Origins of the La tourrette Count Hoax/Fable Part 1 – The original author
I have created two parts of the origins of the La tourrette Count Hoax/Fable and how it came about and how in one letter published in a book in 1854 became the hoax/fable by 1877 and finally fixed by 1896. In Part I identify who I believe is the author of a letter sent to Hannah Farnham Sawyer Lee and published in her 1852 book “The Huguenots in France and America.” In Part 2 I reveal how this 1852 account was transformed over various authors in 3 subsequent publications ending in 1896 with Martha Joanna Lamb’s footnote in her 1896 book “History of the City of New York: Its Origin, Rise, and Progress”
PART 1 - The original author identified.
“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.”
In Hannah Lee’s introduction to “The Huguenots in France and America” she states that she received a letter from the great grandchild of a Marie de la Tourette, daughter of Henri de la Tourette. She states that this letter went out of her hands in August 1841 but she does not reveal who the author was. This is the earliest known account of what later became the Latourette Count Hoax/Fable.
Some time ago I researched the family of John Broome and Marie La tourrette and recently expanded on that research for this posting.
Jean and Marie La tourrette’s daughter Marie La tourrette (1693-c.1794) married Samuel Broome (c.1690-<1771) about 1725 in New York City. At the time of Samuel’s will he was residing on Staten Island and he names the following children and grand children:
1. Mary Le Conte, Step daughter (who we can assume was a daughter from a previous marriage)
2. Abigail (deceased), wife of Joshua Mercereau (2nd cousin) and their children Abigail, Mary, Samuel, John and David.
3. Mary who was unmarried at the time
4. Elizabeth, wife of John Vanderbilt
***It should be noted that there are some serious concerns regarding the family of Samuel Broome and Marie La Tourette that should be addressed. Marie was born in 1693 and we have her son John being born in 1738 when Marie was 45 years of age. I believe that the birth year of John may have been established by the use of his obituary; however, we know that his brother Samuel was an older brother and his age in his obit has him being born in 1734 (each could have died in the year of their death so that would make the dates 1733 and 1737). It is quite possible that Marie de la Tourette was not his great grandmother but his great great grandmother. I will not go into further details about this conflict for it needs further study and discussion.****
Below I outline each of Samuel and Marie Broome’s children one by one and putting in caps a grandchild who could be a candidate as the author of the letter to Lee. I excluded some names if those great grandchildren who were either too young to write the account or died before 1840 so unable to do so.
Child #1 - Abigail Broome
She was deceased when her father’s will was written in Sept 1784. She married her 2nd cousin Joshua Mercereau and had the following living children:
1. Abigail Mercereau who married Peter Latourette, her 1st cousin once removed as well as her 2nd cousin once removed. Peter and Abigail Latourette had at least 6 childrenbut only one is a contender and that isPETER LaTOURETTE who resided in New York City for about two decades (c.1800-c.<1820). He came to New York City from Staten Island at the end of the 18th century and left NYC around 1819. He then went to Montgomery, Orange Co., NY (1820 census for that place) and finally to Wayne Co., PA in 1822. I excluded Peter as a possible author since the author of the letter cites Marie de la Tourette and Peter would have cited his direct male ancestor Jean the father of Marie. His 2nd great granddaughter was Verna Ann (Hill) Jacob (1899-1985) who was the premier Latourette genealogist of her time.
2. Mary Mercereau who married Abram Winant and had at least one child, a daughter named Mary Winant. Mary Mercereau and her daughter Mary Winant are not mentioned in her father Joshua’s will so we can assume both passed away by 1784. English law, which we still followed to a degree after the Rev. War, dictated that children or the children of a deceased child, be mentioned in a will. With this we assume that the two passed away before 1784.
3. William Mercereau. He died before his father wrote his will and did not mention any children that he may have had.
4. John Mercereau who married Elizabeth Breath. They had at least 7 children in New York City. Only three of their children are a possibility and they are SAMUEL MERCEREAU who was married and had children and his two single sisters ELIZA & HELEN MECEREAU. Samuel and his single sisters resided together at Hempstead, Long Island, NY. They lived to be 89, 79 and 88 respectively.
5. David Mercereau who is mentioned in fathers will I do not know if he married and had issue. David was about 18 when his will was written.
