From: Perry Altendorfer, MMDTC Historian To: All Lineal Descendants, Signers and First Original Families relating to the 1830 Prairie du Chein Treaty. We are currently updating our files, adding articles and documentation that involves families related to this treaty. Please see attached document:
OUR GOAL IS TO UNITE ALL MIXED BLOOD FAMILIES.
Please contact Perry with questions or comments. firstname.lastname@example.org
Jeanie Lemay Campbell passed into the spirit world on October 13, 2017.
Cancelled Language Class tonight Dec 11th, at the DuPuis House 6:30 – 8:00.
Rest in peace my dear uncle Russell F. LaClaire died November 29, 2017.
Mens Inipi Dec 9th 2 ish potluck. Also Sunday Dec 17, Mendota Community Inipi.
Wendy Down Wind, How Wiindigoo Got His Name.
Uncle Russell LaClaire died today about 1:30 – 11/29/17.
Wendy Down Wind passed into the spirit world 11/28/17.
Membership Meeting Nov 27, 7-8:30 bring a snack if you want, next meeting too.
Holiday Party and Toy Drive at the DuPuis House Dec 2, 1-4 bring a dish to pass.
Cancelled Language Class for Nov 28th. Watch for next class it may be Monday nights? Sorry about all changes. Maybe Monday Dec 4 and Dec 18th?
GOFUNDME PLEASE HELP US GET A COMMUNITY CENTER.
Help MMDTC get a community center.
PLEASE SHARE WITH YOUR FACE BOOK FRIENDS AND YOUR EMAIL CONTACTS.
We want to thank people who have mailed checks in the amount of $1,800.00 so far for our land/community center. Plus what is on gofundme $615.00
We are a Native American Community. We are the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community. Our people have always been in this Mendota area for hundreds of years.
It has been 21 years since we came back home to Mendota, Minnesota, and we still don’t have a center or land. The community is all related to our Native American Ancestors.
Our Wacipi or Pow Wow is Sept 8-10-2017. This is our 18th and we are so proud. St Peters Catholic Church in Mendota have let us use their land for each of our Wacipi.
EVERYONE IS WELCOME BRING THE FAMILY.
Here are some of the families living in Mendota now and years ago. Felix, LeClaire, LeMay, LaBatte, Robinette, Newcomb, Perron, LaCroix, Cermak, Leith.
Hypolite DuPuis married Joseph Renville’s daughter, Angelique, in 1836.
Many of us are related to the DuPuis.
Some families are related of Taoyateduta (Little Crow IV).
Our mission is to preserve, protect, and promote the Dakota culture for future generations.
The Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Tribal Community (MMDTC) is a group of members of the Dakota nation who can trace their tribal ancestry back to Mendota, Minnesota, in the 1700s. The Mendota area was a key trade route for the Europeans in the early to mid 1800s. Congressional approval of our 1841 treaty would have prevented development of this area. Consequently, the treaty was not ratified.
In May 1997, we received 501(c)(3) non-profit organization status. We have been working on federal tribal recognition through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) since March, 1996. We expect this process to continue for several years to come. If we are successful in achieving federal recognition, our status will change, but our commitment to Dakota language and culture will continue to be a driving force.
We currently have no paid staff and function solely with volunteer help from both within and outside our membership. Approximately 150 people volunteer their time to ensure that goals are achieved and activities occur. These volunteers provide 5,000 documented hours of time per year.
Many people have told us that there is a reason for what is happening in our group. We know that this is true, as each day passes we achieve objectives we were not sure could be accomplished.
We hope the following gives you a clear picture of who we are and what we are going to accomplish. We have made great progress towards achieving our goals. With your help, we can achieve them all.
The majority of the ancestors of the members of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community (MMDC) can be traced back to Mendota, Minnesota in the 1700’s. The French-Canadian fur traders migrated to Minnesota when it was still a territory. They settled in Mendota (Mdo-te) which means “mouth or junction of one river with another.” The French nasalized the name to Mendota.
“The Mdewakanton people considered the mouth of the Minnesota River to be the middle of all things—the exact center of the earth,” is a quote by Joseph M. Nicollet. The Mdewakanton people and the fur traders lived in relative peace throughout the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Many of the fur traders married Dakota women.
