As happens with us all, life happened to me last week, and I did not get my post on Wilfrid Lacasse, my 2nd cousin 3x removed, completed. Apologies for any confusion that the blank post may have created! This will mean you’ll see two posts from me this weekend, one on Wilfrid today, and another tomorrow on Herbert Hewlett.
Wilfrid Lacasse is one of only two members of my maternal grandfather’s family I am profiling over the course of this year. I have a few theories about why that is, but most notably is the fact that my grandfather came from a French Canadian family in an isolated part of Northern Ontario. French Canada was less likely to subscribe to the British imperial rhetoric driving recruitment, so the likelihood of enlistment was lower. Also, being in a community where the main industry were mines and mills, men’s incomes were important to the survival of families, and the products of the work was considered important to the war effort. Wilfrid is not only one of the only two members of this side of my family I will be profiling, he is also the only member of the American war effort I have as part of this project.
Wilfrid and I are both descended from Laurent Lacasse and Emelie Bergeron who were my 4th Great Grandparents, and Wilfrid’s Great Grandparents. Both families extend back generations in Canada, with traces back to the settlement of “New France” around the St. Lawrence River. Both were born just south of Montreal, and, sometime after their marriage, settled in the Ontario community of Clarence Creek, just south of the Quebec/Ontario border.
While I am descended from their son Jean Baptiste, Wilfrid is descended from their oldest son, Laurent, and then his son, also named Laurent. Wilfrid’s father and his mother, Josephine Bergeron, were both born in Clarence Creek, where they married and where their children were born. In the 1901 census, completed early in the year, Laurent and Josephine are listed as living in Clarence Creek with with their four daughters and one son: Wilfrid. In July of that year, Josephine died, leaving Laurent with five children ranging from one to twelve years. By the end of the year, the family had moved to Michigan, potentially to be closer to his brother Felix, who already lived there.
Wilfrid was living in Alger, Michigan when the American forces joined the war in 1917. He was twenty four. As I’ve written before, American service records were destroyed in a massive fire at the National Personnel Records Centre in St. Louis which destroyed 80% of service records of men discharged from American military forces between 1912 and 1960. As such, there is no military file for Wilfrid, but there is a record of a request his wife made for him to have a military headstone upon his death. This record states that he served as a cook at Camp Mills in Long Island, New York. This was a camp that was established in the autumn of 1917 as an embarkation point for troops leaving for Europe. His period of service was less than a year, ranging from September 2, 1918 to July 1919. Since the war ended in November of 1918, it is very unlikely that he served overseas.
He returned to Michigan after his discharge where he married Ruth McMaster in 1924 and began his family. They later moved to Wisconsin where he lived until his death in 1952 at 59 years of age.