American Family of Blais

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Blais-Blair Family of Montana

by Tammy Nelson

Mitchell Blair was born May 8, 1864 in Little Falls, Minnesota. I believe that sometime before he was married, he changed the spelling of his last name from Blais to Blair. He spoke broken English, and felt that the different spelling would make things easier, since he kept being misunderstood anyway. He married Theophilia Kliber in 1888 in Minnesota. Theophilia's name has many spellings, depending on the document you look at. Several variations were Tildie, Tilda, Tillie, Matilda, Telda. Her last name has also been known to have the spelling Kolber on some documents. Perhaps she went by nicknames and that is the reason for the differences in spelling. Theophilia was born April 1871 in Poland. Her father was Ignatius Kliber, (1835-Dec 2, 1904) was born in Germany. Her mother, Elizabeth Ostrowicki (September 20, 1850-October 28, 1928) was born in Poland. Both parents died in Minnesota.

Mitchell and Theophilia had nine children. All of them were born in Minnesota. The children were: George M, Francis Mary, Edith O., Edward Joseph, Nora Mary, William Narcesse, Andrew, Archie and Elizabeth. Theophilia died in Minnesota, May 8, 1908 from complications of an illness, we have heard it was the flu. Their youngest child Elizabeth, who was about 2 years old, died around 1908. We don't know if it was from the same causes as her mother. During this time the population of Minnesota was large from many families migrating in from Canada. Because of the large population, it was becoming difficult for families to earn a living. Considering his options, Mitchell decided to look for land. He heard of land in Montana when George, his oldest son, was around 14 years old. He went out to Montana ahead of time to help scout out land to buy for his family.

Now a single father with seven children in tow, Mitchell headed out west in a covered wagon. The year was about 1910. He settled in Gibson, Montana. The land was about 28 miles northeast of Big Timber. Mitchell never remarried. He farmed until he retired in 1930. He continued to live on the ranch until his death in 1940. He requested to be buried on his land. Mitchell was raised Catholic. Ruth's mother talked her into having a Jehovah's Witness funeral. There were some family members not happy about those arrangements! He is buried up on a hill overlooking the ranch. His grave is right on the edge of a hay field.

Mitchell Blair

Theophilia (Tilda) Blair

Blair Homestead in Montana

Blair Home in Montana
Click individual pictures for larger view

Children of Mitchell:

(One thing I have noticed, is that from all Mitchell's sons and even Nora, many of the pictures they sent to relatives were of their prize kill that they shot. There are a lot of pictures of them with deer, etc. They must have been avid hunters.)

George M. homesteaded in 1905, in Sweetgrass County, about 5 miles south of Mitchell's ranch. After farming, he patrolled the outposts in Alaska for the US. He was to watch out for any invasion from Russia. He was somewhat of a frontiersman. He loved hunting and fishing, and anything to do with the outdoors. George got married in Aug 1916 to Lucy Brannif Sovobda. Several years after their marriage, Lucy started having health problems and was diagnosed with a cerebral tumor. She had it operated on in November 1926. Can you imagine what brain surgery in the 1920's must have been like? Her cancer lasted for about seven years before she died in 1929. She is buried at the Mountain View Cemetery in Big Timber, Montana. George and Lucy did not have any children. Shortly after his wife's death, George moved to Alaska. He did several things there. He had gold claims, a commercial fishing outfit and he trapped and hunted. He lived there until his death in 1952. George is buried in Alaska.

Francis Mary, of whom not much is known, married a man named Edwin Roice (pronounced Royce). They had two children, a girl named Tillie and a boy named Eddy. She died in 1954 in Tijuana, Mexico

Edith O., was baptized Odille Blair, and this is perhaps what her middle initial stands for. She was married twice and did not have children from either marriage. Edith married John Sevantz before 1920. Currently not much is known about this first marriage, except that it ended in divorce. Soon afterward she went to Spokane, WA. She later married Henry J. Burton Billiau in 1920 in Vancouver, BC. Her and her husband operated several cafes in Oregon before coming to Great Falls, Montana in 1934. They also owned considerable property on the west side of the city. Her husband also worked as a café cook. Edith died in Big Timber hospital after a brief illness. She had gone to visit her brother, Narci (William N. Blair) and became ill. Both Edith and Charles are buried at Olivet Cemetery, Great Falls, MT.

Edward Joseph, of whom not a lot is known, likely fought in World War II, since he was in the Navy. He was said to be a rather rowdy man enjoying alcohol and fights. He was a crane operator at one time. And was said to be one of the best. He moved to Alaska, had gold claims and died there in 1969. He is buried in Anchorage Memorial Park, in Anchorage, AK.

Nora Mary was baptized Laura Blair. She married Chester R. Fraser in Jun 1919 in Livingston, MT. She moved to Arizona for a time. They are both buried at the Reed Point Cemetery in Reed Point, Montana.

William Narcesse was also known as Narci by the family. He did not like the name Narcesse so he always went by the nickname. Although, on legal documents he always went by William N. Blair. William married a woman who was fifteen years his junior. Her name was Ruth Pearl Hicks. They married in Harlowton, Montana in 1930. He took over his father's homestead in about 1930 and farmed the land until he retired in 1976. They raised three sons there. Jack Chester, Donald Dee, and Glenn Edward. Narci and Ruth are buried at Mountain View Cemetery in Big Timber, Montana.

Andrew, of whom not much is known, likely fought in WWII since he was in the Navy. He was married a couple of times. Once to a woman named Bette. He lived in California for a time. He did not have any children. He went to Alaska. He is buried in Alaska.

Archie, of whom not much is known, was married to Helen and had a son probably named Gene. He lived in Fort Bragg, California for sometime. Archie spent some time in Alaska but did not stay for a long time there.

Other Blais cousins in Montana:

Cyprion Blais, son of Jean Blais and Margaret Roy. He came to the US when he was four, settling in Minnesota. He married Ellen Deramleau in 1900 in Minnesota. They had eight children, Wilford Cyprian, Milford, Lora Mary, Karen, Edward Joseph, Ima C., Erwin Carl and Marie. Cyprion homesteaded near Belt, MT around 1911. He farmed until his retirement. They moved to Great Falls in 1929. Both Cyprion and Ellen are buried at Highland Cemetery in Great Falls, MT.

Edward Joseph Blais, son of Cyprion and Ellen. Edward married Mary Ferda, but they were divorced sometime before 1959. Mary committed suicide with a plastic bag in 1959. I don't know how long they were divorced before her death. The obituary for Ellen (Edwards's mother) stated that her son Ed was living with her at the time of her (Ellen's) death. That would have been in 1963. He and Mary are buried at the Highland Cemetery in Great Falls.

Kenneth Wilford Blais son of Wilford Cyprian Blais, was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana. In 1972 he married Ruth Welsh. He was also in the Army Air Corps during WWII. He worked for the Metropolitan and Woodsman insurance companies and was a member of the Moose and Eagles lodges. He also enjoyed hunting and fishing. Kenneth and Ruth had 3 girls. He lived in Great Falls until his death in 1994. He is buried at the Highland Cemetery in Great Falls.

Peter Blais, son of Jean Baptist Blais and Marguerite Roy, was born in 1869. He married Florence Feranleau. They moved to Great Falls, Montana. Their children were Mary Angelina, and Florence Celine Blais. Peter and Florence are buried at the Highland Cemetery in Great Falls.

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Created 11 July 2002