Stories from the Grave

Gregoire Denis: 1841-1923

Posted August 11, 2020

Hello, my name is Gregoire Denis, and I have a rags to riches story to share with you. I was born in Belgium on February 8, 1841 to Ghislain and Jeanne Denis. Father decided to move to America in 1855, I was left with a family friend to continue school, but soon after my parents left, the man I was staying with had all his property seized due to debt and I was homeless. An uncle took me in, so I could continue with my schooling. In 1856, father sent word to sell of his lands in Belgium and for me to join them in America. So, in April of 1857, I sailed to Canada and then on to Wisconsin to be reunited with my family.

In 1861, I married to Mary Depereaux, a widow, who operated a small restaurant in Bay Settlement. To earn extra money, I took up work with the Chicago Northwestern Railroad in Appleton as a general laborer. My wife and I saved up $65.00 so we could establish a small general store in a log building near the catholic church. In 1867, I build a new larger store with living space above. Mary died in 1869, I married Antoniette Schieger a year later.

In 1870, I became postmaster for Bay Settlement, which meant people had to visit my store to collect their mail. Besides the store, I owned a saloon and ran a small banking real estate business. Soon I owned hundreds of acres of land, my store was always busy, and I was making money. To show off my wealth, I built a large home across the street from the store in 1889. It was the finest home in the Town of Scott.

I passed away in 1923, and my store stored in 1940s. All that remains of my empire is the large home at the corner of Church and Bay Settlement Roads.