Affidavit before Magistrates — Retaliation on French prisoners — Removal to Dublin — Hire a haunted house — Claim compensation from the county of Cork — Disturbance in haunted house — School — Education of children — Peter goes to College — John obtains a commission in the army — Moses and Francis enter college — Moses studies law — Emigration to America — Marriage of children — My wife’s death — Failure of health — Conclusion.
Leaving Peter on his cruise, I will return to myself. As soon as I was well enough to get on horseback, I rode over to Kinsale with my son James, and two of the servants, and waited upon the chief magistrate to make an affidavit before him, to the effect that after capitulating upon terms, with the express stipulation that we should have life and liberty, I had been forcibly carried away 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 other £70.
The governor or commanding officer at Kinsale as a retaliatory measure immediately put all the French officers in irons who had been taken in the war and were stationed there, and he sent a copy of the affidavit to Plymouth where there were numbers of French prisoners, and all of them were also put in irons. You will readily believe that the letters of complaint from Kinsale and Plymouth were very numerous.
By the time the Captain returned to St. Maloes a second time, 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 he was restored to our arms, and we have never paid the £70.
I went to Dublin with all my family 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 a warrant for £100, which was the more acceptable as it was altogether unexpected. He had applied 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 observation along the south- west coast of Ireland to select the most suitable harbour upon which to erect a fortification. I went as far as Dunmannus, thirty six miles from home, to give him the meeting, and invite him to stay at my house when he came into our neighbourhood.
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; and having had a little notice beforehand, we had had time to make preparation, and I was able to have a 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 observe the hand of Providence which raised up for me beforehand this powerful friend against the day of need.
I determined to make Dublin my future residence, and 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 was originally well built, but a good deal out of repair, owing to its having been long without tenant, and it had the reputation of being haunted by evil spirits. My wife and I, having no apprehension of disturbance from any unearthly visitants, were very glad to get this house upon lower terms in consequence of the prejudice that existed. I got a lease for ninety nine years at £10 per annum. It was forty feet square, had substantial stone walls, and all the carpenter’s work was of oak, and it had a yard and garden three hundred feet in depth and the width of the house.
I was obliged to leave Dublin before taking possession of it, in order to prosecute my claim upon the county of Cork for the damage I had 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 commiting 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 now remained for me to do was to prove the facts to the satisfaction of the Grand Jury for the county of Cork. I took my son James, and two of the servants with me as witnesses, and I had no difficulty whatever in proving the robbery, and also that there were many Irishmen amongst the assailants. I presented an inventory of what I had lost, particularising 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 attracted his notice from a portrait of the late Queen, wife of James II, which was on the back of it, and as he admired it much I gladly availed myself of the opportunity of making him an acceptable present. I had received it in barter for some of my manufactures during our residence in England. When he heard of my losses he wished to return it, 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, after examination, awarded me £800, to be paid by the county of Cork, in conformity with the Act of Parliament.
My wife had experienced some little annoyance during my absence from Dublin. It appeared that the house we had taken had been occupied by some beggars, who were allowed the use of it while it was untenanted, and my wife from the kindness of her nature did not turn them out of the house when she took possession of it. The first night neither she, nor the children, who were all in the room with her, could get any sleep for the constant noises that they heard in the house. These vagabonds were trying to frighten her as they had done many others who had thought to occupy the house, and had given it up again after hearing what they thought supernatural noises. She bore this patiently the first night, and believing she had discovered the secret, made her preparations accordingly for the second night.
She borrowed fire arms and swords, and calling the people before dark, she told them to be sure not to leave their rooms on any account when the noises recurred that night, because she had provided herself with arms, and that she and her sons intended to fire upon the evil spirit that made the disturbance, and therefore they would see the necessity of keeping out of the way for fear they might be killed by accident. As may be supposed the evil spirits were never heard more.
On my return from Cork I turned them all out of the house, and had it put into perfect repair, which, with some little alterations I made in it, did not cost me less than £450. In this house I have lived ever since, and have had a very good school, both day scholars and boarders, and I have been thus enabled to give my children an education inferior in no respect to that bestowed upon the first nobles in 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 in furnishing them with opportunities of improvement, girls as well as boys. My daughters, in addition to the more solid branches of education, have been instructed in drawing, and in every variety of ornamental needle-work.
Let us pause for a moment to reflect upon the mercies and loving kindness of our Heavenly Father, and our own short- sightedness. How distressing did it appear to lose at Bear Haven all the property for which I had toiled so many years, and the last mostly disastrous overthrow appeared particularly hard; yet, without it, I should never have been able to clear myself of debt, and I should have been obliged to remain at Bear Haven, and bring you all up in that desert, where it would have been absolutely impossible for me to have given you the excellent educations 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 endeavour 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 Ingleby, whose friendship was so great that he was always on the look out for something to benefit us, thought he had hit upon a plan that would be agreeable. He had received orders to send all the half pay officers that were in Ireland to Spain, and he entered the names of Peter and John upon the list without saying anything to us until he had done so. The boys were wild with joy at the idea of entering the army, and escaping from the drudgery of study.