Child #2 - Samuel Broome
He married Phebe Platt. Samuel, a successful merchant, was in partnership with her brother Jeremiah Platt (Broome, Platt & Co.) in NYC. Phebe’s sister was Elizabeth the wife of Daniel Phoenix, also a business partner of Samuel Broome and the NY City Treasurer and banker. Samuel and Phebe had 9 children that I am aware of:
1. Henrietta Broome who married Timothy Phelps, the widow of her sister Jennet (no issue). They resided in CT.
2. Caroline Broome who married Joseph Dewey Fay in 1804 in NYC. Caroline died in the West Indies in 1816 and Joseph died in 1825. They had possibly 6 children most notably is THEORDORE SEDWICK FAY. I believe that Theodore S. Fay is the author and will expand on this later but will continue on to other possible authors.
3. Amelia Marie Broome who married James Jarvis in 1781 in Boston MA. She died suddenly in 1789 with no issue.
4. Elizabeth “Betsy” Broom who married Col. Joseph Fay in 1793 in New Haven, CT (Theodore Sedwick Fay was his grandson). They had three children that could be the author and they are SAMUEL BROOME FAY, HENRY AUGUSTUS BROOM and HARRIET WADSWORTH FAY.
5. Samuel Platt Broome for which nothing is known.
6. Mary Broome for which nothing is known.
7. Jennett Broome who married Timothy Phelps. They resided in CT and had one child named AMELIA MARIA PHELPS. Amelia married the Rt. Rev. Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright (born in England), Bishop of New York and had a total of 13 children. They resided in NYC. After Jennett’s death, her husband married her older sister Henrietta.
8. George Washington Broome for which nothing is known.
9. Horatio Gates Broome (twin of George). Horatio was in New London CT in 1820 but could not find him after this date.
Child #3 - Mary Broome
I could not find a record of either a marriage or children, she probably died before she married and had children.
Child #4 - John Broome
He married 1st Rebecca Lloyd. It is this Broome who was so noteworthy. He was a successful merchant who was in business along side his brother Samuel (they died within a few months of each other in 1810). During the Rev. War the British took over his home when he fled to CT. After the British left, merchants where then allowed to import various goods without British control. This provided an incredible opportunity for the Broome Brothers who already had a hold in the merchant business and imported goods from all over the world including tea, china and silks, etc. John was the Mayor of New York City and then Lt. Gov. of New York until his death in 1810. The Governor he served under was his long time friend Morgan Lewis. Various places were named in his honor including Broome Street in NYC, Broome County NY and the town of Broome NY. He was a trustee of the Tontine Coffee House, the place that later morphed into the New York Stock Exchange. After the death of his wife, he remarried but had no issue with his second wife. With his wife Rebecca they had the following children:
1. Catherine Broome. Nothing is known of her and probably died young without issue.
2. John Lloyd Broome who married Frances A. Franchere, a widow with a daughter. They had 4 children between 1824 and 1832. I will not provide info on them since their oldest was only about 17 when the letter to Lee was written and probably unlikely to be the author of that letter.
3. Mary Broome. She died before 1807.
4. William Temple Broome. Who was a lawyer and did not marry, died in Paris while recovering from consumption in 1804.
5. Sarah Lloyd Broome who married James Boggs. James went into partnership with his wife’s brother in law Col. John W. Livingston under “Boggs & Livingston.” They were an auction house of great success. Sarah and James had 5 known children:
A. John Boggs who died young.
B. MARY REBECCA LLOYD BOGGS who married Richard Ray and had Mary Ray in 1832 who in turn married in 1856 to Arthur Constant, 3rd Baron Dubois de Courval, Vicomte de Courval who was a French noble. Mary and Arthur’s descendants still reside in France (ironically his ancestor was one of the key players in the enforcement of the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes). Mary traveled to Europe (Mary and daughter obtained passports in 1854) quite often and died in Firenze Italy in 1878, her husband died in Paris in 1836.
C. John Broome Boggs who died young.
D. James Samuel Boggs who died young.
E. JULIA AUGUSTA BOGGS who married Lewis Howard Livingston. Julia and Lewis had two sons, both died without issue (one in Italy). They resided at Rhinebeck, Dutchess Co., NY.
6. Harriet Broome who died young.
7. Julia Adel Broome who married Col. John W. Livingston and had three children:
A. JULIA LIVINGSTON who married Henry Philip Tappan and had three children. Henry died in Switzerland in 1881.
B. ADELE JOHN LIVINGSTON she married Joseph Sampson and had a daughter, she died in 1841.
C. MARY AUGUSTA LIVINGSTON who married John William Turk. He petitioned the NY legislature to have his name changed from Turk to Livingston and it was granted. Nothing more known of this family. Julia Adel Broome died in CT.
