Antoine Tessier, known as “Uncle Tony”, was born to Mose and Rosanna Tessier in Clarence Creek, Canada. When he was 2 years old, his family moved to the United States and settled in Fine, N.Y. This is where he grew up and was educated. As Paul will tell you, when he was a young man, he left the States and headed for Canada. He married Aunt Lela there, raised a large family and lived the rest of his life there.
Uncle Tony and his family came to visit us once when I was a small girl. I don’t
remember much about it as I was about 4 yrs old, but I do remember thinking what a tall man he was. He came to the reunion a couple of times years later. Once he brought Aunt Lela and his daughter Eva, and another time they had Eva, her husband, and their daughter Lily with them. Because we saw so little of Uncle Tony and his family, I really did not know enough about him to write a story of his life. So I contacted his youngest son Paul who still lives in the Elk Lake area. I asked him if he would write me the story of his father. He has done a fantastic job and I am copying it as he wrote it.
Prepared by Paul A. Tessier from stories told and personal recall
My Father was born in Bourget Quebec, moved with his family to New York State when he was somewhere around two, I was told. His surname was changed in the States to Thesier.
In his early twenties while working at Benson Mines, Star Lake I believe, he met Lela May Finley. He could not speak much English and she no French at all Lela was working in the cookery at the mine at the time.
In 1908 I believe, having heard about the silver rush in Elk Lake, Ontario,
Canada, from some of the Mine Management people, he decided to head for
Canada and Elk Lake in particular. He went by train to Latchford, Ontario, where he bought a canoe. No roads in those days to Elk Lake. No River Boat then either.
He paddled some fifty miles or more, passed Hog Rapids and Mountain Chutes then up the Montreal River on into Elk Lake. He purchased a one room log cabin on the East shore of the Lake. My Mother Lela May Finley followed him the following year. He met her in Latchford and they traveled by train to Cobalt where they where married. From pictures taken in their early life together I can tell that my mother was a very pretty lady indeed.
They traveled back to Latchford and boarded the river boat “The Gypsy” They could manipulate Hog Rapids but the Gypsy had to use the Rail Portage, passed Mountain Chutes and into Mountain Lake and then up the river another 12 miles to the cabin on the shore at Elk Lake. My sisters Roseanne, Eva and brother Louis were born in that cabin, also my sister Bertha I think. Thus the need for the extra room. This cabin also had a dugout under it for the storing of vegetables and preserves etc. This cabin had a veranda on two sides facing the river. In the Spring they could fish right from this veranda. They lived in this cabin till about 1914.
This is Paul’s second submission
Everyone in Elk Lake called my Dad “Tony” I think that was because that’s what my Mother called him. Elk Lake was a frontier town in the real sense of the word. Much Like Americans would call the Wild West. It had bootleggers, blind pigs, prostitutes, several theatres and banks, hotels, and at least one murder that I now of (The Dolan Case.)
There where a quite a lot of Silver Mines close by. The Beaver Mine, The
Moosehom Mine, (Moosehom Creek ran through our farm) One in Barber
Township and several others. Dad worked in the first three mentioned.
A side note: The last year I worked at The Ministry of Natural Resources I had the job of Supervising the capping of several mines. At the Beaver Mine, the timber across the top of the shaft had two Initials carved in it. One was my Dad’s and the other was Uncle Bud’s. At least the initials were appropriate.
In my parents time the bridge across the Montreal River was a floating bridge. They drove cattle across it to pasture and back a couple of times a day. Best not to be walking across it then.
When Silver was discovered at Gowganda, not that long after Dad and Mom
arrived, all supplies had to be packed in by men with packs and tup line ( a strap that went under the packsack and across the forehead. Each man packed upwards towards 200 pounds. Gowganda was about 30 miles distant with a Halfway House at Long point. They would travel to Long point, stay over night arriving in Gowganda about 4:00 P.M. Dad would have his supper there, don a pair of moccasins and run all the way back to Elk Lake arriving just after dark. Dad was about five foot ten or eleven and very strong and athletic. In about a year or two a road suitable for pack horses and later wagons was build. Dad drove some of the teams with wagons or sleighs. He also drove teams from Charlton to Elk Lake.
Dad and Mother soon started buying up property to the east of the cabin. Much of this they acquired by paying the taxes for people who could not afford them. For some of the property, title was not established till after my wife Dorothy and I purchased the farm. Some of the property we had to pay a second time for. I bought some land too when I was sixteen.
My Dad was a good carpenter and had all the proper tools for bam and bridge building. Besides the two barns of our own, he built four others, three of which are still standing. He also was head foreman for one bridge over the Montreal at Elk Lake and one over Makobe Creek (then called Bear Creek) I was in Public School when he did the Makobe one. Our Horse was used to operate the pile driver.
The last bridge he supervised the construction of was five miles North of Elk
Lake. It was for the Craig Lumber Company to be utilized for the hauling of logs from the lumber camps. This bridge was built on a slant with a huge stone filled crib in the middle of the river. One bank of the river was much higher than the other and at the bottom of a steep hill. This bridge was utilized for five or six years then demolished. Dad build many smaller bridges prior to this in our area.
