It was exciting times in New Orleans, in Mobile, on Lake Pontchartrain, and the increasingly important Tchefuncte River near Madisonville. Here is Sharp's research on Henriette Delille, her life story and impact on those around her.
Henriette Delille Was Born On the Tchefuncte River In 1813
By Donald J Sharp
Research Revealing Her Family Relatives and Events That Led To Her Birth on the Tchefuncte River
Henriette Laveau was the grandmother of Venerable Henriette Delille and a key reason why she was born on the Tchefuncte River and not in New Orleans. Henriette Delille's mother, Marie Josephe Dias, owned a house at 62 Burgundy Street in New Orleans and she could have been born there, but from the records now uncovered, it appears that she was born on the Tchefuncte River. I will take up a discussion on exactly this subject later in this essay.
Research on the history and biography of Henriette Delille, nominated for Sainthood in the Catholic Church, has been slow in coming and tedious and difficult at times, but rewarding when a new piece of information is uncovered. As you will see there are several reasons for this lack of information. There is much more research that needs to be done, but I feel that what I have accomplished so far sheds a little more light on her family history and will help future researchers to go forward and uncover more useful information to complete the true story.
Her Grandmother Henriette Laveau
Henriette Laveau, Henriette Delille's grandmother, was baptized at the St. Louis Church in 1763, according to Baptismal records of the New Orleans Archdiocese. She was still alive in 1813 when Henriette Delille was born. She died in New Orleans in 1815, the year after the Battle of New Orleans. It was during Henriette Laveau's lifetime that events began to happen which would be instrumental in motivating Delille's mother, Marie Josephe Dias, to be on the Tchefuncte River at her birth.
Henriette Laveau is an interesting member in Delille's family and had great influence on her own nine children. Her surname was Laveau, which comes from the Trudeau family and was brought into the Louisiana Colony from Canada in 1702. Francois Trudeau, the Canadian, and family is another interesting part of this story. The Trudeau Family play an important part in Henriette Delille's history.
The Tchefuncte River Connection
The Tchefuncte River is directly north across Lake Pontchartrain in St.Tammany Parish. The mouth of the river empties into the lake. The river does not run straight north but has a lot of twist and turns as it meanders through the Parish some fifty miles and ends at its headwaters that originate in Tangiphoa Parish. Along the way it passes the towns of Madisonville, Mandeville, and Covington. I look upon the river as a corridor and refer to it as "The Tchefuncte River Corridor". It has a lot of history beginning with the settlement of Juan Baptiste Bahan dit Gentil in 1783 on the west bank of the river two miles up from its mouth. The Bahan's settled on abandoned British land grants.
Juan Baptiste Bahan dit Gentil was originally from the Bordeaux region in France. It was on April 22, 1783 that he was observed settled on his Spanish land grant with his five sons. A traveler leaving Bayou St. John in the morning could cross the lake in about eight hours (if the wind is right) and be in Madisonville before dark.
The distance from the mouth of the river up to Madisonville is about 2 and one half miles. From Madisonville, across the river, what today is Fairview State Park, was Jacques Lorreins House, and in 1813 Melanie Foucher, sister of Marie Joseph Dias was living with Lorreins. The trail that ran passed Lorrein's house up and along the river went past the United States Navy Yard where Marie Josephe Dias, Melanie's sister, was living with Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy. It was two miles up the trail to the Yard. The trip from Bayou St. John to Sarpy's house next to the Navy Yard could be done easily in one day.
Now back to Henriette Laveau, the grandmother of Henriette Delille. Henriette Laveau was the granddaughter of Nanette or Marie Anne, the slave of Claude Joseph Villars Dubreuil. Dubreuil had a daughter with Nanette named Cecile, that was the mother of Henriette Laveau. It appears from the records that Cecile had an affair with Jean Baptiste Laveau I, and he was the father of Henriette Laveau.
The French Colony in Louisiana was basically a military colony and it was no different for New Orleans when it was established in 1718. There were more men than women. The ratio was almost three men for every woman and this was a serious problem. Most of the male inhabitants of New Orleans were in the militia and the most prominent of them were the officers in the local militia. The officers formed what was a quasi-like club and had the power and influence the city with no equal.
