Albert Tessier, (known to many of us as Uncle Mutt) was born May 15, 1908 to Mose and Rosanna Tessier in the village of Fine, NY. He was the youngest child of 13 children. In 1914, his family moved to a farm a few miles out of Lowville on the West Road. He was about 6 years old. I have no information on what his young life was like. Probably school, then work on the farm for his brother Mose.
As a young man he went to Canada to work and live. His older brother Antoine (Uncle Tony) lived in Elk Lake in Canada. Uncle Tony’s youngest son Paul still lives in Elk Lake and can remember when Uncle Mutt used to visit his family. This was when Paul was about 5-6 yrs old but he remembers very clearly. Below is his story of Uncle Mutt.
Uncle Albert ( Mutt 1 think was his nickname) came a couple of times in his car. He would drive by like a bat out ofhell, dust ajlying, get 300 yards past the gate before he got stopped and turned around When he got in the yard you could hear him singing 1/ Come a Ti Yi Yippee Yippee Ah Yippee Ah Come a Ti Yi Yippee Yippee Ah”. From then on it was party time at our place. As I recall he made about two visits by automobile in the summer months.
I must apologize to his family for I did knock him out one time around Christmas. I was all of four or five years old There was a bit of a party going on and the Gin and Brandy was in good supply. 1 was standing in an archway over the furnace heater outlet. It was about two feet off the floor in a space about one and half feet wide. Beside me was a half full wine bottle. Uncle Mutt started to wrestle with my mother in a way that at my young age, I though very inappropriate to say the least. They came a little too close to me and I picked up the wine bottle by it’s long neck and hit him a severe blow to the top of his head. Uncle Mutt went to his knees quite suddenly. The wrestling stopped. My Dad came for me with blood in his eye. But Mother, though a small woman, stood her ground and said “You leave him alone”. Dad, knowing he would have to go through a field of wild cats, stopped. Uncle Mutt agreed with mother as well and I was saved another trip to the wood shed.
The last trip he made to our place, he came by train in the winter. He and Tilly were on their honeymoon. We all went to the station in town to meet them. Mom made sure that we all had a good supply of rice to throw. My sister Lily and brother Alford were also there.
Uncle Mutt worked and lived in Canada for several years. He met and married Mathilda Zimmerling in December of 1939. In 1944, a son Glenn was born to them. In February of 1948 a terrible tragedy occurred. His wife and his son Glenn, who was 4 at that time, died of carbon monoxide fumes while waiting in the car. Their car had become stuck in a snowbank on the way home from shopping. While they were waiting for someone to come and pull them out, they stayed in the car with the motor running to keep warm. It was a bitter cold and stormy night. By the time they were found, it was too late to save them. At that time the family was living in a logging camp in Wheelerville, Canada.
Uncle Mutt came back to the states later that year. In August of that year, he was at the family reunion. All of the living brothers and sisters of Uncle Mutt were at the reunion at that time. That seems to be about the time that stories of where he worked and lived are showing up. He spent a couple of years working in Tupper Lake with his nephews, Ernie and Wilfred Dechene, logging it. He then went to Vermont where he lived a few years. He eventually met and married Freda Colty while in Vermont. They had a daughter Glendora born in 1953. He came back to New York to work a few years after that. Freda and Glendora stayed in Vermont
Below are some letters from my brother Larry who, while in high school, spent time working with Uncle Mutt.
I was a junior or senior in high school when Uncle Mutt was in the area and working at logging up on tug hill between Barnes Corners and Lowville. It must have been March or April with the cold nights and snow still around in areas. He took me with him and we went to the property and we stayed in an abandoned house in which he had a wood stove and canvas hung over the broken windows and doors. He started a fire and warmed up the one room we were using, then fixed supper comprised of bread and syrup. He told me they called that “Trompet” in French.
We slept under many covers and awoke early and breakfasted on fried eggs and bacon and toast. We went into the woods and worked at clearing an area for a pond as well as loading logs on his low trailer equipped with log bunks. I was operating his TD6 or 9 International dozer pushing tops and debris up into a huge pile. I remember being scared to death when once I stalled it up on the pile at quite an angle and the only recourse was to coast it back down. I was not very adept at that and came back down faster than I thought dozers should go. I managed to get off and get my legs to stop shaking before Uncle Mutt came laughing at the ride he saw me take off that pile.