Fort Snelling was opened in 1819 in temporary barracks to ensure the peace between the Dakota and Ojibwa, and to keep settlers from occupying Dakota land. The fort was built on land secured in 1805 by Lt. Zebulon Pike in a treaty with the Sioux Indians. Because of flooding, the permanent fort was erected on higher ground and completed in 1824.
Henry Sibley came to Minnesota in 1834 as the Factor for the American Fur Company. In 1835, he built his home in Mendota, the oldest settlement in Minnesota. Mendota was considered the headquarters of trade from Prairie du Chien to the British line and to the headwaters of the Missouri River until the 1850’s.
In 1841, a treaty was made between the U.S. government and the mixed-breed people of Mendota. Some of the treaty signers include Renville, Coursolle, Frenier, Dupuis, Auge, LeClair, Fairbault, and Campbell. Virtually all the members of our Community are related to one or more of these treaty signers. The treaty was not ratified by the U.S. Senate because it barred white settlers from this region for many years, its development would have been greatly reduced – even to this day.
Two very important treaties were signed and ratified in 1851. Combined, they gave nearly 24 million acres of land to the U.S. government in exchange for approximately $3,075,000 in cash and annuities. The Treaty of Traverse des Sioux ceded land in southern and western Minnesota from the Wahpeton and Sisseton bands of the Upper Sioux. The Treaty of Mendota with the Mdewakanton and Wahpakute bands of the Lower Sioux signed away their land, which made up most of the southern quarter of present-day Minnesota.
Two reservations were established because of these treaties, each consisting of a ten-mile strip along either side of the Minnesota River – one near Granite Falls and the other near Redwood Falls. Reservation life created a change in lifestyle and tension existed between the Indians, the whites, and the Indians who had assimilated into white society.
The harsh winter of 1861, combined with broken promises and delays in the delivery of annuity goods and cash, brought about the Sioux uprising of 1862, that lasted approximately two weeks. The reluctant leader of the uprising was Little Crow (Taoyateduta). Many members of the MMDC can trace their ancestry back to him.
Some of our ancestors were considered “hostiles” in the uprising, and some were considered “friendlies,” aiding the white settlers by acting as scouts and soldiers, or by not taking part in the uprising. The “hostiles” surrendered at Camp Release, and when the mass trial of 392 Indian prisoners was over, 303 were sentenced to death and 16 were given prison terms. President Lincoln approved only 38 of those sentenced to death to be executed. The 38 were hung on the day after Christmas in 1862 at Mankato, Minnesota. Minnesotans were not satisfied with this and demanded that all Sioux Indians be banished from the state. All treaties were abrogated and annuity money was given to the white victims of the uprising. Relocation of the 1,318 Sioux began in May of 1863, when they were shipped out of Fort Snelling to Davenport, Iowa, and then to Fort Thompson in South Dakota . The land around the Crow Creek Agency proved unsuitable for agriculture and the people were again moved down river to the Santee Reservation near Niobrara, Nebraska.
Some of the “friendlies” were allowed to remain in the state to act as scouts. In the late 1860’s, small groups of the Dakota began returning to Flandreau, South Dakota and to Minnesota. In late 1875, the Reverend David Buel Knickerbacker estimated there were approximately 75 in Mendota, living on land owned by General Sibley. The 1880 tax records from Mendota list many of our ancestors, as does the 1885 Minnesota Census, Dakota County, Town of Mendota. We also have a list of scouts and soldiers, and their descendants from 1891, showing our ancestors. The 1897 annuity payroll to the Mdewakanton Tribe from Robert Henton lists our ancestors, as does the 1899 census by James McLaughlin, entitled a “Census of Mdewakanton Sioux in Minnesota.”
The General Allotment Act of 1887 was an attempt to “civilize” the Indians. Indians had not choice but to become farmers, learn to read and write, and accept the Christian faith. They were forbidden to speak their native tongue or conduct their religious ceremonies. Children were taken from their parents and sent to boarding schools. Our grandparents and great-grandparents were denied their heritage. Indians were finally made citizens of the United States under the Citizenship Act of 1924.