Even those officers who were legally married to white women began to have affairs with the female slaves. In many cases they had a laison with another officer's slave. This appears to be the case with Nanette, the slave of Dubreuil. Along with this was the code for slaves under the French which was known as Code Noir. The Code under the Spanish was more liberal and allowed some slaves to purchase their freedom. When the United States assumed control and Louisiana became a state it passed a law that it was not legal for a white to be married a person of color. These Codes and laws played an important part on how events unfolded and moulded the life of Henriette Delille.
The Catholic Church kept records as one of its functions. The area under its control was called the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of New Orleans extended far beyond the city limits. It extended across Lake Pontchartrain to include what is today's St. Tammany and Washington Parishes. The records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans has stated only that Henriette Delille was born in the Archdiocese. It does not state that she was born in the New Orleans city limits. So, if a marriage or birth would occur across Lake Pontchartrain or in Washington Parish, the document would indicate that it occurred in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.
Now let us return to Henriete Laveau and continue our story. Remember that Henriette Laveau was the granddaughter of Nanette, the slave of Claude Joseph Dubreuil, the King's contractor at New Orleans and a relative of Governor Bienvilie. Nanette had a daughter by Dubreuil named Cecile Bazile who was the mother of Henriette Laveau. The father of Henriette Laveau appears to be Jean Baptiste Laveau Trudeau I. The Church records state that Henriette Laveau was baptized in 1763.
Shortage of Women
New Orleans was founded in 1718 and the colony still had a critical shortage of women. The ratio of men to women was about 2.5 to one. Slaves were now being imported by the new owner, the Company of the West. The Company of the West, (later changed to the Company of the Indies) would import thousands of slaves from Africa during the 1720s. Nanette, later baptized as Marianne was among these imported slaves.
Henriette Laveau, the daughter of Cecile Bazile, was freed from slavery when her grandmother Nanette purchased her freedom in 1770 when she was only seven years old. This was under the Spanish authority and slave code. She grew up in New Orleans under the care of her grandmother Nanette and her mother Cecile.
When she was fifteen years old an event occurred that would change her life style forever. In circa 1778, a military man from Mobile by the name of Pierre Gabriel Juzan II was in New Orleans. The American Revolution was in full force on the east coast and Spain had sided with the American rebels. Henriette Laveau had an affair with Juzan, and she became pregnant. The Mobile Catholic Church records indicate that she had a daughter who was named Marguerite Juzan. This appears to be the first of the many children Henriette Laveau had by five prominent white men over the years in the French and Spanish Colonies.
There is much more to tell about Henriette Laveau's future affairs in our Henriette Delille story, but first let us now examine the Juzan family of Mobile.
Pierre Gabriel Juzan
Who was this military officer Pierre Gabriel Juzan II? The Juzan family was in the Louisiana colony early. His father, Pierre Gabriel Juzan I was also a military man who married Marie Francoise Trudeau in Mobile. Both parents of Pierre Gabriel II were deceased in 1736 in two months of each other. Marie Francoise Trudeau was first after the birth of Pierre II and Pierre I two months later in the Battle of Ackia with the Chickasaws as an officer in Governor Bienville's forces. Pierre Gabriel was raised by other family members. On November 1, 1758, he married Catherine Parant, daughter of Francois Parant and Marianne Arlu of Mobile.
They had only one child, a son, named Pierre Francois Juzan born in 1759. Catherine Parant, wife of Pierre II died the last day of 1759. (Source: Jacqueline Vidrine, 'Love's Legacy: The Mobile Marriages, 1724 - 1786) So after his wife Catherine Parant died in 1759, Pierre Gabriel Juzan II remained a widower and unmarried until 1794.
In the 1786 Spanish census of the Mobile District Pierre Gabriel Juzan is listed as 50 years old and unmarried. In 1794 at 58 years old, he married a second time to Pelagie Lorreins of the Tchefuncte River. It must be remembered that the Lorreins family was originally from the Mobile area before they started to move over to Bayou St. John. A Lorreins married a daughter of Joseph Girardy of Bayou St. John in 1750 and was the first Lorreins to move over from Mobile.
Now, we turn to Marguerite Juzan, daughter of Henriette Laveau and Pierre Gabriel Juzan II. She was born circa 1778 after an affair between Pierre Gabriel II, her father, and Henriette Laveau in New Orleans. Marguerite would be the first of Henriette Laveau's children and Marie Josephe Roche her last. Now, in 1796 we have another Juzan and Lorreins connection that took place. Marguerite Juzan was 18 years old when she married Jacques Lorreins of the Tchefunte River.
