French ancestors led to Stryker settlers - SAHC 2014 Annual Meeting
By Don Allison, Senior Editor
Used by permission
STRYKER — In 2010 Stryker native Will Peugeot went to France in search of his French connection, an experience he described as the “trip of a lifetime.”
Thursday evening, Nov. 13, 2014, he told the Stryker Area Heritage Council what he found.
Peugeot, shown above on the right with SAHC President Rose Burkholder, was the featured speaker during the Heritage Council’s annual meeting conducted at the Stryker United Methodist Church.
For years, he said, he had wondered: “How am I like my French ancestors? How am I like the people who live in France today?”
In search of answers, Peugeot, a Lutheran minister, traveled to France on a sabbatical. He went to the town of Valentigney in the Montbeliard territory of western France, where his Peugeot ancestors lived before coming to the United States and settling near Stryker.
He found records of ancestors — he was able to document 12 generations of his family who were farmers in the region, and he met living relatives. Peugeot made other connections as well. For example, he said, in Valentigney he was served his father’s favorite meal — a dish made of sausage, green beans and potatoes.
“Are we related to the car Peugeots? Yes,” he said.
He also explored the heritage of the Montbeliard region, which was heavily influenced by the Reform movement in the 1500s, and saw compulsory education instituted in the mid-1500s. Too, he said, the area was very industrialized.
While in France he was shown two history books he found interesting. “Surprisingly, they talked about Williams County, Ohio,” he said.
These books revealed that French Protestants from the Montbeliard region who settled in the Stryker area founded a French Lutheran church that eventually folded in 1891. Also, they founded the Baptist Church in Stryker that still conducted services in French as late as 1907.
Peugeot noted that in 1845 there were about 200 individuals from France in the Stryker area with more than 30 French surnames, some of those names still present in the area today. “They were here before the town began,” he said.
“How am I like the people of Valentigney?” he asked.
For one, he said, he has a similar taste of food.
“I look like them,” he added.
He also shares a connection with his French farmer ancestors. “I am the first one in my family line who is not a farmer,” he said, adding that he maintains that connection with his vegetable gardens.
Peugeot said he also shares an interest in education, and in faith and service to the community.
He also posed a question to the Stryker Area Heritage Council members, many of whom share in that French ancestry: “What do you see in Stryker, and in yourself, that may have roots in the French people who came beginning in the 1830s?”
During the business portion of the meeting, Rose Burkholder, Anna Sprow and Terry Wieland were re-elected as trustees of the organization, and the Heritage Council’s efforts in preserving Stryker’s history were reviewed.
An outline of the past year’s work noted publication of the Bean Creek Chronicle newsletter, acquiring Stryker High School yearbooks and scanning historic Stryker area photographs so they can be displayed and a permanent record maintained.
In August the organization again was in charge of the parade for the Stryker Homecoming, and a replica of the 1900 depot — now the Stryker Area Heritage Center museum — has been produced for sale.
“We continue to receive donations and loans of Stryker-related items for display at the depot and will start showing pictures of some of the items in the BBC (Bean Creek Chronicle),” Burkholder noted in her report.
She noted that shelves have been installed in the baggage room to help organized the collections. The Duane and Phyllis Jolly family purchased the wood, paint and labor to complete this project.
In 2014 the storm windows at the depot were refurbished to protect the collections from sunlight’s ultraviolet rays, Burkholder reported.
And, she noted, “We were given bricks from the last brick sidewalk in Stryker and plan to use them around the depot for a sidewalk/patio.”
“Treasures at the Depot” were featured during American Legion breakfasts, and a new DVD based on those presentations is available.