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Louis du Bois

A Brief History

Abstracted from "Huguenot - Emigration to America",
by Charles W Baird, D.D., originally published New York, 1885

Among the Walloons that came to New Netherland, in the last days of the Dutch occupation, was Louis du Bois, founder of the Huguenot settlement of New Paltz, in Ulster county, New York.

Louis was the son of Chretien du Bois, an inhabitant of Wicres, a hamlet in the district of La Barree, near Lille, in Flanders, where he was born on the twenty-seventh day of October, in the year 1627. The province of Flanders was at that time a dependency of Spain; and when, twenty years later, the rights of conscience were secured by the treaty of Westphalia to the Protestants of Germany, the benefits of that treaty did not extend to the Spanish dominions. It was perhaps on this account, and in quest of religious freedom, that Louis left his native province, in early manhood, and removed, as numbers of his countrymen were doing, to the lower Palatinate. This Calvinistic state, which had taken the lead among the Protestant powers of Germany, from the outbreak of the Thirty Years’ War, now offered a refuge to the oppressed Huguenots, and to the Waldenses, driven from their Alpine valleys by the fierce soldiery of Savoy. Long before this, indeed, a little colony of Walloons, flying before the troops of Alva, had come to settle within the hospitable territory of the Palatinate, at Frankenthal, only a few miles from Mannheim, its capital. Mannheim itself now became the home of many French refugees, and among them we recognize several families that afterwards removed to America. Here David de Marest, Frederic de Vaux, Abraham Hasbroucq, Chretien Duyou, Mathese Blanchan, Meynard Journeay, Thonnet Terrin, Pierre Parmentier, Antoine Crispel, David Usilie, Philippe Casier, Bourgeon Broucard, Simon Le Febre, Juste Durie, and others, enjoyed for several years the kindness of their German coreligionists and the protection of the good Elector Palatine. Hither Louis du Bois came, and here, on the tenth day of October, 1655, he married Catharine, daughter of Mathese Blanchan, who, like himself, was from French Flanders. Two sons, Abraham and Isaac, were born of this marriage in Mannheim.

The refugees found much, doubtless, to bind them to the country of their adoption. They were encouraged in the free exercise of their religion. The people and their prince were Calvinists, like themselves. Openings for employment, if not for enrichment in trade, were afforded in the prosperous city, where, a century later, Huguenot merchants and manufacturers were enabled to amass large fortunes. How pleasantly and fondly they remembered the goodly Rhine-land, in after days, we may gather from the fact that the emigrants to America named their home in the wilderness, not from their native province in France, but from the place of their refuge in Germany, calling it “The New Palatinate.” In spite, however, of all inducements to remain, Louis du Bois and certain of his fellow-refugees determined to remove to the New World; influenced, it may be, by a feeling of insecurity in a country lying upon the border of France, and liable to foreign invasion at any moment.

The Dutch ship Gilded Otter, in the spring of the year 1660, brought over several of these families. Others followed, in the course of the same year. The little town of New Amsterdam, nestled upon the lower end of Manhattan island, presented a curious appearance to the strangers. Inclosed within the limits of Wall street and Broadway, “two hundred poorly-constructed houses gave partial comfort to some fourteen hundred people. the fort loomed up broadly in front, partially hiding within it the governor’s residence, and the Dutch church. The flag of the States-General, and a wind-mill on the western bastion, were notable indications of Holland rule.”

Our colonists did not linger long in New Amsterdam. Taking counsel doubtless of their Walloon countrymen, and obtaining permission from the governor and his council, they soon decided upon a place of settlement, and by the end of the year, Matthew Blanchan and Anthony Crispel, with their families, had established themselves in Esopus; where before the following October, they were joined by Louis du Bois and his wife and sons.

