Origins of the La tourrette Count Hoax/Fable Part 2 – How “Henri” became a Count
In my previous posting “Origins of the La tourrette Count Hoax/Fable Part 1 – The original author” I believe I identify the author of the letter sent to Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee in 1841 to be Theodore Sedwick Fay. Upon a closer look at the letter to Lee you can see that Fay DID NOT state that his ancestor was a Count.
Here is the complete quotation from Lee’s book that became the foundation of what became the Latourette Count Hoax/Fable:
“My great-great-grandfather was a native of La Vendee, and had there an estate on which he lived, and from which his family took their name, La Tourette. After the revocation of the Edict of Nantes, several Huguenot families in his neighborhood endured great persecution, and Henri de la Tourette was warned, that he was soon to be molested, and that any attempt at flight would be discovered, and only serve to hasten his condemnation. To avoid suspicion, he save a large entertainment to which all the neighboring families were invited, and while the guests were assembled in the house, he left it with his wife, reached the seacoast, which was not far off, and made his escape
on board a vessel bound to Charleston. The ship was cast away on Staten Island, or, being in distress, was obliged to put in there, and there my great-grandmother, Marie de la Tourette, was born. A branch of the family still exists in France, which has adhered to Catholicism. The only female member of it is the Superior of a Convent, and the head
of it, the Marquis de la Tourette, who is, or lately was, prefect of Aix-la-Chapelle. The chateau of La Tourette is still standing, but I do not know whether it is in possession of the family. A few years since, one of the descendants, the Comte Eugene de la Tourette, came over from France in the hope of obtaining the family Bible, which Henri brought over in his flight. It contained the register of the births and descents of the family, which, had it been in our possession, would have enabled us Huguenot descendants to claim property which was confiscated at the time of the persecution. The Bible, however, had been long since given to a family who had removed to Germany, and could not be traced."
The Huguenots in France and America
By Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee
Published by J. Munroe and company, 1852
*as a side note, Dr. John E. LaTourette suggested that the name “Henri” may have been used since Jean’s son Henry was indeed a large land owner on Staten Island having purchased the family homestead from his siblings upon the death of their mother. Henry’s will had Samuel Broome as a witness and in another will John Broome his “cousin.” Fay may have heard of something passed down in regards to Henry and assumed him to the father of his great grandmother and not her brother.
In reading Fay’s account you will see that he DOES NOT claim that his great grandmother Marie de la Tourette’s father “Henri” was a Count. He mentions a “Comte Eugene de la Tourette” who came over from France in search of Henri’s bible, but does not claim that Henri himself was a Count.
The next time another version of Fay’s letter appears in a publication was in Charles Weiss’s 1854 book “History of the French Protestant Refugees, from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to Our Own Days.” Here is the excerpt:
“The early history of some of those Richmond county Huguenots is almost the reality of romance. Henri de La Tourette fled from La Vendee after the revocation; and, to avoid suspicion, gave a large entertainment; and, whilst the guests were assembled, he suddenly left, with his wife, for the sea-coast. This was not far off, and which he reached,
when he escaped on board a vessel bound for Charleston. The ship was either cast away upon the shores of Staten Island, or made a harbor in distress. A long list of respectable and pious descendants trace their origin to this source and one of them now is pastor of a Dutch Reformed church not far from Richmond. The chateau of La Tourette is still standing in France, and a branch of the family exists there. Some years ago, one of the name visited this country for the purpose of obtaining the old family Bible. but he was unsuccessful, as the venerable and holy volume had been given long before to a refugee family in Germany.”
History of the French Protestant Refugees, from the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes to Our Own Days
By Charles Weiss, Henry William Herbert
Translated by Henry William Herbert
Published by Stringer & Townsend, 1854
You will notice here that this is a condensed version of Fay’s that concentrates only on Henry de la Tourette with no mention of his daughter Marie. As with Fay’s original account, this account DOES NOT refer to Henri as a Count. Weiss also mentions a “pastor of a Dutch Reformed church not far from Richmond” which is the Rev. James Annover Moore LaTourette who later promoted his ancestor Jean as a Count as well as other falsehoods such as our family originating in Italy.
