Thursday, March 13, 2014

Dennis Stroughmatt: Presenter for IHC Road Scholars on French Midwest Creoles -- "On est toujours icitte"


Dennis Stroughmatt: French Midwest Creoles -- "On est toujours icitte" -- What many have considered to be long lost is alive and kicking.

Fingers and bow flying, Dennis Stroughmatt takes listeners on a musical odyssey not so different from his own musical journeys into Upper Louisiana Creole Culture. Taught to play fiddle by local Creole fiddlers Roy Boyer and Charlie Pashia in the tradition of their fathers, Dennis gradually became an adopted son of the French Midwest Creoles living along the Mississippi River near St Louis.

A vibrant blend of Celtic, Canadian and Old Time sounds, this music bridges the gap between contemporary Canadian and Louisiana Cajun styles. Preserved by families in the Ozark foothills, the music remains largely intact and true to the traditions that have been passed down for over three centuries. ...

WBEZ public radio of Chicago has 1:13:14-long broadcast of Dennis Stroughmatt's Road Scholars presentation "In Fiddle Music & Tall Tales: French Creole Culture in the Illinois Country of Upper Louisiana" recorded Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2007 at Freemont Public Library.

Story in the Mt. Vernon Register-News misspells Stroughmatt's name but has a detailed report of his presentation in 2012 at Mt. Vernon's Jefferson County Historical Village:

He said at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, there were between 10,000 and 12,000 French Creoles in the Illinois, Missouri and Indiana areas, but he didn’t find out about them until asking a professor. His professor said the French Creole people weren’t considered Americans in part because they weren’t British, and in part because they had intermarried with Native Americans for generations before Americans arrived in the area.

Stromatt said the French language is very much alive in areas of southeast Missouri, specifically in Old Mines, Mo., about 45 minutes west of Ste. Genevieve, Mo.

He initially traveled to Old Mines one Labor Day weekend, where he encountered parish workers speaking Illinois French, a dialect of French only spoken in the area.

“The French they were speaking at me sounded like nothing I had heard in French class,” he said, adding that the parish workers’ families had been settled in Illinois and Missouri for 100 years before Americans came to the area. He said when Lewis and Clark explored the area, they used French maps from the 1740s.

Stromatt said there were about 500 people in the Old Mines, Mo., area speaking Illinois and Missouri French in 1990.

- See more at:

Rorye O'Connor. "French Still Thrives in the Illinois Territory." Mt. Vernon (Ill.) Register-News, Nov. 15, 2012

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