The earliest mention of the French in colonial Virginia occurs in the year 1610. In June of that year Captain-General and Governor Lord De la Warr arrived off the Virginia coast at the mouth of the James River. Before proceeding up the river to Jamestown, he went ashore with several of his officers to inspect the soil and vegetation of his new dominion. All were charmed with the fertility and luxuriance which they beheld on every side, and the governor, as the account runs, on discerning the richness of the soil and the mildness of the climate "determined to set a Frenchman heere awork to plant Vines which grew naturally in great plentie." Going on up the river to Jamestown, De la Warr "alloted every Man his particular Place and Business. The French prepared to plant the Vines; the English laboured in the Woods and Grounds."
In 1619 Sir Edward Sandys, treasurer of the Virginia Company makes mention of the vines "which by culture will be brought to excellent perfection. For the affecting whereof divers skillful Vinerons are sent. . . .Our Frenchmen assure us that no Countrie in the World is more proper for vines . . . than Virginia."
In 1621, the new governor, Sir Francis Wyatt, was instructed "to plant Mulberry trees and make silk, and take care of the Frenchmen sent about that work."
The Virginia Company expected a great future for the wine and silk trade in the New World, and in order to foster it they brought over several skillful Frenchmen. The venture did not appear to succeed, however, and not long after their arrival in America the French began to plant tobacco--much against the wishes of the company, who saw a greater profit slipping away from it. The numbers of the French who were brought over at the expense of the company were probably not large, and their names have utterly perished.
In July, 1621, Sir Dudley Carleton, British ambassador at the Hague, received the following petition:
His lordship the ambassador of the most serene king of Great Britain is humbly entreated to advise and answer us in regard to the articles which follow.
I. Whether it would please his Majesty to permit fifty to sixty families, as well Walloons as French, all of the Reformed religion, to go and settle in Virginia, a country under his rule, and whether it would please him to undertake their protection and defense from and against all, and to maintain them in their religion.
II. And whereas the said families might find themselves near upon three hundred persons; and whereas they would wish to carry with them a quantity of cattle, as well for the cultivation of the earth as for their sustenance, and for these reasons would need more than one ship, whether his Majesty would not accommodate them with one, well equipped and furnished with cannon and other arms, on board of which, together with the one they would provide, they could accomplish their voyage; the same returning to obtain merchandise for the regions granted by his said Majesty, as well as that of the country.
III. Whether he would permit them, on their arrival in said country, to choose a convenient spot for their abode among the places not yet cultivated by those whom it has pleased to send thither already.
IV. Whether, having secured the said spot, they might build a city for their protection and furnish it with the necessary fortifications, wherein they might elect a governor and magistrates for the maintenance of order as well as justice, under those fundamental laws which it has pleased his Majesty to establish in said regions.
V. Whether his said Majesty would furnish them cannons and munitions for the defense of said place, and grant them right in case of necessity to make powder, fabricate balls and found cannons under the flag and arms of his said Majesty.
VI. Whether he would grant them a circuit or territory of eight English miles radius, that is sixteen in diameter, wherein they might cultivate fields, meadows, vineyards, and the like, which territory they would hold, whether conjointly or severally, from his Majesty in such fealty and homage as his Majesty should find reasonable, without allowing any other to swell there unless by taking out papers of residence within said territory, wherein they would reserve rights of inferior lordship; and whether those of them who could live as nobles would be permitted to style themselves such.
VII. Whether they would be permitted in the said lands to hunt all game, whether furred or feathered, to fish in the sea and rivers, and to cut heavy and small timber, as well for navigation as other purposes, according to their desire; in a word, whether they might make use of everything above and below ground according to their will and pleasure, saving the royal rights; and trade in everything with such persons as should be thereto privileged.