The country lying south of the Catskill mountains and north of the Highlands, on the west side of the North or Hudson river, was known to the Dutch from the earliest times as Esopus. thither, even before the settlement of New Amsterdam, the Dutch traders went to traffic with the friendly Indians; and here, in 1623, the ship New Netherland, after landing some of her passengers on Manhattan island, stopped on her way up the river, to lighten her cargo. This picturesque region -- now included within the bounds of Ulster county -- lay midway between the two rising towns of New Amsterdam and Beverwyck. Broken by mountain ranges, the Catskills in the north, and the Shawungunk in the south; watered by numerous streams, and extensively improved by the rude husbandry of its savage occupants, the pleasant land must have attracted the longing view of the Dutch immigrants as they sailed up the Hudson to the patroon’s colony at Fort Orange. But though a Dutch fort was built here -- at Rondout, now a part of Kingston -- as early as the year 1614, it does not appear that any settlement was effected before the year 1652. Thomas Chambers, an Englishman by birth, was the first purchaser and patentee of Esopus. He had been engaged with several others in an attempt to obtain lands near the site of the present city of Troy; but being dispossessed by the patroon, whose patent covered the locality chosen for their settlement, the associates removed to this region, and bought from the Indians a tract of land, comprising seventy-six acres, on Esopus creek, where the city of Kingston now stands. But in 1655 the Indian tribes along the Hudson river joined in attacking the Dutch settlements; and in the consternation that prevailed, the farmers at Esopus fled, leaving their homes and fields to the depredation of the savages. On the conclusion of peace, in the autumn of the same year, they returned. Neglecting, however, to form a village, suitably protected by stockades and by a fort or blockhouse, as they were urged by the government to do, the settlers were again disturbed in 1658, and implored the Director Stuyvesant to come to their relief. By his advice they now laid out a town-spot, the site of Wiltwyck, the future city of Kingston. The colonists, sixty or seventy in number, went to work with a will, under the personal supervision of the determined governor; and in less than three weeks, the place that he had chosen for the village was surrounded with palisades, a guard-house was built, and the dwellings of the settlers were moved into the space inclosed. Pleased at his own success, and delighted with the beautiful land of the Esopus, the director sailed back to New Amsterdam, “praising the Lord for His mercy on all concerned,” and cautioning the Indian chiefs to leave the white men alone, inasmuch as “he could come again as easily as he went.”

Wiltwyck, however, did not long enjoy repose under shelter of its new defenses. Another outbreak of Indian ferocity -- stimulated by the white man's "fire-water," and provoked by the brutality of some of the Dutch themselves -- occurred in the following year, when a band of several hundred Indian warriors invested the little town for three weeks. Again Director Stuyvesant came to the rescue. Partly by force of arms, and partly through the mediation of other Indian tribes, he succeeded in bringing the savages to terms; and on the fifteenth day of July, 1660, peace was concluded.

It was at this juncture that Louis du Bois and his companions arrived in New Amsterdam. The great "Esopus war," which, for many months past, had convulsed all the settlements, from Long Island to Fort Orange, with fear, was now over. The prospects of the little colony at Wiltwyck were brightening; and the beautiful region which Governor Stuyvesant had found so fruitful, and "capable of making yet fifty farms," was open to the new immigrants. Lands in the rich valleys of the Rondout and the Esopus were to be had for the asking. Provision was made for the religious instruction of the colonists. Hermanus Blom, a clergyman of the Reformed Church of Holland, sent over expressly to minister at Esopus, had been, for several weeks, awaiting in New Amsterdam the result of the negotiations for peace. These, not improbably, were the considerations that led our Walloons to fix upon Esopus as their future home. Early in the autumn of the year 1660, they took their departure from New Amsterdam. The Company's yacht, which carried Dominie blom to the place of his labors, may have had on board some of their number. Certain it is, that among the persons admitted to the Lord's Supper, upon the occasion of its first celebration in Esopus, on the seventh day of December in that year, were Matthew Blanchan, with Madeleine Jorisse, his wife, and anthony Crispel, with Maria Blanchan, his wife.

