Pierre Baptiste Huet
The following information was provided by Baptiste descendant and Portersville Revival Group Board member, Barbara Jean Mcnamara. The Baptiste are credited with the post-Columbian settlement of the Portersville/ Coden region of the French Coast.
Unfortunately, the history of the patriarch of the clan, Pierre Baptiste, seems to be lost or possibly blurred due to the tragic execution of his father, Jean Baptiste Baudreau II, the only individual known to be executed by the wheel on American soil. This work was in progress prior to hurricane Katrina and its presentation delayed as a result of the tragedy of Katrina’s damage upon the French Coast.
The history of the Baptiste family and even the recount thereof seems to be followed by catastrophic events. The Board of Portersville Revival Group proudly presents the following history of the life of Pierre Baptiste.
The Bosarge and the Baptiste(1) are two families credited with colonizing the area known as the French Coast of Alabama. This document will focus on the life of Pierre Baptiste [also known in some documents as Pierre Huet/Hewitt(2)] who was an extraordinary individual born along the eastern banks of the River D'erbanne (later called Bayou la Batre - it is from this body of water that the present day City of Bayou la Batre takes its name). The Baptiste Family was instrumental in founding the area more familiarly known in later history as Coden and Portersville. Early colonists and present locals refer to this particular area as “Sans Souci”
The Bosarge family is readily acknowledged as the founding family of what has become present day City of Bayou La Batre. The Bosarge family settled the west banks of the body of water known at that time as River D'erbanne. Joseph Bouzage (Bosarge) had married Louise Catherine Baudreau, daughter of Jean Baptiste Baudreau II and Marie Catherine Vinconneau(3). Many descendants of the Bosarge family still reside in the area today.
The Baptiste plantation is found along the eastern banks of the River D'erbanne and extends to Bayou Cogne d’ Inde (later corrupted by the English and now known as Coden). In some historical documents, the site of the plantation is also referred to as Oyster Point or Pierre’s Point. Much of what was the plantation of the Baptiste family is now found in the boundaries of the town of Coden (which takes its name from the body of water originally known as Bayou Cogne d‘Inde).
This land mass encompassed by the Baptiste plantation later became known at the turn of the 19th century as “Portersville“. Portersville was a thriving area attracting individuals nationwide. During Portersville times this portion of the French Coast of Alabama was touted by Railroad Brochures to be “the Gold Coast of the South.” Portersville was destroyed in the early years of the 19th century by a succession of hurricanes beginning in 1906. It is now listed among the “dead towns” of Alabama.
Life in this area is passionate, tragic, and difficult. The proximity of the area to the Gulf of Mexico and the uncertainty of the weather, renders life tentative in what is otherwise one of God‘s most treasured paradise. The history of the Baptiste family is colored by these traits of the area. Pierre Baptiste is considered the patriarch of the Baptiste clan of the French Coast of Alabama. He and his sister, Julie, are the product of an affair between Jean Baptiste Baudreau II (hereinafter referred to as "Jean Baptiste") and Marie Henriette Huet (hereinafter referred to as "Marie Henriette").
The affair of Jean Baptiste and Marie Henriette has lent itself to several works of great interest. It is chronicled in "Jean Baptiste and Henriette, A Creole Tragedy" by Randall Ladnier. The novel by Eloise Genest entitled “The Passions of Princes” also is based upon the love affair of Jean Baptiste and Marie Henriette . In describing the work of Genest, Jay Higginbotham states that “The Passion of Princes” is "a gripping, convincing novel that takes the reader deep into the heart of this romantic Gulf Coast setting" and is a compelling story of suspense, romance, and intrigue.
Jean Baptiste was the only son of Jean Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline (hereinafter referred to as "Graveline") and an Indian woman named Susanne(4). Graveline was one of the original founders of Mobile who arrived with Pierre Baptiste LeMoyne, Sieur d'Iberville at Old Biloxi on January 6, 1700 aboard "The Renommee". Graveline died in Pascagoula in 1762 at the age of 91.
