Finding Uncle Aaron

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Aaron Adam Hebert

I was searching the Internet for information about my Great Uncle Aaron Hebert when I stumbled across a great website. It’s a memorial for fallen soldiers in the Morgan City and Tri-City Area. Here’s the link: http://www.fallenwarriorsmemorialmorgancity.com/

Now I was born in Thibodaux, and I’ve always heard of Morgan City referred to as the Tri-City area, but I had to look up what the three cities are. I’m not positive, but I think it means Morgan City, Berwick and Patterson.

Uncle Aaron didn’t come from any of those cities. He was born and reared in Bayou L’Ourse, which was apparently close enough  for the memorial organizers. At some point, I begged a family member with possession of the old family photos to loan them to me so I could scan them in. The only photo we have of Uncle Aaron was among them. I sent his picture to the memorial. Now there will be a face with the name.

I’m honored that Uncle Aaron was included in the memorial. He died long before I was born, but we were always told about him. He died in France during World War II. The story is that he was a military cook who got tired of cooking and volunteered to become a soldier. He died a week later – or so the family story goes. It’s probably more likely that he was a cook initially and then pressed into battle as the ranks thinned. I decided to go in search of the real story. Excuse me while I put on my Nancy Drew hat – and please excuse how incredibly long this entry is. I want to show just how much genealogy records can tell you about a relative.

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Uncle Aaron’s grave in France

We’re very proud of Uncle Aaron. He died defending his country, and I can only imagine that joining the military was a bit of a culture shock for him.

 

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The 1940 Census showed Aaron living with my great-grandparents, Jean Jules Hebert and Eugenie Benoit Hebert, in Assumption Parish. Also at home were Uncle Wilfred and Uncle J.T.

Uncle Aaron’s occupation was listed as moss picker. I never quite understood the moss picking industry until recently. What did they do with the moss? Someone explained to me that it used to be mixed with another substance to finish walls. It was the olden day drywall.

As for education, a 23-year-old Uncle Aaron was listed as finishing the 5th grade, which probably was about right. My grandfather, who was his brother, didn’t get any further than that. You went to school until you were old enough to work. My family lived off the land and the bayou.

Uncle Aaron’s native language was listed as French. This is interesting to me. I would imagine this means that he learned French at home first and then English during his few years in school. However, he must have mainly spoken French since he considered this his native language. I wish my granny had spoken to me only in French so I could have learned that Cajun French. Instead, she was quite proud to know English and refused to teach her children or grandchildren Cajun French. That native language made her feel backwards.

cardThe same year the census was taken, Uncle Aaron filled out his draft card. My grandfather filled out one as well, but he had flat feet. 1940 was before the U.S. entered World War II. However, things were tense on the worldwide stage so men 18 to 65 had to fill out draft cards in preparation.

The draft card can tell you interesting factoids about your ancestor. For example, at the Hebert manse, there was no phone in 1940. I also learn that Uncle Aaron was born five days after Christmas in Amelia, which is across the bayou from Bayou L’Ourse. I don’t know if he was actually born in Amelia or if he just listed that since it was the closest town with a post office. I now know he worked for Martial Creador. I assume this was someone at the moss gin listed on the census.

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So then I went further afield and found my great-grandfather’s draft card. It shows me that he couldn’t sign his name so he apparently received zero schooling. His name also is listed as Jules Judeon Hebert when in fact it was Jean Jules Hebert. His mother came from a wealthy family so I always assumed that she received an education and would have taught her children to read and write. Apparently I was wrong. It’s also possible that Jules didn’t understand what he was being asked. He only spoke French. I know this because my mother only spoke English and could never really converse with him even though she grew up next door to his house.

But back to Uncle Aaron. Now I want to know when he enlisted. I should probably add that Uncle Aaron, who was all of 28 when he died, never married or had children. There was really no one to carry on his story.

Enlistment records on Ancestry.com (no plug) tell me he enlisted on March 7, 1942, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. They put him down as enlistment for the duration of the war or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to the law. In other words, the military owned him. This was just a few months after the attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941.

I know that three years later he died on the battlefield. What happened in between? For that, I had to send off for his official military records, which were a pain to get. Only a direct relative can get a person’s military records. Uncle Aaron didn’t have a wife or kids. His parents were dead (his mom died a few months after he did). He had no living siblings. Fortunately, his sister-in-law (my grandmother) was still living so I made the request in her name with her permission, and I may have fudged a little and listed her as his sister.

What we received was something called Individual Deceased Personal File, which really told me nothing about his military record. It did take me to a snowy village in France just after Christmas.

