Less We Forget Poppy

The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.
A Canadian Hero

Less We Forget Poppy


A 6.0 Rolette County and St. JOHN North Dakota Late 1890s Early 1900s

On the surface, St. John N.D. had a lot to offer settlers at that time in history.

A 6.0.1 Early Activities in St John Prior to Hubert Brooks Family Arrival

A Background on the Formation of the Town of St. John N.D. in Rolette County

Image of rough map showing the location of the town of St. John within the State of North Dakota

The TOWN of St John, ND was founded in 1888. Father John F. Malo, a missionary born in St. Jean, Québec, is largely credited with establishing the town. Father John Malo made several trips back to Canada to get colonists to settle in his parish.
(Father Malo first came to the area in 1879 and established a mission for the Indians about a mile and a half north of the current St. John location and built the chapel (by locals Fortunat Martineau and others) in 1882 which was called St. Claude but eventually the settlement had to move further south to St. John due to lack of water as well as to insure peace with the Indians and their need to have the rights to the forestry regions.)

When the US Government open its borders to immigrants in 1881, Father Malo had started planning to promote a colony of Canadians on the prairie at the foot of the Turtle Mountains. The great western migration was on, and, with the aid and promotion of the Catholic Church, it was comparatively easy to interest people in eastern Canada to Father Malo's proposed scheme. While the records of the church's organization and promotion efforts have been lost (these records were destroyed in a 1921 fire in St. Boniface Manitoba), it is evident that the Catholic Church missionaries spent much time and effort making the arrangements.

(Father Malo, the first white settler in Rolette County, died at St. Alexius Hospital in Bismark on Sunday June 19, 1904 at the age of 70.)

A high level summary of the early history of St. John can be found by clicking on the WEB LINK within this sentence.

Recently local St John ND historian Paul LeBlanc has downloaded a large number of historic St. John PHOTOS to the public SHUTTERFLY website that he calls "Paul's 123 st john photos´┐Ż. To access one has to join (free) SHUTTERFLY by clicking on the Paul's 123 st john photos LINK within this sentence.

Also the 1917 book NORTH DAKOTA HISTORY AND PEOPLE OUTLINES OF AMERICAN HISTORY VOLUME II edited by Clement Augustus Lounsberry and published by THE S. J. CLARKE PUBLISHING COMPANY out of Chicago can be found ONLINE by clicking this LINK contains historical summaries of numerous early settlers to St. John such as the Plantes and Martineaus (Hubert Brooks briefly referenced in Plante section p 126).

Historical Backdrop: The Turtle Mountains were known to Europeans, as well as certain Cree Indians, as the Shining Mountains. These "mountains" comprise a succession of hills that rise to an elevation of about 2,500 feet above sea level or about 1,000 feet above the adjacent area. The Turtle Mountains extend 45 miles east and west and 20 miles north and south, being almost equally divided by the Canadian border. They are in reality not mountains but gently rolling overgrown hills without buttes of bluffs and everywhere wood-covered (primarily oak and poplar) and fertile. Scattered among the hills are several hundred fresh water lakes.

From the Indians at Nipigon (north of Lake Superior) Verendrye heard of a treeless county farther west and within the county was a little range of mountains that glowed day and night. It was the Turtle Mountains.

Frequently at night the early settlers noticed, there is ‘something different’ about the sky and the stars. The sky and stars seem to be closer than any place else, and sometimes there seems to be a faint, barely perceptible glow in the sky. This spot was known as Shining Mountain. And nestled in the eastern foothills of these mountains you will find the village of St. John. Hence ‘City at the End of the Rainbow’.

This region consisting of lakes and wooded stretches affords excellent places for fishing and recreation. Within the limits of the Turtle Mountains one finds a larger number of lakes than in any other territory of the same size in the state of North Dakota. The largest of these lakes in Rolette County is Lake Upsilon, shaped like the Greek letter Y. Originally Lake Upsilon was known as Big Fish Lake. Lake Upsilon is located a little more than 10 miles to the west of St. John. Its average depth is about 12 ft. with its deepest portions about 24 ft.
Lake Upsilon enjoyed immense popularity in the early 1900s with large hotels and pavilons to accommodate visitors. (And as we shall see in A6.4, Hubert Rousseau Brooks was to have a Supply Store on Big Fish Lake.)

{ EDITOR'S NOTE: Special THANK YOU to Valerie Boman for making sections of the City at the End of the Rainbow book available to me for this document.}

The extended Brooks family was one of the early settlers in St. John N.D. .

