Census Mining in Old Mines, Missouri: Reconstructing a French Community
Olsen, Michael L.
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The existence of an isolated community of French speakers in the Ozarks of Missouri is documented in the works of Miller (1930), Carrière (1937), and Dorrance (1935). Although the Old Mines French (OMF) language had largely died out by the 1970s, a small population retained fluency into the later period of literature (Thogmartin 1979; Thomas 1970). The present paper attempts to reconstruct the language situation just prior to the early research of the 1930s. Utilizing data available in the 1910 U.S. Census, this study provides a linguistic profile of Old Mines, Union Township. Although self-identified French speakers did exist in the community, the raw numbers are surprisingly low given the accounts of the 1930s and 1970s; just 31 community members of over 1,300 total individuals surveyed claimed French as their spoken language. Upon closer examination the findings illustrate the extent to which confirmed (i.e. self-reported) French speakers were involved in domestic and economic life in Old Mines. This reconstruction suggests that French was widely underreported in the 1910 Census.