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The Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society has its headquarters in the George R. Letourneau Home/Museum on the Adrien M. Richard Heritage Preserve

Members meet at the Letourneau Home on the first Thursday of every month at 7:00 p.m., March - December.

George R. Letourneau

French-Canadian pioneer settlers George Letourneau (1831-1906) and his wife Elodie (Langlois) Letourneau (1834-87) lived in this 2300 square foot home from 1854-83 and raised their eleven children and one grandson there.  Letourneau acquired what he called a “pioneer structure” in 1854 when it was a farm house with three acres.  Earlier, it had served as a post office and general store from 1837-40, and its foundation may have been over the home of Francois Bourbonnais, Sr. which was built 1832.  This home is the oldest structure in Kankakee County.  By the mid 1860s, the Letourneaus enlarged and remodeled the home in Greek Revival style to accommodate their growing family.  When the Letourneaus moved to Kankakee in 1883, the farm had grown to 200 acres.  The two-acre Adrien M. Richard Heritage Preserve—Village of Bourbonnais property where the house sits today at 698 Stratford Drive East in Bourbonnais, IL—was probably part of this 200 acre farm.  The home was continuously lived in until 1985, just a year before it was moved to this location.

George Letourneau came to Bourbonnais Grove from Quebec Province, Canada, at the age of sixteen. After returning from two years in California in 1852, he and Elodie were married.  He became a prominent businessman in the area and held many political offices.  These political offices and activities included: 1) one of the organizers of Kankakee County in 1853; 2) one of the founders of the Republican Party of Kankakee County in 1856; 3) Bourbonnais Township Supervisor in 1856, 1867, and 1876; 4) alternate delegate at the first Republican State Convention in Bloomington, IL in 1856 where Abraham Lincoln delivered his “Lost Speech”—the precedent for his “House Divided” speech two years later; 5) Kankakee County Coroner (1860-63), running for office on the same 1860 ballot as Abraham Lincoln; 6) Circuit Clerk of Kankakee County (1872-76); 7) first Mayor of Bourbonnais (1875-76); 8) Kankakee County Sheriff (1882-86); 9) Kankakee County Treasurer (1886-90); 10) Mayor of Kankakee (1891-92); 11) two-term State Senator of the 16th Senatorial District of Illinois (1892-96); and 12) Deputy County Treasurer (1896-1906). Letourneau lso co-authored with William Kanaga the Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois and History of Kankakee County, Volume II, in 1906.

Adrien M. Richard

Adrien M. Richard became the first president of the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society in 1975. He was an accountant by trade, but local historian and author by vocation, The arboretum, on the preserve that was named after him, was established in 1988 after the Letourneau Home’s relocation and restoration. The arboretum’s trees, shrubs, and perennials were chosen for their native qualities to the area.  In 2008, the gardens underwent a thorough renovation spearheaded by the BGHS members, master gardeners from the University of Illinois extension, and Camp MOSH volunteers.  The gardens were featured on the June 17, 2011 Kankakee Kultivators’ Garden Tour.

Arbor Dedication on July 15, 2012

The new arbor behind the Letourneau Home was dedicated on Sunday July 15, 2012 at 11:00 am with lemonade and cookie refreshments afterwards.  This arbor was donated by Theresa and Vic Johnson in the memory of Theresa's father and mother, George and Delia (Bouchard) Dupuis.  Standing in front of the arbor were (left to right) Ken Ponton who built the arbor, and Theresa and Vic Johnson.  

George and Delia (Bouchard) Dupuis were both descendants of French-Canadian immigrants to the Kankakee River Valley. 180 years ago in 1832, the caretaking of this land changed from Potawatomi to many French-Canadians.  Among the pioneers arriving in 1850 was nine-year-old Hubert Dupuis, father of George Dupuis.  Hubert was born in St. Jacques Parish, Le Prairie County, Quebec, on April 27, 1841. Hubert came with his family to Illinois in a covered wagon driven by his father, Joseph Dupuis, and his mother, Julia (Rassette) Dupuis. The family first settled near Tucker (what is today Indian Oaks), and later moved to a farm several miles east of Bourbonnais. Hubert married Orilie (or Aurilie) Latremouille who was born in L'Acadie, St. John Parish, Quebec, April 5, 1845 into a rich Alsace-Lorraine based French heritage. Hubert and Orilie’s son George Octave Dupuis was born on September 23, 1883. At the age of 35 after his first wife Elzeir Prairie died, George married 24 year-old Delia Bouchard at St. Rose of Lima Church in Kankakee on January 21, 1918.

