Affidavit before Magistrates — Retaliation on French prisoners — Removal to Dublin — Haunted house — Appear before grand jury — Award school — Education of children — Peter enters College — John gets a commission in the army — Moses and Francis enter college — Moses studies law — Emigration to America — Marriage of children — Death of my wife — Failure of health — Conclusion.
Leaving Peter on his cruise, I will return to myself. As soon as I was well enough to mount a horse, I rode over to Kinsale with my son James, and two of the servants, and waited on the Chief Magistrate, and made an affidavit to the effect, that after capitulating upon terms with the express stipulation that we should have life and liberty, I had been forcibly carried off as a prisoner, and had only been released on the payment of £30, and leaving one of my sons as a hostage for the payment of the other £70.
The Governor, or commanding officer of Kinsale, as a retaliatory measure, immediately put all the French officers in irons who had been taken in the war, and were stationed there. He sent a copy of my affidavit to Plymouth, where there were numbers of French prisoners, and all these were likewise put in irons. You may suppose the letters of complaint from Kinsale and Plymouth were very numerous.
By the time the Captain got back a second time to St. Maloes, public feeling was much excited against him, and he was summoned to appear before the Governor of Brest, who wished to put him in prison, and even threatened to hang him. He made the most humble apologies, and was set at liberty only upon promising that he would convey Peter immediately to the place from whence he had taken him. Thus was our dear son restored to our arms, and that without our having to pay the £70, for which he was taken as a hostage.
I took all my family to Dublin except James, and it is unnecessary to say that we were in miserable plight.
I waited upon General Ingoldsby, one of the Council, and he presented me at once with an order for £100, which was the more acceptable as it was altogether unexpected. He had made an application for it as soon as he heard of my misfortunes, and that £100 was the sum demanded for my ransom.
I had made the acquaintance of this valuable friend only two months before our disaster. He had been deputed by Government to make a tour of inspection along the south-west coast of Ireland to select the most suitable harbor on which to erect a fortification. I went as far as Dunmannus to meet him, thirty-six miles from our house, where I invited him to sojourn when he came into the neighborhood.
He accepted my invitation, and he and his whole retinue remained with me three days, during which time I treated them as hospitably as I possibly could, making them welcome to the best the country afforded. Having had a little notice beforehand, we had time to make preparations, and I was able to have as many as fourteen or fifteen different dishes on the table every day, and a great variety of wine. He has been one of my best friends from that day to this. You may here notice once more the Providence of God, raising up for me, beforehand, a powerful friend against the day of need.
I determined to take up my abode for the future in the city of Dublin, and to try to maintain my family by keeping a school for instruction in Latin, Greek and French.
I found a house on St. Stephen’s Green, that I thought would answer our purpose extremely well. It had been originally very well built, but was a good deal out of repair, owing to its having been long without a tenant; and it had, moreover, the reputation of being haunted by evil spirits. My wife and I entertained no apprehension of being disturbed by any unearthly visitors, so we were very glad to get this house upon lower terms in consequence of the prejudice that existed. I obtained a lease of it for ninety and nine years at £10 per annum. It was a large house, forty feet square, it had good substantial stone walls, and all the carpenters’ work was of oak. There was a yard and a garden attached to it three hundred feet in depth, and the width of the house.
I was obliged to leave Dublin before we took possession of the house, in order to prosecute my claim for damages, upon the county of Cork, for injuries received at the hands of Irishmen in the French privateer. By law, the county is liable to make good all losses sustained by violence and robbery, provided the persons committing the act are natives and not foreigners. I had given due notice to the High Constable of the Barony, within the time limited by act of Parliament, and all that remained for me now to do was to prove the facts to the satisfaction of the grand jury of the county of Cork. I took my son James and two servants with me as witnesses, and I had no difficulty whatever in proving the robbery, and also that there were many Irishmen among the assailants. I presented an inventory of the property I had lost, particularizing those articles which had been carried away, and those which had been destroyed by fire.
