Archive for French Heritage

Waiting for Marie-Rose

Marie Rose Book CoverShare in her happiness, as Marie-Rose, a young lady from the village of Carenage is courted by Jean-Louis, a young man from the farming community of the northside, St. Thomas.

Feel her terror, as she endures a devastating hurricane. Enjoy the pageantry of her wedding.

Share her grief, as Marie-Rose suffers the death of both her parents.

Imagine the anxiety, as Marie-Rose’s children are missing.

All this and much more, tempered with humor, as Marie-Rose meets the “contraption.”

Waiting for Marie-Rose, a novelette, by Anne-Marie Danet.

The book is available locally at Forever Flowers in Frenchtown, St. Thomas and Encore Consignment Shop in Cruz Bay, St. John.

The Lame Shepherd Boy and Other Stories

lame-shepherd-boy-anne-marie-danetWell in advance of the upcoming holiday season, Anne-Marie Danet has released “The Lame Shepherd Boy and other Stories.” Each of the book’s 4 stories provides a warm and unique aspect of the miracle of Christmas. The book is available locally at Forever Flowers in Frenchtown, St. Thomas and Encore Consignment Shop in Cruz Bay, St. John.

“Christmas was always a special time of year in our home, when I was a child,” Danet says. Three of the stories are traditional in nature; the final entry, “A Red Wagon for Tommy,” is about a little boy of French heritage.

The Adventures of Jean-Pierre Mongoose, Cover Art

Cover art for The Adventures of Jean-Pierre Mongoose, SKU-000690838

Buy at Amazon.com

The Original Settlement of St. Christopher

In 1620, Thomas Warner, who had been adventurous at heart since boyhood, joined an expedition under Captain Roger North. Captain North had been hired by a small group of wealthy Englishmen to found a settlement on Guiana, near the Amazon River.

Captain North landed a contingent of his followers on Guiana, and promptly sailed back to England. Among those left on Guiana, was Thomas Warner and a man known as Capt. Painton In 1622, there not being much to do on Guiana, Capt. Painton convinced Thomas Warner that they should sail to St. Christopher, an island in the area. Warner agreed and sailed from Guiana with a group of fifteen other men.

Warner arrived at St. Christopher and went ashore on January 28, 1623. Upon landing, Warner was met by a group of Caribs, including their Chief,
Tegreman and several Frenchmen, castaways, who were living with the Caribs and planting tobacco.

Warner and his group remained on St. Christopher several months and engaged in planting tobacco and living and eating as the others who lived there. Warner’s group built crude shelters and also a fort on the hill in the center of the island. They ate cassava bread, fish, potatoes, plantains and pineapples. They drank nicknobby, a drink made from potatoes.

Their tobacco crops were ripe and ready to harvest when on September 19, 1623, a hurricane destroyed everything included the dwellings and tobacco crops..

Undaunted, Warner and his men rebuilt the dwellings into stronger houses and planted more tobacco. They also finished building the crude fort

The new crop of tobacco ripened and Warner, after putting a man in charge of the small settlement, sailed to England with his harvested tobacco. Once in England, Thomas Warner looked for his old friend, John Jeaffreson. Together they sought funding for a settlement on St. Christopher. A wealthy merchant, Ralph Merifield, agreed to fund the expedition.

The three men worked out an agreement of partnership. The terms, Merifield would provide the funds, Thomas Warner would sail back to St. Christopher with as many volunteers as could be found. Once on St. Christopher, Warner would send word to Merifield and Jeaffreson would sail with a cargo of supplies and another contingent of volunteers.

Thomas Warner left England with sixteen other men, including his thirteen year old son, Edward.

On January 18, 1624, Warner dropped anchor on the Western side of St. Christopher, near Old Road Bay.

On the 19th of September 1624, once again a hurricane destroyed the crops. Warner repaired the damage and planted more tobacco.

Jeaffreson arrived on St. Christopher on March 18, 1625 with a shipload of supplies. Meanwhile, Merifield was so pleased with the result of his investment that he applied for a charter for himself and his two partners, Thomas Warner and John Jeaffreson. Merifield easily obtained a patent from King Charles on September 25, 1625.

The patent stated that “Ralph Merifield, his partners and agents were permitted to traffic at the islands of St. Christopher, Nevis, Barbuda and Montserrat. Thomas Warner and after his death, John Jeaffreson, would have governance of these islands.”

Note that these three men, Ralph Merifield, Thomas Warner and John Jeaffreson, now owned and held title to St. Christopher, Nevis, Barbuda and Montserrat, islands which the Spanish, under Columbus, had claimed for Spain. This title having been granted by the King of England. To be sure, Spain would not be too happy about this.

Also, in 1625, the French, led by Pierre Belain, Sieur D’Esnambuc arrived on St. Christopher.