Jacques is the brother of Pelegia and now is the brother-in-law of Pierre Gabriel Juzan II who married his sister two years earlier. He was 29 years old when he married Marguerite Juzan in 1796. Jacques Lorreins and Marguerite Juzan's marriage lasted eight years and they had four children, to wit: Louis Hilare, Pierre Albert, Vincent Theodule, and Henriette Corallie.
Marguerite Juzan died in 1804 leaving Jacques Lorreins a widower, who was then 37 years old.
When Marguerite Juzan married Jacques Lorreins in 1796, Henriette Laveau, her mother, was still having children by Henry Roche de Belair of New Orleans. Before Marguerite married Lorreins, Henriette Laveau had started an association with Henry Roche, a master shoemaker in Faubroug St. Marie. They had a daughter, Candide Roche in 1792 and then had three more.
Here is the list of all her children, starting with Marguerite and the years that they were born: Marguerite Juzan, 1778; Charlotte Morand, 1780; Melanie Fourcher, 1785; Marie Josephe Dias, 1786; Zenon Dias, 1788; Candide Roche, 1792; Judith Roche, 1793; Arsena Roche, 1795; and Marie Josephe Roche, 1797. Henriette Laveau, most likely kept in touch with Marguerite while she was married to Lorreins.
I imagine, like all families, Henriette Laveau visited her daughter and the grandchildren on the Tchefuncte River and vice versa. Marguerite and her children could have made visits to New Orleans to visit their grandmother, living on Orleans Street.
Now enters Melanie Foucher into this story. Melanie was the third daughter of Henriette Laveau and her father was Pierre Edmond Foucher. She was born in 1785 and her father Pierre Edmond was born in 1755. The Fouchers were a prominent family in early New Orleans who had a plantation near what is now Audubon Park.
Pierre Edmond's older brother Antoine had married Felicite Badon of the Tchefuncte River in 1786 and had a plantation located next to his mother-in-law, Cahterine Montlemart Badon on the north shore river. Melanie was soon following the ways of her mother Henriette Laveau and having affairs with prominent men.
According to various documents she had at least seven children by four different white men. After Jacques Lorrein's wife Marguerite Juzan died in 1804, it wasn't long before he was involved with Melanie Foucher. She started having affairs at fifteen, the first being with a planter named Soubie and had a son in 1800 named Pierre Edmond Soubie.
In 1805 she started an affair with Jacques Lorreins which lasted about ten years. She had a son with Lorreins in 1808 named Pablo, who only lived two years and died in 1810. Melanie was again pregnant in 1813 by Lorreins and had a son in November of 1813. He was given the name of Louis Alexander Lorreins by his parents. About a year after Louis Alexander was born Melanie and Jacques
Lorreins parted ways. Jacques was married again in 1816 to Margaret Smith, widow of Morgan Edwards, in 1816. They previously had a daughter named Delphine who was about ten years old when they married in 1816. Melanie was without a partner for only a short time when she took up with Renez Bahan, who was legally married to Antoinette Milon and had ten legitimate children.
In 1819 Melanie Foucher had a son with Renez Bahan, a boy, who was given the name of Pierre Hypolite Bahan. Next, she had a daughter with Renez, a girl, who was born in 1821 and named Henriette. Henriette Baham later married John Lawson Lewis in 1842, oldest son of Judge Joshua Lewis. Lewisburg in St. Tammany Parish was Judge Lewis's plantation after his retirement from the Court and present day Lewisburg is named after him.
John Lawson Lewis was a General in the State Militia and Confederate Army and Mayor of New Orleans from 1854 to 1856. Melanie had a third child with Renez who was named Valcour. Melanie was not through having children for in 1825 she had another son named Renoto Baham with Jacques Baham, son of Pierre Baham, who was the younger of Renez. It gets a little confusing at times!
Three Women, All Pregnant
Now, let us go back to 1813. We have three relatives now on the Tchefuncte River, all pregnant at the same time. They were as follows: Melanie Foucher, Marie Josephe Dias, and Marianne Raby, companion of John Baptiste Bahan Jr. that lived in Madisonville. All three were free-women-of-color who lived with white men. Two were the daughters of Henriette Laveau and Marianne Raby was living with their cousin John Baptist Baham.
