This article was last modified on June 9, 2019.


Frank J. Despins (1825-1881)

1. Francis J. Despins

The parents of Francis J. Despins are:

2. Antoine Despins
3. Julie Deschenaux

Francis was born August 26, 1825 at St-Fran├žois-du-Lac, Yamaska, Quebec. Frank’s first papers list his birth at 1825 and census records put his birth at 1825-1826. His death certificate says he was 60, which would make his birth 1821. I find 1825 more convincing, since he was alive and probably knew his own birthdate, as well as the fact “60” could be a general estimate. His gravestone lists his birthday as August 26, 1825, which is probably about right if not exactly right.
Francis emigrated in October 1848 from Canada to Buffalo. Francis made his Declaration of Intent at Brown County, Wisconsin on June 17, 1850.
Francis and Mary Jane Kelso (50%) (the daughter of Henry B. “Harry” Kelso and Susan Awanata (100%)) were married January 3, 1850 at Brown County, Wisconsin by W. Hamann. Mary Jane, through her mother, was the grand-daughter of Menominee Indian Chief Big Wave. Therefore, all descendants of Mary Jane and Frank Despins can claim native ancestry.
Francis and Mary had the following children:

4. i. George Henry Despins
5. ii. Mary Julia Despins
6. iii. Francis Edwin Despins

Francis entered the 7th Wisconsin Infantry, Company G, August 2, 1861 at Grand Rapids, Wood County, Wisconsin. Francis was an enlisted soldier before he was promoted to a hospital steward in the 7th Wisconsin Infantry from September 10, 1862 until May 24, 1864. He was then an assistant surgeon until March 23, 1865. The 7th Wisconsin Infantry was organized at Camp Randall in Madison, mustered into service on September 2, 1861, and left Wisconsin for Washington, DC, on September 21, 1861. From Washington it moved through Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky, where it was mustered out of service, on June 16, 1865. It participated in the defense of Washington, DC, and fought at the Second Battle of Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, the Battles of the Wilderness, and the surrender of General Robert E. Lee and his army. The regiment lost 424 men during service. Ten officers and 271 enlisted men were killed and 143 enlisted men died from disease.
Francis and Mary were married February 9, 1867 at Brown County, Wisconsin. This date appears in “Wisconsin, Marriages, 1836-1930” but is most certainly wrong, because the couple already had children. Unless one marriage was civil and another religious, 17 years apart.
Francis died February 14, 1881 at Wrightstown, Brown County, Wisconsin. Record of his military headstone lists his death as February 12, which is probably wrong. His headstone says February 13. The death index says February 14.
Francis was buried February 16, 1881 at St. Paul’s Catholic Cemetery, Wrightstown.
Francis came to Wisconsin by 1850. In October 1852, he ran for Outagamie County coroner on the Whig ticket (he did not win). He was the postmaster of the Little Chute post office for six months from August 12, 1852 until the office was closed in February 1853. (Ancestry has a record of this, but not sure if it’s anything other than just the dates.) In October 1853, he was sued by John Taylor in Brown County, which caused DePere property to be sold by sheriff’s auction. At this same time, he was sued by Francis Desnoyers in Outagamie County.

On June 5, 1856, the Green Bay Advocate reported getting a letter from “former resident” Despins who had moved to Grand Rapids. Despins reported that the lumber business was tough in Grand Rapids ,and he had personally lost $2,500.

On March 10, 1858, Despins billed Wood County $2.88 for justice fees. On June 21, 1858 he billed the county $5.75 for holding an inquest. On April 13, 1859, Despins performed a marriage ceremony between Augustus Althouse and Magdalena Polenski; prior to that day the couple had never met and the bride even forgot her husband’s name at the ceremony. Francis lived in Grand Rapids, Wood County, Wisconsin in 1860. His real estate was valued at $2,500 and his personal estate was set at $200.

A news article from October 24, 1860 says a “Mrs. Despins” in Oconto left her child with a neighbor woman. At some point, the other woman was distracted and lost sight of the child. When she next saw him/her, the child was engulfed in flames and soon died. This is almost certainly not Mary Jane Despins, but may be an in-law of Frank’s…

In December 1860, Frances Witter sued Despins for “ejectment” and the jury awarded her $60. In April 1861, “about a dozen” alleged illegal voters were brought before him, but Despins declined to conduct a trial. In May 1861, two bodies were found in the Wisconsin River near the mouth of Moccasin Creek; Justice Despins held an inquest and declared the cause of death accidental drowning. On July 3, 1861, Despins performed the marriage ceremony of Lucinda Coty and Joseph Dugas. In September 1861, a notice was placed in the newspaper for someone to fill the vacancy of Justice Despins, whose term did not expire until May 1863. He entered the Civil War in August 1861, creating the vacancy.