Delia was born on March 19, 1893, one of twelve children in the family of Godfrey J. Bourchard Jr. and Emma (LeBeau) Bouchard.  In their early 20s, Godfrey and Emma were married in St. George on November 21, 1881.  They lived on a farm in St. George, IL.

George and Delia raised ten children and were grandparents of 50 grandchildren.  Most of their children attended the one room school which was built on land set aside by George’s father, Hubert. The family was dedicated to the Catholic religion and loved music.  Delia played the piano.

  

 Joanne and Jack Hilliker of Chebanse pose in the parlor after a tour of the Letourneau Home during the Christmas open house on December 18.


 The red maple was brilliant on November 1, 2011.
 
On October 29, Master Gardeners and Members harvested the herbs in "Le Jardin aux Potages".  At left from left to right, Cathy Boucher, Pam Adams, Judy Beach, Shirley Pranger, Judy Smead, Ellen Liehr, and Malette Trudeau-Stevenson prepare to harvest while Steve Liehr rakes leaves at right.

To get ready for the June 17, 2011 Kankakee Kultivators' Garden Walk, members of the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society and Master Gardeners began the spring gardening chores on Saturday April 30.


On April 30th, BGHS members and master gardeners worked hard on gardening chores.  From left to right are Tim Arseneau, Pat Persin, Judy Beach, Gary Seiner, Ellen Liehr, Steve Monts, Diane Taden, Pam Adams, and Holly O'Donnel.  


Planting the new perrenials from left to right are Ken Ponton, Tom Nelson, Ellen Liehr, Pam Adams, John Hassett, and Judy Smead.
  
The restored Letourneau Home gardens were featured on the Kankakee Kultivators' Garden Walk on Friday June 17, 2011.


 

During the Garden Walk, several BGHS members greeted visitors while wearing period clothing: sisters Celeste Regnier--on left--and Mary Ann Kirsch (above right photo), Jim Paul in the wagon garden, and Ellen Liehr showing off our rhubarb.

Spring 2011 at the Letourneau Home




Winter 2010-11 at the Letourneau Home



Reprinted with permission The Herald, December 22, 2010.

Fall 2010 at the Letourneau Home

 
 Cayla (granddaughter of members Pat and Jim Paul) enjoyed collecting and eating the "Letourneau apples" in mid September.

Members Malette Trudeau-Stevenson and Ellen Liehr (left to right) harvested herbs on October 16.

The Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society holds meetings on the first Thursday of each month except January, February and holidays.  Meetings are held at the George R. Letourneau Home Museum on 698 Stratford Drive East and Route 102 in Bourbonnais.  Each meeting begins at 7:00 pm.  Members and the general public are invited to attend.  Call (815)933-6452 for any changes.

The Kankakee County Museum staff need artifacts for an upcoming "French Connection" exhibit at the Stone Barn in Kankakee, IL.  If you have an item or items to donate or lend to the museum that relate(s) to your French or French-Canadian ancestory, please contact Connie Licon or Nancy Addison at the Kankakee County Museum (815 932-5279).

Members receive a biannual newsletter,  Le Journal du Village (read past issues by clicking the "Le Journal du Village" link at left), pertaining to local history.  Members also receive notice and invitation to all meetings and the annual dinner.  Membership dollars provide the crucial support needed to keep the museum doors open!  Please consider joining!  

To become a member of the Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society, please go to the "Contact Us" page or "Membership & Events" page to send the relevant information.  The French-Canadian Interview Project ("Fr-Can Interview Project" page) presents internet web pages which include video clips, photo galleries, family trees, and biographies of eighteen individuals from the Bourbonnais, Kankakee,  and northeastern Illinois area. In addition to the family histories, the web pages include French-Canadian recipes, maps, and links to related web sites.  Please visit the new Bourbonnais Grove Historical Society Facebook site at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Bourbonnais-Grove-Historical-Society/361834132796

George R. Letourneau, a contemporary of Abraham Lincoln, was the only person to have been village president (first) of Bourbonnais and to also later have been mayor of the city of Kankakee.  Letourneau was also a county coroner, county sheriff and state senator.  George & Elodie (Langlois) Letourneau raised twelve children. He, his sons, and grandson are shown above.