Blog relives immigrant life in 1904 Hermansville
HERMANSVILLE — A Michigan-born writer is recreating life in Hermansville at the turn of the century by blogging week-by-week through her great-grandmother’s 1904 diary.
“Minnie’s Diary” recounts the life of 20-year-old Minnie Gamache on her parents’ farm north of Hermansville.
The free online weekly storybook, written by Minnie’s great-granddaughter Jodi Perras, combines Minnie’s brief diary entries with historical research and fictional renderings of the people and events in a French-Canadian farming community.
Recent entries included the effects of 43-below temperatures on train travel, the experience of Latin Mass at St. Mary’s Church and the 1903-04 smallpox epidemic.
The diary also reveals connections between Hermansville families and the mining community in Champion.
Perras’ blog can be accessed at leavesofmenominee.com and on Twitter @leavesmenominee. Readers can sign up for emails so they don’t miss any of the weekly installments.
“Although I never met by great-grandmother, I’ve fallen in love with her through her diary entries about life in 1904 Hermansville,” Perras said. “I’m pleased to share her life with other Michigan history lovers, and hope they can imagine their own ancestors’ lives through hers.”
One of Minnie’s granddaughters discovered the diary in 2020, when family members were working together to research their shared history.
Minnie’s diary includes references to the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, rural and farming life and French-Canadian families who lived or farmed near Hermansville, including the Paquins, Raiches, Dubeys, Lavignes, Lacosses, Chenards and others.
“The Leaves of Menominee” blog was created in 2020 by Perras, a former Associated Press journalist, to explore the history of northern Menominee County through the lens of her family.
The Perras, Gamache, Benson and Christensen families were early white settlers of Nadeau and Meyer Townships in the late 1800s and early 1900s. They belonged to communities of French Canadian, Swedish and Norwegian immigrants who logged the pine and hardwood forests and farmed the newly cleared land.
Perras is available for speaking engagements to talk about the project and what she’s learned about her family and the area’s history. She can be contacted through her website at leavesofmenominee.com.