Missouri's French folklorist, musician and storyteller, Pete "Pierre" Boyer, died on Friday, June 23, 2000, at the age of 90 years, 1 month and 4 days. Born May 19, 1910 in Racola, Missouri, in Washington County's Old Mines area, he developed an early interest in preserving the French culture. As a young man, he served as guide and assistant to the French-Canadian scholar Joseph Médard Carrière, who had come to Missouri to identify and record the Missouri French Folktales still remembered in the area. Carrière acknowledged the assistance of his young French guide in the introduction to his book, and many years later Pete spoke of the experience he had with the pioneering researcher and his primitive recording equipment. The work resulted in Carrière's important collection Tales from the French Folklore of Missouri, published in 1937.
Throughout the rest of his long life as a father of 10 children, member of the St. James Catholic church of Potosi, and a watch repairman and owner of a jewelry shop in downtown Potosi, Pete continued his interest in the music and lore of his community. After his retirement from his business he devoted his time to sharing his music, his stories, and his knowledge of the culture of his community with audiences throughout the state and the nation.
Pete was a longtime member of the Missouri Folklore Society, and Don Lance arranged for him to attend the meeting at Sikeston in October 1999, where he was presented with a certificate of appreciation and an honorary membership in the Society.
The 1999 issue of the Missouri Folklore Society Journal included an article by Ray Brassieur on a previously unpublished Boyer story with analysis and comparison to the version of the story told by a French conteur at the 1989 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.
Below, the text of the resolution offering honorary life membership to Peter Boyer:
MISSOURI FOLKLORE SOCIETY
Peter Aloysius Boyer,
born May 19, 1910 in Racola, Missouri
on Lot 17 in the Old Mines Concession,
for his contributions to the preservation and celebration of the folk traditions of the French-speaking people in the lead-mining area of the State of Missouri. Starting his musical career at age five, he played fiddle, guitar, lap steel guitar, and harmonica at community gatherings, church picnics, and rendezvous. In 1934 he served as guide and cultural interpreter for Joseph Médard Carrière, who studied and recorded the history and lore of the Missouri French. In 1963, the Bicentennial of the Founding of Potosi, Missouri, changed his life: "it made me realize what I'd lost . . . I realized I had more to offer than just doing what I was doing. So, I just went to work on it and started digging in and doing things." In the 1970s, in French voyageur costume and persona, he changed from Pete Boyer, Potosi merchant, to Pierre Boyer, l'vieux homme français, and performed at rendezvous and re-enactments, pioneer clebbrations, old frontier days festivals, historical society gatherings, historical fort events and folk fests throughout the Mississippi Valley. In 1982 he performed at the Festivals Acadiens in Lafayette, Louisiana, and in 1989 at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife on the Mall in Washington D.C.
A charter member of the National Association of Storytellers, he shares with national audiences the folktales and lore of the Missouri French. A charter member of the re-activated Missouri Folklore Society, joining in 1978, with respect for the future as well as the past, he has deposited the Pierre Boyer Collection in the Western Historical Manuscripts Collection, University of Missouri-Columbia.
October 29, 1999
Clyde Faries, Co-President
Elizabeth Faries, Co-President
Donald M. Lance, Secretary