The third time another version of Fay’s letter appears in a publication was in Juila Livingston Delafield’s 1877 book “Biography of Francis Lewis and Moran Lewis.” Here is part of the very long discourse (only the excerpts that relate to the count story since the author went on and on regarding things unrelated to de la Tourette):
“His mother (in reference to John Broome), Marie de la Tourette, was descended from an ancient Huguenot family in La Vendee……. In La Vendee, not far from the coast, are still visible the ruins of the Chateau de la Tourette. In the reign of Louis XIV. it was the house of COUNT EUGENE de la TOURETTE and his young wife. It is well known that the Lords of la Vendee were rather the fathers of their people than their masters. Their innocent and useful lives exemplified all that was ennobling in the feudal system without any of its abuses. The Edict of Nantes was revoked. The Count was informed that his name was on the list of the proscribed — that he must be wary; that an unsuccessful attempt to escape would cost him his life. He affected perfect security, and gave a large entertainment, to which all the neighboring gentry were invited. When the gayety was at its height the Count and Countess stole from the banqueting hall, their Huguenot Bible and their jewels concealed about their persons. They made their way to the sea-shore, and went on board a vessel bound for Charleston, which was there to receive them. The ship was cast away on Staten Island, and there the Countess gave birth to her daughter, Marie de la Tourette*. For a time we lose sight of these interesting emigrants, but we can not doubt that their career was honorable and prosperous; when they next appear upon the stage, the little waif thrown by such a strange fatality upon our shores, is the wife of a gentleman of position — the mother of a son who deserved and obtained a high place in the Republic.”
*And this foot note
“A branch of the family still survives in France, which adheres to the Catholic faith. The only female descendant is the superior to a convent, and its feudal head is, or was, very lately, Prefect of Aix la Chapelle. A few years since one of the race came to this country in the hope of obtaining the family Bible, the records of which would have enabled the Huguenot descendants to recover property which had been confiscated after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes. Unfortunately the Bible could not be found.”
Delafield then goes on at length about John Broome and touches on the families of Lloyd, Livingston, Boggs and Ray that married into the Broome family.
Biographies of Francis Lewis and Morgan Lewis
By Julia Livingston Delafield, Julia Delafield
Published by A.D.F. Randolph & Company, 1877
There is a crucial diversion from the Fay account that must be noted since it notes a major turning point in the Count Hoax/Fable. Her account has Marie de la Tourette’s father not Henri but “COUNT EUGENE de la TOURETTE.” If you recall, Comte Eugene was mentioned in the two previous versions but NOT as Marie’s father but the man who came to America in search for Henri’s family bible more than a century after Marie’s father came to America. In her version the person who came to America is simply stated as “one of that race.” Delafield clearly gets the facts of the previous versions mixed up a bit. Was it intentional or an editorial mistake? It should be noted that Delafield is the first cousin to sisters Mary R. L Boggs and Julia A. Boggs. Also, their mutual ancestor Moran Lewis was the Gov. of New York while his good friend John Boome became the Lt. Gov. under him. So in a way Delafield had a small interest in promoting the Bogg’s sisters ancestor as a Count since they were first cousins and would boost their social standing a bit more. What she clearly did not know (or perhaps intentionally altered) was that her cousin’s ancestor was Jean, not Eugene or Henri. She also states that “For a time we lose sight of these interesting emigrants, but we can not doubt that their career was honorable and prosperous.” This is news to any Latourette researcher, our ancestors were hardly lost for Jean was very active in building the French Church in New York City, and then built a home and helped establish another Church on Staten Island. His descendants became quite numerous went to almost every corner of the American continent.
The fourth time another version of Fay’s letter appears in a publication was in Martha Lamb’s 1896 “History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress” but this time as a footnote.