No one was more active in my behalf than Captain Cox, the son of Chancellor Cox, whom I have named before as accompanying the Duke of Ormond to the south of Ireland. It happened that I had made him a present of a handsome watch only three days before the privateer attacked us. The watch was a good time-piece, but it attracted his notice from having a miniature of the late Queen, wife of James II., at the back of it. He appeared to admire it so exceedingly that I gave it to him, and I was really glad of the opportunity of making him an acceptable present. I had received it in barter for some of my manufactured goods when I was living in Taunton. As soon as he heard of my losses, he proposed to return it to me, but I would not consent; for, if I had not given it to him, the pirates would certainly have carried it off.
The grand jury examined witnesses, and being fully satisfied that Irishmen had been concerned in the attack and robbery, they awarded me the sum of £800, to be paid by the county of Cork, in conformity with the provisions of an act of Parliament.
I gave my son James a power of attorney, authorizing him to receive the money, pay off all debts, and close my accounts at Bear Haven, and I returned to Dublin. My wife had been subject to some annoyance in my absence. I have said that the house I had taken was supposed to be haunted, and had remained unoccupied from superstitious fears. It appeared that it had been taken possession of by a party of vagrants, who were in the habit of alarming persons who attempted to occupy it, and thus arose the evil reputation of the house. When my wife went to it, these people told her they had been permitted to live in the house while it was untenanted, and begged to be allowed to remain a few days longer. It was not in her kind nature to refuse such a favor.
The first night neither she nor the children—they were all in one room—could get any sleep for the constant noises they heard. The old occupants were trying the game upon her which had been successful with others who had attempted to live in the house. She was very suspicious as to the noise being made by beings of flesh and blood and not by spirits. She bore it the first night, and, believing she had discovered the secret, she made her preparations accordingly for the second night.
She borrowed firearms and swords, called the inmates together before dark, and warned them to be sure not to leave their rooms if the noises should recur during the night, because she had provided herself with firearms, and she and her son had determined to make use of them against the evil spirit that made the disturbance; therefore, they would see the propriety of keeping out of the way for fear they might be killed by accident. As may be supposed, the evil spirits were heard no more.
On my return, I made them all quit the premises: I had the house thoroughly repaired, made some alterations to fit it for a large family, and when all was completed, I found that it had cost me £450. In this house I have lived ever since.
I have had a good school, taking both boarders and day scholars; and I have thus been able to give my children an education inferior in no respect to that bestowed upon the first nobles of the land. They have had masters for writing, drawing, dancing, and fencing; and with me they have prosecuted their studies in Latin, Greek, geography, mathematics, and fortification. I have never spared any expense, either for boys or girls, by which I could give them greater opportunities of education and general improvement. My daughters have been instructed in drawing, and in every variety of ornamental needlework, in addition to the more solid branches of education.
Let us pause a moment for reflection upon the mercies and loving-kindness of our Heavenly Father, and our own short-sightedness. How distressing did it appear to me to lose, by the fisheries at Bear Haven, the property for which I had toiled year after year! When the final blow came by which we were so disastrously stripped of everything, it appeared to be overwhelming; and yet without it, I should never, most probably, have had the means to clear myself of debt, and I should have been obliged to spend the residue of my days at Bear Haven, and have had to bring you all up in that desert, where it would have been absolutely impossible for me to have given you the excellent education you have received in Dublin; and from this I wish you to arrive at the conclusion, that God knows what is good for us much better than we do ourselves. If this becomes your settled conviction, there is no language equal to describing the peace of mind that it will cause. For my own part, I endeavor to receive with perfect submission every dispensation from the hand of my Maker; even though I see nothing but poverty, sorrows, and afflictions, grievous to the flesh, I can wait patiently his good time, for I know that in the end the result will be for the benefit of me and mine.
Here follows an incident quite to the purpose. General Ingoldsby, whose friendship for me was such that he was always on the look-out for something to benefit me, thought he had hit upon a plan that would be very agreeable to me. He had received orders to send all the half-pay officers, that were in Ireland, to Spain, and he entered the names of my sons Peter and John upon the list, without saying anything to us until it was done. The boys were wild with joy at the idea of entering the army, and escaping from the drudgery of study.
