The Storykeepers Project is an effort to collect personal accounts and family stories from French Canadian and French Metis life around the Great Lakes. Other collections such as the Marion Child interviews at the Monroe County Library and Dr. James Paul’s interview project at Kankakee Community College in Illinois, are valuable repositories of local history, genealogy, and folk culture. Although she was not involved in this interview, Bobbie Kohler, the great-great niece of Mrs. Tillie Marie Sancrant, is the ‘storykeeper’ of her oral history and has contributed it to our collection. It serves here to raise awareness of the Marion Child collection and the many ways of preserving family history. Excerpts of this 1958 interview have been transcribed below. The full interview is available in PDF format here: Tillie Sancrant Interview. Search the entire Marion Child collection for more interviews at the Monroe County Library.–ed.


Mrs. Tillie Marie Sancrant 6263 Wells Rd. Ida Township (Michigan)
Interview by Marion Child, June 17, 1958

Mr. TIllie Sancrant, courtesy of Bobbie Kohler.
Mr. TIllie Sancrant, courtesy of Bobbie Kohler.

Mrs. Sancrant was born in 1869 and has spent all of her life in Monroe County. At 89, with great grandchildren to her credit, she lives on a farm near the former Wells Cranberry Marsh in a house she says is well over 100 years old (but now greatly altered and added to) where she moved some 42 years ago.

She is very alert and keen and active, despite considerable arthritis, appearing around 70. She does her own housework, keeps a sizeable garden, keeps 150 chickens, plus ducks. For years she has done a thriving egg business with customers from as gar away as Toledo who apparently love to stop by to chat with her….

She is full of fun, loves to go places and it is said she dances to this day, although she denied it. She could though, I’m convinced. Her humor and good cheer are remarkable.

[Her] father, John Poland, never owned any land but farmed on shares or did odd jobs – helping with harvesting, chopping wood, etc. It was customary for the owner of the ground to get 1/3 of the proceeds of the crop if the share-cropper furnished the cost of the seed and production and his own labor. When the owner paid half of the costs of seed and expenses and the share-cropper the other half, the division of profit was fifty-fifty – the use of the land being held equal with the labor of working it.

John Poland, if not a money maker, was a good provider and the family never lacked for food. He salted and smoked pounds and pounds of meat for the 13 mouths he had to feed, made apple butter by the barrel, dried apples by the bushels.

Those dried apples when soaked in water and cooked with raisins and sorghum made a wonderful dish, esteemed worthy of company.

Whenever company came to the house a meal was always served – it was part of the hospitable welcome with which guests were received.

Tillie recalls the weekend parties held in this little one-room log house when a sleigh full of people (mostly relatives) used to drive over from Whiteford. This crowd included her father’s father, John, and some of his 21 children, among others. This John, a farmer, had married Maria Campeau of Monroe, but she had died young and he married twice afterwards, hence his large family. The sleigh also contained a fiddler, Dick Guy (sp? Pronounced “Ghee” – French) a well-known Whiteford fiddler and caller for the square dances.

It was a jolly, robust crowd that fully enjoyed Tillie’s father’s barrels of hard cider that were always on hand. While the Poland house was small it was a place where people liked to go….

All of these people were French through and through. Tillie’s family spoke French up to the time she went to school. The family name was altered at this time to the Poland spelling – it had formerly been Palau or some such name (Tillie doesn’t even remember how it sounded for sure, let alone how it was spelled.)

Tillie’s mother had been Marie Boudrie who had come from Montreal in 1837 as a tiny child with her father, John Boudrie, to Monroe. He was a young man at the time. He settled on the north side of the river and worked at whatever he could find to do and fished and trapped.

Tillie’s mother often told of their experiences with the Indians….

Grandfather Boudrie spoke the Indian language and was on good terms with them….

This group of Indians had a camp on the north side of the River Raisin. Their homes were made of bark over poles of wood. The bark was in large flat pieces obtained in the spring of the year when the bark could best be pulled off the trunks of the trees…

Tillie’s father once built a bark shack like an Indian’s for her mother to use as a summer kitchen behind their Yargerville house. It was a real luxury not to have a wood stove going in your house in hot weather.

For the full interview, please see the PDF: Tillie Sancrant Interview.

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