“John Broome, for six successive years lieutenant-governor of the State, was born and
educated in New York, studying law in the office of Governor William Livingston, although diverted from the legal profession into the importing business by his brother, Samuel Broome, who married Miss Nugent, niece and adopted daughter of Admiral Sir Peter Parker, commander of the British fleet on our coast. Biographies of Francis Lewis and Morgan Lewis, by their granddaughter, Julia Delafield. His father was an Englishman, his mother a Frenchwoman, Marie de la Tourette. The parents of this lady were the young COUNT AND COUNTESS de la TOURETTE of an ancient Huguenot family, and were residents at the old chateau in La Vendee, when the Edict of Nantes was revoked. The count was informed that his name was on the list of the proscribed, and that an unsuccessful attempt to escape would cost him his life. He proceeded to give a large entertainment to which all the neighboring gentry were invited, and when the gayety was at its height, stole with the countess from the banqueting hall and escaped on foot to the sea-shore, where a vessel bound for Charleston lay at anchor, taking with them only their jewels and their Huguenot Bible. The ship was cast away on Staten Island, where the countess gave birth to the daughter who subsequently became the mother of John Broome.”
History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress
By Martha Joanna Lamb, Burton Harrison
Published by A.S. Barnes, 1896
Original from Harvard University
Page 383-384 (footnote)
Lamb clearly bases her account on Delefield’s but may have also reviewed the other versions as well. You will notice that she had to find a way to rectify the contradictions in the previous versions of the tale. She does not name Marie’s father as Henri, or as Count Eugene, but simply as “Count” (as in Count and Countess de la Tourette). She recognized that Eugene could not be Marie’s father since this person came over a century later to find Henri’s bible and the first two versions did not name Henry as a count. She seems to compromise on the two conflicting “facts” and simply referring to Marie’s father as a “Count.”
The next time I am aware that the bastardized version of Fay’s original letter appears was in Lyman Ezra Latourette’s 1954 book “Latourette Annals in America.” Instead of presenting a new version of the story he simply references and quotes most of Martha Lamb’s version from 1896, conveniently the same version that transformed Henri de la Tourette from Comte EUGENE de la Tourette to simply Count de la Tourette. One has to wonder if Lyman read all the other earlier versions and simply ignored them for one that promotes his ancestor as a Count. He was aware of Weiss’s version and takes note of the contradictions that version had with Lamb’s. There is one VERY glaring omission from Lyman’s Lamb quote in his book. In his book (page 5) he quotes Lamb up to “Miss Nugent…. ” and then resumes with “His father was and an Englishman, his mother a French woman Marie de la Tourette…..” He leaves out the following:
“……niece and adopted daughter of Admiral Sir Peter Parker, commander of the British fleet on our coast. Biographies of Francis Lewis and Morgan Lewis, by their granddaughter, Julia Delafield.”
One would think that this was done to keep the quote brief and that the information was of no use to his readers. HOWEVER, if he did reference Julia Delafield’s biography then it would not be difficult for others to go back to Lamb’s original source which was the Delafield biography and we know that this source has Marie’s father not as Henri, but COUNT EUGENE de la TOURETTE!!! Lyman had to be aware of the other versions that would show the progression from Henry to Comte Eugene to simply Count. If he was aware of all the versions then Lyman would then purposely promote a hoax. Lyman was that one bridge between the Rev. James A. M. LaTourette and Verna A. Hill Jacobs since he lived at the end of James’s life and the start of Verna’s.