I gave them but little recreation, it is true; I tried, however, to make it easy by alternations from one employment to another so as to relieve the mind by variety. Latin and Greek were studies which they were obliged to attend to as tasks. I endeavored to make them look upon all the other things which they learned as relaxation and indulgence.
Mr. Secretary Dawson was not so favorably disposed, as General Ingoldsby was, towards us, and he refused to make out the commissions for my sons. He told the General that he had exceeded his powers by entering, upon the half-pay list, officers who had never served. Our kind friend was much chagrined at this unexpected obstacle, but he told us not to fret and he should probably yet have it in his power to serve us. The boys were most grievously disappointed; I was not. I had felt unwilling to decline an offer that promised to be advantageous, and which my sons were themselves so desirous to accept, but at the same time I thought them fully too young to venture from the shelter of a parent’s wing. I also preferred their continuing longer at study.
The half-pay officers embarked at Cork to go to Plymouth, there to join the fleet for Spain, my sons not of the number. On the passage, they were attacked by a French man-of-war, and though confessedly so inferior in size as not to warrant resistance, yet the officers of the army who were on board, being very numerous, would not consent to surrender without a fight—as mere passengers they should not have had a voice in the matter—and in the engagement which took place, one half were killed, almost all the remainder wounded, and they were obliged to surrender.
When the sad news reached us, I returned thanks to God with my whole heart for his having refused to me and mine what had been so ardently desired. Oh! my dear children, learn to place your trust in that Providence which will preserve you, even in spite of yourselves, if you will only trust in it. What a comfort it is to be able to realize that we are under the especial care of so wise, so powerful and so benevolent a Guide, one who only refuses to our prayers that which he knows would be prejudicial to us.
In the month of June, 1711, Peter was ready to enter college. Dr. Hall was to be his tutor, and he with the greatest kindness and generosity declined receiving the usual fees with him. He did the same by Moses and Francis when they went to college, by which I consider he made me a present of £35 or £36. In addition to this he procured a room for them free of rent and charges, which would have amounted to £27 more, and all this from pure benevolence and generosity, for we had never done anything to deserve such kindness at his hands.
About this time, Lord Wharton being now the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, an order was received instructing him to dispatch all the regiments that were in Ireland to Spain. In examining the troops, it was found that a great many sons of officers had been entered, who were mere children, therefore, before sending the regiments abroad, the Lord Lieutenant struck off the roll all under sixteen years of age, as too young for service. He was a little too fond of money, and he availed himself of the vacancies he had created, to add to his store, by selling the commissions for money.
John had set his heart upon being a soldier, and, by the advice of General Ingoldsby, I took the young man with me to wait upon Lord Wharton, to apply for a commission. I told him my circumstances would not allow of my purchasing one, I showed him some specimens of military drawings made by John. He was pleased with his appearance, and said it was a pity that one so handsome and so well formed should not have a commission, but still he did not promise to give him one, for he hoped to find purchasers for the whole. I renewed my application from time to time, and at last, on the very eve of departure, finding that some of the commissions were unsold, General Ingoldsby went himself to the Lord Lieutenant and obtained an Ensign’s commission for John, without our having to pay any thing more than the fees of office. The necessary expenses for his equipment amounted to £75. He was in the regiment commanded by Colonel Shawe, a cruel, avaricious man, a drunkard and a debauchee, who looked upon him with an evil eye, because he had entered the army through the favor of General Ingoldsby.
I leave John to tell his own story of his sufferings and mortification under such a Colonel, and of the severe illness he had in Spain. I feel myself bound, however, to acknowledge, in this place, the great goodness of God, in returning him to us safe and sound. He received several wounds himself and had wounded others, being often obliged to put his hand to his sword, but he never killed any body. I bless God, most especially for having preserved him amid dissolute companions, and scenes of temptation, from acquiring any vicious habit, and I earnestly beseech him to continue his fatherly protection.
In June, 1712, Moses and Francis entered college with great approbation from all the Professors.