I gave them very little recreation to be sure, except in the varieties of their employments. Latin and Greek were studies which they were obliged to attend to as tasks, and every thing else they learned, I endeavoured to make them consider as an indulgence and relaxation.
We thought it was a decided point, but behold Mr. Secretary Dawson was not so favorably inclined as General Ingleby, and he refused to make out their commissions, telling the General that he exceeded his powers in entering, upon the half-pay list, officers who had never served. The General was much chagrined at this unexpected obstacle, but he told us to have patience and perhaps he might yet have it in his power to serve us. The boys were grievously disappointed, I was not; for though I was unwilling to decline a thing that promised to be advantageous; at the same time I thought them full too young to venture from under the shelter of a parent’s wing, and I also preferred their continuing longer at study.
The half-pay officers embarked at Cork, without them, to go to Plymouth, there to join the fleet for Spain. In the passage they were attacked by a French man of war, and though confessedly so inferior in size as not to warrant their resisting yet the officers of the army who were on board, being very numerous, would not consent to surrender, (though as mere passengers they should not have had a voice in the matter) and they fought with desperation till one half were killed, and almost all the rest wounded, and they had to surrender after all.
When the sad news reached us, I returned thanks to God with my whole heart for 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 realise that we are under the especial care of so wise, and 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 his tutor, and with the greatest generosity and kindness he declined receiving any fee from him, and he did the same by Moses and Francis when they went to college; by which I consider he made us a present of £35 or £36, and in addition to this, he procured a chamber for them free of rent and charges, which would have amounted to about £27 more, and all this from pure benevolence and generosity, for we had never done any thing to deserve such kindness at his hands.
About this time, Lord Wharton being Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, an order was received to dispatch all the regiments that were in this country 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 them away, the Lord Lieutenant struck off without any exception all under sixteen years of age as being 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 Ingleby I waited upon Lord Wharton to apply for a commission for him. I told him my circumstances did not allow my purchasing one. John also waited upon him and showed him some specimens of his military drawings. He was handsome, very well formed, and just seventeen years of age, and it appeared that he made a very agreeable impression upon his Lordship, who said it was a pity so fine a young man should not be put forward. I renewed my applications from time to time, and at last, on the eve of departure, some of the commissions not having found purchasers, General Ingleby used his interest and obtained an ensign’s commision for John, without our having to pay any thing more than the fees of office. We equipped him very completely at an expense of £75. He was in the regiment commanded by Colonel Shawe, a cruel, avaricious man, a drunkard, and a debauchee, and he always looked with an evil eye upon John, because he had obtained his commission through the favor of General Ingleby.
I leave John to tell his own story of his sufferings and mortifications 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, and though he had received several wounds and had wounded others, being often obliged to put his hand to his sword, yet he had 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 had great talents, which he had most diligently cultivated, and he had sufficient confidence to bring all his acquirements into play. 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 into it, making closets &c, it stood me in £42. They always had the use of this apartment without interruption from any one else, even when the two older ones left college, and Francis was alone, I made interest that he should have no companion. My object we to avoid the possibility of their being corrupted by vicious companions, or drawn from study by idle ones, which very often happens to young persons whose characters 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, London, because he intended to be a lawyer. He continued to study with great assiduity, and was very well endowed with talents, but he suffered a good deal from timidity. 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 Inns of Court, seeing that he was of a very quick and ready turn, with great fluency of language, I thought it more than probable he might choose the profession of a lawyer, but thanks be to God he has chosen to dedicate himself to His service, and to qualify himself for the Holy Ministry.
In November 1713, Captain Boulay; a French gentleman, a half-pay cavalry officer, with whom I had no acquaintance, called upon me to offer his grand-daughter 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 said he had heard an excellent report of my sons that they had been well brought up, and conducted themselves on every occasion with propriety, and were free from the follies and vices of the age, and this made him wish to engage one of them as a protector for his grandchild when he should be laid low. He said he preferred their virtues without fortune, to the largest property unaccompanied by their piety and discretion. He was upwards of eighty years of age and his grand daughter 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 which of them she might feel a preference for.
This plan pleased him, and she came to us. She was of a very amiable temper, and good natural disposition, with fair talents, but had been extremely neglected in her education.
My sons consulted with each other, and Peter, by the advice of his brothers, determined to marry her.
Marriage articles were drawn up, and on the 29th March, 1714, they were married with great privacy, because Peter had not yet taken his degree of Bachelor of Arts.
About this time 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, and so it was 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 to be most favorable in all respects.
