My Adventure Through Our Family Tree Branches

For over 50 years my Dad researched both his and my Mom's family tree branches - and loved every minute of it! Trying to fulfill the promise I made him the last month of his life, I have spent the past four years continuing where he left off - finding out about all the many family members who came before us, from the many branches of our family trees. The histories will still be published as my Dad always wanted. But what he wanted most was to share the stories of the people who came before us - the places they lived, the cultures of the times, the families they created, and the circumstances - good and bad - that would one day lead to us, their descendants. These are the stories of my Mom's families. . . .

Surnames in this Blog


Saturday, August 20, 2011

SATURDAY'S STRUCTURE - Destrehan Plantation, Louisiana

Destrehan PlantationDestrehan, St. Charles Parish, Louisiana

Destrahan Plantation was established in 1787 and is the oldest documented plantation in the Lower Mississippi Valley. Robin de Logney contracted with a free man of color, Charles Paquet, to build the plantation and the outbuildings to support his indigo plantation. Paquet was given the use of 6 slaves to build the home. Upon its completion in 1790 he was paid with "one brute negro", a cow and a calf, 100 bushels of both corn and rice, and $100 in cash. The contract is still on file at the St. Charles Parish courthouse in Hahnville, Louisiana. The plantation grew to include 1,050 acres of land stretching from the Mississippi River to Lake Ponchatrain. There are 10,000 square feet of actual living space in the home. The plantation is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
"Erected in 1787 by Charles Paquet, Destrehan Plantation was purchased by indigo planter Robert Antointe Robin DeLogny and his family. Besides his profitable indigo cash crop, DeLogny's local claim to fame was his famous son-in-law, Jean Noel Destrehan, who married his daughter Marie-Claude in 1786. Destrehan was the son of Jean Baptiste Destrehan de Tours, royal treasurer of the French colony of Louisiana, and it is from him that both the name of the plantation and the name of the town are derived. After DeLogny's death in 1792, the Destrehans inherited the plantation and house. While under the ownership of the Destrehan family, both the house and grounds went through considerable periods of change. In the 19th century the major cash crop at Destrehan became sugarcane rather than indigo and the house went through two further phases of construction. The original gallery columns were replaced in the 1830s or 40s with massive Greek Revival Doric columns of plastered brick and the cornice was altered accordingly. Its original colonial appearance was altered with the post-colonial addition of semi-detached wings.
In the 20th century, the use of the grounds and house underwent yet another change. The house served as a facility of a major oil company, when Louisiana made the transition from an agricultural to an industrial economy. Destrehan Plantation House consists of a central, two-story house with open galleries on three sides and flanking two-story wings separated from the main body of the house by the side galleries. The central unit, the oldest part of the house, is composed of masonry columns on the ground floor and wood columns on the upper. At one time a colonnade had surrounded the central unit. The roof is double- pitched all around. " [From the National Park Service website]

Nicolas Noel Destrehan

Destrehan Plantation and My Family
Nicolas Noel Destrehan, born April 13, 1793, was the fourth child of Jean Noel and Marie-Claude. He married my 4th great-grand Aunt Victoire Victorine Fortier on May 17, 1814. Victorine, born April 30, 1799, was the sixth of ten children born to my 5th great-grandparents Jacques Omer Fortier (1759-1820) and Aimee Marie Victoire Felicite Durel (1768-1843). She was also the younger sister of my 4th great-grandfather Jacques Omer Fortier (1792-1823). The Destrehan and Fortier families were neighbors and friends.

Victorine, married at just 15 years of age to a successful and attractive man of 21, no doubt thought she would have a "happily ever after" life. That was not to be. On December 24, 1819, Christmas Eve, her lawyer filed a civil suit with the District Court of Orleans Parrish, Louisiana, to be granted legal separation. The petition stated in part, that from the time of their marriage Victorine "never ceased to behave herself as an honest and dutiful wife - That she has always done everything in her power to preserve between her and her Said husband that love, friendship, Confidence, and good harmony, without which there can be no happiness in matrimony - That notwithstanding all her efforts to please the temper of her Said husband and pursue with him a comfortable life, She has repeatedly and almost constantly been the object of the most cruel and outrageous treatment from him."

Petition for Separation
December 24, 1819
The petition goes on to state that her husband Nicolas left on a ship bound for Europe in April of 1818 and told his wife to stay with her father during the time he was gone. When he returned home eighteen months later, on November 27, 1819, Victorine was "taken by him from her father's house to his own, where, after but very few days, the Said Nicolas Noel Destrehan yielding to his Violent and unruly temper, begun to make her experience anew the most undeserved ill treatment, particularly on the eighth of December instant, when the Said Nicolas Noel Destrehan, without any just cause, motive or reason did abuse, insult and beat your petitioner in the most offensive and cruel manner, and afterwards turn her mercifully out of their Common Domicil and Sent her back to her father's house, to whom, in the rage of his inconceivable passion, he wrote on her account a defamatory letter. And your petitioner Sheweth further that not contented with having So ill treated her, her Said husband has Since that moment publicly and repeatedly, in the presence of Several credible and respectable Citizens,  defamed your Petitioner, telling them falsely & maliciously that She had been guilty of adultery and giving to understand that She was a prostitute."

The petition requested that she (1) be allowed to sue her husband for separation from "bed and board"; (2) that he must appear before the court and answer to the charges; (3) that they be separated; (4) that she be allowed to move back home with her father; (5) that an inventory of all of his goods be made and that he not be allowed to dispose of any of these; (6) that she be awarded $200 a month since he had all their possessions at home and she had no income. The petition noted that her husband could easily afford this sum since his annual income from his sugar plantation was "fifteen thousand dollars." The petition was granted.

[In 1807 the Territorial Legislature of Louisiana established grounds for divorce and separation from bed and board. Divorce could be granted for impotence at the time of marriage, adultery, bigamy, or desertion without reasonable cause for a minimum of four years. Separation from bed and board could be granted if a husband maliciously abandoned his family, turned his wife out of door, or treated her in such a "barbarous"  manner as to endanger her life. (from Laws of a Public Nature, of the District of Louisiana...1824)]

Grave of Nicolas Noel Destrehan
& Victorine Fortier Destrehan
St. Charles Borromeo Cemetery
Destrehan, Louisiana
Victorine died on May 8, 1825, at the young age of 26. She was buried in the cemetery of the "Little Red Church", Saint Charles Borromeo Catholic Church, down the road from Destrehan Plantation. Many of the old graves have been washed away over the years but her grave, an impressive vault bordered by a black wrought-iron fence, still stands. She is buried in the same grave as her husband. French writing covers the sides of her grave - I have not yet been able to fully translate it.

Nicolas Noel Destrehan married Marie Louise Eleanore Adele de Navarre (1810-1836) on November 12, 1826. She was 16 and he was 33. The couple had five children, at least two dying as infants, before she too died young, at only 26 years of age. At some point Nicolas lost his right arm in a machinery accident on his plantation. After that he always signed his name, poorly, with his left hand - "Destrehan, Manchot" - meaning armless. He died at the age of 55, twice widowed, on June 16, 1848.

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