In his Last Will and Testament, Graveline refers to Susanne as the daughter of a great chief. Graveline further states that he had married Susanne in the Church to legitimize Jean Baptiste as his son.(4)
Marie Henriette's parents were Guillaume Huet and Perrine Rivouet. The June 26, 1721 census of d'ille Dauphine (present day Dauphin Island) shows that Guillaume and Perrine are living at d'ille Dauphine with four children. The March 1725 census shows this family had moved from d'ille Dauphine to the west side of Mobile Bay near Les Chatas, an Indian village in the Belle Fontaine area of Mobile County.(5)
Guillaume Huet soon established his large plantation along the eastern banks of River D'erbanne near Oyster Point. The census dated January 1, 1726 shows the Huets are living at Oyster Point with four children, four Negro slaves, and one Indian slave.(6) Most likely Marie Henriette was born after the Huet family moved to Oyster Point. She was very young when she became involved with Jean Baptiste -- possibly only 14 or 15 years old when she birthed her first child by Jean Baptiste, a daughter named Julie. Records of the Superior Council of Louisiana filed in 1747 regarding need for support of Marie Henriette's two children indicate she was still a minor child herself.
Pierre Baptiste, a son and second child of Jean Baptiste and Marie Henriette, was born circa 1745. Among the records of the archives of the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception of Mobile, Alabama can be found a baptism record dated April 18, 1745, for an Indian slave child named Francois belonging to the "Infant Huet". The infant may possibly be the baby, Pierre Baptiste. The children, Julie and Pierre, often used the surname Baptiste (which was their father's middle name), although on occasion they also utilized their mother's maiden name of Huet.
Both children, Julie Baptiste and Pierre Baptiste, were most likely born at Oyster Point. Petitions to the Superior Council of Louisiana appear to indicate that Julie was born about December 1743 . Her birth may have precipitated Jean Baptiste and Marie Henriette to flee to Cuba. They remained in Cuba for about seven months, until Graveline sailed down to return his son, Jean Baptiste, to provincial Louisiana where he faced kidnapping charges as filed by Marie Henriette's guardian. Marie Henriette was returned to Oyster Point on a separate ship. Marie Henriette was apparently pregnant with Pierre on the return voyage as he was born the following spring.
On April 25, 1747 a petition was granted by Louboey, the commandant at Mobile, to award Marie Henriette a pension for support of Marie Henriette and the children, Julie and Pierre. The petition had been filed by Graveline, as the paternal grandfather of the children. Commandant Louboey remarked to the grandfather that "your charity is well placed regarding Henriette Huet..." (7)
The generous pension provided by Graveline enabled Marie Henriette to secure an education for the children. The graceful script handwriting of both Pierre and Julie on numerous documents indicates they received the finest education provided in those days. Young men of the time were educated at home by the priests. This would have enabled Pierre to remain at the San Souci plantation. The Ursuline Boarding School had recently been established in New Orleans and proper young ladies of the Gulf Coast colonies soon began to attend. It is possible that Julie boarded at Ursuline to acquire her education.
Pierre's adolescent years were spent on his grandmother Huet’s large plantation at San Souci. This point of land known as Oyster Point which juts out into Portersville Bay on the east side of the Bayou la Batre is also referred to as Pierre's Point. As a small boy, he must have spent endless hours on the plantation's beachfront overlooking the waters of the bay or perched among the massive outstretched limbs of the ancient live oak on the eastern edge of Bayou D‘erbanne, eagerly on look-out for pirate ships sailing up the bayou from the bay. This old live oak, a lonely sentinel, battered by centuries of storms and minus many of its massive branches, still stands today marking the site of the nearby Huet plantation home. In the late 1800’s, Mardi Gras Revivalist Joe Cain built his home on the same site.
Following her affair with Jean Baptiste and house arrest by her guardian, Marie Henriette was married in 1748 to Jean Baptiste Bidaut dit LaJeunesse, a sergeant in Hazeur's company and a churchwarden. This marriage was most likely arranged by her guardian and brother-in-law, Ignace Petit. Marie Henriette’s marriage was a short one as she was a widow by 1754.
