Deschamps, Louis - Biography

Louis and Ann Stephens Deschamps

By Norma Yearsley Shiffman, Mitchell Deschamps, Ray Deschamps, Erma Thomas Yearsley, and Rosalie Cole Talbot

Louis and Ann Stephens Deschamps were among the first pioneers to settle in St. John. Ann joined the church in Wales and was the first member of her family to emigrate to America in 1863. She pushed a handcart across the plains. When President Brigham Young learned that she was an expert seamstress, he hired her to care for and mend linens in his home. She saved money to send to her family that they might emigrate. Her brothers Tom and John worked in the mines and the family pooled their resources together, and within six years the parents and eight children were in Utah.

About the same time Ann left Wales, a young Frenchman named Louis Henault Deschamps left his home in Canada and drifted south to St. Louis, Missouri, with some fur traders. Louis was an expert woodcutter. There he joined the pioneers, and traveled to Utah with them, where he was converted to the Mormon religion.

There in Willard, Utah, Ann and Louis met. Louis spoke French and a little of English, Ann spoke Welsh and English. In spite of the language barrier a romance was kindled. They were married in the Endowment house on March 30, 1867. The first two years they lived at Willard, then they moved to Malad. Their first home was a dug-out, located just west of town. The next move was to St. John in 1873, where they homesteaded 160 acres along Devil Creek, receiving the land patent March 5, 1880.

Eleven children were the off-spring of Louie and Ann: Rosalie and Mary Ann born in Willard; Louis and Josephine in the dug-out in Malad; David, the twins John and Thomas, Francis, Daniel, Rachel, and Nellie in St. John. Louis died March 27, 1879, at age 7, Thomas died March 19, 1879 at age 2, and Daniel died in 1882 at the age of 2.

In conjunction with their farming operation, they built a general merchandise store near the St. John school and church, which was on the route for the freighters going north into Idaho and Montana. Travelers stopped at the store to replenish their supplies, and often sat at her bounteous table. Ann was a good conversationalist and could talk intelligently on almost any subject. Everyone who happened to be around the store at mealtime was invited to eat with them.

On March 2, 1894, a license was issued to George Cole and company for merchandising. He and his family moved from Malad to help his father-in-law in the store. In about two years the Coles moved to Rexburg, Idaho.

Grandchildren have told things about the Deschamps store and home. Mitchell Deschamps tells quote, "The store was built first and separately from the house. The two-story house was erected adjacent to the store, which was on the north. The picture of the store being torn down in 1912 verifies this. The store was built of logs and the house of adobe. I tore these buildings down and built my present home on the same spot. My grandparents home consisted of six rooms downstairs, 4 rooms upstairs and a cellar for milk, cheese, and perishables for the store. I can still smell the old vinegar barrel, cheese cutter, harness leather, collar pads, and patent medicine."

Then Erma Thomas Yearsley tells it quote, "The Deschamps built a nice two story home and two large (slopes) rooms on each of two sides that they made into their country store. They had large barrels of candy, crackers, and other staple foods. There were wooden boxes of dried apples, prunes, and plums that came from their own 5-acre orchard. My mother Nellie used to tell how they prepared the fruit and carried it up the ladder to the roof of the store and set it out to dry in the sun, before packing it in the boxes.

On November 5, 1896, Louis and Ann deeded ½ acre of land for the construction of a new St. John Ward building, which was built where our church now stands.

Louis was killed when he was run over by a wagonload of grain on September 20, 1902. Ann died at her home March 3, 1909.

(From St. John, Oneida County, Idaho: A collection of personal histories from the time of the first settlers to the present day, pp. 92-93.)







Stephens, Ann

Deschamps, Louis


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