Memoirs of a Huguenot Family

Memoirs of a Huguenot Family  (1853) 
Fontaine, James, b. 1658; Maury, Ann, 1803-1876; Fontaine, John, b. 1693; Maury, James, 1718-1769
James Fontaine.jpg
Signature of Jacques de la Fontaine.jpg

After an Original likeness in the possession of Miss Fontaine, Bexley, England.
















Entered according to Act of Congress, in the year 1852, by


In the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Southern District of
New York.


In bringing before the public this history of a private family, part of which was published some years ago, we feel it to be possible, that in our own admiration of the virtues of our forefathers, and our deep interest in the vicissitudes of their fortunes, we may over-estimate the pleasure a perusal is likely to afford the general reader. There are, however, so many individuals in the United States who are lineally descended from James Fontaine, that we think the publication is required for them alone. We believe, also, that the work will address itself to the hearts of a numerous body of Christians, who glory, like ourselves, in a Huguenot origin, and who, in reading the following pages, may realize, more fully than they have hitherto done, the trials of their own ancestors in leaving the homes of their fathers for the sake of the Gospel, and be thereby incited to more steadfast faith.

We have been so much struck with some remarks upon the benefits to be derived from family history in a preface to the "Lives of the Lindsays," that we venture to make a quotation which we think equally applicable to the volume we are now introducing to the reader.

"Every family should have a record of its own. Each has its peculiar spirit, running through the whole line, and, in more or less development, perceptible in every generation. Rightly viewed, as a most powerful but much neglected instrument of education, I can imagine no study more rife with pleasure and instruction, or need our ancestors have been Scipios or Fabii to interest us in their fortunes. We do not love our kindred for their glory or their genius, but for their domestic affections and private virtues, that, unobserved by the world, expand in confidence towards ourselves, and often root themselves, like the banian of the East, and flourish with independent vigor in the heart to which a kind Providence has guided them. An affectionate regard to their memory is natural to the heart; it is an emotion totally distinct from pride,—an ideal love, free from that consciousness of requited affection and reciprocal esteem, which constitutes so much of the satisfaction we derive from the love of the living. They are denied, it is true, to our personal acquaintance, but the light they shed during their lives survives within their tombs, and will reward our search if we explore them. Be their light, then, our beacon—not the glaring light of heroism which emblazons their names in the page of history with a lustre as cold, though as dazzling, as the gold of an heraldic illuminator; but the pure and sacred flame that descends from heaven on the altar of a Christian heart, and that warmed their naturally frozen affections, till they produced the fruits of piety, purity, and love—evinced in holy thoughts and good actions, of which many a record might be found in the annals of the past, would we but search for them, and in which we may find as strong incentives to virtuous emulation as we gather every day from those bright examples of living worth, which it is the study of every good man to imitate. And if the virtues of strangers be so attractive to us, how infinitely more so should be those of our own kindred, and with what additional energy should the precepts of our parents influence us, when we trace the transmission of those precepts from father to son through successive generations, each bearing the testimony of a virtuous, useful and honorable life to their truth and influence, and all uniting in a kind and earnest exhortation to their descendants so to live on earth, that—followers of Him through whose grace alone we have power to obey Him—we may at last be reunited with those who have been before, and those who shall come after us—

"No wanderer lost,
A family in heaven."

Be grateful, then, for your descent from religious, as well as noble ancestors; it is your duty to be so, and this is the only worthy tribute you can now pay their ashes."

On the former appearance of a portion of the present book, many supposed it to be a work of imagination merely, presented under the guise of autobiography. It is therefore proper, now, to state that it is in truth what, on the title-page, it purports to be, an authentic narrative of actual occurrences, and is drawn entirely from family manuscripts.

We have translated and printed in an Appendix various documents and edicts throwing light upon the history of the times, some of which, we believe, have not been published at length in the English language for more than a century. We took infinite pains, without success, to procure a translation of the Edict of Nantes, and were therefore induced to translate it for ourselves, and we think it desirable to place it within the general reach of the descendants of Huguenots, as a document in which they cannot fail to take an interest.


Reason for writing these memoirs—Noble origin of our family—John de la Fontaine born—Obtains a commission in the household of Francis I.—Embraces Protestantism—Persecution—January edict—John de la Fontaine resigns his commission—Assassination—Flight of his sons to Rochelle—Marriage of James de la Fontaine—Attempt to poison him—Henry IV. at Rochelle,


James de la Fontaine—Fond of study—Travels abroad—Called to the Churches of Vaux and Royan—First marriage—Children by it—Second marriage—Children by it—My father's person—Habits—Labors in the ministry—Summons before the Governor—Second Summons—Death,


My birth—Lameness—Imitation of my father's prayers—Meditations upon the heavenly bodies—Sent to school—Anecdotes of boyhood—Disgusted with study-Letter to sister—Mr, De la Bussiere—Admirable preceptor—College—Take degree of Master of Arts—My mother's death—Division of property.


