Researched, written and contributed
by: Gloria A. Olson
Edited July 2002
Suzie started her life in the wilderness of what became northeastern Wisconsin. Her accepted date of birth, although not verifiable, is December 26, 1831 at what is now Keshena, Wisconsin on the Menomonee Indian Reservation. She was born raised in the culture and life style of the Indians of that time, with little or no contact with the white man in her early years. What contact she had would have been with the early explorers, missionaries and the fur traders of the area. As a child she would walk with her mother from Keshina to the area of what is now Oconto. This may have been to harvest wild rice that grew in the wet lands, harvest wild cranberries or to trade with the tribes in the area at that time. She witnessed the many changes, which came with the white man taking over what was the homeland of her culture & people. She received her education from the priests who were working to blend and educate the Indians into the culture of the white man and became a devout Catholic her children being educated at the St. Peters CatholicSchool.
She married John Mechaquette known as “Injun” John. Injun John lived at the Astor trading post for many years and was the last person to live there. They had two daughters Elizabeth and Mary Ann. The only other known relative is Joseph Kassen, a nephew, who was also known as Rattlesnake Joe or Injun Joe.
Suzie lived the majority of her adult life in the Oconto area. Her final home was on the banks of the Oconto River to the west of Oconto and she is known to have been there in the late 1800’s. Her home was located on the north bank of the Oconto River a short distance from the Jones Mill. The Jones mill was constructed after August 1844 when Huff Jones obtained the deed for the property. Some people still refer to the location as Suzie’s Hill, which was a sand hill and surrounded by wet lands. The home was built of wide boards, with a shingled roof and the same type of boards used for the floor and consisted of four rooms. The home was always referred to weathered looking and nobody remembers it ever having been painted. There were 2 bedrooms, approximately 8 ft x 8 ft in size, which allowed just enough room for a bed and a space to walk and each had one glass window. The main room was slightly larger and contained a pot-bellied stove for heating and two chairs. The main room also had corner shelves to the side of the front door where she put her belongings and two glass windows. The kitchen had a wood burning cook stove, a table and a dry sink over which there was a widow. She had several shelves in the kitchen on which to store her utensils, food and herbs. Her drinking water came from a spring on her property. This is the home she lived in till shortly before she died at age 109. She never had electricity, inside plumbing or a phone. Suzie’s home was burned down shortly after she died.
Her household chores were conducted similar to the ways of her ancestors. She washed her clothes in the river and hung them on a line in under her apple trees. She raised some vegetables in summer and harvested berries, herbs and other items from the forest. Her floors she kept clean by placing sand or dirt on them and sweeping it out. She also placed dirt on the floors in the winter to fill the cracks and keep out the cold. She packed it down very hard and deep enough so she could sweep it and it would last till spring to provide the insulation value it had. Susie’s home was always neat and clean according to the people who where in it.
Suzie never raised any chickens, cows or pigs and several people insist they never saw dogs on her property as indicated in some articles. She did however raise & harvest her apples, which she could sell, dry and make apple cider out of. Susie made her cider in open barrels, which stood outside of the house.
She never saw a doctor and practiced the medicine of her ancestors using herbs, bark and items available from the woods. She would go into the woods and collect her medicines take them home; wash, dry and store them in baskets. When Emma Werrenbroeck was injured she sent her daughter, Ann for Susie who promptly came over and applied a pack of herbs to the area, securing it with cloth and told her to leave it on for one week. One week later it was removed and the injury was healed.
Suzie was a small person who later in life had a dropped right shoulder, possibly the result of an injury. She was a clean person and always had a smile and hello for everyone she met. She dressed in long skirts and blouses that were always dark in color. For her walks to town she always wore a black hat with a red rose on the front of it.
Suzie walked every where she went till the last year of her life. She walked every Sunday to St. Peter’s church for mass a distance of approximately 2-1/2 miles through woods, wet lands, on country roads and city streets. She also walked and carried back her supplies from Alphonse Slaak store located on the south east corner of Brazeau & Main across from the McTavish Hotel on the northeast corner, a distance of about 2 miles. Susie had a budget of $3.00 per week to provide for all the things she needed to purchase. In later years her longest walk was to downtown a distance of about 3 miles.
Suzie loved children and evidently every child who came to her house received a piece of candy. In winter she would invite the children skating on the river to come in to warm up by her pot-bellied stove and they all left with candy. If a child helped her with her chores, they also earned a piece of candy and it appears any child who visited with an adult left with a piece of candy as well. Children sledding or playing in the area soon learned that Susie’s spring had better tasting water then the water from river.
One of Suzie’s greatest pleasures was riding in all 4th of July parades, once they started, till the time of her death. She would smile and wave from start to finish and thought it was a great honor to do so. Suzie voted for the first time in the spring election of 1938 at the age of 106, which was an accomplishment she was very proud of.
The most devastating event in her later adult life was the loss of contact with her grandchildren, the children of Mary Ann and John Lassonier which occurred circa 1924/5 when the children were placed in an orphanage in Green Bay because they were being neglected. Suzie tried to, and wanted to take care of them, but because of the size of her house and advanced age it was determined she was not able to, so they were removed. Susie had them the night before they were removed to Green Bay and on the last day a big meal was planned by her neighbors, and held at Charles and Emma Werrenbroeck home. After the meal was over the county representatives picked up the children and took them to Green Bay. The children were Russell, Willfred, David and Mary Lassonier.
Suzie’s death is recorded in Volume 14, page 302 in Oconto County Register of Deeds office. It shows her age as 109 years and her death on 10/02/1940. The person providing the information was Manyme Feeney of Oconto. The article in the Oconto County Reporter on October 3, 1940 states she would have been 109 on the next birthday anniversary of Dec. 26, 1940 and lists her name as both Susan and Suzy. Suzy spent the last months of her life living with Mrs. Mary Burke. The Reporter lists 3 granddaughter, of whom one was Mrs. John Belongia of Oconto, and six grandsons. Hopefully, with more research we will be able to identify more ancestors of this great lady. The funeral services were at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, with Rev. Byron Belongia officiating. She was buried on Oct. 5, 1940 in the Catholic Cemetery, next to her husband John Mechaquette.
Suzie’s life spanned the development of Oconto County into a thriving area from a wilderness. She became a legend in her lifetime. I am positive there are many other stories regarding Susie put this article is based on information from Ann Werrenbroeck, who’s family was a neighbor. Helen Laduron Janssen Jelinski, Marion Laduron Ziesmer and Beverly Jean Laduron Barthels who’s parents hired Injun Joe, on occasion, and went to Susie’s home with their parents, when they wanted to have Injun Joe work for them. Other sources Oconto County Reporter articles, death certificate, Hall Centennial Book and Lola Ziesmer Bridger contributing researcher. The spelling of her name is as it appears on her death certificate.
If more information is found regarding Suzie this will
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