Home » Family History » Great-Great Uncle Charles Napoleon Pleau

Great-Great Uncle Charles Napoleon Pleau

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Author’s collection

Call it intuition, but I always sensed that Charles was different from his brothers. For one thing, he never worked as a shoemaker; for another, he never seemed to be in the performance circuit. Holy Sepulchre Cemetery records indicated that he died at age 45 and I wondered why. As I delved deeper into the Pleau family, I discovered that Charles’ story was indeed different that his brothers’. Therefore, I’ve decided to handle him differently in this blog.

He was born March 30, 1870 in Rochester, NY and seems to have started out being named Napoleon Charles Pleau. By 1892, however, he went by his middle name and was working as a driver/teamster.

On April 3, 1892, he married Emma Ackerman in Rochester and soon moved to Syracuse. Then on December 21, 1892, he enlisted in the army because he was broke & “didn’t know what else to do.” His wife, Emma does not appear to be in the picture. Did she die, leaving Charles with medical bills? Did she leave him, taking everything with her? Whatever happened, he thought the army was the answer to his problems.

Charles very quickly discovered that he was wrong. On January 15, 1893, he went AWOL from Davids Island, NY and made his way back to Rochester, where he was caught on February 8, to be tried by the army. On March 6, 1893, dishonorably discharged for desertion & sentenced to 3 months of hard labor at Fort Columbus in New York Harbor.

Once he was back home, Charles worked as a laborer then a peddler. At some point, he met Anna K. Siebert of nearby Greece, New York, and on Nov 24, 1896, they were married in Rochester. On September 21, 1897, they welcomed their firstborn son, whom they named George Albert after Charles’ brothers. George Albert was joined by Frank (named after Anna’s brother) in June 1899.

Charles held down what looked to be promising jobs in the railroad; first as a brakeman at BR&P Railway in Rochester and then as a fireman on NYC Railroad in Rochester. But I suppose things were not as happy has they seemed. On April 10, 1900, Charles was arrested for intoxication, but fortunately had his judgment suspended.

Tragedy struck again on September 22, 1900 when little Frank died. (I have not found the cause of death yet.) Although it is said that the death of a child causes a great strain on a marriage, I can only speculate that this was just one contributing factor to the downfall of Charles and Anna’s marriage. By 1904 they separated; he went back to live with his parents and she worked as a domestic servant in Rochester. Their surviving son, George Albert, went to live with his maternal grandparents in Greece.

Charles seemed to hop from one job to another as a teamster, a “helper” at 7 Elizabeth Street, and then a silver plater in 1905. 1905 found him living with his parents at 539 North Avenue in one version of the June census, then as a boarder in the same house as widow Minnie Vincent at 30 Joiner Street. I assume this is where he first met Minnie, who became his third wife on May 25, 1907.

There was absolutely no domestic bliss in this marriage. Five days later, Minnie kicked Charles out of their North Street home and she had him arrested on April 9th. I’m not sure if he went back to live with her at any point (the city directories show him as living with his parents), but on Mar 2, 1909 he is arrested for non-support and abandonment of Minnie.

At this point there was no pretense of living a happy, settled life, even though he held a steady job as a laborer in a shop. On February 3, 1910, Charles was arrested in Utica, New York for vagrancy and was arraigned in that city’s court. It seems that all this while, Minnie was set on getting her due. On April 17, 1914 Charles was arraigned in police court for non-support of his wife. This was his fourth arrest on this charge; for the previous three, he had served time in the penitentiary (most recently 6 months). At this time, he admitted that he had committed bigamy when he married Minnie. Stranger still, Minnie admitted she knew had a wife when she married him. Adjournment was obtained until April 22 so Charles could find his “first wife” (I presume Anna) or a record of the marriage. Charles admitted to bigamy in order to get out of support, but the charge of bigamy could not be tried for it due to statute of limitations. He was released from police court on April 24.

I don’t think Charles could ever regain whatever had been lost in his life; it was completely out of control. He became a vagrant, undoubtedly drinking. My original question of Charles’ death was answered, as I discovered that on April 9, 1915 he committed suicide by hanging himself from the top of a ladder in a cartman’s barn. Coroner ruled it by reason of insanity, Charles’ final sentence. On April 13, 1915 he was buried very close to his parents’ plot, his father having died the year before.

Looking over Charles’ tumultuous life and tragic death, it is easy to pass judgment on how he lived. However, I think Charles did two things right, whether it was his intent or not: to father George Albert Pleau, and to not raise this son during his most formative years. George Albert grew up to be a fine man, serving his country in the Merchant Marine and rescuing his own family from drowning on a fishing trip. Charles’ line continues to this day.


3 thoughts on “Great-Great Uncle Charles Napoleon Pleau

  1. Pingback: Great-Great Grandparents George and Marie Emma E. (LeClair) Pleau | Beautiful Water Genealogy

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