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Archive for the ‘Colonial Era’ Category

Rosalie Prejean Pecot

Rosalie shifted her weight on the stiff barge seat next to her sister Nathalie as they floated up the bayou.  The two grey-haired ladies were looking around each bend with anticipation as the boat made its way up Bayou Teche.  The sun had set on this beautiful fall evening and the trees on either side of them appeared as dark silhouettes against the deep orange sky.  The banks of the little river blended with the water into one dark mass ahead of them.  The lantern at the front of the barge was able to light only what was directly ahead.

The two sisters’ excitement was almost more than they could contain. Here they were with their families making their way to a reunion that they never dreamed would occur. It had been almost 50 years since they had last seen their other two sisters.

They had been separated in the Grand Dérangement of 1755 when the French were expelled from Acadia in Canada by the British.  Families were separated from each other as they were herded onto ships that would take them to places they did not choose to go.

Many of the banished Acadians eventually found themselves in Saint-Domingue which is present-day Haiti and Dominican Republic.  Some made their way to France which one might think would be a welcome destination for the exiles, since Acadians were of French origin. But the French settled Acadia more than one hundred forty years before the Derangement.  The only thing the Acadians had in common with the people of France was their language.

Still other exiled Acadians were taken to Louisiana to settle in the lowland marsh and fertile plain areas of the south central area.  All would face hardships trying to recreate life in places so far away and so culturally different from where they had lived for generations.

For Rosalie and Nathalie the dream of ever seeing the rest of their family had been unimaginable.  Would they even recognize their sisters after so many years had passed? The amazing series of events that occurred only months earlier set into motion this incredible reunion.

Rosalie’s family had recently arrived in New Orleans coming from Jamaica.  They had moved to Jamaica to escape the French Revolution-inspired slave revolt in Saint-Domingue in the 1790′s.  After several years there they had to leave their home again and were able to get passage on a ship to New Orleans. Once in New Orleans, Rosalie’s son began preparations to become a schoolmaster. During that time he by chance met Mr. Alexandre Frere who was himself a schoolmaster.

Alexandre Frere

Mr. Frere was a private tutor for the household of the Pellerin family in Charenton, Louisiana, which is located on Bayou Teche in St. Mary Parish west of New Orleans. Gregoire Pellerin and his wife Cecile Prejean Pellerin were themselves exiled from Acadia in 1755. Mrs. Pellerin’s sister Marguerite Prejean Duhon, also resided at the Pellerin plantation.

As Rosalie’s son related his experiences and family stories to the older schoolmaster, Mr. Frere began to realize that the young man’s mother and aunt were in fact the sisters of his employer’s wife, Cecile Pellerin and her sister Maguerite Duhon!  Mr. Frere was immediately compelled to arrange for all of them to be reunited as soon as possible.

But nothing could have prepared the sisters for the dramatic spectacle that lay ahead. As Rosalie and Nathalie rounded a bend on Bayou Teche they could see up ahead bonfires lining each bank.  The glow of the fires lit up the sky! And people — throngs of people — were lining the bayou displaying as much excitement as the sisters possessed themselves!

As the barge drew near the dock, Mr. Pellerin was there to greet them and take them up to the plantation home where the reunion of the sisters would take place.  Mr. Frere and Mr. Pellerin helped Rosalie and Nathalie and their families into caleches – small, hooded, two-wheeled carriages — and off they went.

Once at the home, as the sisters finally saw one another, they fell into each others arms shedding tears of joy and exclaiming cries of elation. Nearly everyone from the lower Teche region witnessed the touching reunion of the four sisters who had endured incredible suffering and injustices over their long lives, but now were able to behold each other once again.

Among those in the joyful assembly were members of the local Chitimacha tribe and their chief.  It was they who built the large bonfires that lit the skies on that very special night. (To find out more about the Chitimachas go to http://www.chitimacha.gov/tribal_about_history.htm )

One of the sisters, Rosalie Prejean Pecot, is my fifth great-grandmother. Several years after her death in 1813, her daughter Marie Louise Pecot married Alexandre Frere — the man responsible for bringing the four sisters together. They are my fourth great-grandparents.  It is their son, Adrien Frere, my great, great, great-grandfather who was later killed in the Last Island Hurricane of 1856. (See “Of Plantations and Hurricanes” on this blog.)

