Léopoldine Mollot, née Benoit, died on April 20, 1944, at the golden age of 91. Her grave site is at the Holy Cross Cemetery in Culver City of Greater Los Angeles, California; section C-Group 144, Grave #2.
Fortunately for Léopoldine, because of the inheritances that she had received from both her father and mother when they passed away, and which she managed well, she was able to maintain a reasonable lifestyle of comfort and pleasure especially from 1924 to 1944, the last twenty years of her life. When Léopoldine and her husband Fortuné and family were still living in Blandin, her mother, Ernestine Benoit, née Croze, died on March 22, 1887, at her residence at 14, rue Villeneuve in Die. In her mother’s will, a fourteen page document, it specified that Léopoldine was to receive one-fifth of her mother’s estate. The four children and her husband, Dr. Benoit, each received an equal share. Some of this inheritance, which included investments, properties, jewelry and money, had come from Léopoldine’s grandfather, Hubert Croze, who had been a lawyer in Privas. From a detailed summary succession table, 82,813 Francs were shared, giving Léopoldine one-fifth.
Some 4 months later, that is on Dec.20, 1892, after the Mollots had already immigrated to Canada, Léopoldine’s father, Dr. Benoit, passed away. Here again, she inherited a good sum of money and property. Dr. Benoit’s will is very extensive; some fifty-eight pages in length. Léopoldine’s two brothers and a sister equally shared 91,393 Francs. From his real estate holdings, she inherited part of the “Martouret.” From her share of the sale of “le Martouret,” she received substantial yearly payments till 1908, as indicated on a bill of sale. In today’s terms, these amounts might seem miniscule but in those days, these sums were quite considerable. Fortuné and Léopoldine likely would never have immigrated had they received this inheritance before their departure for Canada a few months earlier.
Also, in terms of the finances of Léopoldine, it is reported by Georges Theriault Sr., her grandson, that when she moved to California in 1932 to live with daughter Thérèse, she invested in residential real estate in Hollywood and did well with that.
It is truly amazing to analyze such old documents which were all neatly and meticulously hand-written in great detail and expressed in bureaucratic terms. This work had to be very time consuming for lawyers and accountants!
It is interesting to see the signatures of some of our ancestors. These signatures have been obtained from various birth, marriage, death certificates and the like.
No doubt, there had been some very disappointing times in the lives of Fortuné and Léopoldine, given that they had it “all” at the beginning but that their wealth and lifestyle slipped away! Their lives were really a financial disaster! They were out of their element when they came to settle in Fannystelle, let alone Canada! Fortuné was not a farmer … he was an aspiring artist…and Léopoldine was not suited to farm work and country life. Some interesting quotes from Fortuné’s memoires express profound feelings about their immigration to Canada……..”Had I come by myself, I would have never stayed”, and, “My wife did not want me to go alone, therefore, with God, let us go! So we took a chance on a land that seemed almost too good to be true.”
Another event that would change their lives was the timing of Léopoldine’s father’s death, Dr. Benoit. In his memoires, Fortuné indicates that had Dr. Benoit died while they were still living in France, they would not have immigrated. The Mollot family would have likely moved to Die and lived at the Martouret. But, as fate would have it, the Mollots immigrated in August, 1892, and Dr. Benoit’s sudden death occurred on Dec. 20, 1892, six months later.
Probably the greatest reward for Fortuné and Léopoldine was to see their children prosper in this new land, even though it wasn’t necessarily easy. The great, great grandsons of Fortuné and Léopoldine, Marc and Roger Mollot, amusingly capture the essence of the lives of Fortuné and Léopoldine in their song and CD entitled, ‘Why the Hell Did I Ever Leave!’
In the book about the history of Fannystelle by Noel Bernier, the author indicates that M. Fortuné Mollot, “Etait un peintre paysagiste de la meilleure école francaise. Madame Mollot était une artiste en musique.’ (Mr. Fortuné Mollot was a well known landscape painter of the best French school. Madame Mollot was an artist in music.) The same type of comments are found in Bernard Mulaire’s Dictionnaire des artistes de langue francaise en Amérique du Nord, University of Laval, 1992.
Today, a number of Fortuné’s paintings can be found in the homes of his offspring. Most depict either nature or religious scenes. One, as described earlier, is an expression of French Society as it was at the time. Some are signed and dated back as far as the year 1878 when he lived in Blandin and as late as 1912 when he lived in Winnipeg. Fortuné also painted furniture in a baroque style. In Château Blandin, now renamed Château de Molinière, on the dining room walls are a number of his paintings. There are likely more of his early paintings in France. One other painting, Mont Blanc, was purchased in London, England, in the early 1920’s and it made its way to a Winnipeg family. During the years that the Mollots lived in Fannystelle, Fortuné painted religious scenes on the ceiling of the Sacred Heart Church. Unfortunately, all his work was lost when the church was destroyed by fire in 1912. The church was rebuilt and the religious paintings were done by others. Fortuné’s artistic talent is very evident in his various paintings on canvas, cloth and furniture. To be an artist was his desire….and he painted throughout his life. We have numerous sketches from various locations which are religious and pastoral in nature. He later transferred these drawings to canvass. One such work, Mont Blanc, showed pastoral scenes in the Alps around Die, and another, which may have been inspired by the work of Leonardo De Vinci, depicted Jesus in Mary’s arms.
Fortuné was also quite an eloquent writer and this is evident in the memoires, letters, and even poems that he left behind. He held some very strong religious, social and political views of which he was not afraid of voicing them; this is very evident in numerous newspaper editorials that he wrote quite frequently as mentioned and listed on the Manitobia.ca website.
Fortuné’s children, grandchildren and people who got to know him characterize Fortuné as ‘un rêveur’ – a dreamer! He was an artist, a principled man, a person of deep faith, but a very poor money manager. His legacy is his family, his art and his memoires.
Léopoldine was a sophisticated and well-educated person who enjoyed city life and travel, who loved the arts and was talented in music and theatre. With courage, she followed her husband’s dream to Canada and faced the many challenges in her life. The Mollot family is also her legacy.