So we know the foundation of how our Jean La tourrette started out as “Henri” then mixed up with “Count Eugene de la Tourette” and finally becoming “Count de la Tourette” but how was it promoted by our family to became the gospel truth that so many of Jean’s descendants now believe? We know that the Rev. James Annover Moore LaTourette and Verna Ann Hill Jacobs after him believed in the hoax/fable and promoted it. What is interesting is that the families of John Broome, Peter LaTourette and James A. M. LaTourette all resided in New York City in the early part of the 1800s and close to each other in some respects (not sure about Peter and where he resided/worked). At first I thought that the Count story was a tradition belonging to those Broome/Latourette families in early 19th century New York after doing an analysis of them, but now I do not find that to be the case- the cause was all because of editorial mishaps. But I thought I would at least share some of my findings from my initial theory. Here are some of my findings:
The Rev. James A. M. LaTourette was the son of Rev. James LaTourette. James was a furrier on Canal Street with his brother William (another brother was David Latourette who built the fine Federalist style brick home that is the centerpiece of the LaTourette Golf Course on Staten Island and is their club house) but also was a Pentecostal minister who broke away from his Methodist roots to form a new church that was rather eccentric in its practices – so much so it was noted in papers of the time. The church met on the second floor of his home on Bowery Hill and was noted for their strange customs (very similar to contemporary Pentecostal Church practices). The famous former slave Sojourner Truth lived with the LaTourettes when she came to NYC in 1828 and may have stayed even after the death of James in 1841. The LaTourettes took her in as one of their own and she worked for them but they granted her the liberty to go about her works. The 1840 census for James enumerate two black females and one of these females may be Sojourner since it is said that she left NYC in 1843 for Long Island, Truth probably stayed with James’s widow after he died in 1841. What is most interesting is that another address for James’s business is 110 Front Street and the cross street to his business was Wall Street. Just one block or so up on Wall Street from Front Street is Pearl Street, and at 156 Pearl Street (near Wall Street) was the partnership of “Boggs and Livingston,” the business of James Boggs the father of Mary R. L. Boggs and Julia Augusta Boggs. Also, Lt. Gov. John Broome lived above his store on No 6 Hanover Square which is about 2 blocks from both the Boggs and James Latourette sites. It would not then be surprising if James Boggs and James LaTourette knew each other if not had business deals together, and John Broome could have tied this all together. They would for sure have known that Mr. Bogg’s wife Sarah and James were 2nd cousin once removed, or at least knew that they shared the same ancestor.
As for Verna Ann Hill Jacob and how she first heard of the hoax. It is likely (but not very) that while her 2nd great grandfather resided in New York City in the early part of the 19th century that this fable was discussed between the Broome family members in the city. Her ancestor left the city just over 20 years before the letter to Lee was sent. It is even more important to note that Verna has a Broome connection since her 2nd great grandfather Peter great grandparents were Samuel Broome and Marie La tourrette. So if the hoax/fable was a tradition in her family it well may have come down through her Broome relatives and not her Latourette kin – but as proven above it was probably not a tradition but a result of all the versions of the story climaxing to the Count Fable in 1896. As mentioned previously I do not believe that Peter LaTourette was the author of the letter to Lee since he would have certainly based the connection on his direct male Latourette line and not through his more obscure Marie La tourrette line. However, I believe that she first heard of the hoax when she started to research her ancestors as required by her adopted faith of Mormonism. I believe this is also how Lyman Ezra LaTourette also came upon the hoax as well, though researching his family and finding the books that appear to mention his family and most certainly his contact with Rev. James A. M. LaTourette who died in 1891.
The Count Hoax/Fable has been debunked time an time again but some in our Latourette family refuse to give up the idea that we are descendants from a French Count. I concentrated here on who and how the count hoax/fable came about over a span of about 55 years through a series of comical editorial blunders by those NOT even connected to the Latourette family with the exception of Fay himself – an a very distant connection at that that spanned a 114 years between the time Marie was born in 1693 until Theodore was born in 1807. Dr. John E. LaTourette has done extensive research on the family origins of Jean La tourrette’s family starting in Osse-en-Bearn (now Osse-en-Aspe) and how he came to America, but also helped explain to us the culture of our protestant ancestors in the Aspe Valley. Even with his extensive writings debunking the Count Hoax/Fable, people still refuse to accept the truth.
As always, I welcome any comments, additions or corrections to any of the above.
Robert T. Hoadley-Latourette