There was a steam powered saw mill on the river just South of Dads place, owned by a Willis Salmon. Dad took a correspondence course and became a certificated Third Class Stationary Engineer. I did see his certificate and about 10 or 12 hard cover books he studied from. For several years he operated the steam power plant for this sawmill until it burned down about 1918.
After this period Dad and Mom made their living farming. They had dairy cattle, poultry products. potatoes, and hogs. And also hay for the lumber camps. He did some trucking around town and supplied fuel wood to the larger establishments in town. When the depression hit they were well established. Many of the young people from town were given work. No one went away from their door hungry. All the produce was sold locally, much of it at the door and to lumber camps. Mother had a milk and produce route six days of the week in town.
Between 1914 and 1916 they built a much larger house about half way up the hill East of the cabin. The lumber came off of the farm and was sawn at the mill Dad worked at.
Paul’s 3rd submission
Visits to Tony in Canada by some of his brothers
What I have been told about Uncle Bud (Uncle Bud’s name is Adolphus
Hermedos— no wonder they called him Bud) is that he lived with Mom and Dad for a period of time and worked with him in the Mines etc. It was around the time of the Spanish Flu epidemic that hit the North. There were many deaths at that time particularly from the Native Population and many whites as well. Uncle Bud caught it and was very ill. My mother nursed him back to health. Uncle Bud met a young lady here named Lilian Fildes.) They married and moved back to the States. I was too young to remember this.
One time while Bud was living here, Bud & Dad took the team and sleigh and
went into Truax Township North West of Elk Lake. It was hard times in our town and many people were low on food. The moose were yarded up at the time and they ran onto quite a number that were a bit cantankerous. Bud ended up in a tree and began to shoot moose. Dad heard the shooting close by and ran to give assistance. They shot five, dressed them out, loaded them on the sleigh and brought them home. They butchered the meat out and delivered a lot of it to people in the town. Unfortunately the Sheriff, a Mr. Norton, heard about this from some of the people they gave to meat to. Dad had to pay a fine. He had one of the heads mounted but it was not really a very good job. It hung on the wall of our living room until the house was torn down in 1966.
I remember several visits he made with his wife and once when Herbert was with them. I always liked Uncle Bud and thought of him as a very kind and gentle man.
Uncle Albert ( Mutt, I think, was his nick name) came a couple of times in his car. He would drive by like a bat out of hell, dust a flying, get 300 yards past the gate before he got stopped and turned around. When he got in the yard you could hear him singing “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 it was. 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. I was standing in an archway over the furnace heater outlet. 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 its 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 to get to me, desisted and Uncle Mutt agreed with mother as well, so I was saved
a trip to the wood shed.
The last trip, he came by train in the winter. He and Tilly were on their
Honeymoon. He had married Mathilda Zimmerling and called her Tilly. 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 there so this was probably in the 1940s. I thought Tilly was one fine lady.
I remember one visit by Uncle Leo and Aunt Kate, not sure if anyone else was
with them. After one of the reunions that Dad and Mom went to, Dad told me all about Uncle Leo and Aunt Kate’s Farm, the large bam, the airstrip, the
International Harvester Equipment dealership. I was quite impressed with Uncle Leo because I also understood he had been in the US Navy.
Uncle Bill and his wife made one trip not that many years before he passed on. He was my kind of man and much my size. We hit it off real well. Their visit was too short.
The last submission by Paul
What Tony was really like
Uncle Tony as a family man
By his son Paul
Dad was a good provider for his family – He was a very hard worker, daylight
till dark. He had many skills which he passed on to me as best he could. He
was a strict disciplinarian and was not in the habit of “telling you a second
time.” He taught me to work hard and to do the best job I could at any endeavor. He taught me to fish and hunt, and all the chores that needed doing around the farm. When you milked your first cow that became your job from then on. Work came first and play after, if the work was done well.
He very seldom gave praise to you directly but spoke proudly of our work to
others. He taught me a bit about trapping as he did this in the winter months on and around our farm. This mostly was for land fur. fox, lynx, martin and wolves.
I remember Dad playing ball with us on occasion. He taught me how to play
Checkers and we played a lot. But Chrochinole was his favorite game on those cold winter evenings. He was quite good at it and it was a long time before I began to win.
Dad did not suffer from Heart Disease. His death came as a result of Emphysema (a lung disease) brought on by heavy smoking all his life and dust from the farm and likely the mines too.
I never knew my sister Bertha who died in childbirth and pneumonia or my
brother Gordon who drowned. Both of these happened when I was too young to remember. My Brother Louis moved to British Columbia before I was born. I never saw him until he was fifty-five years old.
Dad and Mother had nine children that lived, and two that died. One was about a month old and the other was two weeks old.
The Tessiers From The Great White North
Paul A. Tessier, Son of Antoine