355. Marguerite FOLCHS1565 was born in Europe.
The Immigration of the Hayes/Hayer Family (From "Who was Marguerite Hayes/Hayer")
At this point in our research, having not found baptismal records for Marguerite, Magdelaine, or Catherine Hayes/Hayer, we focused once again on the origins of these three females and their parents, Nicolas Hayes/Hayer and Marguerite Folchs/Joles. This led to the discovery of an article entitled "Alsatian Emigration to Louisiana 1753-1759". [Source: "The Louisiana Purchase Bicentennial Series in Louisiana History: The French Experience in Louisiana"; Edited by Glenn R. Conrad]. The article reveals the story of the Hayes/Hayer family of Alsace.
A little background … In 1685, King Louis XIV revoked the 87-year-old Edict of Nantes. The Edict had granted Calvinist Protestants of France (Huguenots) substantial rights in the mostly-Catholic country and also ended the religious war which had plagued France during the 2nd half of the 16th century. After the revocation, the religious wars did not re-ignite, but intense persecution of Protestants took place. Protestant churches were destroyed and pastors were sent into exile. The prohibition to practice the Protestant religion applied to all of France except Alsace – a historical region in northeastern France on the Rhine River plain bordering Germany and Switzerland – only because Alsace had just been attached to France in the recent past (1648-1678) which wisely led the King to decide to agree to the right of existence of the German-Lutherans in this area. However, soon after the revocation, the Germans offered the French Protestants land and livestock if they wanted to settle in Germany. Louis XIV quickly reacted to this German offer by announcing that any Huguenot arrested for attempting to leave France without a permit would be sentenced to life in prison - the men in the galleys, the women in a jail cell. In addition, their property would be confiscated by the King.
At the same time, the government lured citizens to become whistleblowers against those trying to flee by offering bonuses to the whistleblowers. According to Conrad, "following a concerted government effort against the Protestants in the early eighteenth century, generally known as the War of the Camisards, persecution of Huguenots intensified only at irregular intervals. In May, 1724, for example, several years after the death of Louis XIV, the prime minister of France, the duc de Bourbon, issued a declaration which injected new vigor into the conflict by demanding that all children of Protestant parents be taught the Catholic catechism until they were twelve years of age and that they attend Catholic services until they were twenty. Consequently, a concurrent wave of persecution and emigration swept France for the next year or so, but soon ebbed and was followed by a twenty-year era of comparative laxness on the part of authorities to enforce the law." Apparently, the Lutherans of Alsace-Lorraine began to be subjected to short periods of harassment beginning in about 1745. It was during one of those periods of harassment, 1752-1754 (probably in December, 1752) that 22 Lutherans, along with their 25 children, decided to restart their lives in Germany, probably seeking land and livestock more than escaping religious oppression. Included in this group was the family of Nicolas Hayes/Hayer. As bad luck would have it (or, possibly, due to a whistleblower), the group was stopped at the border and immediately made to appear before the Parliament of Metz, the highest court of Lorraine. Their guilt was undeniable and all were imprisoned. Their future appeared very grim.
Although these individuals were tried at Metz, they weren’t necessarily from that area. The Conrad article provides some info that had to have been derived from the transcripts of the trial, suggesting the existence of more detailed info on the families, but, unfortunately, he didn’t identify his source. We do know, however, that two of the Alsace families mentioned later in Louisiana sacramental records identified their place of birth as Schillersdorff, Alsace, now located in the Bas-Rhin department in Grand Est. An examination of the available on-line sacramental records for both the Lutheran and Catholic churches in that area of France failed to turn up anything of significance. However, there are a number of Volz familes in the area of Schillersdorff and Haguenau but nothing has been found for Marguerite Volz and nothing has been found for the Hayer family anywhere that has been searched. Perhaps Nicolas was originally from Germany.
However, the chancellor responsible for religious laws decided that these farmers would be more useful as settlers and that exile to Louisiana would lead “to the same end, an early death” anyway. The proposition was put to the prisoners in late January or early February 1753 with the condition that they agree to renounce their Lutheran religion and become Catholic. Of course, they truly had no other option. After the Alsatians agreed to the religious conversion and Louisiana exile in lieu of life imprisonment, it was decided that they would be settled among the Germans of the German Coast in Louisiana. Under police escort, the 47 Alsatians left Metz for Rochefort (Charente-Maritime) on 10 June 1753 in the first leg of their perilous trans-Atlantic journey. After arriving there, and as the group boarded the ship Le Caméléon at Rochefort, the name of each passenger was checked off of a list that had been forwarded by the Minister of the Navy. The exiles were identified as:
“Michel Bernhard, his wife Anne-Marie Hess, a son and four daughters; Philippe Conrad, his wife Christine Beauviz, and their son; Andre Fichter and his wife Marie-Magdelaine Reinard; Nicolas Hayer, his wife Marguerite Volz, their son and daughter; Christian Jacob, his wife, Marguerite Mehl, their two sons and four daughters; Philippe Philippy, his wife Catherine-Barbe Frantz, and their two sons; Henry Reutnaver, his wife Marguerite Gassner, and their two daughters; Solomon Ritz; George Roucke; Nicolas Scheffer, his wife Barbe Schenep, and their daughter; Henry Vespeman, his wife Christine Reinard, and their two sons; Nicolas Wollion, his wife Eve-Elisabeth Kidel, their three sons and daughter”
The group sailed from Rochefort on 3 July 1753. The trip was expected to take six-weeks. They traversed a route that took them through Saint-Dominique and landed at New Orleans on 8 September 1753. They were settled on government land on the West Bank of the Mississippi River just above the capital. Each family received the rudimentary equipment requirement for survival on a farm, and they were given sufficient provisions to help them through the winter. German families already established in the area did their best to facilitate life for the new arrivals. In early December, the Governor of the French colony of Louisiana, Louis Belcourt, Chevalier de Kerlérec, wrote that “he had settled the group together, for to separate them would only have made their already difficult existence increasingly unbearable”.
More than half a year later, on 4 July 1754, Kerlérec wrote to the Minister of the Navy stating that he had been able to supply the new colonists sufficiently to the point that they were self-sustaining until the harvest in the fall. Each family had received 400 livres. Kerlérec also stated that, during a visit with the new colonists in February, he "found them to be quite contented, working courageously and ambitiously to house themselves and to prepare the land for sowing". Furthermore, Kerlérec stated that the Alsatians "were beginning to sell chickens, eggs, and vegetables in New Orleans". The Governor went on to describe them as hard-working farmers who led a quiet life.