Francis was very young, and small of his age, but he had excellent talents which he had most diligently cultivated. He had also enough of self-confidence to bring all his acquirements in to play, and do himself full justice. He was the admiration of the whole college as long as he remained there, which was seven years and a half.
I purchased an apartment in the college, for the use of the three, and after painting, putting necessary articles of furniture in it, and making closets, it stood me in £42. They always had the use of this room without interruption or intrusion from any one, and when the two older ones left college, and Francis was there alone, I made interest that he should have no companion. My object was to avoid the possibility of their being corrupted by vicious companions, or drawn from their studies by idle ones, which very often happens to young persons whose principles are not firmly established. Thanks be to God, they preserved their purity of manners and holiness of life.
About two years afterwards, I entered Moses on the books of the Inns of Court at the Temple, in London, because he intended to be a lawyer. He continued to study with great assiduity, and was well endowed in point of talent, but he had a most painful timidity and reserve. He went to London in 1715, and remained a year and some months; he then came home, and took his degree of Bachelor of Arts, for it was my wish that he should have it in his power to pursue the study of Theology, if he should hereafter find that he preferred it to law.
While Moses was in London, I went to the expense of entering Francis also at the Temple. He was of a very quick and ready turn, and had the gift of fluency of speech in a remark able degree, which made me think he might choose the law for his profession, but thanks be to God, he has chosen to dedicate himself to His service, and to prepare himself for the holy ministry.
In the month of November, 1713, Captain Boulay, a French gentleman, a half-pay cavalry officer, with whom I had not the slightest acquaintance, called upon me to offer his granddaughter in marriage to one of my sons. She was his sole descendant, her father and mother were both dead, and she was to inherit all his property. He told me he had heard an excellent report of my sons, that they had been well brought up, and conducted themselves with propriety on every occasion, being free from the follies and vices of the age, and this had made him wish to secure one of them as a protector for his grand-child when his head should be laid low. He said he preferred in the husband of his child virtue without fortune, to the largest property unaccompanied by the piety and discretion which he believed them to have. He was upwards of eighty years of age; his grand-daughter, Elizabeth Fourreau, was about thirteen.
I thanked him very much for the flattering terms in which he had made the proposal, and told him I thought the best plan would be for him to send her to us, as though she were a boarder, and then we might observe which of my sons liked her the best, and for which of them she might feel a preference.
This plan met his views, and she came to live with us. We found her to be a girl of very amiable temper, sweet disposition, and very fair natural talents, but her education had been extremely neglected.
My sons consulted with each other about their feelings on the subject of the proposed marriage, and Peter, by the advice of his brothers, determined upon it.
Marriage articles were drawn up, and on the 29th March, 1714, the marriage took place with great privacy, because Peter had not yet taken his degree of Bachelor of Arts.
It was about this time that we began to turn our eyes towards America, as a country that would be most suitable for the future residence of the family.
John, the officer, was without employment, it was therefore determined that he should make a voyage to America, travel through every part where the climate was temperate, and purchase a plantation, in such situation as he judged would prove in all respects the most advantageous.
He landed in Virginia, travelled through that colony, as well as through parts of Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, to the town of New-York. He came to the conclusion that Virginia presented the most desirable circumstances, taking everything into consideration; he purchased a plantation there, and also found a parish or benefice in the vicinity of his purchase, which he thought would suit Peter, and wrote to him to that effect.
Captain Boulay died in March, 1715, which made Peter the owner of £1000. He had taken his degree, and was ready to be ordained at the time he received John’s letter. He accordingly went to London, and received ordination from the hands of the Bishop of London, who is also Bishop of al the British colonies.
In February or March, Moses conducted Peter’s wife to join him in London; they embarked thence for Virginia, where they found John impatiently expecting them; and I have had the satisfaction of hearing from them that they are comfortably settled in their new home.
Moses remained in London, studying law with great diligence.
Francis was still at college, and a close student.
I was engaged all the time with my school; I had scholars enough to enable me to meet the heavy expenditure which had been going on, both in the maintenance of my family, and the education of my children.
