Napoleon (Poley)

Napoleon Thesier
Born 2-5-1876
Died 12-7-1949

Napoleon Thesier, known to many as “Poley” was born in Bourget, Ontario on December 5, 1876. He was the first child of Moise and Vitaline Tessier. When he was about 12 years old his father, stepmother Rosanna, two sisters and three half brothers moved to the United States settling near Fine, NY.

Not much is known about his early years until his marriage to Zelia LaBelle at St. James Church in Gouverneur, NY on August 22, 1898. Zelia, known as Libby, was also born in Bourget. After they were married, they operated a farm near Fine. They had 2 children, a son named Napoleon, and a daughter named Mary Louise.

However, in 1915, because the school in Fine was closing, he moved his family to a farm in the town of Harrisburg in Lewis County. It has been told through the generations that they walked the cows from Fine to Lewis County, following them with a team of horses. The new farm consisted of 108 acres, and in 1937 he bought another 160 acres. They had the usual farm animals, cows, horses, pigs and chickens, and also a dog and cats. Some of the pigs they raised were butchered and others were sold. There was a grove of maple trees on the farm and each spring the trees were tapped with Poley doing the boiling, and his son and a hired hand gathering the sap.

Their social life consisted of meetings at the Harrisburg Grange and visiting relatives. Each year they made one trip to the Hermon area to visit the Brunets. His sister Edith who had married Joe Brunet lived on a farm in the Hermon area. Poley and his family also attended the family reunion each summer. At least once the reunion was held at their farm.

Poley was a member of the Harrisburg town board. He must have been an active member as he belonged for 12 years. After Poley’s son, Nap (as he was called) got married, Nap operated the farm in partnership with his dad. Nap and his wife lived with Poley and Libby. Nap and his wife Agnes had 2 boys, Eugene and Carl. This farm is still in the family and Eugene, Poley’s grandson, is now operating the farm.

Eugene remembers his grandfather as a quiet man devoted to his family. He was a man strong in his Catholic faith, and they always attended mass together on Sunday mornings. Christmas Eve was always celebrated by going to midnight mass. On Christmas day, Mary Louise and the children came for dinner. Presents were sometimes not opened until the afternoon. One memory Eugene and his brother Carl share is of the bicycles their grandparents gave them. Poley had purchased them at his brother Leo’s farm machinery store.

They celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1948 with many of his brothers and their families in attendance. Libby had had a stroke prior to this event and was using a wheelchair.

Poley died at home of cancer on December 7, 1949, and is buried at St. Mary’s cemetery in Copenhagen, NY.

This story of Uncle Poley’s life was written by Rita Thesier, wife of Carl Thesier, grandson of Uncle Poley.