The Lower Sioux Community, located near Morton, Minnesota, the “Prairie Island Indian Community, and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska adopted constitutions in 1936, after the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 was passed, and our language again was legalized during the first administration of Franklin Roosevelt. The Shakopee Mdewakanton Dakota Community was formed in 1969. Some of our members are enrolled at Santee, and many have applied for membership in the other communities in Minnesota, but were rejected even though they qualified under their constitutions.
Despite the fact that Mendota has always been known as an Indian Community, it wasn’t until March 1996, that the MMDC began to formally take shape. While doing research for enrollment in the other communities at the Minnesota Historical Society, several of our members discovered distant cousins also doing research. After being told by the Shakopee enrollment officer to “form our own community,” we obtained the requirements to do this from the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Minneapolis, and decided a Mendota Community was possible.
A Letter of Intent was sent to Washington, D.C. early in April, 1996 and a response was received explaining their procedure. They also notified the Minnesota Governor and Attorney General of Minnesota, all the Dakota communities in the state, and the Santee Sioux Tribe of Nebraska. Our Community meets monthly at our office in Mendota. We are done gathering all documentation necessary to prove lineal Descendency to an historic tribe and have completed our constitution.
We are trying to regain the culture and heritage lost to us for so many years. In 2002, our membership participated in a strategic planning session that resulted in the following seven long-range goals striving to:
1. Promote and support the preservation of the Dakota culture, including protecting sites of cultural significance to the Dakota people.
2. Teach community members and others the Dakota language.
3. Promote a better understanding between the Native American community and the general public.
4. Develop self-sufficiency through in-house business.
5. Maintain a tribal office in Mendota, Minnesota.
6. Obtain federal recognition.
7. Acquire a land base.
Some of our accomplishments to date include:
· The 2005 Virginia McKnight Binger Awards in Human Service was awarded to MMDC Administrative Assistant, Linda Brown, as a result of her work with the MMDC in preserving our Dakota heritage.
· The 2003 Gandhi-King-Ikeda Community Builders Prize was awarded to MMDC Historian, Jim Anderson, for leadership in creating awareness of Native American Sacred Sites in Minneapolis.
· Attendance at our annual traditional Wacipi, exceeded our dreams. Each year more and more people attend increasing by hundreds since our first pow-wow in 2000.
· Approximately 100 people have participated in our Dakota language classes since they began in 1998.
· MMDC was instrumental in protecting the spring at Camp Coldwater. The spring, considered the historic birthplace of Minnesota, is part of the Dakota creation story. Camp Coldwater has been a Dakota sacred place for thousands of years.
· Protection of several Indian burial mounds and other sacred sites from destruction by development.
· Educational Outreach to local schools to share the Dakota culture, crafts, regalia, and artifacts.
· Collaborating with the University of Minnesota on several native-related projects.
· Co-sponsoring, in conjunction with the Minnesota Historical Society’s Friends of the Sibley House, the annual “Dakota Series,” educating the general public about Dakota people.
· Working with the Preserve Camp Coldwater Coalition to protect a site that is sacred to Dakota people and of cultural significance to the people of Minnesota.
· Partnering with the Pilot Knob Preservation Association to protect historical site from being developed into a commercial office building complex.
Historical Background from Bruce M. White
The Director of Turnstone Historical Research, Bruce M. White, is an award-winning historian and anthropologist with long experience in research and writing. He is the author of numerous books and articles, including We Are at Home: Pictures of the Ojibwe People, published by the Minnesota Historical Society Press in 2007. His article “The Myth of the “Forgotten” Treaty: Traditions about the St. Peters Treaty of 1837,” is included in the new book The State We’re In: Reflections on Minnesota History,also published by the MHS Press. Publication date: June 1, 2010
I am writing to summarize for you the historical background of the Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community and to outline what needs to be done to pursue their case for federal recognition. It is my belief that the community has already assembled a large amount of the information necessary. With adequate resources, I believe that a complete case can be made in the near future.
The Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community is based in the village of Mendota, a very small municipality located, as shown on the map, between Minneapolis and St. Paul, less than one mile from the Twin Cities Metropolitan Airport. For the Mdewakanton—a term used to describe a number of Eastern Dakota or Sioux, as they were once called—this location near the mouth of the Minnesota River was viewed, in terms of traditional belief, as “the center of the world.” This area and several sacred places near there—including the high hill behind Mendota called Pilot Knob or Oheyawahi—served as meeting places for Dakota throughout the region.
This was where Lt. Zebulon Pike (the same Pike who later went to Pike’s Peak) came on an exploring expedition in 1805 and bought the land where Fort Snelling was built, beginning in 1820. Mendota, across the Mississippi from the fort, was a trading post frequented by Dakota people from nearby villages. Some Dakota women married Frenchmen who worked at the trading post. Their families became the nucleus of the Mendota Dakota Community, a community with ties to many other Dakota villages in the region.
In 1851, a major treaty was signed in Mendota whereby the Dakota people gave up 35 million acres of land in southern Minnesota. Most Dakota communities were removed from this part of Minnesota, but the Mendota Dakota remained where they were.
In 1862, Dakota people fought against the U.S. government in the so-called “Sioux Uprising,” now more generally called the U.S.-Dakota Conflict. The U.S. abrogated its earlier treaties with the Dakota. Large numbers of non-combatant Dakota people were held in an internment camp at Fort Snelling, and the Dakota were exiled from Minnesota up the Missouri to reservations in South Dakota and Nebraska in the spring of 1863.
However, the Dakota living at Mendota were one of the few communities allowed to remain in Minnesota. Members served as scouts for Henry Sibley, the former trader at Mendota and first governor of the state, who led U.S. forces against hostile Dakota on the Plains. Because of their ties to Sibley, they were treated differently from other Dakota.
In the 1880s, Dakota people began to return to Minnesota from the Missouri River. Mendota and the Dakota families who lived there served as a base for those returning. These families began to be incorporated into the Mendota Dakota Community. Around this time, the U.S. government began to buy land for the returning Dakota at various places in Minnesota. Henry Sibley, who had set aside some of his land for the Dakota at Mendota, offered this land to the U.S. government, but he was turned down because land prices in this area so close to Minneapolis and St. Paul were considered too high. However, some Mendota Dakota bought their own land or lived on vacant land in the river bottoms.
At the same time that the U.S. government bought lands for Dakota in Minnesota, it began to keep records of the various Dakota people throughout Minnesota. Minor payments were made in the 1880’s and 1890’s, including payments to the Dakota at Mendota. In March, 1899, the famed U.S. Indian Inspector James McLaughlin compiled a document entitled, a “Census of Mdewakanton Sioux in Minnesota.” This document, compiled for an annuity payment, includes a detailed listing of various Dakota communities in Minnesota, including over 60 people at Mendota, as well as many more of their relatives who lived a few miles away in St. Paul and Minneapolis.
U.S. Indian censuses in 1900 and 1910, taken at the same time as the regular decennial census, provide a further record of the Mendota Dakota. Subsequently, the Mendota Dakota were recorded in the 1930’s on censuses taken by the Superintendent of the Pipestone Indian Agency, who was responsible for all Dakota living in Minnesota. During this period, Mendota Dakota relied on kinship ties to knit their community together. Family elders provided community leadership. Community leaders were also business leader and were active in the nearby St. Peter’s Catholic Church and in the government of the village of Mendota. The village had an Indian identity, even though not all of the apptoximately 300 people living there were Indian.
During this same period, Mendota Dakota were encouraged to farm on U.S. government land, less than 20 miles away at Prior Lake near Shakopee. Although originally bought by the government for all Mdewakanton Dakota, that property came to be the land base for the Shakopee Community when it was organized in the late 1960’s. This expropriation of Mdewakanton land is a matter of some dispute among many Dakota today.
As indicated, there are records of unambiguous federal recognition of the Mendota group through the 1930’s. A great deal of documentation—historical and genealogical—has already been compiled by the community and by myself and other historians and anthropologists,who have worked with them over the last few years. Genealogists and community members have already made a major effort to record family trees for community members going back many generations.