I now felt that I had done for my sons all that was necessary; I ceased to feel anxious for them. They were all old enough to maintain themselves; but I could not help feeling anxious about the future support of my wife and daughters. Should I be taken from them they would have nothing, for I had not been able to lay up anything for them. My pension would cease at my death, and the school, of course; so they would, to all appearance, be left destitute.
Lord Galway was now Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, and as he was my friend, I thought I might, through his aid, make an arrangement, by which my pension would be continued to my wife and daughters. I waited upon him, and explained to him my cause of anxiety, and begged that he would transfer my pension to my wife and daughters—one shilling a day to my wife, and two shillings each to my two daughters. He granted me the favor; he had my name erased on the pension list, and the names of my wife and daughters inserted in the place, by which I had very nearly lost the pension altogether, without my wife and daughters gaining it.
The list which Lord Galway sent to London was not approved of; and many persons were deprived of their pensions, under circumstances exactly similar to mine. The same good God, whose providential care I have so often pointed for me out to you, befriended me once more, and raised up friends in Parliament, who spoke so warmly in my behalf, when the subject came under discussion, that I was reinstated in my pension as before.
While this was going on, my eldest daughter, Mary Anne, was married, with the consent of the whole family, on the twentieth of October, 1716, to Matthew Maury, of Castel Mauron, Gascony. He was a very honest man, and a good economist, but without property. He had lived in Dublin for two years, having come thither from France as a Refugee.
James was then next who went to Virginia. He sailed in April, 1717, and took with him his wife and child, and his mother-in-law. They had a very disastrous voyage; the vessel sprung a leak, and they were obliged to work the pumps night and day, without intermission, for twenty-six days. They arrived in safety at last. John met them, conducted them to a house he had provided for them, where he had most considerately laid up grain ready for their use.
In the same year, my son-in-law, Mr. Maury, went to Virginia, and he was so much pleased with the appearance of the country, that he took a portion of the land John had purchased, made preparations for a small dwelling-house to be erected upon it, and returned for his wife, and a son that had been born to him during his absence. They left us in the month of September, 1719.
In this year Moses became disgusted with the study of law; he had some scruples of conscience about the practice of it; and his natural diffidence was unfavorable to success. I wished him exceedingly to study Theology, but I could not persuade him. He said he knew that it would be impossible for him ever to speak in public. He made up his mind to be an engraver, which I did not approve of, after having given him an education to fit him for one of the learned professions. He would not do anything without my consent, and he continued so resolute in his wish, that I was obliged to yield; and in the year 1719, he bound himself apprentice to an engraver. I am told he is a very good artist. It is certain that he evinced a decided talent for drawing; when he was instructed in the art as a boy. May God bless and prosper him in an employment which he allowed him to show so strong a preference for.
John returned to London from Virginia in the month of July, 1719, and he soon after came home to us, and remained more than a year, when he accompanied Francis to London. The latter had been devoted to study from infancy, and had determined to be a preacher of the Gospel. He had taken his degree of Master of Arts, and he was well skilled in the Oriental Languages, as well as in all the more usual branches of college education. The Archbishop of Dublin gave him a most particular letter of recommendation to the Bishop of London, from whom he received both Deacon’s and Priest’s orders, and many marks of kindness. He was married, in London, to Miss Mary Glanisson, a young lady of French parentage, the family originally from Jonzac, in Saintonge.
The Bishop of London furnished him with a letter of introduction to the Governor of Virginia, and he and his wife soon afterwards sailed for that colony. When he arrived, he was so much admired by all who heard him preach, that many parishes were desirous to have him for their pastor, and he gained the esteem and friendship of all who came in contact with him. He is settled in St. Margaret’s Parish, King William County, where he is so much beloved, that his parishioners have bestowed favors upon him, such as no previous minister had received from them. I have lately had the gratification of hearing from him that God has given him a son.