(For more information about the Acadians’ heritage and culture visit http://www.acadianmemorial.org/.  The two paintings by Ms. De Boisblanc are found in the book String of Pearls and are used by permission from the Acadian Memorial in St. Martinville, LA.)


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The old white sentinel stands resolutely over the many silent headstones that surround its 241-year-old wooden frame.  It has witnessed years of war interspersed with years of peace and both have shaped its colorful history in Cheraw, South Carolina.

Having been commissioned in 1768 and built in 1770, St. David’s Church saw the tumult and rumblings of dissension early in the American Revolutionary War for Independence. In fact St. David’s Parish was the last Anglican parish to be established under the British King George III. This parish was named after the patron saint of Wales because of the large Welsh population in the area.

Interior of St. David’s

Not only was St. David’s Church present during the Revolutionary War, it also played roles for both American and British armies.  It was used as quarters for the South Carolina militia and later in 1780, it was used as quarters and a hospital for a regiment of  the British Army.  These soldiers were in a regiment called the Highlanders and were under the command of Maj. McArthur in Lord Cornwallis’ Army.  While quartering there many of the Highlander soldiers became sick and died, probably from smallpox. They are buried in a mass grave in front of the church. Several British officers are also buried on the church grounds.

After the war, the Anglican Church was dis-established due to its connection with England, but over the years St. David’s Church would continue to be used as a faithful dwelling for other denominations including Baptists and Presbyterians. But the Episcopal Church, the “American” Anglican church, would reclaim the building by 1819.

‘Rebel ordnance captured at Cheraw, S.C., On the 3D March, By the 17th Corps, which occupied the town on that day – Sketched by our special artitst’   Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper, April 8, 1865.

After years of peace the church building would once again be called into service during war time.  Union and Confederate soldiers used the sanctuary as a hospital.  When Gen. Wm. T. Sherman made his burning march to the sea through Georgia and South Carolina, he occupied Cheraw and burned many buildings in the town as well as outlying plantations punishing them for their role in being the first town to secede from the Union. There was a large accidental munitions explosion during the Union occupation in Cheraw that damaged the church building, but orders were never given to burn St. David’s Church.

Over the years the grounds around the church have become an expansive cemetery. Resting in peace are soldiers from both armies of the Revolutionary War, Confederate and Union soldiers from the Civil War and soldiers from every other war in which America has fought. Members of the local community from every denomination are also buried there including Catholic citizens which is very unusual in a Protestant cemetery.

This church is near and dear to my family because my husband’s sixth great-grandfather was a member of the Vestry of St. David’s Parish and one of the commissioners who organized the building of St. David’s Church.  He was Capt. Thomas Ellerbe, a respected member of Cheraw, SC. He was also a patriot who served as a captain under General Francis Marion during the Revolutionary War in South Carolina.

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I have had innumerable “oh wow” discoveries in my genealogical explorations over the years.  Many of those moments resulted in some pretty incredible stories. But not many of them resulted in the “Oh wow, you’ve got to be kidding me!” moment like I had recently.

I was gathering items for a story I was writing for this blog.  The branch of the family on which I was working had come to America very early on and had landed in Plymouth colony.  But these family members came at least 15 years later than the Pilgrims.  I was content knowing that the members of this branch of my family were “almost” Pilgrims.

Yet while I was collecting illustrations for my story, I came across photos I had taken of an old 18th century Vermont cemetery that I had visited several years ago.  The photos reminded me that I had never tried to research that side of the family’s grandmother who was buried there — Mary “Polly” Bacon who married Benajah Strong.  (Genealogists, don’t forget your grandmothers.  If you tend to get focused on family surnames,don’t forget to research the grandmother’s surname. Some of my most interesting stories have been found by turning down the path of my grandmothers.)

I researched her and my grandfather’s names and found a genealogical record that took her line back five generations!  That was awesome enough in itself — until I began working my way backward through the generations.