St. John, located in Baxter Township or Precinct in northern most part of Rolette county of N.D. is located right next (less than 10 miles) to the Canadian border.
St. Boniface Manitoba is located about 170 miles to the north-east.
Grand Forks N.D., where the BROOKS family initially settled, is located about 170 miles to the south-east.

Image of North Dakota Map showing Rolette County Near Canadian Border
Rolette County Map Circa 1890s
Note St. John, Rolla, Belcourt, Laureat, Dunseith
Rolette County Map Circa 1890s
1892 Map of Portion of North Dakota Showing Towns & Rail Network
From The Turtle Mountain Star Feb 4, 1892
Note St. John, Rolla, Larimore, Cando, Grand Forks & Killarney and Winnipeg to North
1892 Map of Portion of North Dakota


Twenty Nine Years Ago - A January 1907 Retrospective of the Founding of the Village of St. John

Source: January 21, 1907 St. John Tribune Newspaper Vol 3 No. 15
A January 1907 Retrospective of the Founding of the Village of St. John A January 1907 Retrospective of the Founding of the Village of St. John

A Brief History of Rolette County

Rolette County was formed in 1887 in honor of "Jolly Joe" Rolette (1820–1871), a pioneer and fur trader.
For further information see for example:

  • web site Rolette County North Dakota ; http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~ndrolett/ OR click WEB LINK to go directly to site.
  • and the book "History of Rolette County, North Dakota and Yarns of the Pioneers" by Laura Thompson Law; Published in 1953 by Lund Press in Minneapolis (a portion of which can be found online at: http://www.dakotaheartstrings.com/files/Download/historyofthorne.pdf ) OR click WEB LINK to go directly to site.
Wheat Field in Rolette N.D
Photo:Wheat Field in Rolette N.D
January 1898 Turtle Mountain STAR Newspaper Article
Free Homesteads in Rolette County
 1898 Article Free Homesteads in Rolette County 1  
 1898 Article Free Homesteads in Rolette County 2

Brooks Family lore has Hubert Brooks being one of the financial backers of Louis Riel. History indicates that Louis Riel was in Rolette County and St. John preparing for his Rebellions; in early 1869 for the first Rebellion, and in 1885 for the second and final Rebellion, (the year also that he was executed). Since Louis Rousseau Brooks didn't immigrate to Grand Forks until summer of 1876 and Hubert did not come to St. John until the last few months of 1892 .... the dates don't seem to coincide and it is difficult to see how either Brooks father or son could have met or established an association..... however usually these family stories have some small element of truth......

A Early Life & French (Canadian) Settlers in St. John, North Dakota

There were a large number of French Canadian families living in St John in the early 1890s when the Brooks family first made their appearance.
In particular there were the Plantes, and the Martineaus, and the Bourassas, and the Martels as well as the Foussards from France.

F. Martineau Store One of First Business Establishments in St. John 1883
PHOTO Courtesy: Mel Kuhn, St. John N.D.
(Photo also in Book: St. John, City at the End of the Rainbow page 35)
Martineau Store in St. John N.D. circa 1883 Caption for Martineau Store in St. John N.D. circa 1883

(As an aside, the Albert Plante and Clara Plante Philips referenced in the PHOTO above were the older brother and younger sister respectively to Alfred Plante who married Louis Rousseau Brooks' daughter Flora. Albert Plante - a carpenter of some note - arrived in St John in 1884 and stayed there for approximately 2 years before moving to Dunseith ND were he lived for the next fifty years. While in St. John Albert built a number of homes including for example that of Fortunate Martineau.)

In the early days very few customers had any money. Most had to find some produce, be it furs, snakeroot (or seneca root) or buffalo bones -- to use in exchange for store goods. The local Metchif indians in particular traded extensively with furs of weasel, mink, fox, wolf, deer and muskrat as well as buffalo bones. Thousands of cords of wood were traded and shipped out to Grand Forks and elsewhere. Snakeroot was used to make medicine and shipped overseas mostly to China whereas buffalo bones were used to refine sugar or to make fertilizer.

According to Fortunate Martineau in his North Dakota Pioneer File:

The first Catholic priest was Father John Malo. Fortunate Martineau claimed that, although he was no saint, the townspeople at the time nonetheless decided to put a saint in front of Father John Malo's first name "John", and named St. John after Father Malo. The first Protestant minister was Struthers who preached in the "Army Hall" in St. John about 1885.

The first white child to be born in St. John was his own son Laureat in 1884. Arthur Foussard had a daughter born in 1885.

The first marriage was that of Omer Charbonneau and Lumina Bourassa who were married by Father John Malo.