The spot where, after many wanderings, our refugees at length had found a home, was happily chosen. It lay but a short distance from that noble river, whose majestic course and varied scenery must have vividly recalled to them the Rhine. The plateau upon which the village of Wiltwyck stood was skirted by Esopus creek. From the banks along which the palisades protecting it had been constructed, the settlers overlooked the fertile lands occupied by the farms of the white men, and by the patches upon which the Indian women still raised their crops of maize and beans. The beautiful valley of the Wallkill opened toward the southwest. On the north, the wooded slopes of the Catskill mountains were visible.

Blanchan and Crispel were soon joined at Wiltwyck by Louis du Bois, and shortly after by a fourth Walloon family, that of Rachel de la Montagne, daughter of Jean de la Montagne of New Amsterdam, and now wife of Gysbert Imborch. Meantime, another settlement had been commenced in the Esopus country. The "New Village," afterwards known as Hurley, was founded about a mile to the west of Wiltwyck. Taught by experience, the settlers took pains to protect their homes against the attacks of the savages. The houses and barns were built within a fortified inclosure, where fifteen families formed a compact community.Blanchan and his two sons-in-law were among those who removed from Wiltwyck to the New Village. A summer passed by, and the colonists remained undisturbed. They were, however, by no means safe from molestation. Stuyvesant's severity in sending some of his Indian prisoners, at the close of the Esopus war, to the island of Curacoa, had left a lasting impression of resentment in the minds of the savages. The building of the "New Village," upon land to which they still laid claim, was an additional grievance. Underrating either the courage or the strength of their wild neighbors, the settlers took no suitable precautions against attack, but on the contrary, with strange infatuation, sold to them freely the rum that took away their reason and intensified their worst passions. The time came for an uprising. Stuyvesant had sent word to the Indian chiefs, through the magistrates of Wiltwyck, that he would shortly visit them, to make them presents, and to renew the peace concluded the year before. The message was received with professions of friendliness. Two days after, about noon, on the seventh of June, a concerted attack was made by parties of Indians upon both the settlements. The destruction of the "New Village was complete. Every dwelling was burned. The greater number of the adult inhabitants had gone forth that day as usual to their field work upon the outlying farms, leaving some of the women, with the little children, at home. Three of the men, who had doubtless returned to protect them, were killed; and eight women, with twenty-six children, were taken prisoners. Among these were the families of our Walloons; the wife and three children of Louis du Bois, the two children of Matthew Blanchan, and Anthony Crispel's wife and child. The rest of the people, those at work in the fields, and those who could escape from the village, fled to the neighboring woods, and in the course of the afternoon made their way to Wiltwyck, or to the redoubt at the mouth of Esopus creek.

Meanwhile, the attack at Wiltwyck had been less successful. Parties of Indians had entered the village in the morning, carrying maize and beans to sell, and under this pretense, had distributed themselves in the different houses; when suddenly a number of men on horseback came dashing through the mill-gate, shouting, "The Indians have destroyed the New Village!" At once, the savages already within the place began their work of havoc. twelve houses were burned, and but for a timely change of wind the entire settlement would have been consumed. Some of the Indians, seizing the women and children, hastened away with them into the forest; whilst others, stationed near the gates, despatched those of the men who attempted to enter the town. As at the New Village, most of the inhabitants were away, at their employments in the neighboring fields. A few brave men, however, chanced to be at home. These, though without guns or side arms, soon rallied, and resolutely facing the assailants, succeeded in driving them out. By nightfall, Dominie Blom and his companions were joined by the people from the farms, and by straggling fugitives from the New Village. No time could be spent in lamentation over their losses. The palisades surrounding the place had been destroyed by the fire. All night long the colonists toiled to replace them, or kept watch along the exposed borders. Day dawned upon a scene of woe and desolation. Seventy of the inhabitants were missing. Of these, twenty-four had been ruthlessly murdered; while forty-five women and children had been hurried away into captivity. The sight of the burned and mutiliated bodies, lying amid the ruins of the dwellings and in the streets, was scarcely more affecting than the thought of the living, in the hands of the merciless savages. Among these were Rachel de la Montagne, and the wife and child of Dominie Blom.