Anne-Marie Danet

The Adventures of Jean-Pierre Mongoose

The story is about a young mongoose who is forced to leave his parental home and fend for himself. He finally settles in French-town near an overflowing garbage bin. He becomes intrigued with the habits of the human-people, especially someone the call Chris Muss.

One day, while trying to catch a rat, a man steps on his tail. That sends him flying and when he fell back to the ground he runs after the human-man intending to bite him. While doing that the the mongoose hears the guavaberry song and becomes obsessed with finding some guavaberries. Our little mongoose travels to Guavaberry Hill to work and earn some guavaberries.

I have chosen a few comments from my children’s book…

“Don’t worry Mr. Iguana. I am not trying to kill you. I am Jean-Pierre and I am a mongoose from Frenchtown. I came here to get some
guavaberries.”

Oh Yeah? Well I am Ignacious Iguana and I live here. You can drop the Mister, everyone calls me Iggy guana. What is a French-town anyway?” Iggy guanna wanted to know.

From another chapter.. At an engagement party..

Freddie Frog’s Orchestra pitched into a Mongoose Meringue and immediately the dancing area was crowded.

At intermission, there was a stage performance by a company of hermit crabs which the human-people call ‘soldier’ crabs.”

Those Famous Laplace Brothers

Some, time ago I read an essay by Geraldo Guirty wherein he states that the French migration from Saint-Barthelemy started in 1848, when two members of the Laplace family, through curiosity, visited St. Thomas. Mr Guirty was writing about the Laplace brothers, Dumay and Toiny, who have been made famous by that bit of misinformation.

The story has been told in many ways, by many writers, each copying from the other, over the years. None of these writers did any research. They just wrote what someone had told them. Or someome else had written.

The facts are that in 1848, Dumay Laplace was only three years of age. His brother, Toiny, was not born until six years later.

These two Laplace men were not even the first persons to migrate to St. Thomas. There were quite a few French from Saint-Barth aleady on the
island when these two brothers arrived.

What a joke has been played on the unsuspecting populace!

In the marriage register of the Roman Catholic Church on St. Thomas, we find that Jacques Vitalis (Dumay) Laplace was born in 1845, he died in 1902… We also find that Jacques Vitalis (Dumay) Laplace was married to Marie Augustine Laplace, (a distant relative) , on June 5th 1889..Dumay was 44 and Marie Augustine was 19 years..Dumay died in 1902 and Marie Augustine later married Jean Baptiste Brin, on April 27, 1903.
,
Antoine (Toiny) Laplace on the other hand, was born in 1854, which is six years after he was supposed to have come visiting as a grown man. At his death in 1915, the burial register states that he migrated to St. Thomas in 1865.

Toiny Laplace married Anne Josephine Laplace, sister of Marie Augustine, in April, 1894. He was 40 and Anne Josephine was only 16 years of age. After Toiny died., Anne-Josephine married Leon Brin on December 28, 1915.

It seems both brothers were widowers when they migrated in 1865.. Dumay already had a son who was an adult when migration took place.

The father of the Laplace brothers was also Jacques Vitalis Laplace. The name of the mother was not listed on the register. They did not migrate to St. Thomas, only Dumay and Toiny migrated.

Jacques Vitalis Laplace III was married, on St. Thomas, to Elisabeth Laplace, on November 25, 1895. He is listed on the marriage register as being 21 years of age. Jacques Vitalis III is listed as being born in 1874 which would mean that his father, Jacques Vitalis II was 29 years old, when his son was born.

Anne-Marie Danet

The French Colony Girls’ Club

As the last surviving member of the Club, I am pleased that the Rev. Fr. Charles Crespo included the founding of “The French Colony Girls’ Club” in the 90th Anniversary Book of St. Anne’s Chapel.

Mrs. Evelyn Hartford Van Patten, was the wife of Lt. Commander Elsworth Van Patten, USN who was second in commander of the Virgin Islands during the last four years of Navy Rule.

Evelyn Van Patten was fascinated by the weaving of straw into hats and bags by the French ladies of the Carenage.. She decided to learn about the craft and help the young ladies of the Carenage. (See my article, “Strawcraft of the People of French Heritage”) on
this webpage.

About the Members of the Club

Family names of the members are their maiden names in all but one case as the lady was already married.

Anne-Rose “Pauline” Bernier was 25 years of age. My Mother, Marie Helene Bernier-Danet was 21 years as was her cousin, Mercellita Bernier. Francellia Greaux was 19 years of age. These four ladies were the teachers and chaperons of the group, who were all 16 years and under.

Three of the members were still children. They were Anne-Louise Ledee, 12 years.. Margueritte Duzant, 10 years and Anne-Marie Danet (me), midway between 5 and 6 years.