The first death was that of Mrs. Maurice Coghlan in 1885 who died at childbirth.

Wm. Brunelle, a breed, was the first merchant to locate in St. John. (A Mr. Ricard had a small store on the Lyman place north of St. John.)

The first hotelkeeper was Mrs. Joseph Plante in 1889. There was no restaurant but meals were furnished at the hotel.

The first Post Office in St. John was established in the Martineau store in 1884 with Clara Plante as postmistress.

The first one or ones in other lines of endeavor were as follows: Doctor: Faucett; Lawyer: T. T. Tillotson; Salonkeeper: Joseph Couture and Frank Premeau; Blacksmith: A. Grady - who F Martineau financed; First School Teacher: Sarah Agnes Hamblin (Mrs. John Cain)..... followed by Mary Kane (Mrs. John Burke) - whose husband was later Chief Justice of Supreme Court of N. D..

A Brief Word on Key St. John Pioneer Fortunate Martineau

Since the fall of 1883 when Fortunate (b. Sept 29, 1860) and his wife (m. Feb 20, 1882 Quebec City) Mary Cedule (Plante) Martineau (b. Aug 21, 1861) (d. Aug 15, 1933) came to St. John the couple has been prominently identified with the development of the community and of the surrounding regions. In addition to being engaged in the general merchandising and trading business for 56+ years, Fortunate Martineau developed the first telephone system in this part of the state.

Fortunate Martineau left his parental birth home and family (father Louis; mother Julie (Gingras); brothers: George and Louis; sisters: Annabelle, Adeline, Sara, Ezelia, and Amalie) in St. Nicholas parish in Quebec in 1876 at the age of 16 to go to Quebec City to learn the mercantile business. He worked in a store for 2 years whereupon he purchased the store from the owner and operated it for 4 years or until 1882.
At that time lurid advertisements of the supposedly greater opportunities in the Northwest caused Fortunate to dispose of his holdings in Quebec City and to set out in search of the riches so freely promised in the propaganda circulated by the promoters of the expansion westward.

In late 1882 he and his wife left Quebec City and came via Chicago and Winnipeg to the new (tent) town of Brandon Manitoba. (The rail tracks between Winnipeg and Brandon were still having some kinks ironed out and twice the passengers had to get out and push the train up inclines! )

In Brandon Fortunate did find circumstances to his liking, and he could not see any immediate prospects to make money. In Brandon he made the acquaintance of a person that told him that St. John Dakota Territory located across the line in the States was settling a large number of new people in addition to a local tribe of Indians and mixed bloods, all in all totalling several thousand people. This greatly interested Fortunate, so in the fall of 1883 he and his wife set out and established themselves in St. John.

Shortly after arriving in St. John he set his carpenter brother-in-law Albert Plante to erect a building 24 ft by 30 ft , the front part of which served as his mercantile store while 2 rooms in the rear were where he and his wife lived. Fortunate Martineau was very successful with his mercantile business and at one time had branch stores in Lake Upsilon, at Laureat (that he had his nephew Eugene PLante operate), at Dunseith, at Willow City and at Bannerman Manitoba. Martineau was in his store(s) morning, noon and night with very little time devoted to leisure activities. Martineau developed a large trade with the Indians where furs and and herbs were exchanged for drygoods and groceries. As many as 5,000 muskrat skins have been in Martineau's possession at one time. That he was held in high esteem by the Indians was evidenced at the birth of each of his children in St. John where the event was celebrated by the Indians by a salute of gun fire. Matineau's wife Cedule was closely associated with her husband in the operation of the stores and various business enterprises. She was often left in charge of the store - especially in the early days when a lot of freighting had to be done.

In order to keep in touch with his branch stores Fortunate erected the first telephone line west of Fargo, connecting St. John - Rolla - Dunseith - Omemee and Willow City. Octave Croteau was the first telephone operator in St. John. This telephone line was later sold to Bell Telephone.

The Matineau's became the parents of 12 children all born in St. John except the first born Joseph:

  1. Joseph died as an infant in 1883 in Brandon Manitoba where he is buried
  2. Laureat (b. 1884) Became an Immigration Inspector located in Hartford Conn
  3. Fortunate (Jr.) (b. 1886) Became a a druggist in Cando ND
  4. Joseph (b. 1887) Became a doctor and a surgeon locatd in St. Paul Min
  5. Albert (b. 1889) Became a dentist in Rolla ND
  6. Marius (b. 1891) Became a dentist in St. Paul Minn
  7. Sergius (b. 1894) Became a garage mechanic in Grand Forks ND
  8. Grace Hermann (b. 1896) Became a teacher in St. Paul Minn. prior to her marriage.
  9. Emma (b. 1898) Became a teacher in St. John ND - also is an accomplished vocalist
  10. Regina Bower (b. 1899) Lives in St. John ND with her husband and assisted Fortunate with his stores.
  11. Mary Cedule (b. 1902) (d. 1904) buried in St. John
  12. Ernest (b. 1904) Became a Mechanical Dentist in Austin, Minn.