Uncle Aaron’s date of death was an estimated January 5, 1945. He was buried fully clothed in a mattress cover with upper extremities disarticulated. I really didn’t need to know that, but there it was. He was buried in Epinal, France. Uncle Aaron is there to this day, above the Moselle River in the foothills of the Vosges Mountains. My cousin make a trek out to the cemetery while living in Paris, becoming the first member of the family to visit Uncle Aaron’s final resting place.

He was identified by a tag on his belt and trousers. His cause of death was SFW Rt. Groin, which I gather means he was shot straight through his groin. Ouch. Poor Uncle Aaron.

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Soldiers going door to door in Wingen.

His place of death is listed as Vic. Wingen-sur-moder, France, and the report maintains that he actually died on Jan. 7, 1945. What I think is more likely is that his body was found on Jan. 7, and that he did indeed die very early on Jan. 5. However, we’ll probably never know for sure.

Wingen-sur-moder was a small French town that had the misfortune to have a railroad line above it. A railroad line, of course, would be important during wartime. It was snowing and bitterly cold in early January 1945. The snow was waist deep in spots. Germans with experience fighting in Finland attacked.

The U.S. Army’s 1st Battalion, 179th Infantry, was in charge of defending the French town but was caught off guard by the surprise attack. North of the town was the 276th Infantry with Uncle Aaron in its ranks.

The attack hit late on Jan. 3. The Germans took hold of Wingen and basically wiped out the entire 179th 1st Battalion. Those not killed were injured or captured and herded into the town’s Catholic church.

Uncle Aaron wasn’t in the town. He was in Company B, cut off from the rest of the battalion, high above Wingen.

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The snowy town of Wingen in January 1945.

Uncle Aaron’s company set up camp northeast of Wingen. What the company didn’t know is that they were directly in the SS battalions’ path.

They pitched tents, not wanting the clang of shovels against frozen ground to alert the Germans to their location. In other words, they didn’t dig foxholes. The Germans surprised them as they slept, sneaking up and getting on top of the machine guns.  The Germans taunted, urging Uncle Aaron and the other American soldiers to fire so they could see where they were and shoot them. It was a massacre.

Here’s an account of the aftermath: “At the top of a ridge we unexpectedly came upon the frozen bodies of many men, scattered about, frozen in the snow where they fell. They were almost all in American uniforms. Some were still halfway in their tents and sleeping bags. Some were without boots. Lost buddies…Gear and equipment were strewn about, but weapons, ammunition and rations had been removed. Despite the cold, the scene smelled of death and gunpowder. Trees had been shaved by bullets and in places spent cartridges had melted the snow. We did not count the dead, but the numbers overwhelmed us; there could easily have been 50 to 100, or even more, GIs, and only a few – maybe five or six – Germans. We knew immediately that the American corpses had been in Co. B, which occupied the barracks next to us at Leonard Wood, marched ahead of us in formation and shared the ballroom on the West Point. We did not know what happened, but I realized what ‘wiped out’ meant, and to the extent I could absorb it at the moment, what this war meant. McCord and I were silent for a long time, and I didn’t know which of us emerged first from the shock, but we did not have time; we had to do our work and catch up with the company.”

Uncle Aaron posthumously received the Purple Heart for his service. I hope he’s resting in peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Penissons

The Penissons are legendary in my family for two reasons. First, they weren’t Cajuns (they emigrated from France long after the Cajuns arrived). Second, they had a little money.

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Jean Baptiste Etienne Penisson

Here’s my great-great-great grandfather, Jean Baptiste Etienne Penisson. He married Henriette Nina Boudreaux and had 11 children. Their daughter, Marie Rosalie, was my great-great grandmother.

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Etienne Benjamin Penisson and Rosalie Trahan

This is supposedly a portrait of Jean Baptiste Etienne’s parents, Etienne Benjamin and Rosalie Trahan Penisson. I say supposedly because Etienne Benjamin died in 1856. I am not an expert on the history of photography in America. However, you have to remember that the Penissons lived in Bayou L’Ourse,  a small community between Morgan City and Thibodaux. I’m not certain how they would have gotten their picture taken in the early, early days of photography. It’s possible, though. Maybe they managed to get to New Orleans.

