Saturday, November 30, 2013


This week, as many celebrated Thanksgiving in the USA, I would like to say how thankful I am to have been born in St. Vincent, Minnesota.

While there are many places in the world where people care about one another, and people hold these places just as dear to their hearts as I do St. Vincent, this is my hometown, and thereby all of you (meaning those born there also, or in the neighboring area) are part of my extended family. You are all part of the rich and amazing tapestry that is my life.

You who taught me, who scolded me, who teased me, who quietly helped me when I didn't even know it, who served me behind a counter, who waved at me as I rode past on my horse, who gave me a first job as a young girl, etc. - to all of you I say thank you. Thank you for being you, and I love you all...

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Jerome Family Portrait

A lost family portrait is found!

Recently, Ed Merck posted an intriguing entry on the Kittson County Historical Society website:

A kind lady contacted me about a picture she found in a California antique mall. Fortunately, she found my website about the Jerome Family and offered me the picture for her cost. It is in excellent condition. What a find! Based on the apparent size of my Uncle Julius, the boy in the photo, I estimate the picture was taken around 1904-5. 

There are comments on the backside written by an unknown descendant of the Smith-Jerome families. I include them here:
Back Row:  Elizabeth Smith Burk (mom's sister), Anna Smith Irwin (Mother) 14 yrs., Angeline Jerome Parenteau (mom's aunt)(sitting), Marie (Mae) Smith (Panshab, Whiteside ) (Mom's sister), Roger Jerome (mom's uncle), James H Smith (mom's father) ((Hiram – Elizabeth Smith) mom's grandparents)(sitting), Martin Jerome (mom's uncle)
Front Row: Andre Jerome (mom's grandfather), Julius Jerome (Napoleon's son), Margaret Gooselaw (orig. spelling: Goselin) Jerome (mom's grandmother) (Her mother McKay King), Napoleon Jerome (mom's uncle) (his wife was Elizabeth Renville), Margaret Jerome Smith (Mrs. James Smith) (mom's mother)
This is the only picture I have of my grandfather Napoleon in his younger years. It shows him with the athletic appearance I pictured him having. I had heard stories when I was a kid about how he and his brothers raced across the Red River, swimming with their hands tied behind them. Andre had a homestead on each side of the Two Rivers where it joins the Red River, so I imagine that is where those races were held when they were young. Grandpa was a great 'buddy' to me when I was a kid when he would spend a few months a year in our home at Ada and Argyle. Unfortunately, I never knew Grandma.

Andre lived just North of Emerson on land given him by Hudson Bay Company, near the fort. In early census listings they were included in U. S. census because of confusion over border. That was before he was arrested and tried for treason against the Queen following the Fenian raid. Stories say he, and his brothers or sons were in the dray business and carried supplies for the raiders. He was imprisoned by the British in the 'Stone Fort' at Winnipeg; the trial ended in a hung jury so he was returned to prison for the winter, then tried again, and once again it ended with a hung jury. Following release, he moved to a homestead west of Hallock. 

At one time, Napoleon bought and lived on what had been Fort Pembina, which they called the 'fort farm' and my mother spent several of her younger years there. Amos (Napoleon's son) and his family lived in Pembina and some of his family lived in St. Vincent at one time or another...Joe Rolette's wife was Angelique Jerome, but I think they lived in Pembina (I'm not sure of that because Pembina County included much of what is now Kittson County...) Angeline Parenteau was a Jerome. Her son Mark became a noted artist. I accidentally met him when I was going through flying training in the Rio Grande Valley in 1957, so we became friends and I have a portrait he painted of me at that time. He spent winters there with his sister. I remember visiting him and his mother in St. Vincent when I was very young. At that time he was a teenager and I was impressed with the soap carvings he had whittled.

