Names lost in Vermont, Part 17: Bean, Beayon, and Pelkey


COPY OF THE card file of the marriage of Francis Bean and Lorenza Buker, 1868.

Alexander Bean’s (1826–1911) dignified gravestone in Pittsford’s St. Alphonsus Cemetery has long beckoned me to explore further the life and Civil War service of this man born in Canada.  The easy part was unmasking his name, LeFebvre, from the French word for “bean”: fève. Placing him in a wider context of extended family proved more difficult. 

A problematic starting point for documenting his life begins with Pittsford’s 1860 census wherein Alick Bean, age 20, and Francis Bean, age 35, are listed as farmhands in the household of prosperous farmer Marshall Wood. Certainly, these two men were brothers, yet their stated ages would fluctuate significantly in later records. After Alex Bean’s nine-month term of enlistment in Company G, 12th Vt. Infantry, on February 5, 1864, he wed seventeen-year-old Adelaide Pelkey, their union officiated by a Protestant minister. Adelaide, one of Julius and Matilda (Belisle) Pelkey’s twelve children, had been baptized as Marie Adeline Pelletier. She and Alex had only three children, one of whom survived his father. Adelaide’s siblings, however, were more prolific—two of them marrying their first cousins, thus creating a tangled tree for their descendants.

Having moved after marriage to Georgia, Vermont, Alex accepted a bounty of $100 and reenlisted for a year’s service in Company B, 7th Vt. Cavalry on March 22, 1865.  He mustered out in March 1866. According to the reams of depositions in his later Civil War pension file, he returned home to Pittsford with throat and chest congestion. Beginning in 1882, stating his age as 45, Alex initiated the arduous process of qualifying for a disability pension. It took him eight years to win his case, and perhaps to accentuate his infirmity, he kept adding years to his true age so that by the time of his of his death, he was fifteen years older than he appeared to be in 1860.

I often wondered why his wife, Adelaide, who died on 6 May 1883, age 37, was buried with her parents in the Pelkey plot in St. Alphonsus. The simple answer may well be that her death coincided with the onset of Alex’s health struggles; consequently, Adelaide’s family paid for her burial. A decade later, on January 20, 1894, in a Catholic ceremony, Alexander [Bean] Lefebvre, age 64, married forty-year-old widow/divorcée Kate (Hagan) (Manning) Parker. During their marriage, Alex applied twice for an increase in his pension, the last coming in the months before his death from tuberculosis on September 20, 1911. Reading the reports of his physical and mental decline was heart-wrenching. Given Alex’s penury at the time of his death, I think it likely his comrades from E. J. Ormsbee Post, G.A.R. of Brandon erected his gravestone.

Widow Kate Bean soon moved to Schenectady, New York, where she collected a widow’s pension until her death in 1923. That’s not the end of the pension file—her daughter-in-law billed the War Department for Kate’s care, and Alex’s son, Fred Bean, living in a rooming house in Worcester, Massachusetts, in 1930, wrote to the pension office asking if he was entitled to any part of his father’s pension. Their curt reply, since Fred was well over 16 [by 18 years!] at the time of his father’s death, was no.

ALFRED BEHAM’S GRAVE in St. Paul’s Cem- etery in Orwell. Photos provided by Michael Dwyer

Alex’s brother, Francis Bean, has some enigmatic episodes in his story. According to the Vermont State copy of his Pittsford marriage record, April 22, 1868, he married “Lorenza Buker.” I knew this had to be a bad transcription: the original record in Pittsford’s town office reads “Louisa Buchee” [Boucher]. Their child Alfred was born in February 1869, but mother and child disappeared from history—their fate unknown. By 1870, Francis married a second wife, Philomene Lamoureux, as evidenced by their presence in the census of Wendell, Franklin County, Massachusetts. They moved back to Rutland, Vermont, in 1880 with four children. Francis and family made one last move to Leominster, Massachusetts, where he lived in a French-Canadian enclave, going by the name of Francis Lafave. He died in 1902 and was buried in Leominster’s St. Cecilia’s Cemetery. 

Following one more trail of Beans led me to Alfred Bean, 51, day laborer, born in Canada, wife Ann, 41, and eight children as listed in Brandon’s 1880 census. This was of great interest to me because I had already discovered him as the ancestor of students named Beayon whom I once taught at Mount St. Joseph Academy and Otter Valley. Alfred’s grave monument in St. Paul’s cemetery in Orwell inscribes the name as Beham, which is how his name was recorded on his Civil War enlistment. Stymied momentarily in linking Alfred to a record in Canada, I eventually discovered Alfred’s second marriage at St. Paul’s Church in Orwell which listed his surname as Billion. Nothing numerical about this name Billion which would have been pronounced with two-syllables “Bee Yon.” Now looking for a spelling that resembled Bion, as recorded in Québec parish registers, I discovered the baptismal record of René Alfred Bion, born 7 May 1829, at St. Benoit, Québec, a town absorbed into today’s city of Mirabel. The present spelling of Beayon, after all, correctly replicates the original pronunciation of the name. And one last note to history, Alfred’s father, Claude Bion, immigrated to Montréal from Jouvençon, Saone et Loire, France, sometime before 1821, perhaps leaving behind him the carnage of the Napoleonic Wars. 

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