Leon Bonvallet, born April 23, 1867 at St. Anne, Illinois (Kankakee County), son of
Anthenor Bonvallet and Louise Josephine Grenet. Had three brothers: Albert P. b. July 8,
1856, Paul b. April 1, 1860, and Louis b. October 13, 1874.
They died respectively in 1929, 1941, and 1938. Father and mother died in 1909
almost a year apart, in July and August. Albert and Paul were born in Paris (France), Leon
and Louis in St. Anne township.
The father, P.A. Bonvallet, was born on April 1, 1829, near Vitry-le-Francois
Marne) in the province of Champagne in France. This section was the scene of most of the
famous Battle of Champagne in 1914. He worked at the butcher trade with his father til he
came of age. In 1848, when that year's revolution broke out in Paris, and most of the country
towns' militia companies were moving toward the capital to restore order, PAB, who had
joined such a company, directed his steps toward Paris, the travel being on foot or by canal,
whatever was at hand. When the city was reached, the fight was over.
After a short stay looking the ground over, PAB concluded to make it his home.
mustered, he returned to the capital city and secured a job in the meat market business and
a year or so later he was called to the army and in about a year was released upon
payment, as was the custom at that time.
It was in 1852 that the time came for PAB to paddle his own canoe. His father and
having come to the capital city, they together mediated a system of cheap restaurants which
met with a great success. It consisted of serving meals at rock bottom prices in clean and
orderly kept places, giving the best quality of food for the prices, so that folks of most
moderate means could be catered to in respectable ways. The result was highly profitable.
After a while, Uncle Charles entered the concern. In the course of time, father,
and Uncle had their own establishment.
In 1854, PAB married Louise Josephine Grenet, the daughter of the next door baker at
location he was then. He occupied various locations in the city.
In 1860, he came to America to look the country over and was favorably impressed with
the year after, the Civil War broke out. On his return from America, he, having acquired a
snug little fortune, took interests in different businesses. He built an apartment building, tried
farming, etc. In 1864, in August, along with mother and my older brother, he sailed for
The trip across the ocean took three weeks. After looking around the country,
was caught in one of Jesse James raids in Missouri. On return to New York City, he opened
a meat market in 6th Ave. next to 5th Ave. then and by 14th St, then the classiest part of the
city. After a year or so, he disposed of his market and made another attempt toward the west
and landed in Kankakee and St. Anne.
My father bought several pieces of property which he sold later, but the house and lot
acquired from the Pallissard family was kept. There were 21 (acres?) and house. The
house was moved to a 160 (acre?) parcel 7 1/2 miles north east of town. This was in 1868.
The house was remodeled in 1882 and is still standing (1952).
PAB, on arrival in St. Anne, attempted different lines of farming, stock raising, and
settled down on what became the homestead. He kept up some farming and stock raising
and eventually turn of grape vine and asparagus, which became the regular business from
about 1873 til now.
Shipments of grapes and asparagus were sent to the Chicago market all year until the
the century, when the canning of asparagus was started. Wine was made on a large scale
until the severe winter of 1899 destroyed in vines about 50 acres. Tomato canning was later
THE HISTORY OF THE BONVALLETS
The history of the Bonvallet family cannot be reached very far in time. The most remote
forebear to our knowledge lived shortly previous to the French Revolution and held the
honored job of King's surveyor. The overthrow of that regime undoubtedly vacated his
position. We hear that his family was not up to a high grade. We only know his son or one of
them did enlist in the army of the Republic, thereby being a "sans cullote" and during his
campaign of Holland while killing cows for the army, paid for or not, he learned the butcher
trade. He had one daughter and three sons, Marie Jeane Bernard, Pierre Charles,
Napoleon, and Hilaire. Pierre C. was our grandpa. He was born in 1802. His wife was
Margerite Eulalie Latronche, born in 1802 also. They married in 1827 and had three sons.
My father's Uncle Charles, the youngest, died in infancy. The grandfather and grandmother
both died in 1880-81 one month apart.
In my mother's side I did not hear so much. My mother was born at Paris July 8,
father and mother were Alexis Grenet, born in 1812, and Josephine Boucher, 1818. They
were married in 1834. We figure they had a large family of children but only three daughters
survived. My mother's aunt Augustine, who married twice and had two sons, both dead. One
left a daughter who became a widow in the First World War, and the youngest, Aunt Bertha,
who came over here with my folks when they came over (more about her). Mother had two
paternal uncles, one aunt, and maternal also one grandfather and grandmother. We know of
them only as Papa and Momman Boucher. They died about 1869. In the 80's, Papa B. had
the novel experience of having served the army of Napoleon in the Holy Land, during which
being taken prisoner, an occupation for diversion to skin the heads of his dead soldier
mates. Had it been enjoyed was never said. He had been in laundry business as it was in
those times. He retired as a money lender. Mother's father and uncles all started as
laundrymen and switched to the bakery and met with success.
Aunt Bertha Grenet came to this country with my folks. She was about 18.
When father went
back to France in 1866 to settle an affair, Aunt Bertha went back with him. Some time after
they left, I was born. Aunt was well remembered by many St. Anne folks. She had many
chances for marrying. She was to marry Capt. Savoie of Kankakee. It didn't jell. She got
scared maybe. She was a Parisian girl through and through. When in Paris, she opened a
women's pharmacy. After 15 (?), a widower with grownup family married her.
Aunt Augustine married a smart alec who was the cause of grandfather's loss of fortune,
he had courtesy enough to leave this world where he had been of such uselessness.
and no one would .... the upbringing of two sons and was successful. He started as cashier
in a well-known society elite restaurant of Paris and after 20 years or so became the
A last word about Uncle Charles Bonvallet who also came to America. He lived with us
of the time. I remember him well. He was an entertainer and I liked him so much. He was
born in about 1831. He followed the meat trade with his (and my) father as a boy. When they
moved, he found employment after a while started for himself in the eating house business,
got married, and went on.
