Saturday, January 2, 2010

Black Sheep Sunday: Meet Joe Brown

Or at least his children:

Frank St. Onge, Gertrude St. Onge and William (St. Onge) Perry
Frank, Gertrude and Bill

Joseph William St. Onge, Jr.
Joseph Jr.

Mary Ellen St. Onge

The photographs above are the children of Joseph William St. Onge, born 30 August 1893 in Marlborough, Middlesex County, Massachusetts to Joseph St. Onge and Mary Emily Fortier. 

Joseph and Mary (Fortier) St. Onge died in 1911 (age 49) and 1913 (age 50) respectively, leaving their young family of 7 children to take care of each other.

Joseph William St. Onge married twice, first on 15 February 1915 in Rockland, Plymouth County, Massachusetts.  His first wife, Amanda Angelina Jean (b. abt 1894 in Montreal) divorced him, citing "cruel and unusual treatment" as the reason.

Joseph married a second time, sometime between 1918 and 1922, to Mildred Marian Burrell.  They had the 5 children in the photographs above, none of whom were willing to say much about their father during their lifetimes.

The children and grandchildren of Joseph Jr. (1919-1978), Mary (1920-1985), Gertrude (1921-2000), William (1924-?), and Frank (1925-1996) have all asked the question:

What happened to Joseph St. Onge?

The answer has often been "You don't want to know".

Of course this makes them all the more curious.

And me as well, as Mildred and Joseph apparently divorced at some point, and Mildred then married Herbert Benjamin Haley.  Mildred and Herbert had two children - my great aunt Lorraine and my grandfather Herbert, both of whom are still living.

Working together, two St. Onge cousins and I have pieced together stories from our parents and grandparents.  Here is what we know about Joseph St. Onge:

-- He was a cruel man; he once put his daughter, Gertrude, in an oven (we don't know if the oven was on) (we have tried to track down Gertrude's children - one of my cousins did call Gertrude once, but Gertrude refused to come to the telephone to talk about her father);

-- He disappeared when Mildred was pregnant with Frank, or not long after Frank was born in 1925;

-- Family rumor is he was a rum-runner during prohibition;

-- Family rumor is he changed his name to "Joe Brown";

-- Family rumor is he went to New York; or

-- 2017 edit - he died in Chicago in the 1960s or 1970s according to a cousin, but no one held on to the information.

As you can see, we still have quite a bit of research to do (find marriage record on Mildred and Joseph, find divorce record, learn more about rum-running and prohibition in general for better perspective, etc.).

We are still trying to put together the pieces of this story and hope somebody to know the truth about Joseph St. Onge!


  1. Sorry Wendy, I'm a bit late reading this. Wow, he sure was a Black Sheep. Once you find out more, you'll have to write more. Thanks.

  2. Excellent research, as always, Wenwicke! I am curious as to why the Black Sheep was so cruel. Have you learned anything of his childhood and his father's treatment of him? It has been my observation that abusive behavior tends to be a cycle within families, that some break and others merely perpetuate.