Because of the large amount of work already done, the Mendota Dakota have a major advantage over other groups seeking federal recognition. However, several significant tasks remain before the Mendota Dakota can make the case. These include:
1. Compiling and putting in order the existing historical and documentary information on the community through the 1930’s. This would involve ensuring that we have accurate and complete records describing the cohesiveness of the community in this period.
2. Expanding the coverage of historical information to document the community accurately from the 1930’s to the present. It is important to show the existence of the community as an entity and trace community leadership, which can be done both through oral histories and through written records. A few oral histories have already been recorded, but a major effort must be done to complete an oral history project. In addition, newspaper research and thorough research in state and federal records from the 1930-2000 period must be completed.
I am confident that with adequate resources this work can be completed in the near future. I am sure that I and other historians and researchers, with the technical aid of McClurken and Associates, could complete this work with dispatch.
I suggest the leadership of the community meet with Jim McClurken and me in the near future to workout out a budget. I also encourage you to visit Minnesota and meet with the community and with me to make your own judgments about the prospects for this group.
Let me know if I can provide further information.
Families of Albert LeClaire and Lillie Felix who lived in Mendota, MN. All the families lived on very sacred land.
Albert LeClaire, a Mdewakanton Dakota Indian, the first of seven children. He was born on May 12, 1885, in Mendota, Minnesota. His parents were Frederick LeClaire and Celina Robinette LeClaire. Frederick’s parents were Jean-Baptiste Octave (Wakon) LeClerc (LeClaire) and Marguerite Dupuis. Octave came to Mendota with his brother Phillip in 1848. Octave and Marguerite had twelve children born between 1858 and 1884. All the children were baptized in Mendota.
They resided in Mendota until the 1862 Uprising. After the uprising, they camped on land belonging to Alexander Faribault. They could not stay in Mendota, because all the Dakota Indians were forced out of the state and sent to Crow Creek, South Dakota. They could not go to Crow Creek, because they had helped the white settlers. “Only Faribault’s reputation in the city named for him enabled him to so defy public opinion as to harbor members of the hated Indian race on his property. As it was, he was threatened and had to publish in the local newspaper, the Central Republican Newspaper, on June 10, 1863, a detailed statement identifying the Indians who were living on his land.” They lived in extreme poverty, preserved from starvation only by the charity of their white friends. “They had no money, and their attempts to raise crops were largely unsuccessful. They dug and sold ginseng, until the land was so dug over that several years would be required for the ginseng to recover. They were not allowed to dig on other people’s land.” They lived there for four years, along with the other “friendlies” who had helped the white settlers during the uprising. Land records located by Mendota Mdewakanton Dakota Community members put them back in Mendota in 1883, and copies of land transactions between Octave and others date from then until 1887.
Octave’s wife, Marguerite, was the daughter of Hypolite Dupuis and Angelique Renville. Hypolite Dupuis was listed on the 1849 census of Mendota. He was employed by Henry Sibley, who was a partner in the American Fur Company. DuPus served as the first County Treasurer. He built a home in Mendota in 1856. The Dupuis House was purchased by the Minnesota Daughters of the American Revolution in 1924, to preserve the rich history of the beginning of Minnesota. It was remodeled and opened as a Tea House in 1928. The Tea House has since closed. The Dupuis House is currently being run by the Minnesota Historical Society. It is open for tours, along with the Sibley and Faribault homes, from May to September.
Angelique Renville was the daughter of Joseph Renville and Mary, a sister of Big Thunder, the father of Little Crow (Taoyateduta). Mary was Little Crow’s aunt. Angelique Renville Dupuis was a signer of the Treaty with the Traverse Des Sioux Bands of 1841, as was Joseph Renville.
Celina Robinette’s parents were Vanosse Robinette and Mathilde LaBatte. Mathilde LaBatte’s father, Francois LaBatte, was one of the first killed in the 1862 uprising. Celina and Frederick LeClaire were married on June 23, 1880, in St. Peter’s Church in Mendota. Lillian Felix was born on September 6, 1881, in Mendota. She was baptized at St. Peter’s Church on Sept. 12, 1881. She was sixth of seven children. Her parents were Peter Felix Jr. and Margaret Bellecourt. Peter Felix Jr. was the son of Peter Felix Sr. and Rosalie Frenier (Mazasnawin – Iron Woman). In 1838, a Power of Attorney from Peter Felix Sr. was given to General Henry Sibley for Rosalie and daughter Sophie, to be sure they received treaty money. Rosalie Frenier signed the Treaty with the Traverse Des Sioux Bands of 1841.