Etienne Benjamin paid cash for 303 acres of land in 1844. The land was in Assumption Parish. At this point, I have to rely on oral history courtesy of my late grandmother. According to her, my great-great grandparents, Jean Severin Hebert and Marie Rosalie Penisson, got a section of this land. They lived in the Big House, which eventually went to my great-grandfather, Jean Jules Hebert. I don’t know if Jean Severin and Marie Rosalie built this house or inherited it. I don’t even know how many rooms it had – although I’m sure it was a standard bayou house, built on pilings with one room flowing directly into the next. Regardless, it burned when my great-grandfather was married and living in it. He moved across the bayou and rented a house. Eventually (after my great-grandmother died), he moved back across the bayou to the family land and lived in what amounted to a shack until he moved into a nursing home.

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This couple is described on Ancestry as a young Etienne Benjamin Penisson and Rosalie Trahan. I’m confident this picture was mislabeled.

The family money had run out, probably after the Civil War. However, the family held onto the land. I don’t know who owns it today. I can tell you where it is because we visited it often when I was a child. At one point, my mother’s childhood home shared the land with her uncle’s house. My mother’s home is long gone, but Uncle Howard’s home was still there last I visited.

The Donaldsonville Chief – Nov. 17, 1906

– The building at Dutchtown occupied by A. J. Landry as a barber-shop was totally destroyed by fire at about 10 o’clock p. m. last Saturday, together with its contents.

– Mr. and Mrs. J. C. Bouchereau are receiving the congratulations of their numerous friends anent the birth of
their first child, a sweet little daughter, who arrived from Storkville Monday afternoon of last week.

– Miss Mabel Barton’s many friends in Ascension and elsewhere will be delighted to learn that she has almost
completely recovered from the severe attack of typhoid fever with which she suffered during the past summer.

– A bouncing boy made his appearance at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Bennie Savoy early yesterday morning, and the auspicious event’is eliciting congratulations galore from the many friends of the happy young parents.

– Mr. and Mrs. John Coquille came up from New Orleans last Saturday afternoon on a visit to Mrs. Coquille’s
mother, Mrs. John Bourg. Mr. Coquille returned home Monday afternoon, his attractive wife remaining over until yesterday morning.

– Mr. and Mrs. John Schaff’s baby daughter was christened at the Catholic church at 10 o’cl.ck last Saturday (
forenoon, Rev. L. G. Baudin officiating. The pretty name of Anna Lily was bestowed upon the dainty little lady, Miss Anna Ohlmeyer and Richard Ohlmeyer acting as sponsors.

– Attorney R. J. Chauvin left for New Orleans Wednesday morning to be at the bedside of his little son, Rend,
who is seriously ill with pneumonia at the home of Mr. Chauvin’s parents in that city. A message received to
day conveys the gratifying information that the patient is considerably improved.

– A dainty little girl arrived at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Alcee Rodriguez at 8:50 o’clock yesterday morning,,
and the numerous friends of the proud young parents are proffering their congratulations anent the auspicious
event. The Chief takes pleasure in adding a share of felicitations, and trusts that the diminutive damsel will
be blessed with a long and happy life.

– The marriage of Joseph Austin Moore, of Terrebonne parish, to Miss Leah Margaret Knobloch, of West Baton Rouge, was solemnized Wednesday afternoon at St. Joseph’s Catholic church, Thibodaux, in the presence of a large gathering of relatives and friends of the contracting parties. Miss Gertrude Folse attended the bride as maid of honor, and Ernest
Roger, Jr., officiated as best man. After the ceremony the happy young couple drove to Shriever, where they will make their home and share each other’s joys and sorrows for the remainder of their lives. The bride is a niece of Hon. W. C. Ragan, mayor of Thibodaux, and a sister of V. J. Knobloch, a well-known young busiiness man of the same town. She is an extremely pretty and popular young lady, and has a legion of friends and admirers in this community who will rejoice with her in her new-found happiness. Mr. Moore is a son of John T. Moore, a leading sugar planter and prominent citizen of Terrebonne parish, and has before him the promise of a bright and happy future.

– For Sale! The Well-Known LAUDERDALE PLANTATION Situated in St. James parish on the west bank of the Mississippi river. six miles below Donaldsonville, at the head of the Mississippi and Lafonrche Drainage District, containing nearly 1600 acres of land-1000 of which are in high state of cultivation. Balance in woodlands, with
considerable cypress timber. This money-making plantation, with all necessary adjuncts-mules, implements, carts, etc.-will have enough corn and hay for its requirements until the new crop of 1907. half of the cane crop will be D.74.
Texas and Pacific station and Lauderdale postoffice on plantation. A large modern cottage, surrounded by live oaks, magnolias and forty grafted bearing pecan trees, makes a picturesque home. Offered for sale on account of departure of owners. Apply on premises or to E. B. LAPCE

District court report in Donaldsonville Chief on Dec. 30, 1871

DISTRICT COURT.
Adjourned Session-Hon. Raphael Beauvais, Judge,
We continue the synopsis of business transacted at the District Court
Tuesday of last week:
Lapene & Ferre rs. No. 1311, Alex. 0. Landry, Ursin Babin, inter
venor; Nicholls & Pugh, attorneys for plaintiff, Fred. Duffel, Esq., at
torney for intervenor; on motion of defendant’s attorney, this case was
fixed for trial Friday, the 22nd inst.