I just checked the 1857 census for St. Vincent, Pembina County, Minnesota. It lists several Jerome families including Andre, his father Martin, and some of Andre's brothers as well as Joe Rollette.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

One of Our Own

"Music bubbles out of me..."
[Poster created by Nancy Ansari]

Cleo Bee [Wang] Jones is a St. Vincent native.  Cleo's grandmother was a Lang, and her mother was a Turner. The Langs and Turners, much like the Gambles, left big footprints on St. Vincent and its history.  In her own right, Cleo became more than the little village could contain.  Rightly so, she went out into the bigger world and shared her gift - her "Great Voice"...

[The following is an excerpt from a 2012 article]

Cleo Bee has something to look forward to: On Sept. 9, 2012 she will be inducted into the South Dakota Country Music Hall of Fame. This will be her second such honor — she was inducted into the Minnesota Rock and County Hall of Fame in 2007.

Cleo, 72, was born in St. Vincent, Minn. (population 64) and sang all over the country before she moved to Hayward with her husband, when he retired in 2006. She has a voice and a talent — and most of all, a love for song.

Her gift became apparent in second grade when her teacher asked the class if they knew what a four-leaf clover was. Before anyone could answer, Cleo stood up and said it was a song. Then she sang “I’m Looking Over a Four-Leaf Clover.”

“I sang and they clapped and that’s all it took to start the whole thing,” said Cleo, who has never had a voice lesson in her life.

In high school she sang in a dance band, recalling Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock” and Jerry Lee Lewis’ “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On.” But she said she was most influenced by the powerful voices of Kay Starr and Mahalia Jackson, before rock ‘n roll arrived on the music scene.

Also while in high school, she said she was snuck in the back door of the Eagles Club to perform onstage with a group that was there from Arkansas. She was 16.

Cleo won a talent contest that year and went to New York City to audition for the Ted Mack Amateur Hour. Her two aunts traveled with her. There were about 500 contestants, she said, and she waited for hours before it was her turn to get onstage where she sang “Mr. Wonderful” and “On the Street Where You Live.”

“I didn’t make the cut that night,” she said, but shortly thereafter she won third place in the 1957-58 finals Amateur Show sponsored by the Associated Canadian Travelers and held in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Cleo said she was the only winner from the U.S.

Cleo married, had two daughters and moved to Minneapolis, where she soon became a popular singer.

Her big break came in 1968 when she joined the Sherwin Linton Show, entertaining in ballrooms, nightclubs, lounges and touring the country in the band bus. The Golden Nugget in Las Vegas was often their venue.

Cleo said that over the years she worked with George Jones, Tammy Wynette, Dottie West, George Hamilton, Tex Ritter and Buck Owens.

In 1977 Cleo wrote a song and sang some of her favorites, along with duets with Linton, on a cassette, which was later released on CD. Some of the selections were recorded live at the South Dakota State Penitentiary on Aug. 9, 1971.

When she left the Sherwin Linton Show, tired of the travel, Cleo became the featured singer at Louie’s Inn in Dresser, Wis., and the house band was soon named “The Honeycomb.”

“No more buses but we sometimes performed six nights a week,” she said.

Cleo kept that pace for four years and then remarried and moved to Rochester, Minn. She stopped singing in 1980 and said she missed it terribly.

“It was horrifying. I would sing in the car on long trips, in the house, anyplace — it drove my husband nuts,” she said.

Twenty years later she performed again with the Sherwin Linton Show and repeated those performances a few times in cities in Minnesota and North Dakota.

She said one of her most memorable performances was at her mother’s memorial service which was scheduled on Sept. 11, 2001, the day terrorists attacked New York City and the Twin Towers fell.

“Mom wanted me to sing at her funeral, and after all that had happened that day, I sang ‘America the Beautiful.’ There wasn't a dry eye in the place,” she said.

Cleo Bee, as she is today...
Cleo still sings locally. She has guested with “Molly and the Danger Band,” has sung at the Stone Lake Cranberry Luncheon and the Hayward High School 50th Reunion with some members of The Honeycomb.

Music has made her life rich, she said, through travel and meeting wonderful people.

“Music and opportunities — that’s who I was and who I am. Music bubbles out of me,” she said.