Anne-Marie’s mother was the only one who was married before the club was founded. In 1928, Anne-Rose “Pauline” Bernier was married and became Bernier-Greaux.

The teenagers were Pauline “Urise” Greaux, Annicia Cerge and Marie-Josephine “Urise” Danet who were 13 years of age. Margueritte Greaux was 15 years. Juliana Turbe and Anne-Sylvanie Simeon were 14 years of age.

Florina Magras, Marie-Lucina Aubin and Marie Inger Questel were all 16 years of age.

These young ladies and a few others, whom I do not remember, were the Charter Members of The French Colony Girls’ Club. I remember almost all the details of what a day was like at a meeting of the club.

I even remember the China porcelain that we used for tea or cocoa in the afternoons. It was white with royal blue motiffs of which one was a Dutch windmill.

Thank you Fr. Crespo. In honoring Mrs. Van Patten for her work with the young ladies of the Carenage. You have honored the members of the Club as well.

Anne-Marie Danet.

St. Anne’s Chapel 90th Anniversary Commemorative Book

On page 130 of the St. Anne’s Chapel 90th Anniversary Book, Fr. Charles Crespo writes, “This book was conceived and assembled by a very small group of people, who gave many hours to the project.” Unfortunately, all 400 copies were sold and there will not be another printing.

This book was Fr. Crespo’s idea from the beginning. He assembled a team of persons he knew would work diligently until the project was complete.

When Fr. Crespo asked me to write the early history, I was surprised. Before saying yes, I thought about what it would mean and how some persons might feel hurt because they were not asked. I pondered and I prayed. Finally, realizing that if I did not help him, some items of mis-information might get into the book and add to what was already out there. Eventually, I said yes. I would help him.

We worked long hours, diligently, weeding out all mis-information that was given by others in the community. Besides writing the history of the early years, I proof-read and edited each draft as I received it.

Two other members of the team are Marianne Magras and Theresa, (Terry) Richardson who together, coordinated the advance orders and
payments for the book. They were swamped. Everyone wanted a copy.

The fifth member of the team, Cindy Richardson, had perhaps the most difficult task of all. She designed the ads and did the layout of the book.

Together, the five of us worked as a team and prayed for guidance. At last, we have a beautiful history book of St. Anne’s Chapel, brimming
with photographs, collected from the community, from the early years to the present.

Anne-Marie Danet

Fishpots

Fishpots were one of the tools of the fishermen of French heritage, especially those of the Carenage. Fishpots were NOT made of wood in a Triangular shape as some people believe. The shape was Hexagonal.

Fishpots

Fishpots were constructed of lianas called Whist. These lianas grew wild in the wooded areas of the islands, on Honduras Hill and on Hassel Island and other nearby islets.

The fishermen would go into the hills to harvest the lianas. These thick vines were debarked and split into thin strips, which were then worked smooth. The strips were then soaked in sea water to make the pliable so that they could be easily woven.

Fishpots were constructed of two panels, each in a hexagonal shape. (6 sided). A long narrow panel was woven to connect to the two hexagonal sides. The three panels were sewn together to make a box-like trap. very small lianas or twists of silk palm straw were used to sew the pieces together. A short, narrow panel was woven to make the funnel which would allow the fish to enter the trap. This also was “sewn’ onto the trap,
using twists of silk palm straw.

Once constructed, the fishpot was re-enforced with young saplings that had been debarked. Buoys of light wood were attached to the trap by a length of rope The bouys marked the spot where the fishpot was located, making easier to find them..

Anne-Marie

Some interesting marriage data

I decided to look into my records and figure how how many persons got married on St. Thomas, since persons from Saint-Barth started migrating to St. Thomas.

First 100 years.

Between 1799 and 1899.. there were 91 marriages performed and 426 children were born. There were 187 burials.

From 1900 to 1929

Between 1900 and 1929, there were 146 marriages and 596 children were born. This data was for the Carenage and the North Side. Till the end of 1929, there were a total of 1002 children born, Carenage and Mafolie combined.

I have no data for Mafolie area after 1928. Records were not available to me.

From 1799 to 1929, this is the breakdown of the marriages:

In 137 marriages, both persons were Saint-Barth migrants.

In 83 marriages, one partner was from Saint-Barth, the other from St. Thomas.

In 14 marriages, both partners were born on St. Thomas.

In 3 marriages one partner was from somewhere else, not Saint-Barth.

Between 1930 and 1939, there were 50 marriages.

In 7 marriages, both partners were from Saint-Barth.

In 23 marriages, one partner was from Saint-Barth, the other born on St. Thomas.

In 20 marriages both partners were born on St. Thomas.

There were 187 children born.

This is as close to a census as possible for that period where marriages are concerned.