Sir Dudley himself, who knew Jesse de Forest, the leader of the petitioners, favoured the project and referred the matter to the lords in council, who for their part turned the petition over to the Virginia Company. The answer of the directors was not unfavourable, but they refused to give the would-be colonists a ship, "being utterly exhausted and unable to afford other help than advice as to the cheapest mode of transporting themselves." The company also said in its reply, "that for the prosperity and principally securing of the plantation in his Maj's obedience, it is not expedient that the said families should be set down in one gross and entire body, but that they should rather be placed in convenient numbers in the principal cities . . . there being given them such proportions of land and all other privileges and benefits whatsoever in as ample a manner as to the natural English." It is probable that the petitioners came to the conclusion that advice was quite as cheap in England as it was in Leyden, for they engaged in no further parleying with the Virginia Company. But what was Virginia's loss was New Amsterdam's gain, for two years later the Dutch sent part of the band to the mouth of the Hudson, as we have previously related.
After the fall of La Rochelle, the Baron De Sauce, a hero of the defense of that city under the Duke of Rohan, took refuge in England, and in 1629 begged permission of the government to establish a colony of Huguenots in Virginia "to cultivate vines and to make silke and salt there." The request was favourably received and he was given letters of denization for himself and son in order that he might return to France in safety to get his family and property. Careful preparations were made, and in due course of time the expedition sailed for Virginia. It landed safely on the southern side of the James River and a settlement was commenced in what is now the county of Nansemond, then known as "Southampton Hundred," a patent of 200,000 acres granted several years before.
No records of this colony have been discovered, and its fate is a matter of conjecture. Says Colonel R. L. Maury, who has carefully examined the Virginia records, "I have not been able to learn further of this colony; manifestly it did not flourish, and must have soon dispersed, having left no enduring memorial.
The place chosen for this abortive attempt at colonization was perhaps the worst that could have been selected in all Virginia. In 1698, Col. Wiliam Byrd, in helping the government to locate the band who finally settled at Manakin Town (about twenty miles above Richmond, on the James River), wrote of "Southampton Hundred," "that part is according to its name, for the most part low swampy ground, unfit for planting and Improvement and ye air of it very moist and unhealthy so that to send French thither that came from a dry and serene Clymate were to send them to their death, and that would very ill answer his Maj'tys charitable intentions."
The settlers did not all perish, however, for Huguenot names became frequent in the records of Norfolk County.
"AS the seventeenth century waxed so did the Huguenot emigration to Virginia continuously increase." The refugees came singly, or in isolated groups and families. Among the colonial legislatures that of Virginia was foremost in encouraging applications for naturalization. In 1659, or thereabouts, it was enacted, "That all aliens and strangers who have inhabited the country for the space of four years, and have a firme resolution to make this countrey their place of residence shall be free denizens of this collony." In 1661 the General Assembly of Virginia passed an act admitting all strangers desirous of making their homes in Virginia, to the liberties, privileges and immunities of natural born Englishmen, upon their petition to the Assembly, and upon taking the oaths of allegiance and supremacy. New York adopted a similar measure in 1783, and South Carolina fourteen years later. The colonies were in this ahead of the home government, which had not sanctioned such acts.
Among the Huguenots who took advantage of these laws were John Battaille, Richard Durand, De la Mundayes, Durant, de Hull, De Bar, D'Aubigne (Dabney), De la Nome, De Young, De Bandy, De Berry, Roger Fontaine, Stephen Fouace, Hillier, Hordan, Jourdan, La Furder, Lines, Louis, Lassall, La Mont (Lamont), Moyses, Martian, Mountery, Michael, Mellaney, Millechops, Moyssier, Morel, Norman, Noel, Poythers, Perin, Poleste, Paule, Perrot, Place, Pluvier, Pensax, Person, Pere, Pettit, Pruett, Pallisder, Robins, Ravenell, Robnett, Rosier, Regault, Roden, Roye, Rue, Regant, Revell, Royall, Sully, Sabrell, Sorrel, Sallis, Tollifer (Talliaferro), Therrialt, Toton, Tranier, Vicomte, Vasler, Vaux, Vallentine, Vauix, Vardie and Vodin.
Major Moore Faunt Le Roy, founder of a "very ancient and numerous family of Virginia" owned a large tract of land on the banks of the Rappahannock prior to 1651. In 1683 the Huguenot Relief Committee in London "Paid Mr. David Dashaise, Elder of the French Church in London, for fifty-five French Protestants to go to Virginia, Seventy pounds sterling." In 1687 Stephen Fouace came from London with letters from the Archbishop of Canterbury. He became rector of a church near Williamsburg, was prominent among the colonial clergy and was later made a trustee of William and Mary College. In 1689 came another Huguenot rector, the Rev. James Boisseau.
