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Submitted by  Gloria A. Olson



Gerard Laduron was born on 1/18/1843 in Meux, Belgium the son of Maximiliem Laduron and Ann Joseph Herbignat.  He left Meux on April 14, 1856  with his parents and 7 siblings and went to  Anvers, the  French way of saying Antwerp. They stayed in Antwerp several weeks, while arranging passage to Quebec, Canada.  Their destination was Union Township, Door County, Wisconsin.  The reason for going to Quebec may have been that the ship was overloaded for its size.  His father's occupation is listed as day laborer but family stories also indicated that they farmed.

The United States had stopped allowing ships from Belgium, which were overloaded to disembark their passengers.  A ship that was overloaded was cheaper to sail on and made more money for the steamship line.  Some ships would stop in Quebec, disembark some passengers and then sail on to a United States port.  At this time we do not know which ship they took from Antwerp to Quebec.  The average cost per person was $35.00, which included no food.  The family of 9 had to bring aboard ship all the food they needed till they reached their destination.  Since Maximilien was a day laborer in Belgium, they must have been very frugal people to  save enough money to pay passage for 9 people to the United States. Besides Gerard and his parents their was Julie, Louis, M. Josephine, Alexis and Jean Baptiste Laduron his brothers and sisters.  Traveling with this family was Boniface Pitaux, born circa 1848, Namur.

Gerard, known as Jerry, stated it took 6 weeks to cross the ocean in a ship that was too small and overloaded.   He told a lot of stories regarding the trip over the most interesting one was going miles out of their way, sailing around for days trying to avoid a whale that was following them.  They were afraid it would capsize the small overloaded ship, because of its size.

They must have left the country of Belgium with mixed feelings.  Gerard Laduron always said he was the seventh son of the seventh son.  If this is true there had to be 3 older brothers.  We known one sister Marie Antoinette immigrated to the United States in 1866, with 3 children  after her first husband, Francis LeCocq died.

Jerry stated they left Belgium for more freedom and opportunity.  After learning more about Belgium history, it is obvious that some of the family stories differ from the facts at the time they left Belgium.  It is apparent that their purpose was for greater opportunity..

After arriving at Quebec, family stories have them traveling by ship to Mackinac where they entered the United States on June 26, 1856.  The other alternative would have been to travel through Canada by a combination of rail and stagecoach.  If they did travel by boat they would have gone through the Erie Canal.   If there were no wind they would have had to be pulled through by mules or wait until the wind came up.  Being pulled through the canal by mule, they would have traveled through the canal at the rate of 5 to 7 miles a day.

There is no information or family story currently available on how they got from Mackinac to Union Township.  Jerry did not talk a great deal about the early years in Door County.  We do know his father purchased 40 acres of land on January 3, 1860, in Section 27.  His brother Louis purchased an adjoining property at the same time.  The Alex Laduron book states that the surveyors made a mistake in mapping the area and listed it as swampland.  This made the land available for a bargain rate of $.50 to $.75 an acre as opposed to the normal $1.25.  They did not know what they paid.

The one story he did tell about living in Door County was in regards to an Indian.  He was helping his father clean land, when all of a sudden, his father decided it was time to go back to the house in the middle of the day.   On returning to the house they looked through the window to see his mother tied to a chair, with a drunk Indian circling her with a tomahawk in hand.  His father shot the Indian through the window killing him.

The family may have also become involved in making shingles.  The shingles were made from the logs they cut to clear their land.  These shingles could then be taken to Green Bay and sold for cash to help them purchase tools, livestock and develop their land.   The majority of these shingles were then shipped to Milwaukee and  Chicago by boat.

Jerry married Ann Mathilda Fabry in Wisconsin on Jan. 9, 1863.  Their witnesses were Eugene Dupont and Denis Giles.   Ann Mathilda, known as Mathilda, was born 8/22/1843 in Belgium, the daughter of William Fabry and Joanne Vananesse.  They purchased their farm in Township of Oconto, one mile south of Brookside on County Trunk J, on June 5, 1968 from James Abray.  They moved to their farm during the winter, so they could go across Green Bay when it was frozen.  This made the trip a lot shorter, then going around the bay and through the city of Green Bay.