A6.0.1.4   Catholic Churchs & Associated Cemeteries In St. John N.D.

The second catholic church in the area,St. John the Baptist Catholic Church (where several of Hubert and Marie's children would be baptised) was begun in 1884 after 4 acres were donated by Arthur Foussard but it was not finished until 1885 when the sacrements were celebrated regularly.

By 1887, the first Catholic Church in the area, St. Claude Mission (1882-1887) built under Father Malo, was closed and all activities moved to the St. John church which was located in the town proper. The graves from St. Claude Mission were transferred to the new St. John cemetery.

Although the St. John the Baptist church at the St. Ann Street SE would remain at this location to the present day, just prior to 1907 a new cemetery, the Holy Cross Cemetary, located about a mile and a half away on the outskirts of town was set up, and would eventually replace the St John cemetery located immediately adjacent to the church.

Turtle Mountain Star Article Discussing movement of Cemetery

The TURTLE MOUNTAIN STAR article to the below right notes that the CEMETERY that was immediately adjacent to the St John The Baptist Catholic Church was moved in 1905 to a location a few miles south of Town. So the 1907 date for the first official burial is not too far off.


According to Cathy Cornell, co-author of the book St. John, Holy Cross, Community Cemetery: St. John, Rolette County, North Dakota, 1882-2007,
"The first official burial in Holy Cross cemetery was 1907, at least according to the "City at the End of the Rainbow," the book produced for the St. John centennial. However, I did find mention of the new Holy Cross cemetery in editions of the Turtle Mountain Star actually before this date, as a mortician from Devils Lake had been secured to move the graves from the cemetery next to the church, to the new Holy Cross cemetery. In the articles, they were encouraging individuals who had family buried in the old cemetery, to (hire?) or make arrangements with the mortician to have their deceased family moved to the new cemetery. From this article, I assumed that it was left to the family to make and pay for these arrangements. In those early years, many families could not afford a stone marker, so they had wooden crosses or sometimes iron ones. As would be expected, these didn't last and if the families weren't still living there to replace the markers, the graves became lost. As can be expected, many of these "lost" graves were never moved and the remains still lie in their original sites. The burial records and information as to who is buried in each plot, has never been documented well, if at all. "

Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church located in St. John N.D.
Aimé, Joseph and Otto Brooks were baptised here.
Luce (Huard) Brooks was buried in the cemetery immediately adjacent to the St. John church
Louis Brooks and grandson Siffroid are also thought to be buried in the cemetery associated with the church.

Church priests during the period the Brooks Family was in St. John included:
Rev J.C. Bachand June 1891- June 1894;
Rev J.A. Desjardines June 1894 to January 1896;
Rev P.J.A. Dupont January 1896 to April 1896;
Rev Joseph A. Leonard April 1896 to June 1897;
Rev J.D. Dionne June 1897 to June 1898;
Rev L'hiver June 1898 to May 1899
Rev J.B. Choiniere May 1899 to Nov 1901;
Rev Alex Gauthier Dec 1901 to April 1910;
Rev Leon Favreau June 1910 to June 1919.

PHOTO Courtesy: Book: St. John, City at the End of the Rainbow page 38
Saint John the Baptist Catholic Church located in St. John N.D.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: The unfortunate situation is that the official burial records at St. John The Baptist Catholic Church seem to have not been well maintained over the years. I have been trying for well over a year with the St John the Baptist Church to find the final resting place of Luce and Louis Rousseau and their grandson Siffroid. Louis and Siffroid I might understand, as it is not certain that their bodies were transferred to St. John from Grand Forks. I have great difficulty in understanding the lack of records for Luce Huard Rousseau Brooks, the wife and mother of prominant business people in St. John at the time. It seems that the records were originally in french, later translated to latin, then to english, that there was not the sequential translating that one would have hoped for, and that some records are currently faded and not legible. An apparantly over worked church staff further complicates the information retrieval process. Unfortunately, a genealogic quagmire. This is a bit unusal as the Catholic Church is supposed to keep these records to identify those individuals that have received the last rites sacraments.
(LATE NOTE: The catholic diocese of Fargo ND has produced a death record for Luce Huard Brooks for the St. John The Baptist Church. It seems that (at least some of the) records were copied at one time and sent to Fargo.)
It also seems that circa the 1950s the rest of the unidentifiable graves located in the cemetery next to the St. John church were moved to Holy Cross and deposited in a mass communal grave according to rectory personnel. Again, the Rousseau/ Brooks family was comparatively wealthy and I find it hard to believe that Luce Huard Brooks did not have a "proper" headstone in the original St John The Baptist Cemetery (now defunct) that would last for decades. The question then becomes; "Why was this headstone and grave not transfered to the new Holy Cross Cemetery?" As a final comment, I should point out that Luce Huard Rousseau is NOT the only St. John resident buried in the St John The Baptist Cemetery and not transfered to Holy Cross, for example Adela Bonneville Cyr, who died 25 Dec. 1902 and her husband who died late 1890 have "vanished" as well. So the issue is not specific to Luce -- but would appear to be more of a systemic problem.)