8. Caroline Matlida Broome who married Maj. Darby B. Noon. It is not know if they had children, they resided in Albany and then Michigan. She returned to Albany after her husband passed away and died there. She received a pension for her husband’s service in the War of 1812
9. Anna Charlotte Broom. She died young with no issue.
After reviewing all the above candidates I believe that the author of the letter to Lee was Theodore Sedwick Fay. The other strong possibilities are Mary Rebecca Lloyd Boggs or her sister Julia Augusta Boggs who may have written such a letter to boost their social position in New York City society.
Theodore Sedwick Fay (1807 NYC-1898 Berlin, Germany) was a fascinating character. His mother Caroline Broome Fay died in 1816 in the West Indies and his father was Joseph Dewey Fay Joseph studied law with Alexander Hamilton, he became a lawyer as well as an essayist; he died in 1825 in NYC. Theodore had two direct connections to the Broome family. Not only was his mother a Broome, but so was his step-grandmother Elizabeth “Betsy” Broom who married his grandfather Joseph Fay. Caroline and Elizabeth were sisters making his step grandmother also his aunt. Theodore at first followed in his father’s footsteps (clerking for his father) and became a lawyer and started practicing in 1828. Soon after this he became an editor at the New York Mirror continuing writing the “The Little Genius” a series of light essays begun by his father. He married in 1833 and after his marriage spent the next three years traveling the world (and previous to this as well), and writing travel sketches about his travels which he had published in the Mirror. His first novel appeared in 1835, best-seller “Norman Leslie” that Edgar Allen Poe panned. His principal contributions to the paper were a series of letters written while traveling in Europe between 1831 and 1841. In addition he wrote a series of essays on Shakespeare, and he published: Dreams and Reveries of a Quiet Man (1832); The Minnte-Book (1833); Norman Leslie (1835); Sydney Clifton (1839); Countess Ida (1840); Hoboken, a Romance (1843); Robert Rueful (1844); Ulric, or the Voices, a volume of poems (1851); Views of Christianity(1856); History of Switzerland (1860);[p.59] Die Sklavenmacht (1865); Great Outlines of Geography (1867); First Steps in Geography (1873); and The Three Germanys (1889). He wrote both in English and German. He also published numerous books on history, geography and biography, as well as schoolbooks and works of fiction and continued writing well into his 80s. But writing was not his only achievement, Theodore was secretary of the American legation at London, England, 1836, at St. Petersburg, Russia, 1837-41, at Berlin, 1841-53, and minister-resident at Berne, Switzerland, 1853-61, after which he removed to Berlin where he lived in retirement until his death. He died in Berlin, Germany, 24 November 1898.
At the time the letter was written to Lee about 1841 Fay had already spent a great deal of time in Europe and had written an impressive amount of material. He returned to America in 1841. The letter to Lee reflexes an author familiar with Europe and her history. During Fay’s travels, diplomatic contacts and research it would not be surprising that he came in contact with people, places and history with the name La Tourette – perhaps pursued this research and made inquires. The author clearly did not know his La tourrette family history since they name their ancestor Henri and not Jean, and they have the surname as “de la Tourette” and not the correct La tourrette or even Latourette, etc. He also has all the facts regarding Jean’s immigration to America all wrong. We also have to note that Fay’s mother died when he was only 9 years old, and he had none of his mother’s relatives that may have provided him more accurate information on his Broome/La tourrette roots. It would not be surprising then that he assumed that these people and places in France must be connected to his family since they shared the same or similar name as his great grandmother Marie. He has some knowledge of the Huguenots and made an attempt to explain how his family came to America trying to connect all the dots in a logical format. One must remember also that he was an author of fiction and interestingly enough the novel he published in 1841 (the year he returned to America) was about a countess during the French Revolution residing in Berlin.
I do not think that Fay’s goal was to deceive readers but an honest attempt to outline his early family history as he came to understand it through his research. It was those after Fay who took his outline and attempted to expand on it and in the process mixed up some of the details. This mix up will be discussed in my following posting: “Origins of the La tourrette Count Hoax/Fable Part 2 – How Henri became a Count” that follows this posting.
I welcome any comments, additions or corrections to any of the above.
Robert T. Hoadley-Latourette