Each successive generation gave me more clues about my family.  As expected they all lived in the New England area.   But then I came across town names in which I was unfamiliar —  Barnstable and Yarmouth in Massachusetts.  I looked them up on a current map and found both towns were located on Cape Cod. The families were living in these towns in the mid 1600′s. That’s even a closer connection to Pilgrims than the family members about whom I already knew.

Then I went back to my research.  I looked at the fifth generation back from my grandmother and my heart gave a jolt! The word “Mayflower” jumped off the page at me.  I looked again to double check. Yes, that’s what it said! I looked further and the amount of information on this man was boggling — in genealogical terms when all one may normally uncover is a death date!

Did my eyes deceive me?  Was one of my grandfathers really a Pilgrim?  Yes, he was.  His name was John Howland.  He was not just any Pilgrim, but the one who fell overboard during a storm and was miraculously recovered.  (More about him in a future post.)

I sat there in my chair dumbfounded.  I felt like I had just opened a treasure chest and found it full of gold.   A Pilgrim.   A Mayflower Compact-signing, Thanksgiving Day Pilgrim.  The same Pilgrims everyone reads about in elementary school history.

I can’t believe it.  What a find!  I am not “almost” a Pilgrim.  I AM a Pilgrim!

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Frederick Stump was on the run.  Tagged as an “Indian killer” and a fugitive in Pennsylvania, he eventually made his way down through the colonies to Georgia.  There he settled with his family in the back-country on the Savannah River north of Augusta, once again building a home, a grist and saw mill and establishing a prosperous farm.

Not long after moving to the area, talk of revolution was in the air.  But Stump wanted no part of it.  He signed his name to a document that declared he and other colonists were not in alliance with the disgruntled citizens who met in Savannah in August of 1774.  Stump and other colonists felt the meeting was dishonoring to the British King, Lords and Commons and they wanted to make sure the British knew they had no part in it.  Stump didn’t want to jeopardize the protection the British provided him against the Creek and Cherokee tribes in the region.

But as the years of revolution wore on, Frederick Stump eventually found himself against the King and on the side of the patriots.  In the South Carolina and Georgia areas, the British began enlisting the support of Creek and Cherokee tribes against the colonists. Therefore Stump took up arms against the British and likely fought in the Battle of Kettle Creek in February of 1779 in which the Americans were victorious, and in the Battle of Brier Creek in March of 1779 in which the British routed the patriots and took many of them captive. Legend says that as the Americans were retreating from one of the battles Frederick Stump came upon a group of British officers playing cards.  In his audacious manner he killed five of the officers. Stump was captured.  He was then sent to the British fortress prison in St. Augustine, Florida where his life was taking yet another turn — again, not in a positive direction.

Stump spent four months in the Castillo de San Marcos, the Spanish-built coquina-stone fortress.  The British had gained control of it from the Spanish in 1763 and were using it as a prison for revolutionary fighters. Legend says that the reason Stump only spent four months in the impenetrable prison was that he bribed the jailer with ten guineas — gold British coins equivalent to about $2000 today.

After his escape, he made his way through hostile back-country to his home in Georgia.  Upon his arrival he found that the British had burned his grist and saw mills and had confiscated his property with his 20 slaves.  In addition to this horror, the British had a bounty on his head, dead or alive.  Once again, his life in shambles, Frederick Stump, 55, set out with his family for a better life…somewhere.

Heading north toward the Appalachians he joined with one of several groups heading to the frontier of Kentucky and middle Tennessee (then part of western North Carolina).  He came alongside Amos Eaton’s group who followed a week behind the famed founders of Nashville, James Robertson and John Donelson. These teams led settlers from the Watauga settlement in North Carolina to the French Lick area of middle Tennessee — Robertson over land and Donelson by way of a water route.

In November of 1779, the Robertson party consisting of men, boys and animals left the Watauga settlement and headed west. The Donelson Party would follow later by boat with the women, children, and other men. The Robertson Party reached French Lick on Christmas Day 1779.  The Eaton party along with several other groups from the south and east arrived around January 1, 1780. They all made their way to French Lick during one of the coldest winters on record.  It was so cold that they were able to cross the Cumberland River easily from bank to bank due to it being completely frozen.

