Wednesday, November 4, 2015

1687 French Huguenot tells of life in Puritan Boston



Henri, duc de Rohan 1579-1638 a leader of the Huguenot rebellions in France.

A French Protestant Immigrant's Impression of in Boston, 1687

This French Huguenot arrived in Massachusetts with 30 families in the fall of 1687. Thousands of French Protestants fled first to England; and from there, many sailed for the British American colonies. The colonies offered plenty of inexpensive land for the newcomers, who could supply labor & expertise for colonial enterprises.

By the goodness of God, I arrived in this favored land in perfect health on the seventeenth of last month, after a passage of fifty-three days counting from the day we left the Downs, sixty miles from London, to that day we reached Boston...


The impression that advantages are granted to the refugees is one that needs to be dispelled. At first, indeed, some supplies were given them, but at present, nothing is to be hoped for in behalf of those who bring nothing. At Nipmuck, as I have before stated, lands are given away; and at Narragansett they have to be bought at twenty to twenty-five pounds sterling per hundred acres, so that he who brings nothing hither finds nothing.


It is quite true that here is very good living here, and that with a very little, once can keep house very comfortably. A family of three or four persons can keep house very nicely upon fifty pistoles: but nothing less would suffice...


One can come to this country and return just as in Europe. One is entirely free here, and lives without any constraint. Those who wish to come to this country should become naturalized in London in order to be at liberty to engage in traffic of all kinds, and to voyage among the English islands; without this it cannot be done...


There are several French families here that have bought them on very reasonable terms. M de Bonrepos, our minister’s brother, has purchased one at a distance of fifteen miles from this place, and within one league of a very pretty town, having a considerable trade, which they call Salem...


The house is very pretty, and was never built for fifty pistoles. There are seventeen acres of land, completely cleared, and a small orchard.


M. Légaré, a French merchant--a goldsmith--has purchased a property twelve miles south of this place, on the sea-coast, where he has a very pretty house, and twelve acres and a half of land, for eighty pistoles of ten livres of France each.


Besides, he has his share in the common lands, to which he can send his cattle for pasture, and where he can cut wood for his own use, and to sell here, as he can readily send it by sea. Similar opportunities occur daily; and of farms on lease, as many as are wanted may be had, and at low prices...


If our poor refugee brethren who understand farming should come here, they could not fail to live very comfortably and gain property; for the English are very lazy, and are proficient only in raising their Indian corn and cattle.


There are not over twenty French families here in Boston, and they are diminishing in number every day, because they go off into the country to buy or lease lands and attempt a settlement. Others are expected this spring from every quarter.


Two young men have just arrived from Carolina, who give some account of the country. In the first place, they say, they have never before seen so miserable a country, nor an atmosphere so unhealthy. Fevers prevail all the year, from which those who are attacked seldom recover...


They bring us also the tidings that, before their departure, a ship had arrived from London with one hundred and thirty persons on board, including the crew; of whom one hundred and fifteen died so soon as they landed, all from malignant fevers which spread among them. Some eighty persons are coming from Carolina to settle here, or in New York. M. Gaillard, whom my father knows, has arrived in Carolina with his whole family; also, M. Brie, of Montpelier...


The English who inhabit these countries are, as elsewhere, good and bad; but one see more of the latter than of the former class, and to tell it to you in few words, there are all kinds, and consequently all kinds of life and manners. it is not that strife and quarrels occur among them, but it is that they do not lead a good life.


There are some that practice no other formality of marriage than that of taking each other by the hand; and they live together peaceably; there are others, sixty years of age, who have not yet been baptized, because they are not members...

There is nothing to fear from the savages, for there are very few of them. The last wars they had with the English, twelve years ago, reduced them to a small number, and consequently they are not in a condition to defend themselves.



America as a Religious Refuge - Persecution - Huguenots by Catholics


Massacre Fait a Sens en Bourgogne par la Populace au Mois d'Avril 1562 . . .

Lithograph in A. Challe, Histoire des Guerres du Calvinisme et de la Ligue dans l'Auxerrois, le Sénonais et le autres contrées qui forment aujourd'hui le département de l'Yonne Auxerre: Perriquet et Rouille, 1863.

Persecution of Huguenots by Catholics

The slaughter of Huguenots (French Protestants) by Catholics at Sens, Burgundy in 1562 occurred at the beginning of more than thirty years of religious strife between French Protestants and Catholics. These wars produced numerous atrocities. The worst was the notorious St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in Paris, August 24, 1572. Thousands of Huguenots were butchered by Roman Catholic mobs. Although an accommodation between the two sides was sealed in 1598 by the Edict of Nantes, religious privileges of Huguenots eroded during the seventeenth century and were extinguished in 1685 by the revocation of the Edict. Perhaps as many as 400,000 French Protestants emigrated to various parts of the world, including the British North American colonies.


The St Bartholomew’s Day massacre of Huguenots took place in France in 1572

In 1562 French naval officer Jean Ribault led an expedition to the New World that founded Fort Caroline as a haven for Huguenots in what is now Jacksonville, Florida. Trying to keep control of La Florida, Spanish soldiers killed Ribault and many of his followers near St. Augustine in 1565.

