Pierre Suprenant, early Lake County pioneer and a resident of the Pleasant Grove village as early as 1833, came from Canada to New York state in 1829. The name Pierre Suprenant is not familiar to most, but the English translation from the French, namely Peter Surprise, should bring memories to many.
Peter Surprise, the son of Pierre Suprenant, Sr., and LaConse Salebascas Suprenant, was born Feb. 24, 1794, at L'Acadie, Canada. He died at the home of his son, Henry Surprise, on Aug. 27, 1903, at the age of 109 years, six months and three days. He was born while George Washington was President and lived several years in the 18th century, through all of the 19th century, and over two years in the 20th century!
In 1816 Peter married LaRosa Taylor (1801-1876), whose mother was an Indian of the Algonquin Tribe. LaRosa Taylor Surprise is the only known Indian to be buried in Lake County. In 1976,100 years after her death, the grave at the pioneer Cedar Lake Cemetery at Creston was marked with a memorial plaque by Girl Scout Troop 454 of Cedar Lake. She was the first Indian woman of Lake County who, with her husband, lived and died here, leaving her children to become local citizens of the new country.
Peter and LaRosa Surprise left Canada in 1829, traveling to New York, and settled on a farm on the western shore of Lake Champlain. Here they lived until 1832, when their cabin burned and at least two children were lost in the fire.
Peter then traded his New York land for a stock of boots and shoes, along with some money. He moved his family west, in the footsteps of French neighbors who had settled near Momence, Ill., and were trappers in the marshes of the Kankakee River.
He stayed for a time with his old friends, then came to Lake County, Indiana, in 1833, being among the first of the early squatters in the area. He erected a log cabin on his land of 200 acres in the area of Pleasant Grove, which included the present Lake Dalecarlia.
Again their cabin burned to the ground, and with it their stock of boots and shoes, furniture, and several hundred dollars of paper money. But their pioneer spirit prevailed. and they rebuilt with iron courage. The lives of the very early pioneers were full of hardship, for being among the first in the area, there were few neighbors, almost everything was homemade, and they were the first to clear and break the ground for farming.
Peter was a small man and very active. His favorite pastime was dancing, even at the age of 100. He boasted that none in Lake County could keep up with him in dancing the jig.
For several years he was engaged in burning charcoal. His name was shown on the Squatters Union Record of Lake County as Peter Selpry. He bacame a naturalized citizen of the United States in 1837, the year Lake County was formed, and the papers were made out and signed by Solon Robinson, pioneer of Crown Point who was at that time the County Clerk.
Peter and LaRosa's son, Henry, born Dec. 1, 1832, was still a baby when the family came to Lake County in 1833. The first known white child born in the Lowell region was Peter's son, Harvey, born in 1834, the year the county was surveyed. Next born was Oliver in 1839, William in 1840, twins, Alvina and Lovina, born in 1842, Elizabeth in 1844, and Armenia in 1848. There were 14 children in all; six died as infants.
The first son, Henry (1832-1923), married Mary Elizabeth Hill (1841-1926). Their children were William H., Albert J., and Jasper M., all well-known citizens of the area.
Son Harvey was born at Pleasant Grove and died in 1910. He lived in Buffalo, Kan., with his wife, Julia, whom he married in 1860.
Two years larer she married Oliver, a young soldier just returned from the Civil War, where he was wounded twice in battle. For thirty years they lived on their farm northeast of Lowell, and then lived in Lowell for many yuears.
Lovisa Surprise Love Jones was the mother of retired Lowell businessman Harold Love, who still lives in Lowell. Ernest's son, Charles Surprise, who is now living in Florida, was owner of the Lowell Tribune for many years.
The last son of Peter and LaRosa, William, was born in Pleasant Grove in 1849 and died in 1918. [NOTE: His obituary says William Surprise was born Dec. 1, 1851, but the cemetery record states his birth date as Dec. 1, 1852.] He was married to Celista Thomas, and their log cabin homestead was near what is now the second tee of the South Shore County Club at the southeast corner of Cedar Lake. Their children were Cass, Glenn, Guy and Cora (Latta). Julius Surprise and Roy Surprise, both Cedar Lake businessmen, and Ruth and Lillian, are the children of Cass Surprise.
Peter and LaRosa's daughter, Alvina, one of the twins, was born at Pleasant Grove in 1842 and died in 1926. She was married to William Wheeler of Liverpool, England, a veterinarian. Their log home was southwest of Creston, where they homesteaded the land. By the year 1886 there were nine children, all born in the pioneer home.
The eldest son, Charles, was an early Lake County carpenter, and married Elizabeth Jacqua, a Cedar Lake teacher. Son Jessie stayed on the farm and cared for his mother until her death in 1926. The other children all married into well-known pioneer families.
John married Maud Taylor, a descendant of early Lake County pioneer Obadiah Taylor. Ella married Hamlet Taylor, also of that family. Jennie married John Taylor, yet another descendant of Obadiah Taylor. Eunice was married to William McCarty of another early pioneer family, and Bertha married Oscar Edgerton of an early Cedar Lake area pioneer family.
Maud, the youngest child of Alvina and William Wheeler, married Fred C. Ewer, a descendant of Robinson Prairie and Orchard Grove pioneers. They were the parents of Cedar Lake historian Beatrice Horner.
Alvina's twin sister, Lovina, was born in 1842 at Pleasant Grove and died in 1928. She was married to Charles Cohoe in Buffalo, Kan. They, along with Harvey and Elizabeth, lived in the Osage territory of Kansas and Oklahoma. Elizabeth was married to a Mr. Hardin of Freedonia, Oklahoma territory.
Armenia (1848-1901), the youngest daughter of Peter and LaRosa Surprise, was also born at Pleasant Grove and married John Rosenbauer of Cedar Lake. For many years they ran the Rosenbauer Hotel on the southwest side of Cedar Lake, Their grandson, Edward, still lives on the south end of the Lake, and another grandson, George (Nibs) Rosenbauer, lives in Lowell.
This is just a part of the story of the pioneer Surprise family of Lake County. Many stories have been told and much more can be written about this hardy group of early settlers who braved the frontier and moved westward to help make history in Indiana.
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