Frederick Stump, Amos Eaton and the others in his party built a “station” or fort for protection. They would settle on the northeast side of the river and Robertson’s party settled where Nashville, TN now stands on the west side of the Cumberland. The Donelson party had much trouble on their journey.  They would eventually make it to French Lick by February of 1780.

After surviving the terrible winter and trying to build homes while under attack by native American tribes, that spring in May, the settlers officially founded Fort Nashborough and its government by signing of the Cumberland Compact. Frederick Stump was one of 100 signers of the document.

He would rebuild his life once more and become financially successful one more time through farming, running a inn and tavern in his large log home, and by distilling and selling whiskey.  In fact he was the first to begin distilling whiskey in the region. In October of 1792, his distillery was burned by one of the area tribes, but by 1795 he was producing up to 600 gallons of whiskey a year.

His wife Ann who faithfully followed him through all of his ups and downs was herself an astute business woman.  I am sure that he gained much more in his life due to her strength and wisdom.

There are many more tales to tell of Frederick Stump — most I am sure are based in fact, but they have taken on a legendary feel. One story tells of his close call with a tomahawk; another of his son being killed by native Americans. It was also said that even though he would offer his tavern for use by local Christian congregations on Sundays and some week days, only to the Moravians did he serve free dinners.

He knew Andrew Jackson, but thought Jackson was an upstart. Still Stump served under his command as a captain in the Tennessee Volunteer Riflemen and Cavalry in the war of 1812 — when Stump was 90 years old.

One of the best stories of all is that at age 93, after his wife of many years had passed on, he married again…to Catherine Gingery — the 25 year-old bar maid who worked in his tavern.

Frederick Stump died at age 99 after living a full and adventurous life. The log home that he built on White’s Creek north of Nashville still stands.  Over 230 years-old it is a monument to his determination, bold and incorrigible nature, and enterprising spirit.

Frederick Stump and Ann Snavely Stump are my fifth great-grandparents.



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Newlyweds Marguerite and Pierre Le Houx loaded their personal belongings on board the boat docked in La Nouvelle-Orleans (New Orleans). Yesterday, the 12th of March 1725, they were married in the little wooden church, on the site of where St. Louis Cathedral would one day stand. But today 29-year-old Pierre would be taking his new bride back with him to the Arkansas Post on the Arkansas River where he was keeper of the Post warehouse.

Marguerite was leaving her family behind in New Orleans where her father, Jean Baptiste Larmusiau, was the surgeon to the colonial Louisiana governor Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville. It seemed like only yesterday that her family arrived  in New Orleans from France on the ship L’Elephant. But that was in 1720 when she was only eight years old. Now she was thirteen and newly married!

The trip upriver was slow against the strong Mississippi River current.  After a couple of weeks of travel they arrived at the Arkansas Post settlement.  Pierre and Marguerite lived at the Post for a short while when they decided to move with some other settlers down the Mississippi to the Terre Blanche (White Earth) settlement at Fort Rosalie near the Natchez Grand Village.

Fort Rosalie had been built by Bienville as a French outpost in 1716 to thwart any designs on this area by the British. More settlers were needed to establish this region as a strong French colony in La Louisiane and Pierre and Marguerite were adding to their number. Pierre would be an excellent interpreter for them since he had experience living with tribal people at the Post.

Fort Rosalie, named after the wife of Count Ponchartrain, sat high on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River.  The fort itself was small, and from what Marguerite could tell, did not look very defendable. In fact it did not appear to have been fully completed. Not one of the palisades was connected to another — so anyone could walk into the fort at will. But everyone seemed to be satisfied with the way of life at Fort Rosalie. Marguerite did worry a little about living there because of the attack on the fort made by the Natchez tribe a few years earlier, but the soldiers and the large number of settlers made her feel more secure.  From her observations, the settlement was becoming a full-fledged town.  There were merchants, craftsmen, farmers, a priest, soldiers for peacekeeping and defense, and children running around everywhere.

