Peter DEMO (Pierre Guimond)

following article is the contribution of Hal Costello

Peter Demo (Pierre Guimond) may have been born in New France in 1756. His parents, Francois Guimont and Marie Angelique Simono came to New France (Canada) about 1751-52. They settled at La Prairie, not far from Montreal. There he lived with his parents until he was 12 years old. Having made friends among the Indians (Abenaki) who gained consent of his parents to take him, along with another boy, on a three week hunting trip. The other boy was left at St. Regis Falls on the St. Regis River but Peter was taken north and west to the Lake of the Woods country. Being so young to return home alone, he stayed and lived with the Indians for thirty years as a trapper and hunter.

When he was about forty years old he and another "white Indian" decided to go back East. They set out in the spring of the year with their winter's catch of furs down the Rainy River. The water was high with the spring run-off and they were caught in the rapids above International Falls. Their canoe was swamped. They managed to escape but they lost everything, canoe, furs and guns.

The snow was still deep in the woods but they set out to find food and shelter. Nearly exhausted they saw a camp fire across the lake. Peter being still able to travel left his companion, crossed the lake to the fire where a small party of Indians were camped. They took him in and they retraced his trail across the lake only to find Peter's friend dead.

After Peter had regained his strength he again set out to go back to find his people. But, during the years he had been away the French and Indian Wars had taken place and the American Revolution had just ended. He got back to La Prairie only to find no trace of his people.

He then returned to the Lake of the Woods country to live among his Indian friends for about seven more years. Being a "white Indian" he found employment with the North West Company in 1804 as a "Voyageur" in the Athabasca River Country.

He eventually abandoned his solitary wilderness life again and went back East to Montreal, possibly to Massachusetts and then to Vermont where there was a settlement of French Canadians. He took up the life of a farmer on the beautiful North Hero Island in Lake Champlain between New York and Vermont. Peter was said to be a slim wiry man of medium height and dark complexion. On January 7, 1807 at St. Ours, Peter married Marie Reine Taillon, minor daughter of Michael Taillon and Marie Boudriaw-Labonte. From the census records he was married in Julia Taillon. This may have been a sister to his first wife or another name for her. She was sixteen born in 1795 in French Canada.

They had eight children:

(1) Marcellus born in 1818 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.
(2) Solomon born March 11, 1821 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.
(3) Wallace born May 21, 1825 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.
(4) Luke born in 1828 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.
(5) Joseph born about 1829 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT. Fell through the ice on Lake Champlain and died in 1841 at twelve years old.
(6) Delia born about 1831 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.
(7) Rosabell born May 29, 1833 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.
(8) Lucinda born about 1836 in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT.

Around 1838, Solomon Demo married Margaret Ellenor Bernard. Ellen was born in Canada. They had nine children. Six were born in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT: Lavina born April 16, 1839, Fila born in 1840-1841, Marcelia born in 1843, Abraham born in October 1845, Luke born in 1847 and Agnes born in 1849. One born in Dickinson Center, Franklin County, New York: Lucinda born in 1852. Two were born in Hale, McLeod, Minnesota: Cilimer born in 1856 and Solomon born in 1858.

Around 1839, Marcellus Demo married Esther Bashaw. Esther was born in East Canada in 1822. They had eight children. Four were born in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT: Lydia born in 1840, Aurelia born in 1842, Selert in 1846, and Ida in 1851. Four were born in Dickinson Center, Franklin County, New York: Milford born in June 1853, Alice Julia born in December 1855, Anne born in 1858, and Esther born in 1864. Marcellus died January 1, 1865.

In 1842, Wallace Demo married Delila Bonheur. "Delia" was born in Scotia, Canada East March 25, 1823. They had ten children. Five were born in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT: Ellen born in September 1842, Joseph born January 1844, Julia born January 6, 1846, Marcellus born April 19, 1848, and William born May 1850. Three were born in Dickinson Center, Franklin County, New York: Delia Delilah was born June 18, 1856, Laura Ann was born in 1858, and Newton was born in 1860. Newton died as a child. Two of their children may have died as infants. There are no records. Wallace died June 11, 1906.

In 1851, Luke married Julietta Fefa. "Julia" was born in East Canada in 1829. They had eight children. Two were born in North Hero, Grand Isle County, VT: Brainard was born in 1851, and Joseph was born in 1852. Five were born in Dickinson Center, Franklin County, New York: Julia Ann was born in 1854, Martha Ann was born in 1855, Melborne was born in 1859, Clarry Ann was born in June 1860, Jinett born in 1864, and Lucy was born in 1868. On October 19, 1852, Lucinda married Brenton H. Allen, son of Irad Allen in North Hero, Grand Isle Co., VT.