But the business and the marriage, well it did not jell, that's all. He carried
on a few years but
could last not much longer. He had two children: one girl, one boy. One day he flew the
coop. He was heard from in South America. While my father was in France his last time in
1867, he returned and my father took him here with him. He tried many things. He was a
sleight of hand trickster, he tried at beekeeping, cattle pasturing, peanut raising, and kept a
meat market in town for a while. He also worked in Chicago. We were without news of him a
while. Finally heard that he died in the county hospital where he had registered on an
assumed name. That was in 1876. We heard nothing much of his family. His daughter
became a boarding school teacher, so we heard the same that the son had a yen for poetry.
A great poet of the name of Bonvallet has not materialized thus far. So he stayed with us
mostly. He helped the family to establish the plantation. He was a good and intelligent
worker. He was quite a help. He was entertaining in company. He sang and told stories
and was an inveterate joker.
VARIOUS DOINGS OF PAB IN AMERICA
Early in 1866, my father with a Gaul of the trade took a notion to open a baby packing
for the processing of sausage, tripe, pickeled pig's feet, etc. They were at the corner of State
St. and Division. Father was doing the buying of lot of trimmings which could be had awfully
cheap, and a person knowing good cooking and how to process it into valuable dishes
could fetch good prices. The other fellow was such a cook but was not a good businessman.
He fed the poor French too liberally, making them work on meat whether they know about
meat or not, no system. He would have his way about it; my father did not do business that
way. During that time a French newspaper was started here and father got a finger in the pie.
The editor was Lou Frechette, the well-known Canadian poet. After six months or so, father
was back home. At that time, he was on his trip to France.
In 1875 he went on trip to Florida with the thought to settle there. The winters
of '72, '73, and
'74 had been so rigorous that some trees and vines were killed, and this discouraged him
somewhat and caused him to seek a more favorable climate, and at that time there was
much talk about Florida.
He started one day in October on the Illinois Central to Cairo and river boat to New
and Gulf steamboat to Cedar Key and Tampa, then a city of about 8000. St. Petersburg was
in the distant future and not thought of. He got a claim from the government along the
Manatee River. There were habitations scattered mostly along the river. Hunting and fishing
were most plentiful. There were many fields and fruit trees that grew with little care after
planting. But the country was far from healthy. Father had put up little shelter and next he had
malarial fever, so he came back home. Yet he had not given up going there. Not being able
to sell property here, he decided to stay here.
A NOTED INHABITANT
The condition of the land in the northeast part of St. Anne township as well as some of
neighboring townships of Ganeer and Pembroke resulted in some settlements of a few
unprofitable farms with fair buildings. The settlers were depending on herding of cattle and
on prairie hay land mostly. Most of those lands are valuable since the present farming
elements (?) learned modern ways of agriculture and some lands that needed draining were
drained. In the meantime, from the 1860's to the 1900's those lands and farms were objects of
trading. Some pieces of property were exchanged for some Chicago lots of likewise value.
Once a farm was traded for a Chicago Board of Trade ticket and so forth all the way along,
so there were many new comers and goers.
Among the new comers, a family named Fuller came in 1871 to settle
down on the Ainslie's
farm about two miles north of Wichert, having traded with the then occupant Ainslie some
properties in Westville, Ind. The farms are still standing and is known as Karlsnick's place,
and is now valuable property being tilled the proper way.
The new family consisted of the father Frank R., the mother, a son also named Frank, a
daughter Loie 15, and a boy Bert about 10. The father was a jack of all trades and somewhat
a master in trading real estate, not highly principled: he admitted he would have sold you a
lot in Lake Michigan if you would buy. In contrast, Frank Jr. 23 and married and Loie were
exceptionally gifted artists. He was an accomplished violinist from which my brother Albert
acquired much musical knowledge. Loie became a world known dramatist and dancer. The
folks visited our place several times. My father talked to Loie about Paris and showed her
pictures of that city which was of much interest to her and was her hope to go there on a trip
some day. Most likely, she did not expect of going there as a queen of the theater as she
eventually did. Her personality was a drawing card. Many young men of St. Anne and
vicinity of that time ever remembered her.
In the fall of that year '77, part of the family returned to the city that Loie could
dramatic studies. Frank Jr. with his wife and little girl remained til spring when Frank Sr. put
his talent into use and passed it out to an Irishman named Bradley who after a year or two
passed it on some one else and changed hands on and on year after year and finally
acquired by a South Water Street man named C.B. Chapman, a worthy counterpart of Frank
R. Fuller in real estate dealings. I intend to write more about Chapman, who sold the place to
a Chicago broken down politician named Charles Griebnow, who dumped it over to a
Chicago man named Sundmacher, who lived on a few years but at present the right parties
seem to have hold of it.
To conclude the tale of the Fullers, it remains to say that the whole family were back
Chicago in spring of '78 and sojourns in the neighborhood became past history. Few years
later, my brothers Al and Paul called on Miss Loie and were welcome. Then she was
studying grand opera singing. On the last page of this copy book is stuck a clipping from
When Chicago Was Young by Herma Clark, which mentions her ups and downs and her
tremendous success when she took up her serpentine dances so called, and became a
world artist performer. She gave command performances before most imperial and royal
courts of Europe and was in touch with the cultural lights of the time. She died in 1928.
Frank Jr., a virtuoso on violin, traveled with some theater troupes as musical leader
years thereafter. Once I got out of the Public Library her book entitled "Fifteen Years of a
Dancer's Life". It is quite interesting, especially to one who knew her although I was only ten
years old when she was our neighbor.