Barred by the government from settling in New France, Huguenots led by Jessé de Forest, sailed to North America and settled instead in the Dutch colony of New Netherland (later incorporated into New York and New Jersey); as well as Great Britain's colonies, including Nova Scotia. A number of New Amsterdam's families were of Huguenot origin, often having emigrated as refugees to the Netherlands in the previous century. In 1628 the Huguenots established a congregation as L'Église française à la Nouvelle-Amsterdam (the French church in New Amsterdam). This parish continues today as L'Eglise du Saint-Esprit, part of the Episcopal (Anglican) communion, and welcomes Francophone New Yorkers from all over the world. Services are conducted in French for a Francophone parish community, and members of the Huguenot Society of America. The liturgy and doctrines have nothing to do with Huguenot practices and polity, as it is Episcopal in character. Upon their arrival in New Amsterdam, Huguenots were offered land directly across from Manhattan on Long Island for a permanent settlement and chose the harbor at the end of Newtown Creek, becoming the first Europeans to live in Brooklyn, then known as Boschwick, and today the neighborhood known as Bushwick.


Jean Hasbrouck House (1721) on Huguenot Street in New Paltz, New York

Huguenot immigrants founded New Paltz, New York. They built what is now the oldest street in the current United States of America with the original stone houses, which is a National Historic Landmark District. They also founded New Rochelle (named after La Rochelle in France), New York. Louis DuBois, son of Chretien DuBois, was one of the original Huguenot settlers in this area,[42] along with the Daniel Perrin family. In 1692 Huguenots settled on the south shore of Staten Island, New York. The present-day neighbourhood of Huguenot was named for those early settlers. A town near Port Jervis, New York is named Huguenot.

Some Huguenot immigrants settled in Central Pennsylvania. They assimilated with the predominately Pennsylvania German settlers of the area.

In 1700 several hundred French Huguenots migrated from England to the colony of Virginia, where the English Crown had promised them land grants in Lower Norfolk County. When they arrived, colonial authorities offered them instead land 20 miles above the falls of the James River, at the abandoned Monacan village known as Manakin Town, now in Powhatan County. Some settlers landed in present-day Chesterfield County. On 12 May 1705, the Virginia General Assembly passed an act to naturalise the 148 Huguenots still resident at Manakintown. Of the original 390 settlers in the isolated settlement, many had died; others lived outside town on farms in the English style; and others moved to different areas.[43] Gradually they intermarried with their English neighbors. Through the 18th and 19th centuries, descendants of the French migrated west into the Piedmont, and across the Appalachian Mountains into the West of what became Kentucky, Tennessee, Missouri, and other states. In the Manakintown area, the Huguenot Memorial Bridge across the James River and Huguenot Road were named in their honor, as were many local features, including several schools, including Huguenot High School.


French Protestant (Huguenot) Church, downtown Charleston, South Carolina,

In the early years, many Huguenots also settled in the area of present-day Charleston, South Carolina. In 1685, Rev. Elie Prioleau from the town of Pons in France, was among the first to settle there. He became pastor of the first Huguenot church in North America in that city. After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, several Huguenot families of Norman and Carolingian nobility and descent, including Edmund Bohun of Suffolk England from the Humphrey de Bohun line of French royalty descended from Charlemange, Jean Postell of Dieppe France, Alexander Pepin, Antoine Poitevin of Orsement France, and Jacques de Bordeaux of Grenoble, immigrated to the Charleston Orange district. They were very successful at marriage and property speculation. After petitioning the British Crown in 1697 for the right to own land in the Baronies, they prospered as gentlemen planters on the Goose, Ashpoo, Ashley and Santee River plantations they purchased from the British Landgrave Edmund Bellinger. Some of their descendants moved into the Deep South and Texas, where they developed new plantations.

The French Huguenot Church of Charleston, which remains independent, is the oldest continuously active Huguenot congregation in the United States. Founded in 1628, L'Eglise du Saint-Esprit in New York is older, but it left the French Reformed movement in 1804 to become part of the Episcopal Church.

Most of the Huguenot congregations (or individuals) in North America eventually affiliated with other Protestant denominations with more numerous members. The Huguenots adapted quickly and often began to marry outside their immediate French communities fairly rapidly, which led to their assimilation.[44] Their descendants in many families continued to use French first names and surnames for their children well into the nineteenth century, as they tried to keep some connection to their heritage. Assimilated, the French made numerous contributions to United States economic life, especially as merchants and artisans in the late Colonial and early Federal periods. For example, E.I. du Pont, a former student of Lavoisier, established the Eleutherian gunpowder mills, which produced material for the American Revolutionary War.

Paul Revere was descended from Huguenot refugees, as was Henry Laurens, who signed the Articles of Confederation for South Carolina; Jack Jouett, who made the ride from Cuckoo Tavern to warn Thomas Jefferson and others that Tarleton and his men were on their way to arrest him for crimes against the king; Francis Marion, and a number of other leaders of the American Revolution and later statesmen. Reportedly, the last active Huguenot congregation in North America worships in Charleston, South Carolina, at a church that dates from 1844. The Huguenot Society of America maintains Manakin Episcopal Church in Virginia as an historic shrine with occasional services.