Sunday, July 31, 2016

Jaques "James" Fontaine (1658-1728): In England

     This post is a continuation of my previous post: Jaques "James" Fontaine (1658-1728): Religious persecution and escape from France. This is my eleventh post on this Fontaine family. Links to previous posts on this James Fontaine's ancestors and family history can be found on the Sadler Family Chart page of this blog. All quotes in this post are taken from Memoirs of the Reverend Jaques Fontaine, 1658-1728, The complete English text prepared, edited, and annotated by Dianne W. Ressinger, published by The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1992. The page number on which the quote can be found is shown in parentheses.

Huguenot refugees arriving in England in 1685
    James and Anne were happy and relieved when they arrived in Appledore which was on the southwest coast of England in the county of Devon. They were also hungry. James was amazed at the low cost of the biscuits he was given to eat, so he made inquiries as to the price of grain. He discovered that the price of grain in England was much less than the price of grain in France. He knew he needed to find a way to make an income, and he decided that exporting grain from England to France was one way to do it. He only had to figure out how to finance the venture. Between them, James and Anne had only 20 pistoles in cash and a small assortment of jewelry, gems and silver spoons to sell or barter for cash and goods. James needed to find a partner with money.
     After their arrival in England, James and Anne were taken in by Protestant families in Barnstaple, which was about six miles east of Appledore. Anne went to live with the Faine family. James went to live with Mr. Joseph Downe, a middle-aged, well-to-do bachelor, and Miss Downe, his spinster sister.   James first approached friends and family regarding partnership in his proposed grain export venture but without success. He then decided to present his grain export plan to Joseph Downe, and he offered the 20 pistoles, jewels and gems as collateral in case the project failed. Mr. Downe agreed to provide the needed capital for the project. They promptly put their plan in motion and shipped a large load of grain to France. In France, one of James's cousins sold the grain and used the resulting funds to buy wine, chestnuts and salt which he then shipped back to England for James to sell there. The venture was a great success. James and Mr. Downe made "a considerable profit" from it. (p. 125)
     While James was riding around southwest England making arrangements for his business ventures  he "saw everywhere heads and quarters of men who had been executed a few days before my arrival in England, which were at the crossroads, towers, and gates of the cities looking like butchers's[sic] shops."(p. 133) James believed the men had been executed principally because they were Presbyterians. The Presbyterians did not submit to the authority of the Anglican Church, which was the official state church of England. As a result, Presbyterians suffered some persecution in England. James had just escaped religious persecution for not practicing the official state religion of France (Catholicism). He was so revolted by what he thought was the mass execution of Presbyterians, that he foreswore ever joining the Anglican Church. James decision to align with the Presbyterian Church would cause him difficulties later. In reality, the bodies on display were not those of men who were executed for merely being Presbyterians. They were executed for treason because they had participated in the Monmouth Rebellion against King James II of England, a Roman Catholic.
James II of England in 1685
Attributed to Benedetto Gennari II [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
      In January 1686, James was faced with a dilemma. Miss Downe, his host's 34 year old spinster sister, had become enamored of 27 year old James. Apparently his good looks, sharp mind and industriousness made quite an impression on her! Miss Downe knew that James was engaged to Anne Boursiquot, but she had a solution for that. Her brother would marry Anne, thus making James available for herself.
     James and Anne turned down the Downes' proposal. James told Anne that it would bring him "more happiness to be poor with her all the days of my life than to be rich with any other woman on earth". (p. 126) James and Anne decided to marry as soon as they could. They were married on February 24, 1686 by Mr. Wood in St. Peter's Parish Church, Barnstaple, England. (February 24, 1686 is the date recorded in church records. In his memoirs, James gave February 8, 1686 as the date of his marriage.)
St. Anne's Chapel, Barnstaple, England in 1854
This is where James and Anne would have attended Huguenot church services in Barnstaple.
Photo found at
     The young couple moved into a little house in Barnstaple. The people of Barnstaple donated items to furnish the home and kept James and Anne supplied in groceries. James and Anne did not want to continue to live off the charity of others, so in September 1686 James took a job that required him to live away from Anne. Anne gave birth to their oldest son "a seven months child" on October 10, 1686. They named the baby James.