In 1757, Pierre Baptiste was only 12 years old when his father, Jean Baptiste, was unjustly executed in Mobile. Jean Baptiste was the only American who has ever suffered execution by the wheel.(8)
By 1761, Julie was married to Jacques Milon and settled into married life in New Orleans. Young Pierre’s focus would have been on managing the San Souci plantation for his maternal grandmother, Perrine Huet who was widowed by 1743.
Pierre grew to manhood as a trader, dealing with local merchants as well as ship captains in New Orleans, and managing the large plantation's farmland and herds of cattle. His fair and honest trading was much appreciated not only by the colonists, but also by the Native American inhabitants of the area who had held his father in high esteem.
Pierre faced daily struggles to simply survive in this primitive land. He was embroiled in the many changes of governments from French, to British, to Spanish, and eventually American control. Each foreign occupation meant Pierre had to re-establish his identity and ownership of his properties.
During the British occupation of Mobile, the French settlers were required to pledge their allegiance to King George III in order to retain their land. Many opted to leave and moved to New Orleans; however, Pierre and his mother, Marie Henriette, remained and on October 2, 1764, signed the allegiance in order to retain ownership of the Huet plantation. Pierre signed as "Pierre Huet".
Pierre's grandmother, Perrine Huet, died November 28, 1767 in Mobile. Pierre's mother, Marie Henriette died on February 9, 1770. Thus at the age of 25 with the fortitude of his French-Canadian ancestry coursing through his blood, Pierre became the sole heir to one of the most desirable plantation properties in south Mobile County. It was during his youth that Pierre met his future wife, Marguerite Jacob.
The Huet plantation bordered on Bayou Hamon (possibly present day Bayou Cateau), within a short distance of the nearby home place of Jacques 'Jacob' and his wife, Marianne. Pierre and Marguerite grew up as neighbors on the bayou. She was indeed "the girl next door". This beautiful Creole maiden with the dark flashing eyes soon captured the heart of the young Frenchman. In October of 1770, Pierre became the godfather to Marguerite's youngest brother, Pierre. Their childhood friendship had blossomed into love.
Scant records of Pierre exist during the British period of Mobile occupation. Given the execution of his father, Pierre kept a very low profile in the colony. Documents evidence that Pierre witnessed the marriage of Barthelemy Grelot and Marie Jeanne Nicaise in 1767. In 1771, British Army Captain Bernard Romans surveyed the Choctaw Nation and stayed at the house of Trader Hewitt (Anglicized spelling of Huet) upriver near the Tombigbee Settlements of the Abekas.
Marie Jeanne Nicaise was the niece of Charles Miot, who owned the former LaLande plantation at BelleFontaine. At his death, Charles Miot would leave one-half of his plantation to Marianne Jacob (the widow Hamon) and one-half to his heirs (one of whom was Marie Jenne Nicaise Grelot). The heirs promptly deeded their one-half over to Marianne.
Marianne was the mother of Marguerite Jacob, wife of Pierre Baptiste. In 1780 Pierre purchased a 623-acre plantation from Pierre Rochon, which was adjacent to the LeLande property of Charles Miot. The land was located between Deer River (Rio del Gamo) and Fowl River (Rio del Gallina) on the west side of Mobile Bay and situated amidst the Chaquetasyamace villages (Les Chatas) scattered on the western shore of Mobile Bay. This is the same location where his maternal grandfather, Guillaume Huet had once settled in 1725.
By 1780, Pierre had apparently established his surname as Baptiste. Marriage record for Pierre and Marguerite has not been located, but they may have married in the small Indian chapel located at Belle Fontaine. Amid the area's neighboring cattle properties, this particular site provided a fresh water Artesian fountain and lush grazing pastures for the cattle, of which Pierre had a large stock.
Pierre Baptiste is listed with a wife on the Spanish census dated January 1, 1786. On the census of 1788, Pierre is listed with a wife and four children.
Their first known child, Pierre 'Garcon' Baptiste, was born about 1778-80 and named for his father. When their third child, Jean Pierre Baptiste, was baptized in 1783, the record shows that Pierre's half-brother, Jean Baptiste Baudreau III, was the godfather.
