The Aubry (Obry) and Grillot Families of Darke County, Ohio

Anna Obry was born in 1855 in the French immigrant community in the northeastern part of Darke County, Ohio. She was one of the four children of Etienne "Stephen" Aubry (in the United States the family gradually adopted the Obry spelling) and Anne Marie Francoise "Frances" Grillot. Anna's grandparents had moved their families to America from the region of Lorraine in France when Stephen and Frances were still children. Most French immigrant families lived in the area surrounding Frenchtown and Versailles (originally known as Jacksonville) in Darke County and the nearby town of Russia in Shelby County. 

Immigrants such as Louis and Marie Grillot and Jean Francois and Anne Martine Aubry found a land much different than what they left in France.  Land in Ohio was plentiful and relatively cheap, but much of it wasn't yet cleared.  If the land did not already have a cabin, the first task was to build some type of shelter.  Then they began clearing the land and putting in crops.  The surrounding forest housed wolves which presented a danger to livestock and deer which ate garden vegetables and crops.  The nearest neighbors might have been several miles away through the forest.  In those years many settlers used oxen to turn the soil, haul heavy timbers, or follow the rude trails through the forest.

When French immigrants began arriving in this part of Ohio around 1836 they found no Catholic churches, but soon began meeting in private homes for the public reading of the scriptures and recitation of mass prayers.  It was not long before Father Louis Navarron, a priest from the French-speaking part of Canada, arrived to minister to their spiritual needs.  There were not enough families in Frenchtown, Versailles, or Russia to establish individual churches, so a committee from the three communities selected a central location to erect St. Valbert's, a log church that opened in the spring of 1838.  The Grillot family arrived from France later that year, while the Aubrys made the move in 1840. The Aubrys and Grillots attended St. Valbert's church for a few years before the completion of  Sainte Famille (Holy Family) parish church in Frenchtown in 1848.  In both churches the priests performed services in French. Most of their neighbors were French, old gravestone inscriptions in the Holy Family churchyard are in French, and some wills of early residents are recorded in French at the county courthouse. Because of this it is not surprising to learn that Stephen and Frances's children grew up speaking French and knew only a limited amount of English.

Although they had moved thousands of miles from their original homes, the immigrants were not without some nearby relatives.  Among the relatives of Anna Obry's grandparents who settled in the same area of Ohio were:

Some of their neighbors in Ohio were from the same towns in France and had even traveled on the same ships from France.  For instance, the Grillots arrived with the Begins, Bloquins, and Reboullets (also from the village of Hennemont) and the George family (from a neighboring village).  The next year Louis Grillot's brother Henry arrived with several additional families from the same area of France.  The Aubrys shared passage with several families from Hannonville-sous-les-Cotes and the neighboring village of Herbeuville - Couchot, Humbert, Ayet, and Mougeville.

Intermarriage among the children and later descendants of the immigrant families quickly established new relationships.  Although the Grillot and Aubry families were from villages that were only a few miles apart in the Department of the Meuse in France, it is unlikely that they had any contact before arriving in Ohio.  On January 11, 1853, Mary Ann Aubry married John Nicholas Grillot and eleven days later her brother Stephen married John's sister Anne Marie Francoise "Frances" Grillot. 

Stephen Aubry was only 29 when he died on June 10, 1858. The oldest of his four children was not yet five years old. Frances' parents permitted Stephen to be buried in the Grillot family plot in the Sainte Famille churchyard. His gravestone reads "Etienne Aubri decede le dix juin 1858 age de 29 ans."  Much of Stephen's personal property had to be sold to pay approximately $200 in debts. His heirs received the farm, about $175 in cash, one cow, two beds and bedding, one table, cooking utensils and tableware, and thirty bushels of wheat. The probate court named Frances's brother Henry Grillot as guardian for the children, but allowed Frances to use the children's share of the farm proceeds for their support. This was barely sufficient to keep the family together.

 The final settlement of the guardianship did not come about until September 16, 1878, when the last of the children reached adulthood. By that time their Aubry grandparents had died, so they also received shares of that estate. The children all sold their shares of the family farm to Frances. She kept it for a little more than a year, then sold it and moved into the town of Versailles, where she worked as a housekeeper. The children all soon left Darke County.

The Aubry and Grillot Families in France

Emigration to the United States

The Will of Louis Grillot

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