Monday, October 12, 2015

The French Connection

Valerie Cranston, Special to the Current-Argus

The Casabonne, Cauhape and Cantou families living in Hope were referred to as the area’s French connection by Dr. Jerry Cox in his book ”Ghosts of the Guadalupes.”

They were among a group of young men from Lescun, France, who migrated to the United States in the late 1800s, but not the first to make their mark in the area.

The first three Frenchmen to arrive in Hope were Frank Pru, his brother, Jack Pru and Frank Garisere. The Prus and Garisere grazed livestock between Hope and Alto. Eventually the Pru brothers moved south of Albuquerque in the 1930s.

John Pete Cauhape came to the U.S. in 1903 and first settled in Montana. He later came to Hope and filed on a homestead along the Penasco River in 1910.

Arriving in Hope in 1906 was Paul Casabonne. He had worked for the Pru brothers and John Pete Cauhape. Three years later, Casabonne died of appendicitis.

Then Felix Cauhape, brother to John Pete, came to the Hope area with his close friend Jean Pierre Cantou. They both went to work for John Pete Cauhape.

Valentin Cauhape came in 1912 and he, too, went to work for his brother John Pete. Thus began one of the largest and most successful family businesses in the area.

John Pete could read and write in English, so he handled all the business and financial aspects of the Cauhape brothers's land holdings and sheep business. John Pete married Frances Guthrie and they had two girls, Jeanne Guthrie and Marie Louise, and a boy, Johnny Cauhape.

John Pete Cauhape died in 1943 and was one of the most successful and well-known sheep producers in New Mexico. His son, Johnny, had to work for five years for his two uncles, Felix and Valentin, before he could inherit his father’s portion.

After Johnny Cauhape fulfilled his five year obligation through his father’s will, he requested the ranch be divided so he could receive his father’s portion. To keep peace in the family, he settled with his uncles on the less desirable portion of the land.

Johnny married Gloria Hess and they lived near Lewis Peak on the north end of the Guadalupes.
Felix Cauhape began corresponding with Marie Rose Cantou in France. In 1924, he mailed a marriage proposal to her. They met and she accepted the proposal. They had a son, Felix Valentin, a.k.a. Little Felix, and a daughter, Marie Elizabeth.

Both Felix and Marie Rose felt a sense of pride when they became U.S. citizens; he in 1921 and she in 1935.

During the 1940s, Felix and Marie Rose intended to visit their homeland of France. However, World War II broke out and they never got to visit their birth land. In 1970, the couple received word that their son, Little Felix, who had married Madlyn Kincaid, had died from burns and injuries sustained in a butane explosion.

Felix died in 1975 at the age of 90. By that time had lived in Hope for 65 years.

Valentin Cauhape never married and he almost never conversed with a female outside of the family. He died at the age of 69 in 1957.

Jean Pierre Cantou stayed in Hope for a few years working for John Pete Cauhape before moving to Riverton, Wyoming, with fellow countryman John Casabonne.

Four Casabonne brothers had migrated to Hope in 1906 and 1907: John; Paul, who died in 1907; Jack; and Jean Pierre “Pete.” They all began working for John Pete Cauhape but eventually made their own way.

Pete Casabonne traveled through Carlsbad on July 4, 1904. He couldn’t speak English and thought there was a revolution going on with all the gunfire and fireworks. He hid in his hotel room until the next day, when he continued on to Hope. He learned Spanish from the Hispanic sheepherders and later took a job herding between Capitan and Vaughn to learn English from those herders.

John and Jack Casabonne learned to read and write in English in France before coming to the U.S. in 1907. In 1915, John and Jack moved to Wyoming. Jack later returned to Hope and he and Pete along with two other men purchased the Big 4 Ranch. Jack was drafted and stationed in California.

Pete Casabonne met and married Blanche Michelet in Hope. Jack met her sister, Rose, when he came back from California and they were married.

Pete and Jack later dissolved their relationship with the two other men and bought their own ranch.
Pete and Blanche Casabonne had four children, Johnny, Marie, Paul and Helen. Jack and Rose Casabonne had one son, George Michelet Casabonne.

Pete and John worked their 80 or more sections of land southwest of Hope for many years before a disagreement had the two parting ways and holdings. The disagreement was over Pete, the eldest, trying to dominate Jack. Although they didn’t have much to do with each other after the land and stock was separated, their families continued to get along and stayed close.

The Cauhape, Casabonne and Cantou families were hardworking and industrious. They left quite a legacy for future generations.

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