They were all living along the Tchefuncte River within three miles of each other. Melanie had her baby, a boy, in November, Marianne had hers (Henriette, whose daughter Ella Bell, (Henriette would marry William Bell, brother of Hugh Bell) would become the God child of Henriette Delille), in early March, 1814, we do not know the exact date Marie Josephe Dias had hers. Some say in 1812 and others 1813.
The Sisters of the Holy Family, the religious order that Henriette Delille established say that 1813 is the year, and that is good enough for me. It appears that the three pregnant women had a pact amongst themselves. If they had girls they would name their child Henriette after the grandmother, Henriette Laveau. Remember, that the grandmother Henriette Laveau, was still alive in 1813 and very likely taking interest in all that was unfolding.
Two of the pregnant women did have girls and gave them the name Henriette. Melanie had a boy and named him Louis Alexander, but she did have a girl in 1821 and named her Henriette. It must have given Henriette Laveau great joy in 1813 to have two granddaughters named after her.
Henriette Laveau Dies
Henriette Laveau died on September 13, 1815. ( Sacramental Records, Vol. 11 under Labeau) She was alive when the Battle of New Orleans took place on January 8th. Did she go to the north shore with her children when the British landed at Chalmette in December of 1814 or did she stay at one of her houses on Orleans Street? Did she die on the Tchefuncte River or in New Orleans? There are still a lot of unanswered questions!
How do we know that Marie Josephe Dias was on the Tchefuncte River with Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy when she gave birth to Henriette Delille? Can we be certain? No, we can't. For all we know, she may have had Henriette Delille in a buggy on Bourbon Street, but that is not likely and I don't think so.
Birth on the Tchefuncte
All the evidence points that she was on the Tchefuncte River where Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy had a cabin next to the United States Navy Yard as shown in Surveyor David Bannister Morgan's map of 1813. What is a common sense answer to the question "How do we know that Marie Josephe Dias and her common law husband Sarpy were not at 62 Burgundy Street when she had Henriette Delille?"
The reply is that the legitimate family of Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy were living only a couple of blocks away from Marie Josephe Dias' house on Burgundy. It was a small community at the time and most people knew their neighbors. His legitimate wife, Amanda Cavalier, lived on Toulouse Street with their eight children only a few blocks away. Some of the older children were growing up in their middle teens and would soon be marrying.
The Cavalier family were a very upstanding and respectable family in the Quarter. They had a business on Royal Street. Some of Amanda and Jean Baptiste Sarpy's children were going with the respectable like the Pollocks and Fortiers. Even in those days with New Orleans reputation for its loose morals, it would be a little much to take for a middle age father and his free woman of color paramour having a child and living only a few blocks away from his legitimate family. I believe that Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy and Marie Joseph Dias chose to be on the Tchefuncte River where they had relatives and friends and would be more comfortable and in somewhat seclusion to prepare for the birth of their child. It did not turn out that way!
War, Shipbuilding, and The Navy Yard
In 1813 things begin to change. The United States and Great Britain were at war! Captain John Shaw, Commandant of the Navy facility at New Orleans, began to prepare for the defense of New Orleans. He had permission from the Secretary of the Navy in Washington, D. C. to build a large flat bottomed frigate for the shallow waters around New Orleans. His first choice was along the Mississippi Gulf Coast but later decided that it could not be defended against a British naval armada and in late December, 1812, made a trip to the Tchefuncte River.
There he met with Jacques Lorriens and both agreed to a lease of 20 acres at a strategic bend in the river. The location was two miles upriver by the trail from Lorreins's house. Captain Shaw immediately had a crew of Navy men clearing the land early in January, 1813. In a few months there were 150 civilians working on the "Blockship Tchefuncte". Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy had a cabin at this bend in the river, next to the Yard. Whether he was there before the lease agreement and the Navy Yard or did he arrive after, I do not know, but there he was in September of 1813. (See: David Bannister Morgan's Map of September, 1813).
The Navy Yard was just the beginning of the excitement for the north shore inhabitants.
On August 29, 1813, hundreds of Creek Indians and their allies attack Fort Mims which was about fifty miles north of Mobile killing all the inhabitants in the Fort, which included soldiers, civilians men and women, and children. The count killed varied from different sources from between 300 and 500 individuals.