2nd letter of Larry’s
When Mom and us boys were living on the Carthage farm, Uncle Mutt was making maple syrup at the woodlot on our place. That puts it around 1955 or 1956. I was about 14. I remember helping him with the process some. I probably wasn’t much help at that time in my life. I was more interested in sports and playing with neighbors all around the neighborhood.
I do remember Uncle Mutt giving me instructions on how to boil sap in the evaporator and how to let one chamber flow into the next when the level gets down and how to test the final chamber for sugar content with a hygrometer. He also said something about keeping the fires up for a continuous boil. Anyway I was engrossed with knowing it all and doing all the important things so he could go somewhere else. When he returned he was impressed with all the things I did when I told him what I had done. As he was about to ask about keeping wood on fire, the fire went so low so fast that the sap stopped boiling. We took a quick look into the firebox and found the fire had burned up all the wood and we had to rapidly try to get the fire roaring again without the aid of a lot of hot burning wood or many coals left. He effectively told me what I did wrong without bursting my bubble too bad and we continued to boil sap for a time after that without losing the fire ever again.
Another remembrance of Uncle Mutt by Larry involved a trip from Carthage to someplace in Vermont. It was somewhere near Rutland, Vermont where his wife Freda, his young daughter Glendora (about 6 or 7) and his stepson Ed (about 14 or 15, I believe) resided.
We left the Carthage area after school probably on a Friday and headed up thru the Adirondack Mountains towards Vermont. We were traveling in Uncle Mutt s black Chevy or GMC panel van loaded with his heavy tools for maintaining his dozer and Brockway tractor trailer. It also had the smells of greases and fuel oil used with the equipment, The van apparently had many miles on it cause it whined different sounds as we traveled -sort of relative to the speed we were going.
Uncle Mutt probably had been up since before dawn working all day on his dozer. He asked me to drive which was quite an honor for a new driver like myself. He told me not to go over the speed limit. He promptly fell off to sleep as we drove thru the night on those roads. Once in a while my speed would creep up to exceed the speed limit. Every time it did, he would wake up and say to slow it back down please. It took me awhile for me to figure out how he knew what speed I was going. His experience with equipment left him with the ability to hear the changes in the whining noise that old truck made at various speeds.
We arrived at our destination late. We slept and spent the next day and 1/2 there with his wife Freda and their daughter, before returning Sunday PM Uncle Mutt was so proud of his young daughter Glendora. He gave Freda an envelope full of money and told her of his work and life since he was last home.
This was the first time I had seen him in this family mode and it left me with a new found respect for him I had never experienced before.
On the way back from Rutland Vermont, Uncle Mutt told me of his work in his younger days. He told of the job he had running mail and tool bits into the James Bay area gold mines. He used dog sleds to make the trips in and out and had to deal with weather in the process. He talked of taking care of the dogs then digging a hole in the snow to protect himself from the weather. I don’t remember much more than that but I thought you would want to know. He was a rugged fellow with a big heart. More recent experiences with Uncle Mutt were always tempered with that experience.
Some more information about Uncle Mutt came from my brother Paul. He told me Uncle Mutt bought a house trailer in Barnes Comer about that time. He bought a back hoe and worked for the conservation dept. for awhile. He later worked on a farm of a friend of Paul’s. Whenever he had a place where he had some land, he always had a cow, and a horse, and always a garden. He gave a lot of the stuff he grew to neighbors. He was a man who loved kids and always had as many around as he could when he was working.
Uncle Mutt later spent time with my brother Art, Doris and family. They were both working at the time and Uncle Mutt took care of the kids, did the laundry and all of the cooking. He loved to bake bread, his specialty, and made homemade donuts all the time. One winter while there, he dammed up the creek and made a skating rink for the kids.
As he got older, he suffered quite a bit from arthritis. When he decided to really retire, he moved into a senior apartment building in Carthage. He lived there until he no longer was well enough to take care of himself. He went from there to a nursing home in Lowville, NY. One day, while in the nursing home, he sat down in a rocking chair after breakfast, went to sleep and never woke up. This was July 7, 1990. What a peaceful way to end a long hard life.