Tag Archives: Ismael Bruneau

Beatrice Bruneau Quiet Perseverance

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Rene Raguin & Beatrice Bruneau Wedding Day 1912

I am always looking through my files, searching for something I knew I had. Recently, I came upon a letter addressed to Miss C. Beatrice Bruneau, my grandmother.

“ In changing your profession to that noblest of all professions you have shown your elders a good example.” She left teaching to get married. “May that quality of quiet perseverance, which has marked your work among us go with you and crown all the enterprises of your life with success.” This one sheet of paper indicated a lot about her.

She was definitely my quiet grandmother, sweet and gentle. Grannie never raised her voice although sometimes she used firm words. My sister thought she had eyes in the back of her head, behind the two buns she always wore, so we couldn’t get away with anything. She always kept her hands busy, knitting socks or crocheting fancy potholders.

Although of French Canadian descent, Cecile Beatrice Bruneau (1889- 1967 ) was born in Green Bay Wisconsin. There, her father Ismael Bruneau, a French Presbyterian Minister, served a congregation of Swiss Protestants. Her mother Ida Girod, from the French part of Switzerland, had taught school in Baltimore, Maryland before getting married.

French Protestants were few and far between so the family moved a lot, from Wisconsin to Holyoke, Massachusetts, to Quebec City, and then Montreal.

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Some of the Bruneau Children; Sydney, Helvetia, Beatrice, Herbert, Renee, Edmee, and Gerald – Montreal 1907.

My grandmother did most of her schooling in Montreal. The family lived over the French Presbyterian Mission on Dufferin St (now De La Roche). The Mission was just north of La Fontaine Park, between Marie Anne and Mount Royal in an area now known as Le Plateau-Mont-Royal.

Beatrice, the oldest girl didn’t have an easy life, being a minister’s daughter, one of nine children and protestant in a catholic province. A minister didn’t make much money and the family relied on handouts from the church community. Two other protestant families lived on the block and according to her brother Sydney that marked them as an “unloved minority.” The sisters played happily with the neighbours but Sydney had a hard time. Small in stature the bullies followed him around.

There were no French Protestant schools available to them. The Catholics refused to have any Protestants in their schools and so English was the language of their schooling. After attending Mount Royal elementary school Beatrice went to The High School of Montreal. The five eldest children all earned scholarships from the lower schools so their parents didn’t have to pay fees.

The Bruneau children all received a good education. Beatrice went on to McGill’s Normal School, the Teacher’s College, where she received her teaching diploma. This program later moved from the downtown campus to MacDonald College in Saint Anne de Bellevue. She came 23rd out of 61 students and won the Superintendent’s prize in French. She received elementary and first-grade staff certificates and passed in cardboard work. Beatrice later earned her French Specialist certificate from the Protestant School Board. At that time, as they could only hire Protestants to teach in their schools, native French speakers had no problem finding a position. In 1907 Beatrice was hired by the Protestant Commissioners as a teacher without experience.

When Ismael and Ida made another move, this time to Cornwall, Ontario, Beatrice and two sisters, Herminie and Helvetia stayed in Montreal teaching in public schools. They all gladly left the crowded quarters over the mission hall to lodge with a fellow minister, a friend of their father’s.

The 1912 letter indicated that Beatrice had been teaching at Mount Royal School on St Urbain Street in Montreal, the same school she had attended. Her teaching career lasted only five years. She married Rene Raguin that July and never taught again. She quietly persevered in her family life looking after her husband and raising their five children.

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Notes:

Grannie told us one joke. I now realize it was connected to the area where she grew up. A woman was riding the bus up St Lawrence Blvd. The driver called out Rachel, the bus stopped and a woman got off. He then called out Marie Anne and another woman got off. The woman then went up to the driver and said my name is Suzanne, when do I get off?

Walking with God in Duquen, A. Sydney Bruneau 1960s, transcribed by his granddaughter Virginia Greene in 2017. A copy with the author.

The Gazette, Montreal Quebec, Canada. May 29, 1907, page 8. Downloaded Nov 16, 2019.

The Gazette, Montreal, Quebec, Canada. June 14, 1907, Page 12. Downloaded Nov 16, 2019.

