Thursday, May 14, 2015


I met Toussaint early on in my research, when I came in contact with my dad's elderly cousin still living in Colorado.  Cousin Percy was a Dobbins, and because he stayed in Colorado which was, from 1875 on, home turf of the Dobbins family, he had become the repository of wonderful Dobbins things.  Percy was also a generous and helpful person, and one of the first things he sent me was a copy of a Note (above) written by the Territory of Kansas to Toussaint Lahay.  Percy said that Toussaint was the first husband of Nannie Corel Lahay, Percy's grandmother.

That turned out not to be so.  Actually, Francois "Frank" Lahay, Toussaint's son, was her husband.  Toussaint and family were Southerners, Acadians who had come from Canada to St. Genevieve, Missouri in the 1840s.  And the name "Lahay," which all of us researchers understood was probably La Hay and Irish, was in fact Lihais and "French." 

Toussaint, his wife Mary, and all his kids came from Missouri to Lawrence, KS to help ensure that Kansas would come into the Union as a slave state.  Amid the "Bloody Kansas" troubles, Toussaint's house was burnt to the ground by some free-staters.  The Kansas Historical Society has a nice article written by Henry Hiatt , a neighbor of Toussaint, who said, " Sometime in 1856 a party of free-state men, supposed to have been residents of the vicinity, but whose identity I never learned, robbed his house of furniture, clothing, etc., and burned it to the ground.  La Hay was not intimidated by this outrage, but immediately put up a log-pole hut with dirt floor, when he lived for some time and until he built a better frame house than the first.  I think he left our neighborhood shortly before the war, going south.  I think his daughter married Mr. Markle about the time he left.

"I felt indignant when I heard of the robbing and burning of La Hay’s house, although I was a free-state man and had come to Kansas with the intention of doing my part in the struggle.  I remember of calling on La Hay early in our acquaintance and expressing my desire that we should be neighborly.  I told him that it was only the circumstances of our bringing up that made me an abolitionist and him proslavery; had he been residing north and I south, our views would have accorded with our environments.  He seemed greatly pleased with my overtures of friendship, and we always got on well together."

Later on, Congress sent representatives to Kansas to take testimony of damage done on both sides and arrange for reimbursement of losses.  These testimonies were record in a documents known famously as "Kansas Claims." Toussaint was one of those who filed a claim; it was substantiated and he was issued some chits by the Territory of Kansas for reparations.  As the story came down in the family via Percy, Toussaint did not use them but instead, gave them to his son Francois, who gave them to his wife, who kept them until she died and they passed on to Percy's father.  They were never cashed…and somewhere in the succeeding years they were forgotten. 

Almost 100 years later, they were discovered in Dobbins material stored at Percy's house.  Percy gave them to his daughters as a "family memento."  Yes, they contacted the State of Kansas about the money owed, but of course they were no longer redeemable.  So they are monetarily worthless but make nice ephemera.

In doing genealogical research it is necessary to be open regarding spelling of names.  In Kansas, Toussaint's family wrote their last name as "Lahay." Others who wrote it mostly wrote "La Hay."  As I was researching backwards in time from Kansas to Missouri, I found their name on the 1850 census written as Lihais.  Ultimately other researchers used Catholic Church records to track the family back into Canada where even their given names were french: Francois, Antoine, Jean, Emilie, etc.  And the strangest thing is that the progenitor is Thomas La Hay of "Sollo, Ireland"  This is a strange and circuitous route in the life of a simple name.  It made me accept the possibility that the French Huegenot fellow named Daubins that I ran across in my research just might have, in fact, been my cousin!

Anyway, the Lahay family of Douglas County, Kansas, are mostly buried in the Clinton Cemetery but all were originally buried in the corner of the Lahay family farm, set aside in a deed by Toussaint.  That original cemetery is now covered by a concrete dam that was built by the Army Corps of Engineers to create Lake Clinton in the 1970s.  The original headstones accompanied the bodies from the Lahay farm to Clinton Cemetery, and new ones were erected alongside.  The Army Corps of Engineers had all the paperwork for this change, and I sent for copies of it.  Among those papers were copies of local advertisements the Corps of Engineers had made to find any living relatives of the Lahays; they wanted to bring them into the decision process of re-burial.  Had I had been doing genealogy at that time and had I known and identified myself as a relative (being a great-granddaughter of Nancy Corel LaHay - later Dobbins,) I would have have had an active part of this transfer, which included my great-grandma's two little babies.  

Perhaps that is why I am so fond of the whole LaHay family and still feel a closeness to Toussaint and his kin..

 Francois & Nannie Corel LaHay's babies - Ollie and Ella

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