In the last decade of the seventeenth century at least a thousand French Protestants came to America, receiving transportation from the Relief Committee in London. A few of these settled in Florida, a number in South Carolina, but not less than 700 of them landed in Virginia, to establish a settlement, according to the earlier idea of Jesse de Forest. In 1700 four fleets sailed from Gravesend, bringing all told more than seven hundred of the French refugees, with "the brave and devoted" Marquis de la Muce at their head, and Charles de Sailly as his associate. There were with the expedition three ministers and two physicians. Various sites had been considered for a settlement, but on arrival in Virginia the colonists were directed to a spot about twenty miles above Richmond, on the James River, where they were given ten thousand acres of land which had belonged to the extinct [Note: they were not extinct, but had migrated upriver] tribe of Manakin [Monacan] Indians. Thus the name of the settlement became Manakintown. Baird says no more interesting body of colonists than that conducted by Oliver de la Muce had crossed the oceans. Many of them belonged to the persecuted Waldensian race, who had taken refuge in Switzerland when driven from their Piedmontese homes by the troops of Louis XIV. Their numbers being too large for the Swiss Cantons to support, England responded liberally to the appeal for aid, and they were given transportation to America, together with the Huguenots. Three thousand pounds were appropriated for "the transportation of five hundred Vaudois and French refugees designed from some of his Majesty's plantations." Of individual accounts the records show the sum of £38 given "out of the collection to Mons Benjamin DeJoux, Minister, appointed to go to Virginia, besides £24 for the providing of himself with necessities for the voyage. In August, 1700, the Bishop of London writes to the city chamberlain, "Sir: the bearer, Monsieur Castayne [Chastain], is going out Surgeon to ye French now departing for Virginia, He wants £20 to make up his Chest of Drugs and instruments. It is a very small matter for such a voyage; but if you have in your hands to supply that sum, I will answer for my Lord of Canterbury, that he shall allow of your so doing." Six pounds per head was allowed for transportation. The names of the other ministers were Claude Philippe de Richbourg and Louis Latane [Latané]. They and the two surgeons had plenty of occupation in caring for the large company under their charge.
Among the list of the expenses of the journey to "Manicanton" appear the following items: "for one distiller and one Kettle, 3£2s; to Mr. Stringer for fusils, coutlas, bayonetts, blunderbushes, flints, etc. 41£1s, for several Coates, waist coates, briches, etc. 10£; for blew Cloth handkerchieffs, cravets, etc., 26£; for a great Black Trunck to put ye goods in, 10s; for Brandy, Sugar, figgs, raisons and sugar buiscuits for the sick, 5£; to ye chip's crew for brandy 15s; for a boat to put some people ashoare, and to goe to Mr. Servant for a Certificate how he saw Capt. Hawes abuse us and our goods, and to bring ye salt, 3s; To Capt. Hawes for Hamacks, brandy, and other extraordinarys 21£8s; to Cuper for his sabre broken by ye sentry upon the Shippe, 2s 6d; for great nailes for the Pares (parish) doors, 9d; To ye Miller to suufer our people by his fire and to dispatch them, 2s 6d; to Corne for ye Horse, 1s."
In connection with the expenses of the journey it is interesting to note the bill of fare which was set before the transatlantic passengers of that day. From the agreement made before commencing the voyage we take the following: "To every passenger over six years to have 7 pounds of Bread every week, and each mess, 8 passengers to a mess, to have 4 pounds Porke 5 days in a week, with pease. 2 days in a week to have 2 four pound piece of Beefe with a pudding with pease. If the kettle cannot be boyled for bad weather, every passenger to have 1 pound of hceese per day." Those who were sick fared better, according to this item among the expenditures: "for Brandy, Sugar, figgs, raison and sugar bisicuits for the sick . . . £5." While fifteen shillings were presented "To ye ships crew for brandy," and five shippings "To ye Cooke."
