Location: > Rice Lake Wisconsin

In Aug 2008 I had an opportunty to travel to Rice Lake Wisconsin to enjoy a Crotteau family reunion. I met and became friends with a number of individuals whom I had spoken with over the computer but never face to face. I had a great time, I enjoyed the trip, and I would love to do this again some day soon.

Crotteau Family Reunion - Rice Lake, Wisconsin, USA

Celebrating the 125th Anniversary of the immigration to the USA of Francois (Frank) Croteau and his wife Georgiana (Paradise) Croteau
This is a reunion of all descendants and their families of first generation Croteau settlers

My adventure began from home in the preparation for this upcoming reunion.  May hours were spent pouring over maps, looking up the location of cemeteries and planning the most efficient route to take.  I ensured that I had a small brush, a plastic scraper and a water bottle to clean off headstones.  I packed the motorcycle trailer to the hilt... then I noticed the water bottle leaked all over the place.  After spending a day or so drying out the carpet inside, the trailer was set to go.  I had my maps in hand, the planned route was to head north through Michigan on I-75 to St. Ignace for the first night.  It takes me two hours to get to the Port Huron USA boarder.  It took me at least 1 hour to get through the check point.  For some unknown reason, they are so slow today.   Once I explain who I am, where I'm going, I'm waved on to face the heat of the day.  My first stop after being on the road about 4 hours is the Tim Hortons Restaurant in Lapeer, MI.

Tim Hortons Lapeer Michigan

Off I continue north on I-75 and play the game of how far can I travel on this tank of gas.  I adjusted my speed to maintain about 65 MPH much to the disappointment of some other riders where the speed limit on I-75 is 70 MPH.  I managed to get 170 Miles from one tank and had I known there was another gas station up the road within 20 miles, I would have risked it.  Upon my arrival in Saint Ignace, MI. I drove through the town for a while looking for the Econo Lodge Motel.  I finally noticed the sign off US 2 just east of I-75 junction.

Econolodge St. Ignace

I drove into town that night, gassed up and had an enjoyable meal at a little restaurant on the waters edge.  This is a picture of the lighthouse facing Lake Huron in St. Ignace.  The weather was clear, not a cloud in the sky and very warm.  A great day for riding and enjoying the sunset.

St. Ignace Michigan Docks

The next morning I headed west following SR 2 and cut south-west over to SR 8.  Here I stopped in a little town called Pembine, WI. for lunch.  When I left, I thought I had a full course meal!  Wow they know how to provide a plate of food for a small penny.  I parked my motorcycle at the front door so I could keep an eye on it.  Not knowing where you are, or what type of town you are in can be a little un-nerving at first.

This fellow (the owner of the restaurant) realized there was a need for a place so local bands could play their music.  He built a band stand, wired it all up, and fenced it in so the public could enjoy themselves without fear of walking onto an open highway if a little bit under the weather.  All of this is hidden behind the building just outside of the town of Pembine.

Town of Pembine Wisconsin

Eat Resturant in Pembine Wisconsin

During the trip I noticed many little towns and hamlets along Lake Michigan that catered to the outdoors and avid sportsmen / boaters.  Some of the northern shores of Michigan contain sandy beaches and I suspect are full of swimmers on a hot day.  I managed to stop in time to avoid a number of deer crossing the road in front of me.  I watched a good sized buck looking at me and then he turned and ran into the bush, thankfully.  Just before dusk I pulled into the little town of Rice Lake, WIS.  There is a certain amount of satisfaction in actually finding a destination using a map and GPS.

Welcome Rice Lake Sign


Rice Lake Population

The population of 8,320 sign for this little town.  Rather clean and well designed from a land use perspective.  I booked into my room at the Super8 Motel and laid back for a bit to relax.  While enjoying a beverage with whiskey in it, I made a phone call to one other room where I understood one of my cousins were staying.  Of  course, I knew Larry and Julie Johnson (8th cousins) were going to be there - in part - the reason I came in the first place.  Much to my surprise, Larry was ready for a special mixture of Canadian liquid gold as well.

