Ernest & Mary LaFond

Following is the complete WPA biography of Ernest and Mary LaFond. It was recorded by Minnie M. Cochrane, August, 1937.

Ernest LaFond was born Feb. 22, 1869 on a farm near Beaverville, Illinois. He is the son of Gideon LaFond and Philomine Tiebeau.

Gideon LaFond and Philomine Tiebeau were born in Eastern Canada and came when quite young to Illinois with their parents. They were married in Illinois and came to Little Falls in July, 1880. Gideon LaFond bought a farm of 120 acres (school land) located a mile and a half from the Courthouse, back of the Oakland Cemetery. He built a frame house purchasing the lumber from his cousin, Moses LaFond for whom he worked. The land was all heavily timbered. The barn was built of logs. The crops were wheat, oats, barley, and potatoes, very little corn. Gideon LaFond died on April 27, 1911. Mrs. LaFond died April 14, 1911.

Ernest LaFond attended the rural school in Illinois and after coming to Little Falls went to the Central School for a short time. There was much to do on the farm. Ernest helped grub, pull rocks, and split rails for fences, besides the regular farm work and found little time to go to school. Money was very scarce. “Sometimes you could not get enough cash for a pail of eggs to buy a two cent stamp.”

Despite the work they had good times in those early days, Mr. LaFond said, “A bunch of us, two or three families, would get together, hitch the oxen to the hay rack filled with hay and straw and with heavy blankets to keep us warm and would drive to a dance. After the oxen had stood out three or four hours in the cold they would go so fast you couldn’t stop them. I’ve seen them out run horses when once they got started.” July 1, 1891 Ernest LaFond married Mary Bastien in Little Falls.

Mary Bastien LaFond was born in St. Hyacinthe, Canada, August 1, 1867. She is the daughter of Frank Bastien and Felicite Beliar Bastien.

Frank Bastien was born at Maskinonge Bridge, Eastern Canada and came by boat to Copper Harbor, Minnesota with his wife and ten children in 1872. He worked there in the lumber camps for five years and then, desiring to settle on a farm, came to Morrison County where his brother, Felix Bastien, was located. He bought 160 acres of railroad land five miles northwest of Pierz, and “built a log house with half windows. If you wanted to open a window you had to take it out.”

In speaking of her childhood Mrs. LaFond said, “There were many Indians, but they were always friendly. The crops were mostly wheat and garden produce. Wheat grew better than it does now. My father cut his grain with a cradle. Mother followed to tie up the bundles and the children came behind with rakes so that no grain would be wasted.

“We used to come to town with a team of oxen and on the Fourth of July we would join in the parade, riding in the oxcart. The road from Pierz came through forest and swamp. It was hard going and sometimes we ran out of supplies between our trips to town. I remember the funny light mother would fix up if we ran out of kerosene. Taking an old saucer she would put melted lard in it, wind up some cotton flannel into a kind of wick, dip it in the lard, light it, and fasten it in the saucer so the lighted end stood up. It gave more light than you think it would but it didn’t smell very good.

“When in Canada I started to learn my catechism and prayer in French and found it too difficult to learn it again in German, which was the language used at the church in Pierz. My father took me to the French Church at Belle Prairie, and I took my First Communion from Father Buh, the missionary priest who was a very good man dearly beloved by all who came in contact with him. Often when I went to Belle Prairie for my catechism, I would stop at the Indian wigwams to play with the Indian children. We used to bury potatoes in the ashes of the wigwam fire until they were baked, then poke them out with a stick and eat them. I attended the school at Belle Prairie for a short time and later went to the Central School before the frame building burned. Miss Kingsley (now Mrs. Fuller) was the principal and Miss Sadie Fuller was one of my teachers.

“My mother was a weaver. She spun the linen and wool for our dresses. Some of the linen she dyed indigo blue. She made linen shirts for the little girls, towels, spreads, and sheets. For our stockings she would shear the sheep, spin the wool, and knit the stockings.”

After their marriage Mr. and Mrs. LaFond lived on a farm which Ernest LaFond bought. It was located two miles southeast of town and adjoined his father’s farm. In addition to his work as a farmer Mr. LaFond was a contractor and plasterer. After living on the farm for twenty years he sold it and moved into Little Falls, bought and remodeled the house at 515 5th St. N.E., lived there for three years, then moved into a house he had built at 305 Third St. N.E. Seven years later he built the house at 307 Third St. N.E. where he now resides.

Mr. and Mrs. Ernest LaFond had three children:

A-1 Addie May LaFond Ledoux. Born in Little Falls, Apr. 17, 1892. Married Eugene Ledoux, March 15, 1913. They have three children: Gertrude Sylvia, Ernest Albert, and Lois Jean. They reside in Little Falls.

A-2 William Eugene LaFond. Born in Little Falls, Dec. 9, 1893. Died Aug. 5, 1896.

A-3 Laura Agnes LaFond Rank. Born in Little Falls, Feb. 24, 1896. Married Albert Rank, May 14, 1918. They have four children: Florence Elaine, Mildred, Kenneth, and Marion. They reside in St. Cloud.

Mr. and Mrs. LaFond are Democrats. Mr. LaFond is an “honorary fireman” having been a member of the company for over twenty years. When he joined the company “the chemical outfit and hook and ladder were pulled by hand.” Mrs. LaFond is a member of the Garden Club and St. Anne’s Society. They are both members of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

This WPA biography appeared in the Morrison County Historical Society’s newsletter in 1998.

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