All the Huguenots who came over with la Muce did not settle at Manakin Town, but scattered themselves through the province along the banks of the James and Rappahannock Rivers; some even pushing southward into the Carolina. Those who joined the settlement at Manakin Town were treated very liberally by the government of Virginia. By the king's orders the refugees were to be taken under the special protection of the governor, and the legislature showed every intention of making their settlement as easy and pleasant for them as lay within its power. Public subscriptions were taken for the purpose of relieving their most pressing necessities for good and shelter.
Says Beverly, in his history of Virginia: "The Assembly was very bountiful to those that remained at this town, bestowing on them large donations of money and provisions for their support. They likewise freed them from every tax for several years to come, and addressed the governor to grant them a brief, to entitle them to the charity of all well-disposed persons throughout the country, which, together with the king's benevolence, supported them very comfortably till they could sufficiently supply themselves with necessaries, which they now do indifferently well, and have stocks of cattle which are said to give abundance of milk more than any other in the country. In the year 1702 they began an essay of wine which they make of the wild grapes gathered in the woods, the effect of which was a strong bodied claret of good flavour. I heard a gentleman who had tasted it, give it great commendation. I have heard that these people are upon the design of getting into the breed of buffaloes, to which end they lay in wait for their calves, that they may tame and raise a stock of them, in which, if they succeed, it will in all probability be greatly for their advantage; for these are much larger than the cattle, and have the benefit of being natural to the climate. They now make their own clothes, and are resolved, as soon as they have improved that manufacture, to apply themselves to the making of wine and brandy, which they do not doubt to bring to perfection." But the endeavour to introduce the manufactures of France here at the extreme frontier of Virginia was a task too great for any set of colonists, and was doomed to failure from the first. In planning as they did they showed the characteristic Huguenot enterprise, but the necessities of life drove them to agriculture as the only means of keeping the wolfe from the door.
A letter from William Byrd thus described the settlment a year after its founding; "We visited about seventy of their huts, being, most of them very mean; there being upwards of fourty of h'm betwixt ye two creeks, w'ch is about 4 miles along on ye River, and have cleared all ye old Manacan ffields for near three miles together, as also some others (who came thither last ffeb'ry) have done more work than they y't went thither first. . . .Indeed, they are very poor. . . . Tho' these people are very poor, yet tthey seem very cheerful and are (as farr as we could learn) very healthy, all they seem to desire is y't they might have Bread enough."
The strict parish laws of the province were relaxed in favour of the Manakin Town settlers. In 1700 the Assembly enacted as followed:
Whereas a considerable number of French Protestant refugees have been lately imported into his Majesty's colony and dominions, several of which refugees have seated themselves above the falls of James River, at, or near to a place commonly called and known by the name of Manakin towne, for the encouragement of said refugee to settle and remain together, as near as may be to the said Manakin towne, and the parts adjacent, shall be accounted and taken for inhabitants of a distinct parish by themselves; and the land which they now do and shall hereafter possess, at, or adjacent, to the said Manakin towne, shall be, and is hereby declared to be a parish of itselfe, distinct from any other parish, to be called and known by the name of King William Parish, in the county of Henrico, and not lyable to the payment of parish levies in any other parish whatsoever. And be it further enacted; That such and so many of the said refugees, as are already settled, or shall hereafter settle themselves as inhabitants of the said parish, shall themselves and their familyes, and every of them, be free and exempted from the payment of public and county levies for the space of seven years next, ensuring from the publication of this act.
Owing to such liberal treatment the colonists were enabled to have a church of their own, and at the first division of land a choice plot of the best glebe was set apart for the use of the pastor. The church which was immediately organized (as a matter of fact the colonists had come as one united church) prospered with the growth of the settlement. According to Bishop Meade, the life of this old church lasted down to about the middle of the last century, services being held in the name of the original organization until 1857. Where harmony and quiet prosperity are the rule, there is apt to be a dearth of material in the shape of records and documents. Such is the case with the church at Manakin Town. The peace was broken, however, in the year 1707, when there was an altercation between the pastor and the vestry. Abram Salle [Sallé], vestryman, deposeth:
When Mr. Philipe had finished the service of the . . . the first thing he did was to demand the Register of Christenings to be delivered up to him . . . and in case he (Salle) refuse to do it he would excommunicate him; he was pleased to say this with a rage very unbecoming the place, which made me intreat him to have a little patience . . . upon this he flew out into a greater passion than before and frankly told us that he acknowledged no Vestry there was, neither would he have the people acknowledge any. Immediately upon his nameing the People, sevarol of his party . . . stood up . . . and took the liberty to utter many injurious things against me . . . and Michael . . . prest thro' the whole congregation to get up to where I was, and then catching me by the coat he threatened me very handly, and by his Example sevarol of the crowd were heard to say, we must assassinate that fellow with the black beard. The said Philipe was--lowder than anybody.