Directly across the road from the motel in Rice Lake was the St. Joseph's Catholic Cemetery were we found a lot of grave stones for our relatives.  Yes, I'm standing in the middle of the road to get this picture. The day was hot and the lawn was parched.  We walked this cemetery using a line search pattern.  Three abreast down each row and when one of us found a relative, we would call out the name.  Julie recorded the information on paper, and I took some photo's of the stone.  If cleaning was necessary Larry was ready with his water bottle and brush.  I have since learned that a mixture of 1 part bleach to 10 parts water kills off mould and lichens quickly pealing the moss away from the stone.   We used a finger nail brush on stubborn stains and a soft bristled brush on grass and dirt.  Works great!  Always keep in mind and respect head stones, never damage them... with society changing to cremation, these markers may be one of the last your ancestors will ever see.

Saint Joseph Cemetery Rice Lake Wisconsin

The next day we took off looking for more headstones of our long ago ancestors.  Larry drove us to Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church in Dobie, WIS.  Here we are standing beside the original bell that was salvaged when the first church burned down.  No comments about bell ringers here folks...

Larry Johnson Rice Lake Wisconsin

Larry Johnson one of the organizers. My 8th Cousin!  Thank you to Julie for taking the pictures

Paul Croteau Rice Lake Wisconsin

It was a very warm day while we visited the various cemeteries and this church.

farm icon

The sign reads, "The congregation for this church traces its roots back to 1870 when people first held services in their homes in what was originally called Stanfold.  This community later became Dobie.  Their first Catholic church was built in 1876 but was destroyed by fire in 1895.  Services were then held in a temporary structure until the present church was completed in 1904.  The name of the church reflects the French ancestry of many early parishioners."

We are here to celebrate the anniversary of Francois (Frank) Croteau, b: 14 Jun 1841 St. Croix, Quebec, Canada, d: 15 Dec 1909 Rice Lake, WI, USA
wife Georgiana (Paradise) Croteau, b: about 1950 Quebec, Canada, d: 2 Nov 1891 Rice Lake, WI, USA

Frank's Headstone
St. Joseph Cemetery - Rice Lake, WIS.

Francois Crotteau

Georgiana's Headstone
St. Josephs' Cemetery - Rice Lake, WIS.

Georgina Paradis

Someone was talented enough to create this birthday cake in honor of the reunion.  I seemed to have missed a piece of that cake.  No doubt there are many notes of appreciation that need to be said to all of those relatives that gave of their time and efforts, along with the donations of various sorts to make this event as fantastic as it was.  Look at the details below... a horse, water, tree's, farmers tractor, corn, fencing all to represent what Rice Lake and the early pioneers worked with in order to help make the city as modern as it is today.

Crotteau birthday cake

Below is a picture of Mike Berglund, one of the key organizers of this event (along with Larry) and our Master of Ceremonies.  Mike has a great sense of humor and put a lot of his time effort into this. He wrote letters to a lot of important people (like President G.W. Bush) who did acknowledge the reunion via letter.  Oh yes, we all wore those specially made T-Shirts for the occasion.  Mike even organized the color coded name tags and schedule of events which was posted in the hall entrance way.  I was a star... non directly related relative.  Never been a star before.

Mike Berglun Rice Lake Wisconsin

The State of Wisconsin Representative Mary Hubler presents the oldest living relatives of the various Crotteau branches with a historical plaque from the State of Wisconsin, Citation by the Assembly commemorating the 125th Anniversary.  This plaque will be placed in the Rice Lake Museum for all to see.  From these 6 people, the room was full... and there are a lot more Crotteau relatives in Rice Lake that did not attend.  Shame on you guys and gals... we should have had well over a thousand people there instead of a few hundred.

Crotteau Plaque Presentation

Sylvain Croteau, Director of Genealogy for the Province of Quebec, presents the organizers of the Crotteau Reunion with a certificate of appreciation.  Larry Johnson, Mike Berglund and Mary Jane (Crotteau) McGarvey, with Sylvain.

Here is a picture of those that remained near the end of the event.  We did our best to gather everyone together for this snap shot.  By the end of the day most people were ready to return home or back to their motel rooms.  It was difficult to contain the groups together.  Mike was on the roof of the building to my right... no doubt ready to fall off!

Crotteau Family Reunion 2008

There were a number of closer pictures but that would reveal the individual faces and I don't have permission to post them on the web site.


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