The green dots indicate the spots in which James Fontaine and Anne Boursiquot lived while in England.
The green dot on the left indicates the location of Barnstaple, the middle dot Bridgewater and the dot on the right Taunton.
     In January 1687, Anne, baby James and Anne's sister Elisabeth moved to Bridgwater to be closer to James. James still could not bear being separated from his family, so he quit his job. He needed to find another way to support his family. He made three more attempts to ship cargo to France and then import items into England, but he lost progressively more money with each shipment until he was in debt. In order to earn money he decided to open a grocery shop in mid-1687. He also started a school in Taunton, about 10 miles southwest of Bridgewater.
     After the failure of his last export-import effort, James decided in the spring of 1688 that he would move his family and shop to Taunton to be close to his school. There were several other Huguenot families living in Taunton, and James wished to be able to start a church and preach to them. In order to do this, he needed to be ordained. On June 10, 1688 James was ordained as a Presbyterian minister.          
     As an ordained minister, James was eligible for a monthly pension set up for the Protestant refugees. However, when he went to collect the money due him, he was rebuffed. The committee in charge of the fund would not give James any money because he had joined the Presbyterian church rather than the Anglican Church. He was told that if he was short of funds, he and his wife could go into service to earn money and send their children to a home. James was incensed by this and replied in no uncertain terms that he would not abandon his wife or children. This incident reinforced James's dislike of the Anglican Church. "This treatment soured my feelings still more against the Episcopalians. Experience told me that the more we oppose and torment those who disagree with us, the more offensive we appear to them and the less likely we are to persuade them of the things which we wish them to accept." (p. 135-136)
     James returned to Taunton. He set his energies to increasing his income so that he could support his family without the pension.  He worked to increase the revenue of his shop. Anne ran the shop while James purchased the items to go in it. It was "the most handsome shop in town" with "the best location in the marketplace opposite the cross". They sold raisins and needles at or below wholesale prices and this brought in the customers. James "bought from French manufacturers in the Netherlands. This did not cost half what would have been charged by the English". He was the only merchant in his area that sold beaver hats, and he sold his brandy undiluted. "In short, I managed so well that we had more customers that any other shop". (p. 137) False modesty was not one of James's failings.
Taunton Cross. The Fontaine's store was located near it.
     Always looking for a way to produce more income, James went into business with two weavers. From them, he learned how to produce cloth, and soon he "knew more than they did" and began making his own designs. James bought out his partners, but kept them on as employees. James manufactured cloth "in the upper part of the house" and then sent it downstairs to Anne's shop where she sold it at a profit.(p. 137)
     Both James's woolen cloth manufacturing business and Anne's shop flourished. Not unsurprisingly, some of the English shopkeepers and cloth manufacturer's in town resented how well the Fontaine's businesses were doing. Eventually, James was brought before the local court on the charge of practicing a trade in which he had not been apprenticed. James defended himself:
     My father, who was a worthy pastor of the gospel, brought up four boys in good manners, and the liberal arts. I was the youngest. He hoped that wherever fate might transport us, our education might serve instead of riches and we would have respect among people of honour. The only apprenticeship I have served since the age of five has been to turn the pages of a book. I took my degree of Master of Arts at the age of 22 and have since given all my time to the study of Holy Scriptures. Wherever I have been I have been thought deserving of the best company and have received both charity and honour.
     When I came to the town I saw that knowledge without riches was regarded as a tree without fruit, in a word, a thing worthy of contempt. If a poor ignorant wool-comber were to accumulate money he would be honoured and become on of the leading men in town. I have, gentlemen, renounced my studies and become a wool-comber and seller of pins and laces to see if I can one day become rich and be also among the distinguished men in the town. (p. 139)
    The court recorder defended James and reminded those present that if James was not allowed to earn money that the town would be responsible for the financial support of James and his family. James was released, but the damage was done. The town's merchants and leaders were against him. They taxed him heavily, spread rumors about him and in general tried to make life difficult for him.