He landed in Massachusetts, and travelled through that province, and New York, New Jersey, Maryland and Virginia, and came to the conclusion that the last named province possessed the greatest advantage. 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 £1,000, and having taken his degree, he was ready to be ordained, and as soon as he had read John’s letter, he went to London, and received ordination from the hands of the Bishop of London, who is also Bishop of all the British colonies.
In February or March, 1716 Moses took his wife to join him in London, and they embarked thence for Virginia, where they found John expecting them impatiently, and I have had the satisfaction of learning that they are very comfortably settled.
Moses remained in London studying law.
Francis was still at college and a very close student.
I was keeping school all the time, and had so great a number of scholars as to be able fully to meet my heavy expenditure for the maintenance of my family, and the education of my children.
I now felt that my sons were well able to provide for themselves, but I could not help feeling a little anxiety as to what might become of my wife and two daughters, in case it should please God to take me away from them. I had not been able to lay any thing up, in consequence of the heavy expenses I had incurred for the education of my children. At my death my pension would cease, and my school of course, and they would be destitute.
Lord Galway was now Lord Lieutenant of Ireland; and I applied to him to have my pension of five shillings a day transferred to my wife and daughters, one shilling to my wife, and two shillings each to my daughters. He granted me the favor, and my name was erased from the pension list, and theirs entered in its place; by which I had a very narrow escape from losing it altogether, without my wife and children deriving any benefit from it.
Lord Galway’s list was not approved in London, and many were deprived of their pensions under circumstances very similar to mine, but the same good providence which had so often befriended me was still watchful, and raised up for me 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 20th October, 1716, to Matthew Maury, of Castel Mauron, Gascony, a very honest man, and a good manager, but without property. He had lived in Dublin about two years, and came thither from France as a Refugee.
James was the next who went to Virginia, he sailed with his wife and child, his mother-in-law, and thirteen servants in April 1717, and had a long and most disastrous voyage. The vessel sprung a leak, and they were obliged to pump twenty-six days and nights without ceasing. They arrived in safety at last, and John met them, and conducted them to a house he had provided, and he had been so considerate as to lay up grain ready for their use.
In the same year, my son-in-law, Mr. Matthew Maury, went to Virginia, and was so much pleased with the country that he took a portion of the land John had purchased, and prepared every thing for a future residence upon it, and returned for his wife and a son [*] that had been born to him during his absence. They left us in September, 1719.
In this year, Moses became disgusted with the law, his natural timidity was much against his succeeding in it, and he also had some scruples of conscience on the subject. I wished him exceedingly to study theology, but I could not prevail upon him, he said he was incapable of speaking in public, and had made up his mind to be an engraver, which I did not approve of, though, rather than thwart him, I consented to it. He is now settled in London, and I am told he is a good artist. It is very certain that he appeared to have a decided talent for drawing when he was instructed in the art as a boy. May the Lord bless and prosper him in an employment which he allowed him to desire so strongly.
John returned to London from Virginia, in May, 1719, and soon after came home to us, and remained rather more than a year, when he accompanied Francis to London. Francis 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 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, originally from Jonzac in Saintonge, and soon afterwards they sailed for Virginia. The Bishop of London gave him a letter of introduction to the Governor of Virginia.
When he arrived, he was so much admired by all who heard him preach, that many parishes were desirous of having 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, Virginia, 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 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 in London, and who was much famed for his repeating watches. By a late letter from John, I find 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 then she was greatly depressed in her spirits. At length, her complaint turned to dropsy, and she was unable to leave her bed, and on the 29th Janr. 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 make preparation to join her once more.
During her illness, our dear daughter Elizabeth supplied the place of all her brothers and sisters, (who had left her alone to comfort and sustain her aged parents) she took the greatest possible care of her mother, and never spared herself in any way, doing every thing that she thought would be acceptable and beneficial.
Though I was sadly overpowered by this great affliction, and much enfeebled, I continued to attend to my school till the month of September in the same year, when my health became so bad that I dismissed all my day scholars, as well as boarders, in order that I might have leisure to prepare for the great and awful change that I was assured could not be far distant, and 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 on my own part of recovery, 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 tolerable health, though very feeble, finding it difficult to use my limbs and walking with great pain.
Your sister Elizabeth, all this time, has given me constant proofs of her tenderness and affection. She has never caused me the least pain except by her tears, which she has not at all times been able to restrain, and I have had some very anxious moments, fearing lest she should destroy her own health by her unceasing attention to me. She has taken bad colds 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 your care and protection; you must remember, my dear children, that she is the one who has smoothed the downward path of life for her parents, and she has performed those tender offices which you all owed 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 answered, that they would much prefer retaining the copy written with my own hand, and sending that which they would write to Virginia, and this very natural wish of theirs has induced me to make this second copy.
God having prolonged my life and given me leisure, 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, and I am sure those in Virginia will value this the more for being in my own hand-writing. I have copied it word for word from the other, and have finished it this 21st day of June, 1722, therefore, 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, 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).