Archive for January, 2012

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.
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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.