I think we all have a little story of madness…either we have experienced our own bouts of temporary “insanity”, or we have had encounters with others experiencing their own madness. While reading a local history book article written by my father’s cousin regarding my Grandmother’s family I had to chuckle about a horrible story of madness. Yes, I did chuckle but only because the outcome of the story was a happy ending and the story seemed so unbelievable.
Having lost everything in a great fire which had engulfed their community, my Grandmother’s family went to stay with a neighbour. It was there that the neighbour lady who was suffering a mental illness took my Great-uncle Anicet and tried to stuff him into the wood stove! I have included the quote of this tale which I have translated from the original French:
Joseph Beland and Dorilda Boulay, my grandparents, left their home town (village of birth) Ste-Ursule in the county of Maskinonge, in 1917. They came to establish themselves with their four children in the promised land of Nedelec, in the Temiskaming. Their children: Dorilda age 5, Francoise age 4, Arthur age 3, and Paul-Emile age 1. They were not rich and they settled the land and, as most of us know, the farm land of Nedelec is rich in stones (full of stones). But grandpa had the heart to overcome this challenge and give his offspring a good life in this rather wild area called Temiscaming. The 22nd of August 1918 Gerald was born, followed by Bernadette in 1920. The 8th of August 1922 Anicet was born; this was the year of the great fire in Hailybury. The family lived peaceful days in their humble dwelling, when a neighbour arrived running to tell them to get out of the house quickly as the fire was heading their way and was close. It must be said that literally the fire ran the fields and, as it was a very dry autumn, it burned everything in its path. Grandma picked up her small children and ran to the neighbours who gave them a place to stay. The neighbour lady (the lady that lived there) suffered from a mental illness and at one point she seized baby Anicet, to put him in the wood stove. But because of her watchful eye and maternal instinct, grandma saved her youngest. The great fire proved to be a terrible ordeal for the Beland family. They lost everything but the clothes on their backs. The neighbours were generous, but they too were suffering from the disaster. In 1934 they moved onto a farm in Belle-Vallee, To situate you it was the land of Phillipe Goudreault.
An excerpt from an article written by Diane Beland printed in “Raconte-moi ton histoire: Belle-Vallee et Judge 1909-2009”
Having read this vignette what touched me was that my dad’s cousin knew this story only through narrative tales told by her grandparents. Her father Anicet had only been a baby at the time of the event. I called my dad to talk about this story and he reiterated the tale. He had heard this story too from his grandparents and from his mother, Bernadette (my grandmere). It is often those little bouts of madness which live on in a family’s oral history!