Augustin Allenian ves. No. 1779, Joseph Ferrier; Nicholls & Pugh,
attorneys for plaintiff, R. N. Sims, Esq., for defendant; on motion of at
torney for defendant the judgment for default rendered herein was set aside
and answered filed; case fixed for Wednesday.

John M. Lusk, administrator, vs. No. 1786, James D. Henderson et als;
R. N. Sims, Esq., attorney for plaintiff; judgment by default entered against
defendant.

Victor Maurin ef ale vs. 1778, The Common Council of Donaldsonville;
R. N. Sims, Esq., for plaintiffs, Nicholls & Pugh, for defendants; on motion, leave was granted defendants to file a motion to dissolve the injunction herein, fixed for Thursday.

E. Marqueze & Co. rs. No. 1789, V. Paul Landry and A. T. Gautrcau;
Legendre & Poche for plaintiffs; judgment by default against defendants.

Victor Maurin et als vs. No. 1793; Charles F. Smith, Tax Collector of Ascension parish; R. N. Sims, Esq., attorney for plaintiffs, Fred. Duffel, Esq., for defendant; leave granted defendant to file answer, and case fixed for Friday.

Jean Lapeyrolery vs. No. 1796, Edward Braud, fils; John A. Cheevers,
Esq., attorney for plaintiff; judgment by default entered.

Raphael Mousse vs. No. 1799, The May or and Common Council of Donaldsonville; Nicholls & Pugh, attorneys for defendants; exception filed by defendants, and case fixed for
Thursday.

J. B. Leche vs. No. 1800, J. B. Arthur Claverie; Nicholls & Pugh, attorneys for plaintiff; judgment by default entered against defendant.

Azelie Babin, wife of Phirmin Duplessis, .t ale vs. No. 1801, Widow James Anderson ; Nicholls & Pugh for plaintiffs; judgment by default against defendant entered.

McCall Bros. vs No. 1806, J. B. Wilkinson et als; on motion of R. N.
Sims, Esq., attorney for plaintiffs, this case was fixed instanter and judgment
rendered against defendants asprayed for in plaintiffs’ petition.

REPORT OF THE GRAND JURY.
The Grand Jury now came into the court and presented the following report of the result of their labors :State of Louisiana vs. John Carr; indictment for horse stealing. A true bill.

State of Louisiana vs. Boston Hewsley; indictment for throwing concentrated lie with malicious intent. A true bill.

State of Louisiana vs. Morgan Mitchell and James Lewis; indictment for an affiay. A true bill.

State of Louisiana rs. John Curtis; indictment for horse stealing. Not a
true bill.

To the Honorable Raphael Beauvais, Judge of the Fourth Judicial District Court, Parish of Ascension. The Grand Jurors of the State of Louisiana in and for the Parish of Ascension respectfully represent, that we have visited the perish prison and
find it in a good and clean condition; the prisoners are well and sufficiently
fed with good, healthy victuals, and expressed themselves satisfied. We
have also examined the Court-house, the Recorder’s office and the Clerk’s(
office. The former is in a good state of repair and only requires caps to be
placed over the chimney. The Recorder’s office and the records therein
are in a tolerable state of preservation, except the index, which is old, worm
eaten and all loose, and which should be made as the law requires. We
would further recommend that an iron safe be purchased for the safe keeping
of valuable papers, notes, etc., which may be deposited with the Recorder,
and which might also be used by the Clerk of the Court as a place of deposit. We would also recommend that iron bars be fixed to the transoms over the doors of the Clerk’s and Sheriff’s office.
Signed: G. GAUTREAU,
Foreman.

It was ordered by-the court that a copy of the above report be served on
the President of the Police Jury of Ascension Parish.
The court now adjourned until Wednesday, the 20th instant, at 10 o’clock A. M.
We defer publishing additional proceedings until next week.

Grand Coteau cemetery

My husband’s family hails from the Grand Coteau area. It’s a beautiful town with an absolutely gorgeous church and homes. We visited the graveyard to see the stones for my husband’s grandfather and assorted relatives. 