By the time Jerry bought his land his sister Josephine married to Jean Baptiste (AKA Frank) had been in the Village of Pensaukee since 1866.  When Jerry moved to the area so did his brother Boinface Petaux, who was not using the name of Laduron.  They apparently spent at least the summer of 1868 clearing and constructing a home on the land.
We know Jerry & Mathilda had their first three children at Bay Settlement.  Carolus (Ronie) 6/27/1864;
Mary born 3/28/1867 who married Alexander David Russell, and Josephine who was born 12/14/1868, and married Emil Darr.  They had a total of 12 children.  The others are: Alex, born 5/17/1870, married Elizabeth Lefevre; Flora born 9/11/1871 died 7/13/1876; Ida Flora born 3/11/1877, married Albert Pomp: Frank born 2/3/1876, married Alida Walton; William born 6/8/1878, married Ida (Edith) Pingle; Ann born & died 7/28/1877; Desere Joseph born 4/10/1884, married Zora Couillard; and Gerard Laduron 10/07/1890, married Grace Livemore.  With the exception of Frank who ended up in Portland, Oregon,  and Roni in Oshkosh, WI. their children stayed in the Oconto and Brown County areas.

This large family flourished in Brookside under the strict rules and frugal supervision of Jerry.  All were required to work on the farm. The girls worked in the house and the boys in the fields and barn.  He was very strict on what he called barn talk, that was to stay in the barn and not in the home.  Anyone working away from the farm was required to give their earnings to their father and he then gave them what he considered adequate spending money.

The farm had a summer kitchen, a smokehouse, where they smoked their sausage, hams and bacon and a brick outside oven.  The outside oven was used once a week to bake bread, beans and etc.  The stone building, which was used as the summer kitchen was there until after his son Desire sold the farm.

The family wore wooden shoes made by Gerard when they were working on the farm.  These shoes were never worn into the house; they were always taken off before entering the house.  When his son later owned the farm there was what they called a back porch, he always changed his shoes and clothes in this back porch before entering the house and there was no barn talk allowed.

The home was always kept immaculate and was simply but nicely furnished.  The family always was nicely dressed and had the latest equipment.  In 1907 Jerry ordered a vehicle from Sears Roebuck & Co.  To read the letter confirming the order you would think it would be a car, but it was a buggy with a fringed top.  The warranty states that contrary to popular belief if you drive the buggy into the river to tighten the wheels the warranty is void.

 An insurance policy issued by St Paul Fire and Marine in 1906 tells us the farm buildings, equipment and home furnishings were insured for $2,000.  There is a special rider on it to insure the sewing machine for a cost of $5.00 for three years.

Jerry and his family always made their own wine, which was used for special occasions.  Christmas was considered a religious holiday but New Years was the time to celebrate.  New Years was when all the family gathered for a festive celebration of the holiday season, with wine and the additional requirement was a large roaster filled with homemade Belgium sausage, roasting in the oven.

As the children grew, as in all families, there were some disputes.  Frank was told to leave home at age 16 and returned very few times in his lifetime.  Jerry & Mathilda had a disagreement during World War I with their daughter Josephine who had married Emil Darr who was German.  They were very upset when  Germany over ran Belgium, and their daughter agreed with her husband that it was fine.  The only time she came back to the farm was to attend her father's funeral.  Mathilda sat and watched her daughter's funeral procession pass the farm, but never went to the funeral.

Mathilda and Jerry returned annually to Bay Settlement to visit relatives, on August 15, and to go to the Shrine of Our Lady of Good Help at Robinsonville.   In 1923 he decided not to go.  On that day while working at what they called the Eighty, he fell and broke his hip and died on Sept. 4., 1923.  Mathilda blamed the accident on the fact that they had not gone to visit the shrine.

Mathilda lived on the homestead with her son Desire, Pete and his family until she died on 6/8/1936.  After Jerry died she had what she considered her rooms in the house and very seldom came out of them. Both are buried at the Catholic Cemetery in Oconto, Wisconsin.

Gerard and Mathilda were considered prosperous members of their community and instilled in their family the habit of hard work.   They also enjoyed their wine on special occasions and enjoyed a good family gathering.

The information comes from family stores written by Helen Jelinski, and told by Marion Ziesmer, granddaughters; family bible, The Alex Laduron Family  book and vital records.

This biography prepared and submitted by Gloria A. Olson