Some Old Mobile Families

Excerpted from "Colonial Mobile", Peter J. Hamilton (Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1897)

Chapter XVI: Some Old Families

By the middle of the century, the Mobile country had been well-explored and settled, both about the sound and bay, and far up the rivers, too. Indian disturbances would play their part, but names would remain even when some of the plantations were abandoned.

Almost all the names about Mobile, particularly of the watercourses, were given by the French, and are found on their maps and in their private and public documents. Strange to say, the Tombechbé is not on many French maps. It is almost always called Mobile River, -- so on Homann about 1720, Dumont, Du Pratz 1757, and others. Sometimes it is named for the Chickasaws among whom it rose, and by the English Coxe for the Choctaws, but only occasionally it received the name Tombechbé, which became usual under the British. The Alabama, however, almost uniformly was called R. des Alibamons, except by Coxe 1722, who names it Coza, or Coussa.

Delisle is the real founder of modern geographical science, and his maps of Louisiana, for instance 1703, are valuable. Danville's map of Louisiana, 1732-52, is for Mobile points the best of all. It calls for Baye de la Mobile, has Pte. de la Mobile, and the now familiar Bay Minet, Ecor Rouge, R. aux Poissons (low down on which some maps give a waterfall), Isle Dauphine, with Islets aux Grand Goziers out towards the channel entrance, and our Little Dauphine Island is Isle A Guillori, with I. aux Herons nearer Pte. aux Huistres. There is also Pts. aux Pins, and R. A Derbane is not yet changed to La Batterie. Les Jones (grass islands) show the breakwaters of Portersville Bay, but Isle aux Herbes (Coffee Island) is not given, nor the Pass a Barreau to the east. The bay at Choctaw Point is marked two fathoms, and all below is three, -- an improvement on Delisle's two and a half. Miragouane seems nearer Gross Pte. , but Bellefontaine between Rivieres aux Poules and Chevreuil and R. aux Chiens are the same. Chateau Bienville in our Garrow's Bend we have seen, but Chacteau Sauvagé with two village marks, one on each side of Dog River, at different places, would seem to point to the Choctaws, whom Bienville had transplanted there.

Of the people, we of course know more of the residents of Mobile town, but, besides Boissy near Toulminville, the Baudins on Miragounae or Mon Louis Island, and the Carriers over near Bay Minette, we find traces of some of the many settlers up Mobile River still mentioned even after the change of flag.

Many of their names are lost to us, but, as a southern Acadian race, they tilled the river banks, and the smoke from homes of thrifty settlers rose amid the figs and vines from Mobile up beyond the fork of the rivers. Gayety was not lacking, and pirogues carrying pleasure parties would pass the farmer or the hunter taking his products to town, or hail the solemn Indian in the bayous.

We should naturally expect to meet them mostly about the bluffs, not on the swamp lands predominant below Twenty-one Mile Bluff, and so it was. This, the first highland, was occupied by Beauchamps, who sold to Grondel, for whom the plantation was called St. Philippe, and a little promontory almost making up a part of it is even yet sometimes called La Prade. Lizard Creeks across in the delta were long named for Beauchamps, and Bayou Registe a little above we have noticed as at least certainly French. Creek Dubrocas, including the Brus, have long lived near Twenty-one Mile Bluff, although the French grand places B. Dubroca, south of Bayou Sara.

About the site of the old fort we do not find settlers, but the well-known La Tours seem to have been near the river bend a mile above. Bayou Mathieu across in the delta may commemorate the curé of this name, and Krebs Lake perpetuates some one of that family.

The De Lussers, at the close of the French period, certainly lived at the north end of the delta. Where the Tensaw leaves the Mobilians and Apalaches, one plan shows the Parenta, and not far away was Favre.

Eleven leagues from Mobile, and therefore near what is now called Chastang's, the Le Sueurs at one time had a plantation at a bluff on the west side of the river. It was afterwards the property of Narbonne. The description, owing to court proceedings, has survived in some detail. In 1756 the house was new, thirty feet long by twenty wide, a filled-in frame of posts, and roofed with bark. It had six windows and two doors and a clay chimney, with a gallery at one gable; there was also a lean-to (appentif) kitchen with chimney. To one side was a chicken house, and to the right of the yard (cour) a large structure sixty by thirteen feet, surrounded by posts and piling, covered with bark, used as a lodging for slaves. On the other side was a barn, twenty-five toises square. The place faced on the river fifteen arpens by two deep, and across the river there was another field (desert) ten arpens across front by two deep.

To this time we must assign the adjacent Chastang settlement near Chastang's Bluff, still represented by the large and interesting colored Creole colony who live in the vicinity. They claim descent from Dr. John Chastang of Spanish times but really go back to the French period, of which their patois is an interesting reminder.The church registers give the history of some families quite in detail, and of these it will be interesting to select for fuller notice the Le Sueurs and De Lussers, whose out-of-town houses we have just noted.

In the fascinating pages of Penicaut we learn of one La Sueur who in 1700, went from Biloxi in charge of an expedition up the Mississippi to the Falls of St. Anthony and to the Sioux west of our Lake Michigan in order to find a copper mine on Green River, of which he had known in previous years. He had had a post on the upper Mississippi in 1695, and discovered the Minnesota, which he named St. Peter River. These former expeditions must of course have been by way of Canada. He had come to Louisiana on the voyage of 1699, but had spent several years among the Sioux, and it was on account of his knowledge thus acquired of the Indians that Bienville so highly recommended him as suited to induce the vast resettlement of nations which this leader planned. The Canadians slyly intimate that the partiality was due mainly to their connection by marriage, Le Sueur having married the other's cousin-german.

