The Continental Monthly, Vol. 3, No. 1 January 1863 Devoted To Literature And National Policy

by: Various

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Language: English
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THE HUGUENOTS OF NEW ROCHELLE.

It is worthy of record that Westchester County, New York, was settled by emigrants from New England and France, and both seeking homes from religious persecutions. As early as 1642, John Throcmorton, with thirty-five associates, made the first settlement in this section, with the approbation of the Dutch authorities. With Roger Williams, driven away from New England by the violence of Hugh Peters, they came here, and called the region Viedeland or Land of Peace—a beautiful name for the region of those seeking rest of conscience from wicked and violent men. But even here the Puritan did not find the desired quiet and safety; for several of his band perished in the Indian massacre that sorely visited New Netherland on the 6th of October, 1643.

The next settlement of Westchester was commenced in the year 1654, also by some Puritans from Connecticut, who adopted its present name, and the Rev. Ezekiel Fogge was their first 'independent minister;' and in 1684 a Mr. Warham Mather was called 'for one whole year, and that he shall have sixty pounds, in country produce, at money price, for his salary, and that he shall be paid every quarter.' Governor Fletcher, however, declined inducting the Presbyterian into that living, 'as it was altogether impossible,' he said, 'it being wholly repugnant to the laws of England to compel the subject to pay for the maintenance of any minister who was not of the national Church.' The Episcopal Governor, however, proposes 'a medium in that matter.' Some French emigrants had already found their way to this region, and M. Boudet, a French Protestant minister of Boston, who was in orders from the Bishop of London, could preach in French and English, and the people called him to the living, the parish being large enough for two clergymen. M. Boudet was accordingly sent for, hoping, as the English Governor writes, 'to bring the congregation over to the Church;' but, 'when he came, they refused to call him.' The Yankee Puritans were evidently not to be outmanaged by the English churchman. Westchester then numbered 'two or three hundred English and Dissenters; a few Dutch.'

On the 20th September, 1689, Jacob Leisler, of New York, purchased of Mr. Pell 6,000 acres of land in Westchester, a portion of the manor of Pelham, obtained from the Indians in 1640-'49. The grantor, heirs, and assigns, as an acknowledgment, were to pay Mr. Pell 'one fatted calf on every fourth and twentieth day of June, yearly, and every year, forever, if demanded.' It is a well known fact that every Huguenot, on the festival of St. John, pays his proportion toward the purchase of the fat calf whenever claimed.

During the year 1690, Leisler leased to the banished Huguenots these lands, purchased for them, as they came directly here from England, and were a portion of the 50,000 who found safety in that glorious Protestant kingdom four years before the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. At the revocation itself, not less than half a million escaped from bigoted France to Holland, Germany, and England; and to those in the latter country, Charles II., then on the British throne, granted letters of denization under the great seal, and Parliament relieved them from 'importation duties and passport fees.' During this same year, many, flying from France, were aided in their escape by English vessels off the island of Rhé, opposite brave La Rochelle. According to tradition, some of these were transported to this region, naming their new settlement in honor of their

'Own Rochelle, the fair Rochelle,
Proud city of the waters.'

In the Documentary History of New York, vol. iii., p. 926, we find a petition to Colonel Fletcher, Governor of the colony, signed by Thanet, and Elei Cothouneau, in behalf of above twenty of these French refugees. 'Your petitioners,' they state, 'having been forced, by the late persecutions in France, to forsake their country and estates, and flye to ye Protestant princes * * *, wherefore they were invited to come and buy lands in this province, and they might by their labour help the necessityes of their families, and did spend all their small store with the aid of their friends, whereof they did borrow great sums of money [MS. torn]. They had lost their country and their estates, but saved their good principles and a pure faith; and, in a strange land, petitioned his Excellency 'to take their case in serious consideration, and out of charity and pity to grant them for some years what help and privileges your Excellency shall think convenient.' This is one of the earliest authentic records (1681) we have met with concerning the New Rochelle French refugees.

Pell, the lord of the manor, besides the 6,000 acres already obtained, also granted 100 additional, 'for the sake of the French church, erected or about to be erected, by the inhabitants of the said tract of land.' This Huguenot church in New Rochelle was built about 1692-'93, of wood, and stood in the rear of the present mansion house. It was destroyed soon after the Revolutionary war. Louis Bougeaud, about the same time, donated a piece of land forty paces square, for a churchyard to bury their dead; and, subsequently, a house with three acres of land was given by the town to the Huguenot church forever.

The Rev. David Bourepos was the first minister of the New Rochelle Huguenots; he had likewise served his French brethren on Staten Island....