Jump to:   Fredericktown (1824-1861)   Returning Home (1861-1896)

Chapter 2: Dr. Guignon   Chapter 4: Emile Guignon




Fredericktown and Fortune: 1824-1861


Just as Kaskaskia gave way to Ste. Genevieve in the 1760s, so Ste. Genevieve gave ground to Fredericktown about 26 miles west in the 1820s. Again it was where the money led (if I can be forgiven a pun) as lead was the source of new wealth for the area. Mining had always been indigenous to that area since discovery of lead deposits in the 1720s by Renault. But the rising of corporate type enterprises made the industry more efficient and profitable. St. Michael village began in 1800 and was absorbed by Fredericktown in 1820 as the county seat of the newly created Madison County. By the time the Guignon Store opened on the town square in 1824, things were rolling along.


I found a set of account books for the Guignon store in the Missouri Historical Society that give business details for the years 1826-28. It was full of names once common to Ste. Genevieve. But Simon was not only minding the store in 1828 but also begins his very active real estate practice. By my count, Simon was involved in over one hundred buy and sell transactions, either by himself or with partners such as Evariste Prate or Jean Baptise Bossier, his father in law. So by age 22 Simon is already far more prosperous that his father, the doctor. However, it must surely have been the doctor and his wife who created those strong ties to the wealth of Ste. Genevieve between 1811 and 1822 that gave Simon access to prosperity.


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Portrait of Jean Baptiste Bossier (c. 1836)


Simon did not continue the line of Guignon-Pratte marriages. Rather, he returned to Ste. Genevieve in 1832 to marry the daughter, Mary Carmelite Bossier, of one of his neighbors, General Jean Baptist Bossier (To see my account of Bossier click here). Bossier's fur-trading post and general store was just south of the Guignon home on Merchant Street. Simon must have been well acquainted with the many Bossier children. Like the Pratte's, Bossier was a man of considerable wealth. He had arrived in Ste. Genevieve in the first decade of the century and married Martha Moreau in 1808. She inherited a sizeable fortune in 1806 on the occasion of an estate division brought on by the marriage of her sister, Catherine, to Jean Baptist Valle. The Moreaus were also among Ste. Genevieve elites. Thus, Bossier may well have also offered Simon capital to work with, but by 1832 Simon probably did not need it as he might have in 1824.


Madame Guignon had stayed on at the Merchant Street house after her husband's death in 1822 to finish raising Marguerite and provide a home for Simon while still at school. But after Simon had joined his sister, Rosine, in Fredericktown in 1824, there seemed less reason to remain behind in Ste. Genevieve. She certainly had moved by 1835 when Marguerite married Sebastian Bernard Pratte because the home was sold to Sebastian Zeigler in that year. Probably she moved earlier if we are to believe an entry in Simon's books of 1828. In any event, the whole Guignon family then living was reunited in Fredericktown by 1831, maybe before. The Bossiers followed their daughter, Carmelite, to Fredericktown in 1833.


Simon Guignon may also have become a lawyer at this stage of his career. He certainly was very active in the courts as plaintiff, defendant and administrator in civil matters and he later carries the title, esquire. His real estate activities certainly involve him with titles, mortgages and the like. Another aspect of his business was a partnership with Bossier in lead sales. While this has not been researched, there is evidence that in the 1830s, the two engaged in lead dealings in Philadelphia. Are the double portraits of Simon and Carmelite done in Philadelphia in 1836 any indication of a business tie to that city? Possibly.


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Marie Carmelite Bossier (1814-1896) in 1836

Simon Amable Guignon (1806-1891) in 1836


The Guignons had ten children, all born in Fredericktown: Marie Rose (1833-39), John Amable (1837-69), Louis Bossier (1840-97), Mary C. (1842-42), Mary Elizabeth (1843-63), Joseph F. (1846-1922), Jules B. (1848-1905), Conrad P. (1853-1927), Emile S. (1856-1941), and Mary E. (1858-72). Their house was just off the town square where the Guignon store was located. After the early 1830s, the family circle included the two Pratte brothers-in-law (Marguerite had married Bernad Pratte in 1835) and Guignon wives, Madame Guignon in her own home, as well as the Bossier in-laws. While the Bossiers had eleven children, by the time they moved to Fredericktown, only three were then living: Marie Carmelite (1814) married to Simon, John B. (1821) and Elvena (1824) who married Conrad Zeigler in 1840.