Rev. W. H. Foote writes of the colonists in Virginia as follows: "The colonists that remained at Manakin town, disappointed in their efforts to introduce the manufactures and productions of France, conformed their labours to the soil and climate and conditions of a frontier settlement; and went on increasing and multiplying, and subduing the earth, according to the command of God in Eden. The ten thousand acres were soon too few for this enterprising people. They lengthened their cords and strengthened their stakes, and soon began to emigrate to portions of the unoccupied wilderness of Virginia. Goochland, and Fluvanna, and Louisa, and Albermarle, and Buckingham, and Powhatan, and Chesterfield, and Prince Edward, and Cumberland, and Charlotte, and Appomattox, and Campbell, and Pittsylvania, and Halifax, and Mecklinburg, all gave these emigrants a home. And then county after county to the west and south beckoned them on; and they went on and grew and multiplied according to the blessing of Jacob on Joseph's children. Go over Virginia and ask for the descendants of those Huguenot families, that cast their lot, on their first landing, among the English neighbourhoods, and as speedily as possible conformed to the political usages of the colony, and adopted the English language, and by intermarriage were soon commingled with English society, and then follow the colonists of Manakin town, as they more slowly assimilated with the English; and number those that by direct descent, or by intermarriage have Huguenot blood in their veins, and the list will swell to an immense multitude. The influence which these descendants of the French refugees have had, and still exercise, in the formation and preservation of the character of the state and the nation, has unostentatiously and widely extended.
Happily settled, indeed, were the French refugees in what they made one of the garden spots of the country. They were not far from the home of Pocahontas, the Indian princess, where, a little more than a century before, Captain John Smith had found his brave rescuer, and put a touch of enduring romance into the first days of the white foreigner on American soil. The Indians were not yet gone, and sometimes the French were made to feel a spirit of vengeance that classed all whites as alike enemies of the red man. To the English Cavaliers and the French gentlemen Virginia owes its peculiar type of cultivation, which made the plantations the scene of a gallantry and courtliness and grace not yet extinct. Where other nations often sent their poorest classes as emigrants, France had driven away her best to enrich the life of another and freer land.
One of the most distinguished of the Huguenot families of Virginia was that of the Bufords, a corruption of the original name of Beaufort, meaning "beautiful fort," or castle. The name was variously spelled, as Beauford, Bufford, and Buford, the form finally common. Some members of this family, which was royal and allied to Henry IV, were Huguenots, and emigrated to England after Revocation. From England some came to America, and in both countries the descendants are found to-day. The Virginia ancestor was John Beauford, of Christchurch Parish, Middlesex County. From him came a distinguished line of soldiers, who served their country well, some of them conspicuously. The Third Virginia Regiment in the Revolution had Colonel Buford at its head; and two other military members of the family were Major-General Napoleon B. Buford, and Major-General John Buford. General James H. Wilson unhesitatingly ascribes to General John Buford the distinction of making Gettysburg possible. General Buford fired the first gun at Gettysburg, and in the address at the unveiling of his statue General Wilson said: "Strong, courageous, and generous, as they (the Bufords) were through many generations, the very flower and jewel of this family was the gentleman in whose name we gathered to-day. He selected Gettysburg for the field of battle."
General Buford was called by the soldiers "Old Steadfast." He himself said of Gettysburg: "A heavy task was before us. We were equal to it, and shall remember with pride that at Gettysburg we did our country much service." He was of the true type of French gentleman and loyal citizen.