We do not know much more of Le Sueur , except that he spent the winter at the north in his Fort D'Huillier, where his name is perpetuated by a county in Minnesota, and in 1701 came back with thirteen hundred pounds of green earth, which he sent to France. The result of the assay Penicaut doe not know.

The church registers throw light upon the subsequent family history, for it must be his widow, Bienville's cousin-german, whom we find in 1708 as the mother of Jean and Marguerite, who act as sponsors for a Barrand child. Next year the son's name is given as Jean Paul, and a sister Marie is mentioned, who, by the way, cannot write her name. Marguerite we find still mademoiselle in 1722, but Marie was two years before wife of Sieur La Tour, captain of a company, probably the commandant of Fort Toulouse. La Tours were later to have their residence on a plantation up in the Mobile delta, although this one is mentioned, in 1727, as then major at New Orleans.

Six years before this, we find a Mr. Pierre La Sueur named as officer of the garrison at Mobile, and then, years later, mention of a Captain La Sueur whose full name is not given, and J. P. Le Sueur seems to have been, perhaps casually, at Fort Toulouse in 1736, when Pechon died. Whether the commandant at Tombechbé was Jean Paul or Pierre must therefore remain uncertain, but the dates well admit of Jean Paul's commanding in the twenties at Dauphine Island, and in the thirties and later up the Tombigbee. We know that before his death at Mobile, in 1751, he was a major as well as chevalier of the order of St. Louis. He must, therefore, have been a man of experience in the service.

Another family worthy of study is that of the De Lussers.

It has been the romantic dream of antiquarians that the land owning Mme. De Lusser was the widow of the gallant victims of Akia, and that town-lots and, later, more extensive lands were grants in the nature of a pension by a grateful sovereign. But the recitals of his heirs seem to point to the husband surviving his wife, and enjoying what he (like others of a more commercial epoch) put in his wife's name.

And yet there is good reason to believe that the romantic story is true, and the family tradition is wrong

We have seen that Captain Joseph Christophe De Lusser was killed at Akia in 1736, and there is nothing to point to any other De Lusser in Mobile except his wife and children, unless a Captain Joseph in the baptismal records be other than his son. His wife, and widow, was Marguerite Bouras. They had three children. Of these, Marguerite Constance was born and baptized September 10, 1750; Marie Joseph was another child, but her baptism has not been noticed in the church records. She, like her sister, was old enough in 1734 to attest the baptism of a son of engineer De Vin. On June 4, 1724, was born the third children Jean Baptiste. He was ondoyé by Father Claude at the time of his birth, but for some reason the baptismal ceremonies were no supplied until February 4, 1735. Then they had a great time of it. Governor Bienville was godfather to the boy, who bore his name of Jean Baptiste. Dame Barbe Bienville was godmother, and among the dozen witnesses were La Sueur and Beauchamps.

Captain De Lusser was a a large slave-holder, and every now and then the register shows he had one baptized. After his untimely death, his widow continues to acquire slaves, and Mme. De Lusser had them baptized. Sometimes her daughters act as godmothers or witness the ceremony, - - as October 1, 1736, where Constance signs as godmother, and March 7 of the next year, Marie, who always writes her pet name, Manon. By 1737 we find J. B. Lusser, officer, witnessing a baptism in 1742 again as ensigne d'infanterie.

Constance became the wife of Captain Pierre Nicholas Annobal Chevalier, Sieur De Velle, and April 17, 1740, we find young Lusser, his mother, and several others witnessing the baptism of the first De Velle child. Marie soon afterwards married Lieutenant Francis Marie Joseph Hazeur, and their first child was baptized in 1742. Both lived to raise large families, and ultimately moved to New Orleans.

We find no mention of children of Jean Baptiste, and the children of his sisters Constance and Marie were to claim his property on the ground that he left no direct heirs. But it would seem that the property he was to leave was acquired of his mother, Marguerite Bouras, for the land was given to the owner of the slaves, and the owner of the slaves was the Akia widow, mother of Constance, Manon, and Jean Baptiste. How he inherited from their mother we do not know, but may well have bought out his sisters' interests when they moved away.

Suffice it, however, that the Mme. De Lusser, from whom came the De Lusser Tract and other hands, was probably the mother, not the wife, of J. B. De Lusser.

Another prominent family was that of Francoise Cesar Bernoudy, long garde magasin and royal attorney (procureur) at Mobile. His wife was Louise Marguerite Belzagai. He was dead by 1757, when she signs as Veave Bernoudy, but they seem to have had a large family. A daughter called for her was wife of Captain J. B. Aubert, Francois is named as cadet Suisse, and at the same time Mlle. Margeurite and Mlle. Francoise Bernoudy also appear in the church records.

"Endless genealogies" could be made of many city families, some noble, some bourgeois, but these will suffice. Of families that will later meet us, however, may be named Charles Rochon and his son Pierre, Landry, Delalande, Jean and Simon Favre, Durand Duret, Jusan and H. E. Krebs. Colored offshoots of the Bernoudy and Favre families were to perpetuate those names in land grants. The Pechons, Beauchamps, Mandevilles, and others of rank were to disappear with the French flag.