Pierre and Marguerite would have five more children, with their youngest child, Jacob Pierre 'Diego Ursin' Baptiste, born in 1795. On October 6, 1792, Pierre filed with the Spanish governor a claim as "sole heir" to the San Souci plantation of his grandparents, stating that title had been lost when the British were in control of the country. An audit of merchants, Joyce & Turnbull in Mobile dated November 1798 lists Pierre Baptiste as one of their customers who traded hides.
During the time of Spanish control, French land owners without property documentation were required to petition the Spanish governor in order to retain ownership of their land. Pierre Baptiste petitioned the Spanish court stating that title to his San Souci land had been lost during the British occupation and he was the sole heir to Widow Huet's plantation. Pierre was awarded a grant from Governor General Carondelet on October 22, 1792. The grant required that within one year a road must be constructed and sufficient ground cleared. It was further stipulated that Pierre must occupy the land and continue its cultivation. The requirements were fulfilled as the children of Pierre and Marguerite pitched in and helped their parents work the plantation, just as young Pierre had done some twenty years earlier.
The exact date of Pierre Baptiste's death in unknown. It is possible that both Pierre Baptiste and his wife, Marguerite, died on his beloved plantation at San Souci as they struggled to meet the requirements to re-establish his claim to this property. It must have been very difficult for this family as they divided attention between the large San Souci plantation and the smaller plantation on the bay at Belle Fontaine.
In October 1808, records indicate that the Estate of Pierre Baptiste was beginning to be liquidated. Of necessity, the six surviving children of Pierre Baptiste began to sell off the plantations. The three older sons, Pierre 'Garcon' Baptiste, Jean Pierre Baptiste, and Bernard 'Bedo' Pierre Baptiste, were now responsible for not only the cattle industry established by their father and his large plantation holdings, but also the care of their two sisters and younger brother, Jacob Pierre 'Diego Ursin' Baptiste. Louisa Baptiste, the older daughter, quickly assumed the role of "surrogate mother". The two small frail sons, Nicolas and Julien, apparently succumbed in early childhood, as there is no further mention of them following their baptisms.
With their parents deceased, the young Baptiste men had to diversify their holdings. The plantations gradually dissolved piece-by-piece as the children of Pierre and Marguerite married and moved inland. Only Pierre 'Garcon' Baptiste would remain in the coastal area and pursue his livelihood in the waters of Portersville Bay. Parcels of the Baptiste plantation were sold off to and later held by the families Alba, Barrett, Gillard, Miller, Pettus, Raby, Rayfield and Yeend. Most of this property is located on what is now Shell Belt Road in Coden/Bayou La Batre and borders upon Portersville Bay.
On a warm summer's evening along the sandy beach of Portersville Bay near Pointe Pierre, if you are one of the lucky few, you may catch a brief glimpse of a tall, slender young Frenchman walking hand-in-hand with a beautiful girl, her honey-colored skin glistening in the lingering rays of sunset and her long black hair flowing freely in the evening's gentle breeze. The spirit of Pierre Baptiste still lingers at the water's edge among the towering pines and ancient live oaks draped in Spanish moss at the Huet plantation on the River D'erbanne.
(1) The Huet-Baptiste family predates the Bosarge family in the area. The census dated January 1, 1726 census shows Guillaume and Perrine Huet are living at Oyster Point with four children, four Negro slaves, and one Indian slave. It was not until October 1786 that Joseph Bouzage (Bosarge) petitioned the Governor General of the Province of Louisiana for a tract of land on the west side of the river for a home place for his wife and seven children.
(2) Pierre Baptiste is of the “Huet Family” as will be developed more fully herein.
(3) The lives of the Bosarge and Baptiste families do intertwine. As Pierre worked his land on the east side of the river, across the waters on the west side was the home of Pierre's half-sister, Louise Catherine Baudreau Bouzage (Bosarge).Jean Baptiste married Marie Catherine Vinconneau. This union produced four children -- one of whom was Louise Catherine Baudreau who married Joseph Bosarge.
(4) Susanne’s identity is revealed on the marriage document of Jean Baptiste to Marie Catherine Vinconneau. According to recently discovered documents by Baptiste descendant and researcher, Frances Ashcraft of Mobile, Alabama , Graveline married Susanne on July 3, 1727 when Jean Baptiste, was ten years old.
