Sunday, April 10, 2011





Most people with the name Lassey who immigrated to the United States between 1840 until 1947 came from the United Kingdom. Our grandparents, Constant and Emilie Lassey were an exception in 1900, when they emigrated from Belgium. In fact, the 1920 Census listed only two Lasseys born in Belgium—which would have had to be Constant and Emilie. A few other Lasseys came from other locations in continental Europe. The record thus indicates that Lassey is largely a British name, probably adopted by our grandparents because it seemed more "American" than their Belgian name, which is reported to have been Lasoo. Adopting a simple and easily pronounced name was commonplace for immigrants to this country. [The data on Lassey name origins, taken in part from the and the Personal Ancestry File websites, and in part from our family records, includes census records, military records, ship's logs, immigrant rolls, and other reputable sources.]

In 1840 the only identifiable Lassey family resided in Wisconsin. During the Civil War (1861—65), three Lasseys served in the Union army and one with the Confederates. By 1880, six Lassey families were scattered through Massachusetts, Kansas, Michigan, New Hampshire, or New York, and were occupied largely with some form of agriculture (as was a high proportion of the general population at that time). A few Lassey farmers living in North Carolina actually owned slaves in 1860, and two African-American families had Lassey names in 2000.

By 1900 most of the 39 families with the Lassey surname lived in Massachusetts. The 15 Lassey army registrants for the draft during World War I came largely from there as well. By 1920, of 61 Lassey families nationwide, nine still lived in Massachusetts; nine were in Pennsylvania, eight in New York, four in Texas, and three in Ohio. (This was the period of great western migration.) Five Lassey men served in the army during World War II.

By the year 2000, census records indicate that there were still only 61 Lassey family households in the United States, with the largest numbers now residing in Washington (8), Florida (7), California (6), Kansas (6), and Massachusetts (6), although we know that there were at least four Lassey households in North Dakota at that time—down from at least six in 1950.


Constant (Stany) Lassey (or Lasoo) was born in Caneghen, Belgium, in 1868, to Ferdinand and Julie Verleye Lassey, and immigrated to the U.S. in the late 1890s, where he worked part of the time as a bricklayer and part of the time as a logger in Michigan. He returned briefly to Belgium in 1900, where he met and married Emalie Pieters on May 18, 1900 at Eighem, Belgium (arranged in part by her older sister, apparently living in Michigan, who had requested that Emalie help him select a pair of earrings!). Emalie was born on May 18, 1876, at Petham, Belgium, to Constant and Ludovica Verchatse Pieters.

They returned to the U.S. and initially settled in Illinois, where their sons Julius, Raymond, and Frank were born, on a farm at Seneca. Constant traveled by rail to the Cartwright area in 1905 to stake a claim for a homestead north of town. He returned to Illinois in 1906 to secure his farm machinery and household goods which he transported to Cartwright by rail, bringing his brother, Felix, and two friends with him. He began construction of a house, and adjoining barn, for his family. Emalie came by train in the spring with the three boys, reportedly bringing with her a cow, chickens, a corn seeder, and $1000 in cash (hidden in her sock!). Sophie was born three weeks after her arrival at Cartwright. Two other daughters, Martha and Mary, were born in 1907 and 1909. Emil arrived in 1911, William in 1914, and Morris in 1916.

Constant soon began to expand his initial 160 acre homestead, working the land initially with 24 work horses. He acquired his first tractor, a 30-60 Hart Parr, in 1909. While attempting to cross the Yellowstone River on the ice near Buford, it was almost lost because of rising water; he and his neighbors managed to get it to higher ground on a mat of willows. Using an Emerson plow, the tractor enabled him to break his own sod (soil that had not been previously farmed), and that of several neighbors. He purchased the homesteads of his brother and two other neighbors in 1920. With a neighbor, he purchased a threshing machine and was able to thresh his crops, as well as those of his neighbors.

He expanded his enterprises out in 1916, purchasing the Sanitary Meat Market in Charbonneau, a few miles east of Cartwright. It included a house that was later moved to Cartwright (and became their retirement home in 1931). They bought their first car in 1914, for $200. Julius, Raymond, and Frank helped with farming and the meat business, delivering meat, fish, and cheeses with a one- horse wagon in the Cartwright and Charbonneau area, until 1921 when they closed the meat business.

The farmstead was expanded with a round barn (1918), a log barn, and improvements on the house, including a kitchen built of natural stone. Felix and Constant, and other neighbors, did a lot of work trading for building construction and other work on their neighboring farms during busy seasons—a tradition that continued with other Lassey families at least into the 1950s.

Constant, and sons Julius and Frank, started the Lassey Implement Company in 1926, selling Hart Parr tractors, Nichols and Sheppard Combines, and later, the New Way Harvester (which cut the grain into small stacks for threshing) in Cartwright, Fairview, and vicinity. Unfortunately, the implement business was not able to survive the Great Depression and drought of the early 1930's, when many farmers had to leave their farms and were not able to make payments.

After retiring to their home in Cartwright in 1931, they turned the north farm over to Julius and Raymond, and the farm south of Cartwright over to Dad (purchased in 1929 from the Bank of Minneapolis, after it was foreclosed upon. Dad and Mother lived there continuously after their 1932 marriage, until 2011 when Dad died. Constant and Emalie always planted large gardens, supplying vegetables to the larger family. He also helped out on the farms on a regular basis, helping me, for example, to run a Hart Parr tractor while plowing.

Constant lived 85 years, until 1954, and Emalie lived 91 years, until 1967. Most of their family stayed in the immediate area, and farmed as they had. Julius married Victoria Potter (and later Ann Westfall), and continued to farm, although in later years he established an implement business in Williston; they had two children, Charles and Bonnie. Raymond married Olga Johnson, and farmed until his premature death in 1934; they had two children, Merton and Ardell. Frank married Helen Dore, and farmed until his death; they had one son, Jerry. Sophie married Art Overson (and later, Bert Youngstrom), and had two sons, Don and Clarence. Martha married Henry Winters (and later, Alex Carlson and John Bacon), and had two sons, Glenn and Stanley. Mary married Guy Shaide, who farmed near Cartwright; they had one son, Ronald. Emil married Marion Gangsted, and farmed north of Cartwright; they had three children, David, Allen, and Beverly. Dad married Grace Clark, and farmed south of Cartwright; they had four children, Lila, Bill, Marilyn, and Mavis. Morris married Lillian Thomas (and later, ), and farmed the home place north of Cartwright; they had three children, Sharon, Roger, and Charlotte.


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