Study with Mr. Forestier—His persecutions—Wife's firmness—Return home-Pray with neighbors—Absent at Easter—Poor people assemble in the woods-A spy—Warrants issued—A mason taken up—Recantation—Repentance—My return home—Warrant against me—Grand Provost and Archers appear—Prison—Permitted to pray.


Provost and Archers make another tour—Twenty country people brought to prison—Well supplied by Protestant brethren—Prayer—Indictment—Confrontation—Recollement—Examination of witnesses—Apply to be set at liberty—Accusation of the King's advocate—Dungeon—Removed to Town Hall—Bribery proposed to me,

…………. 69

Trial before the Presidency—Digression—Defence—Angry discussion with the President—Query—Reply—Sentence,

…………. 88

Appeal to Parliament—Factum—President's remark—Sentence reversed—Register refuses copy of decree—Apply for redress—Return home,

…………. 90

Persecution of 1685—Meeting of Ministers and Elders—My Opinion opposed to the Majority—Meeting of Protestants at Royan—Mr. Certani dissuades from Emigration—Interview with him—Gloomy Forebodings—Departure of Protestants—Dragoons appear—I leave Home—Visit Sisters—Traverse the Country—My betrothed,

…………. 99

Revocation of the Edict of Nantes—Preparations for flight—Difficulties and dangers of embarkation—Land in England—Cheapness of bread—Speculation In grain—Cruelty of a captain of a vessel,

…………. 118

Singular proposal from a lady—Marriage—Mode of Living—Removal to Bridgewater—Assistance from Committee—Why discontinued—Application for Relief—Unkindness—Attempt to recover property,

…………. 128

Remove to Taunton—Receive Ordination—Keep a Shop—Manufactory—Prosperity—Summoned before the Mayor—Defence—Speech of Recorder—Discharge,

…………. 142

Revolution of 1688—Landing of the Dutch—Unexpected visitor—Soldiers billeted on me—Retirement from business—Calimanco—Profitable manufacture—Crippled Weaver—Secret discovered—Visit Dublin and Cork—Send sons to Holland—Increase of family,

…………. 153

Arrival at Cork—Pastoral charge—Manufactory—Happiness—Dissension in the Church—Resignation—Reply—Remarkable Dream—Visit fishing station—Death of Aaron—Become Fisherman—Removal to Bear Haven—Loss of the Robert—Bad season—Trading voyage Successful fishery—Loss—Irish neighbors,

…………. 168

Attacked by a French Privateer—Defence—Letter to the Duke of Ormond—Ammunition furnished by Government—Small Fort—Visit Dublin—London—Pension—Copy of Warrant—Return Home,

…………. 198

Attacked by a second privateer—Out-houses fired—Breach in the wall—Wounded—Surrender—Carried off to the vessel—Expostulation with Captain—Ransom—Peter left as a hostage,

…………. 209

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,

…………. 227



Journal of John Fontaine, …………. 245

Interesting Family Meeting, …………. 311

Sermon, …………. 312

Letters of Mary Ann Maury, …………. 326

Letters of Rev. Peter Fontaine, …………. 388

Letters of Peter Fontaine, Jun., …………. 357

Letters of Rev. James Maury, …………. 378

Letter from John Fontaine to Rev. James Maury, …………. 442

Letter from Colonel William Fontaine, …………. 444
Conclusion, …………. 448
Appendix, …………. 453
Edict of Nantes, …………. 453

Secret Articles, taken from the General ones, that the King granted to those of
the pretended Reformed religion,

…………. 483

Writ of grant from Henry the Great, to his subjects of the pretended Reformed
religion, the 30th April, 1598,

…………. 494

The King's Proclamation forbidding
more than twelve persons to be present at
the Weddings and Baptisms of persons of the pretended Reformed religion,

…………. 499

Proclamation of the Sieur President and Lieutenant-General of Sedan, forbidding
persons of the pretended Reformed religion to expose, retail or sell animal food or game on days when the use of it is prohibited by the Church,

…………. 499

Copy of Memorandum, sent by Mr. Pelisson to various Bishops in Languedoc,
dated 12th June, 1677,

…………. 501

Proclamation of the King forbidding those of the pretended Reformed religion to act as Accoucheurs or Nurses,

…………. 503

Declaration of the King to the effect that children of the age of seven years may be converted from the pretended Reformed
religion, &c.,

…………. 504

Decree of the Council of State, forbidding private individuals to receive the sick of the pretended Reformed religion into their houses,

…………. 506

Edict of the King, which revokes that of Nantes, and all consequent upon it,
and forbids all public exercise of the pretended Reformed religion in the

…………. 506

Confession of Faith required to be subscribed to by converts from the Protestant
Church; a very little modified, in the articles upon Purgatory and the
Invocation of Saints, from that which was prepared under Plus IV. after the
Council of Trent

…………. 511