John, becoming weary of passing his time without any settled occupation, has been learning the trade of a watchmaker, from his cousin, Peter Forestier, with whom he always boarded when he went to London. His reputation was great for making repeating watches. I find, by a late letter from John, that he has begun to work on his own account, which I am pleased to hear, for it will make him independent, in case he should be deprived of the half-pay which he has hitherto received.
I have now, my dear children, given you a brief statement of the present condition of each one of you, and I hope that you will add your individual histories to this, for the benefit of those who come after you.
My memoirs draw near a close.Your poor mother had suffered much from rheumatism for three years before John and Francis left us; this painful disorder continued to increase upon her till she was no longer able to go to church, and her spirits became much depressed under this privation. Finally, her complaint turned to dropsy, and she was unable to leave her bed. On the twenty-ninth of January, 1721, her sufferings were ended by death.
A melancholy day it was that deprived me of my greatest earthly comfort and consolation! I was bowed to the very dust, but it made me think of my own latter end, and gave me a wholesome warning to prepare myself to join her.
During her illness, our dear daughter Elizabeth supplied the place of all her brothers and her sister, who had left her alone to comfort and sustain her aged parents; she took the greatest possible care of her mother, she never spared herself in any way, but did everything cheerfully that she thought would be acceptable or beneficial.
Though I was sadly overpowered and much enfeebled, by this great affliction, I continued to attend to the duties of my school until the month of September, in the same year. My health then became so bad that I broke up my school, dismissed the boarders as well as the day-scholars, in order that I might be at leisure to prepare for the great and awful change that I was assured could not be far distant. It was my wish to withdraw from worldly care and die in peace.
After remaining some months in a deplorable state, suffering from constant low fever and other distressing symptoms, given over by my physicians, and without the least expectation of recovery on my own part, I was severely attacked with the gout, from which I had been free for eighteen months, and this new disorder drove away all others. The fever disappeared, my appetite returned, and I have continued ever since in a tolerable state of health, though suffering from debility, finding it difficult to use my limbs, and walking with great pain.
Your sister Elizabeth has, all this time, given me constant proofs of her affection and tenderness. She has never caused me the least pain except by her tears, which she has not at all times been able to restrain, and by the unceasing attention to me, which has made me afraid her own health would suffer. She has had a bad cold occasionally; but God, in his infinite mercy, has preserved her to me, and I thank him for this very great consolation. I recommend this dear daughter most especially to the care of her brothers and sister. You must remember, my dear children, she is the one who has smoothed the downward path of life for her parents, and has performed those tender offices which you all owe to them, but which your absence precluded you from performing.
I had written to John and Moses, to tell them I would send these memoirs to them, that they might make a copy for their own use before this was sent to Virginia. They replied that they would much prefer retaining the copy written with my own hand, and they would send that which they should write to Virginia. The expression of this most natural wish, has induced me to write a second copy with my own hand. God has prolonged my life, and given me leisure; therefore I have felt it my duty to do it myself, as well to gratify them as to save them trouble, and prevent their being taken from their profitable employments to write it. I am sure those in Virginia will value this the more for being in my own handwriting. I have copied it word for word from the other, and have finished it this twenty-first day of June, 1722. If by any accident one copy should be lost, the other may be referred to.
I feel the strongest conviction, that if you will take care of these memoirs, your descendants will read them with pleasure, and I here declare that I have been most particular as to the truth of all that is herein recorded.
I hope God will bless the work, and that by his grace it may be a bond of union amongst you and your descendants, and that it may be a humble means of confirming you all in the fear of the Lord.
If our Heavenly Father, whose blessing I have implored upon the work, should vouchsafe to make use of it as an instrument for the advancement of His glory, and your eternal welfare, I shall think myself more than recompensed for all my trouble. I am, my dear children,
Your tender father,
James Fontaine (1658) was the great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather of Jared Smith (Editor of the AHB). He wrote an autobiography, the material of which was compiled and published by some of his descendants. The first publication is called, ”A Tale Of The Huguenots Or Memoirs Of A French Refugee Family (De La Fontaine)” (1838). The second publication is called, “Memoirs Of A Huguenot Family” (1872).