Friday, February 15, 2013

250 Years Ago* ... St. Louis was only a twinkle in the eye...

Happy Birthday St. Louis.  Today, February 15, 2013, is your 249th birthday (or maybe it was yesterday, it depends who you ask.  The group arrived on the 14th but they didn't "break ground" until the 15th?).  One more year to go until the Big Birthday.


250 years ago St. Louis was still only a twinkle in the eyes of Maxent and Laclede.  The final copy of the Treaty of Paris, signed only a few weeks previously, would not yet have arrived in New Orleans.  In November, Paris had sent a letter to Governor Kerlerec notifying him of the proposed terms of the treaty but that letter would not arrive in New Orleans until April of 1763.  But Canada and Detroit had been under British occupation since the end of 1760.  If there were not rumors of the treaty 's proposed terms coming from the east, down the Wabash River to the Ohio and then the Mississippi, there certainly would have been speculation.  The transfer of the west side of the Mississippi from France to Spain, however, remained a secret.

In any event, Laclede was scheduled to leave with the summer convoys up the Mississippi to establish a post on the west side of the Mississippi near the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi rivers.  Laclede would need men and merchandise to take with him. Presumably, by February of 1763 he and Maxent were in the midst of their planning for the new post and the journey up the Mississippi.  

In the meantime, the people of the Illinois Country were hearing rumors of continued war against the British by the allied Indian tribes.  It appears that the French garrison at Fort de Chartres held themselves aloof from the entreaties of the Indian allies to act against the British, but messages were traveling between the tribes in the Illinois and Ohio Countries.  In his excellent book, The Middle Ground, Richard White examines the rapidly deteriorating attitudes of the tribes to the conquering British.  "By the fall of 1762", he writes, "the most experienced Indian traders on the Ohio River expected war."  France could make peace only for itself, not for its Indian allies.

But the people of the little village of Nouvelle Chartres had other things on their mind.  Just the day before, the village had buried a ten year old boy.

In the year one thousand seven hundred sixty-three, the fourteenth of January was buried the body of the son of Sanschagrin, otherwise called Joseph Henet, who died at ten years of age, without the Sacraments.+
The boy is a member of the Hennet dit Sanschagrin family, one of the older families in Nouvelle Chartres.  He seems to be the son of Joseph Hennet dit Sanchagrin (although the clumsy wording makes it possible that the boy's name was also Joseph).  The fact that the mother is not named and no sacraments were administered might mean that the child was illegitimate, but it isn't clear.

Joseph Hennet dit Sanschagrin was the son of Francois Hennet dit Sanschagrin, who had emigrated to the Illinois country from Switzerland, and Marianne Charpain.  Marianne seems to have died in 1734.  Francois, the father, died in December, 1746 at age 50 leaving children who were not yet of age, including his son Joseph.  The oldest son, Francois the younger, was named guardian of his younger siblings.  Francois the younger was a master roofer and in June of 1746 he had married Marguerite Becquet, the daughter of my ancestors Jean Baptiste Nicolas Becquet and Catherine Barreau.  So, depending on the circumstances, it is possible that the entire Becquet family had attended the burial.

+See Brown and Dean's The Village of Chartres in Colonial Illinois 1720-1765;  See also, Natalia Maree Belting's Kaskaskia under the French Regime .

*Part of my continuing blog series leading up to the 250th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis in February 2014.