But death rather quickly depleted this circle. The baby son of Bernard and Marguerite Pratte dies in August 1836, followed by his mother in December 1837. Madame Guignon dies in April 1839. Simon and Carmelite lose Mary Rose in August 1836, as well as Mary C. in October 1842. The Bossiers unexpectedly lose their only son, John B., nineteen years old, in April 1840, followed by another sudden death when General Jean Baptist Bossier himself dies in October 1842. Madame Martha Bossier eventually moves back to Ste. Genevieve to live with her daughter, Elvena Zeigler in the 1850s. This leaves Evariste and Rosine to share their lives with the growing Guignon family.


Simon Guignon kept to his work at the store and the livery stable during the Fredericktown years. Whatever side occupations in real estate and lead, he seems to have always made his steady income from the store and stable. By the mid 1850s the two oldest sons would have been able to help. I do not have any information of whether and where they may have been educated away from home or how they entered into the work world. Evariste Pratte remained very active in the lead business, not only at Mine LaMotte, but also in the Iron Mountain mines. In January 1843, Pratte became a partner in the newly incorporated American Iron Mountain Company together with Conrad and Elvena Zeigler and others. When he died in 1849, his estate was evaluated at $102,000. Unfortunately, legal problems robbed the estate of much of its value. When Rosine died in 1860, she left an estate of $6,340 in personal items, plus real estate. This was liquidated over time and amounted to $8,638 in 1866. Simon was both the administrator and ultimately the only heir. Thus, the fortunes in minerals seem to have evanesced.


This death closed the circle of family that surrounded the Guignons in Fredericktown. It came at a troubled time when country was in conflict over slavery. Missouri had been at the beginning of this conflict when it sought to become a state in 1820. The Missouri Compromise established the famous Mason-Dixon Line, which divided the country geographically north (Free) and south (Slave). The new compromise wrought in the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 overturned that earlier agreement and brought Missouri into the conflict over Kansas' admission. All of this resulted in the election of the Republican candidate, Abraham Lincoln, in 1860 and the initiation of the Civil War in April of 1861. As a border state, Missouri was divided in it loyalties and while it remained in the Union, it spawned the first battle of the West at Springfield and many other contests between the Blue and Gray.


While the Guignons were not major slaveholdersÑindeed the economics of slavery was wasted on the farming and mining that took place locallyÑthey were committed to the Southern cause. This was reflected in the fact that John Guignon joined the Missouri State Militia, a confederate guard unit for a few months at the War's start.  Neither John nor Louis served in the Confederate Army. But soon (October 20) the Guignons were embroiled in the war when the Union forces under the then unknown General U.S. Grant took on the Confederate Jeff Thompson near the town. With the Union forces prevailing, it subjected the Southern sympathizers to wholesale looting. The Guignons were not spared. The store, stable and home were ransacked and robbed. Several of the portraits on the wall were badly damaged with saber slashes across the face. I suspect that the Guignons and others were subject to forfeiture as well, under the marshal law declared in August.


Because winter was setting in, Simon and Carmelite decided to return to the relative safety of Ste. Genevieve which had been taken over by Union forces several months earlier and removed from fighting. At the time, as reported by Maude Guignon's account, the move was to be temporary. Fate or circumstances decreed otherwise.