(5) One researcher, Randall Ladnier has opined that this census location was erroneously identified as Cat Island in Maduell's census tables.
(6) During the “Portersville” era this region was encompassed within the bounds of an area known as Sans Souci and still is referred to as the same by present day locals.
(7)This act was of such extraordinary importance as to warrant comment by Pierre de Rigaud de Vaudreuil (Royal Governor of the French Province of Louisiana from 1743-1753) within The Vaudreuil Papers.
(8) Jean Baptiste was only 47 years old when he was executed. The horrible death of Jean Baptiste Baudreau II is chronicled in Chapter XVI of The History of Alabama by Albert James Pickett (published 1851). Jean Baptiste "was often employed upon dangerous missions in the Creek nation and well understood the language of these Indians, besides that of neighboring tribes, often making journeys to Fort Toulouse, both in boats and on foot. Jean Baptiste was a powerful man, as to strength, and almost a giant in size, and these qualities, together with his bravery and prowess, endeared him to the Indians." He was a great favorite of Bienville. After serving four times as governor of the colony, Bienville went back to France and the French officials began looking for a way to get rid of Jean Baptiste. They felt he carried too much influence among the local tribes. In 1757, Kerlerec was governor of the colony. He had succeeded the Marquis de Vaudreuil who was a friend of Graveline's. One tyrannical French officer was a man named Duroux who was in command of French and Swiss troops stationed at the prison on Cat Island. The troops mutinied and killed Duroux. They set at liberty Jean Baptiste Baudreau II, one of the prisoners, who had been unjustly imprisoned by Duroux. The soldiers compelled Jean Baptiste to conduct them towards Georgia. He led them around Mobile, up to the Tombigbee and the Alabama, in canoes, which belonged to the Indians, then on up to the Chattahoochie. Here he was dismissed by the fugitive soldiers, who gave him a certificate stating that he had been forced to act as their guide and was not in any way involved in the killing of Duroux. Jean Baptiste returned to Mobile and had quietly returned to his usual lifestyle when two of his sons (who were living with their mother in New Orleans) came to visit and were the innocent cause of his arrest. Governor Kerlerec sent by them a sealed package to DeVille, the commandant at Mobile, authorizing the imprisonment of Jean Baptiste. A court martial condemned him to die. As soon as Governor Kerlerec confirmed the judgment, the innocent and unfortunate Jean Baptiste was led forth and broken upon a wheel. The people of Mobile were shocked at the spectacle. To quote Pickett: "Such a man was [Jean Baptiste], whom the French authorities in Mobile broke upon a wheel! His life was worth a thousand such lives as that of the tyrannical wretch whom he was accused of having killed.” It is said Kerlerec, fearing an uprising of both the colonists and the Indians, had Jean Baptiste's body parts thrown into the river so there would be no grave to visit.
When the large plantation owned by Pierre Baptiste at Bayou la Batre/Coden began to be sold off by his heirs to the Rabbys, Jacob Baptiste moved back to Mobile Co from Jackson Co MS where he had been living with his in-laws and purchased farmland in the Shady Grove area of Mobile Co (about nine miles west of the current airport). He continued in the cattle and farming business much like his father on the plantations at BLB and BelleFontaine. His brother, Bedo Baptiste, was a butcher. Jacob's two sons also continued their livelihoods in farming and cattle in the same Shady Grove area of Mobile County.
Pierre Garcon Baptiste (Pierre, Jean Baptiste Baudreau II, Jean Baptiste Baudreau dit Graveline) was born Abt. 1779 in Belle Fountaine, Mobile, Louisiana Territory, and died Bef. 1849 in Mobile Co AL. He married Marie Barrieller 16 Jan 1828 in Mobile Co., AL. She was born in Pensacola, FL.
Child of Pierre Garcon Baptiste and Marie Barrieller is:
i. Catherine Baptiste, born 21 Sep 1837; died 1870.
She married Pierre Lombard / Pedro Lombas on 07 Oct 1854, in Mobile Co., AL