Hubert Rousseau Brooks was a devout catholic, and he ended up being godfather to a number of children in St. John -- for example Alfred Martel, in 1898 and Alfred Joseph Toussaint in Nov 1898.

Church Record of Hubert Brooks and Marie Gregoire being godparents to
Alfred Joseph Toussaint in St John ND Circa Nov 1898
Note in margin states: Married Anna L. Onerheim of this parish, 12 April 1923

Copy of Church Record Courtesy: Tamara Splonskowski, Chancellor's Assistant, Diocese of Fargo N.D.
Church Record of Hubert Brooks being godfather to Alfred Joseph Toussaint in St John ND


A6.0.1.5   Early Business in St. John

Field crops produced in the area were primarily wheat, oats and barley. In 1895 locally groven wheat took the first premium prize at the New Orleans exhibition. There were bumper crop years in 1891 and 1895.

Back Inside Cover of a Business Cash Book Used by Hubert Brooks in St John N.D. circa Early 1900s
IMAGE Courtesy: Hubert Brooks of Boucherville Quebec
 St John Quantity of Seed to Plant an Acre

Cattle were also raised on the various farms.

In 1906-1907 more wood was shipped from St. John than any other town in the state. The sparkling clear ice cubes from the Turtle Moutain lakes were much in demand. Many carloads were shipped from the St. John railroad depot to such points as Grand Forks, Leeds and Devils Lake.

It was not unusual for the so called farmers in the region to live on the farm during the summer months and then move to a home in St. John for the winter months.

Early St. John newspapers included:

  1. Rolette County Democrat started in 1887
  2. The Saturday Review in 1888
  3. The St. John Journal in 1890
  4. The Great Northwest in 1897
  5. The St. John Tribune in 1907 with W.J. Hoskins Publisher and H. M. Reynolds Editor. By June 1908, H. M. Reynolds both Editor and Publisher.
  6. The St. John Leader in 1913 until 1918

As an aside, The Turtle Mountain star in near by Rolla N.D.(located 7 miles soth east of St. John) began publication in 1888 and continues to this day. Briefy there was also a newspaper publication called the Rolette County herald. (Rolla, Rolette County, N.D.) 1905-1916.These archival sources have yet to be checked concerning details of the extended Brooks family lives in St. John.

An article in the Rolla TURTLE MOUTAIN STAR dated August 30, 1906 said;
" In the 1880s St. John failed to grow very much unlike the other boom towns which sprang up around North Dakota. In fact it lost in population -- the core of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewas moved to the Belcourt area on the reservation which had been established first in 1884. When the county seat moved to Rolla many citizens followed suit.

When the (Rolla) Commercial Club reached St John this morning they had a pleasant sojurn in this quaint town. Incidentally St. John is one of the oldest towns in the state. It was for a long time an Indian trading post; and even after the railroad reached the place about 18 years ago, it remained in a sort of comatose state until about 4 years ago (1902) when it began a forward movement and is now something of a modern town.

On August 2, 1906 a contract for the building of a 80 foot by 30 foot opera house was completed.
The cottages at near by Lake Upsilon (largest lake in Rolette County) were growing in number and "great things" were predicted for the area.
"The moutains are studded with beautiful lakes and covered with timber making the region one destined to rival the famous Adirondacks of New York".

As the popularity of lake traffic continued to boom in the summer many people came on the Great Northern Railroad to St. John and hired a team of horses from the town's two livery stables to take them directly to the lake.
The old French air prevades the place however, and the scenes remind the observer of the days when the white man first came.


The Life and Times of Hubert Brooks M.C. C.D.

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