Lillie attended Carlisle Indian School in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, from 1897 to 1904. She was enrolled at Santee, Nebraska, although she never lived there. Lillie married Albert LeClaire on July 12, 1904, in Hastings, Minnesota. They resided in Mendota after their marriage. In 1908, she wrote to the Department of Indian Affairs asking for a patent for premises she owned in Nebraska, so she could sell it and buy a home in Mendota. Albert and Lillie lived in Mendota until about 1919, when they started farming at the Prior Lake Indian Community.
Three of their children, Oliver Albert LeClaire, Selisha Lillian LeClaire, and Raymond Sylvester LeClaire were born in Mendota. Margaret Celina LeClaire and Russell Francis LaClaire were born in Shakopee. Because of the treatment the older children received at school in Shakopee (called half-breeds, dirty Indians, etc), Lillie moved back to Mendota, while Albert stayed and farmed at Prior Lake with his son Russell. Albert and Lillie and their children can be found on the Pipestone Indian Census’ in 1937 and 1940. Albert, his parents, and his siblings are also listed on the 1899 Census of Mdewakanton Sioux of Minnesota, done by James McLaughlin.
Albert applied for additional land at Prior Lake in 1937. J.W. Balmer, Superintendent of the Pipestone Indian School, requested this for him. Two additional plots of land were assigned to him on November 9, 1937. This land was abandoned by George and Meredith Crooks. Albert also applied for and received a Planned Productive Loan in 1939. Lillian Felix LeClaire died on August 30, 1940, at the age of 58 at West Side General Hospital in St. Paul.
Her daughter, Margaret LeClaire Nordin, was in attendance. Margaret tells a story that when her mother died, a candle by her bed went out and the glass broke, which scared the woman who was in the next bed. In December 1941, Albert LeClaire was injured in a car accident by his farm in Prior Lake. The hospital in Shakopee refused to treat him because he was an Indian. They had to send to Pipestone, Minnesota, for an ambulance to come and take him to the Indian Hospital in Pipestone. Because of the delay in treatment, Albert passed away in Pipestone on January 28, 1942, at the age of 56. Albert’s death was hastened by discrimination.
The five children of Albert and Lillian lived in poverty, both at Prior Lake and Mendota. They were the object of discrimination and ridicule from the whites and at school. It is little wonder that, after Albert’s death, not one of them wanted to work or live on the farm. The assignment was abandoned and was eventually reassigned.
It is clear that Albert and Lillian, and their family, were some of the original Mdewakanton Prior Lake Indian Community residents. At one time, Albert’s farm was in excess of 50 acres; a substantial part of the original reservation. The barn that was built by Albert still stands on that land today, the only remnant of the early years there. Albert and Lillie’s children are cousins of Norman Crooks (deceased) and Amos Crooks Jr., enrolled members of the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community and have maintained contact throughout the years to the present.
The majority of the ancestors of Albert and Lillian LeClaire are buried in St. Peter’s Cemetery in Mendota. Many were baptized and married there, as well. The following history was written by Lillian Rose Brown Anderson, granddaughter of Albert and Lillian LeClaire, and daughter of Selisha LeClaire and Morris Brown:
I, Lillian Rose Anderson, nee: Brown, was born in Mendota on September 8, 1934, at home.
My grandmother, Lillian LeClaire, was there for my mother. I was being born breech. She had to assist the doctor. I didn’t breath for a few minutes–yes-minutes (as told to me). My grandmother hit my behind and then my back and something flew out of me and I started to cry. My mom, dad, grandmother, grandfather, and Great Aunt Jennie LaCroix all applauded, cried, laughed, hugged, said prayers, rejoiced.
