Joseph Tondu and His Family

by Steve Harold
Reprinted from Society News, the newsletter of the Arcadia Area Historical Society
June 2015. Volume 21 Issue 1.

The family of Tondu are among the earliest homesteaders of Arcadia Township. They are the children of Joseph and Darkins Tondu of Beauharnois in the Province of Quebec, Canada where they lived next to the St. Lawrence River. The children of this family are believed to include Stephen, born in 1838; Rosett, born about 1840; Joseph, born 1844; and Louis, born in 1847. The family moved to Grosse Isle on the Detroit River in 1850 and there the father passed on. By 1880 the children and mother lived in Arcadia including Darkins and Rosett. The lone exception was Stephen Tondu who lived in Manistee where he was a member of the police force. To add further confusion for future historians, a second Joseph Tondu, a native of New York State, lived in Pleasanton Township in 1880.

Joseph Tondu may have been the first of the family to settle in Manistee County when he homesteaded 160 acres on Bowens Creek in August of 1868 (Lumley Road). He remained there for 61 years developing an extensive farm. He built a log cabin south of the Creek but as the property improved, he built a substantial frame home overlooking a large portion of the farm. Following a disastrous fire a new home was built on the same foundation.

In 1871 Joseph Tondu married Mary L. Dore of Frankfort. The couple had six children but only Rosalie (Richley) survived. After many years of illness Mary passed on. Joseph later married Anna Henzie and together they had Delzie, Maude, Arthur, Deo and Darwin.

Joseph Tondu died on October 28, 1929, leaving a legacy of community service, a happy family, and a substantial and productive farm. His daughter Rosalie in recalling his life said: “Of a strong, vibrant, and forceful character, he naturally made enemies as well as friends; but, friends or foes, all united in according him the respect due to one, who with his bare hands, succeeded in his life’s work of building a beautiful home (and farm), where, not so many years ago, there stood only the virgin wilderness.”

Louis Tondu also had a homestead in Arcadia on St. Pierre Road just south of Chamberlain Road. This area was known as the “French Community” and one record even lists his mother, Darkins Tondu, as homesteading in that area. Louis married Louise Sherman and they had seven children. Their son Leo was well known as a carpenter and woodworker in the area. Louis Tondu died at the age of 88 in 1936.

The Tondu family went from life in well developed communities to life in the forests and wilds of Arcadia Township where in the words of Rosalie they enjoyed: “The voices of friends and loved ones, the happy laughter of children, the music of the wind in the trees, the sunshine on the grass, the lilting song of the birds, and the rippling of the brook that flowed but a little way from the door.” 

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