George Laforce (1861-1933)

[by Holly Sammons, 14 Dec 2023]

My great grandfather George LAFORCE was born on the 14th of December 1861 in the town of Chesterfield in Essex County, New York. He was baptized two weeks later on the 29th day of December in the St. John the Baptist Church in Keeseville, N.Y. [1] 

George was the second son of Francois Xavier LAFORCE and Flavie FILLION [PHILION].  His older brother Francois Xavier died in July of that year (1861) at the age of 1 year and 3 days.[2]

When George was born his mother Flavie was about twenty years old and his father Francois [Francis] was about twenty-three. A year later, in August of 1862, George’s father would enlist with the 153rd NY Volunteers as a private.

He would serve with Company I, of the 153rd Regiment of the NY Volunteers until he was mortally wounded at the Battle of Opequan Creek 19 September 1864; he died six days later in Winchester, Virginia. According to his widow’s pension application, Francois Xavier Laforce was buried somewhere near the Opequan Creek.[3]

After the death of George’s father, his mother Flavie died in May of 1865, leaving George an orphan before he reached his fourth birthday. After the death of his parents, the courts appointed a guardian for George, but census records indicate he probably lived with his paternal grandparents, Paul and Zoe LaBONTE LAFORCE.

George married Irene WATSON probably in about 1888.[4] They lived in the Essex and Clinton County area of northern New York, in Vermont and in Parish, Oswego County New York where they both were buried in the Pleasant Lawn Cemetery. Their son Oscar George Laforce, my grandfather, was born in Charlotte, Vermont in 1894.

I have found a few details of George LaForce’s life as an adult. The Civil War pension application that his mother began before her death provides great detail about George’s birth and baptism, his parents’ marriage and his father’s military service and death during the Civil War.

In the 1900 census Irene Laforce was the head of household living with seven of her children but not her husband George.  George has not been found in any 1900 census. Ten years later (1910) Irene was again recorded as the head of the household, this time living in Burlington, Vermont; George was not found in the 1910 census.  The pattern continues into 1920 with Irene still living in Burlington and no husband, George, in her household.  A George Laforce was recorded in 1920; he was a resident at the St. Lawrence State Hospital in Ogdensburg, N.Y. The age matches but more information is needed to confirm that this is the right George Laforce.  If he was hospitalized it may explain his absence in earlier census records.

In 1930 George and Irene were living together in Parish, N.Y.; living next-door was their daughter Elizabeth, her husband and children.  At least one other child of George and Irene was also living in Parish at this time.

Three years later, 12 May 1933, at the age of 71, George dies in Parish, N.Y.  Looking back on a person’s life, almost seventy-two years of life and having so few details leaves a myriad of questions about what happened and why.  Why was George hospitalized? Why was he not with his wife and children for so many years? How was he affected by the death of his both his parents at such a young age?

There are no pictures I’ve ever seen of George. There are existing ones of his wife Irene. Irene lived seventeen years after George’s death; those years as a widow added to the years when they lived apart. It might mean that Irene spent most of her adult life living as a de facto widow.  To my knowledge no one living today remembers George or the missing details of his life.

We do know he was born in 1861 in Chesterfield, NY, to two young parents both of French descent, his father an immigrant, each of his grandparents immigrants and with those details we were able to fill in some of the pages of his life. Perhaps more will come to light one day?

I’ve included images of some records from the pension application first filed by Flavie Philion Laforce and then continued on behalf of her son George Laforce by his guardian, George Hallock.  The entire file is available on Fold3. It is the most fascinating and astounding file of information.

Pages from Civil War Pension Application, WC77190 (see note 3)

Sworn statement of Capt. McGuire on the death of Francis Lavorce [sic]

Statement of baptism of George Laforce from priest

Proof of death of mother Flavie Philion Laforce

[1] Virginia Easley DeMarce and Northern New York American-Canadian Genealogical Society, Parish St. John the Baptist Keeseville New York : Baptisms and Burials 1853-1880 (Plattsburgh, N.Y.: Society, 1987), 120.

[2] Ibid., p120 and B28.

[3] George Laforce, minors pension application no. WC77190; service for Francis Xavier Laforce ( Priv., Co.I., 153 NY Vols.); Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War Veterans, ca. 1861 – ca. 1910; Record Group 15; Records of the Department of Veterans Affairs; National Archives, Washington, D.C.

[4] The 1900 census indicated they’d been married 22 years at that time. It also recorded that Irene was the mother of 11 children 9 of them currently living. Irene married George Laforce as a second husband and had children from her first marriage.

@Copyright 2023 Holly J. Sammons