Here’s my modest list of just a fraction of the graves:

Adolph Guilbeau, March 8, 1900-Jan. 3, 1984

Laura B. Guilbeau, May 20, 1900-Dec. 11, 1974

Onesiphore Broussard, died Jan. 31, 1881, age 40

Nita Guilbeau Dugas, Jan. 14, 1881-Oct. 14, 1978

Zenon J. Dugas, July 24, 1888-Nov. 17, 1928

Lionel Guilbeau, Aug. 7, 1891-July 1, 1946

Dr. Ben Joseph Guilbeau, Sept. 3, 1860-Aug. 4, 1935

Natolia Castille Guilbeau, April 16, 1891-March 18, 1994

Saul Guilbeau, June 25, 1873-April 13, 1916

Dr. Felix C. Guilbeau, Aug. 29, 1877-July 13, 1931

Edmond C. Guilbeau, died Aug. 14, 1931

Ernest Guilbeaux, June 19, 1860-Feb. 17, 1925

Marie Thelma Durden, 1928-1962

Mrs. Oge Guilbeau, 1898-1996 (mother of Marie Thelma Durden)

Corinne Guilbeau Huter, Feb. 24, 1931-Oct. 24, 1965

Marie Pollingue Guilbeau, July 17, 1868-Feb. 7, 1939

Isabel Guilbeau, Oct. 1, 1898-May 14, 1955

Willie L. Sibille, Dec. 3, 1891-Feb. 17, 1963

Lilburn Guilbeau (wife of Willie Sibille), March 14, 1896-Sept. 28, 1952

Harry Adrian Barrilleaux, April 6, 1897-June 21, 1969

Lorena Blanco Barrilleaux, Dec. 3, 1899-Dec. 11, 1987

Havard Guilbeau, April 20, 1918-May 15, 1996

Mrs. Oscar Guilbeau, July 20, 1885-Dec. 4, 1966

Elie Guilbeau, may 20, 1894-Feb. 12, 1970

Blanche S. Guilbeau, Sept. 28, 1896-1979

Earl J. Savoie, Oct. 30, 1913-May 27, 1976

Wilhelmina G. Savoie, Oct. 31, 1913-Oct. 19, 1988

 

 

Woodrow Wilson Hebert?

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I volunteer what little spare time I have indexing records for the Church of Latter Day Saints. I’m Catholic, but I have a deep appreciation and gratitude for the Church of Latter Day Saints’ dedication to preserving and distributing genealogical records. Besides, indexing is great fun. I indexed passport records the other day from the 1920s. Imagine my surprise when I cracked open a few and discovered family photos. Not my family photos. We had little reason to get a passport. Everyone immigrated here. Seriously, for the first 12 years of my mother’s life, she lived next door to her grandfather, aunts, uncles, cousins, great-aunts, great-uncles, etc. It was like the Kennedy compound, but a lot less wealthy. 

I always smile when I index a record for someone obviously named for a president. I guess it’s amusing to me because Cajuns didn’t do that. Everyone was Jean Baptiste, Joseph or Marie. The only exceptions in my family tree were Cordilier (a man), Desire (again, a man) and a myriad of Florentins. None of those names is presidential.

Then we celebrated my father-in-law’s 95th birthday. I’ve always known him as Baker Joseph. Come to find out, he has a third name. Wilson. Baker Joseph Wilson. As in Woodrow Wilson. 

Benoits and Bergerons

I don’t know much about the Benoits and Bergerons in my family tree. My g-g-grandmother was a Benoit. Her mother was a Bergeron. G-G-Grandmother Benoit died long before my mother was born. She died of breast cancer, leaving a legacy of that particular form of cancer for her descendants. What’s also interesting about Eugenie Ella Benoit Hebert (don’t you just love that name!) is her Uncle Jean Baptiste Homere Bergeron. Homere – as no doubt he was called since his father was a Jean Baptiste – entered the world in 1844 and left it just 21 years later. He died of smallpox. How do I know that? Homere entered the Union army. He served in the First Calvary. He was known as Omer. He was among 5,000 to 10,000 (http://www.knowla.org/entry/1425/) Louisianans who fought on the Union side during the Civil War. Homere may have participated in the siege at Port Hudson. Thousands more from Louisiana joined the confederate side, including two men from the family into which Eugenie Ella married. Exactly what the Bergerons thought of Homere’s choice is unclear. After his death, his mother received a pension from the federal government for her son’s military service.