On November 10, 1861, a letter was written from Camp Griffin (McLean, Virginia) by someone named C.C. of the 5th Regiment wherein he says, “Sam Stevens and a number of the 7th Wisconsin havebeen to see us, within the last two weeks, including E. Tennant, Sam Lipscomb, Frank Despins and Atwood Towhead. And I assure you they looked well.” The writer said the 7th was at that time stationed at Arlington Heights, Virginia.

On October 6, 1863, Despins was home on furlough and lost a gray, plaid shawl in Grand Rapids (“between Searles and Mrs. Morgan’s”) and put an ad in the newspaper offering a $5 reward for its return. The newspaper also noted that he was “the same congenial Frank of two years ago, stout, robust and hearty.” Further, “He has an appreciative idea of Copperheads: thinks they should be deprived of liberty, if not life; is in favor of arming negroes to shoot traitors… Frank is a true Democrat.”

Francis placed an ad in the Appleton Crescent that appeared on January 14, 1865: “I wish to trade or buy a small house close to or in your city, with one acre or one half-acre ground. If any person wishes other town property for it I will give a good trade. The only object is for the school advantages.” He sent it from Petersburg, Virginia on December 20. (The Siege of Petersburg was a series of battles around Petersburg fought from June 9, 1864, to March 25, 1865.)

Sturgeon Bay Door County Advocate on July 4, 1867, said that Despins recently returned from Milwaukee and was opening a drug store in town (presumably Sturgeon Bay). The papaer noted, “We have no doubt the doctor will have patrons from all parts of the county.”

Sturgeon Bay Door County Advocate on August 8, 1867 had an advertisement that Despins, a “physician and surgeon” would provide prescriptions at the drug store in Sturgeon Bay on Cedar Street in a building next to the Cedar Street Hotel. Similar ads ran through early 1868.

Sturgeon Bay Door County Advocate on January 27, 1870, notes that Despins now had a new drug store in Kewaunee. He also had a mishap — when awoken one night, he entered his showroom and put his bare foot through glass, getting a three-inch piece lodged in his foot. The newspaper joked that “under the care of Dr. Despins” he would be fine.

The 1870 Census puts Francis and family in Kewaunee, Kewaunee County where he worked as a medical doctor.

On May 9, 1870, Dr. Despins was summoned to the River Road in Kewaunee, where the body of Charles Bolme / Bohne (?) was found. Despins ruled it heart disease and the coroner’s jury concurred. (This appeared in the Kewaunee “Enterprise”.)

On September 20, 1870, Dr. Despins was summoned to Montpolier in Kewaunee County to attend to the 14-year old son of Wenzel Vavrenek, who had been pulled into a threshing machine. He broke a leg, an arm and dislocated the other arm.

When the Despins family moved to Wrightstown is unclear, but it seems to be between 1870 and 1874, as George Henry Despins (d. 1874) is buried in Wrightstown.

Sturgeon Bay Door County Advocate, June 1, 1871: Despins was rumored to be moving from Kewaunee to DePere, and from there on to California.

In October 1875, the Grand Rapids newspaper said Dr. Despins was going to practice his trade in Wausau. He also appears as a landowner in Wrightstown on an 1875 plat. The 1880 census has Dr. F. J. Despins in Springbrook, Langlade County (though not living with his family). At the same residence at William Miller (age 50) and brothers Charles and Julius Feipner (28 and 24).

According to a history of Langlade County, Dr. F. J. Despins was the second physician to practice in Antigo, around 1880-1881, following Dr. E. Smith (formerly of Little Suamico). Why Despins was in Antigo is unclear, but he was said to “stop for a time” at the Springbrook House, a local hotel. He was also elected the town’s justice of the peace in 1880, a post he would not hold for long due to his death (in Wrightstown) in February 1881.

Also try another article under Historical / Biographical, Personal
or another one of the writings of Gavin.

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