Returning Home and Staying There: 1861-1896


The Guignons repurchased the homestead on Merchant Street from Zeigler in 1861 and moved into familiar surroundings with their eight living children. They were middle aged (Simon, 55 and Carmelite, 47) and much reduced in circumstances. Whatever they were able to realize from their Fredericktown properties, Simon was without his general store income and any interest in lead mining was subject to the fortunes of war at this point. Real estate was not likely to be bought or sold under the threat of returning Rebel raids, as occurred in Madison County twice more during the War. Their wealthy relations were mostly dead or out of luck. Carmelite's mother had moved in with her other daughter, Elvena Zeigler, whose husband Conrad had suffered severe financial reverses. The Bossier fortune had dissipated during a long probate period. Evariste Pratte was dead over a decade and his mining interests gone up in smoke, as well. The Guignons were almost back to square one. But nothing daunted, Simon moved forward.


One post which Simon acquired sometime over the next few years was Public Administrator which controlled estates probated without a will. This was a familiar role since Simon had severed the same official function in Madison County in the 1850s. His many appearances in court in Fredericktown and his real estate background made him well suited for the work. But he had interest in several mining groups as well, such as Iron Mountain and the Swallow mines. Not that these ventures brought in a great deal of money, but they occupied him over the last years of his life.


Death came to the family in many ways. First of all, among their own children, Carmelite and Simon suffered the loss of Elizabeth in 1863, followed by Amable in 1869 and finally Mary in 1872, all unmarried. Martha Bossier had died in 1860, just before the Guignons' return to Ste. Genevieve. Conrad Zeigler, the prominent lawyer, state senator, and corporate executive, died in 1863 with little to show financially for his many accomplishments. His wife, Elvena died in 1873. They had had no children. The Guignons could at least count on the Moreau relations who still populated Ste. Genevieve through Carmelite's Uncle and Aunt Joseph and Catherine Valle and their children, as well as Moreau cousins through Uncle Joseph and Aunt ________.


The pull of Fredericktown had slackened before the War and died almost completely because of it. Rather, it was St. Louis that began pulling away ambitious young men from the area during the 1850s onward. This trend drew the most of the young Guignon men away as well. It is true that the oldest son, Louis Bossier ("Uncle Boz" to his nieces and nephews) went off to Sioux City, Iowa shortly after the War. But the other four found their way to the once rival, now champion, town of St. Louis over the years. Joe married Harriet ("Hattie") Reynolds in 1870 and moved to St. Louis in 1873. Conrad married Belle Johnston in 1876 and moved to the Illinois side near St. Louis. Emile left home quite early in 1873 and never made it back. But more of him later. Jules married Elizabeth Hanlon, a local girl, in 1873 and remains in Ste. Genevieve for many years until he, too, moves to East St. Louis in 18--.


An interesting sidelight on Jules Guignon and Elizabeth Hanlon is the fact that Elizabeth and her brother were "pulpit adopted" about 1849 when their mother, Elizabeth, died, leaving them orphans. I discovered that she is buried with the Guignon children, John and Elizabeth in Memorial Cemetery. Does that indicate that she was buried in a Guignon plot? Probably, as she died without an estate. Twenty-Four years later Jules marries the daughter, also Elizabeth. They stay on to raise their family close to the Guignons who seemed to have helped out in the first instance of tragedy from their Fredericktown home. Jules served as Clerk of the Circuit Court and Recorder of Deeds for the County in the 1870s, closely paralleling his Father's court related office of Public Administrator.


The grand occasion for the "return of the natives" is the Golden Wedding of Simon and Carmelite in 1882. A long article on November 15, 1882 appeared in the Missouri Republican detailing the past history of the families, as well as the unusual circumstances of the actual occasion. The sudden death of the youngest grandson, Eugene, (Conrad and Belle), caused the grand banquet to be cancelled for the funeral there in Ste. Genevieve. But also on that day, they celebrated the baptism of their youngest granddaughter, Laura (Jules and Elizabeth). So the occasion was one of shadow and light.


Simon and Carmelite On Their Golden Anniversary in 1882


Simon died at 85 in 1891 after a visit to his son, Joseph's home in St. Louis. Carmelite moved to Joe's home later that year and died in 1896, at 82. Both were buried in the new cemetery at Valle Springs west of Ste. Genevieve.


Jump to:   Fredericktown (1824-1861)   Returning Home (1861-1896)

Chapter 2: Dr. Guignon   Chapter 4: Emile Guignon