I was born at 8:30 p.m. My father, grandfather and uncles wore a path around the house waiting for me to appear–their first child and grandchild. The house I was born in was built by my father, Morris Brown and grandfather, Albert LeClaire and uncle and cousins. Shortly after my birth the house was put on skids and moved by a team of horses to where it sits today. It has been added onto by the new owners. My Aunt Margaret and her husband Reuben Nordin bought my grandparent’s house in Mendota. They tore it down and built a new house farther back on the property. My cousin, Clarice Gombold (nee Nordin) bought the house from them. She sold it to her sister, Roxanne Hop, who still lives there today.
Most all the people in Mendota are related and most all the houses are still there that were there when I was a child. We all went to St. Peter’s church, the first Catholic church in the territory. I attended all weddings, baptisms and most all funerals there. All my ancestors are buried at Mendota. In fact, the grave yard was just up the hill behind our home. There was a time when the family was responsible for keeping the grave yard clean. We all did it.
Our grandparents also had a farm at Shakopee. The school we attended in Mendota was the same school my mom went to. It still survives. It was sold to a private company because the village of Mendota couldn’t pay the taxes. It was moved a block or so away. I feel bad about this. I wish we could get it back and make a museum for all to see. It is probably one of the last two room school houses left that are original. When I went to the school it was so wonderful, because I knew everybody. We were like a big family of sisters and brothers. Every mother in Mendota watched out for all the children. I’d hear someone say “Dolly (my nickname), your mom wants you to go home.” We had such respect for all the people. It was Mrs. or Mr., Auntie, Uncle, Grandfather, Grandmother, Mother, Father. I didn’t know that people had first names.
We moved from Mendota (Mom didn’t want to move) in 1944. We had to because Dad got a job in Minneapolis. He had to walk the Mendota Bridge both ways (we didn’t have a car). Then he had to take the streetcar to 15th Ave. and 6th St. It was the only job he could get (a bartender). Dad only went to the 4th grade. My father was Irish, English and German. So you see, with four children to feed, we had to move out of Mendota because there wasn’t any employment there, so we sold our family home and moved to Minneapolis. We hated it!!! We went back to Mendota on the streetcar and walked the Mendota Bridge often to see our relatives and friends. I always walked past our old home and cried!
The Nordin’s, Robinette’s, LeClaire’s, LaCroix’s all lived there. I always wished I could go into my family home and stay there, but of course it wasn’t ours anymore. I’d cry all the way back to Minneapolis. Mom had tears. Sister Beverly and brothers Morris and Bob were pretty little so I don’t know how they felt at the time. I know now they felt the same way about Mendota.
About my grandparents, Albert and Lillian LeClaire–they were the salt of the earth, respected and loved by all. My grandmother Lillian was at the birth of many Mendota babies. She raised five kids. She was a wonderful person. I spent many, many days and nights with her and Grandfather. She used to feed anyone who knocked at the door, mostly transients. The railroad tracks were just across the highway in Mendota. They would knock on the door and ask for food. She’d give them a meal and they’d do work around the yard. I think all the hobos on that railroad line knew about Lillian LeClaire, the Angel of Mendota. You were pretty sure of a meal at her door.
We used to go to the farm when Grandmother was out there. She preferred to stay in her home in Mendota. She had a pickle keg at the farm outside the door, and us kids always would dive into it. Most all my cousins remember the pickle jar. My cousins, Uncle Albert’s children, were living with Grandmother and Grandfather at Mendota. We were always together–there and at the farm. Mendota was a wonderful place to grow up. Everyone was either related by blood or by marriage. We knew everybody and everybody knew us. Our houses didn’t have numbers on them. Everybody knew where your house was. You had to go to the only grocery store (Mr. Newhouses) for the mail. We all had mail boxes there.
We walked all over (no cars). We’d meet to get the mail and before you knew it, half the town was either in the store or outside just visiting. I wish I could go back there and buy my ancestral home.
Our mother and uncles were treated very badly as children. My mother was the most beautiful curly haired little girl ever, and she and my uncles were called “dirty Indians”. That was at Shakopee school, so Grandmother LeClaire took them back to Mendota, where she grew up. Our family, the LeClaire’s, go back to the early 1800’s in Mendota.