8 1/2 x 11 inch soft cover...Clearfield County Historical Society publishes new book - A History of the French Settlers of Covington and Girard Townships, Clearfield County, Pennsylvania
Richard T. Hughes of Clearfield and Mary Kay Royer of Frenchville, June 22, 2014
Mary Kay Royer is a lifelong resident of Frenchville and a 5th generation French descendant on both sides of her family. She is the local genealogist and a board member of the Clearfield County Historical Society. She is also a devout member of St. Mary of Assumption Catholic Church and the chairperson for the Frenchville Picnic Committee. This past year she collaborated with local historian Richard Hughes to write a book about the French settlers of Covington and Girard townships. Royer opened up her extensive files which she has been compiling for over 25 years and put the most significant data into the document. This 430-page book will be on sale at the Clearfield County Historical Society with the proceeds going to the historical society and St. Mary of Assumption Catholic Church. The book contains over 100 illustrations, maps, Girard and Covington township histories, church and picnic histories, and write-ups on farms and dozens of businesses. The book also includes a detailed genealogy of every French family from downriver. Hughes and Royer interviewed many of the elder descendants and gave extended write ups on over 20 former residents. This is the first time a book has been dedicated to just Covington and Girard townships and sheds insight into the unique culture that is not found anywhere else in the county. This has been years in the making for Royer, and she hopes it is informative to the young people and a walk down memory lane for the older residents.
The Frenchville Picnic, which began in 1870, celebrates its 144th year as one of the oldest summer festivals in Clearfield County. Only the county fair can lay claim to a longer tradition. Construction of the new St. Mary of Assumption Catholic Church was completed in 1870 and a fundraiser was held to pay off the debt. It was so successful that they have held it every year since then, and the same stone church still overlooks the valley. In the 1920’s people would be shuttled down from Clearfield by way of the New York Central train and then a bus shuttle would take them from the Coudley Station at Deer Creek up onto the church grounds. Hughes fondly remembers as a child his Grandmother Alice Peters O’Neill talking about her experience with the Frenchville Picnic in 1917 when she was supposed to ride by horse and buggy with her boyfriend (and future husband) Fintain O’Neill all the way from Osceola. The horse died at the livery stable the night before! They married anyway the next year. Probably the most endearing part of the picnic is that it is a family reunion for the descendants of the original 54 families who came here in the 1830’s-1850. These folks were all from eastern France near the Swiss border. People travel from all four corners of this country to visit and reminisce about their ancestors. Over 900 dinners will be served on Sunday from the social center.
Today over half the original names are still on the church directory such as Leigey, Billotte, Renaud, Plubell, Coudriet, Royer, Beauseigneur, Gormont, Renoe and Rougeux to name a few. For over 170 years you could still hear French spoken around the church grounds and at the former Roussey Post Office. People from all over the country came to Frenchville starting in the 1960’s to study why the language took so long to die out. The remoteness of the county as well as the former parochial school which closed in 1901 were major factors.
This is an excellent history of Covington and Girard townships as well as a wonderful source of family history for this part of our county. The book will be available for sale at $25 plus tax ($1.50) and $7 shipping. For more information call CCHS at 814-765-6125.