In one sense, it is a little silly to get all sentimental about the loss of a dialect that has apparently lost its reason-for-being. It has been centuries since Missouri was a part of New France. People naturally use the language that best fits their social and cultural needs, and English was that language, especially as native language speakers of English flooded into the Mississippi Valley after the Louisiana Purchase.
On the other hand, when a language or a dialect dies away something important is lost with that death. In a posting from March 2012, entitled, "Learning to Speak Sami," I wrote, "There is more at stake than the loss of just [a] language. Language is a primary carrier of culture, and where a language is dying away it is certain that a culture is dying as well—ways of dressing, eating, and living together in a unique society. Cultural diversity is important because it maintains the richness of human life." Culturally speaking, Missouri and the U.S. are just a little poorer culturally for the loss of paw-paw French. A piece of our living history, stored in the memories and experiences of people is lost. A living link to the past is lost, and the void is not filled by the sound recordings and video tapes collected by scholars. Stories and songs have lost their meaning and remain only curiosities for non-native language speakers where they are preserved at all.
This kind of loss has always been a part of our cultural experience. Old English morphed into Middle English, which morphed into something else. The dialects of American English spoken back in the 1920s, the 1950s are dying away. When I refer to something as "mickey mouse," even young adults in their 20s and 30s haven't a clue as to what I mean. Still the loss of a whole dialect is lamentable. We are poorer for it.
For photographs from Old Mines, Missouri, which is the center for the few people who still speak paw-paw French, see a posting entitled, "La Fête de l'Automne 2012 and Missouri French."