    The end of 1688 saw King James II of England pushed out of power. Protestant England would not tolerate a Catholic monarch. William of Orange and his wife Mary, both Protestants, became king and queen of England. Protestant troops were stationed in Taunton for several during this transition time, and the Fontaines were required to provide lodging for eight soldiers. Their original allotment had been two, but when James complained about the two, more were sent. He "complained no more for fear of having 16". (p. 142)
By Painting: Sir James Thornhill; Photo: James Brittain [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
     Life in Taunton had become very unpleasant for James. He and Anne decided to sell their shop, since the competition from and success of this business is what fueled most of the animosity against them. They sold the shop on March 3, 1689. James still had his school and all the equipment required to manufacture cloth. Since school did not generate enough income to support the family, James turned his thoughts to cloth production.
     At that time, no one in Taunton produced calamanco, a woolen fabric used in petticoats, dresses and waistcoats. So, James decided calamanco was the cloth he would make despite the fact that no one in Taunton, including him, knew how to make the stuff. But his "determination (which others called obstinacy)" paid off, and he did indeed successfully manufacture calamanco. (p. 143) He designed his equipment and developed his own method for production of the cloth. Soon he had hired and trained several weavers to produce it, including a weaver who had lost one leg but was able to work a loom after James adapted it for his use.
    James's cloth manufacturing business was so successful that he retired from teaching and opened a shop to sell his cloth. He closely guarded the designs of his equipment and his methods for making the calamanco. As a result, he had no local competition until 1693. By then, others had figured out how to produce the fabric, and the market became flooded with it. James responded to the competition by developing more intricate designs. He spent 1694 exhausting himself inventing new patterns, only to be imitated and undersold. "Finally I was weary of the business". He decided to close his business, take his profits and move "to Ireland if I could find a French church in need" of a pastor. He found such a church in Cork, and he set off to make arrangements to move his family there. (p. 147)

To be continued.......

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Jaques "James" Fontaine (1658-1728): Religious persecution and escape from France

     This post is a continuation of my previous post: Jaques "James" Fontaine (1658-1728): childhood and youth. This is my tenth post on this Fontaine family. Links to previous posts on this James Fontaine's ancestors and family history can be found on the Sadler Family Chart page of this blog. All quotes in this post are taken from Memoirs of the Reverend Jaques Fontaine, 1658-1728, The complete English text prepared, edited, and annotated by Dianne W. Ressinger, published by The Huguenot Society of Great Britain and Ireland in 1992. The page number on which the quote can be found is shown in parentheses.

     France was a dangerous place for any Protestant in the early 1680s, and especially so for someone like James who aspired to become a Protestant minister. The French government was increasingly restricting the Protestants' ability to worship and do business. Protestants were often harassed, fined, jailed and worse. This was the world into which James graduated from university on August 26, 1680.
     James was undeterred by the oppressive political climate, however, and he began training for the Protestant ministry. He went to study divinity and apprentice under his brother-in-law Pierre Forestier at St. Meme for a year, at which point Pierre Forestier was arrested and thrown in prison as part of the state's effort to wipe out the Protestant church there.
     After Forestier's arrest, James returned to his own home at Jenouillé.  He did not stay there long, though, because he feared the the dragoons would soon be coming to his area. In 1681 the government had begun an new initiative, the dragonnade, to coerce Protestants to convert to Catholicism or to leave France. The king's horse soldiers, called dragoons, were sent to stay in Protestants' homes. While in the home the soldiers would harass and torture the inhabitants, destroy the household goods and property, and cause as much financial hardship on their "hosts" as possible. The practice was stopped at that time before reaching Jenouillé, and so James returned home.
Picture found at Wikimedia Commons.
     By this time Pierre Forestier had been released from prison and was preaching in Saintes. James went and joined his brother-in-law in Saintes and continued his divinity studies with him until Forestier left that church sometime in 1683. James again returned to Jenouillé.