Cardboard Work was part of the manual dexterity training in elementary schools. The children used cardboard to make boxes and made other things of raffia and plastic material while the high school students did woodwork and metalwork.

There is a church structure on De La Roche between Mount Royal and Marie Anne. According to the Montreal Tax role it was built about 1912, so after the Bruneaus left. It is now two residences.

Rene & Beatrice 1961
Beatrice & Rene Raguin 50th Anniversary 1962

For a story about Beatrice’s father Ismael Bruneau see: https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/1237

For a story about Ida Girod, Beatrice’s mother see: https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/3674

Ida Girod Bruneau

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Ismael Bruneau wanted a biblical family, one child for each of the 12 tribes of Israel. His wife Ida didn’t share that ambition, but still, they had 10. When one of her daughters was getting married she asked her mother what she could do to prevent the arrival of so many children and Ida answered, “If I knew, do you think I would have had all of you?” 

Ida herself came from a very large family. She was born in 1862 in Les Convers, Switzerland, to Gustave Girod and Sophie Balmer, the sixth of 16 children. Her favourite aunt, Celine Balmer was teaching at a private girl’s school in Baltimore, Maryland and arranged a job for Ida at the same school. In 1882 Ida sailed to the United States for the teaching position.

After a particularly bad year, with many deaths in the family, her parents decided to emigrate to America. Another son tragically died on the voyage and was buried at sea. The Girods were farmers and settled in the French community of Kankakee, Illinois. When Ida went to visit, she met the Minister, Ismael Bruneau. He was taken with her and they were soon married.

Ismael and Ida then lived in Green Bay Wisconsin where their first three children, Edgar, Beatrice and Hermonie were born. A French Protestant minister moved frequently and the next charge was in Holyoke Massachusetts, where Helvetia was born. Next was a move back to Canada. Sydney, Fernand, and Edmee were born in Quebec City and Renee, Herbert and Gerald in Montreal. All the children survived except Fernand. My Grandmother Beatrice said it was his name that killed him but we didn’t understand why as we thought the other siblings had stranger names. They played funeral with him and pulled him around in a wagon covered with flowers.

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Beatrice Bruneau and mother Ida 1900

 

Although a minister’s salary was meagre the family survived and flourished. The first two sons went to McGill. One became a doctor and the other a lawyer. All the girls finished high school, went to Normal school and became teachers except Renee who attended Business school. The two youngest boys were still at home when their father died. There wasn’t the money to send them to university but they both became successful businessmen.

Ismael’s death was a shock to Ida. He had preached at an earlier service in Portneuf and ran uphill from the station in Quebec City, as the train was 50 minutes late. He arrived at the end of the service and died of a heart attack. Her heart was broken, “ I must realize that my dear husband of nearly 32 years has left me forever.” She moved to her daughter Helvetia’s home in Lachute, a town Ismael had felt would be a good place to retire. She went back to Switzerland because her aunt Celine had returned, but Celine was suffering from dementia and with all other friends and family gone Ida decided her life was in Canada.

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Ida Girod Bruneau Frechette 1925

 

One of her husband’s brothers-in-law, Emilien Frechette, whose wife Emilina Marie Bruneau had died, proposed that as they were both alone they get married. He had built himself a large house in Iberville south of Montreal and wanted company. My Aunt Aline remembered hating her mother’s visits to Iberville because she would come back with large baskets of gooseberries, red and black currents, which had to be cleaned for jam and pies. Aline’s other memory of her grandmother Ida was teaching her to play rummy and seven up. Aline said, “ She liked the little games they played and thought the ‘Devil’s plaything’ was a misnomer.” It was fine to play cards, just not on Sunday.

Ida developed cancer and spent her last days in the Montreal General Hospital. She was buried in Mount Royal Cemetery in the Frechette plot with Emilien’s first wife Marie. After Ida’s death in 1927, he married Emilie Beauchamp Bruneau, the widow of Napoleon Bruneau, Ismael’s brother. Emilien certainly looked after the women in the Bruneau family. My mother remembered him as a nice old man. She didn’t remember her grandmother who died when she was five but she did remember visiting Monsieur Frechette in Iberville, going to the toilet and thinking, “My grandmother sat here!”

Endnotes:

Bruneau, Ida. A Short History of the Bruneau – Girod Families. 1993.

