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Pierre Lagrave
(aka Peter Braziel)

Created May 2000
Updated Aug-2009

Peter Braziel was born 'Pierre Lagrave' at St. Francis on 16-Jun-1832 and was baptized the following day in the Catholic Church of that Parish. He was the son of Francois Lagrave (aka Frank Brazil) and Ursula Wasamimet (aka Lucy Emmett) of the Abenaki Village of Odanak (St. Francois-du-Lac, PQ). He and many members of his family lived most of their lives in New York State where they used the surname Brazil. His family continued to maintain their ties to the Village of Odanak where his parents grew up and his siblings were baptized. Several of his siblings returned to Odanak and married other Abenaki. In Odanak records, the family used the surname Lagrave. Peter Braziel died at Oriskany Falls NY on 29-Sep-1916. During his life he lived at Sharon Springs, Oppenhiem Center, Dolgeville (abt. 9 yrs.), Little Falls (abt. 16 yrs), and Oriskany Falls, all in New York State.

Peter served in Company K, 1st Regt. of the New York Light Artillery. His original enlistment was from 27-Sep-1861 to 25-Dec-1863. He re-enlisted 26-Dec-1863 as a Veteran Volunteer. Peter was honorably discharged 20-Jun-1865. His pension record indicates that he qualified for a pension in 1900 for reasons of "disabled by disease of the heart, obesity and senility." Peter's military documents describe him as having brown eyes, black hair, dark complexion, and 5' 8-1/4" tall. In 1900 his pension record indicates that he weighted 235 pounds. He drew a pension of $30 a month until his death.

photo of the headstone of Peter Braziel contributed by Jane Barber.

The 1850 Federal Census of the Town of Sharon, Schoharie Co. NY, shows Peter age 18, colored [non-white!], occupation farmer, living with his parents and siblings. His father's occupation is listed as 'basket maker'.

Peter was first married to Mrs. Elizabeth Emma "Betsey" Montaney on 15-Apr-1856. This was her 2nd marriage. She died 6-July-1896. They had four children; Charles Francis Braziel born 7-Aug-1858, John Peter Braziel born 15-Jan-1860, Ella J. Braziel born 18-Oct-1865, and Burton E. "Bertie" Braziel born 17-Oct-1873.

The 1870 Federal Census of Oppenheim, Fulton Co. NY shows Peter, Indian, occupation farm laborer, with his wife Emma E. (also Indian) and his 4 children. We learn from his pension files that Peter also worked as a laborer on the "new stone factory ... Alfred Dolge's factory" in Dolgeville NY in the 1890s. On his death certificate he is listed as a carpenter at Oriskany Falls.

Peter's 2nd wife was Fannie Olive Valentine who received his pension after his death. They were married by a Justice of the Peace at Little Falls NY on 24-Dec-1898, but this marriage was never recorded in civil records. Peter & Fannie had no children together, but she had two daughters by her first marriage, Carrie & Ida TenBrook. The pension records tell a very interesting story of Peter and Fanny, as they document first marriages for both and the fact that they were never legally married to each other. The records also show that Fannie's first marriage was void by the fact that her first husband had been previously married and that marriage was never legally dissolved. The documentation does establish the 'common law' marriage of Peter & Fannie and her right to collect his pension. Fannie died 18-Jul-1954, age 87.

At one time Peter was imprisoned at Forest Hall Prison in Georgetown D.C. for being AWOL from his unit. He is listed as deserted from his unit at Camp Barry, Washington DC on 1-May-1862. He appears to be found or returned 31-Oct-1862. He was released back to his unit on 2-May-1863. A document related to his release from prison refers to Peter as 'Big Injun'. He was busted from Corporal to Private, but later reinstated as Corporal. Why was he AWOL? We find this wonderful letter written by his mother in Sharon Springs NY. His mother had not yet learned of his release, for the letter is dated a few days after.

I am Indian Mother who now takes liberty of writing to you and if you are good Whiteman you will grant the liberty of my son who now is in Forest Hall Prison, Georgetown. He leaves me and a sick wife and small children who are calling for him every day. He was their only support, if there is any money which I know there is I now ask it of you. There is enough White Man so return my Indian son to me. The day he deserted he came home from Washington one year this month, he heard that Indian was not wanted so he came home to me.
Please let me know what you will do for him, he is called Peter Brazill.
This is from his mother.

In the pension documents we also find an interesting statement by Fannie - "Peter Braziel did not have any Indian blood. He was French, and he was dark, as the French are. A woman here in Oriskany Falls once spoke of him as an old Indian, but I gave her a trimming for it, told her what I thought of her." Many of Peter's records show him to be Indian, but here we see his wife feels a need to hide his identity - probably for fear of being discriminated against by the Pension Board and her neighbors.

A Double Curve Graphic

Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - The true identity of Wabanaki People is a problem all to often encountered by family researchers and seldom is as well documented as this Lagrave family.

Frank A. Grant III is the great-great grandson of Peter's brother, Francois Lagrave. Frank faced and met the challenge of documenting his ancestor as Native. The obstacles he faced might seem insurmountable to many. Francois Lagrave went west to California in 1849. There he married a Klamath Indian woman and was documented as Frank Brazil, a 'Frenchman' born in Canada. Succeeding generations could only document Native heritage through the wife's family, but oral family history told them otherwise. Frank managed to trace Francois across the continent back to New York, uncover the name change from Lagrave to Brazil, and follow the trail to Odanak where most of the family's vital records were finally found.

We wish to applaud Frank for a job well done
and are honored to welcome our Klamath/Abenaki cousins into our hearts.

Written by: Canyon Wolf for Ne-Do-Ba
Headstone Photo Contributed by: Jane Barber (descendent) - August 2009

Ne-Do-Ba Comment - - - Great Thanks to Frank A. Grant III for sharing his research and documentation on this family. Additional tanks go to Jane Barber for contributing the photo of Peter's headstone.

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