     The Protestant ministers around Jenouillé were steadily being removed. Two ministers of Saintes were imprisoned. So was James's half-brother Pierre Fontaine, who had taken over their father's ministry at Vaux. Finally, there were no Protestant ministers in the area. As a result, James invited his neighbors to come to his house and join in his private worship. Despite not yet being ordained, James began to "explain the Holy Scriptures and to preach sermons". More and more people came to his services "until there were often 100 or 150 persons at a time". (p. 83)
     Every effort was made to keep the services a secret, since they were illegal, and the assemblies continued undisturbed for several months. But that all changed in the Spring of 1684 when James went to spend the Easter holidays with his relatives. While he was away from home, and without his knowledge, his Protestant neighbors gathered for religious services in the woods behind his house. The crowds steadily increased from Palm Sunday until by Easter Sunday (April 2, 1684) more that 1000 people were gathered for worship on James's property.
    Needless to say, such large meetings did not go unnoticed. A distant neighbor of James who wished to curry favor with the government reported the gatherings and accused by name James and 60 others of participating in the forbidden assemblies. As a result, James returned home to find there was a warrant out for his arrest. James tried to turn himself in, but was rebuffed. The authorities wanted to publicly arrest James in order to intimidate him and the other Protestants in the area into converting to Catholicism.
     James was undaunted. He advised all of his neighbors to stay in the woods where they had hidden themselves. James believed that "having encouraged so many persons to Glorify God and to risk their lives for the purity of our religion, and having been their leader while times were tranquil and God spared us, it would not be right to flee like a coward when encountering the enemies of the truth". (p. 85) James thus packed his bags, prepared his servants for his absence, and waited for the authorities to come and arrest him. He did not have to wait long. The authorities came for him the next morning.
     James was taken to Saintes and put into prison there. While in prison he regularly prayed quietly in a corner. Several days later James was joined in the prison by 20 of his Protestant neighbors who had volunteered to be arrested. The new prisoners joined James in his prayers. He used the prayers to relay information and guidance to the others. "When I was at prayer I asked God that if they [the authorities] asked me such and such questions, that I might receive from Him such and such answers". (p.90) This continued on for three weeks time during which none of the prisoners abjured their Protestant faith despite the best efforts of the authorities.
    Finally, James was charged with participating in an illegal assembly, preventing his fellow prisoners from converting to Catholicism, and causing offense to the Catholics and their priest with his prayers in prison. At his confrontation, James questioned the witnesses against him and succeeded in showing the weakness of their testimonies. The authorities decided to move James to a solitary cell in the town hall's bell tower. They hoped that without his presence, the other Protestant prisoners would convert to Catholicism. They also hoped that James would offer to buy his way out of his troubles. Neither hope was realized.
    In August, James had his hearing before the Sénéschal and Presidial. He "was sentenced to pay a fine of 100 livres to the King for having prayed to God in prison, and was forbidden forever to exercise any function of the ministry." (p. 100) The other Protestant prisoners were banished from the province for six months. They were also fined and ordered to pay all court expenses. James was included in their fine, too, since he had the money to pay the fees and the others did not. James immediately appealed his sentence, paid his individual fine and formally requested his freedom. His request was denied, and he and the others remained in prison.
     James's appeal was presented to the Parlement of Bordeaux. James was acquitted of all charges and the Sénéschal was ordered to give James back the money he had paid for fines. The others' sentence was reduced to just the 6 months banishment. After much delay on the officials' part and much persistence on James's part, James and his fellow prisoners were finally released from prison and James was reimbursed his fine just before Christmas 1684.
    The new year arrived and with it came increased efforts by the government to eradicate Protestantism from France. Protestants were pressured to convert to Catholicism or leave France. Dragoons were again sent out to unleash their harsh treatment on those who refused to convert or flee. James thought they should fight the dragoons, but the Protestant leaders preached non-resistance.  Protestants began to convert to Catholicism in large numbers, often before the dragoons even arrived, in order to avoid being subjected to their harsh treatment. Many other Protestants fled France rather than renounce their faith.
     James was not about to renounce his faith. He had decided he would rather die than do so. In June 1685 when he learned the dragoons were coming to his area, James packed a bag and gathered up all the money he could, about 500 francs. He left his house at midnight on horseback with his valet and began to ride toward his aunt's house in La Rue au Roi. Along the way he and his valet passed a group of dragoons, but they did not recognize him.