Indian Attacks A Concern
The inhabitants on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain were in a state of panic and including, I imagine, the Lorreins, the Sarpys and all the other relatives of baby Henriette Delille. The inhabitants appealed to Governor W. C. C. Claiborne for help and portection. Governor Claiborne and Captain Shaw responded. They gathered rifles, powder and ball and came up with a plan. The took a gunboat to the Tchefuncte River to meet with the leaders of the inhabitants at Madisonville.
The plan that Governor Claiborne had in mind was to build a fort for the protection of the Madisonville inhabitants. It would be an addition to three other forts on the north shore. One was Ford's fort on the Pearl River, Fort Oak at Madisonville, the Fort at Springfield, and Fort San Carlos at Baton Rouge.
Surveyor David Bannister Morgan, one of the leaders at Madisonville, drew a map for Governor Claiborne and Captain Shaw to show the best location. It had to be out in a clearing because of the heavy cannons Captain Shaw plan to put in the Fort. Guess what? The site that was selected was very close to Jacques Lorreins's house. Today the Fairview State Park and Otis House occupies the site. It would be a stockade fort and would be called Fort Oak. Workers from the Navy Yard on the Tchefuncte River plus some of the inhabitants of Madisonville would construct the Fort, which they did. It stood for ten years.
It would be interesting to know how the three pregnant women were taking in all of this, especially Melanie Foucher, who was almost eight months pregnant. Marianne Raby, companion of Jean Baptiste Baham Jr.. would have her baby, Henriette Baham, in March of 1814. In a year, the Indian scare would diminish after General Andrew Jackson defeated the Creeks at Horseshoe Bend in Alabama, but alas, another threat had arisen. "The British were Coming" The British Army was at the Gates of New Orleans, ready to attack!
The North Shore and the Battle of New Orleans
What was transpiring on the north shore and along the Tchefuncte River when the news that the British were already at Chalmette reached them? Some of them, like the Thomas Spell family at Bayou Castein, left their homes on the lakefront and fled to Covington. Others stayed in their homes and prayed while others, I believe, fled to hide in the woods. At the Navy Yard, Lieutenant Commander Michael B. Brown, the Officer in command, moved the Bomb Ketch Aetna into the River to block any passage to the frigate "Tchefuncte" on stocks. This was to prevent any attempt that the British might make to reach the block ship.
We can only speculate what Maria Josephe Dias, her infant Henriette Delille, and the father Jean Baptiste Lille Sarpy did at this time. Most likely, they went and stayed with Melanie Foucher and Jacques Lorreins two miles up the trail, across from Madisonville. After all, there was a stockade fort right next to Lorreins's house and other family members would certainly be there.
The Battle Was Won
On January 8th in the late afternoon that Captain Sam Dale, and his swift horse arrived aboard the fast mail packet of Captain William Collins at Madisonville with the news of the great victory! General Andrew Jackson had ordered Captain Dale to spread the news to the north shore and all points north and east as quickly as possible. The news quickly spread and the inhabitants could now give a sigh of relief.
Where did Henriette Laveau, the grandmother stay in this time of crisis? There is nothing to indicate where she was during at this trying time. It is possible that she stayed in one of her houses on Orleans Street, but we just don't know. Did she cross the lake and stayed with a family member? We do know that she died in September just nine months after the British were defeated at Chalmette.
Father Cyprian Davis, in his biography of Henriette Delille, "Servant of Slaves: Witness to the Poor", he mentions in footnotes that most of Henriette Laveau's children, except Marie Josephe Dias and younger sister Arsena Roche were in New Orleans in February of 1817 selling one of their Mother's two houses on Orleans Street. The other siblings were all still living on the Tchefuncte River two years later with relatives.
Marie Josephe Dias had to send Louis Boisdore, husband of Charlotte Morand, her brother-in-law, across the lake to get a legal proxy from St. Tammany Parish Judge James Tate for her other siblings to be represented, before she could sell one of her Mother's houses. The second house was sold in the fall of the same year and some of the children of Henriette Laveau were still living across the lake!
I believe that this is strong evidence that supports my belief that Henriette Delille was born on the Tchefuncte River near the U.S. Navy Yard. As for those who maintain that she was born in the city limits of New Orleans, I say, please show me your proof and sources! Also, it is The Sisters of the Holy Family's belief that Henriette Delille was born in 1813 and this is good enough for me. One thing is certain however, that Henriette Delille was born during a critical and exciting period in the Archdiocese of the Catholic Church and New Orleans history!