Over the following weeks, Pierre and the men at the fort helped him and Marguerite build a small cabin that they could call their own and he also set up a store selling supplies near the fort.  Marguerite was making friends with the women there too.  They showed her how to cook on an open fire and how to forage for the proper berries in the woods. She enjoyed her friendship with Marie Francienne Minquetz Cantrelle, a midwife, and helped her from time to time to deliver babies.  Francienne had also lived at the Arkansas Post with her husband Jacques.  In fact they arrived in New Orleans the same year as Marguerite and her family.

Marguerite and Pierre thrived in their new life at Terre Blanche and it wasn’t long before they had their first child.  Soon afterward, they were expecting again. Francienne had been such a help to her during her pregnancies and deliveries. Everyone had a job in the new settlement and it took everyone’s skills to make the colony successful, but everyone was relying on the French government for military defense and a system of justice.

The Terre Blanche settlement was governed by the French Commandant.  He was in charge of peace-keeping and defense of the colony.  He and the soldiers were to defend the fort against the  British who were wanting to lay claim to this area on the Mississippi and also against the ever-present threat of native tribes in the area.  The nearby Natchez tribe generally had good relations with the French ever since La Salle explored the region in 1682, but animosities increased with the building of Fort Rosalie.

The British and French were in constant conflict over land in North America during this time, so the British were continually instigating some factions of the Natchez against the French. However the Great Sun, who was the leader of the Natchez, was loyal to the French. So diplomacy was a necessary attribute of any commandant of Fort Rosalie.

But a new commandant named Monsieur Chepart was sent to the Fort in 1728. Chepart was not known for his tact, especially with the Natchez people.  He decided that the Natchez people would have to move from their land so that he could build a plantation where some of their village was located. Chepart was quite adamant about it.  Obviously tensions increased and old animosities were revived.  To add to the precarious nature of the situation, the Great Sun, the most loyal French ally, died that year. The British were said to have seized this opportunity to encourage the Natchez to make a full-scale attack on the Fort and the Terre Blanche settlement.

On November 28, 1729, the Natchez entered the Fort and approached each home in the settlement under the guise of conducting business with the townspeople.  At a given signal, the Natchez attacked them, catching the settlers unaware.  Men, women, and children were cut down and massacred. Most of the men were killed and many women and children were killed.  Those who were not able to escape into the woods and get downriver to New Orleans were taken captive by the Natchez and treated harshly.  Monsieur Chepart was beheaded and his head taken back to the Natchez village. In all, 150 men were killed, as well as 36 women and 56 children.

Among the dead were Marguerite’s husband Pierre and oldest child.  Also killed was her friend Francienne.  Jacques, Francienne’s husband, escaped. He was hunting in the woods nearby when the massacre occurred. Marguerite escaped with her baby and made her way back to New Orleans to be with her family.

A man, possibly Jacques Cantrelle, stumbled into New Orleans several days after the attack to alert the French soldiers of the massacre.  They retaliated against the Natchez, rescuing most of the captured settlers and eventually killing or selling into slavery nearly every member of the Natchez tribe.  Some escaped and were assimilated into other tribes.

Marguerite now 18, and Jacques, 33, married six months later in New Orleans. They were already good friends and both shared similar tragedy and heartache. It seemed only natural that they would decide to marry.  They made their home on a plantation in what is now Kenner, LA.  In addition to her daughter, little Marguerite Le Houx, she and Jacques would have seven children.  Michael Bernard Cantrelle, their sixth child, is my ancestor.

Marguerite Larmusiau and Jacques Cantrelle are my seventh great grandparents.

*Note: Marguerite is my father’s ancestor and her brother Thomas Joseph Larmusiau is my mother’s ancestor.

** For a list of those killed in the Fort Rosalie massacre, visit  http://www.natchezbelle.org/adams-ind/massacre.htm. The list was compiled by a Capuchin priest and missionary, Fr. Filbert on the 9th of June, 1730, aboard the Duc de Bourbon.

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