The tidings of this disaster spread consternation throughout the Dutch settlements. Director Stuyvesant, always energetic, and ready for severe measures, was the more disposed to act promptly and resolutely in the present case, because of the loss incurred by his trusty councilor in the capture of his daughter. With some difficulty, a force was raised for the defense of Wiltwyck, and for the rescue of the prisoners in the hands of the Esopus Indians. Nearly a month elapsed, however, before two sloops, carrying supplies to the destitute inhabitants, and having on board a company of Dutch and English soldiers, and of friendly Indian braves, entered Esopus creek. They were joined at Wiltwyck by a band of five Mohawks, sent down from Fort Orange, for the purpose of endeavoring to secure the release of the captives through mediation. In the meantime, Rachel de la Montagne had made her escape from the savages, and was ready to conduct the rescuing party to the Indian fort, thirty miles to the south-west of Wiltwyck, whither the prisoners had been conveyed. The expedition set forth, under the command of the fearless Captain Krygier, on the twenty-sixth of July, and on the next day reached the fort, but found it deserted. The Indians had retreated with their captives to a more distant fastness in the Shawungunk mountains. Krygier pursued them, but without success, and after setting fire to the fort, and destroying large quantities of corn which they found stored away in pits, or growing in the fields, the party returned to Wiltwyck without the loss of a man. another month passed before a second attempt could be made. Information came through friendly savages that the Esopus Indians were building another fort. So soon as the weather permitted, and a supply of horses could be obtained, Krygier set forth again. This time, the enemy was taken by surprise. A fierce combat ensued; many of the savages were taken, and twenty-three of the captives were recovered and brought back in triumph to the settlement. Their absence had lasted just three months. Tradition represents the pious Walloons as cheering the tedious hours of their bondage with Marot's psalms. When rescued by their friends, just as the savages were about to slaughter them, they were entertaining their captors, and obtaining a momentary reprieve, by singing the one hundred and thirty-seventh psalm: "By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion . . . For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song."

The worthy Dutch pastor of Wiltwyck gives a touching account of the grief and anxiety that reigned in the desolate homes from which the captives had been taken. Every evening the little congregation gathered, on the four points of the fort, under the blue sky, and offered up their fervent prayers.

To Louis du Bois, whose entire family were in the hands of the savages, this season of suspense must have been peculiarly trying. Tradition states that he was one of the foremost members of the rescuing party. An instance of his vigor and presence of mind, given by Captain Krygier in his journal after the return of the expedition, may lead us to credit this statement. "Louis, the Walloon, went today to fetch his oxen, which had gone back of Juriaen Westphaelen's land. As he was about to drive home the oxen, three Indians, who lay in the bush and intended to seize him, leaped forth. When one of these shot at him with an arrow, but only slightly wounded him, Louis, having a piece of a palisade in his hand, struck the Indian on the breast with it so that he staggered back, and Louis escaped through the kill, and came thence, and brought the news into the fort."

These troubles over, the settlement enjoyed secureity from savage molestation. The Esopus tribe, in the course of the contest with the white man, was almost exterminated. The Walloons were free to exend their plantations further into the rich lands that were now without an owner. Some years later, Louis du Bois, with several associates, removed from Wiltwyck to a spot which they had discovered during their pursuit of the Indians. Here, in the beautiful Wallkill valley, they built their homes, near the base of the Shawungunk mountains. The settlers had not forgotten the Rhine, and the days of their exile in Mannheim, and they named their village "le nouveau Palatinat," or New Paltz.

But meanwhile, New Netherland had become an English possession. On the sixth day of September, in the year 1664, articles of capitulation were signed by commissioners representing the States-General of Holland and the king of England, and the Dutch city and province received the name of the city and province of New York.