Names Lost in Vermont, Part 23: Memoe and Cross


In our last installment, I remarked how many Québec families who settled in our area came from St. Hyacinthe, about sixty miles north of the Vermont border. Although I did not anticipate it with this next family, here is another instance of the same migration path. But first, a back story. 

In the fall of 1989, three promising students, Donna Brutkoski, Gail Clook, and Ginny Memoe, were in my ninth-grade World History class at Otter Valley Union High School. One of my bi-monthly cooperative group assignments required the students to present news broadcasts, television style, on current world events. These three young women all exceeded all my expectations and actually used a video camera to record the reactions to questions they addressed to people in the community. When Ginny’s parents, Chuck and Carolyn Memoe came for parent conferences, they expressed their enthusiasm for this “creative and innovative assignment.” This comment coming from such well-respected educators meant a great deal to me. With my predilection for investigating names and never having encountered “Memoe” before, I thought this family has its origins in Italy. Way off on that speculation!

PETER MEMOE, GRIMES studio photo. Frank Grimes had a studio in Brandon from 1899 to 1904. Other folks in town must have some of his photos.

Meeting Chuck Memoe again just a few years ago, I asked him if his ancestors came from Italy. “Oh no,” he responded. “We are French.” 

On a walk through St. Mary’s Cemetery last fall, the imposing Memoe stone, marking the resting place of three generations of this family, commanded my attention and beckoned me to explore their story. More recent footstones clearly marked family relationships. Almost a century separated Chuck Memoe from the birth of his French-Canadian grandfather Peter Memoe (1845–1910).

Chuck’s grandfather, Pierre Mimeau, was born in St.Hyacinthe, Québec, eldest son of Pierre Mimeau and Charlotte Pion. It’s an uncommon French name. Pierre’s immigrant ancestor was Jean Mimeau from Parthenay, Deux Sèvres, France, who wed Catherine Rondeau in Québec City on 29 July 1709. Five generations later, Pierre Mimeau, wife Charlotte, and their four children up to that point, moved to Brandon in the late 1850s. 

As recorded in the 1860 census, the Meno family were among Brandon’s 333 individuals born in Canada. Young Peter, barely fifteen, was already out of the household, working as a hired laborer. As the name evolved from Mimeau, I suspect last “e” of Memoe was added to the name to distinguish the pronunciation from the English word “memo!” Peter became a United States citizen in 1868, with his declaration stating his birthplace as St. Hyacinthe.

“MENO” FAMILY IN 1860 census. Peter Jr., age 15, was not living with the family,
indicative that he was already a hired laborer.

Peter entered his first and only marriage at the age of 33. The civil record of November 26, 1878 gives the names of the couple as Peter Memo and Carrie Cross, but the church record by the Pastor of St. Joseph’s Church in Burlington, Rev. Jerome Cloarec, wrote their names as Pierre Mimeau and Caroline Lacroix. A similar bifurcation in spellings existed when Peter’s brother, George Memoe [Mimeau] married Carrie’s sister, Minnie Cross, in 1883, her name recorded in the church record as Melanise Lacroix. 

CHARLES P. MEMOE (1888-1949), photo circa 1920.

Cross is a literal translation of La Croix. These two sisters, Carrie and Minnie, born in Mallet’s Bay, represent very early French-Canadian migration to Vermont. Their father, Hippolyte Quevillon dit Lacroix (1814–1895) emigrated with his parents and siblings in the early 1830s. Hippolyte eventually anglicized his name to Paul. He married in a non-Catholic ceremony Cesarie “Sarah” Goyette before the birth of their first child in 1838, but their marriage was revalidated in 1841 at St. Joseph’s Church in Burlington. They had ten children, the last of whom, Malona/aka Minnie Memoe, died in 1950, age 90, her obituary noting that her parents, Paul and Sarah Cross “were pioneer settlers of Mallet’s Bay.” A long generation indeed for Minnie with one parent born before the War of 1812 concluded!

Thanks to photos from the collection of Marguerite Cross Aldrich, posted on, we have three studio images of the family. Peter Memoe [Pierre Mimeau] looks dapper in a studio portrait from Frank Grimes studio in Brandon circa 1900. He died in Brandon, age 65, from heart disease. Peter’s eldest son Charles Memoe, formally attired circa 1920, supported his mother through her long widowhood and did not marry until after death in 1933. Charles also provided a home for his sister Stella, seen here in her wheelchair. Stella’s obituary, published in The Rutland Herald on 25 October 1943, is a tribute to how she led a full life, all the more remarkable from an era when people with physical handicaps were often relegated to the sidelines:

STELLA A. MEMOE (1880-1943) in her wheelchair, photo circa 1920.

“Miss Stella Amanda Memoe, 63, afflicted with arthritis since she was 14 years old and confined to a wheelchair since she was 16, died suddenly today of a heart attack…Although a cripple most of her life, Miss Memoe maintained an interest in community affairs and in the children whom she loved to have visit her home and garden. She spent many hours teaching them the beauty in life, in music, painting and reading. Although unable to take an active part in making a garden a garden, Miss Memoe planned and supervised one of the best gardens in town. She was an honorary member of the Brandon Garden club.

Before taking to her wheelchair Miss Memoe was able to be about on crutches when she was 14 to 16. Later she opened a gift and handwork shop which she conducted on Union Street nearly 20 years. Features of the shop were pieces of her own handwork and later her postcards painted in soft pastel shades.

Miss Memoe developed an interest in hobbies making a study of stamp collections, stampcraft, and later starting a button collection. Her hobbies brought her mail from all sections of the country.”


MEMOE STONE IN St. Mary’s Catholic Cemetery in Brandon.
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