Monthly Archives: August 2017

300 Years Ago: Summer, 1717. 

Jean Michiele de L’Epinay
Birthdate: circa 1665 (56)
Birthplace: Fougères, Brittany, France
Death: January 3, 1721 (52-60) Martinique
Occupation: Governor of French territory of Louisiana

Managed by: Joel Scott Cognevich, Last Updated: February 3, 2015

“Through patronage of comte de Toulouse, head of the Conseil de la Marine, Jean Michiele de L’Epinay secured appointment as governor of Louisiana on March 16, 1716. On October 21, 1716, while awaiting departure he was awarded the Cross of St. Louis. Left France in December 1716, he reached Mobile March 9, 1717, and immediately took over his duties as governor. During his short term in office he met with almost constant wrangling among various royal officials. Because of this, following the transfer of the colony’s trading rights to the Company of the West in late 1717 he was recalled on February 9, 1718. Shortly before leaving Mobile for France he was notified of his nomination as governor of Grenada. Before accepting his new position he was forced to defend himself against charges of corruption and malfeasance in office. Exonerated of all charges he sailed from France May 18, 1720, for Grenada, reaching there on June 28, 1720. Died, January 3, 1721, while visiting the governor of the French West Indies in Martinique. B.C. Sources: Marcel Giraud, Histoire de la Louisiane française, II (1958), III (1966); Emile Lauvrière, Histoire de Louisiane française (1940); Dictionary of Canadian Biography, II (1969).”

https://www.geni.com/people/Jean-de-L-Epinay/6000000010492638218
(accessed 8/5/2017)

Summary and paraphrases from Giraud, Vol. II, Chap. XII:

After Louis XIV’s death, the regency passed to his brother. Louisiana was still under the proprietorship of Crozat. Realizing that his business venture wasn’t going anywhere. Crozat began to extricate himself from the deal. In 1716, Cadillac was relieved as governor which left Bienville’s “boots on the ground” in Louisiana. In 1717, the new appointee of the Regency, Jean Michiele de L’Epinay, arrived to take over. Beinville was once again shoved aside, given the Cross of Chevalier de St. Louis and made Lieutenant de Roi (military commander ) to keep him quiet. Lepinay was destined to stay just a year in Louisiana, but Beinville became his chief local opponent despite his honors. The irony here is that while Beinville was an acknowledged master at handling Indian Affairs, Lepinay was quite the opposite. In fairness, the policy of the colonial authorities in Paris was to provide “constantly repeated distributions of gifts” and “kind actions toward” the Natives to guarantee their support. Unfortunately the Council never came through with any resources for Lepinay to effect such a policy. The new governor’s failures to treat with the Natives, whether through the policies of the council or through his own attitudes, resulted in a marked decline of relations between the Natives and the French. Fortunately, for the colonists, the long established connections between the colonists and the Natives, especially among the coastal tribes and the Natives along the lower Mississippi were able to outlast the temporary incompetence of the new governor.

“Louisiana” Natives according to Giraud; {Paraphrase}

In and around Mobile (the capital in 1717) were the Chaktaux or Chatot, and the Apalachee. On the rivers feeding Mobile Bay, were the Tawasa, the Mobilians, Taensa, Toome (aka Tohomé). Between Mobile and the Mississippi (what New Orleanians call the Gulf Coast) lived the Pascagoula, the Capina, the Biloxi, and the Colapissa (whose “hunting grounds” were from the Pearl River west covering today’s Northshore. In and around today’s New Orleans lived the Tawasa (aka Chawasha), the Biloxi, and the Washa. In the “River Parishes” were the Tchoupitoulas, Bayougoula, and the Houma. Further north, up to the Red River were the Tunica. All of these groups got along well with the colonists It was those further north, in those areas of no-man’s land between French and British influence, that the Natives were put off by the actions (or rather the inactions) of Lepinay and/or the Parisian politicians. These groups included the Choctaw, the Chickasaw, the Natchez, the Alabamas, and the Creeks. These nations had traded with both the French of Louisiana and the British of South Carolina all through this period. Some like the Choctaw and the Natchez mostly favored the French. The Creeks and Alabamas mostly sided with the English. The Chickasaw mostly played both ends against the middle, remaining neutral and benefiting from the traders of the moment.

A comparison beween Giraud’s research and the Penicault’s journal (including 1717) are noticeably the same.

Louisiana Natives: Frem Penicault’s Journal*:

Chactos, Taouschas, Apalaches, Tinsas, Mobiliens, Tomez, Gen des Fourches (forks of the Alabama and Tombigbee, not Bayou La Fourche). Chactas, Pascagoulas, Passacolas, Capinans, Colapissas, Bayougoulas, Oumas, Tonicas, Chaouachas, Natchez, Chicachas, Nassitoches, Yatachez, Alibamons, Canapouces.

In 1715, many of the “northern” nations staged an uprising against the British which drew in the French to a limited degree. Such a situation could have been of great advantage to the French. Between the departure of Cadillac and the arrival of Lepinay, however, the administration was in more than it’s usual turmoil.

Life continues, however,  and one chronicler, M. Penicault makes some interesting entries in his journal. In 1717 we can read about:

  • In an unabashed entry, shortly after Lepinay’s arrival, he sent a ship to Vera Cruz to sell a load of trade goods from France. The ship, Le Dudlot (probably Dudlow or Ludlow), landed some distance from Vera Cruz at a place called Villa Rica, sold the shipload at a tidy profit, and returned to Mobile. This entry is phrased in such an offhand way that it testifies to the NORMALITY of such trade (i.e. smuggling) between the colonies of different empires around the Gulf.  Within a few days after its return to Mobile, Le Dudlot, sailed away to France taking Cadillac and his staff back home. Over the next month or so, Lepinay had a fort built on Dauphine Island to secure the harbor. While it was under construction, an English ship stopped over at Mobile, and along with the usual illegal trade, took away several British men and women (Carolinians) who had been prisoners there since the 1715 Indian rebellion.
  • In August of 1717, a storm (most probably a hurricane) closed the port at Dauphine Island. The administration then decided to move the capital and the roadstead to Isle aux Vaisseaux – aka Ship Island. A town was built on the back bay a Biloxi, called New Biloxi, and the government moved there. Old Biloxi across the bay eventually evolved into Ocean Springs (due to the presence of some fresh water springs in the area).
  • In a testament to the quality of colonial journals, Penicault places an entry at the end of 1717 that most historians today note as happening in March of 1718. Think you can guess what its about? Seems a ship called La Dauphine arrives at Ship Island, loaded with workmen (salt smugglers) and carpenters. They were immediately employed to build houses, barracks, and warehouses at New Biloxi/Ship Island. In the vague time period called “the beginning of winter”, many of these workers went with Bienville to “a place quite suitable for a settlement on the bank of the Missicipy thirty leagues above” the mouth of the river. *

And so fellow revelers, we can pick the start of the Tri-Centennial celebrations any time during the upcoming winter. Party like its 2017-2018 !!!!!

* McWilliams, Richebourg Gaillard, Ed. Fleur de Lys and Calumet: Being the Penicaut Narrative of french Adventure in Louisiana .  Tuscaloosa, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1953, renewed 1981.  p. 208

 

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