the are a between the two rivers, The Red and The Red Lake, and was called "The Point". The following winter (1885) he spent at a logging camp on the shores of Lake Winnipeg, Canada. He decided that this section was too far north, and lacked the opportunities for the rearing of a large family. So accordingly, he bid adieu to his brother-in-law, Sam Villeneuve, with whom he had been working, and returned to "The Point" in East Grand Forks, Minnesota.
That summer he worked for a gentleman in Thompson, North Dakota, about 15 miles southwest of Grand Forks. Through his industry he was able to save enough of his frugal earnings to send money for his family's passage to the United States. It took mother nine long days to come from Roberval , Canada to East Grand Forks. Since she could not speak or understand Eng lish it was a very difficult task to travel with three small children and luggage. She recalls that the first Negro she had ever seen was is Chicago. He was a porter and carried 18 month old Elizabeth from the waiting room to the North Dakota train. Mother said she felt that she would never get out of that mess of trains in Chicago. This trip was her first away from the locality where she was born, so it is little wonder that she marveled at all the new sights, the steamboats, and the trains.

She and father settled in "The Point" district and lived for two years in a small wood-choppers cabin. These cabins were built by North Dakota farmers in the timber sections and used as winter homes. Through my parents ' united perseverance and hard labor, they were able to purchase a 36 acre tract of land in the Rhinehardt Township. This was the beginning of what is now known as the "Parent Homestead". Here they built a home of lumber with a tar paper roof.

Four more children were born: Patrick, Rose Alva, Thomas and Louis.

The only medical assistance available was an Indian mid-wife. Patrick and Thomas died of Diphtheria in 1892. Mother often recalled how terribly hard my sister, Rose Alva, took the death of her brothers, and said she wanted to go too. It was a pathetic sight-mother and dad, as well as the rest of the family, were broken with grief.

On May 2nd, 1893, my mother gave birth to my twin sister and me and named us Josephine and Joseph respectively. My older brother, Charles, remembers the event quite vividly because we arrived during the spring thaw flood. He said the water got so high that dad and uncle Louie hitched up the horses and pulled the small shack up onto higher ground shortly before we were born. Even then the water was lapping at the front door step. Charles laughs when he recalls that the chickens were stranded in a tree and had to be rescued by boat.

During this same summer (1893) a new home was built and the family lived here until 1914 when they moved north of East Grand Forks. Four more children completed the family: Mathilda, Leo Clifford, George, and Raymond.

When we were three years old, my twin sister died of an overdose of antitoxin for Diphtheria. She was a robust, healthy child and people marveled that she should die while I, who was a delicate youngster, should share the same bed and not even have the disease.

My parents were faithful in their devotion to the Catholic church, and religiously taught the gospel principles to their children. Father later had several variances with the priest, however, and eventually broke off membership with the Catholic faith. Elizabeth was perhaps the only child who remained in the church.

During my father's life, he accumulated several farms and real estate holdings which were valued at peak prices at $100,000.00 around 1919. He and mother retired from the farm and built themselves a comfortable little home at 521 North First Street, East Grand Forks in 1930. I do not believe city life agreed too well with father, for it was too much of a retirement after his active busy life. He was unable to read, so it was difficult for him to pass away the time.

In March 1931 he was stricken with Pneumonia and a heart ailment and was taken to the Deaconess hospital in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The end was peaceful and he was surrounded by all the living members of his family . His was a noble life, a worthy example of honesty, integrity, and kindness. How he loathed a cheat or one who was dishonest in any way. We children have reason to be proud of our father and will do well to emulate his example.

My mother spent a hard life. She worked constantly with father to make a comfortable home and a living for the family. She always had a garden and canned fruits, vegetables, and meat. She was a good cook and made delicious pies and tarts. A family of thirteen children required a lot of work and she was always willing to do her part. She left a heritage of devotion to family and husband, of being a good honest neighbor, of get ting along with things she had until she could afford better, of wanting her family to succeed financially and to be good citizens. She died October 17, 1947. Both mother and father were respected and well-liked by members of the community and their loss was deeply felt.

Written February 26, 1949
Revised April 18, 1963
Joseph A. Parent
733 Keller Avenue
Crescent City, California

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