In early 1853, Peter and his family moved to Alburg, New York. They lived in a settlement called the French Chapel. The U.S. Census has his families living in Dickinson Center, Franklin County, New York. Rosabell Demo married Joseph L. Tawya (later Taylor) December 31, 1853 in Dickinson Center. They were married by Hiram Beman, Minister of the Gospel, Methodist Episcopal. Joseph was born in St. John, Canada on March 12, 1834 and baptised at St. Athanase d'Iberville. Joseph was the son of Joseph Tanguis and Josephte Pepin. Later his family moved to Massachusetts and then to New York. They had nine children. Five were born in Dickinson Center, Franklin County, New York: Henry S. Taylor born November 19, 1854, Joanna born October 5, 1856, Winfield Scott born July 4, 1859, Joseph B. born August 24, 1861, and William E. born June 17, 1864. Five were born in Waterville, Pepin County, WI: Lillian R. born October 9, 1866, Andrew M. born April 1, 1869, Rosabel born June 10, 1871, and an infant that died May 1, 1875. Joseph was a full blooded Frenchman, a strong husky man, 5 ft. 7 in. and around 190 pounds. He had black eyes, black hair and a dark complexion. Rosabell was a large woman around 200 pounds. They spoke only broken English. Their children used French until they went to school. When the Civil War broke out, Joseph enlisted in the 142nd N.Y. infantry. He was severely injured in a work party, given an honorable discharge and sent home. As soon as he was able he re-enlisted in the 6th N.Y. Heavy Artillery. He was taken prisoner in Virginia in July 1864 along with thousands of others. They were forced to march hundreds of miles to the Andersonville Prison in So. Georgia, where he spent the last nine months of the war. Altogether he spent nearly four years in the Civil War. When he returned, he moved the family to McLeod, Minnesota. They stayed two years and moved to the Dead Lake Prairie, Arkansaw, Pepin County, WI in July 1867. Rosabel died August 3, 1913.

Between 1853 and 1855, Solomon left New York and moved his family to Hale Township, McLeod, Minnesota.

Peter died January 16, 1859. He is buried in Sand Hill Cemetery, Brushton, Franklin County, New York. Along with Peter, his son Luke, Luke's wife Juliette, Luke's son Joseph, Luke's son Brainard "Breno", Peter's son Marcellus, Marcellus' daughter Aurelia Demo Clark, Wallace's daughter Delia, a Calista Demo, Aurelia's daughter Mattie Clark Russell, and Mattie's infant are all buried in Sand Hill Cemetery.

There were many stories told that Peter was a drummer boy in the Battle of Quebec, that he stowed away on a ship to Canada, that he spoke seven languages and more. That's probably why they say he was born in 1747 to be 12 in 1759. Peter could not read or write English in 1850. A fictional book, "Drummer Boy for Montcalm" by Wilma Pitchford Hays was written with Peter Demo in mind. U.S. Census records show that Peter was 94 in 1850, 80-90 in 1840, between 70-80 in 1830, and >45 in 1820 which would put his birth date at 1756. He would have been 103 when he died. We many never know the true date.

There was also an article by Del Farley, Roving Reporter in a New York paper, May 12, 1939.

"There is a bleached headstone in Sand Hill's quaint old cemetery between Moira and Dickinson Center that marks the resting place of Peter Demo-a man whose life was remarkable for its adventure back in a rugged pioneering era when adventure was part of the existence of practically every man.

It's possible that Peter Demo's life was the longest of any North countrymen's stay on earth, he lived to be 112 years old.

It is significant that Peter Demo's death occurred in 1859, the centennial anniversary of the Fall of Quebec, for Peter Demo marched as a child with le Marquis Montcalm de Saint-Veran and beat his drum bravely at the head of the French columns in the stirring Battle of the Plains of Abraham.

In those lusty and valiant years boys grew quickly to manhood and Peter Demo was a sturdy youth of twelve when he became a drummer boy for Montcalm. The battle occurred the night of September 13, 1759, when the English army under James Wolfe scaled the heights to attack the city of Quebec. They surrounded the French and drove them from their position. Both Montcalm and Wolfe were slain and the French without a leader broke and many ran into the Canadian wilderness after the fall of their fortress.

Among those were Peter Demo. He grew to manhood among the Abenaki Indians and became a courier-du-bois, one of that sturdy clan of woodsmen who roamed the St. Lawrence Valley in the earliest years of its settlement. These men were a picturesque element of the wilderness. They were schooled in the customs and language of the Indians and were as much at home in the forest as any savage.

Years later Peter Demo abandoned his solitary wilderness life when he wandered into a little settlement in Vermont where he married and took up the more (prosiac?? couldn't read it clearly) existence of a farmer. The trend of the population was westward in those years and Peter Demo followed the bands who ventured across Lake Champlain and into New York State. It was near Dickinson Center, in the section known as the French Chapel district, that he finally settled and reared his family.

The French Chapel Road, now little used, is about covered today with sod and the untrimmed brush has grown high on both sides of the thoroughfare where Peter Demo perhaps often passed on this way to the village. Of the French Chapel itself only ruins remain. Fire destroyed the building years ago but the foundation stones, nearly obscured by vegetation, still mark the spot where the chapel stood on the crest of a high hill.

The St. Lawrence is visible from that eminence and it is likely that Peter Demo may have tarried often on the summit to view in the distance the broad valley where he had roamed as a youth.

Many who pass Sand Hill's graveyard today pause to observe the weather-whitened headstone with its still legible inscription but there are few of them aware of the life of the man who lies buried beneath it. Much of the story of Peter Demo's eventful years, it seems, have been buried in the graves of those who once lived through their history."