Bruneau, Ida. letter to Mes Frere et Soeur. February 5, 1918. Quebec City, Quebec. A copy in the author’s possession.

Aline Raguin Allchurch. Letter to Mary Sutherland. 2002. Author’s possession.

Dorothy Raguin Sutherland’s Stories. Personal interview. 1998.

Ancestry.com. Quebec, Canada, Vital and Church Records (Drouin Collection), 1621-1968 [database on-line]. Provo, UT, USA: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc., 2008. Original data: Gabriel Drouin, comp. Drouin Collection. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Institut Généalogique Drouin.

Here is a link to Ismael Bruneau, Ida’s husband.

https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/1237

Call Me Ismael

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The Bruneau family in Montreal about 1899

 He arrived when the service was almost over. He walked to the pulpit and announced the last hymn “Seigneur Tu donne Ta Grace.” As the organ played he collapsed to the floor. So ended the life of Ismael Bruneau, my great grandfather.

His life began in 1852 as Ismaer Bruneau in St-Constant Quebec, just south of Montreal. Ismaer was the eleventh of thirteen children and the youngest son of Barnabé Bruneau and Sophie Prudhomme. He attended the French Protestant school in Pointe aux Trembles and one summer went to West Randolph, Vermont to work in the mills. He spent a lot of time thinking about his future. He had written for advice to the principal of the school, Dr. Tanner who encouraged him to return to his studies and take the classes for those considering the ministry.

He was not sure of that path. One day he was out walking in the woods and climbed to the top of a hill. He sat facing Canada and prayed to God about the decisions he must make. As he reported, there was a dark cloud on the horizon and a voice spoke to him as if from the sky, telling him to return home and study, then travel and spread the gospel.

Ismaer continued his studies at Pointe aux Trembles and was then admitted to the Presbyterian College in Montreal, which had begun teaching subjects in French. At this time he changed his name from Ismaer to Ismael which he thought was more biblical and added Prudhomme as a middle name in honour of his mother.

After graduating, he was sent to Saint-Anne’s Kankakee County, Illinois to work with Father Chiniquy. Father Chiniquy was a Catholic priest who had left Quebec in the wake of several scandals. His zeal for God remained intense but not his feelings for the Catholic Church, which he renounced. He made his beliefs known to his congregation and they all chose to follow him and convert to Protestantism.

One family living in Kankakee was the Girods, who had recently immigrated from Switzerland. When their daughter Ida, a teacher in Baltimore came to visit, she was introduced to their minister. Ismael had been very homesick and often wrote letters home. He began writing about the lovely woman he had met. Then in one letter, he wrote to his sister Anais, “ Wouldn’t you like to come out after the harvest and see my wife. It would be worth it for without a doubt she is one of the beauties of the world in my eyes.” Ismael and Ida were married June 12, 1886.

The Bruneaus had three children in Green Bay, Wisconsin, one in Holyoke, Massachusetts, three in Quebec City and the last three in Montreal. Ismael had wanted a biblical family, a child for each of the 12 tribes of Israel but in the end had only 10. Nine of the children survived. He continued moving and preaching, taking a charge in Cornwall, Ontario and finally in 1917 back to Quebec City.

In Quebec, he had a church in the Old City as well as a congregation in Portneuf. He would conduct the morning service, catch the train to Portneuf for an afternoon service and be back in Quebec City in time for the evening service. On January 27, 1918 the train was delayed because of a troop train. Arriving late in Quebec City he ran up the hill from the station. He entered the church before the service ended but while his spirit was still willing his heart was weak. His family suffered financial hardships after his death as there were no pensions and the Presbyterian Church sent his widow one cheque for the days he had worked that month and nothing more.

Bibliography:

Bruneau, Ida. A Short History of the Bruneau – Girod Families. 1993.

Duclos, Rieul P. Histoire Du Protestantisme Français Au Canada Et Aux États-Unis. Montreal, Canada: 1912. Print

Villard, Paul. Up to the Light: The Story of French Protestantism in Canada. Toronto: Issued for the Board of Home Missions of the United Church of Canada by the Committee on Literature, General Publicity and Missionary Education of the United Church of Canada, 1928. Print.

Here is a link to a story about Ismael’s wife Ida Girod.

https://wordpress.com/post/genealogyensemble.com/3674