I was dressed in black but I had on a long wig and crape on my hatband so that my clothing would not arouse suspicion. My horses were worthy of carrying a general and his aide-de-camp. I had scarlet covers on my saddle, with a black fringe, and holsters for my pistols....they took me for a country gentleman and let me pass without speaking. (p. 115)
     After visiting his aunt, James went to see some of his siblings. Two of his sisters had converted, so he "did not visit them, as I found them unworthy to be considered siblings".  (p. 115)  (One of them later escaped to England as a Protestant). Two other sisters remained firm in the Protestant faith. (They also escaped to England.)
     James spent the next few months as a fugitive wandering from place to place. "I went sometimes for six or seven days without undressing or even taking off my boots. I only moved at night, except where I thought I was not known." (p. 116) He was often physically ill from worry and despair over the Huguenots' plight. He also worried about someone who had become very dear to him: Anne Elisabeth Boursiquot, his fiancée.
     Anne Elisabeth Boursiquot was a pretty 25 year old blond connection of the wife of James's half brother Pierre. It is not known when James met her or when they became engaged. She and her younger sister had fled their home and were taking refuge with family. James worried that Anne was not safe there, though, and he arranged for her to stay with a friend of his who had already converted to Catholicism and so was not under the threat of a visit from the dragoons.
     On October 22, 1685, King Louis XIV issued the Edict of Fontainebleau which officially revoked the Edict of Nantes. Among other things, the new edict ordered the destruction of all Protestant churches in France, banned Protestant worship, banned Protestant schools and required Protestants to have their children baptized and educated in the Catholic faith. Protestant clergy were given two weeks to leave France or convert to Catholicism. Other followers of the faith were banned from leaving France. The king wanted all to convert. He wanted the Protestant faith eradicated from France.
     James "saw that it was necessary either to die or to leave France". (p. 119) He and Anne chose to leave France and go to England. Since the new Edict forbade them to leave France they needed to do so in secrecy. James arranged passage on an English ship for himself, his niece, Anne and her sister. They went to La Tremblade where the ship was docked. They were told that the ship would pick them up on the beach at Mous de Loup on a certain night. James and his little group went to the beach at the assigned time. So did many other fugitives. The authorities somehow had found out about the escape plan and ordered the ship to remain in dock. Men went to the beach to try and catch the fugitives, but James, Anne and the others were able to get away and make their way back to La Tremblade. Some people there hid them for several days until they were able to make a new escape plan.
     The new plan called for James, his niece, Anne, her sister and eight others to take a small sailboat to a point between the Ile de Ré and the Ile d'Orléron and wait there for the ship to pick them up. At dusk on November 29, 1685, the fugitives embarked for their meeting with the ship. They arrived at the designated spot about ten the next morning and waited for the ship to appear. The ship finally arrived in the area late in the afternoon. Unfortunately, so did "a King's frigate which was used only for searching ships to prevent Protestants from leaving the kingdom. Those they captured were sent to the galleys, the women to convents. We were in fear which cannot be expressed in writing nor imagined by those who have not felt it." (p. 120)
     James directed the the master of the sailboat to cover all the fugitives with an old sail and then to set sail toward the frigate. The master and his son were to pretend they were drunk and having difficulty with the sail. This would enable them to signal the waiting escape ship as arranged by raising and dropping the sail three times. As the little boat sailed past the frigate, they were stopped for questioning but the fugitives were not discovered. At last the little boat went sailing after the escape ship and positioned itself so that James and the other fugitives were able to board the ship without being detected by the frigate. It was November 30, 1685 (New Style, or Gregorian Calendar, which was used in France at that time), and "a happy day" for James, Anne  and the others. (p. 122)
Green line indicates route of James and Anne's escape from France to England.
    The voyage to England took 11 days. The trip was a bit choppy due to unfavorable winds, and James suffered from seasickness. They landed at Appledore, England on December 1, 1685 (Old Style or Julian Calendar, which was used in England at that time. December 11, 1685 was the equivalent date in New Style). They had left their "country, family, friends and property" to maintain the right to worship as they saw fit. (p. 122) They rejoiced at their good fortune.

(to be continued....)